The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

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MORE than three months had now been passed by Jane in solitary confinement in the Brick Tower. Long as was the interval, it appeared brief to her, her whole time being devoted to intense mental application, or to prayer. She lived only in her books; and addressed herself with such ardour to her studies, that her thoughts were completely abstracted.

Sometimes, indeed, in spite of all her efforts, recollections of the past would obtrude themselves upon her, visions of earlier days and of the events and scenes connected with them would rise before her. She thought of Bradgate and its green retreats, of her beloved preceptor, Roger Ascham, of the delight with which she had become acquainted, through him, with the poetry, the philosophy, the drama of the ancient world. She recalled their long conversations, in which he had painted to her the vanities and vexations of the world, and the incomparable charms of a life of retirement and meditation, and she now felt the truth of his assertions. Had it been permitted her to pass her quiet and blameless career in that tranquil place, how happy would she have been! And yet she did not repine at her lot, but rather rejoiced at it. “Whatever my own sufferings may be,” she murmured, “however severely I may be chastened, I yet feel I shall not endure in vain, but that others will profit by my example. If heaven will vouchsafe me grace and power, not one action of my life but shall redound to the honour of the faith I profess.”

One thought she ever checked, feeling that the emotions it excited threatened to shake her constancy. This was the idea of her husband; and whenever it arose she soothed the pang it occasioned by earnest prayer. The reflection that he was now as firm an adherent to the tenets of the gospel as herself, and that by her own resolution she had wrought this beneficial change in him, cheered and animated her, and almost reconciled her to her separation.

So fully prepared did she now feel for the worst shock of fate, that the only thing she regretted was that she was not speedily brought to trial. But she repressed even this desire as inconsistent with her duty, and unworthy of her high and holy calling. “My part is submission,” she murmured, “and whether my term of life is long or short, it becomes me to feel and act in like manner. Whenever I am called upon, I am ready—certain, if I live devoutly, to attain everlasting happiness, and rejoin my husband where he will never be taken from me.”

In this way, she thoroughly reconciled herself to her situation. And though in her dreams old scenes and faces would often revisit her, though her husband’s image constantly haunted her, and on waking her pillow was bedewed with her tears, still she maintained her cheerfulness, and by never allowing one moment to pass unemployed, drove away all distressing thoughts.

Not so her husband. Immured in the Beauchamp Tower, he bore his confinement with great external fortitude; but his bosom was a prey to vain regrets and ambitious hopes. Inheriting, as has before been observed, the soaring aspirations of his father, but without his genius or daring, his mind was continually dwelling upon the glittering bauble he had lost, and upon the means of regaining it. Far from being warned by the duke’s fate, far from considering the fearful jeopardy in which he himself stood, he was ever looking forward to the possibility of escape, and to the chance of reinstating himself in his lost position.

Sincerely attached to Jane, he desired to be restored to her rather from the feeling which had led him to seek her hand—namely, a desire to use her as a means of aggrandisement—than from any deep regret at the loss of her society. Not that misfortune had lessened his attachment, but that his ruling passion was ambition, which no reverse could quench, no change subdue. “He who has once nearly grasped a sceptre can never lose all thoughts of it,” he exclaimed to himself. “I may perish, but while I live I shall indulge the hope of being king of England. And if I should ever obtain my liberty, I will never rest till I have won back the crown. Jane’s name shall be my watchword, the Protestant cause my battle-cry; and if the victory is mine, she shall share my throne, but not, as heretofore, occupy it alone. Had I been king, this would never have happened. But my father’s ambition ruined all. He aimed at the throne himself, and used me as his stepping-stone. Well, he has paid the penalty of his rashness, and I may perchance share his fate. Yet what if I do? Better die on the scaffold, than linger out a long inglorious life. Oh! that I could make one effort more! If I failed I would lay my head upon the block without a murmur.”

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