HOW THE QUEEN READ HER NEWSPAPER
For Rebecca, left alone in the goldsmiths’
city house, the past night and day had been a period
of perplexity. She had been saved from any serious
anxiety by the arrival of a messenger soon after Phoebe’s
departure, who had brought her word that her “mistress”
was safe in the Peacock Inn, and had left a verbal
message commanding her to come with him at once to
This command she naturally refused
to comply with, and sent word to the much-puzzled
man-servant that she wasn’t to be “bossed
around” by her younger sister, and that if Phoebe
wanted to see her she knew where to find her.
This message was delivered to old Mistress Burton,
who refrained from repeating it to her step-daughter.
For her own ends, she thought it best to keep Mistress
Mary from her nurse, whose influence seemed invariably
opposed to her own.
Left thus alone, Rebecca had had a
hitherto unequalled opportunity for reflection, and
the result of her deliberations was most practical.
Whatever might be said of the inhabitants of London
in general, it was clear to her mind that poor Phoebe
was mentally unbalanced.
The only remedy was to lure her into
the Panchronicon, and regain the distant home they
ought never to have left.
The first step to be taken was therefore
to rejoin Copernicus and see that all was in readiness.
It was her intention then to seek her sister and,
by humoring her delusion and exercising an appropriately
benevolent cunning, to induce her to enter the conveyance
which had brought them both into this disastrous complication.
The latter part of this programme was not definitely
formed in her mind, and when she sought to give it
shape she found herself appalled both by its difficulties
and by the probable twists that her conscience would
have to undergo in putting her plan into practice.
“Well, well!” she exclaimed
at length. “I’ll cross that bridge
when I come to it. The fust thing is to find
It was at about eleven o’clock
in the morning of the day after Phoebe’s departure
that Rebecca came to this audible conclusion, and
she arose at once to don her jacket and bonnet.
This accomplished, she gathered up her precious satchel
and umbrella and approached her bed-room window to
observe the weather.
She had scarcely fixed her eyes upon
the muddy streets below her when she uttered a cry
“Good gracious alive! Ef
there ain’t Copernicus right this minute!”
Out through the inner hall and down
the stairs she hurried with short, shuffling steps,
impatient of the clinging rushes on the floor.
Speechless she ran past good Mistress Goldsmith, who
called after her in vain. The only reply was
the slam of the front door.
Once in the street, Rebecca glanced
sharply up and down. The man she sought was not
in sight, but she shrewdly counted upon his having
turned into Leadenhall Street, toward which she had
seen him walking. Thither she hurried, and to
her infinite gratification she saw, about a hundred
yards ahead, the unmistakable trousers, coat, and Derby
hat so familiar on the person of Copernicus Droop.
“Hey!” she cried.
“Hey, there, Mister Droop! Copernicus Droop!”
She ended with a shrill, far-carrying,
long-drawn call that sounded much like a “whoop.”
Evidently he heard her, for he started, looked over
his shoulder, and then set off with redoubled speed,
as though anxious to avoid her.
She stopped short for a moment, paralyzed
“Well!” she exclaimed.
“If I ever! I suppose it’s a case
of ’the wicked flee,’ but he can’t
get away from me as easy’s that.”
And then began a race the like of
which was never seen before. In advance, Francis
Bacon scurried forward as fast as he dared without
running, dreading the added publicity his rapid progress
was sure to bring upon him, yet dreading even more
to be overtaken by this amazing female apparition,
in whose accents and intonation he recognized another
of the Droop species.
Behind Bacon came Rebecca, conspicuous
enough in her prim New England gown and bonneted head,
but doubly remarkable as she skipped from stone to
stone to avoid the mud and filth of the unpaved streets,
and swinging in one hand her little black satchel
and in the other her faithful umbrella.
From time to time she called aloud:
“Hey, stop there! Copernicus Droop!
Stop, I say! It’s only Rebecca Wise!”
The race would have been a short one,
indeed, had she not found it impossible to ignore
the puddles, rubbish heaps, and other obstacles which
half-filled the streets and obstructed her path at
every turn. Bacon, who was accustomed to these
conditions and had no impeding skirts to check him,
managed, therefore, to hold his own without actually
These two were not long left to themselves.
Such a progress could not take place in the heart
of England’s capital without forming in its
train an ever-growing suite of the idle and curious.
Ere long a rabble of street-walkers, beggars, pick-pockets,
and loafers were stamping behind Rebecca, repeating
her shrill appeals with coarse variations, and assailing
her with jokes which, fortunately for her, were worded
in terms which her New England ears could not comprehend.
In this order the two strangely clad
beings hurried down toward the Thames; he in the hope
of finding a waterman who should carry him beyond
the reach of his dreaded persecutors; she counting
upon the river, which she knew to lie somewhere ahead,
to check the supposed Copernicus in his obstinate
To the right they turned, through
St. Clement’s Lane into Crooked Lane, and the
ever-growing mob clattered noisily after them, shouting
and laughing a gleeful chorus to her occasional solo.
Leaving Eastcheap and its grimy tenements,
they emerged from New Fish Street and saw the gleam
of the river ahead of them.
At this moment one of the following
crowd, more enterprising than his fellows, ran close
up behind Rebecca and, clutching the edge of her jacket,
sought to restrain her.
“Toll, lass, toll!” he
shouted. “Who gave thee leave to run races
in London streets?”
Rebecca became suddenly fully conscious
for the first time of the sensation she had created.
Stopping short, she swung herself free and looked
her bold assailant fairly in the face.
“Well, young feller,”
she said, with icy dignity, “what can I do fer
The loafer fell back as she turned,
and when she had spoken, he turned in mock alarm and
fled, crying as he ran:
“Save us save us! Ugly and old
as a witch, I trow!”
Those in the background caught his
final words and set up a new cry which boded Rebecca
“A witch a witch! Seize her!
As they now hung back momentarily
in a new dread, self-created in their superstitious
minds, Rebecca turned again to the chase, but was sorely
put out to find that her pause had given the supposed
Droop the advantage of a considerable gain. He
was now not far from the river side. Hoping he
could go no farther, she set off once more in pursuit,
observing silence in order to save her breath.
She would apparently have need of
it to save herself, for the stragglers in her wake
were now impelled by a more dangerous motive than mere
curiosity or mischief. The cry of “Witch”
had awakened cruel depths in their breasts, and they
pressed forward in close ranks with less noise and
greater menace than before.
Two or three rough fellows paused
to kick stones loose from the clay of the streets,
and in a few moments the all-unconscious Rebecca would
have found herself in a really terrible predicament
but for an accident seemingly without bearing upon
Without warning, someone in the upper
story of one of the houses near by threw from a window
a pail of dirty water, which fell with a startling
splash a few feet in front of Rebecca.
She stopped in alarm and looked up severely.
“I declare to goodness!
I b’lieve the folks in this town are all plumb
crazy! Sech doin’s! The idea of throwin’
slops out onto the road! Why, the Kanucks wouldn’t
do that in New Hampshire!”
Slipping her bag onto her left wrist,
she loosened the band of her umbrella and shook the
“Lucky I brought my umbrella!”
she exclaimed. “I guess it’ll be safer
fer me to h’ist this, ef things is goin’
to come out o’ windows!”
All unknown to her, two or three of
the rabble behind her were in the act of poising themselves
with great stones in their hands, and their muscles
were stiffening for a cast when, just in the nick of
time, the obstinate snap yielded, and with a jerk
the umbrella spread itself.
Turning the wide-spread gloria
skyward, Rebecca hurried forward once more, still
bent upon overtaking Copernicus Droop.
That simple act saved her.
A mere inactive witch was one thing a
thing scarce distinguishable from any other old woman.
But this transformation of a black wand into a wide-spreading
tent was so obviously the result of magic, that it
was self-evident they had to do with a witch in full
defensive and offensive state.
Stones fell from deadened hands and
the threatening growls and cries were lost in a unanimous
gasp of alarm. A moment’s pause and then utter
rout. There was a mad stampede and in a trice
the street was empty. Rebecca was alone under
that inoffensive guardian umbrella.
To her grief, she found no one on
the river’s brim. He whom she sought was
half-way across, his conveyance the only wherry in
sight, apparently. Having passed beyond the houses,
Rebecca now folded her umbrella and looked carefully
about her. To her great relief, she caught sight
of a man’s figure recumbent on a stone bench
near at hand. A pair of oars lay by him and betrayed
She stepped promptly to his side and
prodded him with her umbrella.
“Here, mister!” she cried.
“Wake up, please. What do you charge for
ferryin’ folks across the river?”
The waterman sat up, rubbed his eyes
and yawned. Then, without looking at his fare,
he led the way to his boat without reply. He was
chary of words, and after all, did not all the world
know what to pay for conveyance to Southwark?
Rebecca gazed after him for a moment
and then, shaking her head pityingly, she murmured:
“Tut tut! Deef an’ dumb,
poor man! Dear, dear!”
To hesitate was to lose all hope of
overtaking the obstinate Copernicus. So, first
pointing vigorously after the retreating boat with
closed umbrella, and with many winks and nods which
she supposed supplied full meaning to her gestures,
she stepped into the wherry, and the two at once glided
out on the placid bosom of the Thames.
Far different was the spectacle that
greeted her then from that which may now be witnessed
near London Bridge. In those days that bridge
was alone visible, not far to the East, and the tide
that moves now so darkly between stone embankments
beneath a myriad of grimy steamers, then flowed brightly
between low banks and wooden wharves, bearing a gliding
fleet of sailing-vessels. To the south were the
fields and woods of the open country, save where loomed
the low frame houses and the green-stained wharves
of Southwark village. Behind Rebecca was a vast
huddle of frame buildings, none higher than three stories,
sharp of gable overhanging narrow streets, while here
a tower and there a steeple stood sentinel over the
common herd. To the east the four great stone
cylinders of the Tower, frowning over the moving world
at their feet, loomed grimly then as now.
Rebecca had fixed her eyes at first
with a fascinated stare on this mighty mass of building,
penetrated by a chill of fear, although ignorant of
its tragic significance. Turning after a minute
or two from contemplation of that gloomy monument
of tyrannical power, she gazed eagerly forward again,
bent upon keeping sight of the man she was pursuing.
He and his boat had disappeared, but
her disappointment was at once lost in admiring stupefaction
as she gazed upon a magnificent craft bearing across
the bows of her boat and coming from the direction
The hull, painted white, was ornamented
with a bold arabesque of gilding which seemed to flow
naturally in graceful lines from the garment of a
golden image of Victory mounted high on the towering
From the deck at the front and back
rose two large cabins whose sides were all of brilliant
glass set between narrow panels on which were paintings,
which Rebecca could not clearly distinguish from where
she was sitting.
At the waist, between and below the
cabins, ten oars protruded from each side of the barge,
flashing rhythmically as they swept forward together,
seeming to sprinkle drops of sunlight into the river.
The splendor of this apparition, contrasting
as it did with the small and somewhat dingy craft
otherwise visible above the bridge, gave a new direction
to Rebecca’s thoughts and forced from her an
almost involuntary exclamation.
“For the lands sakes!”
she murmured. “Whoever in the world carries
on in sech style’s that!”
The waterman looked over his shoulder,
and no sooner caught sight of the glittering barge
than, with a powerful push of his oars, he backed water
and brought his little boat to a stand.
“The Queen!” he exclaimed.
Rebecca glanced at the boatman with slightly raised
“Thought you was deef an’
dumb,” she said. Then, turning once more
to the still approaching barge, she continued:
“An’ so thet’s Queen Victoria’s
ship, is it?”
“Victoria!” growled the
waterman. “Ye seem as odd in speech as in
dress, mistress. Who gave ye license to miscall
our glorious sovereign?”
Rebecca’s brows were knit in
a thoughtful frown and she scarce knew what her companion
said. The approach of the Queen suggested a new
plan of action. She had heard of queens as all-powerful
rulers, women whose commands would be obeyed at once
and without question, in small and personal things
as in matters of greater moment. Of Queen Victoria,
too, some accounts had reached her, and all had been
in confirmation of that ruler’s justice and
goodness of heart.
Rebecca’s new plan was therefore
to appeal at once to this benign sovereign for aid,
entreat her to command the Burtons to release Phoebe
and to order Copernicus Droop to carry both sisters
back to their New England home. This course recommended
itself strongly to the strictly honest Rebecca, because
it eliminated at once all necessity for “humoring”
Phoebe’s madness, with its implied subterfuges
and equivocations. The moment was propitious
for making an attempt which could at least do no harm,
she thought. She determined to carry out the
plan which had occurred to her.
Standing up in the boat: “What’s
the Queen’s last name?” she asked.
“Be seated, woman!” growled
the waterman, who was growing uneasy at sight of the
increasing eccentricity of his fare. “The
Queen’s name is Elizabeth, as well ye know,”
he concluded, more gently. He hoped to soothe
the woman’s frenzy by concessions.
“Now, mister,” said Rebecca,
severely, “don’t you be sassy to me, fer
I won’t stand it. Of course, I don’t
want her first name she ain’t hired
help. What’s the Queen’s family name quick!”
The waterman, now convinced that his
fare was a lunatic, could think of naught better than
to use soothing tones and to reply promptly, however
absurd her questions. “I’ faith,”
he said, in a mild voice, “I’ faith, mistress,
her Gracious Majesty is of the line of Tudor.
But he broke off in horror.
Waving her umbrella high above her
head, Rebecca, still standing upright in the boat,
was calling at the top of her voice:
“Hallo there! Mrs. Tudor!
Stop the ship, will ye! I want to speak to Mrs.
Tudor a minute!”
All nature seemed to shiver and shrink
in silence at this enormous breach of etiquette to
use a mild term. Involuntarily the ten pairs of
oars in the royal barge hung in mid-air, paralyzed
by that sudden outrage. The great, glittering
structure, impelled by momentum, glided forward directly
under the bows of Rebecca’s boat and not a hundred
Again Rebecca’s cry was borne
shrill and clear across the water.
“Hallo! Hallo there!
Ain’t Mrs. Tudor on the ship? I want to
speak to her!” Then, turning to the stupefied
and trembling waterman:
“Why don’t you row, you?
What’s the matter, anyway? Don’t ye
see they’ve stopped to wait fer us?”
Someone spoke within the after cabin.
The command was repeated in gruff tones by a man’s
voice, and the ten pairs of oars fell as one into the
water and were held rigid to check the progress of
“Wherry, ahoy!” a hail came from the deck.
“Ay, ay, sir!” the waterman cried.
“Ay, ay, sir!”
Pale and weak with dread, the boatman
pulled as well as he could toward the splendid vessel
ahead, while Rebecca resumed her seat, quite satisfied
that all was as it should be.
A few strokes of the oars brought them to the barge’s
Rebecca’s waterman threw a rope to one of the
A young man in uniform glowered down
upon them, and to him the waterman turned, pulling
off his cap and speaking with the utmost humility.
“The jade is moon-struck, your
worship!” he exclaimed, eagerly. “I
would not for a thousand pound ”
the lieutenant. “Who gave thee commission
to ferry madmen, fellow?”
The poor waterman, at his wits’
end, was about to reply when Rebecca interposed.
“Young man,” she said,
standing up, “I’ll thank you to ’tend
to business. Is Mrs. Victoria Tudor at home?”
At this moment a young gentleman,
magnificently apparelled, stepped forth from the after
cabin and approached the man in uniform.
“Lieutenant,” he said,
“her Majesty commands that the woman be brought
before her in person. As for you,” he continued,
turning to the waterman, “return whence you
came, and choose your fares better henceforth.”
Two of the barge’s crew extended each a hand
“Bend onto that, Poll!” said one, grinning.
“Well, I declare!” exclaimed
Rebecca. “I never see sech impident help
in all my born days! Ain’t ye got any steps
for a body to climb?”
A second gorgeously dressed attendant backed hastily
out of the cabin.
“Look alive!” he said,
peremptorily. “Her Majesty waxes impatient.
Where is the woman?”
“Ay, ay, sir!” replied the sailors.
“Here she be!”
They leaned far forward and, grasping
the astonished Rebecca each by a shoulder, lifted
her quickly over the rail.
The first gentleman messenger beckoned
to her and started toward the cabin.
“Follow me!” he said, curtly.
Rebecca straightened her skirt and
bonnet, shook her umbrella, and turned quietly to
the rail, fumbling with the catch of her bag.
“I pity yer manners, young man!”
she said, coldly. Then, with some dismay:
“Here you, mister, don’t ye want yer money?”
But the waterman, only too glad to
escape at all from being involved in her fate, was
pulling back to the northern shore as fast as his boat
“Suit yourself,” said
Rebecca, simply. “Saves me a dime, I guess.”
Turning then to the impatient gentleman
waiting at the door:
“Guess you’re one o’
the family, ain’t ye? Is your ma in, young
Fortunately her full meaning was not
comprehended, and the person addressed contented himself
with drawing aside the heavy curtain of cloth of gold
and motioning to Rebecca to precede him.
She nodded graciously and passed into the cabin.
she said, with an ingratiating smile. “Good
manners never did a mite o’ harm, did they?”
Before following her, the messenger
turned again to the young lieutenant.
“Give way!” he said.
At once the sweeps fell together,
and the great barge resumed its course down the river.
As Rebecca entered the glass and gold
enclosure, she was at first quite dazzled by the crowd
of gorgeously arrayed courtiers who stood in two compact
groups on either side of her. Young and old alike,
all these men of the sword and cloak seemed vying
one with another for precedence in magnificence and
foppery. The rarest silks of every hue peeped
forth through slashed velvets and satins whose
rustling masses bedecked men of every age and figure.
Painted faces and ringed ears everywhere topped snowy
ruffles deep and wide, while in every hand, scented
gloves, fans, or like toys amused the idle fingers.
In the background Rebecca was only
vaguely conscious of a group of ladies in dresses
of comparatively sober pattern and color; but seated
upon a luxurious cushioned bench just in front of the
others, one of her sex struck Rebecca at once as the
very centre and climax of the magnificence that surrounded
Here sat Elizabeth, the vain, proud,
tempestuous daughter of “bluff King Hal.”
Already an old woman, she yet affected the dress and
carriage of young maidenhood, possessing unimpaired
the vanity of a youthful beauty, and, despite her
growing ugliness, commanding the gallant attentions
that gratified and supported that vanity.
Her face, somewhat long and thin,
was carefully painted, but not so successfully as
to hide the many wrinkles traced there by her sixty-five
years. Her few blackened teeth and her false red
hair seemed to be mocked by the transcendent lustre
of the rich pearl pendants in her ears. Her thin
lips, hooked nose, and small black eyes betokened
suppressed anger as she glared upon her admiring visitor;
but, far from being alarmed by the Queen’s expression,
Rebecca was only divided between her admiration of
her magnificent apparel and blushing uneasiness at
sight of the frankly uncovered bosom which Elizabeth
exhibited by right of her spinsterhood. Rebecca
remembered ever afterward how she wished that “all
those men” would sink through the floor of the
The Queen was at first both angry
at the unheard-of language Rebecca had used, and curious
to see what manner of woman dared so to express herself.
But now that she set eyes upon the outlandish garb
of her prisoner, her curiosity grew at the expense
of her wrath, and she sat silent for some time while
her little black eyes sought to explore the inmost
depths of Rebecca’s mind.
Rebecca, for her part, was quite unconscious
of having infringed any of the rules of courtly etiquette,
and, without expressing her belief in her complete
social equality with the Queen or anyone else present,
was so entirely convinced of this equality that she
would have deemed a statement of it ridiculously superfluous.
For a few moments she stood in the
middle of the open space immediately before the Queen,
partly dazed and bewildered into silence, partly expectant
of some remark from her hostess.
At length, observing the grimly rigid
aspect of the silent Queen, Rebecca straightened herself
primly and remarked, with her most formal air:
“I s’pose you are the Queen, ma’am.
You seem to be havin’ a little party jest now.
I hope I’m not intruding but to tell ye the truth,
Mrs. Tudor, I’ve got into a pretty pickle and
I want to ask a little favor of you.”
She looked about to right and left
as though in search of something.
“Don’t seem to be any
chairs around, only yours,” she continued.
Then, with a quick gesture of the hand: “No,
don’t get up. Set right still now.
One o’ your friends here can get me a chair,
I guess,” and she looked very meaningly into
the face of a foppish young courtier who stood near
her, twisting his thin yellow beard.
At this moment the rising wonder of
the Queen reached a climax, and she burst into speech
with characteristic emphasis.
“What the good jere!”
she cried. “Hath some far planet sent us
a messenger. The dame is loyal in all her fantasy.
Say, my Lord of Nottingham, hath the woman a frenzy,
The gentleman addressed stood near
the Queen and was conspicuous for his noble air.
His prominent gray eyes under rounded brows lighted
up a long, oval face surmounted by a high, bald forehead.
The long nose was aquiline, and the generous, full-lipped
mouth was only half hidden by a neatly trimmed full
blond beard. Rebecca noticed his dress particularly
as he stepped forward at the Queen’s summons,
and marvelled at the two doublets and heavy cape coat
over which hung a massive gold chain supporting the
brilliant star of some order. She wondered how
he could breathe with that stiff ruff close up under
his chin and inclined downward from back to front.
Dropping on one knee, Nottingham began
his reply to the Queen’s inquiry, though ere
he finished his sentence he rose to his feet again
at a gracious sign from his royal mistress.
“May it please your Majesty,”
he said, “I would humbly crave leave to remove
the prisoner from a presence she hath nor wit nor will
to reverence. Judicial inquiry, in form appointed,
may better determine than my poor judgment whether
she be mad or bewitched.”
This solemn questioning of her sanity
produced in Rebecca’s mind a teasing compound
of wrath and uneasiness. These people seemed to
find something fundamentally irregular in her behavior.
What could it be? The situation was intolerable,
and she set to work in her straightforward, energetic
way to bring it to an end.
Stepping briskly up to the astonished
Earl of Nottingham, she planted herself firmly before
him, turning her back upon Elizabeth.
“Now look a-here, Mr. Nottingham,”
she said, severely, “I’d like to know
what in the world you see that’s queer about
me or my ways. What’s the matter, anyway?
I came here to make a quiet call on that lady,”
here she pointed at the Queen with her umbrella, “and
instead of anybody bringin’ a chair, or sayin’
‘How d’ye do,’ the whole raft of
ye hev done nothin’ but stare or call me loony.
I s’pose you’re mad because I’ve
interrupted your party, but didn’t that man
there invite me in? Ef you’re all so dreadful
particler, I’ll jest get out o’ here till
Mrs. Tudor can see me private. I’ll set
outside, ef I can find a chair.”
With an air of offended dignity she
stalked toward the door, but turned ere she had gone
ten steps and continued, addressing the assembled
“As fer bein’
loony, I can tell you this. Ef you was where I
come from in America, they’d say every blessed
one of ye was crazy as a hen with her head off.”
“America!” exclaimed the
Queen, as a new thought struck her. “America!
Tell me, dame, come you from the New World?”
“That’s what it’s
sometimes called in the geographies,” Rebecca
stiffly replied. “I come from Peltonville,
New Hampshire, myself. Perhaps I’d ought
to introduce myself. My name’s Rebecca Wise,
daughter of Wilmot and Nancy Wise, both deceased.”
She concluded her sentence with more
of graciousness than she had shown in the beginning,
and the Queen, now fully convinced of the innocent
sincerity of her visitor, showed a countenance of half-amused,
“Why, Sir Walter,” she
cried, “this cometh within your province, methinks.
If that this good woman be an American, you should
be best able to parley with her and learn her will.”
A dark-haired, stern-visaged man of
middle height, dressed less extravagantly than his
fellows, acknowledged this address by advancing and
bending one knee to the deck. Here was no longer
the gay young courtier who so gallantly spoiled a
handsome cloak to save his sovereign’s shoes,
but the Raleigh who had fought a hundred battles for
the same mistress and had tasted the bitterness of
her jealous cruelty in reward.
There was in his pose and manner,
however, much of that old grace which had first endeared
him to Elizabeth, and even now served to fix her fickle
“Most fair and gracious Majesty,”
he said in a low, well-modulated voice, turning upward
a seeming fascinated eye, “what Walter Raleigh
hath learned of any special knowledge his sovereign
hath taught him, and all that he is is hers of right.”
“’Tis well, my good knight,”
said Elizabeth, beckoning with her slender finger
that he might rise. “We know your true devotion
and require now this service, that you question this
stranger in her own tongue concerning her errand here
and her quality and estate at home.”
As Raleigh rose and advanced toward
Rebecca, without turning away from the Queen, the
half-bewildered American brought the end of her umbrella
sharply down upon the floor with a gesture of impatience.
“What everlastin’ play-actin’
ways!” she snapped. Then, addressing Sir
Walter: “Say, Mr. Walter,” she continued,
“ef you can’t walk only sideways, you
needn’t trouble to travel clear over here to
me. I’ll come to you.”
Suiting the action to the word, Rebecca
stepped briskly forward until she stood in front of
the rather crestfallen courtier.
He rallied promptly, however, and
marshalling by an effort all he could remember of
the language of the red man, he addressed the astonished
Rebecca in that tongue.
“What’s that?” she said.
Again Sir Walter poured forth an unintelligible
torrent of syllables which completed Rebecca’s
With a pitying smile, she folded her
hands across her stomach.
“Who’s loony now?” she said, quietly.
Raleigh gazed helplessly from Rebecca
to the Queen and back again from the Queen to Rebecca.
Elizabeth, who had but imperfectly
heard what had passed between the two, leaned forward
“What says she, Raleigh?”
she demanded. “Doth she give a good account?”
“Good my liege,” said
Raleigh, with a despairing gesture, “an the dame
be from America, her tribe and race must needs be a
distant one, placed remote from the coast. The
natives of the Floridas ”
“Florida!” exclaimed Rebecca.
“What you talkin’ about, anyway? That’s
away down South. I come from New Hampshire, I
“Know you that region, Raleigh?”
said the Queen, anxiously.
Raleigh shook his head with a thoughtful expression.
“Nay, your Majesty,” he
replied. “And if I might venture to hint
my doubts ” He paused.
“Well, go on, man go on!” said
the Queen, impatiently.
“I would observe that the name
is an English one, and ’tis scarce credible
that in America, where our tongue is unknown, any region
can be named for an English county.”
“Land sakes!” exclaimed
Rebecca, in growing amazement. “Don’t
know English! Why don’t I talk
as good English as any of ye? You don’t
have to talk Bible talk to speak English, I sh’d
Elizabeth frowned and settled back
in her chair, turning her piercing eyes once more
upon her mysterious visitor.
“Your judgment is most sound,
Sir Walter,” she said. “In sooth,
’twere passing strange were our own tongue to
be found among the savages of the New World!
What have ye to say to this, mistress?”
Rebecca turned her eyes from one to
the other of the bystanders, doubtful at first whether
or not they were all in a conspiracy to mock her.
Her good sense told her that this was wellnigh impossible,
and she finally came to the conclusion that sheer
ignorance was the only explanation.
“Well, well!” she exclaimed
at last. “I’ve heerd tell about how
simple Britishers was, but this beats all! Do
you reely mean to tell me,” she continued, vehemently
nodding her head at the Queen, “that you think
the’s nothin’ but Indians in America?”
A murmur of indignation spread through
the assembly caused by language and manners so little
suited to the address of royalty.
“The woman hath lost her wits!” said the
“There ’tis again!”
said Rebecca, testily. “Why, ef it comes
to talk of simpletons and the like, I guess the pot
can’t call the kettle black!”
Elizabeth gripped the arm of her chair
and leaned forward angrily, while two or three gentlemen
advanced, watching their mistress for the first sign
of a command. At the same moment, a triumphant
thought occurred to Rebecca, and, dropping her umbrella,
she opened her satchel with both hands.
“Ye needn’t to get mad,
Mrs. Tudor,” she said. “I didn’t
mean any offence, but I guess you wouldn’t like
to be called a lunatic yerself. See here,”
she continued, dragging forth a section of the newspaper
which she had brought with her, “ef you folks
won’t believe my word, jest look at this!
It’s all here in the newspaper right
in print. There!”
She held the paper high where all
might see, and with one accord Queen and courtiers
craned forward eagerly, burning with curiosity at sight
of the printed columns interspersed with nineteenth-century
Rebecca stepped forward and handed
the paper to the Queen, and then, drawing forth another
section from her bag, she carried it to the bewildered
Raleigh, who took it like one in a trance.
For some time no one spoke. Elizabeth
turned the paper this way and that, reading a bit
here and a bit there, and gazing spellbound upon the
Having completely mastered the situation,
Rebecca now found time to consider her comfort.
Far on one side, near the door through which she had
entered, there stood a youth of perhaps sixteen, clad
in the somewhat fantastic garb of a page. Having
picked up her umbrella, Rebecca approached this youth
and said in a sharp whisper:
“Couldn’t you get me a chair, sonny?”
The lad disappeared with startling
promptitude, but he did not return. It was an
agony of perplexity and shyness which had moved him,
not a willingness to serve.
Rebecca gazed about at the etiquette-bound
men and women around her and muttered, with an indignant
snort and toss of the head:
“Set o’ decorated haystacks!”
Then, with head held high and a frigid
“Beg pardon, mister!” she elbowed her
way through the dense throng of gentlemen-in-waiting
and seated herself on the bench arranged along the
side of the cabin.
“Oof!” she exclaimed.
“Feels though my legs would drop clear off!”
At length the Queen looked up.
“Why, what now!” she exclaimed. “Whither
hath the strange woman gone?”
A tall man dressed in black and gold
stepped forward and dropped upon one knee. He
had a long, humorous face, with high cheek bones, a
straight, good-humored mouth, with a high mustache
well off the lip and a pointed beard. The eyes,
set far apart, twinkled with the light of fun as he
awaited permission to speak.
“Well, my Lord of Southampton,”
said the Queen, kindly, “I doubt some gay mischief
be afoot. Your face tells me as much, my lord.”
“Nay, my liege,” was the
humble reply. “Can my face so far forget
the duty owed to Royalty as to speak thus, not being
first admitted to discourse!”
Elizabeth smiled and replied:
“Even so, my lord, but we forgive
the offence if that your face hath spoken truth.
Know you aught of the strange woman? Pray be standing.”
The earl arose and replied:
“Of her rank and station, she
must be a queen at least, or she doth forget herself.
This may your Majesty confirm if but these your Majesty’s
servants be commanded to cross the room.”
Elizabeth, puzzled, bowed her head
slightly, and the courtiers behind whom Rebecca had
sought rest walked with one accord to the other side
of the cabin, revealing to the astonished eyes of
the Queen her visitor quietly seated upon the bench.
Rebecca nodded with a pleased look.
“Well, there!” she exclaimed.
“Much obliged to you all. That’s certainly
“Dame,” said Elizabeth,
sternly, “is this the respect you show to them
above you in America?”
“Above me!” said Rebecca,
straightening up stiffly. “There ain’t
anybody put above me at home, I can tell you.
Ef the’ was, I’d put ’em down mighty
quick, I guess.”
Elizabeth raised her brows and, leaning
toward the lord treasurer, who stood at her side,
she said in an undertone:
“This must be some sovereign
princess in her own country, my lord. How comes
it I have not had earlier intelligence of her arrival
in this realm?”
Lord Burleigh bowed profoundly and
mumbled something about its being out of his immediate
province he would have investigation made etc.,
The Queen cut him short a little impatiently.
“Let it be done, my lord,” she said.
Then turning to Rebecca, she continued:
“Our welcome is somewhat tardy,
but none the less sincere. England hath e’er
been friendly to the American, and you had been more
fittingly received had our informants been less negligent.”
Here the Queen shot a glance at poor
Sir Walter Raleigh, who now seemed the personification
“By what name are you called?” Elizabeth
“Wise,” said Rebecca, very graciously,
“Lady Rebecca, will you sit nearer?”
Instantly one of the pages sprang
forward with a low chair, which, in obedience to a
sign from the Queen, he placed at her right hand.
“Why, I’d be right pleased,”
said Rebecca. “That is, if the other folks
don’t mind,” she continued, looking around.
“I don’t want to spile your party.”
So saying, she advanced and sat beside
the Queen, who now turned once more to the luckless
“Well, Sir Walter,” she
said, “what say you now? You have the printed
proof. Can you make aught of it? How comes
it that in all your fine travels in the New World
you have heard no English spoken?”
“Oh, I dare say ’tain’t
his fault!” said Rebecca, indulgently. “I’m
told they have a mighty queer way o’ talkin’
down South, where he’s ben. Comes
o’ bein’ brought up with darkies, ye know.”
Elizabeth took up the newspaper once more.
“Was this printed in your realm, Lady Rebecca?”
Elizabeth started haughtily, but recollected herself
“Was this leaf printed in your country?”
“Oh, yes yes, indeed! Down to
New York. Pretty big paper, ain’t it?”
“Not voluminous alone, but right
puzzling to plain English minds,” said the Queen,
scanning the paper severely. “Instance this.”
Slowly she read the opening lines of a market report:
“The bulls received a solar-plexus
blow yesterday when it was reported that the C. R.
and L. directors had resigned in a body owing to the
“What words are these?”
Elizabeth exclaimed in a despairing tone. “What
is a plexus of the sun, and how doth it blow on a bull?”
Rebecca jumped up and brought her
head close to the Queen’s, peering over the
paper which she held. She read and reread the
paragraph in question and finally resumed her chair,
slowly shaking her head.
“I guess that’s the Wall
Street talk I’ve heerd tell of,” she said.
“I don’t understand that kind myself.”
“Why, Sir Walter,” Elizabeth
exclaimed, triumphantly, “here have we two separate
tribes at least, each speaking its proper dialect.
Can it be that you have heard no word of these before?”
“Even so, my liege,” was
the dejected reply, “the tribes of the North
are known to no man as yet.”
“Passing strange!” mused
the Queen, running a critical eye over the printed
page before her. “Your talk, and that of
others, hath been only of wild, copper-colored savages,
living in rude huts and wearing only skins. Sure
such as these have not types and printing-presses!
What is this book, Lady Rebecca?”
“That’s a newspaper, ma’am.
Don’t you have ’em in London? They
come out every day an’ people pay a penny apiece
Elizabeth flashed a stern glance upon her visitor.
“’Twere best not go too
far, my lady,” she said, harshly. “E’en
traveller’s tales must in some sort ape the truth
at least. Now, prithee, to what end is such a
pamphlet printed why, ’tis endless!”
“I’ll shet right up, Mis’
Tudor, ef ye think I’m tellin’ wrong stories,”
said Rebecca, indignantly. “Thet’s
a newspaper an’ thet’s all there is to
Elizabeth evaded the issue and turned
now to the illustrations.
“These be quaint-wondrous images!”
she said. “Pray, what now may this be?
Some fantastic reverie limned for amusement?”
Rebecca jumped up again and peered
over the Queen’s shoulder.
“Why, thet’s a picture
of the troops marchin’ down Broadway, in New
York City. See, it’s all explained in print
“But these men
carry arquebuses and wear a livery.
And these temples to what false gods are
they set up?”
“False gods!” exclaimed
Rebecca. “Bless your simple heart, those
ain’t temples. They’re jest the buildin’s
where the men hev their offices.”
Elizabeth sat in mute contemplation,
vainly seeking to realize it all.
“My lords!” she burst
forth suddenly, casting the paper violently to the
floor, “or this be rank forgery and fraud or
else have we been strangely deceived.”
She frowned at Sir Walter, who dropped his eyes.
“’Tis not to be believed
that such vast cities and great armies habited by
peoples polite and learned may be found across the
sea and no report of it come to them that visit there.
How comes it that we must await so strange a chance
as this to learn such weighty news?”
She paused and only silence ensued.
Rebecca stooped and recovered the
paper, which in falling had opened so as to expose
“Don’t be surprised,”
she said, soothingly. “I allus did
hear that Britishers knew mighty little ’bout
Still frowning, Elizabeth mechanically
stretched forth her hand and Rebecca gave her the
paper. The Queen glanced at the sheet and her
face lost its stern aspect as she eagerly brought
the print nearer to her eyes.
“Why, what now!” she exclaimed.
“God mend us, here have we strange attire!
Is this a woman of your tribe, my lady?”
Rebecca looked and blushed. Then,
in an uneasy tone, she said:
“That’s jest an advertisement
fer a new corset, Mis’ Tudor. I never
did see how folks ever allowed sech things to be printed ’tain’t
“A corset, call you it! And these, then?”
“Oh, those are the styles, the
fashions! That’s the fashion page, ye know.
That’s where they tell all about what the rich
folks down to New York are wearin’.”
There was a murmur and a rustle among
the ladies-in-waiting, who had hitherto made no sign,
and upon the Queen’s cheek there spread an added
tinge, betokening a high degree of interest and gratification.
“Ah!” she sighed, and
glanced pleasantly over her shoulder, “here be
matters of moment, indeed! Your Grace of Devonshire,
what say you to this?”
Eagerly the elderly lady so addressed
stepped forward and made a low reverence.
“Look look here,
ladies all!” Elizabeth continued, with a tremor
of excitement in her voice. “Saw you ever
such an array as this?”
With one accord the whole bevy of
assembled ladies pressed forward, trembling with delighted
anticipation. A fashion sheet and from
the New World! What wonder they were moved!
Her Majesty was about to begin perusal
of one of the fascinating paragraphs wherein were
described those marvellous fashion-plates when there
was a cry outside of “Way ’nough!”
and a moment later the smart young lieutenant who
had before accosted Rebecca entered and stood at attention.
Elizabeth looked up and frowned slightly.
Folding the paper carefully, she called to Sir Walter,
who still held in his unconscious hand the other section
of the paper.
“Bring hither yon sheet, Sir
Walter,” she cried. “Perchance there
may be further intelligence of this sort therein.
We will peruse both pamphlets at our leisure anon.”
Then, turning to the Lord High Admiral:
“My Lord of Nottingham,”
she said, “you may depart. Your duties await
you without. Let it be the charge of your Grace,”
she continued, addressing the Duchess of Devonshire,
“to attend her Highness the Lady Rebecca.
See that she be maintained as suits her rank, and let
her be near our person that we may not lose aught
of her society.”
The ceremony of landing prevented
further discourse between Rebecca and the Queen, and
it was with the greatest interest that the stranger
observed every detail of the formal function.
Peering through the glass sides of
the cabin, Rebecca could see the landing wharf, thronged
with servants and magnificently dressed officers,
while beyond there loomed a long, two-storied white
stone building, with a round-arched entrance flanked
by two towers. This was Greenwich Palace, a favorite
summer residence of the Queen.