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   Chapter 21 XXIToC

When Knighthood Was in Flower By Charles Major Characters: 42343

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Letters from a Queen

Upon our return to England I left Jane down in Suffolk with her uncle, Lord Bolingbroke, having determined never to permit her to come within sight of King Henry again, if I could prevent it. I then went up to London with the twofold purpose of seeing Brandon and resigning my place as Master of the Dance.

When I presented myself to the king and told him of my marriage, he flew into a great passion because we had not asked his consent. One of his whims was that everyone must ask his permission to do anything; to eat, or sleep, or say one's prayers; especially to marry, if the lady was of a degree entitled to be a king's ward. Jane, fortunately, had no estate, the king's father having stolen it from her when she was an infant; so all the king could do about our marriage was to grumble, which I let him do to his heart's content.

"I wish also to thank your majesty for the thousand kindnesses you have shown me," I said, "and, although it grieves me to the heart to separate from you, circumstances compel me to tender my resignation as your Master of Dance." Upon this he was kind enough to express regret, and ask me to reconsider; but I stood my ground firmly, and then and there ended my official relations with Henry Tudor forever.

Upon taking my leave of the king I sought Brandon, whom I found comfortably ensconced in our old quarters, he preferring them to much more pretentious apartments offered him in another part of the palace. The king had given him some new furnishings for them, and as I was to remain a few days to attend to some matters of business, he invited me to share his comfort with him, and I gladly did so.

Those few days with Brandon were my farewell to individuality. Thereafter I was to be so mysteriously intermingled with Jane that I was only a part-and a small part at that I fear-of two. I did not, of course, regret the change, since it was the one thing in life I most longed for, yet the period was tinged with a faint sentiment of pathos at parting from the old life that had been so kind to me, and which I was leaving forever. I say I did not regret it, and though I was leaving my old haunts and companions and friends so dear to me, I was finding them all again in Jane, who was friend as well as wife.

Mary's letter was in one of my boxes which had been delayed, and Jane was to forward it to me when it should come. When I told Brandon of it, I dwelt with emphasis upon its bulk, and he, of course, was delighted, and impatient to have it. I had put the letter in the box, but there was something else which Mary had sent to him that I had carried with me. It was a sum of money sufficient to pay the debt against his father's estate, and in addition, to buy some large tracts of land adjoining. Brandon did not hesitate to accept the money, and seemed glad that it had come from Mary, she, doubtless, being the only person from whom he would have taken it.

One of Brandon's sisters had married a rich merchant at Ipswich, and another was soon to marry a Scotch gentleman. The brother would probably never marry, so Brandon would eventually have to take charge of the estates. In fact, he afterwards lived there many years, and as Jane and I had purchased a little estate near by, which had been generously added to by Jane's uncle, we saw a great deal of him. But I am getting ahead of my story again.

The d'Angouleme complication troubled me greatly, notwithstanding my faith in Mary, and although I had resolved to say nothing to Brandon about it, I soon told him plainly what I thought and feared.

He replied with a low, contented little laugh.

"Do not fear for Mary, I do not. That young fellow is of different stuff, I know, from the old king, but I have all faith in her purity and ability to take care of herself. Before she left she promised to be true to me, whatever befell, and I trust her entirely. I am not so unhappy by any means as one would expect. Am I?" And I was compelled to admit that he certainly was not.

So it seems they had met, as Jane and I suspected, but how Mary managed it I am sure I cannot tell; she beat the very deuce for having her own way, by hook or by crook. Then came the bulky letter, which Brandon pounced upon and eagerly devoured. I leave out most of the sentimental passages, which, like effervescent wine, lose flavor quickly. She said-in part:

"To Master Brandon:

"Sir and Dear Friend, Greeting-After leaving thee, long time had I that mighty grief and dole within my heart that it was like to break; for my separation from thee was so much harder to bear even than I had taken thought of, and I also doubted me that I could live in Paris, as I did wish. Sleep rested not upon my weary eyes, and of a very deed could I neither eat nor drink, since food distasted me like a nausea, and wine did strangle in my throat. This lasted through my journey hither, which I did prolong upon many pretexts, nearly two months, but when I did at last rest mine eyes for the first time upon this King Louis's face, I well knew that I could rule him, and when I did arrive, and had adjusted myself in this Paris, I found it so easy that my heart leaped for very joy. Beauty goeth so far with this inflammable people that easily do I rule them all, and truly doth a servile subject make a sharp, capricious tyrant. Thereby the misfortune which hath come upon us is of so much less evil, and is so like to be of such short duration, that I am almost happy-but for lack of thee-and sometimes think that after all it may verily be a blessing unseen.

"This new, unexpected face upon our trouble hath so driven the old gnawing ache out of my heart that I love to be alone, and dream, open-eyed, of the time, of a surety not far off, when I shall be with thee.... It is ofttimes sore hard for me, who have never waited, to have to wait, like a patient Griselda, which of a truth I am not, for this which I do so want; but I try to make myself content with the thought that full sure it will not be for long, and that when this tedious time hath spent itself, we shall look back upon it as a very soul-school, and shall rather joy that we did not purchase our heaven too cheaply.

"I said I find it easy to live here as I wish, and did begin to tell thee how it was, when I ran off into telling of how I long for thee; so I will try again. This Louis, to begin with, is but the veriest shadow of a man, of whom thou needst have not one jealous thought. He is on a bed of sickness most of the time, of his own accord, and if, perchance, he be but fairly well a day or so, I do straightway make him ill again in one way or another, and, please God, hope to wear him out entirely ere long time. Of a deed, brother Henry was right; better had it been for Louis to have married a human devil than me, for it maketh a very one out of me if mine eyes but rest upon him, and thou knowest full well what kind of a devil I make-brother Henry knoweth, at any rate. For all this do I grieve, but have no remedy, nor want one. I sometimes do almost compassionate the old king, but I cannot forbear, for he turneth my very blood to biting gall, and must e'en take the consequences of his own folly. Truly is he wild for love of me, this poor old man, and the more I hold him at a distance the more he fondly dotes. I do verily believe he would try to stand upon his foolish old head, did I but insist. I sometimes have a thought to make him try it. He doeth enough that is senseless and absurd, in all conscience, as it is. At all of this do the courtiers smile, and laugh, and put me forward to other pranks; that is, all but a few of the elders, who shake their heads, but dare do nothing else for fear of the dauphin, who will soon be king, and who stands first in urging and abetting me. So it is easy for me to do what I wish, and above all to leave undone that which I wish not, for I do easily rule them all, as good Sir Edwin and dear Jane will testify. I have a ball every night, wherein I do make a deal of amusement for every one by dancing La Volta with his majesty until his heels, and his poor old head, too, are like to fall off. Others importune me for those dances, especially the dauphin, but I laugh and shake my head and say that I will dance with no one but the king, because he dances so well. This pleases his majesty mightily, and maketh an opening for me to avoid the touch of other men, for I am jealous of myself for thy sake, and save and garner every little touch for thee.... Sir Edwin will tell you I dance with no one else and surely never will. You remember well, I doubt not, when thou first didst teach me this new dance. Ah! how delightful it was! and yet how at first it did frighten and anger me. Thou canst not know how my heart beat during all the time of that first dance. I thought, of a surety, it would burst; and then the wild thrill of frightened ecstasy that made my blood run like fire! I knew it must be wrong, for it was, in truth, too sweet a thing to be right. And then I grew angry at thee as the cause of my wrong-doing and scolded thee, and repented it, as usual. Truly didst thou conquer, not win me. Then afterwards, withal it so frightened me, how I longed to dance again, and could in no way stay myself from asking. At times could I hardly wait till evening fell, and when upon occasion thou didst not come, I was so angry I said I hated thee. What must thou have thought of me, so forward and bold! And that afternoon! Ah! I think of it every hour, and see and hear it all, and live it o'er and o'er, as it sweeter grows with memory's ripening touch. Some moments there are, that send their glad ripple down through life's stream to the verge of the grave, and truly blest is one who can smile upon and kiss these memory waves, and draw from thence a bliss that never fails. But thou knowest full well my heart, and I need not tease thee with its outpourings.

"There is yet another matter of which I wish to write in very earnestness. Sir Edwin spoke to me thereof, and what he said hath given me serious thought. I thank him for his words, of which he will tell thee in full if thou but importune him thereto. It is this: the Dauphin, Francis d'Angouleme, hath fallen desperately fond of me, and is quite as importunate, and almost as foolish as the elder lover. This people, in this strange land of France, have, in sooth, some curious notions. For an example thereto: no one thinks to find anything unseeming in the dauphin's conduct, by reason of his having already a wife, and more, that wife the Princess Claude, daughter to the king. I laugh at him and let him say what he will, for in truth I am powerless to prevent it. Words cannot scar even a rose leaf, and will not harm me. Then, by his help and example I am justified in the eyes of the court in that I so treat the king, which otherwise it were impossible for me to do and live here. So, however much I may loathe them, yet I am driven to tolerate his words, which I turn off with a laugh, making sure, thou mayest know, that it come to nothing more than words. And thus it is, however much I wish it not, that I do use him to help me treat the king as I like, and do then use the poor old king as my buckler against this duke's too great familiarity. But my friend, when the king comes to die then shall I have my fears of this young Francis d'Angouleme. He is desperate for me, and I know not to what length he might go. The king cannot live long, as the thread of his life is like rotten flax, and when he dies thou must come without delay, since I shall be in deadly peril. I have a messenger waiting at all hours ready to send to thee upon a moment's notice, and when he comes waste not a precious instant; it may mean all to thee and me. I could write on and on forever, but it would be only to tell thee o'er and o'er that my heart is full of thee to overflowing. I thank thee that thou hast never doubted me, and will see that thou hast hereafter only good cause for better faith.

"MARY, Regina."

"Regina!" That was all. Only a queen! Surely no one could charge Brandon with possessing too modest tastes.

It was, I think, during the second week in December that I gave this letter to Brandon, and about a fortnight later there came to him a messenger from Paris, bringing another from Mary, as follows:

"Master Charles Brandon:

"Sir and Dear Friend, Greeting-I have but time to write that the king is so ill he cannot but die ere morning. Thou knowest that which I last wrote to thee, and in addition thereto I would say that although I have, as thou likewise knowest, my brother's permission to marry whom I wish, yet as I have his one consent it is safer that we act upon that rather than be so scrupulous as to ask for another. So it were better that thou take me to wife upon the old one, rather than risk the necessity of having to do it without any. I say no more, but come with all the speed thou knowest.


It is needless to say that Brandon started in haste for Paris. He left court for the ostensible purpose of paying me a visit and came to Ipswich, whence we sailed.

The French king was dead before Mary's message reached London, and when we arrived at Paris, Francis I reigned on the throne of his father-in-law. I had guessed only too accurately. As soon as the restraint of the old king's presence, light as it had been, was removed, the young king opened his attack upon Mary in dreadful earnest. He begged and pleaded and swore his love, which was surely manifest enough, and within three days after the old king's death offered to divorce Claude and make Mary his queen. When she refused this flattering offer his surprise was genuine.

"Do you know what you refuse?" he asked in a temper. "I offer to make you my wife-queen of fifteen millions of the greatest subjects on earth-and are you such a fool as to refuse a gift like that, and a man like me for a husband?"

"That I am, your majesty, and with a good grace. I am Queen of France without your help, and care not so much as one penny for the honor. It is greater to be a princess of England. As for this love you avow, I would make so bold as to suggest that you have a good, true wife to whom you would do well to give it all. To me it is nothing, even were you a thousand times the king you are. My heart is another's, and I have my brother's permission to marry him."

"Another's? God's soul! Tell me who this fellow is that I may spit him on my sword."

"No! no! you would not; even were you as valiant and grand as you think yourself, you would be but a child in his hands."

Francis was furious, and had Mary's apartments guarded to prevent her escape, swearing he would have his way.

As soon as Brandon and I arrived in Paris we took private lodgings, and well it was that we did. I at once went out to reconnoiter, and found the widowed queen a prisoner in the old palace des Tournelles. With the help of Queen Claude I secretly obtained an interview, and learned the true state of affairs.

Had Brandon been recognized and his mission known in Paris, he would certainly have been assassinated by order of Francis.

When I saw the whole situation, with Mary nothing less than a prisoner in the palace, I was ready to give up without a struggle, but not so Mary. Her brain was worth having, so fertile was it in expedients, and while I was ready to despair, she was only getting herself in good fighting order.

After Mary's refusal of Francis, and after he had learned that the sacrifice of Claude would not help him, he grew desperate, and determined to keep the English girl in his court at any price and by any means. So he hit upon the scheme of marrying her to his weak-minded cousin, the Count of Savoy. To that end he sent a hurried embassy to Henry VIII, offering, in case of the Savoy marriage, to pay back Mary's dower of four hundred thousand crowns. He offered to help Henry in the matter of the imperial crown in case of Maximilian's death-a help much greater than any King Louis could have given. He also offered to confirm Henry in all his French possessions, and to relinquish all claims of his own thereto-all as the price of one eighteen-year-old girl. Do you wonder she had an exalted estimate of her own value?

As to Henry, it, of course, need not be said, that half the price offered would have bought him to break an oath made upon the true cross itself. The promise he had made to Mary, broken in intent before it was given, stood not for an instant in the way of the French king's wishes; and Henry, with a promptitude begotten of greed, was as hasty in sending an embassy to accept the offer as Francis had been to make it. It mattered not to him what new torture he put upon his sister; the price, I believe, was sufficient to have induced him to cut off her head with his own hands.

If Francis and Henry were quick in their movements, Mary was quicker. Her plan was made in the twinkling of an eye. Immediately upon seeing me at the palace she sent for Queen Claude, with whom she had become fast friends, and told her all she knew. She did not know of the scheme for the Savoy marriage, though Queen Claude did, and fully explained it to Mary. Naturally enough, Claude would be glad to get Mary as far away from France and her husband as possible, and was only too willing to lend a helping hand to our purpose, or Mary's, rather, for she was the leader.

We quickly agreed among ourselves that Mary and Queen Claude should within an hour go out in Claude's new coach for the ostensible purpose of hearing mass. Brandon and I were to go to the same little chapel in which Jane and I had been married, where Mary said the little priest could administer the sacrament of marriage and perform the ceremony as well as if he were thrice as large.

I hurriedly found Brandon and repaired to the little chapel, where we waited for a very long time, we thought. At last the two queens entered as if to make their devotions. As soon as Brandon and Mary caught sight of each other, Queen Claude and I began to examine the shrines and decipher the Latin inscriptions. If these two had not married soon they would have been the death of me. I was compelled at length to remind them that time was very precious just at that juncture, whereupon Mary, who was half laughing, half crying, lifted her hands to her hair and let it fall in all its lustrous wealth down over her shoulders. When Brandon saw this, he fell upon his knee and kissed the hem of her gown, and she, stooping over him, raised him to his feet and placed her hand in his.

Thus Mary was married to the man to save whose life she had four months before married the French king.

She and Queen Claude had forgotten nothing, and all arrangements were completed for the flight. A messenger had been dispatched two hours before with an order from Queen Claude that a ship should be waiting at Dieppe, ready to sail immediately upon our arrival.

After the ceremony Claude quickly bound up Mary's hair, and the queens departed from the chapel in their coach. We soon followed, meeting them again at St. Denis gate, where we found the best of horses and four sturdy men awaiting us. The messenger to Dieppe who had preceded us would arrange for relays, and as Mary, according to her wont when she had another to rely upon, had taken the opportunity to become thoroughly frightened, no time was lost. We made these forty leagues in less than twenty-four hours from the time of starting; having paused only for a short rest at a little town near Rouen, which city we carefully passed around.

We had little fear of being overtaken at the rate we were riding, but Mary said she supposed the wind would die down for a month immediately upon our arrival at Dieppe. Fortunately no one pursued us, thanks to Queen Claude, who had spread the report that Mary was ill, and fortunately, also, much to Mary's surprise and delight, when we arrived at Dieppe, as fair a wind as a sailor's heart could wish was blowing right up the channel. It was a part of the system of relays-horses, ship, and wind.

"When the very wind blows for our special use, we may surely dismiss fear," said Mary, laughing and clapping her hands, but nearly ready for tears, notwithstanding.

The ship was a fine new one, well fitted to breast any sea, and learning this, we at once agreed that upon landing in England, Mary and I should go to London and win over the king if possible. We felt some confidence in being able to do this, as we counted upon Wolsey's help, but in case of failure we still had our plans. Brandon was to take the ship to a certain island off the Suffolk coast and there await us the period of a year if need be, as Mary might, in case of Henry's obstinacy, be detained; then re-victual and re-man the ship and out through the North Sea for their former haven, New Spain.

In case of Henry's consent, how they were to live in a style fit for a princess, Brandon did not know, unless Henry should open his heart and provide for them-a doubtful contingency upon which they did not base m

uch hope. At a pinch, they might go down into Suffolk and live next to Jane and me on Brandon's estates. To this Mary readily agreed, and said it was what she wanted above all else.

There was one thing now in favor of the king's acquiescence: during the last three months Brandon had become very necessary to his amusement, and amusement was his greatest need and aim in life.

Mary and I went to London to see the king, having landed at Southampton for the purpose of throwing off the scent any one who might seek the ship. The king was delighted to see his sister, and kissed her over and over again.

Mary had as hard a game to play as ever fell to the lot of woman, but she was equal to the emergency if any woman ever was. She did not give Henry the slightest hint that she knew anything of the Count of Savoy episode, but calmly assumed that of course her brother had meant literally what he said when he made the promise as to the second marriage.

The king soon asked: "But what are you doing here? They have hardly buried Louis as yet, have they?"

"I am sure I do not know," answered Mary, "and I certainly care less. I married him only during his life, and not for one moment afterwards, so I came away and left them to bury him or keep him, as they choose; I care not which."

"But-" began Henry, when Mary interrupted him, saying: "I will tell you-"

I had taken good care that Wolsey should be present at this interview; so we four, the king, Wolsey, Mary and myself, quietly stepped into a little alcove away from the others, and prepared to listen to Mary's tale, which was told with all her dramatic eloquence and feminine persuasiveness. She told of the ignoble insults of Francis, of his vile proposals-insisted upon, almost to the point of force-carefully concealing, however, the offer to divorce Claude and make her queen, which proposition might have had its attractions for Henry. She told of her imprisonment in the palace des Tournelles, and of her deadly peril and many indignities, and the tale lost nothing in the telling. Then she finished by throwing her arms around Henry's neck in a passionate flood of tears and begging him to protect her-to save her! save her! save her! his little sister.

It was all such perfect acting that for the time I forgot it was acting, and a great lump swelled up in my throat. It was, however, only for the instant, and when Mary, whose face was hidden from all the others, on Henry's breast, smiled slyly at me from the midst of her tears and sobs, I burst into a laugh that was like to have spoiled everything. Henry turned quickly upon me, and I tried to cover it by pretending that I was sobbing. Wolsey helped me out by putting a corner of his gown to his eyes, when Henry, seeing us all so affected, began to catch the fever and swell with indignation. He put Mary away from him, and striding up and down the room exclaimed, in a voice that all could hear, "The dog! the dog! to treat my sister so. My sister! My father's daughter! My sister! The first princess of England and queen of France for his mistress! By every god that ever breathed, I'll chastise this scurvy cur until he howls again. I swear it by my crown, if it cost me my kingdom," and so on until words failed him. But see how he kept his oath, and see how he and Francis hobnobbed not long afterward at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Henry came back to Mary and began to question her, when she repeated the story for him. Then it was she told of my timely arrival, and how, in order to escape and protect herself from Francis, she had been compelled to marry Brandon and flee with us.

She said: "I so wanted to come home to England and be married where my dear brother could give me away, but I was in such mortal dread of Francis, and there was no other means of escape, so-"

"God's death! If I had but one other sister like you, I swear before heaven I'd have myself hanged. Married to Brandon? Fool! idiot! what do you mean? Married to Brandon! Jesu! You'll drive me mad! Just one other like you in England, and the whole damned kingdom might sink; I'd have none of it. Married to Brandon without my consent!"

"No! no! brother," answered Mary softly, leaning affectionately against his bulky form; "do you suppose I would do that? Now don't be unkind to me when I have been away from you so long! You gave your consent four months ago. Do you not remember? You know I would never have done it otherwise."

"Yes, I know! You would not do anything-you did not want; and it seems equally certain that in the end you always manage to do everything you do want. Hell and furies!"

"Why! brother, I will leave it to my Lord Bishop of York if you did not promise me that day, in this very room, and almost on this very spot, that if I would marry Louis of France I might marry whomsoever I wished when he should die. Of course you knew, after what I had said, whom I should choose, so I went to a little church in company with Queen Claude, and took my hair down and married him, and I am his wife, and no power on earth can make it otherwise," and she looked up into his face with a defiant little pout, as much as to say, "Now, what are you going to do about it?"

Henry looked at her in surprise and then burst out laughing. "Married to Brandon with your hair down?" And he roared again, holding his sides. "Well, you do beat the devil; there's no denying that. Poor old Louis! That was a good joke on him. I'll stake my crown he was glad to die! You kept it warm enough for him, I make no doubt."

"Well," said Mary, with a little shrug of her shoulders, "he would marry me."

"Yes, and now poor Brandon doesn't know the trouble ahead of him, either. He has my pity, by Jove!"

"Oh, that is different," returned Mary, and her eyes burned softly, and her whole person fairly radiated, so expressive was she of the fact that "it was different."

Different? Yes, as light from darkness; as love from loathing; as heaven from the other place; as Brandon from Louis; and that tells it all.

Henry turned to Wolsey: "Have you ever heard anything equal to it, my Lord Bishop?"

My Lord Bishop, of course, never had; nothing that even approached it.

"What are we to do about it?" continued Henry, still addressing Wolsey.

The bishop assumed a thoughtful expression, as if to appear deliberate in so great a matter, and said: "I see but one thing that can be done," and then he threw in a few soft, oily words upon the troubled waters that made Mary wish she had never called him "thou butcher's cur," and Henry, after a pause, asked: "Where is Brandon? He is a good fellow, after all, and what we can't help we must endure. He'll find punishment enough in you. Tell him to come home-I suppose you have him hid around some place-and we'll try to do something for him."

"What will you do for him, brother?" said Mary, not wanting to give the king's friendly impulse time to weaken.

"Oh! don't bother about that now," but she held him fast by the hand and would not let go.

"Well, what do you want? Out with it. I suppose I might as well give it up easily, you will have it sooner or later. Out with it and be done."

"Could you make him Duke of Suffolk?"

"Eh? I suppose so. What say you, my Lord of York?"

York was willing-thought it would be just the thing.

"So be it then," said Henry. "Now I am going out to hunt and will not listen to another word. You will coax me out of my kingdom for that fellow yet." He was about to leave the room when he turned to Mary, saying: "By the way, sister, can you have Brandon here by Sunday next? I am to have a joust."

Mary thought she could, ... and the great event was accomplished.

One false word, one false syllable, one false tone would have spoiled it all, had not Mary-but I fear you are weary with hearing so much of Mary.

So after all, Mary, though a queen, came portionless to Brandon. He got the title, but never received the estates of Suffolk; all he received with her was the money I carried to him from France. Nevertheless, Brandon thought himself the richest man in all the earth, and surely he was one of the happiest. Such a woman as Mary is dangerous, except in a state of complete subjection-but she was bound hand and foot in the silken meshes of her own weaving, and her power for bliss-making was almost infinite.

And now it was, as all who read may know, that this fair, sweet, wilful Mary dropped out of history; a sure token that her heart was her husband's throne; her soul his empire; her every wish his subject, and her will, so masterful with others, the meek and lowly servant of her strong but gentle lord and master, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

* * *

Note by the Editor

Sir Edwin Caskoden's history differs in some minor details from other authorities of the time. Hall's chronicle says Sir William Brandon, father of Charles, had the honor of being killed by the hand of Richard III himself, at Bosworth Field, and the points wherein his account of Charles Brandon's life differs from that of Sir Edwin may be gathered from the index to the 1548 edition of that work, which is as follows:

Charles Brandon, Esquire,

Is made knight,

Created Viscount Lysle,

Made duke of Suffolke,

Goeth to Paris to the Iustes,

Doeth valiantly there,

Returneth into England,

He is sent into Fraunce to fetch home the French quene into England,

He maryeth her,

and so on until

"He dyeth and is buryed at Wyndesore."

No mention is made in any of the chronicles of the office of Master of Dance. In all other essential respects Sir Edwin is corroborated by his contemporaries.

* * *

The Author and The Book

By Maurice Thompson

When a man does something by which the world is attracted, we immediately feel a curiosity to know all about him personally. Mr. Charles Major, of Shelbyville, Indiana, wrote the wonderfully popular historical romance, When Knighthood was in Flower, which has already sold over a quarter million copies.

It is not mere luck that makes a piece of fiction acceptable to the public. The old saying, "Where there is so much smoke there must be fire," holds good in the case of smoke about a novel. When a book moves many people of varying temperaments and in all circles of intelligence there is power in it. Behind such a book we have the right to imagine an author endowed with admirable gifts of imagination. The ancient saying, "The cup is glad of the wine it holds," was but another way of expressing the rule which judges a tree by its fruit and a man by his works; for out of character comes style, and out of a man's nature is his taste distilled. Every soul, like the cup, is glad of what it holds.

Mr. Major himself has said, in his straightforward way, "It is what a man does that counts." By this rule of measurement Mr. Major has a liberal girth. The writing of When Knighthood was in Flower was a deed of no ordinary dimensions, especially when we take into account the fact that the writer had not been trained to authorship or to the literary artist's craft; but was a country lawyer, with an office to sweep every morning, and a few clients with whom to worry over dilatory cases and doubtful fees.

The law, as a profession, is said to be a jealous mistress, ever ready and maliciously anxious to drop a good-sized stumbling block in the path of her devotee whenever he appears to be straying in the direction of another love. Indeed, many are the young men who, on turning from Blackstone and Kent in a comfortable law office to Scott and Byron, have lost a lawyer's living, only to grasp the empty air of failure in the fascinating garret of the scribbler. But "nothing succeeds like success," and genius has a way of changing rules and forcing the gates of fortune. And when we see the proof that a fresh genius has once more wrought the miracle of reversing all the fine logic of facts, so as to bring success and fame out of the very circumstances and conditions which are said to render the feat impossible, we all wish to know how he did it.

Balzac, when he felt the inspiration of a new novel in his brain, retired to an obscure room, and there, with a pot of villainous black coffee at his elbow, wrote night and day, almost without food and sleep, until the book was finished. General Lew Wallace put Ben Hur on paper in the open air of a beech grove, with a bit of yellowish canvas stretched above him to soften the light. Some authors use only the morning hours for their literary work; others prefer the silence of night. A few cannot write save when surrounded by books, pictures and luxurious furniture, while some must have a bare room with nothing in it to distract attention. Mr. Charles Major wrote When Knighthood was in Flower on Sunday afternoons, the only time he had free from the exactions of the law. He was full of his subject, however, and doubtless his clients paid the charges in the way of losses through demurrers neglected and motions and exceptions not properly presented!

One thing about Mr. Major's work deserves special mention; its shows conscientious mastery of details, a sure evidence of patient study. What it may lack as literature is compensated for in lawful coin of human interest and in general truthfulness to the facts and the atmosphere of the life he depicts. When asked how he arrived at his accurate knowledge of old London-London in the time of Henry VIII-he fetched an old book-Stow's Survey of London-from his library and said:

"You remember in my novel that Mary goes one night from Bridewell Castle to Billingsgate Ward through strange streets and alleys. Well, that journey I made with Mary, aided by Stow's Survey, with his map of old London before me."

It is no contradiction of terms to speak of fiction as authentic. Mere vraisemblance is all very well in works of pure imagination; but a historical romance does not satisfy the reader's sense of justice unless its setting and background and atmosphere are true to time, place and historical facts. Mr. Major felt the demand of his undertaking and respected it. He collected old books treating of English life and manners in the reign of Henry VIII, preferring to saturate his mind with what writers nearest the time had to say, rather than depend upon recent historians. In this he chose well, for the romancer's art, different from the historian's, needs the literary shades and colors of the period it would portray.

Another clever choice on the part of our author was to put the telling of the story in the mouth of his heroine's contemporary. This, of course, had often been done by romancers before Mr. Major, but he chose well, nevertheless. Fine literary finish was not to be expected of a Master of the Dance early in the sixteenth century; so that Sir Edwin Caskoden, and not Mr. Major, is accepted by the reader as responsible for the book's narrative, descriptive and dramatic style. This ruse, so to call it, serves a double purpose; it hangs the glamour of distance over the pages, and it puts the reader in direct communication, as it were, with the characters in the book. The narrator is garrulous, and often far from artistic with his scenes and incidents; but it is Caskoden doing all this, not Mr. Charles Major, and we never think of bringing him to task! Undoubtedly it is good art to do just what Mr. Major has done-that is, it is good art to present a picture of life in the terms of the period in which it flourished. It might have been better art to clothe the story in the highest terms of literature; but that would have required a Shakespeare.

The greatest beauty of Mr. Major's story as a piece of craftsmanship is its frank show of self-knowledge on the author's part. He knew his equipment, and he did not attempt to go beyond what it enabled him to do and do well.

His romance will not go down the ages as a companion of Scott's, Thackeray's, Hugo's and Dumas'; but read at any time by any fresh-minded person, it will afford that shock of pleasure which always comes of a good story enthusiastically told, and of a pretty love-drama frankly and joyously presented. Mr. Major has the true dramatic vision and notable cleverness in the art of making effective conversation.

The little Indiana town in which Mr. Major lives and practices the law is about twenty miles from Indianapolis, and hitherto has been best known as the former residence of Thomas A. Hendricks, late Vice-President of the United States. Already the tide of kodak artists and autograph hunters has found our popular author out, and his clients are being pushed aside by vigorous interviewers and reporters in search of something about the next book. But the author of When Knighthood was in Flower is an extremely difficult person to handle. It is told of him that he offers a very emphatic objection to having his home life and private affairs flaunted before the public under liberal headlines and with "copious illustrations."

Mr. Major is forty-three and happily married; well-built and dark; looking younger than his years, genial, quiet and domestic to a degree; he lives what would seem to be an ideal life in a charming home, across the threshold of which the curiosity of the public need not try to pass. As might be taken for granted, Mr. Major has been all his life a loving student of history.

Perhaps to the fact that he has never studied romance as it is in art is largely due his singular power over the materials and atmosphere of history. At all events, there is something remarkable in his vivid pictures not in the least traceable to literary form nor dependent upon a brilliant command of diction. The characters in his book are warm, passionate human beings, and the air they breathe is real air. The critic may wince and make faces over lapses from taste, and protest against a literary style which cannot be defended from any point of view; yet there is Mary in flesh and blood, and there is Caskoden, a veritable prig of a good fellow-there, indeed, are all the dramatis personae, not merely true to life, but living beings.

And speaking of dramatis personae, Mr. Major tells how, soon after his book was published, his morning mail brought him an interesting letter from a prominent New York manager, pointing out the dramatic possibilities of When Knighthood was in Flower and asking for the right to produce it. While this letter was still under consideration, a telegram was received at the Shelbyville office which read: "I want the dramatic rights to When Knighthood was in Flower." It was signed "Julia Marlowe." Mr. Major felt that this was enough for one morning, so he escaped to Indianapolis, and after a talk with his publishers, left for St. Louis and answered Miss Marlowe's telegram in person. At the first interview she was enthusiastic and he was confident. She gave him a box for the next night's performance, which Miss Marlowe arranged should be "As You Like It." After the play the author was enthusiastic and the actress confident.

At Cincinnati, the following week, the contract was signed and the search for the dramatist was begun. That the story would lend itself happily to stage production must have occurred even to the thoughtless reader. But it is one thing to see the scenes of a play fairly sticking out, as the saying is, from the pages of a book, and quite another to gather together and make of them a dramatic entity. Miss Marlowe was determined that the book should be given to a playwright whose dramatic experience and artistic sense could be relied on to lead him out of the rough places, up to the high plane of convincing and finished workmanship. Mr. Paul Kester, after some persuasion, undertook the work. The result is wholly satisfactory to author, actress and manager-a remarkable achievement indeed!

Mr. Major's biography shows a fine, strong American life. He was born in Indianapolis, July 25, 1856. Thirteen years later he went with his father's family to Shelbyville, where he was graduated from the public school in 1872, and in 1875 he concluded his course in the University of Michigan. Later he read law with his father, and in 1877 was admitted to the bar. Eight years later he stood for the Legislature and was elected on the democratic ticket. He served with credit one term, and has since declined all political honors.

The title, When Knighthood was in Flower, was not chosen by Mr. Major, whose historical taste was satisfied with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. And who knows but that the author's title would have proved just the weight to sink a fine book into obscurity? Mr. John J. Curtis, of the Bowen-Merrill Company, suggested When Knighthood was in Flower, a phrase taken from Leigh Hunt's poem, the Gentle Armour:

"There lived a knight, when knighthood was in flower,

Who charmed alike the tilt-yard and the bower."

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Typographical errors corrected in text:

Page 15: Gentlema replaced with Gentleman

Page 102: way replaced with was

Page 154: extra 'the' removed

Page 306: Garcon replaced with Gar?on

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