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- St. George and St. Michael - 70/94 -

But although the marquis was devoted to the king's cause, he was not therefore either blinded or indifferent to the king's faults, and as an old man who had long been trying to grow better, he made up his mind to risk a respectful word in the matter of kingly obligation.

One day, therefore, when his majesty entered the oak parlour, he found his host sitting by the table with his Gower lying open before him, as if he had been reading, which doubtless was the case.

'What book have you there, my lord?' asked the king--while some of his courtiers stood near the door, and others gazed from the window on the moat and the swelling, towering mass of the keep. 'I like to know what books my friends read.'

'Sir, it is old master John Gower's book of verses, entitled Confessio Amantis,' answered his lordship.

'It is a book I have never seen before,' said the king, glancing at its pages.

'Oh!' returned the marquis, 'it is a book of books, which if your majesty had been well versed in, it would have made you a king of kings.'

'Why so, my lord?' asked the king.

'Why,' said the marquis, 'here is set down how Aristotle brought up and instructed Alexander the Great in all his rudiments, and the principles belonging to a prince. Allow me, sir, to read you such a passage as will show your majesty the truth of what I say.'

He opened the book and read:

'Among the vertues one is chefe, And that is trouthe, which is lefe (dear) To God and eke to man also. And for it hath ben ever so, Taught Aristotle, as he well couth, (knew) To Alisaundre, how in his youth He shulde of trouthe thilke grace (that same) With all his hole herte embrace, So that his word be trewe and pleine Toward the world, and so certeine, That in him be no double speche. For if men shulde trouthe seche, And found it nought within a king, It were an unfittende thing The worde is token of that within; There shall a worthy king begin To kepe his tunge and to be trewe, So shall his price ben ever newe.'

'And here, sir, is what he saith as to the significance of the kingly crown, if your majesty will allow me to read it.'

'Read on, my lord; all is good and true,' said the king.

'The gold betokneth excellence, That men shuld done him reverence, As to her lege soveraine. (their liege) The stones, as the bokes saine, Commended ben in treble wise. First, they ben hard, and thilke assise (that attribute) Betokeneth in a king constaunce, So that there shall be no variaunce Be found in his condicion. And also by description The vertue, whiche is in the stones, A verray signe is for the nones Of that a king shall ben honest, And holde trewely his behest (promise) Of thing, which longeth to kinghede.' (belongeth)

'And so on--for I were loath to weary your majesty--of the colour of the stones, and the circular form of the crown.'

'Read on, my lord,' said the king.

Several passages, therefore, did the marquis pick out and read--amongst which probably were certain concerning flatterers--taking care still to speak of Alexander and Aristotle, and by no means of king and marquis, until at length he had 'read the king such a lesson,' as Dr. Bayly informs us, 'that the bystanders were amazed at his boldness.'

'My lord, have you got your lesson by heart, or speak you out of the book?' asked the king, taking the volume.

'Sir,' the marquis replied, 'if you could read my heart, it may be you might find it there; or if your majesty please to get it by heart, I will lend you my book.'

'I would willingly borrow it,' said the king.

'Nay,' said the marquis, 'I will lend it to you upon these conditions: first, that you read it; and, second, that you make use of it.'

Here, glancing round, well knowing the nature of the soil upon which his words fell, he saw 'some of the new-made lords displeased, fretting and biting their thumbs,' and thus therefore resumed:--

'But, sir, I assure you that no man was so much for the absolute power of the king as Aristotle. If your majesty will allow me the book again, I will show you one remarkable passage to that purpose.'

Having searched the volume for a moment, and found it, he read as follows:--

'Harpaghes first his tale tolde, And said, how that the strength of kinges Is mightiest of alle thinges. For king hath power over man, And man is he, which reson can, As he, which is of his nature The most noble creature Of alle tho that God hath wrought. And by that skill it seemeth nought, (for that reason) He saith that any erthly thing May be so mighty as a king. A king may spille, a king may save, A king may make of lorde a knave, And of a knave a lord also; The power of a king stant so That he the lawes overpasseth. What he will make lasse, he lasseth; What he will make more, he moreth; And as a gentil faucon soreth, He fleeth, that no man him reclaimeth. But he alone all other tameth, And slant him self of lawe fre.'

'There, my liege! So much for Aristotle and the kinghood! But think not he taketh me with him all the way. By our Lady, I go not so far.'

Lifting his head again, he saw, to his wish, that 'divers new-made lords' had 'slunk out of the room.'

'My lord,' said the king, 'at this rate you will drive away all my nobility.'

'I protest unto your majesty,' the marquis replied, 'I am as new a made lord as any of them all, but I was never called knave or rogue so much in all my life as I have been since I received this last honour: and why should they not bear their shares?'

In high good-humour with his success, he told the story the same evening to lady Glamorgan in Dorothy's presence. It gave her ground for thought: she wondered that the marquis should think the king required such lessoning. She had never dreamed that a man and his office are not only metaphysically distinct, but may be morally separate things; she had hitherto taken the office as the pledge for the man, the show as the pledge for the reality; and now therefore her notion of the king received a rude shock from his best friend.

The arrival of his majesty had added to her labours, for now again horse must spout every day,--with no Molly to see it and rejoice. Every fountain rushed heavenwards, 'and all the air' was 'filled with pleasant noise of waters.' This required the fire-engine to be kept pretty constantly at work, and Dorothy had to run up and down the stair of the great tower several times a-day. But she lingered on the top as often and as long as she might.

One glorious July afternoon, gazing from the top of the keep, she saw his majesty, the marquis, some of the courtiers, and a Mr. Prichard of the neighbourhood, on the bowling-green, having a game together. It was like looking at a toy-representation of one, for, so far below, everything was wondrously dwarfed and fore-shortened. But certainly it was a pretty sight-the gay garments, the moving figures, the bowls rolling like marbles over the green carpet, while the sun, and the blue sky, and just an air of wind--enough to turn every leaf into a languidly waved fan, enclosed it in loveliness and filled it with life. It was like a picture from a CAMERA OBSCURA dropped right at the foot of the keep, for the surrounding walk, moat, and sunk walk beyond, were, seen from that height, but enough to keep the bowling-green, which came to the edge of the sunk walk, twelve feet below it, from appearing to cling to the foundations of the tower. The circle of arches filled with shell-work and statues of Roman emperors, which formed the face of the escarpment of the sunk walk, looked like a curiously-cut fringe to the carpet.

While Dorothy aloft was thus looking down and watching the game,--

'What a lovely prospect it is!' said his majesty below, addressing Mr. Prichard, while the marquis bowled.

Making answer, Mr. Prichard pointed out where his own house lay, half hidden by a grove, and said--'May it please your majesty, I have advised my lord to cut down those trees, so that when he wants a good player at bowls, he may have but to beckon.'

'Nay,' returned the king, 'he should plant more trees, that so he might not see thy house at all.'

The marquis, who had bowled, and was coming towards them, heard what the king said, and fancying he aimed at the fault of the greedy buying-up of land--

'If your majesty hath had enough of the game,' he said, 'and will

St. George and St. Michael - 70/94

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