Kenilworth HTML version

Chapter 18
The moment comes--
It is already come--when thou must write
The absolute total of thy life's vast sum.
The constellations stand victorious o'er thee,
The planets shoot good fortune in fair junctions,
And tell thee, "Now's the time."
When Leicester returned to his lodging, alter a day so important and so harassing, in
which, after riding out more than one gale, and touching on more than one shoal, his
bark had finally gained the harbour with banner displayed, he seemed to experience as
much fatigue as a mariner after a perilous storm. He spoke not a word while his
chamberlain exchanged his rich court-mantle for a furred night-robe, and when this
officer signified that Master Varney desired to speak with his lordship, he replied only by
a sullen nod. Varney, however, entered, accepting this signal as a permission, and the
chamberlain withdrew.
The Earl remained silent and almost motionless in his chair, his head reclined on his
hand, and his elbow resting upon the table which stood beside him, without seeming to
be conscious of the entrance or of the presence of his confidant. Varney waited for
some minutes until he should speak, desirous to know what was the finally predominant
mood of a mind through which so many powerful emotions had that day taken their
course. But he waited in vain, for Leicester continued still silent, and the confidant saw
himself under the necessity of being the first to speak. "May I congratulate your
lordship," he said, "on the deserved superiority you have this day attained over your
most formidable rival?"
Leicester raised his head, and answered sadly, but without anger, "Thou, Varney,
whose ready invention has involved me in a web of most mean and perilous falsehood,
knowest best what small reason there is for gratulation on the subject."
"Do you blame me, my lord," said Varney, "for not betraying, on the first push, the secret
on which your fortunes depended, and which you have so oft and so earnestly
recommended to my safe keeping? Your lordship was present in person, and might
have contradicted me and ruined yourself by an avowal of the truth; but surely it was no
part of a faithful servant to have done so without your commands."
"I cannot deny it, Varney," said the Earl, rising and walking across the room; "my own
ambition has been traitor to my love."