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Lovel and Kate Piercy, was seen to issue from the massive gothic gate.
The populace, which had collected before the palace since the sunset of the preceding evening, became a dense mass of spectators—a sea of people, into which, from all avenues, were still pouring large tributary streams.
Intense curiosity is a rough wind to ruffle the waves of a multitude—but this was not the only exciting cause of the ebbing and flowing of this sea, which, at the moment of the Princess appearing, influenced the whole mass.
Laughing, shouting, and clapping of hands were mingled with cries of a far more disagreeable nature ; and angry murmurs, interspersed with here and there a shrill or deeptoned voice of indignation, seemed to bode a coming storm.
The Princess had barely turned out of the archway, before a projection of the crowd by a sudden salience intercepted her communication with the advance party; and the body of knights headed by Lord Arundel, which had been appointed to surround the state carriage had not yet left the court-yard, being impeded in its progress by the halt the Princess, her ladies, equerries, and immediate retinue made at the gateway.
The most potent cause of this disturbance was the attempt of some officers of constabulary to seize a blind, or rather pur-blind, sturdy beggar, called Prophet Simeon. The populace far from relished this interference of the myrmidons of law with the priviliged class of mendicants, to whom Simeon belonged; and were strongly disposed to effect a rescue. A smart skirmish ensued, and soon the mêlée became general. Sir Gilbert Talbott rode up to the Princess and advised her to return till the troops could clear a passage.
The ladies seemed right willing to obey, except Lady Kate Piercy, whose blood could ill brook bending to the will or motions of any, far less the vulgar herd.
As the Princess turned towards the proud damsel, she perceived that Lady Kate retained her position on the outer side (nearest the throng) with perfect composure, her small upper lip curled with scorn, and her dark eye turned proudly and coldly on the restive crowd.
Several of the retinue, with Lady Charlotte Lovell, moved to the gateway; the Princess drew in her horse, uncertain what course to take.
The animal Lady Kate Piercy rode was a favorite with her, of high courage and great speed and beauty; she stood with ears erect, head raised, and nose somewhat projected, the beau ideal of a well trained war-horse, who seems to smell the battle from afar.”
The officers of justice having secured their prisoner, there was a calm for a few seconds, but to be succeeded by increased uproar
and confusion. Part of the advanced guard, perceiving the excitement, turned their horses heads, in order to join the Princess's party. The confusion now was at its height: severe blows were dealt on all sides; bludgeons and stones were hurled and splintered in the fray. The whole cavalcade was thrown into disorder.
The ecclesiastics moved forward ; the braver of the men drew up in rank, facing the multitude, and, seeing that the aggressors were in the centre of the throng, and being beseeched by the women and inoffensive part of the crowd not to trample them to death, remained passive, waiting for some opportunity or orders
The spirit of resentment being soon thoroughly roused in the irritated mob, a volley of stones was hurled, and the mass moved to and fro with increasing power.
Several among the cortège received blows from stones or splinters of wood, and their horses became unmanageable.
Lady Piercy, though twice addressed by the Princess, seemed not to hear, but sat calmly gazing on the impassioned scene. More than once her horse was galled by some half-spent missile, but she calmed it by a word and slight movement of the reins, causing it to stand as though nailed to the ground.
Sir George Lovell rode up to her ladyship, and apprized her respectfully that it was the request of the Princess that she should retire. At that moment the horse of Lovell was struck on the flank, and he dashed forward : a shriek announced some injury had been inflicted by the infuriated animal, as it reared and capered in the thronging mass.
Some party from the crowd let an arrow fly-he must have been a sturdy archer-it was a full French ell in length. It is probable that it missed the aim intended. “Whiz” sãng the fatal weapon, and entered deep behind the shoulder of Kate Piercy's favorite horse. The animal plunged violently, reared madly, and, striking its rider on the head, fell lifeless.
A cry from the immediate bystanders announced the catastrophe; which had proved fatal to more than the horse had it not been for the skill and adroitness of a young man in the crowd.
From the moment of Lady Piercy's appearance, this youth, who had posted himself near the gateway, had been amazed at her beauty, gracefullness, and the wondrous fascination of her demeanour. His eyc never ccased to gaze on her; he seemed unable to look at any other object. Once the vision of the fair horsewoman had been directed towards him: it was but for an instant, 'twas soon reverted with the cold haughtiness so peculiar to her, as though she were unconscious of being an object of attention, or scorned it. The youth still followed her every movement with admiration ; and when she remained fixedly observing the crowd, his attitude was more that of a statue than of a living man. The throng pressed but he heeded it not; he was moved backward and forwards, as the dead body that floats on the surface of the ocean. He saw and was conscious of but one object—the beautiful horsewoman.
He perceived the arrow enter the animal's side,-he thought he saw it even before it reached its fatal sheath : the point, the head, the shaft, the quivering feather, as the weapon struck, pierced, sank, and finally buried itself in the firm, living tissue.
As the horse plunged the youth sprang forward; as it reared he stood watching its motion and scanning the distance with steady and dilated eye, as the crouching leopard surveys the red deer, which, having approached his lair and become suddenly conscious of its danger, recoils, alarmed and trembling.
When the forelegs of the animal had gained an altitude which shewed that the beast was balancing the head and upper portions in air, before she reeled to the wounded side, the youth perceived that the fair rider, stunned, was falling with her foot and portions of her dress entangled in the trappings and stirrup. He had the presence of mind to approach sufficiently near to catch her, and by bending back his body to prevent a violent collision. The horse fell close to his foot; and he adroitly disentangled the dress of his precious burden, which he took in safety to the entrance of the palace, where he delivered it to the care of the Princess, who, with her ladies, had watched in agony the imminent danger of her beloved and faithful friend.
Now that we have related the mischance which befel so beautiful a child of the aristocracy, it would not interest our readers generally, we fear, to describe the sufferings of the unhappy wretches in the throng, who, by a sudden charge of the horsemen in the advance party, were trodden down as the mire in the streets, immediately after witnessing the foregoing disaster.
Crash ! crash! at every plunge of the spurred charger, went the brittle bone of withered age, the tender limb of half-formed boyhood, and the prostrate, outstretched leg of the strong man, as he stooped to raise the fainting daughter of his homely love, who had sunk in faintness on the inhospitable, oh, how inhospitable, earth! Pomp, wealth, glory! Shrieks, groans, curses !
“ Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
There, there! secure your beggar, for Heaven's sake! Quell this riot, and let those horrible horsemen have passage to the palace.
Good people, hie ye home; and, as ye best may, bear to some place of refuge those mangled bodies—those distorted and quivering limbs.
There will be no more procession to-day! The departure of the Princess is postponed—at least till to-morrow. Home, home.
The disturbance was soon ended ; and, in a brief hour or so, no more than the wonted passers or loungers were visible in the irregular square fronting the palace entrance. Such riots, one would have thought, were at that period too common to excite more than a passing remark; but the circumstances of the death of a lady attendant's horse, and a princess' hindrance on her journey, were sufficient to supply subject-matter for much profitable speculation and royal conferences.
The heading of our chapter alludes to the potent cause of the catastrophe we have related.
The beggar, “Prophet Simeon," had gained much attention and received an unusual accession of alms from the expecting throng, during their long and weary waiting for the progress of the cavalcade, by drawling out, in a sort of chaunt, a verse which, deprived of its primal quaintness, might be rendered thus :
He knows the smallest half of rank and power
The vessel anchors in the viewless grare.” The exceeding tenaciousness displayed by the court, of all prophecies relating to the health and prosperity of royalty, rendered it a very dangerous thing to hint any occurrence referring to the decay of body, or estate of royal personages. The absurd length to which this jealousy was càrried, was strikingly exemplified, during the reign of the monarch of this very period: Henry made it treason to converse about the death of himself or family; and it is recorded that no one about his person had the courage to apprize him of his approaching dissolution, until he was too feeble to utter a word.
It is not wonderful that the warders, or constables, should seize upon a beggar bearing, in the first place, so prophetic a title as that by which this Simeon was called, and, secondly, uttering something about “Lewis' queen and the grave.” Certes, Henry displayed but little sense when, in his enquiries respecting the riot, the character of the offence being revealed to him,
he exclaimed, “ Body o'me! a subtle traitor, Thomas !” turning from the pursuivant to Wolsey, “he well deserves hanging as the veriest knave.”
“ If that the lines be not the work of some judicial astrologer, said Wolsey, with marked emphasis, “ a wholesome whipping were better example than hanging, if it so please your highness.
“Who dares to dabble in inhibited arts?” cried the King, in an angry, suspicious tone.
“ These lines," rejoined the Minister, “though poor in matter, have a style and propriety beyond a beggar's art of fashioning. With your highness leave I will go sift this business to the last on't, and fear not to be able to report satisfactorily."
The King nodded twice or thrice, and then, abruptly rising, turned his back upon the “party for audience” and hastily quitted the chamber.
The result of Wolsey's enquiries was not commensurate with his expectations. It happened to Wolsey, as even to lesser mortals, to be hoodwinked by roused passion. The idea of a prophecy, which had created serious disturbance, led his imagination instantly to Buckingham and his judicial astrology, and he had moved someway on the road which, in his hopes, led to Buckingham's burial-place, when he discovered that this mighty plot turned out to be a most insignificant accident.
Upon enquiries made of the pur-blind beggar, at the Fleet ward whereto he had been taken, Wolsey obtained the confession that the impostor had asked a youth, who had often given him alms, and was esteemed “ the best scholar” at Eltham, to write him a verse for the forthcoming occasion, in order to stimulate the crowd to bestow largess on him. “In complying the youth had no thought,” Simeon declared, “ of creating a disturbance or of offending the government.'
Wolsey felt mortified, but he instantly recovered his appearance of interest, and ordered the youth to be arrested and the old man to be liberated, agreeable to the promise he had volunteered on Simeon's confession of the name of the individual from whom he had obtained the prophetic verses.
The youth was soon found, arrested, and brought guarded to the stronghold or prison-ward of Ludgate. In obedience to Wolsey's order the beggar was retained till the real Simon Pure should be secured.
Great was Henry Herbert's surprise when he encountered the mendicant, and heard from him, his offence and cause of his
* The Lord High Constable of England, the Duke of Buckingham, was a practiser of this supposed science; and, what was far more to his detriment, he was the mortal foe of Wolsey.