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The Star-Chamber, Volume 2 An Historical Romance online

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offenders."

"It was far more than an offender like Sir Ferdinando deserved," said
Sir Giles; "and, if I had known it, he should have had no such
indulgence. Star-Chamber delinquents cannot expect to be treated like
ordinary prisoners. If they do, they will be undeceived when brought
here - eh, Master Tunstall?"

"Most true, Sir Giles, most true!" replied the deputy-warden.
"Star-Chamber prisoners will get little indulgence from me, I warrant
them."

"Unless they bribe you well - eh, Master Joachim?" whispered Sir Giles,
merrily.

"Rest easy on that score, Sir Giles. I am incorruptible, unless you
allow it," rejoined the other, obsequiously.

"My poor father!" ejaculated Sir Jocelyn. "And thou wert condemned
without a crime to a death of lingering agony within this horrible cell!
The bare idea of it is madness. But Heaven, though its judgments be
slow, will yet avenge thee upon thy murderers!"

"Take heed what you say, prisoner," observed Grimbald, changing his
manner, and speaking with great harshness. "Every word you utter against
the decrees of the Star-Chamber, will be reported to the Council, and
will be brought up against you; so you had best be cautious. Tour father
was _not_ murdered. He was immured in this cell in pursuance of a
sentence of the High Court, and he died before his term of captivity had
expired, that is all."

"O, the days and nights of anguish and despair he must have endured
during that long captivity!" exclaimed Sir Jocelyn, before whose gaze a
vision of his dying father seemed to pass, filling him with unutterable
horror.

"Days and nights which will henceforth be your own," roared Sir Giles;
"and you will then comprehend the nature of your father's feelings. But
he escaped what you will _not_ escape - exposure on the pillory, branding
on the cheek, loss of ears, slitting of the nose, and it may be,
scourging. The goodly appearance you have inherited from your sire will
not be long left when the tormentor takes you in hand. Ha! ha!"

"One censured by the Star-Chamber must wear a paper on his breast at the
pillory. You must not forget that mark of infamy, Sir Giles," said the
deputy-warden, chuckling.

"No, no; I forget it not," laughed the extortioner. "How ingeniously
devised are our Star-Chamber punishments, Master Joachim, and how well
they meet the offences. Infamous libellers and slanderers of the State,
like Sir Jocelyn, are ever punished in one way; but new crimes require
new manner of punishment. You recollect the case of Traske, who
practised Judaism, and forbade the use of swine's flesh, and who was
sentenced to be fed upon nothing but pork during his confinement."

"I recollect it perfectly," cried Tunstall, "a just judgment. The wretch
abhorred the food, and would have starved himself rather than take it;
but we forced the greasy morsels down his throat. Ha! ha! You are merry,
Sir Giles, very merry; I have not seen you so gleesome this many a
day - scarcely since the time when Clement Lanyere underwent his
sentence."

"Ah! the accursed traitor!" exclaimed Sir Giles, with an explosion of
rage. "Would he had to go through it again! If I catch him, he
shall - and I am sure to lay hands upon him soon. But to our present
prisoner. You will treat him in all respects as his father was treated,
Master Joachim - but no one must come nigh him."

"No one shall approach him save with an order from the Council, Sir
Giles," replied the other.

"Not even then," said the extortioner decisively. "My orders alone must
be attended to!"

"Hum!" ejaculated the deputy-warden, somewhat perplexed. "Well, I will
follow out your instructions as strictly as I can, Sir Giles. I suppose
you have nothing more to say to the prisoner, and Grimbald may as well
lock him up."

And, receiving a nod of assent from the other, he called to the jailer
to finish his task.

But Sir Jocelyn resolutely refused to enter the cell, and demanded a
room in one of the upper wards.

"You shall have no other chamber than this," said Sir Giles, in a
peremptory tone.

"I did not address myself to you, Sir, but to the deputy-warden,"
rejoined Sir Jocelyn. "Master Joachim Tunstall, you well know I am not
sentenced by the Star-Chamber, or any other court, to confinement within
this cell. I will not enter it; and I order you, at your peril, to
provide me with a better chamber. This is wholly unfit for occupation."

"Do not argue the point, Grimbald, but force him into the cell," roared
the extortioner.

"Fair and softly, Sir Giles, fair and softly," replied the jailer. "Now,
prisoner, you hear what is said - are you prepared to obey?"

And he was about to lay hands rudely upon Sir Jocelyn, when the latter,
pushing him aside, ran nimbly up the steps, and seizing Sir Giles by the
throat, dragged him downward.

Notwithstanding the resistance of the extortioner, whose efforts at
liberation were seconded by Grimbald, our young knight succeeded in
forcing his enemy into the dungeon, and hurled him to the further end of
it. During the struggle, Sir Jocelyn had managed to possess himself of
the other's sword, and he now pointed it at his breast.

"You have constituted yourself my jailer," he cried, "and by the soul of
him who perished in this loathsome cell, by your instrumentality, I will
send you instantly to account for your crimes on High, unless you
promise to assign me a different chamber!"

"I promise it," replied Sir Giles. "You shall have the best in the
Fleet. Let me go forth, and you shall choose one for yourself."

"I will not trust you, false villain," cried Sir Jocelyn. "Give orders
to the deputy-warden, and if he pledges his word they shall be obeyed, I
will take it. Otherwise you die."

"Bid Master Tunstall come to me, Grimbald," gasped the extortioner.

"I am here, Sir Giles, I am here," replied the deputy-warden, cautiously
entering the cell. "What would you have me do?"

"Free me from this restraint," cried Sir Giles, struggling to regain his
feet.

Sir Jocelyn shortened his sword in order to give him a mortal thrust,
but his purpose was prevented by Grimbald. With his heavy bunch of keys
the jailer struck the young knight upon the head, and stretched him
insensible upon the ground.




CHAPTER XXVI.

A Secret Friend.


When Sir Jocelyn again became conscious, he found he had been
transported to a different cell, which, in comparison with the "Stone
Coffin," was clean and comfortable. The walls were of stone, and the
pallet on which he was laid was of straw, but the place was dry, and
free from the noisome effluvium pervading the lower dungeon. The
consideration shown him originated in the conviction on the part of the
deputy-warden, that the young man must die if left in his wounded state
in that unwholesome vault, and so the removal took place, in spite of
the objections raised to it by Sir Giles Mompesson, who would have
willingly let him perish. But Master Tunstall dreaded an inquiry, as the
prisoner had not yet been sentenced by the Council.

After glancing round his cell, and endeavouring recal the events that
had conducted him to it, Sir Jocelyn tried to raise himself, but found
his limbs so stiff that he could not accomplish his object, and he sank
back with a groan. At this moment the door opened, and Grimbald,
accompanied by a repulsive-looking personage, with a face like a
grinning mask, advanced towards the pallet.

"This is the wounded man, Master Luke Hatton," said the jailer; "you
will exert your best skill to cure him; and you must use dispatch, in
case he should be summoned before the Council."

"The Council must come to him if they desire to interrogate him now,"
replied Luke Hatton; adding, after he had examined the injuries received
by the young knight, "He is badly hurt, but not so severely as I
expected. I will undertake to set him upon his legs in three days. I did
as much for Sir Giles Mompesson, and he was wounded in the same manner."

"Why, this is the young knight who struck down Sir Giles at the jousts,"
said Grimbald. "Strange! you should have two mortal enemies to deal
with."

"Is this Sir Jocelyn Mounchensey?" inquired Luke Hatton, with apparent
curiosity. "You did not tell me so before."

"Perhaps I ought not to have told you so now," returned the other. "But
do you take any interest in him?"

"Not much," replied the apothecary; "but I have heard his name often
mentioned of late. You need not be uneasy about this young man being
summoned before the Star-Chamber. The great case of the Countess of
Exeter against Lady Lake comes on before the King and the Lords of the
Council to-morrow or next day, and it will occupy all their attention.
They will have no time for aught else."

"What think you will be the judgment in that case?" inquired Grimbald.

"I have my own opinion," returned the apothecary, with a significant
smile; "but I care not to reveal it. I am a witness in the case myself,
and something may depend on my evidence. You asked me just now whether I
took any interest in this young man. I will tell you what surprised me
to find him here. Sir Francis Mitchell has taken it into his head to rob
him of his intended bride."

"Ah! indeed!" exclaimed the jailer, with a laugh. "The old dotard does
not mean to marry her?"

"By my troth but he does - and the wedding is to be a grand one. I will
tell you more about it anon."

At this moment Sir Jocelyn, who had hitherto remained with his eyes
closed, uttered a cry of anguish, and again vainly endeavoured to raise
himself.

"Aveline married to Sir Francis?" he cried. "Said you she was to be
forced into a union with that hoary miscreant? It must be prevented."

"I see not how it can be, Sir Jocelyn," replied Luke Hatton, "since she
is in the power of Sir Giles Mompesson. Besides which, the 'hoary
miscreant,' as you style him, will take means to ensure her
acquiescence."

"Means! what means?" demanded Sir Jocelyn, writhing in agony.

"A love-potion," replied Luke Hatton, calmly, "I am about to prepare a
philter for her, and will answer for its effect. She will be the old
knight's, and without opposition."

"Infernal villain! and that I should be lying here, unable to give her
aid!"

And overcome by the intensity of his emotion, as well as by acute bodily
suffering, Sir Jocelyn relapsed into insensibility.

He was not, however, suffered to remain long in this state. Stimulants
applied by Luke Hatton soon restored him to consciousness. The first
object his gaze fell upon was the apothecary, and he was about to vent
his fury upon him in words, when the latter, cautiously raising his
finger to his lips, said in a whisper - "I am a friend. Grimbald is only
at the door, and a single exclamation on your part will betray me." He
then leaned down, and bringing his lips almost close to the young
knight's ear, whispered - "What I said before the jailer was correct. I
have been applied to by Sir Francis for a philter to be administered to
Mistress Aveline, and I have promised it to him; but I am secretly in
the service of Clement Lanyere, and will defeat the old usurer's
villainous designs."

Sir Jocelyn could not repress a cry of delight, and Grimbald entered the
cell.




CHAPTER XXVII.

Showing how judgment was given by King James in the Star-Chamber, in the
great cause of the Countess of Exeter against Sir Thomas and Lady Lake.


Five days had King James and the whole of the Privy Council been sitting
within the Star-Chamber; and the great cause that had occupied them
during the whole of that time was drawing to an end - little remaining
for his Majesty to do in it, except to pronounce sentence.

The cause to which James and his Councillors had lent a hearing so long
and patient, was no other than that of the Countess of Exeter against
Sir Thomas Lake and his Lady. Throughout it, whether prompted or not as
to the course he pursued, the Monarch displayed great sagacity and
penetration. Prior to the trial, and when the preliminary statements had
alone been laid before him, he determined personally to investigate the
matter, and without acquainting any one with his design, while out
hunting, he rode over to the Earl of Exeter's residence at
Wimbledon - the place, it will be recollected, where the forged
confession was alleged to have been signed by the Countess - and
proceeded to examine the particular chamber indicated by Lady Lake and
Sarah Swarton as the scene of the transaction. He was accompanied by
Buckingham, and some other lords high in his favour. On examination it
was found that the chamber was of such size, and the lower part of it,
where Sarah was reported to have been concealed, was so distant from the
large bay window, that any conversation held there must have been
inaudible to her; as was proved, upon experiment, by the King and his
attendants. But the crowning circumstance was the discovery made by
James himself - for his courtiers were too discreet to claim any share in
it - that the hangings did not reach within two feet of the floor, and
consequently could not have screened a secret witness from view; while
it was further ascertained that the arras had been entirely undisturbed
for several years. On making this discovery, James rubbed his hands with
great glee, and exclaimed - "Aha! my Lady Lake and her handmaiden may
forswear themselves if they choose - but they will not convince me. Oaths
cannot confound my sight."

This asseveration he repeated during the trial, at which he proffered
his own testimony in favour of the plaintiff; and indeed it was evident
from the first, however much he might seek to disguise it, that he was
strongly biassed towards the Countess. Not content, however, with the
discovery he had made at Wimbledon, James had secretly despatched a
serjeant-at-arms to Rome, where Lord Roos had taken up his residence
after leaving England, and obtained from him and from his confidential
servant Diego, a statement incriminating Lady Lake, and denouncing the
confession as a wicked forgery. Luke Hatton, moreover, who had gone
over, as already intimated, to the side of the Countess, and who took
care to hide his own complicity in the dark affair, and to give a very
different colour to his conduct from what really belonged to it - Luke
Hatton, we say, became a most important witness against the Lakes, and
it was said to be owing to his crafty insinuations that the King
conceived the idea of visiting Wimbledon as before-mentioned.

Notwithstanding all this, there were many irreconcileable
contradictions, and the notoriously bad character of Lord Roos, his
cruel treatment of his wife, and his passionate devotion to the
Countess, led many to suspect that, after all, he and Lady Exeter were
the guilty parties they were represented. Moreover, by such as had any
knowledge of the man, Luke Hatton was not esteemed a credible witness;
and it was generally thought that his testimony ought not to be received
by the King, or accepted only with the greatest caution.

But the opinions favourable to Lady Lake and her husband underwent an
entire change in the early part of the trial, when, to the surprise of
all, and to the inexpressible dismay of her parents, Lady Roos, who had
been included in the process by the Countess, made a confession, wherein
she admitted that the document produced by her mother against Lady
Exeter, was fabricated, and that all the circumstances said to be
connected with it at the time of its supposed signature, were groundless
and imaginary. The unfortunate lady's motive for making this revelation
was the desire of screening her husband; and so infatuated was she by
her love of him, that she allowed herself to be persuaded - by the artful
suggestions, it was whispered, of Luke Hatton - that this would be the
means of accomplishing their reconciliation, and that she would be
rewarded for her devotion by his returning regard. If such was her
belief, she was doomed to disappointment. She never beheld him again.
Lord Roos died abroad soon after the trial took place; nor did his
ill-fated lady long survive him.

Thus, it will be seen, all circumstances were adverse to the Lakes. But
in spite of the difficulties surrounding her, and the weight of
evidence, true or false, brought against her, no concession could be
obtained from Lady Lake, and she stoutly protested her innocence, and
retaliated in most forcible terms upon her accusers. She gave a flat
contradiction to her daughter, and poured terrible maledictions on her
head, ceasing them not until silenced by command of the King. The
fearful charges brought by her ladyship against Luke Hatton produced
some effect, and were listened to; but, as they could only be
substantiated by herself and Sarah Swarton, they fell to the ground;
since here again Lady Roos refused to be a witness against her husband.

Unwilling to admit his wife's criminality, though urged by the King to
do so in order to save himself, Sir Thomas Lake was unable to make a
successful defence; and he seemed so much bowed down by affliction and
perplexity, that sympathy was generally felt for him. Indeed, his
dignified deportment and reserve gave him some claim to consideration.

In this way was the trial brought to a close, after three days'
duration.

Now, let a glance be cast round the room wherein the lords of the
Council were deliberating upon their judgment.

It was the Star-Chamber.

Situated on the south-eastern side of Westminster Hall, near the river,
this famous room, - wherein the secret councils of the kingdom were then
held, and had been held during many previous reigns, - was more
remarkable for the beauty of its ceiling than for size or splendour.
That ceiling was of oak, richly carved and gilt, and disposed in
squares, in the midst of which were roses, portculises, pomegranates,
and fleurs-de-lys. Over the door leading to the chamber was placed a
star, in allusion to its name, with the date 1602. Its walls were
covered with ancient tapestry, and it had many windows looking towards
the river, and filled with painted glass.

Though it would appear to be obvious enough, much doubt has been
entertained as to the derivation of the name of this celebrated Court.
"Some think it so called," writes the author of a learned treatise on
its jurisdiction, before cited, "of _Crimen Stellionatus_, because it
handleth such things and cases as are strange and unusual: some of
_Stallen_. I confess I am in that point a Platonist in opinion, that
_nomina naturâ fiunt potiùs quam vagâ impositone_. And so I doubt not
but _Camera-Stellata_ (for so I find it called in our ancient
Year-books) is most aptly named; not because the Star-Chamber, where the
Court is kept, is so adorned with stars gilded, as some would have
it - for surely the chamber is so adorned because it is the seal of that
Court, _et denominatio_, being _à praestantiori magis dignum trahit ad
se minus_; and it was so fitly called, because the stars have no light
but what is cast upon them from the sun by reflection, being his
representative body, and, as his Majesty was pleased to say when he sat
there in his royal person, representation must need cease when the
person is present. So in the presence of his great majesty, the which is
the sun of honour and glory, the shining of those stars is put out, they
not having any power to pronounce any sentence in this Court - for the
judgment is the King's only; but by way of advice they deliver their
opinions, which his wisdom alloweth or disalloweth, increaseth or
moderateth at his royal pleasure." This explanation, which seems rather
given for the purpose of paying a fulsome compliment to James, in whose
reign the treatise in question was written, is scarcely satisfactory;
and we have little doubt that the name originated in the circumstance of
the roof of the chamber being embellished with gilded stars. We are told
in Strype's Stowe, that the Star-Chamber was "so called, either by
derivation from the old English word _Steoran_, which signifieth to
steer or rule, as doth the pilot of a ship; because the King and Council
did sit here, as it were, at the _stern_, and did govern in the ship of
the Commonwealth. Some derive in from _Stellio_, which signifies that
starry and subtle beast so called. From which cometh the word
_stellionatus_, that signifieth _cosenage_; because that crime was
chiefly punishable in this Court by an extraordinary power, as it was in
the civil law. Or, because the roof of this Court was garnished with
gilded stars, as the room itself was starry, or full of windows and
lights. In which respect some of the Latin Records name it _Camera
Stellata;_ the French _Chambre des Ètoiles;_ and the English the Starred
Chamber." The derivation of the name, we repeat, seems to us
sufficiently simple and obvious; but as it has been matter of
controversy, we have thought it worth while to advert to the
circumstance.

To proceed. In a chair of state, elevated above the table round which
the Lords of the Council were gathered, and having a canopy over it, sat
the King, calmly watching them as they pursued their deliberations, - his
own mind being completely made up as to the sentence he should
pronounce - and ever and anon stealing a glance at Lady Lake and her
husband, who were seated behind a bar that crossed the room below the
Council-table. The defendants, or prisoners - for such in effect they
were - were under the guard of a pursuivant and a serjeant-at-arms. A
little behind them was Sarah Swarton; but, though faint and frightened,
and scarcely able to sustain herself, she was not allowed a seat. On a
raised bench at the side sat the beautiful Countess of Exeter, radiant
with smiles and triumph. She was receiving the congratulations of
several dames of high rank by whom she was accompanied. Amongst the
Judges of the Court were the Lord Chancellor, who sat immediately under
the King, with his mace and seal before him; the Lord Treasurer and the
Keeper of the Privy Seal; the President of the Council; the Judges; the
Archbishop of Canterbury, and eight bishops and other prelates; and all
the dukes, marquises, earls, and barons composing the Privy Council, to
the number of forty. Besides these, there were present Prince Charles,
three of the lieger ambassadors, and many other distinguished persons.
Though all had gone against her, Lady Lake's spirit was still
undiminished, and she eyed the Council imperiously; but her husband's
regards were fixed upon the ground, and his head rested upon his breast.

After some further time had been needlessly consumed by the Council in
stating their opinions to the King, he prepared to deliver judgment. On
this the defendants arose, and profound silence reigned throughout the
Court as James addressed them.

The sentence was to this effect: - A fine of upwards of £22,000 was
imposed upon Sir Thomas, with a further censure of imprisonment in the
Tower, during the King's pleasure. Lady Lake was to be imprisoned with
him. A public recognition of their offence, for reparation of the
Countess's injured honour, was to be made by them, in the most ample
manner His Majesty could devise. Sarah Swarton was adjudged to the
Fleet. "Thence," ran the sentence, "to be whipped at the cart's tail to
Westminster, and afterwards from the same place to Cheapside. At
Cheapside to be branded with F.A. (signifying _false accusation_), one
letter on either cheek. To do public penance in Saint Martin's Church.
To be detained in the Fleet till they do weary of her; and then to be
sent to Bridewell, there to spend and end her days."

When the poor handmaiden heard this severe sentence, she uttered a cry
of despair, and fell down on the floor in a swoon.

Thereupon the delinquents were removed; and as Lady Lake withdrew, a
look passed between her and the Countess, which, in spite of the
assurance of the latter, made her turn pale, and tremble.

In a very remarkable letter, subsequently addressed by Lady Lake to her
successful opponent in this great case, she said: - "I wish my submission
could make you an innocent woman, and wash you as white as a swan; but
it must be your own submission unto God, and many prayers, and tears,
and afflictions, which, seeing you have not outwardly, examine your
heart, and think on times past, and remember what I have written to you
heretofore. The same I do now again, for I yet nothing doubt, but that,
although the Lord Roos was sent away, and is dead, yet truth lives." The
truth, however, was never fully brought to light; and that justice which
the vindictive lady expected was denied her.




CHAPTER XXVIII.

The two warrants.


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Online LibraryWilliam Harrison AinsworthThe Star-Chamber, Volume 2 An Historical Romance → online text (page 11 of 16)