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for ‘tis a matter that will not bide, but depart with thy mending malady. My
Lord of Hertford speaketh of the city’s banquet which the king’s majesty did
promise two months flown, your highness should attend. Thou recallest it now?’
‘It grieves me to confess it had indeed escaped me,’ said Tom, in a hesitating
voice; and blushed again.

At that moment the Lady Elizabeth and the Lady Jane Grey were announced.
The two lords exchanged significant glances, and Hertford stepped quickly
toward the door. As the young girls passed him, he said in a low voice: ‘I pray
ye, ladies, seem not to observe his humors, nor show surprise when his memory
doth lapse-it will grieve you to note how it doth stick at every trifle.’ Meanwhile
Lord St. John was saying in Tom’s ear: ‘Please you, sir, keep diligently in mind
his majesty’s desire. Remember all thou canst-seem to remember all else. Let
them not perceive that thou art much changed from thy wont, for thou knowest
how tenderly thy old playfellows bear thee in their hearts and how ‘twould
grieve them. Art willing, sir, that I remain?and thine uncle?’

Tom signified assent with a gesture and a murmured word, for he was already
learning, and in his simple heart was resolved to acquit himself as best he might
according to the king’s command.

In spite of every precaution, the conversation among the young people became a
little embarrassing at times. More than once, in truth, Tom was near to breaking
down and confessing himself unequal to his tremendous part; but the tact of the
Princess Elizabeth saved him, or a word from one or the other of the vigilant
lords, thrown in apparently by chance, had the same happy effect. Once the little
Lady Jane turned to Tom and dismayed him with this question: ‘Hast paid thy
duty to the queen’s majesty today, my lord?’ Tom hesitated, looked distressed,
and was about to stammer out something at hazard when Lord St. John took the
word and answered for him with the easy grace of a courtier accustomed to
encounter delicate difficulties and to be ready for them: ‘He hath indeed,
madam, and she did greatly hearten him, as touching his majesty’s condition; is
it not so, your highness?’ Tom mumbled something that stood for assent, but felt
that he was getting upon dangerous ground. Somewhat later it was mentioned
that Tom was to study no more at present, whereupon her little ladyship
exclaimed: ‘’Tis a pity, ‘tis such a pity! Thou were proceeding bravely. But bide
thy time in patience; it will not be for long. Thou’lt yet be graced with learning
like thy father, and make thy tongue master of as many languages as his, good
my prince.’ ‘My father!’ cried Tom, off his guard for the moment. ‘I trow he
cannot speak his own so that any but the swine that wallow in the sties may tell
his meaning; and as for learning of any sort soever-’ He looked up and
encountered a solemn warning in my Lord St. John’s eyes.

He stopped, blushed, then continued low and sadly: ‘Ah, my malady
persecuteth me again, and my mind wandereth. I meant the king’s grace no
irreverence.’ ‘We know it, sir,’ said the Princess Elizabeth, taking her ‘brother’s’
hand between her two palms, respectfully but caressingly; ‘trouble not thyself as
to that.
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