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His Majesty's well-beloved; an episode in the life of Mr. Thomas Betterton as told by his friend John Honeywood online

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HIS MAJESTY'S
WELL-BELOVED

Baroness Orczy



ia



HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED
BARONESS ORCZY



By BARONESS ORCZY



His MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED
THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET

PIMPERNEL
FLOWER o* THE LILY
THE MAN IN GREY
LORD TONY'S WIFE
A SHEAF OF BLUEBELLS
LEATHERFACE
THE BRONZE EAGLE
A BRIDE OF THE PLAINS
THE LAUGHING CAVALIER
" UNTO C^SAR "
EL DORADO
MEADOWSWEET
THE NOBLE ROGUE
THE HEART OF A WOMAN
PETTICOAT RULE



GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
NEW YO RK



HIS MAJESTY'S
WELL-BELOVED

AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF MR.
THOMAS BETTERTON AS TOLD BY
HIS FRIEND JOHN HONEYWOOD

BY

BARONESS ORCZY

AUTHOR OF "THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET

PIMPERNEL," "FLOWER O* THE LILY,"

"LORD TONY'S WIFE," ETC.




NEW SJ1>> YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



Copyright, zp/p,
By George H. Doran Company



Printed in the United States of America



Stack ^

Ann^x 6* > /



CONTENTS

CHAPTER FACE

I How IT ALL BEGAN ..... 9

II THE RIFT WITHIN THE LUTE . . .26

III A CRIMINAL FOLLY 45

IV MORE THAN A PASSING FANCY . . 68
V THE OUTRAGE 105

VI THE GATHERING STORM . . . . 118

VII AN ASSEMBLY OF TRAITORS . . .141

VIII THE LION'S WRATH 151

IX A LAST CHANCE 169

X THE HOUR ....... 182

XI RUMOURS AND CONJECTURES . . .195

XII POISONED ARROWS ...... 207

XIII THE LADY PLEADS 233

XIV THE RULING PASSION .... 254
XV MORE DEAF THAN ADDERS . . . 269

XVI THE GAME OF LOVE ..... 303



HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED



HIS MAJESTY'S
WELL-BELOVED



CHAPTER I
How IT ALL BEGAN



From Mr. John Honeywood, clerk to Mr. Theo-
philus Baggs, attorney-at-lcrw, to Mistress
Mary Saunderson, of the Duke's Theatre-, in
Lincoln's Inn Fields.

1662. October the loth at 85, Chancery Lane in
the City of London. Honoured Mistress,

May it please you that I, an humble Clerk and
Scrivener, do venture to address so talented a Lady ;
but there is that upon my Conscience which compels
me to write these lines. The Goodness and Charity
of Mistress Saunderson are well known, and 'tis not
as a Suppliant that I crave pardon for my Pre-
sumption, but rather as one whose fidelity and loy-
alty have oft been tried and never been found want-
ing. 'Tis said, most gracious Mistress, that your
fancy hath been touched by the tenderness and
devotion of a Man who is as dear to me as if he

9



10 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

were mine own Brother, but that You hesitate to
bestow upon him that for which he craves more than
for anything in the world, your Hand and Heart.
And this because of many Rumours which have
sullied his fair Name. Mr. Betterton, Madam, hath
many enemies. How could this be otherwise seeing
that so vast a measure of Success hath attended his
career, and that the King's most gracious Majesty
doth honour him with Friendship and Regard to the
exclusion of others who are envious of so great a
fame? Those Enemies now, Madam, seeing that
your Heart hath been touched with the man's grace
and bearing, rather than with his undying Renown,
have set themselves the task of blackening Mr.
Betterton's character before your eyes, thus causing
you mayhap grievous Sorrow and Disappointment.
But this I do swear by all that I hold most sacred,
that Mr. Betterton hath never committed a mean
Act in his life nor done aught to forfeit your
Regard. Caustic of wit he is, but neither a Brag-
gart nor a Bully; he hath been credited with many
good Fortunes, but so hath every Gentleman in the
Kingdom, and there is no discredit attached to a
man for subjugating the Hearts of those that are
both frail and fair. My Lady Castlemaine hath
bestowed many favours on Mr. Betterton, so hath
the Countess of Shrewsbury, and there are others,
at least the Gossips do aver it. But on my Soul and
Honour, he hath never ceased to love You, until the
day when a certain great Lady came across his path
for his misfortune and his undying Regret. And



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 11

even so, Madam, though appearances are against
him, I own, let me assure You that the swerving of
his Allegiance to You was not only transitory but
it was never one of the Heart it was a mere aber-
ration of the senses. He may never forget the Lady
he certainly will never forget her Cruelty but he
no longer loves Her, never did love Her as he loves
You, with his Heart and Mind, with Tenderness and
Devotion. The other was only a Dream a fitful
fancy: his Love for You is as immortal as his
Fame. Therefore, gracious Mistress, I, the humble
Friend of so great a Man, have ventured to set forth
for your perusal that which he himself would be
too proud to put before you namely, his Justifi-
cation. As for the rest, what I am about to relate
is the true Historic of Mr. Betterton's Romance, the
only one which might give you cause for sorrow,
yet none for uneasiness, because that Romance is
now a thing of the past, like unto a Flower that is
faded and without fragrance, even though it still lies
pressed between the pages of a great man's Book
of Life. Everything else is mere Episode. But this
which I have here set down will show you how much
nobility of heart and grandeur of Character lies
hidden beneath the flippant and at times grim ex-
terior of the Man whom you have honoured with
your regard.

The writing of the Historic hath caused me much
anxiety and deep thought. I desired to present the
Truth before you, and not the highly-coloured ef-
fusions of a Partisan. I have slurred over nothing,



12 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

concealed nothing. An you, gracious Mistress,
have the patience to read unto the End, I am con-
fident that any Hesitation as to your Future which
may still linger in your Heart will vanish with the
more intimate Knowledge of the true Facts of the
case, as well as of the Man whose faults are of his
own Time and of his Entourage, but whose Merits
are for the whole World to know and to cherish, for
as many Cycles of years as there will be English-
men to speak the Words of English Poets.



Dare I take you back, honoured Mistress, to those
humble days, five years ago, when first I entered the
Household of your worthy Uncle, Mr. Theophilus
Baggs, and of his still more worthy Spouse, Mistress
Euphrosine, where for a small very small stipend,
and free board and lodging, I copied legal docu-
ments, Leases, Wills and Indentures for my
Employer?

You, fair Lady, were then the only ray of Sun-
shine which illumined the darkness of my dreary
Life. Yours was a Gaiety which nothing could
damp, a Courage and Vitality which not even the
nagging disposition of Mistress Euphrosine suc-
ceeded in crushing. And when, smarting under her
many Chidings, my stomach craving for a small
Measure of satisfaction, my Bones aching from the
hardness of my bed, I saw your slim Figure flitting,
elf-like, from kitchen to living-room, your full
young Throat bursting with song like that of a Bird



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 13

at the first scent of Spring, I would find my lot less
hard, the bread less sour, even Mistress Euphrosine's
tongue less acrimonious. My poor, atrophied Heart
felt the warmth of your Smile.

Then sometimes, when my Work was done and
my Employers occupied with their own affairs, You
used to allow me to be of service to you, to help
you wash the dishes which your dainty Hands
should never have been allowed to touch.

Oh! how I writhed when I heard Mistress
Euphrosine ordering You about as if You were a
kitchen-wench, rather than her husband's Niece,
who was honouring his House with your presence!
You, so exquisite, so perfect, so cultured, to be the
Handmaid of a pair of sour, ill-conditioned Repro-
bates who were not worthy to tie the lacets of your
dainty shoes. With what Joy I performed the
menial tasks which never should have been allotted
to You, I never until now have dared to tell. I did
not think that any Man could find dish-washing and
floor-scrubbing quite so enchanting. But then no
other Man hath ever to my knowledge performed
such tasks under such happy circumstances; with
You standing before me, smiling and laughing at
my clumsiness, your shapely arms akimbo, your
Voice now rippling into Song, now chaffing me
with Words full of kindness and good-humour.

I have known many happy Hours since that Day,
Mistress, and many Hours full of Sorrow, but none
so full of pulsating Life as those which outwardly
had seemed so miserable.



14. HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

And then that wonderful afternoon when Mr.
Theophilus Baggs and his Spouse being safely out
of the way, we stole out together and spent a few
hours at the Play! Do you remember the day on
which we ventured on the Escapade? Mr. Baggs
and Mistress Euphrosine had gone to Hampton
Court: he to see a noble Client and she to accom-
pany him. The day being fine and the Client being
a Lady possessed of well-known charms, Mistress
Euphrosine would not have trusted her Lord alone
in the company of such a forward Minx at least,
those were her Words, which she uttered in my
hearing two Days before the memorable Expedition.

Memorable, indeed, it was to me!

Mr. Baggs left a sheaf of Documents for me to
copy, which would he thought keep me occupied
during the whole course of a long Day. You too,
fair Mistress, were to be kept busy during the
worthy couple's absence, by scrubbing and polishing
and sewing Mistress Euphrosine holding all idle-
ness in abhorrence.

I marvel if you remember it all !

I do, as if it had occurred yesterday! We sat
up half the Night previous to our Taskmasters' de-
parture; you polishing and sewing, and I copying
away for very life. You remember? Our joint
Savings for the past six Months we had counted up
together. They amounted to three shillings. One
shilling we spent in oil for our lamps, so that we
might complete our Tasks during the Night. This
left us free for the great and glorious Purpose



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 15

which we had in our Minds and which we had
planned and brooded over for Days and Weeks.

We meant to go to the Play !

It seems strange now, in view of your Renown,
fair Mistress, and of mine own intimacy with
Mr. Betterton, that You and I had both reached
an age of Man and Womanhood without ever hav-
ing been to the Play. Yet You belonged from
childhood to the household of Mistress Euphrosine
Baggs, who is own sister to Mr. Betterton. But
that worthy Woman abhorred the Stage and all that
pertained to it, and she blushed aye, blushed! at
thought of the marvellous Fame attained by her
illustrious Brother.

Do you remember confiding to me, less than a
month after I first entered the household of Mr.
Baggs, that You were pining to go to the Play?
You had seen Mr. Betterton once or twice when he
came to visit his Sister which he did not do very
often but you had never actually been made ac-
quainted with him, nor had you ever seen him act.
And You told me how handsome he was, and how
distinguished ; and your dark Eyes would flash with
enthusiasm at thought of the Actor's Art and of
the Actor's Power.

I had never seen him at all in those Days, but
I loved to hear about him. Strange what a fas-
cination the Stage exercised over so insignificant
and so mean a creature as I !



16 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

3

Will you ever forget the dawn of that glorious
Day, fair Mistress?

Mr. Baggs and his Spouse went off quite early,
to catch the chaise at La Belle Sauvage which would
take them to Hampton Court. But however early
they went, we thought them mighty slow in making
a start. An hundred Recommendations, Orderings,
Scoldings, had to be gone through ere the respect-
able Couple, carrying provisions for the day in a
Bandana Handkerchief, finally got on the way.

It was a perfect Morning early in March, with
the first scent and feel of Spring in the air. Not
a Cloud in the Sky. By Midday our tasks were
entirely accomplished and we were free! Free as
the Birds in the air, free as two 'prentices out for
a holiday ! But little did we eat, I remember. We
were too excited for hunger; nor had Mistress
Euphrosine left much in the larder for us. What
did we care ? Our Enthusiasm, our Eagerness, were
Cook and Scullion for us, that day !

We were going to the Play !

Oh ! how we tripped to Cockpit Lane, asking our
way from passers-by, for we knew so little of
London fashionable London, that is; the London
of Gaiety and Laughter, of careless Thoughts and
wayward Moods. Holding hands, we hurried
through the Streets. You wore a dark Cape with
a Hood to hide your pretty Face and your soft
brown Hair, lest some Acquaintanceof youHJncle's



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 17

should chance to see You and betray our guilty
secret.

Do you remember how we met Mr. Rhodes, the
bookseller, and friend of Mr. Baggs? he to whom
young Mr. Betterton was even then apprenticed.
At the corner of Princes Street we came nose to
nose with him, and but for great presence of mind
on my part when, without an instant's hesitation, I
ran straight at him and butted him in the Stomach
so that he lost his Balance for the moment and only
recovered complete Consciousness after we had dis-
appeared round the corner of the Street, he no
doubt would have recognised us and betrayed our
naughty Secret.

Oh, what a fright we had ! I can see You now,
leaning, breathless and panting, against the street
corner, your Hand pressed to your Bosom, your
Eyes shining like Stars !

As for the rest, it is all confusion in my mind,
The Crowd, the Bustle, the Noise, this great As-
sembly, the like of which I had never seen before.
I do not know how we came to our seats. All I
know is that we were there, looking down upon the
moving throng. I remember that some Worthy of
obvious note was sitting next to me, and was per-
petually treading upon my toes. But this I did not
mind, for he was good enough to point out to me
the various Notabilities amongst the Audience or
upon the Stage; and I was greatly marvelled and
awed by the wonderful familiarity with which he
spoke of all these distinguished People.



18 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

" There sits General Monk. Brave old George !
By gad! 'twere interesting to know what goes on
inside that square Head of his ! King or Protector,
which is it to be? Or Protector and King!
George knows ; and you mark my words, young Sir,
George will be the one to decide. Old Noll is sick;
he can't last long. And Master Richard hath not
much affection for his Father's Friends calls them
Reprobates and ungodly. Well ! can you see George
being rebuked by Master Richard for going to the
Play?"

And I, not being on such intimate terms with the
Lord Protector's Son or with General Monk, could
offer no opinion on the subject. And after a while
my Neighbour went on glibly :

" Ah ! here comes my Lady Viner, flaunting silks
and satins. Aye, the fair Alice his third Wife,
mark you! knows how to spend the money which
her Lord hath been at such pains to scrape together.
By gad ! who'd have thought to see red-haired Polly
Ann so soon after the demise of His Grace! See,
not an inch of widows' Weeds doth she wear in
honour of the old Dotard who did her the infinite
favour of dying just in the nick of time. ..."

And so on, the Man would babble in a continuous
stream of talk. You, Mistress, listened to him
open-mouthed, your great brown Eyes aglow with
curiosity and with excitement. You and I knew
but little of those great Folk, and seeing them all
around us, prepared for the same enjoyment which



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 19

we had paid to obtain, made us quite intoxicated
with eagerness.

Our Neighbour, who of a truth seemed to know
everything, expressed great surprise at the fact that
Old Noll as he so unceremoniously named the
Lord Protector had tolerated the opening of the
Cockpit. " But," he added sententiously, " Bill
t)avenant could wheedle a block of ice out of the
devil, if he chose."

4

Of the Play I remember but little. I was in truth
much too excited to take it all in. And sitting so
near You, Mistress for the Place was over-
crowded my Knee touching yours, your dear little
hand darting out from time to time to grip mine
convulsively during the more palpitating moments
of the Entertainment, was quite as much as an
humble Clerk's brain could hold.

There was a great deal of Music that I do
remember. Also that the entertainment was termed
an opera and that the name of the piece was " The
Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru." My omniscient
Neighbour told me presently that no doubt the Per-
formance was an artful piece of Flattery on the part
of Bill (meaning, I suppose, Sir William Davenant)
who, by blackening the Spaniards, made Old Noll's
tyranny appear like bountiful Mercies.

But I did not like to hear our Lord Protector
spoken of with such levity. Moreover, my Neigh-



20 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

hour's incessant Chatter distracted me from the
Stage.

What I do remember more vividly than anything
else on that memorable Day was your cry of
delight when Mr. Betterton appeared upon the
Stage. I do not know if you had actually spoken
with him before; I certainly had never even seen
him. Mr. Betterton was then apprenticed to Mr.
Rhodes, the Bookseller, and it was entirely against
the Judgment and Wishes of Mistress Euphrosine
Baggs, his Sister, that he adopted the Stage as an
additional calling. I know that there were many
high Words on that subject between Mr. Betterton
and Mistress Euphrosine, Mr. Rhodes greatly sup-
porting the young Man in his Desire, he having
already formulated schemes of his own for the man-
agement of a Theatre, and extolling the virtues of
the Actor's Art and the vastly lucrative State
thereof.

But Mistress Euphrosine would have none of it.
Actors were Rogues and Vagabonds, she said, un-
godly Reprobates who were unfit, when dead, to be
buried in consecrated ground. She would never
consent to seeing a Brother of hers follow so dis-
reputable a Calling. From high words it came to
an open Quarrel, and though I had been over a year
in the House of Mr. Theophilus Baggs, I had never
until this day set eyes on young Mr. Betterton.

He was not taking a very important part in the
Opera, but there was no denying the fact that as
soon as he appeared upon the Stage his very Pres-



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 21

ence did throw every other Actor into the shade,
The Ladies in the Boxes gave a deep sigh of content,
gazing on him with admiring eyes and bestowing
loud Applause upon his every Word. And when
Mr. Betterton threw out his Arms with a gesture
expressive of a noble Passion and spoke the ringing
lines : " And tell me then, ye Sons of England ..."
his beautiful Voice rising and falling with the per-
fect cadence of an exquisite Harmony the uproar
of Enthusiasm became wellnigh deafening. The
Ladies clapped their Hands and waved their Hand-
kerchiefs, the Gentlemen stamped their feet upon the
floor; and some, lifting their Hats, threw them with
a flourish upon the Stage, so that anon Mr. Better-
ton stood with a score or more Hats all round his
feet, and was greatly perturbed as to how he should
sort them out and restore them to their rightful
Owners.

Ah, it was a glorious Day! Nothing could mar
the perfection of its Course. No! not even the
Rain which presently began to patter over the Spec-
tators, and anon fell in torrents, so that those who
were in the Pit had to beat a precipitate retreat,
scrambling helter-skelter over the Benches in a wild
endeavour to get under cover.

This incident somewhat marred the Harmony of
the Ending, because to see Ladies and Gentlemen
struggling and scrambling to climb from bench to
bench under a Deluge of Rain, was in truth a very
droll Spectacle; and the attention of those in the
Boxes was divided between the Happenings on



22 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

the Stage and the antics of the rest of the
Audience.

You and I, fair Mistress, up aloft in our humble
place, were far better sheltered than the more grand
Folk in the Pit. I put your Cloak around your
Shoulders to protect You against the Cold, and thus
sitting close together, my knee still resting against
yours, we watched the Performance until the end.

5

How we went home that afternoon I do not
remember. I know that it was raining heavily and
that we got very wet. But this caused me no
Inconvenience, because it gave me the privilege of
placing my Arm round your Shoulders so as to keep
your Cloak from falling. Also my Mind was too
full of what I had seen to heed the paltry discom-
fort of a Wetting. My thoughts were of the Play,
the Music, the brilliant Assembly; yours, Mistress,
were of Mr. Betterton. Of him you prattled all
the way home, to the exclusion of every other Topic.
And if your enthusiastic Eulogy of that talented
Person did at times send a pang of Sorrow through
my Heart, You at least were unaware of my
Trouble. Not that I took no share in your En-
thusiasm. I did it whole-heartedly. Never had I
admired a Man before as I did Mr. Betterton on
that Day. His Presence was commanding, his Face
striking, his Voice at times masterful and full of
Power, at others infinitely sweet. My officious and
talkative Neighbour, just before the Rain came



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 23

down and rendered him dumb, had remarked to me
with a great air of Knowledge and of Finality:
"Mark my word, young Sir, England will hear
something presently of Tommy Betterton."

It was not until we reached the corner of Chan-
cery Lane that we were forced to descend to the
Realities of Life. We had had a glorious Day, and
for many Hours had wholly forgotten the many
Annoyances and Discomforts with which our lives
were beset. Now we were a little tired and exceed-
ingly wet. Mistress Euphrosine's Scoldings, our oft
empty stomachs, hard Beds and cheerless Lives
loomed once more largely upon the Horizon of our
mental vision. '^.

Our Pace began to slacken ; your glib Tongue was
stilled. Holding Hands now, we hurried home in
silence, our Minds stirred by a still vague Sense of
Fear.

Nor was that Fear unjustified, alas! as subse-
quent Events proved. No sooner had We entered
the House than We knew that We were discovered.
Mr. Baggs' cloak, hung up in the Hall, revealed the
terrifying Fact that he and his indomitable Spouse
had unaccountably returned at this hour. No doubt
that the Weather was the primary cause of this
untoward Event : its immediate result was a Volley
of abuse poured upon our Heads by Mistress
Euphrosine's eloquent Tongue. We were Repro-
bates, Spawns and Children of the Devil ! We were
Liars and Cheats and Thieves! We had deserved
God's wrath and eternal punishment! Heavens



24 HIS MAJESTY'S WELL-BELOVED

above ! how she did talk ! And we, alas ! could not
escape that vituperative Torrent.

We had fled into the Kitchen as soon as We had
realised that we were fairly caught; but Mistress
Euphrosine had followed us thither and had closed
the door behind her. And now, standing facing
Us, her large, gaunt Body barring every egress, she
talked and talked until You, fair Mistress, gave way
to a passionate Flood of tears.

All our Pleasure, our Joy, had vanished; driven
hence by the vixenish Tongue of a soured Harridan.
I was beside myself with Rage. But for your re-
straining influence, I could have struck that shriek-
ing Virago, and for ever after have destroyed what
was the very Essence of my Life. For she would
have turned me out of Doors then and there, and I
should have been driven forth from your Presence,
perhaps never to return.

The sight of your Patience and of your Goodness
helped to deaden my Wrath. I hung my Head
and bit my Tongue lest it should betray me into
saying things which I should have regretted to the
end of my Days.

And thus that memorable Day came to a close.
Somehow, it stands before my mind as would the
first legible Page in the Book of my Life. Before
it, everything was blurred; but that Page is clear.
I can read it now, even after four years. For the
first time, destiny had writ on it two Names in bold,
indelible Characters yours, Mistress, and that of
Mr. Betterton. Henceforth, not a Day in my Life



HOW IT ALL BEGAN 25

would pass without one of You looming largely in
its Scheme.

Mary Saunderson! Tom Betterton! My very
pulses seem to beat to the tune of those two Names !
I knew then, by one of those subtle intuitions which
no Man has ever succeeded in comprehending, that
Heaven itself had intended You for one another.
How then could I stand by and see the Wickedness
of Man striving to interfere with the decrees of
God?



CHAPTER II
THE RIFT WITHIN THE LUTE



After that memorable Day, Mistress, we were like
naughty Children who were being punished for
playing truant out of School. For Weeks and


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