Uttering an angry exclamation, Henry turned on his heel and would have left her, but she clung to the skirts of his robe.
"Be brief, then, Kate," he rejoined, taking her hand to raise her.
"Blessings on you for the word! "cried the queen, covering his hand with kisses. "I am indeed your own true Kate - your faithful, loving, lawful wife!"
Rise, madam!" cried Henry coldly; "this posture beseems not Catherine of Arragon."
"I obey you now as I have ever done," she replied, rising; "though if I followed the prompting of my heart, I should not quit my knees till I had gained my suit."
"You have, done wrong in coming here, Catherine, at this juncture," said Henry, "and may compel me to some harsh measure which I would willingly have avoided."
"No one knows I am here," replied the queen, "except two faithful attendants, who are vowed to secrecy; and I shall depart as I came."
"I am glad you have taken these precautions," replied Henry. "Now speak freely, but again I must bid you be brief."
"I will be as brief as I can," replied the queen; "but I pray you bear with me, Henry, if I unhappily weary you. I am full of misery and affliction, and never was daughter and wife of king wretched as I am. Pity me, Henry -- pity me! But that I restrain myself, I should pour forth my soul in tears before you. Oh, Henry, after twenty years' duty and to be brought to this unspeakable shame -- to be cast from you with dishonour -- to be supplanted by another -- it is terrible!"
"If you have only come here to utter reproaches, madam, I must put an end to the interview," said Henry, frowning.
"I do not reproach you, Henry," replied Catherine meekly, "I only wish to show you the depth and extent of my affection. I only implore you to do me right and justice -- not to bring shame upon me to cover your own wrongful action. Have compassion upon the princess our daughter -- spare her, if you will not spare me!"
"You sue in vain, Catherine," replied Henry. "I lament your condition, but my eyes are fully opened to the sinful state in which I have so long lived, and I am resolved to abandon it."
"An unworthy prevarication," replied Catherine, "by which you seek to work my ruin, and accomplish your union with Anne Boleyn. And you will no doubt succeed; for what can I, a feeble woman, and a stranger in your country, do to prevent it? You will succeed, I say -- you will divorce me and place her upon the throne. But mark my words, Henry, she will not long remain there."
The king smiled bitterly
"She will bring dishonour upon you," pursued Catherine. "The woman who has no regard for ties so sacred as those which bind us will not respect other obligations."
"No more of this!" cried Henry. "You suffer your resentment to carry you too far."
"Too far!" exclaimed Catherine. "Too far! -- Is to warn you that you are about to take a wanton to your bed -- and that you will bitterly repent your folly when too late, going too far? It is my duty, Henry, no less than my desire, thus to warn you ere the irrevocable step be taken."
"Have you said all you wish to say, madam?" demanded the king.
"No, my dear liege, not a hundredth part of what my heart prompts me to utter," replied Catherine. "I conjure you by my strong and tried affection -- by the tenderness that has for years subsisted between us -- by your hopes of temporal prosperity and spiritual welfare -- by all you hold dear and sacred -- to pause while there is yet time. Let the legates meet to-morrow -- let them pronounce sentence against me and as surely as those fatal words are uttered, my heart will break."
"Tut, tut!" exclaimed Henry impatiently, "you will live many years in happy retirement."
"I will die as I have lived -- a queen," replied Catherine; "but my life will not be long. Now, answer me truly -- if Anne Boleyn plays you false -- "
"She never will play me false!" interrupted Henry.
"I say if she does," pursued Catherine, "and you are satisfied of her guilt, will you be content with divorcing her as you divorce me?"
"No, by my father's head!" cried Henry fiercely. "If such a thing were to happen, which I hold impossible, she should expiate her offence on the scaffold."
"Give me your hand on that," said Catherine.
"I give you my hand upon it," he replied.
"Enough," said the queen: "if I cannot have right and justice I shall at least have vengeance, though it will come when I am in my tomb. But it will come, and that is sufficient."
"This is the frenzy of jealousy, Catherine," said Henry.
"No, Henry; it is not jealousy," replied the queen, with dignity. "The daughter of Ferdinand of Spain and Isabella of Castile, with the best blood of Europe in her veins, would despise herself if she could entertain so paltry a feeling towards one born so much beneath her as Anne Boleyn."
"As you will, madam," rejoined Henry. "It is time our interview terminated."
"Not yet, Henry -- for the love of Heaven, not yet!" implored Catherine. "Oh, bethink you by whom we were joined together! -- by your father, Henry the Seventh -- one of the wisest princes that ever sat on a throne; and by the sanction of my own father, Ferdinand the Fifth, one of the justest. Would they have sanctioned the match if it had been unlawful? Were they destitute of good counsellors? Were they indifferent to the future?"
"You had better reserve these arguments for the legates' ears tomorrow, madam," said Henry sternly.
"I shall urge them there with all the force I can," replied Catherine, " for I will leave nought untried to hinder an event so fraught with misery. But I feel the struggle will be hopeless."
"Then why make it?" rejoined Henry.