« السابقةمتابعة »
“ And if it do, George, nearly four hundred thousand pounds in gold will go far towards the maintenance," said the king, sharply.
pray your majesty may ever be so fortunate as to receive half the sum,” retorted his grace, “or, I might say, a quarter, since, after all De Mello's mighty protestations, King Alphonso entreateth us like some usurer of the Old Jewry, sending so much in bullion, and so much in commodities. 'Tis rumoured on 'Change that your majesty's name is in the market, as part owner of fifty puncheons of Val de Peñas, a hundred barrels of potash—besides the Lord and the Board of Trade know how many bags of Lisbon sugar.”
Within a week of this carouse, his majesty, fresh from the tears and shrieks of the now Lady Castlemaine, was on his road to Portsmouth to welcome the new queen; and, in the first frank impulse of his heart, avowed in his letters to the chancellor that the timid young foreign princess, whose dark eyes were so languishing, and whose voice so sweet and low, had produced a most favourable impression on his heart. “ You would much wonder to see how well we are acquainted already," said he. “ In a word, I think myself very happy.”*
For a king to aspire to “happiness” is a pretension beyond his condition in life. It suited Lady Castlemaine as little that Charles should be a well acquainted” with his youthful bride, as it suited the courtiers tbat he should think himself happy in wedlock. Before the royal party arrived at Hampton Court for the enjoyment of the honeymoon, mischief had been at work, and though the month was May, (a season that seemed expressly created by nature for royal honeymoons,) breezes were blowing more boisterous than the turbulent equinox.
Stimulated by the bad advice of Rochester, Jermyn, Killigrew, and Hamilton, Lady Castlemaine strenuously insisted upon the king's performance of a promise given in love's melting hour to elevate her to the rank of lady of the bedchamber, from which every circumstance but her birth tended to exclude her, and in spite of the entreaties of Clarendon and Ormond that he would not overlook the scandal to good manners, and the ill example afforded to the kingdom by so unprovoked an insult to the unoffending queen.
“Supposing, sire, as I can well suppose, that no intermeddling person ventures to apprize her majesty of the relationship held towards her sovereign by the young son of the countess,” pleaded Ormond, presuming on his gray hairs to play the monitor, “may I inquire whether a woman, jealous of her hold on your majesty's affections, is not likely to mislead her legitimate rival as to the modes and habits by which those affections are to be moved ? May I presume to ask whether Lady Castlemaine is likely to prove a prudent counsellor for a virtuous woman, or a safe companion for an unsuspecting one?” “ Ask what you will, and I can give but such answer as
may.. That my kingly word is pledged, and that my kingly palace of Hampton would be too hot to hold me, did I so much as dream of evading the performance of my promise, “ cried Charles. “Flesh is
* Macpherson Papers, I. 22, note.
frail, my lord duke, albeit your mellow years may have forgotten the fact; and I am free to confess that my heart is not proof against the influence of woman's tears.”
“And does your majesty suppose, then, that the eyes of the queen are insured against weeping, and her heart against the tenderness and sensibility of her sex ?» cried his grave admonitor with indignation. But Ormond spoke in vain. The king, who, like all men of easy, indolent, selfish habits, detested a scene, was already out of hearing; and on the morrow night, upon the return of the court to Whitehall, the mistress was presented to the wife; and the whole court stood by to watch the triumph of the sinner, and the anguish of the saint.
But, in spite of the manœuvres of the libertine associates of the king, by whom the injury had been wantonly prepared, the inoffensive Katharine had already partisans in the country. It was easy to make a jest of the sallow uncouthness of her six broad-nosed, barrowshouldered Portuguese maidens of honour ; to deride, at the instance of the Duke of Buckingham, her majesty's equerry, Dom Pedro de Silva, under the name of Pierre Dubois, and Peter Wood; or to find it passing absurd that her majesty's coiffeur should be breveted under the name of barber. But nationalities are themes of contempt only to the narrow-minded ; and the most prejudiced of the court were fain to admit that the manners of the queen and of her grande maîtresse, the Countess de Panétra, were as perfect as if modelled in that court and parliament of love—the circle of the queen-mother of France. From Whitehall this decree went rapidly forth to the city and the provinces; her Majesty's position begat pity, and pity being akin to love, the acclamations of “ Long live the queen!” which assailed her whenever, either in her barge or coach, she attempted to take the air, more loud, and fully as sincere as those of “God save the king !" which, for five years past, had been wearing out the echos of London and Westminster. No sooner was the little world apprised, by the indiscreet whispers of the great world, that upon the public presentation of Lady Castlemaine to the queen by the hands of his majesty, Katharine, though for a moment able to control her emotion, had in a few minutes been seized with convulsions, and carried from the chamber with the blood bursting from her lips, than, perceiving that her brief reign of conjugal ascendency was over, they began to honour as a martyr her whom they already loved as a queen.
But while the kind and generous compassionated her position, the worldly-wise of a court, which, modelled upon that of France, was a college of shrewdness and double dealing, decreed that her majesty was grievously to blame. She was guilty of a blunder, and at court a blunder is more exceptionable than a crime. What business had she to give way to her feelings? Nay, what business had a queen with feelings ?-convulsions and hysterics are the constitutional frailties of a chambermaid or sempstress. To be the daughter and mother of kings,—to say nothing of being the wife—it is indispensable that the impulses of the mind should overmaster the impulses of the body; and as for jealousy, had his majesty required of her to take to her arms a score of the mistresses he had notoriously taken to his, it was her policy to submit. And is not policy both law and gospel to a royal conscience ?
So reasoned the Buckhursts, Rochesters, Buckinghams, and so, alas ! pretended to reason one whose principles should have been of firmer texture. Clarendon was required by his royal master not only to be of the same opinion, but with all his force of eloquence impress it
upon the queen; and whereas the chancellor, like the devil, could quote scripture to his purpose, he succeeded in proving to the weeping Caterina, by means of a hundred of the proverbs of Solomon and fifty of the precepts of St. Paul, that it was the duty of a wife to submit to every mode and modification of insult and injury inflicted upon her patience by her lawful husband. Had not Hyde already held the seals, his loyal sophistry would have merited the reward of a mitre.
The queen submitted— whether to the eloquence of Clarendon, or because her countrywomen having been sent back to Lisbon on pretence of the displeasure of the people, she feared she might be sent after them. At the close of a painful struggle which tarnished the lustre of her dark eyes, and withered her young cheek, she consented to accept the services of Lady Castlemaine as her lady in waiting; and while the wedded courtiers of King Charles exclaimed to their chaste spouses, “ Behold a model for wives l_honour to the royal Griselda !" --the courtiers, who had condemned her sullenness, when she ventured to oppose the pleasure of the king, despised her instability now that she gave in her submission. They were angry with the patience with which she resigned herself to become the most unhappy of
For so amiable was the unpretending character of the queen, that it was no consolation to her, when, soon afterwards, her insolent rival was visited by humiliations equal to her own. Though carefully apprised by the gossip of Miss Middleton and others of her maids of honour, with whom, as nearest of her own age, she chiefly associated, that it was no longer the bright eyes of the countess which nightly attracted the king to sup in her apartments at Whitehall, his majesty having made it the condition of his visits that the young and lovely granddaughter of Lord Blantyre should never be absent from her entertainments; while the homage tendered to Miss Stewart by Buckingham and the rest of the courtiers left not the countess a moment in doubt of the estrangement of the affections of her royal lover.
In this new scandal the queen saw only cause for sorrow. no comfort to her that others were to be made as miserable as herself. Her wife-like resignation, meanwhile, afforded no pretext to the king for further harshness or discourtesy. In the intervals of his banquets with the Castlemaine and flirtations with the Stewart, he deported himself with decency towards the poor moping sallow thing from whom his unkindness had extracted all the bloom and sprightliness of youth; and as Katharine was constantly assured by the selfishness of her ladies that the only mode to attract the king to her society was to maintain the brilliancy of the court by a series of entertainments such as he had been in the habit of enjoying previous to her arrival in England, her majesty willingly lent herself to the suggestion. The summer was come--the session over-the court was enjoying itself at Hampton—a spot endeared to Katharine by the memory of those happy hopes with which it had inspired her bridal hours; and though
the transient dream had vanished, it was something to linger in the place by whose associations it was recalled to mind.
To the common routine of balls, given alternately by her majesty and the Duchess of York, and kept up chiefly by the members of their united households, a charming variation was proposed by the Comte de Comminges, a suggestion borrowed from the fêtes he had witnessed at Fontainebleau and St. Germain on occasion of the marriage of the young king his master with the Infanta of Spain. Instructions were given by his excellency's secretaries with a degree of zeal becoming the occasion, for the ordering of a bal costume at court; and the Chevalier de Grammont and other foreign adventurers, by whom the circle of the easy monarch was beset, exerted themselves to do honour to the occasion by the exercise of the utmost magnificence and taste. Her majesty, whose notions did not overstep the common-place freedoms of the masquerades in vogue at the court of Lisbon, hailed with delight the prospect of an entertainment where brilliancy was not to be purchased at the cost of decorum.
It was but a few days previous to the promised fête that Charles, at the conclusion of the hasty yet ceremonious morning visit to the queen which comprised his conjugal civilities for the day, expressed a desire that, in addition to the invitations issued, a list of which had been submitted to his approval, there might be despatched in her majesty's name a command to attend the fête to“ the Lady Lovell.”
« The name methinks is unfamiliar to me?” observed the queen, musingly.
“ The lady, a peeress by estate, having been resident in the provinces since your majesty's arrival in this country, hath not yet enjoyed the honours of presentation,” replied the king; “ but being at present detained in Westminster by the process of a law-plea, I am desirous that a personage of such rare merit and distinction should, on her return to her estates, bear back to her country cousins tidings of the hospitalities and refinements of the court of her sovereign.”
Had his majesty seen fit to add “ rare beauty” to his communications of the excellencies of Lady Lovell, there had been more virtue in the ready acquiescence with which his request was fulfilled by the queen.
CHAPTER XIV. It was at the malicious suggestion of the Duke of Bucks that this royal invitation had been devised. · After paying two thousand pistoles for the dissatisfaction of not beholding Lord Lovell’s wife, he was determined to enjoy the satisfaction and revenge of beholding her at the expense of his lordship.
Lady Lovell had been reluctantly compelled to visit the metropolis by a citation from the high court of Exchequer, at the suit of her husband; and generously apprehensive of entangling the hot temper of the old general in family disputes, or an over-frank exposition of his grievances against the king, she had declined the escort of Sir Richard.
66 'Tis natural she should have more confidence in a younger head and yourger arm than in those of the cavalier,” reflected Sir Richard, after hearing from his fair niece an entreaty that she might be accompanied only by Master Shum and his wife ! « But no matter! With God's blessing, she will need no aid of mine. Dame Corbet's son, as they tell me, holds high office in chancery; and as Nancy is to abide under his roof, no fear of her wanting protection."
Nevertheless, when fairly established in the household of the somewhat pragmatical son of her excellent governess, Lady Lovell, though satisfied as ever that the choleric old soldier was not exactly the man to advance her law-plea, or escort her through the silken mazes of a court, could not help longing for companionship of a more suitable nature than that of her demure auditor, or the mouthing master in chancery, who bewildered her understanding with technical phrases, instead of enlightening it with facts. Good old Elias Wright was now infirm beyond all power of rendering her assistance; and though, previous to his surrender of her affairs, he had carefully instructed his nephew in all matters appertaining to the mortgage of the Lovell estates, Lady Lovell foresaw that she had lost much in the warmth and circumstantiality of evidence derivable from eye-witness alone. Neither Master Shum nor herself would be able to do justice to the disinterestedness of all parties in the transaction, saving that sullen son and husband who, after rejecting as a gift the property preserved from sequestration by a deed in which even the searching eyes of the Commonwealth were unable to find a flaw, was now eager to invade with the strong arm of the law the estates he had not chosen to accept as a freewill offering.
As far, however, as the professional prolixity of Master Corbet enabled her to approach an opinion, Lady Lovell understood that she had nothing to fear from the proceedings instituted against her, beyond the unpleasant exposure of her family disagreements. Nay, it was shrewdly hinted by certain of the long heads and big wigs retained in her behalf, that Lord Lovell had commenced his suit only as an appeal to the liberality of his royal master ; by proving to him in open court that he was minus an estate most dear to him, and plus a wife most detested, because the last gold piece of that faithful subject, his sire, had been sacrificed to the interests of that faithless king, his sovereign. A stronger bond of family obligation could scarcely be shown on record !
But this version of the case was indignantly rejected by the fair defendant in the cause of Lovell versus the trustees of Lovell. Grounding her judgment rather on the physiognomical traits displayed in his portrait than upon the moral traits evinced in his proceedings, she chose to attribute his opposition to pride and a sense of justice; prone, like all generous spirits, to appreciate the conscientiousness of others by her own.
Provoked by her wilful blindness, Master Corbet next suggested that—notwithstanding the worthiness of her cause as a matter of law --that subtle essence of jurisprudence called “ equity” might in the hour of trial appear to hover like a freakish Will-o'-the-wisp over the adverse party; and by some concatenation of arguments which her ladyship found it difficult to follow, he even advised her that, if she possessed influential friends either in court or at court, Madam Themis