Transcriber's Note: A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER
or, the Love Story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor the King's Sister, and Happening in the Reign of His August Majesty King Henry the Eighth
Rewritten and Rendered into Modern English from Sir Edwin Caskoden's Memoir
EDWIN CASKODEN [Charles Major]
Julia Marlowe Edition With Scenes from the Play
Indianapolis, U.S.A. The Bowen-Merrill Company Publishers Copyright, Eighteen Hundred Ninety Eight, and Nineteen Hundred One by The Bowen-Merrill Company Press of Braunworth & Co. Bookbinders and Printers Brooklyn, N.Y.
"There lived a Knight, when Knighthood was in flow'r, Who charmed alike the tilt-yard and the bow'r."
To My Wife
The Caskodens 1
I The Duel 6
II How Brandon Came to Court 13
III The Princess Mary 23
IV A Lesson in Dancing 45
V An Honor and an Enemy 74
VI A Rare Ride to Windsor 89
VII Love's Fierce Sweetness 102
VIII The Trouble in Billingsgate Ward 128
IX Put Not Your Trust in Princesses 146
X Justice, O King! 169
XI Louis XII a Suitor 182
XII Atonement 202
XIII A Girl's Consent 213
XIV In the Siren Country 226
XV To Make a Man of Her 244
XVI A Hawking Party 256
XVII The Elopement 268
XVIII To the Tower 289
XIX Proserpina 302
XX Down into France 320
XXI Letters from a Queen 337
"Cloth of gold do not despise, Though thou be match'd with cloth of frize; Cloth of frize, be not too bold, Though thou be match'd with cloth of gold."
Inscription on a label affixed to Brandon's lance under a picture of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, at Strawberry Hill.
The initial performance of the play was given in St. Louis on the evening of November 26, 1900, and the first New York production was on the fourteenth of the following January.
Its instant and continued success is well known. A prominent dramatic critic of the press has said:
"Julia Marlowe fully realized the popular idea of the Mary described by the novelist. She seemed to revel in the role. With its instantaneous changes from gay daring to anger and fear, from coyness to the dignity that hedges a princess, from resentment to ardent love, the part of Mary Tudor gives Julia Marlowe full scope for the display of her talent. She has never appeared to better or as good advantage as in this play for the reason that it gives opportunity for broader and more effective lights and shades than anything she has hitherto given us."
When Knighthood Was in Flower
When Knighthood Was in Flower....
We Caskodens take great pride in our ancestry. Some persons, I know, hold all that to be totally un-Solomonlike and the height of vanity, but they, usually, have no ancestors of whom to be proud. The man who does not know who his great-grandfather was, naturally enough would not care what he was. The Caskodens have pride of ancestry because they know both who and what.
Even admitting that it is vanity at all, it is an impersonal sort of failing, which, like the excessive love of country, leans virtueward; for the man who fears to disgrace his ancestors is certainly less likely to disgrace himself. Of course there are a great many excellent persons who can go no farther back than father and mother, who, doubtless, eat and drink and sleep as well, and love as happily, as if they could trace an unbroken lineage clear back to Adam or Noah, or somebody of that sort. Nevertheless, we Caskodens are proud of our ancestry, and expect to remain so to the end of the chapter, regardless of whom it pleases or displeases.
We have a right to be proud, for there is an unbroken male line from William the Conqueror down to the present time. In this lineal list are fourteen Barons—the title lapsed when Charles I fell—twelve Knights of the Garter and forty-seven Knights of the Bath and other orders. A Caskoden distinguished himself by gallant service under the Great Norman and was given rich English lands and a fair Saxon bride, albeit an unwilling one, as his reward. With this fair, unwilling Saxon bride and her long plait of yellow hair goes a very pretty, pathetic story, which I may tell you at some future time if you take kindly to this. A Caskoden was seneschal to William Rufus, and sat at the rich, half barbaric banquets in the first Great Hall. Still another was one of the doughty barons who wrested from John the Great Charter, England's declaration of independence; another was high in the councils of Henry V. I have omitted one whom I should not fail to mention: Adjodika Caskoden, who was a member of the Dunce Parliament of Henry IV, so called because there were no lawyers in it.
It is true that in the time of Edward IV a Caskoden did stoop to trade, but it was trade of the most dignified, honorable sort; he was a goldsmith, and his guild, as you know, were the bankers and international clearance house for people, king and nobles. Besides, it is stated on good authority that there was a great scandal wherein the goldsmith's wife was mixed up in an intrigue with the noble King Edward; so we learn that even in trade the Caskodens were of honorable position and basked in the smile of their prince. As for myself, I am not one of those who object so much to trade; and I think it contemptible in a man to screw his nose all out of place sneering at it, while enjoying every luxury of life from its profits.
This goldsmith was shrewd enough to turn what some persons might call his ill fortune, in one way, into gain in another. He was one of those happily constituted, thrifty philosophers who hold that even misfortune should not be wasted, and that no evil is so great but the alchemy of common sense can transmute some part of it into good. So he coined the smiles which the king shed upon his wife—he being powerless to prevent, for Edward smiled where he listed, and listed nearly everywhere—into nobles, crowns and pounds sterling, and left a glorious fortune to his son and to his son's son, unto about the fourth generation, which was a ripe old age for a fortune, I think. How few of them live beyond the second, and fewer still beyond the third! It was during the third generation of this fortune that the events of the following history occurred.
Now, it has been the custom of the Caskodens for centuries to keep a record of events, as they have happened, both private and public. Some are in the form of diaries and journals like those of Pepys and Evelyn; others in letters like the Pastons'; others again in verse and song like Chaucer's and the Water Poet's; and still others in the more pretentious form of memoir and chronicle. These records we always have kept jealously within our family, thinking it vulgar, like the Pastons, to submit our private affairs to public gaze.
There can, however, be no reason why those parts treating solely of outside matters should be so carefully guarded, and I have determined to choose for publication such portions as do not divulge family secrets nor skeletons, and which really redound to family honor.
For this occasion I have selected from the memoir of my worthy ancestor and namesake, Sir Edwin Caskoden—grandson of the goldsmith, and Master of the Dance to Henry VIII—the story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, sister to the king.
This story is so well known to the student of English history that I fear its repetition will lack that zest which attends the development of an unforeseen denouement. But it is of so great interest, and is so full, in its sweet, fierce manifestation, of the one thing insoluble by time, Love, that I will nevertheless rewrite it from old Sir Edwin's memoir. Not so much as an historical narrative, although I fear a little history will creep in, despite me, but simply as a picture of that olden long ago, which, try as we will to put aside the hazy, many-folded curtain of time, still retains its shadowy lack of sharp detail, toning down and mellowing the hard aspect of real life—harder and more unromantic even than our own—into the blending softness of an exquisite mirage.
I might give you the exact words in which Sir Edwin wrote, and shall now and then quote from contemporaneous chronicles in the language of his time, but should I so write at all, I fear the pleasure of perusal would but poorly pay for the trouble, as the English of the Bluff King is almost a foreign tongue to us. I shall, therefore, with a few exceptions, give Sir Edwin's memoir in words, spelling and idiom which his rollicking little old shade will probably repudiate as none of his whatsoever. So, if you happen to find sixteenth century thought hob-nobbing in the same sentence with nineteenth century English, be not disturbed; I did it. If the little old fellow grows grandiloquent or garrulous at times—he did that. If you find him growing super-sentimental, remember that sentimentalism was the life-breath of chivalry, just then approaching its absurdest climax in the bombastic conscientiousness of Bayard and the whole mental atmosphere laden with its pompous nonsense.
It sometimes happens, Sir Edwin says, that when a woman will she won't, and when she won't she will; but usually in the end the adage holds good. That sentence may not be luminous with meaning, but I will give you an illustration.
I think it was in the spring of 1509, at any rate soon after the death of the "Modern Solomon," as Queen Catherine called her old father-in-law, the late King Henry VII, that his august majesty Henry VIII, "The Vndubitate Flower and very Heire of both the sayd Linages," came to the throne of England, and tendered me the honorable position of Master of the Dance at his sumptuous court.
As to "worldly goods," as some of the new religionists call wealth, I was very comfortably off; having inherited from my father, one of the counselors of Henry VII, a very competent fortune indeed. How my worthy father contrived to save from the greedy hand of that rich old miser so great a fortune, I am sure I can not tell. He was the only man of my knowledge who did it; for the old king had a reach as long as the kingdom, and, upon one pretext or another, appropriated to himself everything on which he could lay his hands. My father, however, was himself pretty shrewd in money matters, having inherited along with his fortune a rare knack at keeping it. His father was a goldsmith in the time of King Edward, and enjoyed the marked favor of that puissant prince.
Being thus in a position of affluence, I cared nothing for the fact that little or no emolument went with the office; it was the honor which delighted me. Besides, I was thereby an inmate of the king's palace, and brought into intimate relations with the court, and above all, with the finest ladies of the land—the best company a man can keep, since it ennobles his mind with better thoughts, purifies his heart with cleaner motives, and makes him gentle without detracting from his strength. It was an office any lord of the kingdom might have been proud to hold.
Now, some four or five years after my induction into this honorable office, there came to court news of a terrible duel fought down in Suffolk, out of which only one of the four combatants had come alive—two, rather, but one of them in a condition worse than death. The first survivor was a son of Sir William Brandon, and the second was a man called Sir Adam Judson. The story went that young Brandon and his elder brother, both just home from the continental wars, had met Judson at an Ipswich inn, where there had been considerable gambling among them. Judson had won from the brothers a large sum of money which they had brought home; for, notwithstanding their youth, the elder being but twenty-six and the younger about twenty-four years of age, they had gained great honor and considerable profit in wars, especially the younger, whose name was Charles.
It is a little hard to fight for money and then to lose it by a single spot upon the die, but such is the fate of him who plays, and a philosopher will swallow his ill luck and take to fighting for more. The Brandons could have done this easily enough, especially Charles, who was an offhand philosopher, rather fond of a good-humored fight, had it not been that in the course of play one evening the secret of Judson's winning had been disclosed by a discovery that he cheated. The Brandons waited until they were sure, and then trouble began, which resulted in a duel on the second morning following.
This Judson was a Scotch gentleman of whom very little was known, except that he was counted the most deadly and most cruel duelist of the time. He was called the "Walking Death," and it is said took pride in the appellation. He boasted that he had fought eighty-seven duels, in which he had killed seventy-five men, and it was considered certain death to meet him. I got the story of the duel afterwards from Brandon as I give it here.
John was the elder brother, and when the challenge came was entitled to fight first,—a birthright out of which Charles tried in vain to talk him. The brothers told their father, Sir William Brandon, and at the appointed time father and sons repaired to the place of meeting, where they found Judson and his two seconds ready for the fight.
Sir William was still a vigorous man, with few equals in sword play, and the sons, especially the younger, were better men and more skilful than their father had ever been, yet they felt that this duel meant certain death, so great was Judson's fame for skill and cruelty. Notwithstanding they were so handicapped with this feeling of impending evil, they met their duty without a tremor; for the motto of their house was, "Malo Mori Quam Fedrai."
It was a misty morning in March. Brandon has told me since, that when his elder brother took his stand, it was at once manifest that he was Judson's superior, both in strength and skill, but after a few strokes the brother's blade bent double and broke off short at the hilt when it should have gone home. Thereupon, Judson, with a malignant smile of triumph, deliberately selected his opponent's heart and pierced it with his sword, giving the blade a twist as he drew it out in order to cut and mutilate the more.
In an instant Sir William's doublet was off, and he was in his dead son's tracks, ready to avenge him or to die. Again the thrust which should have killed broke the sword, and the father died as the son had died.
After this, came young Charles, expecting, but, so great was his strong heart, not one whit fearing, to lie beside his dead father and brother. He knew he was the superior of both in strength and skill, and his knowledge of men and the noble art told him they had each been the superior of Judson; but the fellow's hand seemed to be the hand of death. An opening came through Judson's unskilful play, which gave young Brandon an opportunity for a thrust to kill, but his blade, like his father's and brother's, bent double without penetrating. Unlike the others, however, it did not break, and the thrust revealed the fact that Judson's skill as a duelist lay in a shirt of mail which it was useless to try to pierce. Aware of this, Brandon knew that victory was his, and that soon he would have avenged the murders that had gone before. He saw that his adversary was strong neither in wind nor arm, and had not the skill to penetrate his guard in a week's trying, so he determined to fight on the defensive until Judson's strength should wane, and then kill him when and how he chose.
After a time Judson began to breathe hard and his thrusts to lack force.
"Boy, I would spare you," he said; "I have killed enough of your tribe; put up your sword and call it quits."
Young Brandon replied: "Stand your ground, you coward; you will be a dead man as soon as you grow a little weaker; if you try to run I will thrust you through the neck as I would a cur. Listen how you snort. I shall soon have you; you are almost gone. You would spare me, would you? I could preach a sermon or dance a hornpipe while I am killing you. I will not break my sword against your coat of mail, but will wait until you fall from weakness and then.... Fight, you bloodhound!"
Judson was pale from exhaustion, and his breath was coming in gasps as he tried to keep the merciless sword from his throat. At last, by a dexterous twist of his blade, Brandon sent Judson's sword flying thirty feet away. The fellow started to run, but turned and fell upon his knees to beg for life. Brandon's reply was a flashing circle of steel, and his sword point cut lengthwise through Judson's eyes and the bridge of his nose, leaving him sightless and hideous for life. A revenge compared to which death would have been merciful.
The duel created a sensation throughout the kingdom, for although little was known as to who Judson was, his fame as a duelist was as broad as the land. He had been at court upon several occasions, and, at one time, upon the king's birthday, had fought in the royal lists. So the matter came in for its share of consideration by king and courtiers, and young Brandon became a person of interest. He became still more so when some gentlemen who had served with him in the continental wars told the court of his daring and bravery, and related stories of deeds at arms worthy of the best knight in Christendom.
He had an uncle at the court, Sir Thomas Brandon, the king's Master of Horse, who thought it a good opportunity to put his nephew forward and let him take his chance at winning royal favor. The uncle broached the subject to the king, with favorable issue, and Charles Brandon, led by the hand of fate, came to London Court, where that same fate had in keeping for him events such as seldom fall to the lot of man.
How Brandon Came to Court
When we learned that Brandon was coming to court, every one believed he would soon gain the king's favor. How much that would amount to none could tell, as the king's favorites were of many sorts and taken from all conditions of men. There was Master Wolsey, a butcher's son, whom he had first made almoner, then chief counselor and Bishop of Lincoln, soon to be Bishop of York, and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.
From the other extreme of life came young Thomas, Lord Howard, heir to the Earl of Surrey, and my Lord of Buckingham, premier peer of the realm. Then sometimes would the king take a yeoman of the guard and make him his companion in jousts and tournaments, solely because of his brawn and bone. There were others whom he kept close by him in the palace because of their wit and the entertainment they furnished; of which class was I, and, I flatter myself, no mean member.
To begin with, being in no way dependent on the king for money, I never drew a farthing from the royal treasury. This, you may be sure, did me no harm, for although the king sometimes delighted to give, he always hated to pay. There were other good reasons, too, why I should be a favorite with the king. Without meaning to be vain, I think I may presume to say, with perfect truth, that my conversation and manners were far more pleasing and polished than were usual at that day in England, for I made it a point to spend several weeks each year in the noble French capital, the home and center of good-breeding and politeness.
My appointment as Master of the Dance, I am sure, was owing entirely to my manner. My brother, the baron, who stood high with the king, was not friendly toward me because my father had seen fit to bequeath me so good a competency in place of giving it all to the first-born and leaving me dependent upon the tender mercies of an elder brother. So I had no help from him nor from any one else. I was quite small of stature and, therefore, unable to compete, with lance and mace, with bulkier men; but I would bet with any man, of any size, on any game, at any place and time, in any amount; and, if I do say it, who perhaps should not, I basked in the light of many a fair smile which larger men had sighed for in vain.
I did not know when Brandon first came to London. We had all remained at Greenwich while the king went up to Westminster to waste his time with matters of state and quarrel with the Parliament, then sitting, over the amount of certain subsidies.
Mary, the king's sister, then some eighteen or nineteen years of age, a perfect bud, just blossoming into a perfect flower, had gone over to Windsor on a visit to her elder sister, Margaret of Scotland, and the palace was dull enough. Brandon, it seems, had been presented to Henry during this time, at Westminster, and had, to some extent at least, become a favorite before I met him. The first time I saw him was at a joust given by the king at Westminster, in celebration of the fact that he had coaxed a good round subsidy out of Parliament.
The queen and her ladies had been invited over, and it was known that Mary would be down from Windsor and come home with the king and the court to Greenwich when we should return. So we all went over to Westminster the night before the jousts, and were up bright and early next morning to see all that was to be seen.
* * * * *
[Here the editor sees fit to substitute a description of this tournament taken from the quaint old chronicler, Hall.]
The morow beyng after dynner, at tyme conuenenient, the Quene with her Ladyes repaired to see the Iustes, the trompettes blewe vp, and in came many a noble man and Gentleman, rychely appeareiled, takynge vp thir horses, after whome folowed certayne lordes appareiled, they and thir horses, in cloth of Golde and russet and tynsell; Knyghtes in cloth of Golde, and russet Veluet. And a greate nomber of Gentlemen on fote, in russet satyn and yealow, and yomen in russet Damaske and yealow, all the nether parte of euery mans hosen Skarlet, and yealow cappes.
Then came the kynge vnder a Pauilion of golde, and purpul Veluet embroudered, the compass of the Pauilion about, and valenced with a flat, gold beaten in wyre, with an Imperiall croune in the top, of fyne Golde, his bases and trapper of cloth of Golde, fretted with Damask Golde, the trapper pedant to the tail. A crane and chafron of stele, in the front of the chafro was a goodly plume set full of musers or trimbling spangles of golde. After folowed his three aydes, euery of them vnder a Pauilion of Crymosyn Damaske & purple. The nomber of Gentlemen and yomen a fote, appareiled in russet and yealow was clxviii. Then next these Pauilions came xii chyldren of honor, sitting euery one of them on a greate courser, rychely trapped, and embroudered in seuerall deuises and facions, where lacked neither brouderie nor goldsmythes work, so that euery chyld and horse in deuice and fascion was contrary to the other, which was goodly to beholde.
Then on the counter parte, entered a Straunger, fyrst on horsebacke in a long robe of Russet satyne, like a recluse or a religious, and his horse trapped in the same sewte, without dromme or noyse of mynstrelsye, puttinge a byll of peticion to the Quene, the effect whereof was, that if it would please her to license hym to runne in her presence, he would do it gladly, and if not, then he would departe as he came. After his request was graunted, then he put off hys sayd habyte and was armed at all peces with ryche bases & horse, also rychely trapped, and so did runne his horse to the tylte end, where dieurs men on fote appareiled in Russet satyn awaited on him. Thereupon the Heraulds cryed an Oyez! and the grownd shoke with the trompe of rushynge stedes. Wonder it were to write of the dedes of Armes which that day toke place, where a man might haue seen many a horse raysed on highe with galop, turne and stoppe, maruaylous to behold. C.xiv staves were broke and the kynge being lusty, he and the straunger toke the prices.
When the queen had given the stranger permission to run, and as he moved away, there was a great clapping of hands and waving of trophies among the ladies, for he was of such noble mien and comely face as to attract the gaze of every one away from even the glittering person of his majesty the king.
His hair, worn in its natural length, fell in brown curls back from his forehead almost to the shoulder, a style just then new, even in France. His eyes were a deep blue, and his complexion, though browned by exposure, held a tinge of beauty which the sun could not mar and a girl might envy. He wore neither mustachio nor beard, as men now disfigure their faces—since Francis I took a scar on his chin—and his clear cut profile, dilating nostrils and mobile, though firm-set mouth, gave pleasing assurance of tenderness, gentleness, daring and strength.
I was standing near the queen, who called to me: "Who is the handsome stranger that so gracefully asked our license to run?"
"I can not inform your majesty. I never saw him until now. He is the goodliest knight I have ever beheld."
"That he is," replied the queen; "and we should like very much to know him. Should we not, ladies?" There was a chorus of assent from a dozen voices, and I promised, after the running, to learn all about him and report.
It was at this point the heralds cried their "Oyes," and our conversation was at an end for the time.
As to height, the stranger was full six feet, with ample evidence of muscle, though no great bulk. He was grace itself, and the king afterwards said he had never seen such strength of arm and skill in the use of the lance—a sure harbinger of favor, if not of fortune, for the possessor.
After the jousting the Princess Mary asked me if I could yet give her an account of the stranger; and as I could not, she went to the king.
I heard her inquire:
"Who was your companion, brother?"
"That is a secret, sister. You will find out soon enough, and will be falling in love with him, no doubt. I have always looked upon you as full of trouble for me in that respect; you will not so much as glance at anyone I choose for you, but I suppose would be ready enough with your smiles for some one I should not want."
"Is the stranger one whom you would not want?" asked Mary, with a dimpling smile and a flash of her brown eyes.
"He most certainly is," returned the king.
"Then I will fall in love with him at once. In fact, I don't know but I have already."
"Oh, I have no doubt of that; if I wanted him, he might be Apollo himself and you would have none of him." King Henry had been compelled to refuse several very advantageous alliances because this fair, coaxing, self-willed sister would not consent to be a part of the moving consideration.
"But can you not tell me who he is, and what his degree?" went on Mary in a bantering tone.
"He has no degree; he is a plain, untitled soldier, not even a knight; that is, not an English knight. I think he has a German or Spanish order of some sort."
"Not a duke; not an earl; not even a baron or knight? Now he has become interesting."
"Yes, I suppose so; but don't bother me."
"Will he be at the dance and banquet to-night?"
"No! No! Now I must go; don't bother me, I say." And the king moved away.
That night we had a grand banquet and dance at Westminster, and the next day we all, excepting Lady Mary, went back to Greenwich by boat, paying a farthing a head for our fare. This was just after the law fixing the boat fare, and the watermen were a quarreling lot, you may be sure. One farthing from Westminster to Greenwich! Eight miles. No wonder they were angry.
The next day I went back to London on an errand, and over to Wolsey's house to borrow a book. While there Master Cavendish, Wolsey's secretary, presented me to the handsome stranger, and he proved to be no other than Charles Brandon, who had fought the terrible duel down in Suffolk. I could hardly believe that so mild-mannered and boyish a person could have taken the leading part in such a tragedy. But with all his gentleness there was an underlying dash of cool daring which intimated plainly enough that he was not all mildness.
We became friends at once, drawn together by that subtle human quality which makes one nature fit into another, resulting in friendship between men, and love between men and women. We soon found that we had many tastes in common, chief among which was the strongest of all congenial bonds, the love of books. In fact we had come to know each other through our common love of reading, for he also had gone to Master Cavendish, who had a fine library, to borrow some volumes to take with him down to Greenwich.
Brandon informed me he was to go to Greenwich that day, so we determined to see a little of London, which was new to him, and then take boat in time to be at the palace before dark.
That evening, upon arriving at Greenwich, we hunted up Brandon's uncle, the Master of Horse, who invited his nephew to stay with him for the night. He refused, however, and accepted an invitation to take a bed in my room.
The next day Brandon was installed as one of the captains of the king's guard, under his uncle, but with no particular duties, except such as should be assigned him from time to time. He was offered a good room on one of the lower floors, but asked, instead, to be lodged in the attic next to me. So we arranged that each had a room opening into a third that served us alike for drawing-room and armory.
Here we sat and talked, and now and then one would read aloud some favorite passage, while the other kept his own place with finger between the leaves. Here we discussed everything from court scandal to religion, and settled to our own satisfaction, at least, many a great problem with which the foolish world is still wrestling.
We told each other all our secrets, too, for all the world like a pair of girls. Although Brandon had seen so much of life, having fought on the continent ever since he was a boy, and for all he was so much a man of the world, yet had he as fresh and boyish a heart as if he had just come from the clover fields and daisies. He seemed almost diffident, but I soon learned that his manner was but the cool gentleness of strength.
Of what use, let me ask, is a friend unless you can unload your heart upon him? It matters not whether the load be joy or sorrow; if the former, the need is all the greater, for joy has an expansive power, as some persons say steam has, and must escape from the heart upon some one else.
So Brandon told me of his hopes and aspirations, chief among which was his desire to earn, and save, enough money to pay the debt against his father's estate, which he had turned over to his younger brother and sisters. He, as the eldest, could have taken it all, for his father had died without a will, but he said there was not enough to divide, so he had given it to them and hoped to leave it clear of debt; then for New Spain, glory and fortune, conquest and yellow gold. He had read of the voyages of the great Columbus, the Cabots, and a host of others, and the future was as rosy as a Cornish girl's cheek. Fortune held up her lips to him, but—there's often a sting in a kiss.
The Princess Mary
Now, at that time, Mary, the king's sister, was just ripening into her greatest womanly perfection. Her skin was like velvet; a rich, clear, rosy snow, with the hot young blood glowing through it like the faint red tinge we sometimes see on the inner side of a white rose leaf. Her hair was a very light brown, almost golden, and fluffy, soft, and fine as a skein of Arras silk. She was of medium height, with a figure that Venus might have envied. Her feet and hands were small, and apparently made for the sole purpose of driving mankind distracted. In fact, that seemed to be the paramount object in her creation, for she had the world of men at her feet. Her greatest beauty was her glowing dark brown eyes, which shone with an ever-changing luster from beneath the shade of the longest, blackest upcurving lashes ever seen.
Her voice was soft and full, and, except when angry, which, alas, was not infrequent, had a low and coaxing little note that made it irresistible; she was a most adroit coaxer, and knew her power full well, although she did not always plead, having the Tudor temper and preferring to command—when she could. As before hinted, she had coaxed her royal brother out of several proposed marriages for her, which would have been greatly to his advantage; and if you had only known Henry Tudor, with his vain, boisterous, stubborn violence, you could form some idea of Mary's powers by that achievement alone.
Will Sommers, the fool, one day spread through court an announcement that there would be a public exhibition in the main hall of the palace that evening, when the Princess Mary would perform the somewhat alarming, but, in fact, harmless, operation of wheedling the king out of his ears. This was just after she had coaxed him to annul a marriage contract which her father had made for her with Charles of Germany, then heir to the greatest inheritance that ever fell to the lot of one man—Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, and heaven only knows what else.
She had been made love to by so many men, who had lost their senses in the dazzling rays of her thousand perfections—of whom, I am ashamed to say, that I, for a time, had been insane enough to be one—that love had grown to be a sort of joke with her, and man, a poor, contemptible creature, made to grovel at her feet. Not that she liked or encouraged it; for, never having been moved herself, she held love and its sufferings in utter scorn. Man's love was so cheap and plentiful that it had no value in her eyes, and it looked as if she would lose the best thing in life by having too much of it.
Such was the royal maid to whose tender mercies, I now tell you frankly, my friend Brandon was soon to be turned over. He, however, was a blade of very different temper from any she had known; and when I first saw signs of a growing intimacy between them I felt, from what little I had seen of Brandon, that the tables were very likely to be turned upon her ladyship. Then thought I, "God help her," for in a nature like hers, charged with latent force, strong and hot and fiery as the sun's stored rays, it needed but a flash to make it patent, when damage was sure to follow for somebody—probably Brandon.
Mary did not come home with us from Westminster the morning after the joustings, as we had expected, but followed some four or five days later, and Brandon had fairly settled himself at court before her arrival. As neither his duties nor mine were onerous, we had a great deal of time on our hands, which we employed walking and riding, or sitting in our common room reading and talking. Of course, as with most young men, that very attractive branch of natural history, woman, was a favorite topic, and we accordingly discussed it a great deal; that is, to tell the exact truth, I did. Although Brandon had seen many an adventure during his life on the continent, which would not do to write down here, he was as little of a boaster as any man I ever met, and, while I am in the truth-telling business, I was as great a braggart of my inches as ever drew the long-bow—in that line, I mean. Gods! I flush up hot, even now, when I think of it. So I talked a great deal and found myself infinitely pleased with Brandon's conversational powers, which were rare; being no less than the capacity for saying nothing, and listening politely to an infinite deal of the same thing, in another form, from me.
I remember that I told him I had known the Princess Mary from a time when she was twelve years old, and how I had made a fool of myself about her. I fear I tried to convey the impression that it was her exalted rank only which made her look unfavorably upon my passion, and suppressed the fact that she had laughed at me good humoredly, and put me off as she would have thrust a poodle from her lap. The truth is, she had always been kind and courteous to me, and had admitted me to a degree of intimacy much greater than I deserved. This, partly at least, grew out of the fact that I helped her along the thorny path to knowledge; a road she traveled at an eager gallop, for she dearly loved to learn—from curiosity perhaps.
I am sure she held me in her light, gentle heart as a dear friend, but while her heart was filled with this mild warmth for me, mine began to burn with the flame that discolors everything, and I saw her friendliness in a very distorting light. She was much kinder to me than to most men, but I did not see that it was by reason of my absolute harmlessness; and, I suppose, because I was a vain fool, I gradually began to gather hope—which goes with every vain man's love—and what is more, actually climbed to the very apex of idiocy and declared myself. I well knew the infinite distance between us; but like every other man who came within the circle of this charming lodestone I lost my head, and, in short, made a greater fool of myself than I naturally was—which is saying a good deal for that time in my life, God knows!
I knew vaguely but did not fairly realize how utterly beyond my reach in every way she was until I opened the flood-gates of my passion—as I thought it—and saw her smile, and try to check the coming laugh. Then came a look of offended dignity, followed by a quick softening glance.
"Leave me one friend, I pray you, Edwin. I value you too highly to lose, and esteem you too much to torment. Do not make of yourself one of those fools who feel, or pretend to feel, I care not which, such preference for me. You cannot know in what contempt a woman holds a man who follows her though she despises him. No man can beg a woman's love; he must command it; do not join their ranks, but let us be good friends. I will tell you the plain truth; it would be no different were we both of the same degree; even then I could not feel toward you as you think you wish, but I can be your friend, and will promise to be that always, if you will promise never again to speak of this to me."
I promised solemnly and have always kept my word, as this true, gracious woman, so full of faults and beauties, virtues and failings, has, ever since that day and moment, kept hers. It seemed that my love, or what I supposed was love, left my heart at once, frozen in the cold glint of her eyes as she smiled upon my first avowal; somewhat as disease may leave the sickened body upon a great shock. And in its place came the restful flame of a friend's love, which so softly warms without burning. But the burning! There is nothing in life worth having compared with it for all its pains and agonies. Is there?
"Now if you must love somebody," continued the princess, "there is Lady Jane Bolingbroke, who is beautiful and good, and admires you, and, I think, could learn to——" but here the lady in question ran out from behind the draperies, where, I believe, she had been listening to it all, and put her hand over her mistress' mouth to silence her.
"Don't believe one word she says, Sir Edwin," cried Lady Jane; "if you do I never will like you." The emphasis on the "will" held out such involuntary promise in case I did not believe the princess, that I at once protested total want of faith in a single syllable she had said about her, and vowed that I knew it could not be true; that I dared not hope for such happiness.
You see, I had begun to make love to Jane almost before I was off my knees to Mary, and, therefore, I had not been much hurt in Mary's case. I had suffered merely a touch of the general epidemic, not the lingering, chronic disease that kills.
Then I knew that the best cure for the sting which lies in a luckless love is to love elsewhere, and Jane, as she stood there, so petite, so blushing and so fair, struck me as quite the most pleasing antidote I could possibly find, so I began at once to administer to myself the delightful counter-irritant. It was a happy thought for me; one of those which come to a man now and then, and for which he thanks his wits in every hour of his after life.
But the winning of Jane was not so easy a matter as my vanity had prompted me to think. I started with a handicap, since Jane had heard my declaration to Mary, and I had to undo all that before I could do anything else. Try the same thing yourself with a spirited girl, naturally laughter-loving and coy, if you think it a simple, easy undertaking. I began to fear I should need another antidote long before I heard her sweet soul-satisfying "yes." I do not believe, however, I could have found in the whole world an antidote to my love for Jane. You see I tell you frankly that I won her, and conceal nothing, so far as Jane and I are concerned, for the purpose of holding you in suspense. I have started out to tell you the history of two other persons—if I can ever come to it—but find a continual tendency on the part of my own story to intrude, for every man is a very important personage to himself. I shall, however, try to keep it out.
In the course of my talk with Brandon I had, as I have said, told him the story of Mary, with some slight variations and coloring, or rather discoloring, to make it appear a little less to my discredit than the barefaced truth would have been. I told him also about Jane; and, I grieve and blush to say, expressed a confidence in that direction I little felt.
It had been perhaps a year since my adventure with Mary, and I had taken all that time trying to convince Jane that I did not mean a word I had said to her mistress, and that I was very earnest in everything I said to her. But Jane's ears would have heard just as much had they been the pair of beautiful little shells they so much resembled. This troubled me a great deal, and the best I could hope was that she held me on probation.
On the evening of the day Mary came home to Greenwich, Brandon asked: "Who and what on earth is this wonderful Mary I hear so much about? They say she is coming home to-day, and the court seems to have gone mad about it; I hear nothing but 'Mary is coming! Mary is coming! Mary! Mary!' from morning until night. They say Buckingham is beside himself for love of her. He has a wife at home, if I am right, and is old enough to be her father. Is he not?" I assented; and Brandon continued: "A man who will make such a fool of himself about a woman is woefully weak. The men of the court must be poor creatures."
He had much to learn about the power of womanhood. There is nothing on earth—but you know as much about it as I do.
"Wait until you see her," I answered, "and you will be one of them, also. I flatter you by giving you one hour with her to be heels over head in love. With an ordinary man it takes one-sixtieth of that time; so you see I pay a compliment to your strength of mind."
"Nonsense!" broke in Brandon. "Do you think I left all my wits down in Suffolk? Why, man, she is the sister of the king, and is sought by kings and emperors. I might as well fall in love with a twinkling star. Then, besides, my heart is not on my sleeve. You must think me a fool; a poor, enervated, simpering fool like—like—well, like one of those nobles of England. Don't put me down with them, Caskoden, if you would remain my friend."
We both laughed at this sort of talk, which was a little in advance of the time, for a noble, though an idiot, to the most of England was a noble still, God-created and to be adored.
Another great bond of sympathy between Brandon and myself was a community of opinion concerning certain theories as to the equality of men and tolerance of religious thought. We believed that these things would yet come, in spite of kingcraft and priestcraft, but wisely kept our pet theories to ourselves: that is, between ourselves.
Of what use is it to argue the equality of human kind to a man who honestly thinks he is better than any one else, or to one who really believes that some one else is better than he; and why dispute about the various ways of saving one's soul, when you are not even sure you have a soul to save? When I open my mouth for public utterance, the king is the best man in Christendom, and his premier peer of the realm the next best. When the king is a Catholic I go to Mass; since, praised be the Lord, I have brains enough not to let my head interfere with the set ways of a stone wall.
Now, when Mary returned the whole court rejoiced, and I was anxious for Brandon to meet her and that they should become friends. There would be no trouble in bringing this meeting about, since, as you know, I was upon terms of intimate friendship with Mary, and was the avowed, and, as I thought, at least hoped, all but accepted lover of her first lady in waiting and dearest friend, Lady Jane Bolingbroke. Brandon, it is true, was not noble; not even an English knight, while I was both knighted and noble; but he was of as old a family as England boasted, and near of kin to some of the best blood of the land. The meeting came about sooner than I expected, and was very near a failure. It was on the second morning after Mary's arrival at Greenwich. Brandon and I were walking in the palace park when we met Jane, and I took the opportunity to make these, my two best-loved friends, acquainted.
"How do you do, Master Brandon?" said Lady Jane, holding out her plump little hand, so white and soft, and dear to me. "I have heard something of you the last day or so from Sir Edwin, but had begun to fear he was not going to give me the pleasure of knowing you. I hope I may see you often now, and that I may present you to my mistress."
With this, her eyes, bright as overgrown dew-drops, twinkled with a mischievous little smile, as if to say: "Ah, another large handsome fellow to make a fool of himself."
Brandon acquiesced in the wish she had made, and, after the interchange of a few words, Jane said her mistress was waiting at the other side of the grounds, and that she must go. She then ran off with a laugh and a courtesy, and was soon lost to sight behind the shrubbery at the turning of the walk.
In a short time we came to a summer house near the marble boat-landing, where we found the queen and some of her ladies awaiting the rest of their party for a trip down the river, which had been planned the day before. Brandon was known to the queen and several of the ladies, although he had not been formally presented at an audience. Many of the king's friends enjoyed a considerable intimacy with the whole court without ever receiving the public stamp of recognition, socially, which goes with a formal presentation.
The queen, seeing us, sent me off to bring the king. After I had gone, she asked if any one had seen the Princess Mary, and Brandon told her Lady Jane had said she was at the other side of the grounds. Thereupon her majesty asked Brandon to find the princess and to say that she was wanted.
Brandon started off and soon found a bevy of girls sitting on some benches under a spreading oak, weaving spring flowers. He had never seen the princess, so could not positively know her. As a matter of fact, he did know her, as soon as his eyes rested on her, for she could not be mistaken among a thousand—there was no one like her or anything near it. Some stubborn spirit of opposition, however, prompted him to pretend ignorance. All that he had heard of her wonderful power over men, and the servile manner in which they fell before her, had aroused in him a spirit of antagonism, and had begotten a kind of distaste beforehand. He was wrong in this, because Mary was not a coquette in any sense of the word, and did absolutely nothing to attract men, except to be so beautiful, sweet and winning that they could not let her alone; for all of which surely the prince of fault-finders himself could in no way blame her.
She could not help that God had seen fit to make her the fairest being on earth, and the responsibility would have to lie where it belonged—with God; Mary would have none of it. Her attractiveness was not a matter of volition or intention on her part. She was too young for deliberate snare-setting—though it often begins very early in life—and made no effort to attract men. Man's love was too cheap a thing for her to strive for, and I am sure, in her heart, she would infinitely have preferred to live without it—that is, until the right one should come. The right one is always on his way, and, first or last, is sure to come to every woman—sometimes, alas! too late—and when he comes, be it late or early, she crowns him, even though he be a long-eared ass. Blessed crown! and thrice-blessed blindness—else there were fewer coronations.
So Brandon stirred this antagonism and determined not to see her manifold perfections, which he felt sure were exaggerated; but to treat her as he would the queen—who was black and leathery enough to frighten a satyr—with all respect due to her rank, but with his own opinion of her nevertheless, safely stored away in the back of his head.
Coming up to the group, Brandon took off his hat, and, with a graceful little bow that let the curls fall around his face, asked: "Have I the honor to find the Princess Mary among these ladies?"
Mary, who I know you will at once say was thoroughly spoiled, without turning her face toward him, replied:
"Is the Princess Mary a person of so little consequence about the court that she is not known to a mighty captain of the guard?"
He wore his guardsman's doublet, and she knew his rank by his uniform. She had not noticed his face.
Quick as a flash came the answer: "I can not say of what consequence the Princess Mary is about the court; it is not my place to determine such matters. I am sure, however, she is not here, for I doubt not she would have given a gentle answer to a message from the queen. I shall continue my search." With this, he turned to leave, and the ladies, including Jane, who was there and saw it all and told me of it, awaited the bolt they knew would come, for they saw the lightning gathering in Mary's eyes.
Mary sprang to her feet with an angry flush in her face, exclaiming: "Insolent fellow, I am the Princess Mary; if you have a message, deliver it and be gone." You may be sure this sort of treatment was such as the cool-headed, daring Brandon would repay with usury; so, turning upon his heel and almost presenting his back to Mary, he spoke to Lady Jane:
"Will your ladyship say to her highness that her majesty, the queen, awaits her coming at the marble landing?"
"No need to repeat the message, Jane," cried Mary. "I have ears and can hear for myself." Then turning to Brandon: "If your insolence will permit you to receive a message from so insignificant a person as the king's sister, I beg you to say to the queen that I shall be with her presently."
He did not turn his face toward Mary, but bowed again to Jane.
"May I ask your ladyship further to say for me that if I have been guilty of any discourtesy I greatly regret it. My failure to recognize the Princess Mary grew out of my misfortune in never having been allowed to bask in the light of her countenance. I cannot believe the fault lies at my door, and I hope for her own sake that her highness, on second thought, will realize how ungentle and unkind some one else has been." And with a sweeping courtesy he walked quickly down the path.
"The insolent wretch!" cried one.
"He ought to hold papers on the pillory," said another.
"Nothing of the sort," broke in sensible, fearless little Jane; "I think the Lady Mary was wrong. He could not have known her by inspiration."
"Jane is right," exclaimed Mary, whose temper, if short, was also short-lived, and whose kindly heart always set her right if she but gave it a little time. Her faults were rather those of education than of nature. "Jane is right; it was what I deserved. I did not think when I spoke, and did not really mean it as it sounded. He acted like a man, and looked like one, too, when he defended himself. I warrant the pope at Rome could not run over him with impunity. For once I have found a real live man, full of manliness. I saw him in the lists at Windsor a week ago, but the king said his name was a secret, and I could not learn it. He seemed to know you, Jane. Who is he? Now tell us all you know. The queen can wait."
And her majesty waited on a girl's curiosity.
I had told Jane all I knew about Brandon, so she was prepared with full information, and gave it. She told the princess who he was; of his terrible duel with Judson; his bravery and adventures in the wars; his generous gift to his brother and sisters, and lastly, "Sir Edwin says he is the best-read man in the court, and the bravest, truest heart in Christendom."
After Jane's account of Brandon, they all started by a roundabout way for the marble landing. In a few moments whom did they see, coming toward them down the path, but Brandon, who had delivered his message and continued his walk. When he saw whom he was about to meet, he quickly turned in another direction. The Lady Mary had seen him, however, and told Jane to run forward and bring him to her. She soon overtook him and said:
"Master Brandon, the princess wishes to see you." Then, maliciously: "You will suffer this time. I assure you she is not used to such treatment. It was glorious, though, to see you resent such an affront. Men usually smirk and smile foolishly and thank her when she smites them."
Brandon was disinclined to return.
"I am not in her highness's command," he answered, "and do not care to go back for a reprimand when I am in no way to blame."
"Oh, but you must come; perhaps she will not scold this time," and she put her hand upon his arm, and laughingly drew him along. Brandon, of course, had to submit when led by so sweet a captor—anybody would. So fresh, and fair, and lovable was Jane, that I am sure anything masculine must have given way.
Coming up to the princess and her ladies, who were waiting, Jane said: "Lady Mary, let me present Master Brandon, who, if he has offended in any way, humbly sues for pardon." That was the one thing Brandon had no notion on earth of doing, but he let it go as Jane had put it, and this was his reward:
"It is not Master Brandon who should sue for pardon," responded the princess, "it is I who was wrong. I blush for what I did and said. Forgive me, sir, and let us start anew." At this she stepped up to Brandon and offered him her hand, which he, dropping to his knee, kissed most gallantly.
"Your highness, you can well afford to offend when you have so sweet and gracious a talent for making amends. 'A wrong acknowledged,' as some one has said, 'becomes an obligation.'" He looked straight into the girl's eyes as he said this, and his gaze was altogether too strong for her, so the lashes fell. She flushed and said with a smile that brought the dimples:
"I thank you; that is a real compliment." Then laughingly: "Much better than extravagant comments on one's skin, and eyes, and hair. We are going to the queen at the marble landing. Will you walk with us, sir?" And they strolled away together, while the other girls followed in a whispering, laughing group.
Was there ever so glorious a calm after such a storm?
"Then those mythological compliments," continued Mary, "don't you dislike them?"
"I can't say that I have ever received many—none that I recall," replied Brandon, with a perfectly straight face, but with a smile trying its best to break out.
"Oh! you have not? Well! how would you like to have somebody always telling you that Apollo was humpbacked and misshapen compared with you; that Endymion would have covered his face had he but seen yours, and so on?"
"I don't know, but I think I should like it—from some persons," he replied, looking ever so innocent.
This savored of familiarity after so brief an acquaintance, and caused the princess to glance up in slight surprise; but only for the instant, for his innocent look disarmed her.
"I have a mind to see," she returned, laughing and throwing her head back, as she looked up at him out of the corner of her lustrous eyes. "But I will pay you a better compliment. I positively thank you for the rebuke. I do many things like that, for which I am always sorry. Oh! you don't know how difficult it is to be a good princess." And she shook her head, with a gathering of little trouble-wrinkles in her forehead, as much as to say, "There is no getting away from it, though." Then she breathed a soft little sigh of tribulation as they walked on.
"I know it must be a task to be good when everybody flatters even one's shortcomings," said Brandon, and then continued in a way that, I am free to confess, was something priggish: "It is almost impossible for us to see our own faults, even when others are kind enough to point them out, for they are right ugly things and unpleasant to look upon. But lacking those outside monitors, one must all the more cultivate the habit of constant inlooking and self-examination. If we are only brave enough to confront our faults and look them in the face, ugly as they are, we shall be sure to overcome the worst of them. A striving toward good will achieve at least a part of it."
"Oh!" returned the princess, "but what is good and what is wrong? So often we can not tell them apart until we look back at what we have done, and then it is all too late. I truly wish to be good more than I desire anything else in the world. I am so ignorant and helpless, and have such strong inclinations to do wrong that sometimes I seem to be almost all wrong. The priests say so much, but tell us so little. They talk about St. Peter and St. Paul, and a host of other saints and holy fathers and what-nots, but fail to tell us what we need every moment of our lives; that is, how to know the right when we see it, and how to do it; and how to know the wrong and how to avoid it. They ask us to believe so much, and insist that faith is the sum of virtue, and the lack of it the sum of sin; that to faith all things are added; but we might believe every syllable of their whole disturbing creed, and then spoil it all through blind ignorance of what is right and what is wrong."
"As to knowing right and wrong," replied Brandon, "I think I can give you a rule which, although it may not cover the whole ground, is excellent for every-day use. It is this: Whatever makes others unhappy is wrong; whatever makes the world happier is good. As to how we are always to do this, I can not tell you. One has to learn that by trying. We can but try, and if we fail altogether, there is still virtue in every futile effort toward the right."
Mary bent her head as she walked along in thought.
"What you have said is the only approach to a rule for knowing and doing the right I have ever heard. Now what do you think of me as a flatterer? But it will do no good; the bad is in me too strong; it always does itself before I can apply any rule, or even realize what is coming." And again she shook her head with a bewitching little look of trouble.
"Pardon me, your highness; but there is no bad in you. It has been put on you by others, and is all on the outside; there is none of it in your heart at all. That evil which you think comes out of you, simply falls from you; your heart is all right, or I have greatly misjudged you." He was treating her almost as if she were a child.
"I fear, Master Brandon, you are the most adroit flatterer of all," said Mary, shaking her head and looking up at him with a side glance, "people have deluged me with all kinds of flattery—I have the different sorts listed and labeled—but no one has ever gone to the extravagant length of calling me good. Perhaps they think I do not care for that; but I like it best. I don't like the others at all. If I am beautiful or not, it is as God made me, and I have nothing to do with it, and desire no credit, but if I could only be good it might be my own doing, perhaps, and I ought to have praise. I wonder if there is really and truly any good in me, and if you have read me aright." Then looking up at him with a touch of consternation: "Or are you laughing at me?"
Brandon wisely let the last suggestion pass unnoticed.
"I am sure that I am right; you have glorious capacities for good, but alas! corresponding possibilities for evil. It will eventually all depend upon the man you marry. He can make out of you a perfect woman, or the reverse." Again there was the surprised expression in Mary's face, but Brandon's serious look disarmed her.
"I fear you are right, as to the reverse, at any rate; and the worst of it is, I shall never be able to choose a man to help me, but shall sooner or later be compelled to marry the creature who will pay the greatest price."
"God forbid!" said Brandon reverently.
They were growing rather serious, so Mary turned the conversation again into the laughing mood, and said, with a half sigh: "Oh! I hope you are right about the possibilities for good, but you do not know. Wait until you have seen more of me."
"I certainly hope I shall not have long to wait."
The surprised eyes again glanced quickly up to the serious face, but the answer came: "That you shall not:—but here is the queen, and I suppose we must have the benediction." Brandon understood her hint—that the preaching was over,—and taking it for his dismissal, playfully lifted his hands in imitation of the old Bishop of Canterbury, and murmured the first line of the Latin benediction. Then they both laughed and courtesied, and Brandon walked away.
A Lesson in Dancing
I laughed heartily when Jane told me of the tilt between Brandon and Princess Mary, the latter of whom was in the habit of saying unkind things and being thanked for them.
Brandon was the wrong man to say them to, as Mary learned. He was not hot-tempered; in fact, just the reverse, but he was the last man to brook an affront, and the quickest to resent, in a cool-headed, dangerous way, an intentional offense.
He respected himself and made others do the same, or seem to do so, at least. He had no vanity—which is but an inordinate desire for those qualities that bring self-respect, and often the result of conscious demerit—but he knew himself, and knew that he was entitled to his own good opinion. He was every inch a man, strong, intelligent and brave to temerity, with a reckless disregard of consequences, which might have been dangerous had it not been tempered by a dash of prudence and caution that gave him ballast.
I was not surprised when I heard of the encounter; for I knew enough of him to be sure that Mary's high-handedness would meet its counterpart in my cool friend Brandon. It was, however, an unfortunate victory, and what all Mary's beauty and brightness would have failed to do, her honest, open acknowledgment of wrong, following so quickly upon the heels of her fault, accomplished easily. It drew him within the circle of her fatal attractions, and when Jane told me of it, I knew his fate was sealed, and that, sooner or later, his untouched heart and cool head would fall victim to the shafts that so surely winged all others.
It might, and probably would, be "later," since, as Brandon had said, he was not one of those who wear the heart upon the sleeve. Then he had that strong vein of prudence and caution, which, in view of Mary's unattainableness, would probably come to his help. But never was man's heart strong enough to resist Mary Tudor's smile for long.
There was this difference between Brandon and most others—he would be slow to love, but when love should once fairly take root in his intense nature, he would not do to trifle with.
The night after the meeting, Mary cuddled up to Jane, who slept with her, and whispered, half bashfully:
"Tell me all about Brandon; I am interested in him. I believe if I knew more persons like him I should be a better girl, notwithstanding he is one of the boldest men I ever knew. He says anything he wishes, and, with all his modest manner, is as cool with me as if I were a burgher's daughter. His modesty is all on the outside, but it is pretty, and pretty things must be on the outside to be useful. I wonder if Judson thought him modest?"
Jane talked of Brandon to Mary, who was in an excellent humor, until the girls fell asleep.
When Jane told me of this I became frightened; for the surest way to any woman's heart is to convince her that you make her better, and arouse in her breast purer impulses and higher aspirations. It would be bad enough should Brandon fall in love with the princess, which was almost sure to happen, but for them to fall in love with each other meant Brandon's head upon the block, and Mary's heart bruised, broken and empty for life. Her strong nature, filled to the brim with latent passion, was the stuff of which love makes a conflagration that burns to destruction; and should she learn to love Brandon, she would move heaven and earth to possess him.
She whose every desire from childhood up had been gratified, whose every whim seemed to her a paramount necessity, would stop at nothing when the dearest wish a woman's heart can coin was to be gained or lost. Brandon's element of prudence might help him, and might forestall any effort on his part to win her, but Mary had never heard of prudence, and man's caution avails but little when set against woman's daring. In case they both should love, they were sure to try for each other, and in trying were equally sure to find ruin and desolation.
A few evenings after this I met the princess in the queen's drawing-room. She beckoned me to her, and, resting her elbows on the top of a cabinet, her chin in her hands, said: "I met your friend, Captain Brandon, a day or two ago. Did he tell you?"
"No," I answered; "Jane told me, but he has not mentioned it."
It was true Brandon had not said a word of the matter, and I had not spoken of it, either. I wanted to see how long he would remain silent concerning an adventure that would have set most men of the court boasting at a great rate. To have a tilt with the ever-victorious Mary, and to come off victor, was enough, I think, to loosen any tongue less given to bragging than Brandon's.
"So," continued Mary, evidently somewhat piqued, "he did not think his presentation to me a thing worth mentioning? We had a little passage-at-arms, and, to tell you the truth, I came off second best, and had to acknowledge it, too. Now, what do you think of this new friend of yours? And he did not boast about having the better of me? After all, there is more virtue in his silence than I at first thought." And she threw back her head, and clapped her hands and laughed with the most contagious little ripple you ever heard. She seemed not to grieve over her defeat, but dimpled as though it were a huge joke, the thought of which rather pleased her than otherwise. Victory had grown stale for her, although so young.
"What do I think of my new friend?" I repeated after her; and that gave me a theme upon which I could enlarge eloquently. I told her of his learning, notwithstanding the fact that he had been in the continental wars ever since he was a boy. I repeated to her stories of his daring and bravery, that had been told to me by his uncle, the Master of the Horse, and others, and then I added what I knew Lady Jane had already said. I had expected to be brief, but to my surprise found a close and interested listener, even to the twice-told parts, and drew my story out a little, to the liking of us both.
"Your friend has an earnest advocate in you, Sir Edwin," said the princess.
"That he has," I replied. "There is nothing too good to say of him."
I knew that Mary, with her better, clearer brain, held the king almost in the palm of her hand, so I thought to advance Brandon's fortune by a timely word.
"I trust the king will see fit to favor him, and I hope that you will speak a word in his behalf, should the opportunity occur."
"What in the name of heaven have we to give him?" cried Mary impatiently, for she kept an eye on things political, even if she were only a girl—"the king has given away everything that can be given, already, and now that the war is over, and men are coming home, there are hundreds waiting for more. My father's great treasure is squandered, to say nothing of the money collected from Empson, Dudley, and the other commissioners. There is nothing to give unless it be the titles and estate of the late Duke of Suffolk. Perhaps the king will give these to your paragon, if you will paint him in as fair a light as you have drawn him for me." Then throwing back her head with a laugh, "Ask him."
"It would be none too much for his deserts," I replied, falling in with her humor.
"We will so arrange it then," went on Mary, banteringly; "Captain Brandon no longer, but Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. How sounds it, Master Caskoden?"
"Sweet in my ears," I replied.
"I really believe you would have the king's crown for him, you absurd man, if you could get it. We must have so interesting a person at court; I shall at least see that he is presented to the queen at once. I wonder if he dances; I suppose not. He has probably been too busy cutting and thrusting." And she laughed again at her own pleasantry.
When the mirth began to gather in her face and the dimples came responsive to her smiles; when she threw back her perfectly poised head, stretching her soft, white throat, so full and round and beautiful, half closing her big brown eyes till they shone again from beneath the shade of those long, black sweeping lashes; when her red lips parted, showing her teeth of pearl, and she gave the little clap of her hands—a sort of climax to the soft, low, rippling laugh—she made a picture of such exquisite loveliness that it is no wonder men were fools about her, and caught love as one catches a contagion. I had it once, as you already know, and had recovered. All that prevented a daily relapse was my fair, sweet antidote, Jane, whose image rested in my heart, a lasting safeguard.
"I wonder if your prodigy plays cards; that is, such as we ladies play?" asked Mary. "You say he has lived much in France, where the game was invented, but I have no doubt he would scorn to waste his time at so frivolous a pursuit, when he might be slaughtering armies single-handed and alone."
"I do not know as to his dancing and card-playing, but I dare venture a wager he does both," I replied, not liking her tone of sarcasm. She had yet to learn who Brandon was.
"I will hazard ten crowns," said Mary quickly, for she loved a wager and was a born gambler.
"Taken," said I.
"We will try him on both to-morrow night in my drawing-room," she continued. "You bring him up, but tell no one. I will have Jane there with her lute, which will not frighten you away, I know, and we will try his step. I will have cards, too, and we shall see what he can do at triumph. Just we four—no one else at all. You and Jane, the new Duke of Suffolk and I. Oh! I can hardly wait," and she fairly danced with joyous anticipation.
The thing had enough irregularity to give it zest, for while Mary often had a few young people in her drawing-room, the companies were never so small as two couples only, and the king and queen, to make up for greater faults, were wonderful sticklers in the matter of little proprieties.
The ten-crown wager, too, gave spice to it, but to do her justice she cared very little for that. The princess loved gambling purely for gambling's sake, and with her, the next best thing to winning was losing.
When I went to my room that night, I awakened Brandon and told him of the distinguished honor that awaited him.
"Well! I'll be"—but he did not say what he would "be." He always halted before an oath, unless angry, which was seldom, but then beware!—he had learned to swear in Flanders. "How she did fly at me the other morning. I never was more surprised in all my life. For once I was almost caught with my guard down, and did not know how to parry the thrust. I mumbled over some sort of a lame retaliation and beat a retreat. It was so unjust and uncalled-for that it made me angry; but she was so gracious in her amends that I was almost glad it happened. I like a woman who can be as savage as the very devil when it pleases her; she usually has in store an assortment of possibilities for the other extreme."
"She told me of your encounter," I returned, "but said she had come off second best, and seemed to think her overthrow a huge joke."
"The man who learns to know what a woman thinks and feels will have a great deal of valuable information," he replied; and then turned over for sleep, greatly pleased that one woman thought as she did.
I was not sure he would be so highly flattered if he knew that he had been invited to settle a wager, and to help Mary to a little sport.
As to the former, I had an interest there myself, although I dared not settle the question by asking Brandon if he played cards and danced; and, as to the matter of Mary's sport, I felt there was but little, if any, danger of her having too much of it at his expense, Brandon being well able to care for himself in that respect.
The next evening, at the appointed time, we wended our way, by an unfrequented route, and presented ourselves, as secretly as possible, at the drawing-room of the princess.
The door was opened by Lady Jane, and we met the two girls almost at the threshold. I had told Brandon of the bantering conversation about the title and estates of the late Duke of Suffolk, and he had laughed over it in the best of humor. If quick to retaliate for an intentional offense, he was not thin-skinned at a piece of pleasantry, and had none of that stiff, sensitive dignity, so troublesome to one's self and friends.
Now, Jane and Mary were always bantering me because I was short, and inclined to be—in fact—round, but I did not care. It made them laugh, and their laughing was so contagious it made me laugh, too, and we all enjoyed it. I would give a pound sterling any time for a good laugh; and that, I think, is why I have always been—round.
So, upon entering, I said:
"His grace, the Duke of Suffolk, ladies."
They each made a sweeping courtesy, with hand on breast, and gravely saluted him:
"Your grace! good even'."
Brandon's bow was as deep and graceful, if that were possible, as theirs, and when he moved on into the room it was with a little halt in his step, and a big blowing out of the cheeks, in ludicrous imitation of his late lamented predecessor, that sent the girls into peals of soft laughter and put us all at our ease immediately.
Ah! what a thing it is to look back upon; that time of life when one finds his heaven in a ready laugh!
"Be seated all," said the princess. "This is to be without ceremony, and only we four. No one knows a word of it. Did you tell any one, Sir Edwin?"
"Perish the thought," I exclaimed.
She turned her face toward Brandon, "—but I know you did not. I've heard how discreet you were about another matter. Well, no one knows it then, and we can have a famous evening. You did not expect this, Master Brandon, after my reception of you the other morning? Were you not surprised when Sir Edwin told you?"
"I think I can safely say that I was prepared not to be surprised at anything your highness might graciously conclude to do—after my first experience," he answered, smiling.
"Indeed?" returned Mary with elevated eyebrows, and a rising inflection on the last syllable of the word. It was now her turn for a little surprise. "Well, we'll try to find some way to surprise you one of these days;" and the time came when she was full of surprises for him. Mary continued: "But let us not talk about the other day. Of what use are 'other days,' anyway? Before the evening is over, Master Brandon, we want you to give us another sermon," and she laughed, setting off three other laughs as hearty and sincere as if she had uttered the rarest witticism on earth.
The princess had told Jane and Jane had told me of the "Sermon in the Park," as Mary called it.
"Jane needs it as much as I," said the princess.
"I can't believe that," responded Brandon, looking at Jane with a softening glance quite too admiring and commendatory to suit me; for I was a jealous little devil.
The eyebrows went up again.
"Oh! you think she doesn't? Well, in truth, Master Brandon, there is one failing that can not be laid at your door; you are no flatterer." For answer Brandon laughed, and that gave us the cue, and away we went in a rippling chorus, all about nothing. Some persons may call our laughter foolish, but there are others who consider it the height of all wisdom. St. George! I'd give my Garter for just one other laugh like that; for just one other hour of youth's dancing blood and glowing soul-warmth; of sweet, unconscious, happy heart-beat and paradise-creating joy in everything.
After a few minutes of gay conversation, in which we all joined, Mary asked: "What shall we do? Will one of you suggest something?"
Jane sat there looking so demure you would have thought mischief could not live within a league of her, but those very demure girls are nearly always dangerous. She said, oh! so innocently:
"Would you like to dance? If so, I will play." And she reached for her lute, which was by her side.
"Yes, that will be delightful. Master Brandon, will you dance with me?" asked the princess, with a saucy little laugh, her invitation meaning so much more to three of us than to Brandon. Jane and I joined in the laugh, and when Mary clapped her hands that set Brandon off, too, for he thought it the quaintest, prettiest little gesture in the world, and was all unconscious that our laugh was at his expense.
Brandon did not answer Mary's invitation—the fit of laughter had probably put it out of his mind—so she, evidently anxious to win or lose her wager at once, again asked him if he danced.
"Oh, pardon me. Of course. Thank you." And he was on his feet beside her chair in an instant ready for the dance. This time the girl's laugh, though equally merry, had another tone, for she knew she had lost.
Out they stepped upon the polished floor, he holding her hand in his, awaiting the pause in the music to take the step. I shall never forget the sight of those two standing there together—Mary, dark-eyed and glowing; Brandon, almost rosy, with eyes that held the color of a deep spring sky, and a wealth of flowing curls crowning his six feet of perfect manhood, strong and vigorous as a young lion. Mary, full of beauty-curves and graces, a veritable Venus in her teens, and Brandon, an Apollo, with a touch of Hercules, were a complement each to the other that would surely make a perfect one.
When the music started, off they went, heel and toe, bow and courtesy, a step forward and a step back, in perfect time and rhythm—a poem of human motion. Could Brandon dance? The princess had her answer in the first ten steps. Nothing could be more graceful than Brandon's dancing, unless it were Mary's. Her slightest movement was grace itself. When she would throw herself backward in thrusting out her toe, and then swing forward with her head a little to one side, her uplifted arm undulating like the white neck of a swan,—for her sleeve, which was slit to the shoulder, fell back and left it bare,—she was a sight worth a long journey to see. And when she looked up to Brandon with a laugh in her brown eyes, and a curving smile just parting her full, red lips, that a man would give his very luck to—but I had better stop.
"Was there ever a goodlier couple?" I asked Jane, by whose side I sat.
"Never," she responded as she played, and, strange to say, I was jealous because she agreed with me. I was jealous because I feared it was Brandon's beauty to which she referred. That I thought would naturally appeal to her. Had he been less handsome, I should perhaps have thought nothing of it, but I knew what my feelings were toward Mary, and I judged, or rather misjudged, Jane by myself. I supposed she would think of Brandon as I could not help thinking of Mary. Was anything in heaven or earth ever so beautiful as that royal creature, dancing there, daintily holding up her skirts with thumb and first finger, just far enough to show a distracting little foot and ankle, and make one wish he had been born a sheep rather than a sentient man who had to live without Mary Tudor? Yet, strange as it may seem, I was really and wholly in love with Jane; in fact, I loved no one but Jane, and my feeling of intense admiration for Mary was but a part of man's composite inconstancy.
A woman—God bless her—if she really loves a man, has no thought of any other; one at a time is all-sufficient; but a man may love one woman with the warmth of a simoon, and at the same time feel like a good healthy south wind toward a dozen others. That is the difference between a man and a woman—the difference between the good and the bad. One average woman has enough goodness in her to supply an army of men.
Mary and Brandon went on dancing long after Jane was tired of playing. It was plain to see that the girl was thoroughly enjoying it. They kept up a running fire of small talk, and laughed, and smiled, and bowed, and courtesied, all in perfect time and grace.
It is more difficult than you may think, if you have never tried, to keep up a conversation and dance La Galliard, at the same time—one is apt to balk the other—but Brandon's dancing was as easy to him as walking, and, although so small a matter, I could see it raised him vastly in the estimation of both girls.
"Do you play triumph?" I heard Mary ask in the midst of the dancing.
"Oh! yes," replied Brandon, much to my delight, as the princess threw a mischievous, knowing glance over her shoulder to see if I had heard. She at once saw I had, and this, of course, settled the wager.
"And," continued Brandon, "I also play the new game, 'honor and ruff,' which is more interesting than triumph."
"Oh! do you?" cried Mary. "That will more than compensate for the loss of my ten crowns. Let us sit down at once; I have been wishing to learn, but no one here seems to know it. In France, they say, it is the only game. I suppose there is where you learned it? Perhaps you know their new dances too! I have heard they are delightful!"
"Yes, I know them," replied Brandon.
"Why, you are a perfect treasure; teach me at once. How now, Master of the Dance? Here is your friend outdoing you in your own line."
"I am glad to hear it," I returned.
"If Lady Jane will kindly play some lively air, written in the time of 'The Sailor Lass,' I will teach the Lady Mary the new dance," said Brandon.
Jane threw one plump little knee over the other and struck up "The Sailor Lass." After she had adjusted the playing to Brandon's suggestion, he stepped deliberately in front of Mary, and, taking her right hand in his left, encircled her waist with his right arm. The girl was startled at first and drew away. This nettled Brandon a little, and he showed it plainly.
"I thought you wished me to teach you the new dance?" he said.
"I do, but—but I did not know it was danced that way," she replied with a fluttering little laugh, looking up into his face with a half shy, half apologetic manner, and then dropping her lashes before his gaze.
"Oh, well!" said Brandon, with a Frenchman's shrug of the shoulders, and then moved off as if about to leave the floor.
"But is that really the way you—they dance it? With your—their arm around my—a lady's waist?"
"I should not have dared venture upon such a familiarity otherwise," answered Brandon, with a glimmer of a smile playing around his lips and hiding in his eyes.
Mary saw this shadowy smile, and said: "Oh! I fear your modesty will cause you hurt; I am beginning to believe you would dare do anything you wish. I more than half suspect you are a very bold man, notwithstanding your smooth, modest manner."
"You do me foul wrong, I assure you. I am the soul of modesty, and grieve that you should think me bold," said Brandon, with a broadening smile.
Mary interrupted him. "Now, I do believe you are laughing at me—at my prudery, I suppose you think it."
Mary would rather have been called a fool than a prude, and I think she was right. Prudery is no more a sign of virtue than a wig is of hair. It is usually put on to hide a bald place.
The princess stood irresolute for a moment, in evident hesitation and annoyance.
"You are grieving because I think you bold! And yet you stand there laughing at me to my face. I think so more than ever now. I know it. Oh, you make me angry! Don't! I do not like persons who anger me and then laugh at me." This turned Brandon's smile into a laugh which he could not hold back.
Mary's eyes shot fire, and she stamped her foot, exclaiming: "Sir, this goes beyond all bounds; I will not tolerate your boldness another moment." I thought she was going to dismiss him, but she did not. The time had come when he or she must be the master.
It was a battle royal between the forces on the floor, and I enjoyed it and felt that Brandon would come out all right.
He said good-humoredly: "What, shall you have all the laugh in your sleeve at my expense? Do you expect to bring me here to win a wager for you, made on the assumption of my stupidity and lack of social accomplishments, and then complain when it comes my turn to laugh? I think I am the one who should be offended, but you see I am not."
"Caskoden, did you tell him?" demanded Mary, evidently referring to the wager.
"He said not a word of it," broke in Brandon, answering for me; "I should have been a dullard, indeed, not to have seen it myself after what you said about the loss of your ten crowns; so let us cry quits and begin again."
Mary reluctantly struck her flag.
"Very well, I am willing," she said laughingly; "but as to your boldness, I still insist upon that; I forgive you, however, this time." Then, half apologetically, "After all, it is not such a grievous charge to make. I believe it never yet injured any man with women; they rather like it, I am afraid, however angry it makes them. Don't they, Jane?"
Jane, of course, "did not know," so we all laughed, as usual, upon the slightest pretext, and Mary, that fair bundle of contradictions and quick transitions, stepped boldly up to Brandon, with her colors flying in her cheeks, ready for the first lesson in the new dance.
She was a little frightened at his arm around her waist, for the embrace was new to her—the first touch of man—and was shy and coy, though willing, being determined to learn the dance. She was an apt pupil and soon glided softly and gracefully around the room with unfeigned delight; yielding to the new situation more easily as she became accustomed to it.
This dance was livelier exercise than La Galliard, and Mary could not talk much for lack of breath. Brandon kept the conversation going, though, and she answered with glances, smiles, nods and monosyllables—a very good vocabulary in its way, and a very good way, too, for that matter.
Once he said something to her, in a low voice, which brought a flush to her cheeks, and caused her to glance quickly up into his face. By the time her answer came they were nearer us, and I heard her say: "I am afraid I shall have to forgive you again if you are not careful. Let me see an exhibition of that modesty you so much boast," But a smile and a flash of the eyes went with the words, and took all the sting out of them.
After a time the dancers stopped, and Mary, with flushed face and sparkling eyes, sank into a chair, exclaiming: "The new dance is delightful, Jane. It is like flying; your partner helps you so. But what would the king say? And the queen? She would simply swoon with horror. It is delightful, though." Then, with more confusion in her manner than I had ever before seen: "That is, it is delightful if one chooses her partner."
This only made matters worse, and gave Brandon an opportunity.
"Dare I hope?" he asked, with a deferential bow.
"Oh, yes; you may hope. I tell you frankly it was delightful with you. Now, are you satisfied, my modest one? Jane, I see we have a forward body here; no telling what he will be at next," said Mary, with evident impatience, rapidly swaying her fan. She spoke almost sharply, for Brandon's attitude was more that of an equal than she was accustomed to, and her royal dignity, which was the artificial part of her, rebelled against it now and then in spite of her real inclinations. The habit of receiving only adulation, and living on a pinnacle above everybody else, was so strong from continued practice, that it appealed to her as a duty to maintain that elevation. She had never before been called upon to exert herself in that direction, and the situation was new. The servile ones with whom she usually associated maintained it for her; so she now felt, whenever she thought of it, that she was in duty bound to clamber back, at least part of the way, to her dignity, however pleasant it was, personally, down below in the denser atmosphere of informality.
In her heart the princess preferred, upon proper occasions, such as this, to abate her dignity, and often requested others to dispense with ceremony, as, in fact, she had done with us earlier in the evening. But Brandon's easy manner, although perfectly respectful and elegantly polite, was very different from anything she had ever known. She enjoyed it, but every now and then the sense of her importance and dignity—for you must remember she was the first princess of the blood royal—would supersede even her love of enjoyment, and the girl went down and the princess came up. Besides, she half feared that Brandon was amusing himself at her expense, and that, in fact, this was a new sort of masculine worm. Really, she sometimes doubted if it were a worm at all, and did not know what to expect, nor what she ought to do.
She was far more girl than princess, and would have preferred to remain merely girl and let events take the course they were going, for she liked it. But there was the other part of her which was princess, and which kept saying: "Remember who you are," so she was plainly at a loss between natural and artificial inclinations contending unconsciously within her.
Replying to Mary's remark over Jane's shoulder, Brandon said:
"Your highness asked us to lay aside ceremony for the evening, and if I have offended I can but make for my excuse my desire to please you. Be sure I shall offend no more." This was said so seriously that his meaning could not be misunderstood. He did not care whether he pleased so capricious a person or not.
Mary made no reply, and it looked as if Brandon had the worst of it.
We sat a few minutes talking, Mary wearing an air of dignity. Cards were proposed, and as the game progressed she gradually unbent again and became as affable and familiar as earlier in the evening. Brandon, however, was frozen. He was polite, dignified and deferential to the ladies, but the spirit of the evening was gone, since he had furnished it all with his free, off-hand manner, full of life and brightness.
After a short time, Mary's warming mood failing to thaw our frozen fun-maker, and in her heart infinitely preferring pleasure to dignity, she said: "Oh, this is wearisome. Your game is far less entertaining than your new dance. Do something to make me laugh, Master Brandon."
"I fear you must call in Will Sommers," he replied, "if you wish to laugh. I can not please you in both ways, so will hold to the one which seems to suit the princess."
Mary's eyes flashed and she said ironically:
"That sounds very much as though you cared to please me in any way." Her lips parted and she evidently had something unkind ready to say; but she held the breath she had taken to speak it with, and, after one or two false starts in as many different lines, continued: "But perhaps I deserve it, I ask you to forgive me, and hereafter desire you three, upon all proper occasions, when we are by ourselves, to treat me as one of you—as a woman—a girl, I mean. Where is the virtue of royalty if it only means being put upon a pinnacle above all the real pleasures of life, like foolish old Stylites on his column? The queen is always preaching to me about the strict maintenance of my 'dignity royal,' as she calls it, and perhaps she is right; but out upon 'dignity royal' say I; it is a terrible nuisance. Oh, you don't know how difficult it is to be a princess and not a fool. There!" And she sighed in apparent relief.
Then turning to Brandon: "You have taught me another good lesson, sir, and from this hour you are my friend, if you will be, so long as you are worthy—no, I do not mean that; I know you will always be worthy—but forever. Now we are at rights again. Let us try to remain so—that is, I will," and she laughingly gave him her hand, which he, rising to his feet, bowed low over and kissed, rather fervently and lingeringly, I thought.
Hand-kissing was new to us in England, excepting in case of the king and queen at public homage. It was a little startling to Mary, though she permitted him to hold her hand much longer than there was any sort of need—a fact she recognized, as I could easily see from her tell-tale cheeks, which were rosy with the thought of it.
So it is when a woman goes on the defensive prematurely and without cause; it makes it harder to apply the check when the real need comes.
After a little card-playing, I expressed regret to Jane that I could not have a dance with her for lack of music.
"I will play, if the ladies permit," said Brandon; and he took Lady Jane's lute and played and sang some very pretty little love songs and some comic ones, too, in a style not often heard in England, so far away from the home of the troubadour and lute. He was full of surprises, this splendid fellow, with his accomplishments and graces.
When we had danced as long as we wished—that is, as Jane wished—as for myself, I would have been dancing yet—Mary again asked us to be seated. Jane having rested, Brandon offered to teach her the new dance, saying he could whistle an air well enough to give her the step. I at once grew uneasy with jealous suspense, for I did not wish Brandon to dance in that fashion with Jane, but to my great relief she replied:
"No; thank you; not to-night." Then shyly glancing toward me: "Perhaps Sir Edwin will teach me when he learns. It is his business, you know."
Would I? If a month, night and day, would conquer it, the new dance was as good as done for already. That was the first real mark of favor I ever had from Jane.
We now had some songs from Mary and Jane; then I gave one, and Brandon sang again at Mary's request. We had duets and quartets and solos, and the songs were all sweet, for they came from the heart of youth, and went to the soul of youth, rich in its God-given fresh delight in everything. Then we talked, and Mary, and Jane, too, with a sly, shy, soft little word now and then, drew Brandon out to tell of his travels and adventures. He was a pleasing talker, and had a smooth, easy flow of words, speaking always in a low, clear voice, and with perfect composure. He had a way of looking first one auditor and then another straight in the eyes with a magnetic effect that gave to everything he said an added interest. Although at that time less than twenty-five years old, he was really a learned man, having studied at Barcelona, Salamanca and Paris. While there had been no system in his education, his mind was a sort of knowledge junk-shop, wherein he could find almost anything he wanted. He spoke German, French and Spanish, and seemed to know the literature of all these languages.
He told us he had left home at the early age of sixteen as his uncle's esquire, and had fought in France, then down in Holland with the Dutch; had been captured by the Spanish and had joined the Spanish army, as it mattered not where he fought, so that there was a chance for honorable achievement and a fair ransom now and then. He told us how he had gone to Barcelona and Salamanca, where he had studied, and thence to Granada, among the Moors; of his fighting against the pirates of Barbary, his capture by them, his slavery and adventurous escape; and his regret that now drowsy peace kept him mewed up in a palace.
"It is true," he said, "there is a prospect of trouble with Scotland, but I would rather fight a pack of howling, starving wolves than the Scotch; they fight like very devils, which, of course, is well; but you have nothing after you have beaten them, not even a good whole wolf skin."