The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“Heaven forbid!” ejaculated Suffolk. “Surely, our English nobles are not turned assassins.”

“The chief mover in the dark scheme is not an Englishman,” returned Northumberland.

“It cannot be the light-hearted De Noailles. Ha! I have it: it is the plotting and perfidious Simon Renard.”

“Your grace is in the right,” replied Northumberland; “it is Simon Renard.”

“Who are his associates?” inquired Suffolk.

“As yet I know not,” answered the other; “but I have netted them all, and, like the fowler, will spare neither bird of prey nor harmless songster. I have a trick shall test the true metal from the false. What think you, brother?—a letter has arrived from Mary to this false council, claiming the crown.”

“Ha!” exclaimed Suffolk.

“It is here,” continued Northumberland, pointing to a paper folded round his silver staff. “I shall lay it before them anon. Before I depart, I must give orders for the proclamation. Bid the heralds come hither,” he added to the attendant, who instantly departed, and returned a moment afterwards, followed by two heralds in their coats of arms. “Take this scroll,” continued the duke, “and let the Queen’s Highness be proclaimed by sound of trumpet at the cross at Charing, in Cheapside, and in Fleet Street. Take with you a sufficient guard, and if any murmuring ensue let the offenders be punished. Do you mark me?”

“We do, your grace,” replied the heralds, bowing. And, taking the proclamation, they departed on their behest, while the duke, accompanied by Suffolk, entered his barge.

Preceded by two trumpeters, having their clarions richly dressed with fringed silk bandrols, displaying the royal arms; a captain of the guard, in a suit of scarlet bound with black velvet, and with a silver rose in his bonnet, next descended the stairs, and announced, in a loud and authoritative voice, that her Highness the Queen was about to embark: an intimation, which, though received with no particular demonstration of enthusiasm or delight by the spectators, was, nevertheless, productive of considerable confusion among them. The more distant wherrymen, who had been hitherto resting tranquilly on their oars, in their anxiety to secure a better position for their fares, now pressed eagerly forward; in consequence of which many violent collisions took place; great damage was sustained by the foremost boats, some being swamped and their owners plunged in the tide; while others, bereft of their oars, were swept away by the rapid current. Amid this tumult, much struggling and scuffling occurred; shrieks and oaths were uttered; and many blows from sword, dagger, and club were dealt, and requited with the heartiest good-will. Owing, however, to the exertions of the officers, no lives were lost. The drowning persons were picked up and carried ashore; and the disputants compelled to hold their peace, and reserve the adjustment of their differences to another, and more favourable opportunity. By the time Jane appeared, all was comparatively quiet. But the incident had not tended to improve the temper of the crowd, or create a stronger feeling in her favour. Added to this, the storm seemed fast advancing and ready to burst over their heads; the sky grew darker each moment; and when a second discharge of ordnance was fired from the palace walls, and rolled sullenly along the river, it was answered by a distant peal of thunder. In spite of all these adverse circumstances, no delay occurred in the procession. A magnificent barge, with two large banners, beaten with the royal arms, planted on the foreship, approached the strand. Its sides were hung with metal scutcheons, alternately emblazoned with the cognisances of the queen and her consort; and its decks covered with the richest silks and tissues. It was attended by two smaller galleys, one of which, designated the Bachelors’ barge, was appropriated to the younger sons of the nobility: the other was devoted to the maids of honour. In the latter was placed a quaint device, intended to represent a mount with a silver tree springing from it, on which was perched a dove with a circlet of diamonds around its neck, bearing an inscription in honour of the queen, and a crown upon its head. No sooner had the royal barge taken up its position than a train of twenty gentlemen, in doublets of black velvet and with chains of gold, stepped towards it. They were followed by six pages in vests of cloth of gold; after whom came the Earl of Northampton, lord high chamberlain, bareheaded, and carrying a white wand; and after the chamberlain, appeared the Lady Herbert, younger sister of the queen, a beautiful blonde, with soft blue eyes and silken tresses, accompanied by the Lady Hastings, younger sister of Lord Guilford Dudley, a sprightly brunette, with large orient orbs, black as midnight, and a step proud as that of a Juno. Both these lovely creatures—neither of whom had attained her fifteenth year—had been married at the end of May—then, as now, esteemed an unlucky month—on the same day that the nuptials of the Lady Jane Grey took place. Of these three marriages there was not one but was attended with fatal consequences.

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