The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck/Chapter 28
Why, it cannot choose but be a noble plot:
And then the power of Scotland and of York
To join ——
In faith it is exceedingly well aimed!
The duke of York found Lord Barry, Sir George Neville, Plantagenet, and several other distinguished friends, on board his vessel. In consultation with them, it was agreed to sail immediately for Cork. The loss of many brave friends, killed or prisoners, on the Kentish coast, saddened them: while the diminution of their numbers forbade the idea of a second descent upon England. Towards Ireland they sailed, with such alternation of calm and contrary winds as made them linger for several weeks upon their way. Here, for the first time, Richard heard from Frion of Clifford's machinations, and of his message and insolent threat to Monina. Every drop of blood in his veins was alive with indignation: before, he had despised Sir Robert as a traitor; and, while he looked on him as the cause of all his disasters, and of the death of so many of his noble and gallant adherents, his abhorrence was mingled with contemptuous pity. The unchivalrous wrong offered to a woman, that woman his sweet sister-friend, animated him with other feelings: to avenge her, and chastise the arrogant braggart, was his knightly duty, his fervent, impatient wish. He saw her not meanwhile; she was in one of those dark hulls, among which love alone taught him to discern the lighter build and more sea-worn frame of the Adalid.
Ireland was at this time very differently situated from when the prince first landed on her shores. After Lambert Simnel's success there, still the king of England had neglected its internal policy. A more terrible name awakened his caution; and he sent Sir Edward Poynings, as the deputy of his infant son Henry, whom he had nominally appointed to the government. Poynings was resolute and snccessful. He defeated the natives, quelled the earl of Kildare, and forced the earl of Desmond to renew his oaths of allegiance. A free pardon was afterwards granted to all, with the exception of Lord Barry.
York was received at Cork most cordially by his old friend O'Water, and immediately, at the earl of Desmond's invitation, repaired to Ardfinnin. The earl had found no great difficulty in escaping from England, and returning to his native island. The timely assistance he had afforded Henry's enemy in the Tower was an impenetrable mystery, though the consciousness of it had made him more yielding than he would otherwise have been in his concessions to Poynings, He received York with the hospitality of an Irish chieftain, and the kindness of a friend. But he held out no inducement for him to remain: on the contrary, he was the first to counsel him to turn his eyes, where a new and brighter prospect presented itself. Sir Patrick Hamilton had left Munster a few months before, with a firm belief in Richard's truth; he had assured the earl of the favourable reception his adventurous friend would obtain from his royal master, and had declared his intention of proceeding to Brussels to see the prince, and personally to enforce his invitation. York was absent; but the duchess gave a cordial reception to the renowned Scottish cavalier. He had been present at the sailing of the fleet; and his last words were wishes for their success, and an offer of secure and honourable refuge in Edinburgh, in case of failure. It had been agreed, that on his own return thither, he should be accompanied by messengers from the duchess, to thank the king of Scotland for the interest he manifested towards her beloved nephew. Sir Edward Brampton wag chosen as the chief of these, accompanied, of course, by his lady, York's long-tried and zealous friend.
All these circumstances were decisive of the course it became the exile to pursue. He was at that moment in a condition to appear under advantageous circumstances at the Scottish court. He had lost several valued friends during the late attempt; but many remained of noble birth and good renown. Above a hundred knights graced his train. The treasure his aunt had bestowed for his English struggle remained, besides a considerable sum of money, services of valuable plate and valuable jewels, the munificent gift of the dowager duchess of Norfolk. In fine, not a dissentient voice was raised; and the attention of every one was turned towards preparations for the voyage. York continued to be the earl of Desmond's guest: in his princely halls he received all the honour due to his rank and pretensions. The countess, a lady of the noble family of Roche, distinguished him by her kindness, and conceived a peculiar friendship for the Spanish maiden, Monina.
The moment arrived for York's embarkation. He had visited his vessels, and seen that all was in readiness; but his surprise was excited by perceiving that no preparations were made for sailing on board the Adalid. This was explained on his return, by the countess telling him that a friend of his desired to take leave of him before he sailed, and that she had been besought by her to explain in some measure the reasons of their separation. De Faro's whole soul was set upon becoming one of those immortal pioneers who opened new paths across the unexplored west. He could be of no use to Richard in Scotland; but he could not prevail on himself to leave his lovely, unprotected girl behind. She had at last consented to accompany him in his far and dangerous voyage.
Many had been this poor child's struggles, sad her reflections, ere she wrought herself to this purpose. "Alas!" such were her reveries, "that innocence should be no safeguard in this ill world! If indeed I loved him sinfully, or he sought me wrongfully, I should simply obey the laws of God in flying him; but he is noble, and I know my own heart. Spotless Mother of God, thou knowest it!—there is no single feeling in my woman's soul that I dare not avouch to thy all-blessed gentleness! I ask only to live in the same land, to breathe the same air, to serve him at his need, to associate with his friends; so that when I see him not, I may feed upon discourse of him. This is all I ask—all!—and this must not be! I cannot bear a tainted name; I cannot endure that, linked with any slightest stain of calumny, my image should haunt his dreams; nor that he or any human being should suffer through me, which may so easily happen: for if words like those Frion reported should reach my father's ears, he would clothe his tempest-shaken limbs in arms, and expose his breast to the sharp sword's point, to vindicate my honour. No!—no tragedy shall be associated with poor Monina's name; nor agony nor woe shall visit those I love, through me: they shall not even commiserate my sufferings; these shall be garnered up in my own heart, watched with a miser's care. I will not enrich the tell-tale air by one sigh; nor through my broken heart shall the gloom of my despair appear. I will paint my face with joy's own hue; put sunshine in my eyes: my hapless love shall be no tale of pity for any, save my own desolate thoughts. Nor let me forget every lesson of resignation, nor the dear belief I cherish in the protection and goodness of my sainted guardianess. Let me rejoice at much that exalts my destiny in my own eyes. The prince's friendship, affection, gratitude, and esteem are mine: I have been able to serve him I love—am I not sufficiently fortunate? He needs me no more; but I am no alien upon earth. I shall give delight to my dear father by accompanying him over the untrod watery deserts: through me—for, if I went not, he would remain behind—the name of De Faro will be added to the list of those who bestow a new creation of supernal beauty on our out-worn world. He will call me the partner of his glory; and, though that be a vain word, his dark eyes will flash with joy. My dear, dear father! Should the prince succeed and ascend his rightful throne, more impassable than that wide sea would be the gulph which ceremony would place between us; and if he fall—ah! mine is no summer's day voyage; the tornados of that wild region may wreck me; the cold sea receive me in her bosom; and I shall never hear of Richard's overthrow, nor endure the intolerable pang of knowing that he dies."
Fortified in some degree by such thoughts, anxious to conceal her sorrows from one who might compassionate, yet not wholly share them, Monina met Richard with an air of gaiety: glad, in spite of his involuntary mortification, that she should be spared any pain, he copied her manner; and a spectator would have thought, that either they parted for a few hours, or were indifferent to each other. He could not help betraying some anxiety however, when Lady Desmond, who was present, solicited him to make his friend change her purpose, and drew a frightful picture of the hazardous voyage, the storms, the likelihood that they might be driven far, far away, where no land was, where they would perish of famine on the barren, desolate ocean. Monina laughed—she endeavoured thus to put aside her friend's serious entreaties; and, when she found that she failed, she spoke of the Providence that could protect her even on the wastes of innavigable ocean; and proudly reminded him, that she would trust her father, whose reputation as a mariner stood foremost among those in the king of Portugal's employ. Richard looked perplexed—sorrow and pain spoke in his own countenance; while she, true to herself to the last, said, "I have now told you my purpose—but this is no farewell; to-morrow we meet again; and another to-morrow will come also, when I bring treasure from my Indian isle to dazzle the monarch of fair, happy England."
On that morrow Richard sought in vain among the countess of Desmond's companions for his sweet Spaniard; he imaged her as he last saw her, light, laughing, her soft-beaming eyes hardly daring to glance towards him, while he fancied that a shower of precious drops was shaken from their fringed lids. He had meant to say, "Ah! weep, Monina, weep for Andalusia—for our happy childhood—for the hopes that leaves us: thy tears will seem to me more glad than thy untrue smile." But she was not there. Could he have seen her from the deck of his vessel, marking its progress from the watch-tower of Youghall, he had been satisfied. The anguish of bitter tears, the heart's agonizing gaspings, were hers, to be succeeded by the dull starless night of despair, when his sail vanished on the glittering plains of the sunny sea.
Farewell to her who mourned; to her who saw neither day nor joy, whose heart lived with him, while she prepared for her melancholy separation from the very world which he inhabited.
The scene shifts to Scotland; and hither, to a new country, a new people, almost to a new language, our royal adventurer is transported. Dark, tumultuous, stained with blood, and rendered foul by treason, are the pages of early Scottish history. A wild and warlike people inhabited its mountainous districts, whose occupation was strife, whose religion was power and revenge. The Lowlanders, a wealthier race, were hardly more cultivated or less savage. One course of rebellion against the sovereign, and discord among themselves, flows, a sanguinary stream from the hidden sources of things, threading a long track of years, or overflowing it with its pernicious waves. Discord, hate, and murder were the animating spirits of the scene.
James the Third was a weak, unhappy man. A prophecy had induced him to distrust all the princes of his house—he extended this distrust to his son, who was brought up consequently in a kind of honourable and obscure imprisonment. He fostered unworthy favourites; and many bold and sanguinary revolts had been the consequence. On one occasion, while encamped during a foray into England, his nobles had seized on all his personal friends and adherents, and hanged them overBridge. The last rebellion cost him his life. The insurgents seized on, and placed at their head, his eldest son, then only sixteen years of age—they met their sovereign in the field—he fled before them; and his death was as miserable and dastardly as his life.
James the Fourth succeeded to the throne. The mean jealousy of his father had caused him to be untutored; but he was one of those beings, who by nature inherit magnanimity refinement, and generosity. His faults were those that belong to such a character. His imagination was active, his impulses warm but capricious. He was benignant to every other, severe only in his judgment of himself. His father's death, to which he had been an unwilling accessary, weighed like parricide on his conscience. To expiate it, in the spirit of those times, he wore perpetually an iron girdle, augmenting the weight each year, as habit or increasing strength lightened the former one. He devoted much of his life to penance and prayer. Here ended, however, all of the ascetic in his disposition. He was a gallant knight and an accomplished gentleman. He encouraged tourneys and passages of arms, raising the reputation of the Scottish cavaliers all over Europe, so that many noble foreigners repaired to Edinburgh, to gain new trophies in contests with the heroes of the north. He passed edicts to enforce the schooling of the children of the nobles and lairds. His general love of justice, a little impaired it is true by feudal prejudices, often led him to wander in disguise over his kingdom; seeking hospitality from the poor, and listening with a candid and generous mind to every remark upon himself and his government.
He was singularly handsome, graceful, prepossessing, and yet dignified in his manners. He loved pleasure, and was the slave of the sex, which gives to pleasure all its elegance and refinement; he partook his family's love for the arts, and was himself a poet and a musician; nay more, to emulate the divine patron of these accomplishments, he was well-skilled in surgery, and the science of healing. He was ambitious, active, energetic, He ruminated many a project of future glory; meanwhile his chief aim was to reconcile the minds of the alienated nobles—his murdered father's friends—to himself; and, succeeding in this, to abolish the feuds that raged among the peers of Scotland, and civilize their barbarous propensities. He succeeded to a miracle. His personal advantages attracted the affection of his subjects; they were proud of him, and felt exalted by his virtues. His excellent government and amiable disposition, both united to make his reign peaceful in its internal policy, and beneficial to the kingdom. The court of Holyrood vied with those of Paris, London, and Brussels; to which capitals many of his high-born subjects, no longer engaged in the struggles of party, travelled; bringing back with them the refinements of gallantry, the poetry, learning, and science of the south of Europe. The feuds, last flickerings of the dying torch of discord, which lately spread a fatal glare through the land, ceased; if every noble did not love, they all obeyed their sovereign—thus a new golden age might be said to have dawned upon this eyrie of Boreas, this tempestuous Thule of the world.
We must remember that this was the age of chivalry; the, spirit of Edward the Third and the princely dukes of Burgundy yet survived. Louis the Eleventh, in France, had done much to quench it; it burnt bright again under the auspices of his son. Henry the Seventh was its bitter enemy; but we are still at the beginning of his reign, while war and arms were unextinguished by his cold avaricious policy. James of Scotland laboured, and successfully, to pacify his subjects, children of one common parent; but he, as well as they, disdained the ignoble arts of peace. England formed the lists where they desired to display their courage; war with England was a word to animate every heart to dreadful joy: in the end, it caused the destruction of him and all his chivalry in Flodden Field; now it made him zealous to upraise a disinherited prince; so that under the idea of restoring the rightful sovereign to the English throne, he might have fair pretext for invading the neighbour kingdom. At the hope, the soldiers of Scotland—in other words, its whole population—awakened, as an unhooded hawk, ready to soar at its accustomed quarry.
Sir Patrick Hamilton, the most accomplished and renowned of the Scottish cavaliers, and kinsman of the royal house, had returned laden with every testimony of the White Rose's truth, and a thousand proofs of his nobleness and virtue. Sir Edward Brampton delivered the duchess's message of thanks; and his lady had already awakened the zeal of many a gentleman, and the curiosity and interest of many a lady, for the pride of York, the noble, valiant Plantagenet. Woman's sway was great at Holyrood; as the bachelor king, notwithstanding his iron girdle, and his strict attention to his religious duties, was a devout votary at the shrine of feminine beauty.
There was a hawking party assembled in the neighbourhood of Stirling, which he graced by his presence. All was, apparently, light-heartedness and joy, till a dispute arose between two damsels upon the merits of their respective falcons. One of these was fair Mary Boyd, daughter of the laird of Bonshaw. Mary Boyd was the first-love of the young sovereign, and the report went, that he was no unsuccessful suitor; it spoke of offspring carefully concealed in a village of Fife, whom James often visited. When, afterwards, this young lady's example was imitated by others nobly born, this became no secret, and of her children, one became archbishop of St. Andrew's—the other, a daughter, married the earl of Morton.
But these were days of youthful bashfulness and reserve; the mind of Mary Boyd balanced between pride in her lover, and shame for her fault; a state of feeling that ill brooked the loss of what gilded her too apparent frailty—the exclusive attention of the king. Mary was older than the king; the dignity which had captivated the boy's imagination, lost its charm when the tyranny of assumed right took the place of that of tenderness. He grew cold, then absent, and at last, ventured to fix a regard of admiration on another, sliding easily from the restraint to which he at first submitted, into all of devotion, and soft, gallant courtesy, by which kings win ladies' love, and in which none grew to be a greater adept than James. The new object that attracted him was, the young, gay, and lovely Lady Jane Kennedy, daughter of the earl of Cassils. Her sparkling eyes, her "bonny brent brow," her dark, clustering hair, contrasted with the transparency of her complexion—her perfect good-humour, her vivacity, and her wit—made her a chief beauty in the Scottish court, and in all this she was the reverse of the fair, light-haired, sleepy-eyed Mary. Lady Jane saw and gloried in her triumph over the king. Innocent then, she only desired the reputation of such a conquest, fully resolved not to tread in the steps of her rival. It is something of fool's play to strive to enchain fire by links of straw, to throw silken fetters on abounding torrent, to sport with the strong lion, Love, as he were a playful whelp: some, secure in innocence and principle, may at last discover their mistake and remain uninjured; but not the vain, heedless, self-willed, Lady Jane. The courtiers were divided in their attentions; some for shame would not forsake Mary Boyd; some thought that still she would regain her power; one or two imagined that Lady Jane's resistance would restore the king to her rival; but the greater number caught the light spirit of the hour, and gathered round the laughing, happy girl.
The contention between these ladies made many smile. The king betted a diamond against a Scotch pebble on Lady Jane's bird. Mary had thwarted him, and forced him to her side during the first part of the day—now he took his revenge. A heron rose from the river banks. The birds were unhooded, and up soared Lady Jane's in one equal flight through the blue air, cleaving the atmosphere with noiseless wing. Mary's followed slower; but, when Lady Jane's pounced on the quarry, and brought it screaming and flapping to the ground, the rival bird darted on the conqueror, and a sharp struggle ensued. It was unequal; for the Lady Jane's hawk would not quit its prey. "Let them fight it out," said Mary, "and the survivor is surely the victor."
But the spectators cried shame—while Lady Jane, with a scream, hastened to save her favourite. The other, fiery as a borderer, attacked even her; and, in spite of her gloves, drops of blood from her fair hand, stained her silken robe. James came to her rescue, and with one blow put an end to the offender's life. Jane caressed her "tassel gentle," while Mary looted on her "false carrion's" extinction with unrepressed indignation. They returned to Stirling: immediately on their arrival, they received tidings that the duke of York's fleet had been descried, and was expected to enter the Frith on the following day. None heard the words without emotion; the general sentiment was joy; for Richard's landing was to be the signal of invasion. King Henry had one or two friends among the Scottish nobles, and these alone smiled contemptuously.
"We must have feasts and tourneys, fair mistress," said the king, "to honour our royal visitor. Will your servant intrude unseemingly if, while his arms extol your beauty, he wears your colours?"
Lady Jane smiled a reply, as she followed her father towards his mansion. She smiled, while feminine triumph beamed in her eye, and girlish bashfulness blushed in her cheek. "Has she not a bonny ee?" cried James, to him who rode near him. It was Sir Patrick Hamilton, his dear cousin and friend, to whom James often deferred, and respected, while he loved. His serious look recalled the king. "This is not the time, good sooth!" he continued, "for such sweet gauds—but for lance, and broadsword:—the coming of this prince of Roses will bring our arms into play, all rusty as they are. I wonder what presence our guest may have!"
The friends then conversed concerning the projected war, which both agreed would be well-timed. It would at once give vent to the fiery impulses of the Scotch lords, otherwise apt to prey upon each other. But lately a band of the Drummonds had burnt the kirk of Moulward, in which were six-score Murrays, with their wives and children, all of whom were victims. But foray in England—war with the land of their hate—the defiance would be echoed in glad shouts from Tweed to Tay, from the Lothians to the Carse of Gowrie; while it should be repeated in groans from the Northumberland wilds.