Though the secrecy and fidelity of Anne Ascue saved the queen from this peril, that princess soon after fell into a new danger, from which she narrowly escaped. An ulcer had broken out in the king's leg, which, added to his extreme corpulency and his bad habit of body, began both to threaten his life, and to render him, |even more than usually, peevish and passionate. The queen attended him with the most tender and dutiful care, and endeavoured, by every soothing art and compliance, to allay those gusts of humour, to which he was become so subject. His favourite topic of conversation was theology; and Catherine, whose good sense enabled her to discourse on any subject, was frequently engaged in the argument; and being secretly inclined to the principles of the reformers, she unwarily betrayed too much of her mind on these occasions. Henry, highly provoked, that she should presume to differ from him, complained of her obstinacy to Gardiner, who gladly laid hold of the opportunity to inflame the quarrel. He praised the king's anxious concern for preserving the orthodoxy of his subjects; and represented, that the more elevated the person was who was chastised, and the more near to his person, the greater terror would the example strike into every one, and the more glorious would the sacrifice appear to posterity. The chancellor, being consulted, was engaged by religious zeal to second these topics; and Henry, hurried on by his own impetuous temper, and encouraged by his counsellors, went so far as to order articles of impeachment to be drawn up against his consort. Wriothesely executed his commands; and soon after brought the paper to him to be signed: For as it was high treason to throw slander upon the queen, he might otherwise have been questioned for his temerity. By some means, this important paper fell into the hands of one of the queen's friends, who immediately carried the intelligence to her. She was sensible of the extreme danger, to which she was exposed; but did not despair of being able, by her prudence and address, still to elude the efforts of her enemies. She paid her usual visit to the king, and found him in a more serene disposition than she had reason to expect. He entered on the subject, which was so familiar to him; and he seemed to challenge her to an argument in divinity. She gently declined the conversation, and remarked, that such profound speculations were ill suited to the natural imbecillity of her sex. Women, she said, by their first creation, were made subject to men: The male was created after the image of God; the female after the image of the male: It belonged to the husband to chuse principles for his wife; the wife's duty was, in all cases, to adopt implicitly the sentiments of her husband: And as to herself, it was doubly her duty, being blest with a husband, who |was qualified, by his judgment and learning, not only to chuse principles for his own family, but for the most wise and knowing of every nation.
Not so! by St. Mary, replied the king,
you are now become a doctor, Kate; and better fitted to give than receive instruction. She meekly replied, that she was sensible how little she was intitled to these praises; that though she usually declined not any conversation, however sublime, when proposed by his majesty, she well knew, that her conceptions could serve to no other purpose than to give him a little momentary amusement; that she found the conversation apt to languish when not revived by some opposition, and she had ventured sometimes to feign a contrariety of sentiments, in order to give him the pleasure of refuting her; and that she also purposed, by this innocent artifice, to engage him into topics, whence, she had observed by frequent experience, that she reaped profit and instruction.
And is it so, sweetheart? replied the king,
then are we perfect friends again. He embraced her with great affection, and sent her away with assurances of his protection and kindness. Her enemies, who knew nothing of this sudden change, prepared next day to convey her to the Tower, pursuant to the king's warrant. Henry and Catherine were conversing amicably in the garden, when the chancellor appeared with forty of the pursuivants. The king spoke to him at some distance from her; and seemed to expostulate with him in the severest manner: She even overheard the appellations of knave, fool, and beast, which he liberally bestowed upon that magistrate, and then ordered him to depart his presence. She afterwards interposed to mitigate his anger: He said to her,
Poor soul! you know not how ill intitled this man is to your good offices. Thenceforth, the queen, having narrowly escaped so great a danger, was careful not to offend Henry's humour by any contradiction; and Gardiner, whose malice had endeavoured to widen the breach, could never afterwards regain his favour and good opinion.