England, farewell! thou, who hast been my cradle,
Shalt never be my dungeon or my grave
The historical account of Lord Lovel's insurrection is contained in a few words. While the two Staffords besieged Worcester, this nobleman advanced against Henry in York. The duke of Bedford was sent against him, who published a general pardon, for all the rebels who should submit. The soldiers of Lord Lovel had no powerful watch-word to insure their union; the existence of Edward the Fourth's son was a profound secret; they were therefore easily induced to abandon an almost nameless cause; and in three weeks Lord Lovel found himself with only one hundred adherents, or rather personal friends, who at his earnest entreaty disbanded, while he, chiefly bent on saving the life of his princely charge, felt greater security in being left singly with him.
He had promised to traverse England, and to conduct him to Winchester; but the hot pursuit on foot forced him to delay this journey. Meanwhile a present refuge was to be sought. He had a stanch friend in a zealous Yorkist, Sir Thomas Broughton, who resided in Lancashire, to whose residence he directed his steps. Still, even during this short journey, great precaution was necessary. Lord Lovel and his charge travelled disguised, avoiding highroads and great towns. On the second evening, when the red aspect of the setting sun threatened an inclement night, they took shelter in a lone cot, on one of the wild moors of that county.
A long habit of personal attendance had instilled into Lovel's mind a parental affection for the little prince. They had journeyed far that day, and Richard was overpowered by fatigue; his friend strewed for him a bed of leaves—he stretched himself on it, and quickly fell into a sound sleep, while the noble kept up the fire he had lighted, and paced the hut, revolving in his mind a thousand schemes. It was a chill February evening; and, as night came on, a thick sleet beat against the windows, while the wind, sweeping over the wide health, howled round the miserable shepherd's cot. Some time passed thus, and fear in Lovel's mind gave place to the sense of security, inspired by the desolation of the spot and the inclemency of the elements. He needed rest, and as soon as he had thrown himself on the ground, drowsiness overpowered him—the wind sang a wild lullaby to both the sleepers.
Though still lost to the outer world, a change passed over Lovel's countenance—again his features relaxed into sleep, and again expressed disquietude. The tramp of horses' feet was around the hut—voices mingled alien sounds with the raging blast;—at last a loud knocking at the door caused the noble at once to start on his feet wide awake. Richard still slept on. Lord Lovel cautiously withdrew into the shadow behind the door, listening intently to divine the motives of these unwelcome intruders. He felt assured that they were emissaries of Henry, who had traced him hither; he endeavoured to form in his mind some plan of conduct to save the duke, whom he was about to awaken and put on his guard, when a woman's voice struck upon his ear. The knocking at the door was changed into a violent beating, the rude hinges gave way, and it swung back. The fugitive's heart beat quick; it was a moment full of fate; such a one as, when passed, we seem to have concentrated a life into its small space. The man that entered calmed his fears; low in stature, broadly built, a cloak lined with furs added to his bulk, and a Flemish hat completed his peaceable appearance; though he was too much muffled to show his face. Glancing at Lovel a look which was, doubtless, intended to convey reproach, he muttered some words in a foreign guttural language, and went back to his companions. Two women now entered, both enveloped in furs. One stepped lightly on, and drew the bench, which had lately pillowed the head of Lovel, closer to the fire, while the other, bending under the burthen in her arms, approached slower, and sitting down on the seat prepared for her, threw back her cloak, and discovered that she bore in her arms a sleeping child, about six years of age. The first, meanwhile, disencumbered herself of her rich furs, and then leaning over the child, kissed its little hands, and regarded its sleeping form with mingled anxiety and tenderness, speaking to the other in a foreign dialect, evidently about the risk the poor babe had run from exposure to the weather. Lovel remained a mute spectator; he resolved not to come forward till he should see who their male attendants were. After a brief interval the first intruder again entered; he threw off his cloak, and looking round with keen eyes, the fugitive discovered the well-known features of a friend. His heart now relieved, his countenance lighted up, and he stepped forward, saying: "Mynheer Jahn Warbeck, God be with you! you travel on a stormy night."
"And you, Lord Lovel," replied the money-lender, angrily, "are sufficiently discourteous to wanderers at suck a season. Why even vipers are harmless during a storm."
"But fair weather returns, and they again find their sting. I might bare my own breast, but—" he pointed to the bed of leaves, on which, in spite of the tumult, young Richard still slept.
Warbeck started: but before he could reply, one of his companions turned to speak to him, and a conversation ensued, begun in Dutch, and continued in French, concerning the circumstances which had divided them from their attendants, and their fatiguing wanderings during the storm. A small saddlebag was produced by Warbeck, containing a few provisions. A bed for the sleeping child was formed, and the travellers sat round the fire, enjoying their simple fare. From time to time the fair blue eyes of the younger lady, who was evidently the mistress, and the other an attendant, turned to look on the chivalric form and manly beauty of Lovel; a few smiling observations escaped her in her native language, which Warbeck answered drily and succinctly. The bench on which the lady sat was soon sacrificed for firing—the cloaks of the party were dried, and the women, wrapt in them, sought repose on the bare ground, which was the sole flooring of the hut, the younger drawing to her bosom the sleeping child. Lovel and Warbeck kept silence, till the deep breathing of their companions showed that they slept: then, in reply to the Fleming's questions, Lovel related the history of the last months, and at the conclusion frankly asked his advice and assistance in accomplishing his design of conveying the duke of York to Winchester. Warbeck looked thoughtful on this demand, and after a pause said, "I cannot say wherefore this unfortunate prince excites so strong an interest in me; for in truth my heart yearns towards him as if he were akin to me. Is it because he bore for a time my poor boy's name?"
Warbeck paused; his hard features were strongly marked by grief—"I and my sister," he continued, "crossed the country to visit my Peterkin, who was ill—who is lost to me now for ever."
A pause again ensued: the young soldier respected too much the father's grief to interrupt it. At length the Fleming said, "Lord Lovel, I will—I trust I can—save Duke Richard's life. My sister is kind-hearted; and the silence you have observed concerning the very existence of King Edward's son makes the task more easy. Madeline is about to return to her own country; she was to have taken my Peterkin with her. Let the prince again assume that name: it shall be my care to escort him in this character to Winchester; and at Portsmouth they may embark, while you follow your own plans, and take refuge with the friends you mention in these parts."
As Warbeck spoke, Lovel motioned to him to observe his sister, who, unable to sleep, was observing them with attention. "Madeline does not understand our English," said her brother; "but it were well that she joined our counsels, which may continue in French. I have your leave, my lord, to disclose your secret to her? Fear her not: she would die rather than injure one hair of that poor child's head,"
On Warbeck's invitation, the lady rose; and he, taking her hand, led her to the low couch of the duke of York. Sleep and gentle dreams spread an irradiation of beauty over him: his glowing cheek, his eyes hardly closed, the masses of rich auburn hair that clustered on a brow of infantine smoothness and candour, the little hand and arm, which, thrown above his head, gave an air of helplessness to his attitude, combined to form a picture of childish grace and sweetness, which no woman, and that woman a mother, could look on without emotions of tenderness. "What an angelic child," said the fair sister of Warbeck, as she stooped to kiss his rosy cheek;" what a noble-looking boy. Who is he?"
"One proscribed," said the cavalier; "one whom he who reigns over England would consign to a dungeon. Were he to fall into the hands of his enemies, they might not, indeed, dare not cut him off violently; but they would consume and crush him, by denying him all that contributes to health and life."
"Can this sweet boy have enemies?" cried the lady: "Ah! if he have, has he not friends also to guard him from them?"
"With our lives!" he replied, emphatically; "but that is a small sacrifice and a useless one; for, to preserve him we must preserve ourselves. My life,—such acts deserve no record,—I have, and will again and again expose for him; but the will to save him is not enough without the power; and that power you possess, lady, to a far, far greater extent than I."
"The will I have most certainly," said the fair one, regarding the boy with anxious tenderness. "Command me, sire chevalier; my power, small as I must believe it to be, and my will, shall unite to preserve this sweet child."
Warbeck disclosed briefly to his sister the secret of young Richard's birth, and detailed his plan for his safe journey to Winchester; nay, and after that, for his crossing the sea, and continuing to personate, in Flanders, the nephew of Madeline, if so his royal mother deemed fitting, till the moment should arrive, when the schemes of his partizans being crowned with success, he could be restored to his country and his birthright. The fair Fleming joyfully assented to this proposition, and entered cordially into the details. Lovel was profuse of thanks: so suddenly and so easily to be relieved from his worst fears, appeared like the special interposition of some guardian saint. His heart overflowed with gratitude; and his glistening eyes gave token of greater thanks than even his emphatic words. Madeline felt all the excitement of being actively employed in a deed of benevolence: her calm features were animated with an angelic expression. The discussion of details demanding the coolest prudence and most vigilant observation, long occupied them: and the lady brought a woman's tact and keen penetration to arrange the crude designs of her brother. All was rendered smooth; every obstacle foreseen and obviated; every pass of danger reconnoitered and provided for. When, at last, their plans were perfected, the lady again returned to her hard couch to seek repose: for some time the cavalier and the Fleming kept watch, till they also, in such comfortless posture as they might, stretched on the bare ground, yielded to drowsiness; and grey morning found all the dwellers in the sheepcot sunk in profound sleep. Fear, charity, hope, and love, might colour their dreams; but quiet slumber possessed them all, driving care and thought from the heart and brain, to steep both in oblivion of all ill.
When Madeline awoke in the morning, the first sight that met her eyes was the lovely boy she had promised to protect, playing with her dark-eyed girl, who displayed all the ecstacy of childish glee with her new playmate. Madeline was a blonde Fleming, with light blue eyes and flaxen ringlets—she was about five-and-twenty years of age; an expression of angelic goodness animated her features, bestowing on them an appearance of loveliness, which of themselves they did not possess. It could hardly be guessed, that Richard's playmate was the daughter of the fair-haired Fleming: but the husband of Warbeck's sister was a Spaniard, and the child resembled her father in everything except the soft mouth and sweet smile, which was all her mother's: her large full dark eyes gave to her infantine face a look of sensibility far beyond her years. The little girl ran to her mother when she awoke; and Madeline caressed both her and the prince with the greatest tenderness. They stood at the door of the cottage; the early sun shone brightly on the hoar frost that covered the moor; the keen air was bracing, though cold; the morning was cheerful, such as inspires hope and animation, a lively wit to understand, and a roused courage to meet difilculties.
Madeline turned from the glittering scene to look on her young charge—his eyes were fixed on her face. "How beautiful and good you look," said the boy.
"I am glad that you think me good," replied the lady, smiling; "you will have less fear in trusting yourself with me: your noble friend has confided your grace to my care, if, indeed, you will condescend to live with me, and be as a son to me. I have just lost a little nephew whom I fonely loved; will you supply his place, and take his name?"
"Fair cousin," said the prince, caressing his kind friend as he spoke, "I will wait on you, and serve you as no nephew ever served. What name did your lost kinsman bear? Quickly tell me, that I may know my own, and hereafter call myself by it."
"Perkin Warbeck," said Madeline.
"Now you mock me," cried Richard: "that has long been my name; but I knew not that it gave me a claim to so pretty a relation."
"This courtly language," replied the lady, "betrays your grace's princeliness. What will our Flemish boors say, when I present the nursling of royalty as mine? You will shame our homely breeding, Duke Richard."
"I beseech you, fair mistress," said Lovel, who now joined them, "to forget, even in private, such high-sounding titles. It is dangerous to play at majesty, unaided by ten thousand armed asserters of our right. Remember this noble child only as your loving nephew, Perkin Warbeck: he, who well knows the misery of regal claims unallied to regal authority, will shelter himself gladly and gratefully under the shadow of your lowly bower."
And now, as the wintry sun rose higher, the travellers prepared for their departure. Warbeck first left them to find and to dismiss his domestics, who would have been aware of the deception practised in the person of Richard. He returned in a few hours for his sister. The duke and Lord Lovel then separated. The intervening time had been employed by the noble in schooling the boy as to his future behaviour, in recounting to him his plans and hopes, and in instructing him how to conduct himself with his mother, if indeed he saw her; for Lovel was ignorant how Lady Brampton had succeeded at Winchester, and how far it would be possible to bring about an interview between the queen and her son. At length Warbeck returned; the travellers mounted, and Lord Lovel, watching from the cottage door, beheld with melancholy regret the prince depart: the long habit of intercourse, the uncertain future, his high pretensions, and his present state, had filled the cavalier with moody thoughts, unlike his usual sanguine anticipations, and energetic resolves. "This is womanly," at last he thought, as the reflection that he was alone, and had, perhaps, seen his beloved charge for the last time, filled his eyes with unwonted tears. "To horse! To my friends!—There to plan, scheme, devise—and then again to the field!"
Days and weeks passed, replete with doubt and anxiety to the queen and her enthusiastic friend at Winchester. Each day, many, many times, Lady Brampton visited the cathedral to observe whether the silver heart was suspended near the altar, which she had agreed with Lord Lovel should be the sign of the duke's arrival. The part Elizabeth Woodville had to play meanwhile was difficult and painful—she lived in constant intercourse with the countess of Richmond; the wishes and thoughts of all around were occupied by the hope of an heir to the crown, which the young queen would soon bestow on England. The birth of a son, it was prognosticated, would win her husband's affection, and all idea of future disturbance, of further risings and disloyalty, through the existence of this joint offspring of the two Roses, would be for ever at an end. While these hopes and expectations formed, it was supposed, the most flattering and agreeable subject of congratulation for the dowager queen, she remained sleepless and watchful, under the anticipation of seeing her fugitive son, the outcast and discrowned claimant of all that was to become the birthright of the unborn child.
At length the unwearied cares of Lady Brampton were rewarded; a small silver heart, bearing the initials of Richard, duke of York, was suspended near the shrine; and as she turned to look who placed it there, the soft voice of Madeline uttered the word of recognition agreed upon; joy filled Lady Brampton's heart, as the brief answers to her hurried questions assured her of Richard's safety. The same evening she visited, in disguise, the abode of Warbeck, and embraced, in a transport of delight, the princely boy, in whose fate she interested herself with all the fervour of her warm heart. She now learnt the design Lord Lovel had of placing Richard in safety under Madeline's care in Flanders, until his friends had prepared for him a triumphant return to England. She concerted with her new friends the best mode of introducing Richard into his mother's presence; and it was agreed that, early on the following morning, Madeline and the duke should seek one of the small chapels of the cathedral of Winchester, and that Elizabeth should there meet her son. With an overflowing heart, Lady Brampton returned to communicate this intelligence to the royal widow, and to pass with her the intervening hours in oft-renewed conjectures and anticipations concerning the duke of York.
To modern and Protestant England, a cathedral or a church may appear a strange place for private assignations and concealed meetings. It was otherwise in the days of our ancestors, when, through similarity of religion, our manners bore a greater resemblance than they now do to those of foreign countries. The churches stood always open, ready to receive the penitent, who sought the stillness of the holy asylum the more entirely to concentrate his thoughts in prayer. As rank did not exempt its possessors from sin nor sorrow, neither did it from acts of penitence, nor from those visitations of anguish, when the sacred temple was sought, as bringing the votarist into more immediate communication with the Deity. The queen dowager excited, therefore, no suspicion, when, with her rosary formed of the blessed wood of Lebanon encased in gold in her hand, with Lady Brampton for her sole , she sought at five in the morning the dark aisle of the cathedral of "Winchester, there to perform her religious duties. Two figures already knelt near the altar of the chapel designated as the place of meeting; Elizabeth's breath came thick, her knees bent under her, she leaned against a buttress, while a fair-haired boy turned at the sound. He first looked timidly on her, and then, encouraged by the smile that visited her quivering lips, he sprung forward, and kneeling at her feet, buried his face in her dress, sobbing, while, bending over him, her own tears fell on his glossy hair. Lady Brampton and Madeline retired up the aisle, leaving the mother and child alone.
"Look up, my Richard," cried the unfortunate widow; "look up, son of King Edward,—my noble, my outcast boy! Thou art much grown—much altered since I last saw thee. Thou art more like thy blessed father than thy infancy promised." She parted his curls on his brow, and looked on him with the very soul of maternal tenderness. "Ah! were I a cottager," she continued, "though bereft of my husband, I should collect my young ones round me, and forget sorrow. I should toil for them, and they would learn to toil for me. How sweet the food my industry procured for them, how hallowed that winch their maturer strength would bestow on me! I am the mother of princes. Vain boast! I am childless!"
The queen, lost in thought, scarcely heard the gentle voice of her son who replied by expressions of endearment, nor felt his caresses; but collecting her ideas, she called to mind how brief the interview must be, and how she was losing many separated, ten thousand swords, and twice ten thousand dangers divide us perhaps for ever. I feel even now that it is given to me to bless thee for the last time, and I would fain to the last be the cause of good to thee. I have lived, ah! how long; and suffered, methinks, beyond human suffering; let the words I now utter live in thy soul for ever; my soul is in them! Will not my son respect the sacred yearnings of his mother's heart?"moments in vain exclamations and regrets. Recovering that calm majesty which usually characterized her, she said: "Richard, arise! our minutes are counted, and each must be freighted with the warning and wisdom of years. Thou art young, my son! but Lady Brampton tells me that thy understanding is even premature; thy experience indeed must be small, but I will try to adapt my admonitions to that experience. Should you fail to understand me, do not on that account despise my lessons, but treasure them up till thy increased years reveal their meaning to thee. We may never meet again; for once
Touched, penetrated by this exordium, the tearful boy promised attention and obedience. Elizabeth sat on a low tomb, Richard knelt before her; one kiss she imprinted on his young brow, while endeavouring to still the beating of her heart, and to command the trembling of her voice. She was silent for a few moments. Richard looked up to her with mingled love and awe; wisdom seemed to beam from her eyes, and the agitation that quivered on her lips gave solemnity to the tone with which she addressed her young auditor.
She spoke of his early prospects, his long imprisonment, and late fortunes. She descanted on the character of Henry Tudor, describing him as wise and crafty, and to be feared. She dwelt on the character of the earl of Lincoln and other chiefs of the house of York, and mentioned how uneasily they bore the downfall of their party. No pains, no artifice, no risk, she said, would be spared by any one of them to elevate an offspring of the White Rose, and to annihilate the pretensions and power of Lancaster. "Still a boy, unmeet for such contest, noble blood will be shed for you, my son," she continued; "and while you are secluded by those who love you from danger, many lives will be spent for your sake. We shall hazard all for you; and all may prove too little for success. We may fail, and you be thrown upon your own guidance, your unformed judgment, and childish indiscretion. Alas! what will then be your fate? Your kinsmen and partizans slain—your mother broken-hearted, it may be, dead!—spies will on every side environ you, nets will be spread to ensnare you, daggers sharpened for your destruction. You must oppose prudence to craft, nor, until your young hand can wield a man's weapon, dare attempt aught against Henry's power. Never forget that you are a king's son, yet suffer not unquiet ambition to haunt you. Sleep in peace, my love, while others wake for you. The time may come when victory will be granted to our arms. Then we shall meet again, not as now, like skulking guilt, but in the open sight of day I shall present my son to his loyal subjects. Now we part, my Richard—again you are lost to me, save in the recollection of this last farewell."
Her own words fell like a mournful augury on her ear. With a look of agonized affection she opened her arms, and then enclosed in their circle the stripling form of lier son. She pressed him passionately to her heart, covering him with her kisses, while the poor boy besought her not to weep; yet, infected by her sorrow, tears streamed from his eyes, and his little heart swelled with insupportable emotion. It was at once a sight of pity and of fear to behold his mother's grief.
Lady Brampton and Madeline now drew near, and this effusion of sorrow passed away. The queen collected herself, and rising, taking Richard's hand in hers, with dignity and grace she led him up to the fair Fleming, saying "A widowed mother commits to your protection her beloved child. If heaven favour our right, we may soon claim him, to fill the exalted station to which he is heir. If disaster and death follow our attempts, be kind to my orphan son, protect him from the treachery of his enemies; preserve, I beseech you, his young life!"
Madeline replied in a tone that showed how deeply she sympathized in the queen's sorrows, while she fervently promised never to desert her charge. "Now depart," said Elizabeth; "leave me, Richard, while I have yet courage to say adieu!"
Elizabeth stood watching, while the forms of the prince and his protectress disappeared down the dark aisle. They reached the door; it swung back on its hinges, and the sound, made as it closed again, reverberated through the arched cathedral. The unfortunate mother did not speak; leaning on her friend's arm she quitted the church by another entrance. They returned to the palace in silence; and when again they conversed, it was concerning their hopes of the future, the schemes to be devised; nor did the aching heart of Elizabeth relieve itself in tears and complaints, till the intelligence, received some weeks afterwards of the safe arrival of the travellers in France, took the most bitter sting from her fears, and allowed her again to breathe freely.