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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Of The Barons - Book 9 - Chapter 8
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The Last Of The Barons - Book 9 - Chapter 8 Post by :alatom Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2249

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The Last Of The Barons - Book 9 - Chapter 8

BOOK IX
CHAPTER VIII. HOW THE HEIR OF LANCASTER MEETS THE KING-MAKER.


In truth, the young prince, in obedience to a secret message from the artful Louis, had repaired to the court of Amboise under the name of the Count de F----. The French king had long before made himself acquainted with Prince Edward's romantic attachment to the earl's daughter, through the agent employed by Edward to transmit his portrait to Anne at Rouen; and from him, probably, came to Oxford the suggestion which that nobleman had hazarded to Montagu; and now that it became his policy seriously and earnestly to espouse the cause of his kinswoman Margaret, he saw all the advantage to his cold statecraft which could be drawn from a boyish love. Louis had a well-founded fear of the warlike spirit and military talents of Edward IV.; and this fear had induced him hitherto to refrain from openly espousing the cause of the Lancastrians, though it did not prevent his abetting such seditions and intrigues as could confine the attention of the martial Plantagenet to the perils of his own realm. But now that the breach between Warwick and the king had taken place; now that the earl could no longer curb the desire of the Yorkist monarch to advance his hereditary claims to the fairest provinces of France,--nay, peradventure, to France itself,--while the defection of Lord Warwick gave to the Lancastrians the first fair hope of success in urging their own pretensions to the English throne, he bent all the powers of his intellect and his will towards the restoration of a natural ally and the downfall of a dangerous foe. But he knew that Margaret and her Lancastrian favourers could not of themselves suffice to achieve a revolution,--that they could only succeed under cover of the popularity and the power of Warwick, while he perceived all the art it would require to make Margaret forego her vindictive nature and long resentment, and to supple the pride of the great earl into recognizing as a sovereign the woman who had branded him as a traitor.

Long before Lord Oxford's arrival, Louis, with all that address which belonged to him, had gradually prepared the earl to familiarize himself to the only alternative before him, save that, indeed, of powerless sense of wrong and obscure and lasting exile. The French king looked with more uneasiness to the scruples of Margaret; and to remove these, he trusted less to his own skill than to her love for her only son.

His youth passed principally in Anjou--that court of minstrels--young Edward's gallant and ardent temper had become deeply imbued with the southern poetry and romance. Perhaps the very feud between his House and Lord Warwick's, though both claimed their common descent from John of Gaunt, had tended, by the contradictions in the human heart, to endear to him the recollection of the gentle Anne. He obeyed with joy the summons of Louis, repaired to the court, was presented to Anne as the Count de F----, found himself recognized at the first glance (for his portrait still lay upon her heart, as his remembrance in its core), and, twice before the song we have recited, had ventured, agreeably to the sweet customs of Anjou, to address the lady of his love under the shade of the starlit summer copses. But on this last occasion, he had departed from his former discretion; hitherto he had selected an hour of deeper night, and ventured but beneath the lattice of the maiden's chamber when the rest of the palace was hushed in sleep. And the fearless declaration of his rank and love now hazarded was prompted by one who contrived to turn to grave uses the wildest whim of the minstrel, the most romantic enthusiasm of youth.

Louis had just learned from Oxford the result of his interview with Warwick. And about the same time the French king had received a letter from Margaret, announcing her departure from the castle of Verdun for Tours, where she prayed him to meet her forthwith, and stating that she had received from England tidings that might change all her schemes, and more than ever forbid the possibility of a reconciliation with the Earl of Warwick.

The king perceived the necessity of calling into immediate effect the aid on which he had relied, in the presence and passion of the young prince. He sought him at once; he found him in a remote part of the gardens, and overheard him breathing to himself the lay he had just composed.

"Pasque Dieu!" said the king, laying his hand on the young man's shoulder, "if thou wilt but repeat that song where and when I bid thee, I promise that before the month ends Lord Warwick shall pledge thee his daughter's hand; and before the year is closed thou shalt sit beside Lord Warwick's daughter in the halls of Westminster."

And the royal troubadour took the counsel of the king.

The song had ceased; the minstrel emerged from the bosquets, and stood upon the sward, as, from the postern of the palace, walked with a slow step, a form from which it became him not, as prince or as lover, in peace or in war, to shrink. The first stars had now risen; the light, though serene, was pale and dim. The two men--the one advancing, the other motionless--gazed on each other in grave silence. As Count de F----, amidst the young nobles in the king's train, the earl had scarcely noticed the heir of England. He viewed him now with a different eye: in secret complacency, for, with a soldier's weakness, the soldier-baron valued men too much for their outward seeming, he surveyed a figure already masculine and stalwart, though still in the graceful symmetry of fair eighteen.

"A youth of a goodly presence," muttered the earl, "with the dignity that commands in peace, and the sinews that can strive against hardship and death in war."

He approached, and said calmly: "Sir minstrel, he who woos either fame or beauty may love the lute, but should wield the sword. At least, so methinks had the Fifth Henry said to him who boasts for his heritage the sword of Agincourt."

"O noble earl!" exclaimed the prince, touched by words far gentler than he had dared to hope, despite his bold and steadfast mien, and giving way to frank and graceful emotion, "O noble earl! since thou knowest me; since my secret is told; since, in that secret, I have proclaimed a hope as dear to me as a crown and dearer far than life, can I hope that thy rebuke but veils thy favour, and that, under Lord Warwick's eye, the grandson of Henry V. shall approve himself worthy of the blood that kindles in his veins?"

"Fair sir and prince," returned the earl, whose hardy and generous nature the emotion and fire of Edward warmed and charmed, "there are, alas! deep memories of blood and wrong--the sad deeds and wrathful words of party feud and civil war--between thy royal mother and myself; and though we may unite now against a common foe, much I fear that the Lady Margaret would brook ill a closer friendship, a nearer tie, than the exigency of the hour between Richard Nevile and her son."

"No, Sir Earl, let me hope you misthink her. Hot and impetuous, but not mean and treacherous, the moment that she accepts the service of thine arm she must forget that thou hast been her foe; and if I, as my father's heir, return to England, it is in the trust that a new era will commence. Free from the passionate enmities of either faction, Yorkist and Lancastrian are but Englishmen to me. Justice to all who serve us, pardon for all who have opposed."

The prince paused, and, even in the dim light, his kingly aspect gave effect to his kingly words. "And if this resolve be such as you approve; if you, great earl, be that which even your foes proclaim, a man whose power depends less on lands and vassals--broad though the one, and numerous though the other--than on well-known love for England, her glory and her peace, it rests with you to bury forever in one grave the feuds of Lancaster and York! What Yorkist who hath fought at Towton or St. Albans under Lord Warwick's standard, will lift sword against the husband of Lord Warwick's daughter? What Lancastrian will not forgive a Yorkist, when Lord Warwick, the kinsman of Duke Richard, becomes father to the Lancastrian heir, and bulwark to the Lancastrian throne? O Warwick, if not for my sake, nor for the sake of full redress against the ingrate whom thou repentest to have placed on my father's throne, at least for the sake of England, for the healing of her bleeding wounds, for the union of her divided people, hear the grandson of Henry V., who sues to thee for thy daughter's hand!"

The royal wooer bent his knee as he spoke. The mighty subject saw and prevented the impulse of the prince who had forgotten himself in the lover; the hand which he caught he lifted to his lips, and the next moment, in manly and soldierlike embrace, the prince's young arm was thrown over the broad shoulder of the king-maker.

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BOOK IXCHAPTER IX. THE INTERVIEW OF EARL WARWICK AND QUEEN MARGARET. Louis hastened to meet Margaret at Tours; thither came also her father Rene, her brother John of Calabria, Yolante her sister, and the Count of Vaudemonte. The meeting between the queen and Rene was so touching as to have drawn tears to the hard eyes of Louis XI.; but, that emotion over, Margaret evinced how little affliction had humbled her high spirit, or softened her angry passions: she interrupted Louis in every argument for reconciliation with Warwick. "Not with honour to myself and to my son," she exclaimed, "can I
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BOOK IXCHAPTER VII. WARWICK AND HIS FAMILY IN EXILE. We now summon the reader on a longer if less classic journey than from Thebes to Athens, and waft him on a rapid wing from Shene to Amboise. We must suppose that the two emissaries of Gloucester have already arrived at their several destinations,--the lady has reached Isabel, the envoy Margaret. In one of the apartments appropriated to the earl in the royal palace, within the embrasure of a vast Gothic casement, sat Anne of Warwick; the small wicket in the window was open, and gave a view of a wide and
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