So young to go
Under the obscure, cold, rotting, wormy ground!
To be nailed down into a narrow place;
To see no more sweet sunshine; hear no more
Blithe voice of living thing; muse not again
Upon familiar thoughts, sad, yet thus lost—
How fearful!


"Speak to me, lady, sister, speak! your frozen glances frighten me; your fingers, as I touch them, have no resistance or life. Dearest and best, do not desert me—speak but one word, my own White Rose."

Katherine raised her blue eyes heavenward: as if the effort were too great, they fell again on the ground, as she said, in a voice so low that Elizabeth could hardly catch the sound: "I must see him once again before he dies."

"And you shall, dearest, I promise you. Cheer up, my love, not to affright him by looks like these. Indeed you shall see him, and I will also; he shall know that he has a sister's prayers, a sister's love. Patience, sweet Kate, but a little patience."

"Would I could sleep till then!" replied the miserable wife: and she covered her face with her hands, as if to shut out the light of day, and sighed bitterly.

When our purposes are inflexible, how do insurmountable obstacles break before our strong will; so that often it seems that we are more inconstant than fortune, and that with perseverance we might attain the sum of our desires. The queen, the weak, despised, powerless queen, resolved to gratify this one last wish of her beloved friend. Many a motive urged her to it; compassion, love, and even self-interest. At first she almost despaired; while Richard continued in the Tower it was impossible; but on the twenty-third of November, two days before the destined termination of his fatal tragedy, on the day of the trial of poor Warwick, he was removed to the prison of Ludgate. And here, at dead of night, Henry, being absent inspecting his new palace at Richmond, Elizabeth, timid, trembling, shrinking now at the last—and Katherine, far too absorbed in one thought to dream of fear, took boat at Westminster, and were rowed along the dark, cold tide to Blackfriars. They were silent; the queen clasped her friend's hand, which was chill and deathlike. Elizabeth trembled, accustomed to hope for, to seek refuge in her stronger mind, she felt deserted, now that she, engrossed by passion, silent and still, the wife of the near prey of death, could remember only that yet for a little while he was alive. Their short voyage seemed endless; still the oars splashed, still the boat glided, and yet they arrived not. Could it last for ever—with one hope ever in view, never to know that he was dead? The thought passed into Katherine's mind with the sluggish but absorbing tenacity of intense grief, and at last possessed it so wholly, that it was with a scream of fear that she found herself close to shore.

The necessity of motion restored Katherine to her presence of mind, while it deprived the queen of the little courage she possessed. Something was to be said and done: Elizabeth forgot what; but Katherine spoke in a clear, though unnatural voice, and followed their conductors with a firm step, supporting the faltering queen. Yet she addressed her not; her energies were wound up to achieve one thing; more than that it would have cost her her life to attempt. They reached the dark walls of the prison; a door was unbarred, and they were admitted. The princess passed the threshold with a quick step, as if overjoyed thus to be nearer her wish. Elizabeth paused., trembled, and almost wished to turn back.

They crossed the high-walled court, and passed through several dark galleries: it seemed as if they would never arrive; and yet both started when they stopped at the door of a cell.

"Does his grace expect us?" asked Katherine.

The turnkey looked as not understanding; but their guides who was the chaplain of the jail, answerd,—

"He does not. Fearful that some impediment might intervene, unwilling to disturb by a disappointed hope a soul so near its heavenly home, I have told him nothing."

"Gently then," said Katherine, "let our speech be low."

The door opened, and displayed the sou of the proud, luxurious Edward, sleeping on a wretched mattress, chained to the pavement. The ladies entered alone. Katherine glided noiselessly to his side; her first act was to bend down her cheek, till his breath disturbed the ringlet that rested on it; thus to assure herself that life was within his lips. Elizabeth fixed her earnest gaze on him, to discover if in aught he reminded her of the blue-eyed, flaxen-haired bridegroom of Anne Mowbray: he more resembled a picture of her father in his early manhood; and then again her aunt the duchess of Burgundy, whom she had seen just before king Edward's death. He lay there in placid sleep; thought and feeling absent: yet in that form resided the soul of Richard; a bright casket containing a priceless gem: no flaw—no token of weakness or decay. He lived—and at a word would come back from oblivion to her world of love. A few days and that form would still exist in all its fair proportion. But veil it quick; he is not there; unholy and false is the philosophy that teaches us that that lurid mockery was the thing we loved.

And now he woke, almost to joy; yet sadness succeeded quickly to rapture. "My poor girl," he said, "weep not for me; weep for thyself rather; a rose grafted on a thorn. The degraded and disgraced claims no such sorrow."

Katherine replied by an embrace; by laying her beautiful head on his bosom, and listening with forgetful, delicious ecstasy to the throbbings of his beating heart.

"Be not unjust to thyself," said a soft, unknown voice, breaking the silence of the lovers; "be not false to thy house. We are a devoted race, my brother; but we are proud even to the last."

"This is a new miracle," cried the prince. "Who, except this sainted one, will claim kindred with Tudor's enemy?"

"Tudor's wife; your sister. Do you not remember Elizabeth?"

As these words were said, Katherine, who appeard to have accomplished her utmost wish, sat beside him, her arms around him, her sweet head reposing, her eyes closed. Kissing her soft hair and fair brow, York disentwined her clasped hands, and rose, addressing the trembling queen:—

"My sister," he said, "you do a deed which calls for blessings from heaven upon you and yours. Till now, such, was my unmanly spirit, the stigma affixed to my name, the disgrace of my ignominious death, made me odious to myself. The weakness of that thought is past; the love of this sweetest sweet, and your kindness restore me. Indeed, my sister, I am York—I am Plantagenet."

"As such," replied the queen, "I ask a boon, for which, selfish as I am, I chiefly came; my brother will not deny me?"

"Trifler, this is vanity. I can give nothing."

"Oh, everything," exclaimed the lady; "years of peace, almost of happiness, in exchange for a life of bitter loneliness and suffering. You, my dearest lord, know the celestial goodness of that fair "White Rose; in adversity and peril you have known it;—I, amidst the cold deceits of a court. She has vowed never to return to her native land, to bear a questioned name among her peers; or perhaps to be forced by her father to change it for one abhorred. Though she must hate me as the wife of her injurer, yet where can she better be than with your sister? She would leave me, for I am Tudor's queen; bid her stay with, her lord's nearest kinswoman; tell her that we will beguile the long years of our too young life with talk of you; tell her that nowhere will she find one so ready to bless your name as poor Elizabeth; implore her, ah! on my knees do I implore you to bid her not to leave me, a dead-alive, a miserable, bereft creature, such, as I was ere I knew her love."

"What say'st thou, sweet?" asked Richard; "am I yet monarch of that soft heart? Will my single subject obey the crownless Richard?"

Katherine stretched out her hand to the queen, who was at York's feet, in token of compliance: she could not speak; it was a mighty effort to press the fingers of Elizabeth slightly; who said,—

"Before heaven and your dear lord, I claim your promise; you are mine for ever."

"A precious gift, my Bess; was it not thus my infant lips called you? I trust her to you; and so the sting of death is blunted. Yet let not too fond a lingering on one passed away, tarnish the bright hours that may yet be in store for her. Forget me, sweet ones; I am nought; a vapour which death and darkness inhales—best unremembered. Yet while I live I would ask one question—our victim-cousin, Edward of Warwick?"

Elizabeth could no longer restrain her tears as she related, that however weak Warwick might heretofore have seemed, he appeared a Plantagenet on his trial. He disdained the insulting formalities of law, where the bitter Lancastrian, Lord Oxford, was the interpreter of justice; he at once declared himself guilty of plotting to put the English crown on the head of his cousin, the duke of York. He was quickly interrupted, and condemned to be beheaded.

"Generous, unhappy Warwick. Ah! is not life a misery, when all of good, except ye two angelic creatures, die?"

The signal was now given that the interview must end. Elizabeth wept. Katherine, still voiceless, clung closer to her husband; while he nerved himself to support these gentle spirits with manly fortitude. One long, affectionate kiss he pressed on the mouth of Katherine; and as her roseate lips yet asked another, another and another followed; their lives mingled with their breath.

"We meet in Paradise, mine only one," whispered York: "through our Lord's mercy assuredly we meet there."

He unwound her arms; he placed her in those of Elizabeth, "Cherish, preserve her. Bless thee, my sister; thee, and thy children. They at least will, by my death, reign rightfully over this kingdom. Farewell."

He kissed her hand, and then again the lifeless hand of his wife, who stood a breathing statue. She had not spoken; no words could utter her despair. Another moment, and their fair forms were gone; the door of his cell was closed; and, but for the presence of the God he worshipped, Richard was left alone to solitude and night.