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CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.

QUEEN ANNE'S LAST EXERCISE OF POWER. The rivalry between Oxford and Saint-John ended in producing a decided rupture in the cabinet. While the treasurer endeavoured to sacrifice his colleague, by artfully misrepresenting his conduct to the queen, the secretary was enabled to counteract his designs through the influence of Lady Masham, whose husband had been raised to the peerage with nine others, to strengthen the government, immediately after the dismissal of the Duke of Marlborough.

Saint-John's successful negotiation of the peace of Utrecht rendering it impossible to withhold from him the distinction, he was created Viscount Bolingbroke, though he himself expected an earldom ; but he was refused the Garter, on which he had set his heart, while Oxford took care to decorate himself with the order. Bolingbroke never forgave the slight, and from that moment utterly renounced his friend, and bent his whole faculties upon accomplishing his overthrow. He found a ready coadjutor in Lady Masham, who was equally indignant with the treasurer for having opposed the grant of a pension and other emoluments which the queen was anxious to bestow upon her. Thus aided, Bolingbroke soon gained a complete ascendancy over his rival, and felt confidently assured of supplanting him in his post as soon as Anne's irresolution would allow her to dismiss him.

Oxford's fall, however, was long protracted, nor was it until his secret overtures to the Elector of Hanover, after the death of the Princess Sophia, had been made known to the queen ; and that the court of Saint Germain had exposed his duplicity, and urged the necessity of his removal, that she consented to the measure. The Jacobite party, of whom Bolingbroke was the leader, had become paramount in importance during the latter part of Anne's reign; and as her dislike of the Hanoverian succession, and her predilection for her brother, the Chevalier de Saint-George, were well-known, the most sanguine anticipations were entertained, that on her death the hereditary line of monarchy would be restored. That the period was fast approaching when the question of succession to the throne would be solved, the rapidly declining state of the queen's health boded, and little doubt existed in the minds of those who considered the temper and bias of the public mind, and were aware of the preponderating influence of the Hanoverian party, as to the way in which it would be determined. Still, to an ambitious spirit, like that of Bolingbroke, the chance of aggrandizement offered by adherents to the fallen dynasty of the Stuarts, was sufficiently tempting to blind its possessor to every danger; and although aware of the terrible storm he should have to encounter,

he

fancied if he could once obtain the helm, he could steer the vessel of state into the wished-for, haven.

The moment, at length, apparently came, when it was to be submitted to his guidance. On the evening of Tuesday, the 27th July, 1714, Oxford received a sudden and peremptory intimation from the queen to resign the staff into her hands without a moment's delay; upon which, though it was getting late, he immediately repaired to the palace.

Ushered into the queen's presence, he found Lady Masham and Bolingbroke with her, and their triumphant looks increased his ill-dissembled rage and mortification.

and mortification. 'Anne looked ill and suffering. She had only just recovered from a severe inflammatory fever, attended with gout and ague, and had still dangerous symptoms about her. Her figure was enlarged and loose, her brow lowering, her features swollen and cadaverous, and her eyes heavy and injected with blood. She scarcely made an effort to maintain her dignity, but had the air of a confirmed invalid. On the table near her, stood a draught prescribed for her by her physician, Sir Richard Blackmore, of which she occasionally sipped.

Moved neither by the evident indisposition of the queen, nor by any feelings of gratitude or respect, Oxford advanced quickly towards her, and eyeing his opponents with a look of defiance, said, in an insolent tone, and with a slight inclination of the head—“Your majesty has commanded me to bring the staff. I here deliver it to you."

And as he spoke he placed it with some violence on the table. “My lord!” exclaimed Anne, “this rudeness !”

“Lord Oxford has thrown off the mask,” said Bolingbroke. “ Your majesty sees him in his true colours.”

“ It shall not be my fault, Bolingbroke,"replied Oxford, bitterly, “if her majesty-ay, and the whole nation--does not see you in your true colours and they are black enough. And you too, madam,” he added to Lady Masham, “the world shall know what arts you have used."

“ If I have practised any arts, my Lord Oxford, they have been of your teaching,” rejoined Lady Masham.

- You forget the instructions you gave me respecting the Duchess of Marlborough."

“ No, viper, I do not,” cried Oxford, his rage becoming ungovernable. “I do not forget that I found you a bedchamber

. woman ; I do not forget that I used you as an instrument to gain the queen's favour-a mere instrument, nothing more; I do not forget that I made you what you are ; nor will I rest till I have left you as low as I found

you. “My lord !—my lord ! cried Anne. - This attack is most unmanly. I pray you withdraw, if you cannot control yourself.”

“ Your pardon, if I venture to disobey you, madam," replied Oxford.

** Having been sent for, I shall take leave to stay till I

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have unmasked your treacherous favourites. So good an opportunity may not speedily occur, and I shall not lose it."

"But I do not wish to hear the exposure, my lord," said Anne. "I pray your majesty, let him speak," interposed Bolingbroke, haughtily.

"Take care of your head, Bolingbroke," cried Oxford; "though her majesty may sanction your correspondence with the courts of Saint Germain, her parliament will not."

"Your majesty can now judge of his baseness and malignity," said Bolingbroke, with cold contempt, "knowing how he himself has duped your royal brother."

"I know it-I know it,” replied Anne; "and I know how he has duped me too. But no more of this, if you love me, Bolingbroke."

"Oh! that your majesty would exert your spirit for one moment," said Lady Masham," and drive him from your presence with the contempt he deserves."

"If your majesty will only authorize me, it shall be done," said Bolingbroke.

"Peace! peace! my lord, I implore of you," said Anne. "You all seem to disregard me."

"Your majesty perceives the esteem in which you are held by your friends!" said Oxford, sarcastically.

“You are all alike," cried the queen, faintly.

"What crime am I charged with?" demanded Oxford, addressing himself to the queen.

"I will tell you," replied Bolingbroke. "I charge you with double dealing, with chicanery, with treachery, with falsehood to the queen, to me, and to the whole cabinet. I charge you with holding out hopes on the one hand to the Elector of Hanover, and to Prince James on the other-I charge you with caballing with Marlborough-with appropriating the public moneys

"These charges must be substantiated-must be answered, my lord," interrupted Oxford, approaching him, and touching his sword.

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They shall be substantiated, my lord,” replied Bolingbroke, haughtily and contemptuously.

"Bolingbroke, you are a villain-a dastardly villain," cried Oxford, losing all patience, and striking him in the face with his glove.

"Ha!" exclaimed Bolingbroke, transported with fury, and partly drawing his sword.

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My lords!" exclaimed the queen, rising with dignity, "I command you to forbear. This scene will kill me-oh!" And she sank back exhausted.

"Your pardon, gracious madam," cried Bolingbroke, running up to her, and falling on his knees. "I have indeed forgotten myself."

to her temples.

"Oh! my head! my head!" cried Anne, pressing her hand My senses are deserting me." "You have much to answer for, Bolingbroke," whispered Lady Masham; "she will not survive this shock."

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"It was not my fault, but his," replied Bolingbroke, pointing to Oxford, who stood sullenly aloof in the middle of the room.

"Let Sir Richard Blackmore and Doctor Mead be summoned instantly," gasped the queen; "and bid the Duke of Shrewsbury and the lord chancellor instantly attend me they are in the palace. The post of treasurer must be filled without delay. Lose not a moment."

And Lady Masham ran out to give the necessary instructions to the usher.

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Shrewsbury and the chancellor-what can she want with them?" muttered Bolingbroke, with a look of dismay.

Oxford, who had heard the order, and instantly divined what it portended, softly approached him, and touched his arm.

"You have lost the stake you have been playing for," he said, with a look of triumphant malice. "I am now content."

Ere Bolingbroke could reply, Lady Masham returned with Sir Richard Blackmore, who chanced to be in the ante-room, and who instantly flew to the queen, over whose countenance a fearful change had come.

"Your majesty must be taken instantly to bed," said Black

more.

"Not till I have seen the Dukes of Shrewsbury and Ormond," replied the queen, faintly. "Where are they?"

"I will go and bring them instantly," replied Blackmore; "not a moment is to be lost."

And as he was about to rush out of the room, Bolingbroke stopped him, and hastily asked, "Is there danger ?" Imminent danger," replied Blackmore.

"The case is

desperate. The queen cannot survive three days.” And he hurried away.

"Then all is lost!" cried Bolingbroke, striking his forehead. And looking up, he saw Harley watching him with a malignant smile.

Lady Masham was assiduous in her attentions to her royal mistress, but the latter became momently worse, and continued to inquire anxiously for the Duke of Shrewsbury.

"Has your majesty no commands for Lord Bolingbroke ?" inquired Lady Masham.

"None whatever," replied the queen, firmly.

At this juncture, Sir Richard Blackmore returned with the Duke of Shrewsbury, the lord chancellor, and some other attendants.

"Ah! you are come, my lords," cried Anne, greatly relieved. "I feared you would be too late. Sir Richard will have told you

558

SAINT JAMES'S : OR, THE COURT OF QUEEN ANNE.

of my danger-nay, it is vain to hide it from me. I feel my end approaching. My lords, the office of treasurer is at this moment vacant, and if anything should happen to me the safety of the kingdom may be endangered. My lord of Shrewsbury, you are already lord chamberlain and lord lieutenant of Ireland; I have another post for you. Take this staff,” she added, giving him the treasurer's wand, which lay upon the table, “and use it for the good of my people.”

As the duke knelt to kiss her hand, he felt it grow cold in his touch. Anne had fainted, and was instantly removed by her attendants.

“So !" cried Oxford, “if the queen's fears are realized, Lady Masham's reign is over, while your fate, Bolingbroke, is sealed. You have to choose between exile and the block.”

“If I fly, you must fly with me,” cried Bolingbroke. “No, I shall wait,” replied Oxford, “I have nothing to fear.”

“So end the hopes of these ambitious men !” observed the Duke of Shrewsbury to the chancellor; “the queen found they were not to be trusted. Her people's welfare influenced the last exercise of power of Good QUEEN ANNE.”

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