To England, if you will.
A thousand recollections and forgotten thoughts revived in Richard's bosom when he saw his childhood's friend, the Lady Brampton. He was reminded of his sufferings in the Tower, of his noble cousin Lincoln, of her maternal tenderness, when under her care he quitted the gloomy fortress, his brother Edward's tomb. His mother's last embrace again thrilled through his frame, and Lovel's parting blessing; what sad changes had chanced since last he saw her! Sad in all, but that he, then a boy, had sprung up into the riper age of youthful prowess.
Even with the banished prince we must recur to the state of affairs in the north of Europe. The French king, Charles the Eighth, had directed all his attempts to the subjugation of Britany, which was now under the dominion of the youthful Anne, its orphan duchess. The English nation espoused her cause, watched with jealousy and indignation the progress of the French arms, and clamoured loudly for war in her support. Henry, on the contrary, was obstinately bent upon peace, though he took advantage of his subjects' appetite for war, to foist subsidies upon them, which were no sooner collected than his armaments were disbanded, and an ambassador, sent on a mission of peace, was substituted for the herald ready apparelled for defiance. This could not last for ever. French policy triumphed in the marriage of Charles the Eighth with Anne of Britany; and that duchy became finally annexed to the crown of France. England was roused to indignation; the king, forced to listen to their murmurs, promised to invade the rival kingdom the following spring; a benevolence was granted him; all his acts tended to the formation of an expedition, which was the best hope of York.
Lord Barry was urgent against delay, while the English partisans wished that Richard's landing in Ireland, and Henry's in France, should be consentaneous. Nay, they had deeper views. Ireland, since Simnel's defeat, appeared but a forlorn hope, and they fostered the expectation of being able to make England itself the scene of their first attempt, so soon as its king should be fairly engaged in hostilities on the other side of the Channel. The duke himself, eager as he was to begin his career, warmly supported this project; communication with the North was slow meanwhile, and months wore away—not fruitlessly. Richard gained in every way by the delay; his knowledge of English affairs grew clearer; his judgment formed; his strength, weakened by the events of the summer, was restored during the repose and salubrious coolness of the winter months.
Accident furthered their designs; a visitor arrived from England, who brought with him accounts so encouraging, that hope blossomed into certainty in the hearts of the warm-hearted followers of York. But ere we introduce this new and seemingly important personage, we must return awhile to England, to speak of Henry's suspicions, his fears, his artful policy.
All that Frion had achieved through his abortive attempt, had been but to ascertain the existence of the duke of York, and to spread still wider the momentous secret; so that Henry, suspicious and irritated, received him on his return with anger, resenting his failure as the result of treachery. Frion had been dismissed; and now years passed over, without the occurrence of any circumstances that spoke of the orphan heir of the English crown. The king brooded over the secret, but spoke of it to no one. The royal youth grew to his imagination, as in reality he did, passing from boyhood to almost man's estate. Yet, when Henry reflected on the undisturbed state he had enjoyed for years, on the firmness with which he was seated on the throne, and the strong hold he had acquired through the lapse of time on his subjects' minds, he sometimes thought that even Richard's friends would advise him to continue in an obscurity, which was, at least, void of danger. Nevertheless, whenever there had been a question of attacking France, the feeling that his rival was ready to come forward, and that, instead of a war of invasion, he might have to fight for his own crown, increased his unwillingness to enter on the contest.
Now rumours were afloat—none knew whence they came, from France or Ireland—of the existence of King Edward's younger son, and that he would speedily appear to claim his succession. Henry, who was accustomed to tamper with spies and informers, was yet the last to hear of a circumstance so nearly affecting his interests. The name of Lady Brampton at length reached him, as being abroad on a secret and momentous expedition. This name had made a considerable figure in Richard Simon's confessions; it was connected with Lincoln, Lovel, the dowager queen, all whom the Tudor feared and hated. Yet he paused before he acted; his smallest movement might rouse a torpid foe; he only increased his vigilance; and, from past experience knowing that to be the weak point, he dispatched emissaries to Ireland, to learn if any commotion was threatened, any tale rife there, that required his interference. As the time approached when it was expected that the English prince would declare himself, the policy of his friends greatly changed; and, far from maintaining their former mysterious silence, the circumstance of his abode in Spain, and the expectation of his speedy appearance in Ireland, made, during the winter of 1491-92, a principal topic among such of the native nobility as the earl of Desmond had interested in his cause. Henry's spies brought him tidings beyond his fears; and he saw that the struggle was at hand, unless he could arrest the progress of events. Meanwhile, he continued to defer his war with France; he felt that that would be the signal for his enemy's attack.
As he reflected on these things, a scheme developed itself in his mind, on which he resolved to act. The enemy was distant, obscure, almost unknown; were it possible to seize upon his person where he then was, to prevent his proposed journey to Ireland, to prepare for him an unsuspected but secure prison—no cloud would remain to mar his prospect; and, as to the boy himself, he could hope for nothing better than his cousin Warwick's fate, unless he had preferred, to the hazardous endeavour of dethroning his rival, a private and innocuous life in the distant clime where chance had thrown him. This was to be thought of no more: already he was preparing for the bound, but ere he made it, he must be crushed for ever.
In those times, when recent civil war had exasperated the minds of men one against the other, it was no difficult thing for a Lancastrian king to find an instrument willing and fitting to work injury against a Yorkist. During Henry's exile in Brittany, he had become acquainted with a man, who had resorted to him there for the sole purpose of exciting him against Richard the Third! he had been a favourite page of Henry the Sixth, he had waited on his son, Edward, prince of Wales, that noble youth whose early years promised every talent and virtue; he had idolized the heroic and unhappy Queen Margaret. Henry died a foul death in the Tower; the gracious Edward was stabbed at Tewkesbury; the royal Margaret bad given place to the widow Woodville; while, through the broad lands of England, the sons of York rioted in the full possession of her wealth. Meiler Trangmar felt every success of theirs as a poisoned arrow in his flesh—he hated them, as the mother may hate the tiger whose tusks are red with the life-blood of her first-born—he hated them, not with the measured aversion of a warlike foe, but the dark frantic vehemence of a wild beast deprived of its young. He had been the father of three sons; the first had died at Prince Edward's feet, ere he was taken prisoner; another lost his head on the scaffold; the third—the boy had been nurtured in hate, bred amid dire curses and bitter imprecations, all levelled against Edward the Fourth and his brothers—his mind had become distorted by the ill food that nurtured it—he brooded over the crimes of these men, till he believed that he should do a good deed in immolating them to the ghosts of the murdered Lancastrians. He attempted the life of the king—was seized—tortured to discover his accomplices: he was tortured, and the father heard his cries beneath the dread instrument, to which death came as a sweet release. Real madness for a time possessed the unhappy man, and when reason returned, it was only the dawn of a tempestuous day, which rises on the wrecks of a gallant fleet and its crew, strewn on the dashing waves of a stormy sea. He dedicated himself to revenge; he had sought Henry in Brittany; he had fought at Bosworth, and at Stoke. The success of his cause, and the peace that followed, was at first a triumph, at last almost a pain to him. He was haunted by memories which pursued him like the hell-born Eumenides; often he uttered piercing shrieks, as the scenes, so pregnant with horror, recurred too vividly to his mind. The priests, to whom he had recourse as his soul's physicians, counselled him the church's discipline; he assumed the Franciscan habit, but found sackcloth and ashes no refuge from the greater torture of his mind. This man, in various ways, had been recalled to Henry's mind, and now he selected him to effect his purpose.
To any other he would have feared to intrust the whole secret; but the knowledge that the destined victim was the son and rightful heir of King Edward, would add to his zealous endeavours to crush him. Besides that Trangmar had a knowledge of the fact, from having been before employed to extract in his priestly character this secret from a Yorkist, Sir George Nevil, who had been intrusted by Sir Thomas Broughton. Everything yielded in this wretch's mind to his hatred of York; and he scrupled not to hazard his soul, and betray the secrets of the confessional. Nevil fortunately was informed in time of the danger that menaced him, and had fled; while Trangmar, thunderstruck by the magnitude of his discovery, hastened to reveal it to the king. It were long to detail each act of the crafty sovereign, and his scarcely human tool. By his order, the friar introduced himself to the dowager queen, at Bermondsey, with a plausible tale, to which she, in spite of her caution, was induced to give ear, and intrusted a message by him, as he said that he was on his way to Spain, to seek and exhort to action the dilatory prince. He then departed. Henry had rather to restrain than urge his furious zeal. The scheme projected was, that Richard should be entrapped on board a vessel, and brought with secrecy and speed to England, where he might be immured for life in some obscure castle in Wales. Trangmar promised that either he would accomplish this, or that the boy should find a still more secret prison, whence he could never emerge to disturb the reign of Henry, or put in jeopardy the inheritance of his son.
Such was the man who, in the month of April, 1492, following Lady Brampton's steps, arrived at Lisbon, and found to his wish the prince there also, and easy access afibrded him to his most secret counsels. He brought letters from the dowager queen, and some forged ones from other partisans of York, inviting the prince, without application to any foreign sovereigns, or aid from distant provinces, at once to repair to England, and to set up his standard in the midst of his native land, where, so these letters asserted, the earl of Surrey and many other powerful lords anxiously awaited him. All this accorded too well with the wishes of the little conclave not to insure assent; nay, more, when Trangmar urged the inexpediency of the duke's being accompanied by such notorious Yorkists as Plantagenet and Lady Brampton, it was suddenly agreed that Bichard should embark on board a merchantman, to sail with the next fair wind for England, while his friends dispersed themselves variously for his benefit. De Faro, in his caravel, was to convey Lord Barry to Cork. Plantagenet resolved to visit the duchess of Burgundy, at Brussels. Lady Brampton departed for the court of France, to engage the king at once to admit young Richard's claim, and aid him to make it good. "You, sweet, will bear me company;" and Monina, her whole soul—and her eyes expressed that soul's devotion to Richard's success—remembered, starting, that the result of these consultations was to separate her from her childhood's companion, perhaps, for ever. As if she had tottered on the brink of a precipice, she shuddered; but all was well again. It was not to be divided from the prince, to remain with Lady Brampton, to proceed to Paris with her; on his earliest triumph to make a part of it, and to join his court in London. All these words, king, victory, and court, wove a golden tissue before the ardent girl's eyes; she had not yet
"Lifted the painted veil which men call life;"
as a child who chases the glories of the west, she knew not that night was falling upon her, while still she fancied that she advanced towards the ever-retreating splendour of the sky.
Lady Brampton and Plantagenet trembled, as they committed their beloved charge to other hands; they importuned Trangmar with their injunctions—their entreaties, their thousand last words of care and love—the friar heard, and smiled assent to all. Monina had need of all her courage for the hour, which she knew not that she dreaded till it came. He was going; the truth flashed suddenly upon her—he, from whom since childhood she had scarcely been absent for a day. So blind had she been to her own sensations, that it was not until he leaped into the boat, and put off from shore, that she became aware of the overwhelming tide of grief, disquiet, almost of despair, that inundated her heart. Where was her gaiety, her light, ethereal spirit flown? Why lagged the hours thus? Why did ceaseless reverie seem her only refuge from intolerable wretchedness?
She had one other solace; she was still with his friends, whose whole thoughts were spent upon him; his name enriched their discourse; the chances of his voyage occupied their attention. Little knew they the strange and tragic drama that was acting on board the skiff that bore afar the idol of their hopes.