The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“My hatred of him is as great as your own, M. Renard,” observed De Noailles, gravely; “and I shall rejoice as heartily as yourself, or any of his enemies, in his downfall. But I cannot blind myself to his power. Clinton, the Lord High Admiral, his fast friend, is in possession of the Tower, which is full of armed men and ammunition. The royal treasures are in his hands; the troops, the navy, are his; and, as yet, the privy council have sanctioned all his decrees, have sworn obedience to Jane, have proclaimed Mary illegitimate, and deprived her of her inheritance.”

“They shall eat their own words,” replied Renard, in a sarcastic tone. “But it is time, De Noailles, to admit you to my full confidence. First, swear to me, by the holy Evangelists, that I may trust you.”

“I swear it,” replied De Noailles, “provided,” he added, smiling, “your scheme has nothing treasonable against my liege lord, Henry the Second.”

“Judge for yourself,” answered Renard. “There is a plot hatching against the life of Northumberland.”

“Mortdieu!” exclaimed the French ambassador; “by whom?”

“To-night you shall meet the conspirators,” replied Renard.

“Their names?” demanded De Noailles.

“It matters not,” answered the other; “I am their leader. Will you make one of us?”

“Willingly,” rejoined the Frenchman. “But how is the duke to be put to death?”

“By the headsman,” replied Simon Renard. “He shall die the death of a traitor.”

“You were ever mysterious, messire,” observed De Noailles, drily; “and you are now more mysterious than ever. But I will join your plot with all my heart. Pardieu! I should like to offer Northumberland’s head to Queen Mary. It would be as acceptable as that of Cicero to Fulvia.”

“My gift shall be yet more acceptable,” rejoined Simon Renard, sternly. “I will offer her the fairest and the wisest head in England—that of Queen Jane.”

During this conference, the procession had been increased by several members of the privy council, consisting of the Earls of Arundel, Shrewsbury, Huntingdon, and Pembroke, the Lords Cobham and Rich, with divers other noble and honourable persons, among whom Sir William Cecil, principal secretary of state (afterwards, the great Lord Burghley), must not pass unnoticed. Pembroke and Cecil walked together; and, in spite of their forced composure, it was evident that both were ill at ease. As a brief halt took place amongst the foremost party, Cecil seized the arm of his companion, and whispered hurriedly in his ear, “We are lost, my lord. Your messengers to the queen have been arrested; so have my trusty servants, Alford and Cayewood. Luckily, their despatches are in cipher. But Northumberland’s suspicions once aroused, his vengeance will not be slow to follow. There is yet time for escape. Can we not frame some excuse for landing at your lordship’s residence, Baynard’s Castle? Once within the Tower, I tremble for our heads.”

“My case is not so desperate as yours,” returned the earl, firmly; “but were it so, I would never fly while others are left to pay the penalty of my cowardice. We have advanced too far to retreat, and, be the issue of this project what it may, I will not shrink from it. Simon Renard is leagued with us, and he alone is a match for Northumberland, or for the fiend himself, if opposed to him. Be of good cheer. The day will yet be ours.”

“Were I assured of Renard’s sincerity,” replied Cecil, “I might, indeed, feel more confidence. But I have detected too many of his secret practices, have had too much experience of his perfidy and double-dealing, to place any faith in him.”

“You wrong him,” rejoined Pembroke; “by my soul you do! As we proceed, I will give you proofs that will remove all apprehensions of treachery on his part from your mind. He has proposed a plan. But of this anon—for, see!—all, save ourselves, have entered the barge. Do you mark how suddenly the weather has changed? A thunderstorm is gathering over the Tower. ‘Tis a bad omen for Northumberland.”

“Or for us,” rejoined Cecil, gloomily.

The sudden change in the weather, here alluded to, was remarked and commented upon by many others besides the Earl of Pembroke; and by most it was regarded as an evil augury against the young queen. The sky had become overcast; the river, lately so smiling, now reflected only the sombre clouds that overshadowed it; while heavy, leaden-coloured masses, arising in the north-east, behind the Tower, seemed to threaten a speedy and severe storm in that quarter. Alarmed by these signs, several of the more prudent spectators, who preferred a dry skin to the further indulgence of their curiosity, began to urge their barks homewards. The majority of the assemblage, however, lingered: a glimpse of a queen so beautiful as Jane was reputed appeared to them well worth a little personal inconvenience.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200