« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
mind for the doleful tidings, came to visit her: but hearing she was at rest, he waited till she should awake of herself, which she presently did with the terror of a frightful dream. Her brother seemed to pass through a field with her, in her coach; where hearing a sudden shout of the people, and asking the reason, she was told it was for joy that Buckingham was sick.' This melancholy vision she had scarcely related unto her gentlewoman, before the Bishop entered her chamber, as the chosen messenger of the Duke's death.
But the most remarkable instance of all is the celebrated story of the apparition, which is recorded by Lord Clarendon. "There was an officer in the King's wardrobe in Windsor Castle, of a good reputation for honesty and discretion, and then about the age of fifty years or more. This man had in his youth been bred in a school in the parish where Sir George Villiers, the father of the Duke, lived; and had been much cherished and obliged, in that season of his age, by the said Sir George, whom afterward he never saw.
"About six months before the miserable end of the Duke of Buckingham, about midnight, this man being in his bed at Windsor (where his office was) and in very good health, there appeared to him on the side of his bed a man of a very venerable aspect, who drew the curtains of his bed, and fixing his eyes upon him, asked him if he knew him.' The poor man, half dead with fear and apprehension, being asked the second time whether he remembered him,' and having in that time called to his memory the presence of Sir George Villiers and the very clothes he used to wear, in which at that time he seemed to be habited, he answered him, that he
thought him to be that person.' He replied, he was in the right, that he was the same, and that he expected a service from him, which was that he should go from him to his son the Duke of Buckingham, and tell him, if he did not somewhat to ingratiate himself to the people, or at least to abate the extreme malice which they had against him, he would be suffered to live but a short time.' After this discourse he disappeared, and the poor man (if he had been at all waking) slept very well till morning, when he believed all this to be a dream, and considered it no otherwise.
"The next night, or shortly afterward, the same person appeared to him again in the same place, and about the same time of the night, with an aspect a little more severe than before, and asked him, whether he had done as he had required of him;' and perceiving he had not, gave him very severe reprehensions, told him he expected more compliance from him, and that if he did not perform his commands, he should enjoy no peace of mind, but should always be pursued by him:' upon which he promised him to obey. But the next morning waking out of a good sleep, though he was exceedingly perplexed with the lively representation of all particulars to his memory, he was still willing to persuade himself that he had only dreamed, and considered that he was a person at such a distance from the Duke, that he knew not how to find out any admission to his presence, much less had any hope to be believed in what he should say; so with great trouble and unquietness he spent some time in thinking what he should do, and in the end resolved to do nothing in the matter.
"The same person appeared to him the third time
with a terrible countenance, and bitterly reproaching him for not performing what he had promised to do. The poor man had, by this time, recovered the courage to tell him, that in truth he had deferred the execution of his commands, upon considering how difficult a thing it would be for him to get any access to the Duke, having acquaintance with no person about him; and if he should obtain admission to him, he should never be able to persuade him that he was sent in such a manner: that he should at least be thought to be mad, or to be set on and employed by his own, or the malice of other men, to abuse the Duke; and so he should be sure to be undone.' The person replied, as he had done before, that he should never find rest till he should perform what he had required, and therefore he were better to despatch it: that the access to his son was known to be very easy, and that few men waited long for him; and for the gaining him credit, he would tell him two or three particulars, which he charged him never to mention to any person living but to the Duke himself; and he should no sooner hear them, but he should believe all the rest he should say:' and so, repeating his threats, he left him.
"In the morning the poor man, more confirmed by the last appearance, made his journey to London, where the court then was. He was very well known to Sir Ralph Freeman, one of the Masters of Requests, who had married a lady that was nearly allied to the Duke, and was himself well received by him. To him this man went, and though he did not acquaint him with all the particulars, he said enough to let him know there was something extraordinary in it; and the knowledge he had of the sobriety and dis
cretion of the man, made the more impression on him. He desired, that by his means he might be brought to the Duke, in such a place and in such a manner as should be thought fit, affirming that 'he had much to say to him, and of such a nature as would require much privacy, and some time and patience in the hearing.' Sir Ralph promised, he would speak first with the Duke of him, and then he should understand his pleasure; and accordingly, the first opportunity, he did inform him of the reputation and honesty of the man, and then what he desired, and of all he knew of the matter. The Duke, according to his usual openness and condescension, told him that he was the next day early to hunt with the King: that his horses should attend him at Lambeth bridge, where he should land by five of the clock in the morning; and, if the man attended him there at that hour, he would walk and speak with him as long as should be necessary.'
"Sir Ralph carried the man with him the next morning, and presented him to the Duke at his landing, who received him very courteously, and walked aside in conference near an hour: none but his own servants being at that hour in that place, and they and Sir Ralph at such a distance, that they could not hear a word; though the Duke sometimes spoke loud and with great emotion, which Sir Ralph the more easily observed and perceived, because he kept his eyes always fixed upon the Duke, having procured the conference upon somewhat he knew was extraordinary. The man told him, in his return over the water, that 'when he mentioned those particulars which were to gain him credit (the substance. whereof, he said, he durst not impart unto him) the
Duke's colour changed, and he swore he could come at that knowledge only by the devil, for that those particulars were only known to himself and to one person more, who he was sure would never speak of it.
"The Duke pursued his purpose of hunting, but was observed to ride all the morning with great pensiveness and in deep thoughts, without any delight in the exercise he was upon; and before the morning was spent, left the field, and alighted at his mother's lodgings in Whitehall, with whom he was shut up for the space of two or three hours, the noise of their discourse frequently reaching the ears of those who attended in the next rooms. And when the Duke left her, his countenance appeared full of trouble with a mixture of anger, a countenance that was never before observed in him in any conversation with her, toward whom he had a profound reverence; and the Countess herself (for though she was married to a private gentleman, Sir Thomas Compton, she had been created Countess of Buckingham shortly after her son had assumed that title) was, at the Duke's leaving her, found overwhelmed in tears, and in the highest agony imaginable.
"Whatever there was of all this, it is a notorious truth, that when the news of the Duke's murther (which happened within a few months after) was
* Fame insinuates, that the secret token was an incestuous breach of modesty between the Duke and a certain lady too nearly related to him, which it surprised him to hear of: this he thought he had good reasons to be sure the lady would not herself have communicated, and therefore he concluded none but the devil could have divulged the matter so that he was very far from receiving the man slightly, or laughing at his message