Chapter 19763154

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Chapter NumberVOL II XXXII
Chapter TitleTHE POWDER POISONING.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19763154
Full Date1877-12-01
Page Number9
Corrections0
Word Count4515
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleHer Majesty's Tower
article text

LITERATURE

The Storyteller.

Her Majesty's Tower.*

VOL. II.

CHAPTER XXXII.

THE POWDER POISONING.

BY WILLIAM HEPWORTH DIXON.

ESSEX, a man of high rank, was proud of his name, and quick to avenge affronts. How could she get rid of such a man? She thought of poison; she thought of steel; she thought of

Holy Church. A divorce would be the best of all; but how could a divorce be got ? Listening, now to Northampton, now to Ann Turner, she conceived a triple scheme for getting rid of the husband whose name she bore. She egged on her brother Henry to send him a chal lenge ; she paid the Lambeth wizard to waste hiß strength by magic; she gave a diamond ring, with tho promise of a thousand pouudn, to Mury Wood, a Norfolk hag, renowned for ridding ladies of their inconveniont lords, for a philtre war ranted to kill in three days. But all these efforts failed her. The King forbade the duel; tho wizard's dolls and scarfs were powerless ; and the Norfolk hag deceived her with a' philtre which would not kill. When magic, steel, and poison failed her, she fell back on her idea of divorce. While the Countess was poring through the ways and means for getting a divorce from Ebscx, the White Witch and some lesser agents of evil were employed in removing Overbury from her path. In spite of his high talents, Overbury lay open to such arts as Northampton's corrupt nature and Italian education had taught him to abuse. Pride of genius led him into unwise scorn of men who had been schooled to rise by paths more devious than his own. The very frankness of his opposition to Spain armed Northampton againot him, while his nobleness of soul prevented him from seeing to what des perate shifts a man of such high rank could stoop. He overrated Carr; not his power of resisting money and favor; for there his friend was strong ; but his power of resisting the more perilous trial of liquid eyes and a wanton tongue. A sense of original force, which, often as it was tried, had never yet failed him, gave to Over bury's native haughtiness an austerity and em phasis very hard to bear. The Queen complained of him ; the King resented his scornful tone ; and oiticens wagered their golden angels as to which was the proudest, Raleigh, Overbury, or Lucifer. The prize was given to Overbury. None of the courtiers loved him, for he took no pains to please them. Weak on every Bide, except that of his intellect, he invited and defied Northampton's arts. So long as Overbury thought his friend's intrigue with Lady Essex was the fancy of a day he let it pass in silence ; smiling grimly at the old man's baseness in selling the honor of his house for a mess of pottage ; but he felt that it would never do for him to let this fancy of a moment sink into a permanent madness of the heart; and when he saw that Carr was running after the siren day and night, he warned him gravely against her vicious wiles. He spoke too late. Calypso had Bung her slave to sleep. A fact came out by accident to have startled him from his dream of enduring happiness with suoh a woman. Mary Wood, the Norfolk hag, was arrested for petty theft, and in her rage at being abandoned by her noble patrons, confessed her name, her trade, and her employers. The story of the poisonous drug and the diamond ring was told ; and the truth of her tale was confirmed by Richard Orimston, the poursuivant, on a very important point. This story was re ferred to the Council, in which her kinsmen Bat; but the secret enquiry came to Overbury's ears, and roused him to take a decided course. With consummate art, for Carr was proud and hasty, not to be schooled too openly, he warned him ?gainst her alluring smiles; now tickling him with easy banter, now stinging him with grave advice. To show what sort of a woman a man should seek in wedlock he wrote his poem called The Wife ; that gracious picture of holy love in contrast with unholy lust. A wise man, said the poet, first seeks in a wife—not beauty, rank, and wealth; fools seek for such things first; but the higher virtues of the souL First, he hopes to find her good—then wise—then fit—and last of all comely. All that Lady Essex was, he urged his friend to shun. But Carr slept soundly in Calypso's lap, as deaf to the poet's verse as he had been to the Witch's charge. Lady Essex and her Nestor now resolved that he must die. Their plans required his death. That he could stop their suit for a divorce, they knew; that he would use his power, they also knew. Less than hw blood would neither serve their ambition nor appease their wrath. At first they thought of hiring an assassin. Unlike Essex, the poet was not a master of his sword ; and Lady Essex sent to Greenwich for Sir David Wood, a soldier of fortune, who had been crossed by Overbury in a job. "I am told you have grievous wrongs against Sir Thomas Overbury," she began at once : "I am also told you are a brave gentleman. He who has wronged you, has wronged me. I should be glad to hear he is no more." Wood hung fire. They were alone in her chamber, and she quickly explained her hints. She told him that she wished him to kill Sir Thomas; she promised him a thousand pounds, and offered him the friendship of Carr and the protection of all her kin. Wood was willing, but only on conditions that Carr should come forward in person, and assure him before a witness of his safety when the deed was done. She promised that Carr should give that pledge. But she dared not ask her lover for such a promise ; and sending for Wood once more, she •The right of repnbluhing "Her Majesty's Tower" has been puchaeedbj the proprietor! of Tk*Q*ee*tlm*dtr.

told him Bbc would pledge her own life for his Bafety, come what might. Wood answered bluntly, that he was not auch a fool as to go to Tyburn on a lady's word. "Why," urged the Countess, " the thing ia easily done; he Bups every night at Sir Charles Wilmot's houße ; atop his coach ; drag him out, and run him through." The bravo shook his head and left her in despair. Northampton hit upon a safer plan. The King was not fond of Overbury; and the pages who were near him, taking Northampton's cue, began to fret his ear by telling him that the people who met in fairs and taverns made jests against him, saying that he could not rule his realm without Overbury, since Overbury found all the wit for Carr, and Carr found all the wit for him. James swore a big oath that Overbury should be Bent abroad—as far as Moscow—if only to let folk see whether the King could not rule without his aid. Overbury declined to go. They had taken care beforehand that he should decline, and so offend the King ; but he had only refused the task on Rochester begging him not to go, since the proposal was a trick of their enemies to put the seas between them. Thus, he declined; when James, incensed at his refusal of so high a trust, gave orders for his instant arrest. Overbury was lodged in the Bloody tower. Out of sight, the poet soon fell out of Carr's remembrance. How far Rochester consented to his murder is uncertain ; though it is clear that many of the steps which led to it were taken by him in person. Lady Essex and the White Witch had resolved to poison Overbury long before he was committed to the Tower. When they had locked him fast, they fell to work, like artists knowing what they meant to do. The first step was to change the Lieutenant ; for Wood, though insolent and slavish, was not the man to put his neck into a coil of rope, by murdering one of his prisoners in open day. Who could assure him that his deed would never come to light ? Murder will out; and when murder comes out, it is hard for any man to cheat the gallows of its due. Northampton had his ageut ready; and when he sent for Waad to his mansion at Charing Cross, that agent was waiting iv a room below. The Earl accused Waad of being too lenient with his new prisoner, and told him bluntly that he should not go back to his post. Waad was surprised; but on North ampton hinting that much of Lady Arabella's plate was misßing, and that the Lieutenant was supposed to know what had become of it, he was so much frightened that he gave up his com* mission on the spot. He left Northampton Home with fourteen hundred pounds in his pocket, and a promise of six hundred pounds more, if he would only hold his tongue. A ruined gambler, one Sir Gervase Helwyss, was then brought in. What passed between the proud peer and the obscure knight we shall never learn; but that very night, without a warrant, without an oath, this ruffian was in* stalled as Lieutenant of the Tower. The note of his appointment was scrawled at Northampton House, and the record of it afterwards inserted in a blank corner of the Council book. All his instructions as to the treatment of his prisoner, Helwyss received directly from the Lord Privy Seal. The second step was to change the keeper; for in such a business they could not trust an ordi nary fellow to do their will. In Ann Turner's house there lived a servant worthy of such a mistress ; one Richard Weston, a tailor, with a soul too big for a yard and goose. Having tried his skill in sorcery and coining, he had run through a round of gaols. As Mrs. Turner's man he bad been employed to carry notes from the Countess to Carr, to watch over their secret meetings at the Brentford farm. He knew his masters, and they knew their tool. A bag of gold would buy him, body and soul; and the Countess never paused to count the cost of whatßhe had a mind to buy. She asked Sir Thomas Monson to get this fellow appointed keeper of the Bloody tower; bat Monson, though eager to oblige so great a lady, thought it well to consult the Privy Seal—an act of prudence to which he afterwards owed his life. Northampton told him not only that Weston's appointment to wait on Overbury would be right, but that the King himself wished Weston to be placed in charge. Monson took him to the Tower and put him in the poet's room. From that night Overbury's strength began to fail. Though his offence was only a contempt, he was confined more strictly than men who had been condemned to die. A secret order from Northampton closed up every avenue to the Bloody tower, Sir Nicholas, his father, and Lady Lydcot, his sister, were turned away from his door. Lydcot moved the court for leave to visit him, but he was only allowed to see him at his grated window. Davis, one of his men, pro* posed to be locked up with his master day and night, and he was kicked away from the Tower. Sir Robert Killigrew, the physician, was clapped in the Fleet for trying to speak with him. Even Rochester's messages were stopped. Northamp ton was resolved that he should die, and he took pains thbt none save creatures of his own should enter into Overbury's cell. Yet the poet's strong stomach caused much delay ; and letters got in and out, in spite of the Lieutenant's care. Monson told the Lieutenant that notes might pass under his eye in tarts and jellies, if he were not sharp; and when Simon Marson, the King's musician, brought to the Tower a present of jellies, which Lady Essex wished to be given to Overbury in the name of Carr, the Lieutenant, poking into them for correspondence, found that they were poisoned, and refused to let them pass. Weston sneered at such scruples ; but Helwyss could not tell how far his employers wished him to go, and he had a strong desire to escape a murderer's doom. On Tower Hill, in a small shop, lived one James Franklin, an apothecary, less honest in his trade than he who put poison into Romeo's hands. Like all the agents employed by Lady Essex, Franklin was a Papist; and this fellow, though he professed to keep a devil, and was said to have poisoned his wife, was brought to assist in committing murder, not only by the payment of a hundred and twenty pounds in gold, but by the hope of doing good service to hu Church. From Franklin, Weston received a phial of stuff like water, which Mrs. Turner in structed him how to mix with his prisoner's

drink. _ But Helwysß, still in doubt, detained the phial, and poured the drug upon the ground; even while he was suffering Weston to lay the tarts and jellies from Lady Essex on the prisoner's dish. These poisons crept into the poet's veins. His cheek began to pale, and his voice to drop. On Overbury begging in his misery that a friend and a physician might come to Bee him, Rochester appeared in person before the Council, and procured a warrant for Lydoot and Killi grew to enter his cell; but when the favorite was gone away from the Council board, North ampton and Suffolk revoked their pass. The prisoner, they wrote to HelwyßS, must be closely kept: and if he needed a physician, they would send one to him. To draw hiß mind from thoughts of their foul play, Suffolk caused Overbury to be told that Rochester nnd he were on bad terms; and on Northampton's hints, he even weut so far in this deceit as to ask for Overbury's good offices with Rochester, in return for his own in Overbury's favor with the King. Northampton took these messages to the Tower; and when the poet was thought to be off his guard, the French adven turer, Mayerne, rode down to the Bloody tower, and marked his prisoner with a poisoner's eye. Lobel, a French apothecary, and Reeve, his English boy, were appointed to do the deed. The poet knew that he was being poisoned. Holwyss told him that Lord Rochester had sent him an emetic, as bin lordship wished him to look sick, in order that the King's compassionate feelings might be touchcil. Tho poet was annoyed at such feeble tricks; and Northampton schooled his Lieutenant into exciting Overbury to use the language of reproach towards Rochester, while he himself pressed on the work of drugging him to death. When all was ready, Lobel made the glister, which his apprentice Reeve applied. The poet was no more.

Chapter XXXIII. THE END. _ Carb heard of the poet's death without a sigh. The courtiers who watched him closely saw, or afterwards thought they saw, a gleam of unusual brightness pass across his face when he heard the news. He flow to his enchantress, told her the story of hia death, and sealed her rapture with a lover's kiss. Northampton, fearing that men's tongues would wag against him in the city, requested Helwyss to send for Lydcot to the Tower, but to take care that the corpse should be buried before he came. The poet was put under ground before his flesh was cold. The wedding-day was fixed, the feast of St. Stephen, 1618. Rochester was made an earl, so that Lady Essex would not have to descend from her former rank by marrying him. Sher borne Castle was torn from Raleigh to provide them with a country seat. Lady Raleigh put up her hands to heaven; and then the splendid nuptials of the Earl and Countess of Somerset were celebrated in the royal chapel at Whitehall, with a Bplendid ceremony, a round of dances, and a gorgeous masque. Just eight years earlier, on the same day, in the same chapel, before the same king and queen, in presence of nearly all the same lords and ladies, with the same officiating bishop, the young lady, then a fair and innocent child, had been married to the young and handsome Earl of Essex. Two years later, that brilliant throng was scattered to the winds. The hero and heroine of that day, now man and wife, with their passions chilled, their spirits broken, their lives forfeited, were lying in the Tower ; a bickering and unhappy pair; conscious of their fall; and eager to impute their ruin to each other's crimes. Lady Somerset now contemned her low-born husband ; Lord Somerset now ab horred his wicked wife. Northampton never got the White Staff for which he had done so much, for nature could not wait, and when the surgeons who were called to Northampton House had cut the putrid sore in his side, he. fell at once. A priest, who waited in his chamber, gave him the host, laid pall and cross on his bed, and set tapers burning for him night and day. He died with yells of accusation ringing in his ears, which all his power as a Privy Councillor could not silence. Peers, bur gesses, and citizens accused him of being not only a Papist and a pensioner of Spain, but the secret soul of all the Catholic plots. In vain he raved and stormed ; in vain he threw himself at the favorite's feet; in vain he pointed out what he had done against Fawkes and Garnet. The mask was falling from hia face, and men began to see him for what he was. He died in a gorgeous chamber of Northampton House (June 1614)— in time, but only just in time, to save himself from a cell in the Bloody tower. For the poet in his grave had begun to make war on the peer in his palace. Friends of Over bury, who were also friends of virtue, had printed his poem The Wife, and the public snapt up five editions of that noble satire iv as many months. The reader of the poem talked of the poet, and then old tales were told once more about the manner of his death. An accident gave to these rumors a sudden, ominous shape: for Reeve, the French apothecary's lad, fell Bick in Flanders, and in his agony of conscience spread the news pf what his master had been hired to do. Trumball, the English Resident in Flanders, hastened home with this report, not daring to write such words as Reeve had spoken in his fear and pain. Winwood, the new Secretary of State, a Puritan, who hated the 'Howards with a good deal of secret energy, received Tnimball's news with a grim delight, and Bent him back to Flanders, with orders to keep an eve uoon the lad. • Winwood moved with a wary step, for the boy's confession touched the fame of some of the highest persons in the realm. He dropt some bints that Helwyss was unfit for such a post as Lieutenant of the Tower, and when that officer, in trying to excuse himself, had half confessed his guilt, the Secretary of State rode down to Royston and laid his proofs before the King. James read the confessions, and sent them on to Coke, by whom a swift and secret search was made for further facts. The injured Waad came forward ; and his evidence touched, not only the more active agents in the crime, lut Monson, Northampton, Lady Somerset, and Canr. After he had arrested Mrs. Turner, her man Weston, and the apothecary Franklin, Coke applied for

powers to examine Helwyas, Mayerne, and Sir Thomas Monaon. The facts which came to hght suggested that the murder of Overbury, daring and open as it was, had been no more than a single act in a great drama of public crime. Ann Turner Bpoke of Prince Henry iv having been poisoned with a bunch of grapes ; and Weaton talked of wizards and druggists going over to Heidelberg, with order* to cut off Frederick and Elizabeth. Can- began to tremble; and thinking it might be well to cover hia past life by a general pardon, he Bent for Sir .Robert Cotton to hia room, and begged that antiquary to seek among bis papers for the largest pardon ever granted by a sovereign prince. Cottou found a pardon issued by a Pope for the crimes of treason, murder, felony, and rape, and on the model of this grant the Earl of Somerset drew a* pardon for himself, and got the document signed by James. But Ellesmere refused to pasa it •; saying, that to put the Great Seal of England to such a paper would subject the Lord Chancellor to a premunire. Coke was so far ready with his proofs, that the King was forced to appoint a commission of enquiry into the poet's death; Ellesmere- Lennox, Zouch, and Coke were the com miasionere ; and their meetings were held in the Lord Chancellor's residence, York House, to which they summoned Helwyss and Monson, as well as Weston, Franklin, and Mrs. Turner. Western told them the story of his crime, the love affairs of Lady Euaor and Carr, the secret meetings in Paternoster Kow and at the Brent ford farm, the original prompting of Lady Essex to the murder, the promises given in her name by Mrs. Turner, the appointment made through Monson for him to wait in the Bloody tower, the failure of his philtreß, the altercation with Helwyss, the receipt of the poisoned tarts and jellies, the impatience of Lady Essex to have the thing done, the visit of Mayerne, the employ ment of Lobel, and the glisters which caused the prisoner's death. Ere long, Mrs. Turner and' franklin confessed their guilt; the first giving up the implements of magic received by her from Forman,—the roll of devils, the scarf of white crosses, the bundle of waxen dolls, and! the sorap of human akin ; the second raving against his imp and his employer; one for not warning him in time, the other for bewitching him to his ruin, and then leaving him to perish.! The day of Lord and Lady Somerset was come. In raking up evidence against Mrs. Turner, the Commissioners found that on the day of her arrest Lady Somerset had not only sent her secret messages to fear nothing, but had got her husband to sign a warrant for John Poulton, a poursuivant, to search the Beaver- Hat, a house near Temple Bar, and to bring, away all the papers which he found there in a certain trunk and bag. The Beaver Hat wa* kept by Weaton's son, and Poulton was accom panied in bis search by Lady Somerset's maid. The contents of these papers could be guessed, and when the Commissioners learned that Poulton had taken them to Somerset's house, they despatched their messenger with orders for the Earl to keep his, lodging near the Coc> pit and for the Countess to remain either in hey own houße at Blackfriars, or with her elder sister Lady Knollys, near the Tiltyard. Hu»band and wife were not to see each other. A messenger bore a letter to Royston, where the King wa» hunting, signed by Egerton, Lennox, Zouoh, and Coke, urging that the proofs against Somerset were now so strong, that he ought to be stripped of the Seals and lodged for safety in the Tower. James kissed his favorite and gave him up. The tools of Lady Somerset were quickly put away. Helwyss was hanged in chains, and the gibbet on which he swung was left to stand for a warning on Tower hilL Mrs. Turner was hung at Tyburn, in her yellow bands and powdered hair, in the presence of a mighty crowd, many of whom wept for the beautiful though faded creature, who knew the secret ways to all female hearts. She stood on the gallows, raving at the world she was-about to leave, and calling down fire from heaven to consume it in the midst of sin and shame. Franklin and Weston were strung up like dogs. How was justice to deal with the greatest criminal of all ? Could a lady of the race of Howard be hung for a private murder ? Somerset had burnt the papers seized by Poulton at the Beaver Hat, but the confessions wrung from Weston, Franklin, Helwyss. and Mrs. Turner would have sufficed to hang the principals, had such been the King's desire. Taken from his lodgings near the Cockpit, Somerset was placed under charge of Sir Oliver St. John ; and when the Privy Seal had been taken from him, he was carried with a single servant to the Tower. As he passed from Water lane through the dark archway, Raleigh was coming out. "It is the case of Haman and Mordecai," said the great captive, then going out into freedom. James was told of this speech. " Raleigh," he observed, "may die in that deceit." The King was probably of Can's opinion that the Btorm would soon whirl by. Sir George More, the new Lieutenant, con ducted the Earl and Countess of Somerset to the Bloody tower, and bade them enter. " Put me not in there," cried Lady Somerset, white with terror. She knew it was the room in which she had murdered her husband's friend. "I shall nevsr sleep again," she shrieked; "his ghost will haunt my bed ; put me elsewhere !'* Somerset went in ; and the Lieutenant urged her to follow him. In fact, he had no other lodging ready for prisoners of such high rank. But she would not stir. " Put me elsewhere ! put me elsewhere!" she sobbed. Sir George had to cany her back to his own apartments*, until Raleigh's house in the garden could be got ready for her use. S*.uier3t;t raged and pouted in his prison ; bullying the new Lieutenant, Sir George More- Bending for Lord Hay—demanding to Bee the- King. When told that Sir George must write any message which he wished to be forwarded to James, he refused to send at aIL When the Commissioners offered to hear him, he turned on hia heel with a gesture of contempt. [to be coxtisird.]

Louise dk la Ramee, better known all otw the world ai " Ooida," liven in a magnificent mansion, jtut oataide oi Florence, Italy.