The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck/Chapter 22
HERMAN DE FARO.
Oh, Clifford! but bethink thee once again,
And in thy thought o'errun my former time,
And if thou canst for blushing, view this face!
"Where is the traitor?" Neville's question resounded through Flanders, and was re-echoed in groans from the English shores. Each man feared the other, and saw the mark of Henry's malice on the brow of all. It was a worse scene in England: executions followed imprisonment; the scaffolds flowed with blood; and suspicion was still greedy of prey. Among the papers seized by the king there was found a letter from Clifford to Lord Fitzwater, containing these words: "I do protest, my lord, that the proof of York's truth is most pertinent. You know this; and yet he who cut the crooked rose-bush to the roots still doubts; forsooth, he is still at his 'ifs'—'if he were sure that that young man were King Edward's son, he would never bear arms against him.' Pray deprive my lord of his 'if;' for arms he must never bear: he is too principal to any cause."
Henry tormented himself to find who this doubter might be: again he sought to bribe Clifford, who was at first dogged that so much was done without him, and then tried to barter his intelligence for Lord Fitzwater's life. Such grace had he left, that he was ready to exert his wits to save his former patron; this was granted. This noble alone of the conspirators who were laymen was spared: he was sent prisoner to Calais.
At the first word of discovery, Monina's friends had endeavoured to insure her escape to Flanders; but her name was known to Henry, and there was none whom he was more desirous to get into his power. She remained concealed at a little distance from London. She grew mad in inaction: the work of death and misery around wound up her tender spirit to torture; and the execution of her former friends filled her with such horror as made day hateful, night the parent of frightful visions. After several weeks' seclusion, she all at once resolved to visit London, to seek some one of her former friends—to learn whether the tragedy was over, and what further mischiefs despair might have engendered. She inhabited a solitary mansion, with one old woman, who opposed her going, but vainly. Monina was too young to bear uncertainty with any degree of patience. Some slight joy visited her as she found herself on her road to London. Before she arrived a heavy rain fell; but she was not to be discouraged. Sir Edward Lisle, she knew, had not been arrested: she was unaware of his escape, and thought perhaps that he had not been discovered; she might get intelligence from him. His house was deserted and empty. Another hope remained—Sir William Stanley. She knew his timidity, and resolved to be cautious as to the manner of her visit. Sir William had ever been peculiarly kind to the gentle maiden; fearing to see her openly, she had often come to him by water: his mansion, near the palace at Westminster, had a garden upon the Thames. Without exciting any remark, she could land here. It was already night, and this favoured secrecy. With some difficulty, in the city, where she then was, she contrived to find her way to an obscure wharf, and embarked in a wherry. Fortunately it was high water, and she landed without difficulty in the garden, and dismissed the men. Now she began, to be puzzled as to how she should make her way, dripping with rain, unexpected, to Sir William's presence. She had been accustomed to be admitted by a little door opening on stairs which led her to her old friend's library: this was shut now. Suddenly she thought she heard voices, and then perceived a thread of light that streamed through the key-hole of the summer-house in the garden. There was a noise on the water, too: and a boat was paddled to the landing-place. Bewildered, yet believing that all this secrecy was connected with the grand conspiracy, she moved towards the summer-house: the door was opened, and the light falling full upon her, she saw several figures within, and a female shriek burst upon her ear. Quick steps were heard behind: to retreat or go forward equally terrified her; when one of the persons in the summer-house, a man in an uncouth foreign garb, cried, "Thou here, Monina! What miracle is this? Come, come in; there is danger in all we do!"
Monina recognized the voice of Frion, and entered: there she saw one, a lady richly attired, yet half disguised in a large black cloak. Fear was painted on her cheek; her blue eyes were cast up to Heaven. A female attendant with her seemed yet more terrified. About the room were scattered globes and astrolabes, and all the gear of an astrologer. In the lady, Monina recognized York's sister, Tudor's queen, the fair Elizabeth of England. At once compassion and respect entered her heart: she addressed the royal lady with reverence, and all that touching grace that was her sweetest charm; she assured her of inviolable secrecy; she reminded her of their former interview. Elizabeth grew calmer as she recognized her visitor at Shene: she stretched out her hand to the Spaniard, saying, "I do indeed believe and trust thee; thou shalt hear again from me." Then folding her mantle round her, and leaning on her attendant, she quitted the house, and with trembling haste embarked.
For many weeks after this scene, Monina continued concealed in Sir William Stanley's mansion. When the arrest of the conspirators had taken place, Frion, balked in an attempt to escape, for safety's sake had assumed the habit and character of an astrologer, and so far worked upon Stanley's fears, and won him by his flattery, that he permitted him to take up his residence in his summer-house. Frion was a clever prophet, and too restless not to become notorious. It was a good mode, he averred, to put hope in the hearts of the Yorkists, by prognosticating all manner of success to them. His fame spread. The queen questioned Stanley about his new astrologer; and the confusion the poor chamberlain evinced, served only to excite her curiosity. She sent one of her attendants to see what manner of man he might be; and the subtle Frion profited by this little artifice, which Sir William in his terror divulged, to entice the queen herself to his cell. She came, and the result of her visit was to bring Monina again before her.
Such were the agents still at work for York in London. Such the materials Clifford strove to mould into a purpose of his own. There was no reason, so many of the White Rose thought, to forego all their plans because one had come to a fatal end. Still Richard might land in England, and make head against Tudor. On a smaller scale, with lessened hopes and diminished ardour, a scheme of this kind was canvassed. Clifford appeared its chief abettor, and encouraged it by every means in his power; none were averse. It was not an enterprise of such high expectation as the discovered one; but, undertaken with speed, and prosecuted with energy, it might turn out as well. England was by no means tranquil; the metropolis itself was the scene of tumults: these were raised to a ferment by the embargo Henry had found it necessary to place on all communication with Holland—a measure fraught with ruin to many of the richest merchants in London.
At this time, towards the end of the summer, the king came up from his palace at Shene, and held a court at Westminster. One of the immediate subjects that brought him up, was a tumult in the city, to which the embargo had given rise. A vast number of apprentices and journeymen belonging to the ruined merchants were out of employ, while the traders from Hans, and other free German towns, who went among us by the name of the Easterlings, got the commerce into their own. hands, and grew rich upon it. The sight of their prosperity was, to the starving Londoners, as the pressed rowel of a spur in a horse's side; with the usual barbarism of the untaught and rude, they visited on these men the fault of their governors—the discontent augmented till it became loud, furious, and armed. Multitudes of those deprived of their usual means, met, and, in a moment of rage, proceeded from words to acts. They endeavoured to force and rifle the warehouses of the Easterlings, who repulsed them with difficulty; nor did they disperse, till the mayor arrived with men and weapons, from whom they fled like a flock of sheep. When tidings of this event were brought to Henry, he, who saw in all things the multiplied image of the abhorred White Rose, believed the Yorkists to be its secret cause. The day after his arrival he gave audience to the mayor, who reported that, from every examination made, none appeared to have a part in it, except servants and apprentices, nearly a hundred of whom were imprisoned in the Tower.
In giving a detail of this circumstance, the mayor related that the Easterlings declared, that at the first onset their richest store-chambers must have become the prey of the rioters, but for the interposition of one man. He was a sea-captain, and had arrived but the day before with his caravel from Spain—they represented him as a person of gigantic stature and super-human strength. Entangled by the mob in his progress through the city, he had no sooner discovered their intent, than he contrived to make his way into the stilyard; and there combining the forces of the defenders, more by his personal prowess than any other means, he beat back the invaders, and succeeded in closing the gates. At the representation of the mayor, Henry commanded that this man should be brought before him, partly that he might thank him for his services, and partly, for Henry was curious on such points, to learn from him the news from Spain, and if more had been heard of the wild visionary Columbus and his devoted crew, since they had deserted the stable continent, to invade the hidden chambers of the secret western ocean.
The king received the mariner in his closet. None were in attendance save Urswick. There was something grand in the contrast between these men. The courtier-priest—the sovereign, whose colourless face was deep-lined with careful thought, whose eyes were skilled in reading the thoughts of men, and whose soul was perpetually alive to everything that was passing around him—and the ocean rock, the man of tempests and hardships, whose complexion was darkened and puckered by exposure to sun and wind, whose every muscle was hardened by labour, but whose unservile mien bespoke no cringing to any power, save nature's own. He received Henry's thanks with respect, and replied simply: he answered also several questions put to him concerning his voyages; it appeared that he had but lately arrived from Spain—that he came to seek a relative who resided in England. During this interview a thought flashed on Henry's mind. In his late transactions with Clifford, the base purpose had been formed of enticing the duke and his principal adherents to England, and of delivering them up to their enemy; there had been some discussion as to providing, at least, one vessel in Henry's pay, to make part of the little fleet which would bring the duke of York over. This was difficult, as suspicion might attach itself to any English vessel; but here was one, with a stranger captain, and a foreign crew, a man who knew nothing of White or Red Rose, who would merely fulfil his commission. Slow on all occasions to decide, the king appointed another interview with the stranger.
It so happened, that the news of the appearance of the Spanish captain had penetrated to the queen's apartments; and little Arthur, her gentle and darling son, was desirous to see the countrymen of Columbus, whose promised discoveries were the parent of such wonder and delight throughout the world. The prince of Wales must not be denied this pleasure, and the Spaniard was ushered into the queen's presence. An enthusiast in his art, his energetic, though simple expressions enchanted the intelligent prince, and even compelled the attention of his little sturdy brother Henry. He spoke in words, borrowed from Columbus's own lips, of translucent seas, of an atmosphere more softly serene than ours, of shores of supernal beauty, of the happy natives, of stores of treasure, and the bright hopes entertained concerning the further quest to be made in these regions. Elizabeth forgot herself to listen, and regretted the necessity of so soon dismissing him. She asked a few questions relative to himself, his vessel; "She was a gallant thing once," replied her commander, "when I took her from the Algerines, and new-christened her the Adalid; because, like her owner, being of Moorish origin she embraced the true faith. My own name, please your grace, is Hernan de Faro, otherwise called the Captain of the Wreck, in memory of a sad tedious adventure, many years old."
"De Faro—had he not a daughter?"
Anxiety and joy showed itself at once in the mariner's countenance. Monina!—Where was she? How eagerly and vainly had he sought her—faltering, the queen had only power to say, that Sir William Stanley, the lord chamberlain, could inform him, and, terrified, put an end to the interview.
Two days after—already had De Faro found and fondly embraced his beloved child—Urswick, at the king's command, sent for the hero of the stilyard, and, after some questioning, disclosed his commission to him; it was such, that, had de Faro been in ignorance, would have led him to suspect nothing—he was simply to sail for Ostend; where he would seek Sir Robert Clifford, and deliver a letter: he was further told that he was to remain at Sir Robert's command, to receive on board his vessel whoever the knight should cause to embark in her, and to bring them safely to England. To all this De Faro, aware of the dread nature of these orders, assented; and, in Stanley's summer-house, with the lord chamberlain, Monina, and Frion, it was discussed how this web of treason could best be destroyed. There was little room for doubt; Monina resolved to sail with her father, to denounce Clifford to the prince, and so save him and his friends from the frightful snare. Frion still remained in England, to try to fathom the whole extent of the mischief intended; though now, fearful of discovery, he quitted his present abode, and sought a new disguise. Stanley trembled at Clifford's name, but he saw no suspicion in his sovereign's eye, and was reassured.
The Adalid sailed, bearing the king's letters to Clifford, and having Monina on board, who was to unfold to the deceived prince and his followers the dangers that menaced them.
Already, as the appointed time drew near, most of Richard's partizans were assembled at Ostend; a fleet of three vessels was anchored in the port to convey them to England to fated death; the prince himself, with Clifford, sojourned in a castle at no great distance. Sir Robert insinuated himself each day more and more into his royal friend's confidence; each day his hatred grew, and he fed himself with it to keep true to his base purpose; among the partizans of York sometimes he felt remorse; beside the bright contrast of his own dark self, never.
Monina landed; and, the prince being absent, first she sought Lady Brampton—she was at Brussels; then Plantagenet,—he was expected, but not arrived from Paris; then she asked for Sir George Neville, as the chief of the English exiles; to him she communicated her strange, her horrid tidings, to him she showed Henry's still sealed letter to Clifford. What visible Providence was here, laying its finger on the headlong machinery that was bearing them to destruction! Neville was all aghast: he, who did not like, had ceased to suspect Clifford, seeing that he adhered to them at their worst. He lost no time in bringing Monina to the castle, but ten miles distant, where York then was; he introduced her privately, and, wishing that she should tell her tale herself, went about to contrive that, without Clifford's knowledge or suspicion, the prince should have an interview with her.
Monina did not wonder that her bosom throbbed wildly, as she remained in expectation of seeing her childhood's playfellow, from whom she had been so long absent. Nor did she check her emotion of intense pleasure when she saw him, and heard him in her native Spanish utter expressions of glad delight at so unexpectedly beholding her. Time had changed him very little; his aspect was still boyish; and, if more thought was seated in his eye, his smile was not the less frank and sweet; she was more altered; her but little feminine form had acquired grace; the girl was verging into the woman—blooming as the one, tender and impassioned as the other; her full dark eyes, which none could behold and not feel the very inner depths of their nature stirred, were the home of sensibility and love. A few moments were given to an interchange of affectionate greeting, and then York, recurring to the mysterious mode in which Neville had expressed himself, asked if anything save a kind wish to visit the brother of her childhood had brought her hither; she replied, by relating to him the circumstances of her father's commission from Henry, and delivering to him the letter for Sir Robert. The whole wide world of misery contains no pang so great as the discovery of treachery where we pictured truth; death is less in the comparison, for both destroy the future, and one, with Gorgon countenance, transforms the past. The world appeared to slide from beneath the prince, as he became aware that Clifford's smiles were false; his seeming honesty, his discourse of honour, the sympathy apparent between them, a lie, a painted lie, alluring him by fair colours to embrace foulest deformity. The exceeding openness and confidence of his own nature, rendered the blow doubly unnatural and frightful; and Monina, who had half disliked, and latterly had almost forgotten Clifford, was full of surprise and pain to mark the affliction her friend's countenance expressed.
There was no time for regret. Neville interrupted them, and it became necessary to act. Richard held in his hand the sealed proof of his associate's falsehood; Sir George urged him to open it, so as to discover the whole extent of the treason. The prince's eyes were at once lighted up by the suggestion: no, no, because Clifford had been base, he would violate no law of honour—there was no need for the sake of others; his treachery discovered, was fangless; nor would he even undertake the dark office of openly convicting and punishing: his conscience and remorse should be judge and executioner.
Monina and Neville returned to Ostend. The prince sent a message to Clifford with some trifling commission to execute in the same town; and Sir Robert, who had heard of the arrival of a stranger caravel from England, was glad of an opportunity, to ride over to learn its character. His feet were in the stirrups, when a page brought him a letter from the duke, which he was bid not to open till he had departed. A sense of a mysterious meaning came over him. Was he discovered? At the first dawn of this suspicion he clapped spurs to his horse, and was already far away; then, impatient of uncertainty, as soon as half the brief space to Ostend was measured, he took out the packet, eyed it curiously, and, after many qualms and revolutions of feeling, suddenly tore it open. King Henry's despatch, written in Urswick's well-known hand, first met his eye. Worse in action than in thought, a cold dew mantled on his brow; and, while his heart stood still in his labouring breast, he cast his eyes over a few lines, written in Richard's fair clear Spanish hand:—
"This paper, joined to the mode in which it fell into my hands, accuses you of treason. If wrongfully, accord permission that the seal may be broken, and your innocence proved.
"Even it the mystery which this letter contains cannot be divulged nor exculpated, all is not lost. Perhaps you are rather weak than guilty; erring, but not wicked. If so, return immediately on your steps; by a frank confession merit my confidence. I were unworthy of the mediation of the Blessed Saints, whom each night I solicit to intercede for me before our Heavenly Father, were I not ready to pardon one who has sinned, but who repents.
"If your crime be of a deeper dye, and you are allied in soul to my enemy, depart. It is enough for me that I never see you more. If I remain a fugitive for ever, you will lose nothing by deserting my ruined fortunes; if I win the day, my first exercise of the dearest prerogative of kings, will be to pardon you.