« PreviousContinue »
and unaffected grace' with which she met them. As she was about to enter the hall where she was to die, one more touching appeal was made by her, that her poor servants might be permitted to see her die. At last, even the flinty hearts of Shrewsbury and Kent were moved, and faithful Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth Curl, together with her much attached physician, were sent for. 'She so wanted them,' she said, 'that their eyes might behold and their hearts bear witness how patiently their queen and mistress should endure the pangs of her execution, that thereby they might be able to make relation when they should return to their own country, how that she died a constant Catholic to her religion.' As she closed this appeal, and just as she entered the hall, Melville met her, and throwing himself upon his knees, wringing his hands, and with the tears pouring down his cheeks, addressed her pathetically as fol. lows: 'Ah! Madam, unhappy that I am, what man on earth ever was before the messenger of such sorrow and heaviness, when I shall report in Scotland that my good and gracious queen and mistress is beheaded in England !' But Mary, much affected and weeping, replied most touchingly : “My good servant, cease to lament, for thou hast cause to rejoice that thou shalt behold Mary Stuart's troubles receive their long-expected end and determination ; for know, my good servant, that all this world is but vanity, and subject still to more sorrows than an ocean of tears could wash out. But I do pray you report this for me, that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true woman to Scotland and France; but God forgive those who have thirsted for my blood, as the hart doth for the water-brooks. Commend me to my son, and tell him I never did aught prejudicial to Scotland.' Thus saying, she kissed Melville twice most affectionately, saying, “Pray for thy poor mistress and queen, and then turned herself to the lords and said she was ready. Melville bore her train, she being supported on each side by the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury, the weeping servants that were permitted to accompany her following in the rear, and so the mournful procession moved on across the large hall to the farther end, where the scaffold had been erected. It was simply a raised platform, about two feet high and seven broad, surrounded by a rail and covered with black cloth. Upon it were placed a low chair, two other seats, and the dreadful block. By the side of the block stood two executioners masked, while the dreadful axe flashed in the beams of the morning sun that now fell upon it from a lofty window above. Mary gazed on all this dread array without changing countenance, or, as one of the spectators said, 'with countenance unappauled, and withoute terror of the place!' Then smilingly she mounted the steps with the grace and dignity she had ever manifested in ascending the steps of her throne. Thereupon, silence being made, Mr. Beale, the clerk of the Privy Council, read the Queen's Majesty's commission for the execution. During the reading of the commission Mary was very silent, listening to it, however, with such carelessness that one could never have supposed that it concerned her death, but rather with such a smiling, cheerful countenance that one might have conceived it was a pardon.
After this the Dean of Peterborough, Doctor Fletcher, offered up a long prayer, but during the whole of it Mary sat upon the low chair, having about her neck her Agnus Dei, in her right hand a crucifix, and in her left a Latin prayer-book, from which she began to pray in a low voice. As she was raising the cross and looking earnestly toward it, Kent, in the excess of his bigoted Zeal, and with that malicious cruelty only to be found in the hearts of persecutors, said in a harsh tone : 'Woman, renounce such antiquated superstitions ; that image of CHRIST serves to little purpose, if you have Him not engraved upon your heart.' And oh! what a scathing rebuke was the meek and Christian-like reply of that brave spirit who stood there face to face with death : • Ah! my good Lord, there is nothing more becoming a dying Christian than to carry in her hands the remembrance of her redemption; how impossible it is to have such an object in the hands, and keep the heart unmoved.? Then bowing her head, she remained some time in prayer; and there upon her knees, with hands clasped together and raised toward heaven, while divine serenity lighted up her beautiful features, did Mary Stuart invoke compassion for her murderers. Then kissing most earnestly the crucifix, and making the sign of the cross, she exclaimed: “As THINE arms, O my God! were spread out upon the cross, so receive me within the arms of Thy mercy.' She then repeated that beautiful Latin prayer, composed by herself:
.O DOMINE Deus! speravi in te !
Adoro, imploro, ut liberes me.'
'In this last solemn and tremendous hour,
And bear her to Thy peaceful realms above.' This finished, her two female servants, assisting her to rise, began to disrobe her. During all the time of this dreadful preparation for the last act of the fearful tragedy, she scarcely altered countenance, but gently smiling when one of the executioners stepped forward to assist, said she never had such grooms before to make her unready, nor ever did put off her clothes before so large a company. At length, being all ready, standing there simply in her petticoat and kirtle, her two women looking upon her burst forth into pitiful crying; but she, embracing and kissing them, said : ‘Do not cry for me, but rejoice and pray for me.' Then turning to Melville and her men-servants outside the railing, who were sometime weeping, sometime crying out aloud, and continually crossing themselves and praying in Latin, she bade them a most affectionate farewell, and begged them to pray for her to the last hour. That finished, one of her women having a Corpus Christi cloth, lapped it up three-corner wise and kissed it, putting it over Mary's face and pinning it fast upon the caul that was upon her head; then her maids stepped back a few paces, the Queen knelt upon the cushion that was before the block, and groping for it, laid down her head upon it, putting her long hair over the block with both her hands, which, holding there, would have been cut off, had not one of the executioners noticed it. Then, her hands being removed, she stretched out her neck once more, murmuring, 'Into Thy hands, O LORD! I commend my spirit ;' and while one of the executioners held her lightly with his hands, the other struck two strokes with his axe before he severed her head, and at the second stroke, says an eye witness, “She made a small grone, and so died.'
Surely such a death, in the estimation of her bitterest enemies, should have atoned for all the errors of her life. Surely these Stuarts, if they knew not how to live, had strangely learned, what knowing how to live is always said to teach, namely, ‘how to die.'
On a sultry evening in August, in the year of our LORD 1597, there sat in a low, vaulted room in the college at Manchester, England, a man whose head was whitened by the frosts of seventy winters, and whose wrinkled face and deeply sunken eyes bore the traces of unusual care, anxiety and sorrow. This venerable man sat thus, meditating and deeply involved inwardly, in a mighty problem to whose solution he had given an entire life, and as yet without suc
Toil and study as he might, (wedding the Red Lion to the White Lily, in the tepid bath,) there never came to him an insight into that blessed arcana,' the philosopher's stone or powder of projection; and melt, smelt and mingle as he would, he transmuted no lead into gold, but rather his gold fled far from him and would not return.
Disconsolate, therefore, and weary, Dr. John Dee sat this evening in his study, smoking of that noxious weed recently introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, and against which King James should presently fulminate. Good Queen Bess ruled now, and Dr. Dee smoked in peace. He sat in a high-backed, leathercovered chair; wore on his head a square black cap, upon his body a long gown of black serge, trimmed about the neck, breast and wrists with sable.
The room in which he sat presented a strange medley of objects. Skins of crocodiles, skulls, broken retorts, bottles, yellow and dusty tomes — look at the third plate in the Marriage a la Mode series, and you will see the room, or one enough like it for all practical purposes, with an open door giving further view into a laboratory beyond. One thing is here, however, that Hogarth’s future picture will lack: a heavy and richly-carved cabinet of ebony, standing upon a table in the centre of the chamber - casket more precious than ever held monarch's crown or diamond of price. For it contains Dr. Dee's famous crystal
Some years before the evening when the old man sits so despondent, this crystal had been brought to him (through the intervention of Edward Kelly, then his familiar servant) by the hands of the Angel Uriel ; and, looking into it day after day, Kelly had read therein, and heard therefrom, much valuable lore. And still they had gotten no riches, and Dr. Dee was poorer to-day than he was fifty years since. Ah! he well knew why! Kelly alone could read the crystal ; in the Doctor's case 'a fiery sign occupied the cusp of his ascendant,' which, of course, precluded any hope for conversation, on his part, with spirits. Edward Kelly could read the crystal, but alas ! just at the time that he had learned the true secret of the powder of projection, by which means much gold began to pour into their coffers, he left his master and went into business on his own account, making much money by means of mercenary magic.
Alas! therefore, for Dr. Dee, who, having the magic crystal, could in no wise make use of it. He who had once been the adviser of Rodolph the Second of Germany, and the confident of many other potentates; 'whose predictions astonished Europe; his presence, like some portentous comet, threatening war and disaster, perplexing even emperors and princes, and filling them with apprehension and dismay;' who had even aspired to become, through his wonderful stone, the arbiter of the destinies of mankind and dictator to the world; this once great man sat in his high-backed chair, and vegetated upon a paltry pension from Queen Elizabeth, and a small salary for his services as warden of the college. Alas! for Dr. Dee.
Still the venerable alchemist hoped for better times, through some means whereby to read his crystal, or some discovery in his continual chemical experiments, which should enable him to solve that great problem of the transmutation of the baser metals into their finer, innate essence of gold.
In this steady belief of his, he was by no means singular. Even now may be found a few individuals who believe in the theory of perpetual motion, and for many years after Dr. Dee's time, the most learned men in the world fully credited the theory of the philosopher's stone. Fifty years later than the date of our story, Dr. John Evelyn, one of the most highly-cultivated men of his time, and an author of no mean rank, met with one Marc Antonio in Paris, whose tales are set forth, with evident belief in their authenticity, as follows:
'He told us great stories of a Genoese jeweller who had the great arcanum, and had made projection before him several times. He met him at Cyprus, travelling into Egypt, on return from whence he died at sea, and the secret with him. He also affirmed that, being in a goldsmith's shop at Amsterdam, a person of very low stature came in and desired the goldsmith to melt him a pound of lead, which done, he unscrewed the pummel of his sword, and taking out a small quantity of powder and casting it into the crucible, which when cold he took up, saying, “Sir, you will be paid for your lead in the crucible,' and so went out immediately. When he was gone, the goldsmith found four ounces of good gold in it, but could never set eyes again on the little man, though he sought the whole city for him.'
Thus, also, Adrian Helvetius, famous Dutch physician, who went to Paris and discovered some of the modern uses of ipecacuanha, writing a century after Dr. Dee's time, says:
"One afternoon in December came a stranger to my house at the Hague, in a plebeian habit, of honest gravity and serious authority, of a mean stature and a little, long face, black hair, not at all curled, a beardless chin, about forty years old, (as I guess,) and born in North-Holland. After salutation he besought me with great reverence to excuse his rough accessories. 'I am,' he said, 'a brass-founder and a lover of chemistry.' He then took from his bosom a neat ivory box, and out of it three ponderous lumps of stone, each about the bigness of a walnut. I greedily saw and handled, for a quarter of an hour, this most noble substance, the value of which might be somewhere about twenty tons of gold; and having drawn from the owner many rare secrets of its admirable effects, I returned him this treasure of treasures, with most sorrowful mind, humbly begging him to bestow a fragment upon me in perpetual remembrance of him, though but the size of a coriander-seed. - No, no,' said he, that is not lawful, though thou wouldst give me as many golden ducats as would fill this room ; for it would have particular consequences ; and if fire could be burned of fire, I would at this instant rather cast it into the fiercest flame.'
Helvetius then goes on to state that he put the stranger into his best chamber, 'which he entered without wiping his shoes, that were full of snow and dirt.' Also, he tells how he stole from him a small thumb-nail scraping of the precious stone, and how the stranger gave him another very minute portion, and instructed him as follows:
'Fling not away thy money and goods in hunting out this art, for thou shalt never find it ; for unless thou knowest the thing from head to heel, thou canst not break open the glassy seal of Hermes.'
Thereupon he departed, and Helvetius never saw him more. The only moral to the talę is; that, whereas the stolen bit of stone produced no gold, the bit freely given by the stranger did produce a small quantity, of the very purest kind.
Intent upon hopes to procure some knowledge of this most marvellous powder of projection, or at least to obtain insight into some riches-compelling secret, Dr. Dee sits in his chamber, and even now there comes a stranger near unto his habitation, who shall perform for him, perchance, some wonder such as Kelly never attempted. There is gold enow in the world, if one could but find it.
Thus sat Dr. Dee, smoking the noxious weed, tobacco, and pondering with much bitterness over the useless past, or revolving, perchance, some hopeless scheme for the future, when his door was flung open with considerable violence, and a pert maid-servant (one of the chiefest plagues of the Doctor's life) burst into the room.
The venerable philosopher settled his square cap more firmly upon his head, and gazed sternly at the intruder.
• How often have I told thee, girl,' quoth he, 'in no wise to enter here, but