“And what didst thou learn there, forward imp?”
“To catch gulls, with their webbed feet and yellow stockings,” said the boy.
“Umph!” said Blount, looking down on his own immense roses. “Nay, then, the devil take him asks thee more questions.”
Meantime Tressilian traversed the full length of the Great Hall, in which the astonished courtiers formed various groups, and were whispering mysteriously together, while all kept their eyes fixed on the door which led from the upper end of the hall into the Queen’s withdrawing apartment. Raleigh pointed to the door. Tressilian knocked, and was instantly admitted. Many a neck was stretched to gain a view into the interior of the apartment; but the tapestry which covered the door on the inside was dropped too suddenly to admit the slightest gratification of curiosity.
Upon entrance, Tressilian found himself, not without a strong palpitation of heart, in the presence of Elizabeth, who was walking to and fro in a violent agitation, which she seemed to scorn to conceal, while two or three of her most sage and confidential counsellors exchanged anxious looks with each other, but delayed speaking till her wrath abated. Before the empty chair of state in which she had been seated, and which was half pushed aside by the violence with which she had started from it, knelt Leicester, his arms crossed, and his brows bent on the ground, still and motionless as the effigies upon a sepulchre. Beside him stood the Lord Shrewsbury, then Earl Marshal of England, holding his baton of office. The Earl’s sword was unbuckled, and lay before him on the floor.
“Ho, sir!” said the Queen, coming close up to Tressilian, and stamping on the floor with the action and manner of Henry himself; “you knew of this fair work—you are an accomplice in this deception which has been practised on us—you have been a main cause of our doing injustice?” Tressilian dropped on his knee before the Queen, his good sense showing him the risk of attempting any defence at that moment of irritation. “Art dumb, sirrah?” she continued; “thou knowest of this affair dost thou not?”
“Not, gracious madam, that this poor lady was Countess of Leicester.”
“Nor shall any one know her for such,” said Elizabeth. “Death of my life! Countess of Leicester!—I say Dame Amy Dudley; and well if she have not cause to write herself widow of the traitor Robert Dudley.”
“Madam,” said Leicester, “do with me what it may be your will to do, but work no injury on this gentleman; he hath in no way deserved it.”
“And will he be the better for thy intercession,” said the Queen, leaving Tressilian, who slowly arose, and rushing to Leicester, who continued kneeling—“the better for thy intercession, thou doubly false—thou doubly forsworn;—of thy intercession, whose villainy hath made me ridiculous to my subjects and odious to myself? I could tear out mine eyes for their blindness!”