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Chapter 14
This is rare news thou tell'st me, my good fellow;
There are two bulls fierce battling on the green
For one fair heifer--if the one goes down,
The dale will be more peaceful, and the herd,
Which have small interest in their brulziement,
May pasture there in peace.--OLD PLAY.
Sayes Court was watched like a beleaguered fort; and so high rose the suspicions of
the time, that Tressilian and his attendants were stopped and questioned repeatedly by
sentinels, both on foot and horseback, as they approached the abode of the sick Earl. In
truth, the high rank which Sussex held in Queen Elizabeth's favour, and his known and
avowed rivalry of the Earl of Leicester, caused the utmost importance to be attached to
his welfare; for, at the period we treat of, all men doubted whether he or the Earl of
Leicester might ultimately have the higher rank in her regard.
Elizabeth, like many of her sex, was fond of governing by factions, so as to balance two
opposing interests, and reserve in her own hand the power of making either
predominate, as the interest of the state, or perhaps as her own female caprice (for to
that foible even she was not superior), might finally determine. To finesse--to hold the
cards--to oppose one interest to another--to bridle him who thought himself highest in
her esteem, by the fears he must entertain of another equally trusted, if not equally
beloved, were arts which she used throughout her reign, and which enabled her, though
frequently giving way to the weakness of favouritism, to prevent most of its evil effects
on her kingdom and government.
The two nobles who at present stood as rivals in her favour possessed very different
pretensions to share it; yet it might be in general said that the Earl of Sussex had been
most serviceable to the Queen, while Leicester was most dear to the woman. Sussex
was, according to the phrase of the times, a martialist--had done good service in Ireland
and in Scotland, and especially in the great northern rebellion, in 1569, which was
quelled, in a great measure, by his military talents. He was, therefore, naturally
surrounded and looked up to by those who wished to make arms their road to
distinction. The Earl of Sussex, moreover, was of more ancient and honourable descent
than his rival, uniting in his person the representation of the Fitz-Walters, as well as of
the Ratcliffes; while the scutcheon of Leicester was stained by the degradation of his
grandfather, the oppressive minister of Henry VII., and scarce improved by that of his
father, the unhappy Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, executed on Tower Hill, August
22, 1553. But in person, features, and address, weapons so formidable in the court of a
female sovereign, Leicester had advantages more than sufficient to counterbalance the
military services, high blood, and frank bearing of the Earl of Sussex; and he bore, in
the eye of the court and kingdom, the higher share in Elizabeth's favour, though (for
such was her uniform policy) by no means so decidedly expressed as to warrant him
against the final preponderance of his rival's pretensions. The illness of Sussex