The demon was apparently satisfied with the alarm he had occasioned, for the hammering was not renewed at that time.
VIII Showing the Vacillations of the King between Wolsey and Anne Boleyn.
Before returning to the state apartments, Henry took a turn on the ramparts on the north side of the castle, between the Curfew Tower and the Winchester Tower, and lingered for a short time on the bastion commanding that part of the acclivity where the approach, called the Hundred Steps, is now contrived. Here he cautioned the sentinels to be doubly vigilant throughout the night, and having gazed for a moment at the placid stream flowing at the foot of the castle, and tinged with the last rays of the setting sun, he proceeded to the royal lodgings, and entered the banquet chamber, where supper was already served.
Wolsey sat on his right hand, but he did not vouchsafe him a single word, addressing the whole of his discourse to the Duke of Suffolk, who was placed on his left. As soon as the repast was over, he retired to his closet. But the cardinal would not be so repulsed, and sent one of his gentlemen to crave a moment's audience of the king, which with some reluctance was accorded.
"Well, cardinal," cried Henry, as Wolsey presented himself, and the usher withdrew. "You are playing a deep game with me, as you think; but take heed, for I see through it." "I pray you dismiss these suspicions from your mind, my liege," said Wolsey. "No servant was ever more faithful to his master than I have been to you."
"No servant ever took better care of himself," cried the king fiercely. "Not alone have you wronged me to enrich yourself, but you are ever intriguing with my enemies. I have nourished in my breast a viper; but I will cast you off -- will crush you as I would the noxious reptile."
And he stamped upon the floor, as if he could have trampled the cardinal beneath his foot.
"Beseech you calm yourself, my liege," replied Wolsey, in the soft and deprecatory tone which he had seldom known to fail with the king. "I have never thought of my own aggrandisement, but as it was likely to advance your power. For the countless benefits I have received at your hands, my soul overflows with gratitude. You have raised me from the meanest condition to the highest. You have made me your confidant, your adviser, your treasurer, and with no improper boldness I say it, your friend. But I defy the enemies who have poisoned your ears against me, to prove that I have ever abused the trust placed in me. The sole fault that can be imputed to me is, that I have meddled more with temporal matters than with spiritual, and it is a crime for which I must answer before Heaven. But I have so acted because I felt that I might thereby best serve your highness. If I have aspired to the papal throne -- which you well know I have -- it has been that I might be yet a more powerful friend to your majesty, and render you what you are entitled to be, the first prince in Christendom."
"Tut, tut!" exclaimed the king, who was, nevertheless, moved by the artful appeal.
"The gifts I have received from foreign princes," pursued Wolsey, seeing the effect he had produced, "the wealth I have amassed, have all been with a view of benefiting your majesty." "Humph!" exclaimed the king.
"To prove that I speak the truth, sire," continued the wily cardinal, "the palace at Hampton Court, which I have just completed -- "
"And at a cost more lavish than I myself should have expended on it," interrupted the king angrily.
"If I had destined it for myself, I should not have spent a tithe of what I have done," rejoined Wolsey. "Your highness's unjust accusations force me to declare my intentions somewhat prematurely. Deign," he cried, throwing at the king's feet, "deign to accept that palace and all within it. You were pleased, during your late residence there,to express your approval of it. And I trust it will find equal favour in your eyes, now that it is your own."
"By holy Mary, a royal gift!" cried Henry. "Rise, You are not the grasping, selfish person you have been represented."
"Declare as much to my enemies, sire, and I shall be more content. "You will find the palace better worth acceptance than at first sight might appear."
"How so?" cried the king.
" Your highness will be pleased to take this key," said the cardinal; "it is the key of the cellar."
"You have some choice wine there," cried Henry significantly; "given you by some religious house, or sent you by some foreign potentate, ha!"
"It is wine that a king might prize," replied the cardinal. "Your majesty will find a hundred hogsheads in that cellar, and each hogshead filled with gold."
"You amaze me!" cried the king, feigning astonishment. "And all this you freely give me?"
"Freely and fully, sire," replied Wolsey. "Nay, I have saved it for you. Men think I have cared for myself, whereas I have cared only for your majesty. Oh! my dear liege, by the devotion I have just approved to you, and which I would also approve, if needful, with my life, I beseech you to consider well before you raise Anne Boleyn to the throne. In giving you this counsel, I know I hazard the favour I have just regained. But even at that hazard, I must offer it. Your infatuation blinds you to the terrible consequences of the step. The union is odious to all your subjects, but most of all to those not tainted with the new heresies and opinions. It will never be forgiven by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, who will seek to avenge the indignity offered to his illustrious relative; while Francis will gladly make it a pretext for breaking his truce with you. Add to this the displeasure of the Apostolic See, and it must be apparent that, powerful as you are, your position will be one of infinite peril."
"Thus far advanced, I cannot honourably abandon the divorce," said Henry.
"Nor do I advise its abandonment, sire," replied Wolsey; "but do not let it be a means of injuring you with all men. Do not let a mal-alliance place your very throne in jeopardy; as, with your own subjects and all foreign powers against you, must necessarily be the case."
"You speak warmly, cardinal," said Henry.
"My zeal prompts me to do so," replied Wolsey. "Anne Boleyn is in no respect worthy of the honour you propose her."
"And whom do you think more worthy?" demanded Henry.
"Those whom I have already recommended to your majesty, the Duchess d'Alencon, or the Princess Renee," replied Wolsey; "by a union with either of whom you would secure the cordial co-operation of Francis, and the interests of the see of Rome, which, in the event of a war with Spain, you may need."
"No, Wolsey," replied Henry, taking a hasty turn across the chamber; "no considerations of interests or security shall induce me to give up Anne. I love her too well for that. Let the lion Charles roar, the fox Francis snarl, and the hydra-headed Clement launch forth his flames, I will remain firm to my purpose. I will not play the hypocrite with you, whatever I may do with others. I cast off Catherine that I may wed Anne, because I cannot otherwise obtain her. And shall I now, when I have dared so much, and when the prize is within my grasp, abandon it? -- Never! Threats, expostulations, entreaties are alike unavailing."
"I grieve to hear it, my liege," replied Wolsey, heaving a deep sigh. "It is an ill-omened union, and will bring woe to you, woe to your realm, and woe to the Catholic Church."
"And woe to you also, false cardinal," cried Anne Boleyn, throwing aside the arras, and stepping forward. "I have overheard what has passed; and from my heart of hearts I thank you, Henry, for the love you have displayed for me. But I here solemnly vow never to give my hand to you till Wolsey is dismissed from your counsels."
"Anne!" exclaimed the king.
"My own enmity I could forego," pursued Anne vehemently,"but I cannot forgive him his duplicity and perfidy towards you. He has just proffered you his splendid palace of Hampton, and his treasures; and wherefore? -- I will tell you: because he feared they would be wrested from him. His jester had acquainted him with the discovery just made of the secret hoard, and he was therefore compelled to have recourse to this desperate move. But I was apprized of his intentions by Will Sommers, and have come in time to foil him."
"By my faith, I believe you are right, sweetheart," said the king.
"Go, tell your allies, Francis and Clement, that the king's love for me outweighs his fear of them," cried Anne, laughing spitefully. "As for you, I regard you as nothing."
"Vain woman, your pride will be abased," rejoined Wolsey bitterly.
"Vain man, you are already abased," replied Anne. "A few weeks ago I would have made terms with you. Now I am your mortal enemy, and will never rest till I have procured your downfall."
"The king will have an amiable consort, truly," sneered Wolsey.
"He will have one who can love him and hate his foes," replied Anne; "and not one who would side with them and thee, as would be the case with the Duchess d'Alencon or the Princess Renee. Henry, you know the sole terms on which you can procure my hand."
The king nodded a playful affirmative.
"Then dismiss him at once, disgrace him," said Anne.
"Nay, nay," replied Henry," the divorce is not yet passed. You are angered now, and will view matters more coolly to-morrow."
"I shall never change my resolution," she replied.
"If my dismissal and disgrace can save my sovereign, I pray him to sacrifice me without hesitation," said Wolsey; "but while I have liberty of speech with him, and aught of power remaining, I will use it to his advantage. I pray your majesty suffer me to retire."
And receiving a sign of acquiescence from the king, he withdrew, amid the triumphant laughter of Anne.