High o’er the
eastern steep the sun is beaming,
And darkness flies with her deceitful shadows;—
So truth prevails o’er falsehood. —Old play.
As Tressilian rode along the bridge, lately the scene of so much riotous sport, he could not but observe that men’s countenances had singularly changed during the space of his brief absence. The mock fight was over, but the men, still habited in their masking suits, stood together in groups, like the inhabitants of a city who have been just startled by some strange and alarming news.
When he reached the base-court, appearances were the same—domestics, retainers, and under-officers stood together and whispered, bending their eyes towards the windows of the Great Hall, with looks which seemed at once alarmed and mysterious.
Sir Nicholas Blount was the first person of his own particular acquaintance Tressilian saw, who left him no time to make inquiries, but greeted him with, “God help thy heart, Tressilian! thou art fitter for a clown than a courtier thou canst not attend, as becomes one who follows her Majesty. Here you are called for, wished for, waited for—no man but you will serve the turn; and hither you come with a misbegotten brat on thy horse’s neck, as if thou wert dry nurse to some sucking devil, and wert just returned from airing.”
“Why, what is the matter?” said Tressilian, letting go the boy, who sprung to ground like a feather, and himself dismounting at the same time.
“Why, no one knows the matter,” replied Blount; “I cannot smell it out myself, though I have a nose like other courtiers. Only, my Lord of Leicester has galloped along the bridge as if he would have rode over all in his passage, demanded an audience of the Queen, and is closeted even now with her, and Burleigh and Walsingham—and you are called for; but whether the matter be treason or worse, no one knows.”
“He speaks true, by Heaven!” said Raleigh, who that instant appeared; “you must immediately to the Queen’s presence.”
“Be not rash, Raleigh,” said Blount, “remember his boots.—For Heaven’s sake, go to my chamber, dear Tressilian, and don my new bloom-coloured silken hose; I have worn them but twice.”
“Pshaw!” answered Tressilian; “do thou take care of this boy, Blount; be kind to him, and look he escapes you not—much depends on him.”
So saying, he followed Raleigh hastily, leaving honest Blount with the bridle of his horse in one hand, and the boy in the other. Blount gave a long look after him.
“Nobody,” he said, “calls me to these mysteries—and he leaves me here to play horse-keeper and child-keeper at once. I could excuse the one, for I love a good horse naturally; but to be plagued with a bratchet whelp.—Whence come ye, my fair-favoured little gossip?”
“From the Fens,” answered the boy.