“Thou art a brawler thyself, George,” said another; “but take heed, for the law stands as thou sayest.”
“Ay,” said the first, “an the act be not mildly construed; for thou knowest ’tis not the Queen’s palace, but my Lord of Leicester’s.”
“Why, for that matter, the penalty may be as severe,” said another “for an our gracious Mistress be Queen, as she is, God save her, my Lord of Leicester is as good as King.”
“Hush, thou knave!” said a third; “how knowest thou who may be within hearing?”
They passed on, making a kind of careless search, but seemingly more intent on their own conversation than bent on discovering the persons who had created the nocturnal disturbance.
They had no sooner passed forward along the terrace, than Leicester, making a sign to Tressilian to follow him, glided away in an opposite direction, and escaped through the portico undiscovered. He conducted Tressilian to Mervyn’s Tower, in which he was now again lodged; and then, ere parting with him, said these words, “If thou hast courage to continue and bring to an end what is thus broken off, be near me when the court goes forth to-morrow; we shall find a time, and I will give you a signal when it is fitting.”
“My lord,” said Tressilian, “at another time I might have inquired the meaning of this strange and furious inveteracy against me. But you have laid that on my shoulder which only blood can wash away; and were you as high as your proudest wishes ever carried you, I would have from you satisfaction for my wounded honour.”
On these terms they parted, but the adventures of the night were not yet ended with Leicester. He was compelled to pass by Saintlowe’s Tower, in order to gain the private passage which led to his own chamber; and in the entrance thereof he met Lord Hunsdon half clothed, and with a naked sword under his arm.
“Are you awakened, too, with this ’larum, my Lord of Leicester?” said the old soldier. “’Tis well. By gog’s nails, the nights are as noisy as the day in this Castle of yours. Some two hours since I was waked by the screams of that poor brain-sick Lady Varney, whom her husband was forcing away. I promise you it required both your warrant and the Queen’s to keep me from entering into the game, and cutting that Varney of yours over the head. And now there is a brawl down in the Pleasance, or what call you the stone terrace-walk where all yonder gimcracks stand?”
The first part of the old man’s speech went through the Earl’s heart like a knife; to the last he answered that he himself had heard the clash of swords, and had come down to take order with those who had been so insolent so near the Queen’s presence.
“Nay, then,” said Hunsdon, “I will be glad of your lordship’s company.”