Page images
PDF
EPUB

point of his pike, 'twould have been a sorry thing; for he brake many staves, and was well nigh unhorsed more than once.

And on the morrow 'twas the same; for though Sir Walter and his men were clade in Kendal green, my Lord's tailors being aware, had like coats for the Earl's meiny. Yet Essex to-day ran worse than yesterday. So that witty fellow Harrington said, " My Lord changeth his colours to prove that one in green can tilt worse than one in tawny, which aforetime was discredited." But Ralegh carried it still; for, presently doffing his clothes, he came in alone, mounted on a black Barbary horse, and in a complete suit of silver armour, beautifully chased in damask work, and splendidly bright. And his sword hilt and belt were studded with diamonds, his helmet, with a magnificent plume, was crested with an escarboncle. And, as his beaver was up, all saw his handsome manly face wearing a most self-satisfied favour. On his left arm hung his shield. Azure: in Bend, five fuzils Argent. And on his shoulder a short blue velvet cloke, fuzils in plate let in panewise thereupon. Such a knight so caparisoned had not been seen in Tournay in the memory of man!

The Royal Birthday. 03

There were those who hoped to see the Earl of Essex challenge Sir Walter in her Grace's name: but whether the Queen forbade, or other respects prevented, certain it is there was no emulation os that sort between them. If two mastiffs meet on the road, haply they shall not fight, yet it is not cowardice in either.

And that night, being her Majesty's Birthday, there were Revels such as had not been had a long while. And my Lord was in high spirits, and the Countess of Leicester was there and his own Countess, and the Queen spake to both of them. And all old griefs seemed to have been forgotten. Sir Robert Cecyl was wonderfully courteous and obsequious, and the Lord Cobham tried to say some civil things. Then did the Earl of Nottingham speak of Essex's prowess, and Lord Thomas Howard gave hope that no enemy could stand against the hero of Gadez. My Lord Mountjoye saying, he would fain serve under the gallant Earl; there were many Nobles and Knights and Gentles who volunteered to go with Essex to Ireland or whithersoever. And there was high Feasting that night, and Brawls, and a Masque, and Sir Walter Ralegh's dress passed; for he ware the Earl of Essex's colours now: a crimson satin suit, trimmed with Flanders' lace and needlework, and powdered with pearls, as they said, to the present value of sixty thousand pounds. Nay, his very shoes were like stars, for they glistered with diamonds throughout.

And the courtiers offered their gifts to her Majesty, professing wishes for a long and happy reign: and her Grace sent round a loving cup of Ypocras with her royal favour. And there was great merriment, with joy and gladness; and the Queen, very richly and freshly attired, danced with the Earl of Essex; and you would think all were dear friends and kind lovers of each other, as in truth they should have been to match such protestations.

On the 27th of March, in the afternoon, my Lord ViceRegent of Ireland took horse in Sidon Lane; and from thence, accompanied with divers noblemen and many others, himself very plainly habited, rode through Grace-street, Cornhill, Cheapside, and other high streets. In all which places, and in the fields beyond, the people pressed exceedingly to behold him. And in the highways, for more than four miles, they cried out amain, "God bless your Lordship!" "God preserve your honour!" And some, with these and the like salutations, followed him till evening.

[ocr errors]

A Prologue to Evil. 95

Now, when the Earl and his company came forth of London, the sky was very calm and clear. But ere he gat past Islington there arose a portentous cloud in the N. E., whence suddenly came lightnings and thunderings, with a great shower of hail and rain, which some held to be an ominous prodigy.

And on the second day at sunset my Lord reached Chenies: and the gentles and their bodymen were lodged in the house, but the troops went into quarters along the road from Aylesbury to Buckingham.

Now, Adam Bell, Sir Thomas' ranger, had shot down a Hart of Grace, and two fat Bucks; Beeves had been slaughtered, and Sheep and Pigs; and Hares and Conies had been trapped. Two tuns of Sack were set abroach; and an unconscionable deal of ale. Right noble was the company came with the Earl Marshal, and right hospitably did Sir Thomas Cheney entertain them.

There were the Earls of Derby, Rutland, and Southampton; the Lords Windsor, Grey, Audley, and Cromwell; Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Sir Henry and Sir Charles Danvers, Sir Charles and Sir Christopher Blount, Sir Thomas Egerton, Sir Thomas Germaine, Sir Alexander Ratcliffe, and Sir Edward Wingfield; and to these came Squire Beronsaw and the Hampshire Esquire, each with a company of six score men. And William Cheney, he was minded to go this venture with his friend. He would be Essex's Esquire, as Sir Thomas had been Esquire to Earl Walter. And William had a troop of eighty men, tenants of Chenies and Claydon, mounted on their own beasts, resolute to follow their young master to the field. You should have seen Davy flourish the colours! So briskly did he wave the blue flag, that one could not discover the Cross-flory thereon 'till he was better learned. And how solemn old 'Zekiel sate ever close at the Earl Marshal's heels! And my Lord Southampton showed William of Master Shakspeare's doings, how he had just writ two plays on King Henry IV. How they aimed higher than those Histories William had seen acted, having a development of character proper to Comedies, and a solemn gait suitable to Tragedy. And my Lord noted that the Poet's humour was lately growing broader, and still of a deeper vein. And William showed some treasured lines the witty author had writ when at Chenies in autumn last: for it was under the wide spreading beeches of Old Chenies that William Shakspeare con

« PreviousContinue »