The Fate Of Sir Percevall's Suit

: The Panchronicon

In the inner chamber, Elizabeth was seated at a small table, at the

opposite end of which sat Rebecca. Burleigh, Nottingham, and two or

three other great lords stood near at hand, while one dish after another

was brought in from the outer room by maids of honor.

Standing to the right of the Queen's chair was a dark man of foreign

aspect, wearing the robes of a Doctor of Laws. In his hand was Rebecca's

of the New York World, which he was perusing with an expression

of the utmost perplexity.

"Well, Master Guido," said the Queen, "what make you of it?"

"Maesta eccellentissima--" the scholar began.

"Nay--nay. Speak good plain English, man," said the Queen. "The Lady

Rebecca hath no Italian."

Messer Guido bowed and began again, speaking with a scarcely perceptible


"Most Excellent Majesty, I have but begun perusal of this document. It

promiseth matter for ten good years' research in the comparison of

parts, interpretation of phrases, identifying customs, manners, dress,

and the like."

"Nay, then," said the Queen, "with the help of the Lady Rebecca, 'twill

be no weighty task, methinks. My lady, why partake you not of the

pasty?" she said, turning to Rebecca. "Hath it not a very proper savor?"

"My, yes," Rebecca replied; "it's mighty good pie! Somehow, though, pie

don't lay very good with me these days. Ye don't happen to have any tea,

do ye?"


"If I may venture--" said Guido, eagerly.

"Speak, Messer Guido."

"Why, it would appear, your Majesty, that tea is a sort of stuff for

dresses--silk, belike."

"Stuff for dresses!" said Rebecca. "Stuff and nonsense! Why, tea's a


"A beverage! Then how explain you this?" the Italian cried,

triumphantly. Lifting the newspaper, he read from it the following

passage: "The illustration shows a charming tea-gown, a creation of Mme.


"You see, Maesta--your Majesty--it is clear. A 'tea-gown' is shown in

the drawing--a gown made of tea."

Rebecca had opened her mouth to overwhelm the poor savant with the truth

when a page entered and stood before the Queen.

"Well, sirrah," said Elizabeth, "what is your message?"

"Sir Percevall Hart craves an audience, your Majesty, for himself and

his American friend and client."

"Another American!" exclaimed the Queen.

"Copernicus Droop!" cried Rebecca.

"Know you Sir Percevall's friend, Lady Rebecca?" asked Elizabeth.

"Why, yes, your Majesty. He and I came over together from Peltonville. I

believe he's after a patent."

"A patent? What mean you? Doth he ask for a patent of nobility--a title?

Can this be the suit of the fat knight?"

"I don't know," said Rebecca. "'Tain't nothin' 'bout nobility, I'm sure,

though. It's a patent on a phonograph, I b'lieve."

"Know you aught of this, my lord?" said Elizabeth, turning to Burleigh.

"Why, yes, your Majesty. I have to-day received from Sir Percevall Hart

a letter written by my nephew, Francis Bacon----"

"Bacon! What! Ay--methinks we know somewhat of this same Francis," said

the Queen, grimly. "A member of Parliament, is he not?"

"Even so, your Majesty," said Burleigh, somewhat crestfallen. "From this

letter I learn," he continued, while Elizabeth shook her head, "that

this American--a Master Dupe, I believe----"

"No--no--Droop!" cried Rebecca. "Copernicus Droop."

The baron bowed.

"That this Master Droop desires the grant of a monopoly in----"

"A monopoly!" cried Elizabeth. "What! This independent young

barrister--this parliamentary meddler in opposition, forsooth! He

craveth a monopoly? God's death! A monopoly in all the impudence in this

our realm is of a surety this fellow's right! We grant it--we grant it.

Let the papers be drawn forthwith!"

The baron bent before the storm and, bowing, remained silent. Rebecca,

however, could scarce see the justice of the Queen's position.

"Well, but look here, your Majesty," she said. "'Tain't Mr. Bacon as

wants this patent; it's Mr. Droop. Mr. Bacon only gave him a letter to

Mr. Burleigh here."

Astonishment was depicted in every face save in that of the Queen, whose

little eyes were now turned upon her sister sovereign in anger.

"Harkye, Lady Rebecca!" she exclaimed. "Is it the custom to take the

Queen to task in your realm?"

Rebecca's reply came pat. The type was prepared beforehand, and she

answered now with a clear conscience.

"Why, of course. We talk jest as we feel like to all the queens there is

in my country."

The equivocation in this reply must have struck the Queen, for she

said, without taking her eyes from Rebecca's face:

"And, prithee, Lady Rebecca, how many queens be there in America? We

begin to doubt if royalty be known there."

Again Messer Guido evinced signs of an anxious desire to speak, and

Rebecca shrewdly took advantage of this at once.

"Messer Guido can tell you all 'bout that, I guess," she said.

Elizabeth turned her eyes to the savant.

"What knowledge have you of this, learned doctor?" she asked, coldly.

"Why, your Majesty," said Guido, with delighted zeal, "the case is

plain. Will your Majesty but look at this drawing on one of the inner

pages of the printed document brought by the Lady Rebecca? Behold the

effigy of a powder canister, with the words 'Royal Baking Powder'

thereon. This would appear evidence that in America gunpowder is known

and is used by the sovereigns of the various tribes. Here again we see

'The Royal Corset,' and there 'Crown Shirts.' Can it be doubted that the

Americans have royal governors?"

The Queen's face cleared a little at this, and Guido proceeded with

increased animation:

"Behold further upon the front page, your Majesty, the effigy of a man

wearing a round crown with a peak or projecting shelf over the eyes.

Under this we read the legend 'The Czar of the Tenderloin.' Now, your

Majesty will remember that the ruler of Muscovy is termed the Czar. The

Tenderloin signifieth, doubtless, some order, akin, perchance, to the


"This hath a plausible bent, Messer Guido," said Elizabeth, with more

good-nature. "Lady Rebecca, can you better explain this matter of the


"No, indeed," Rebecca replied, with perfect truth. "Mister Guido must

have a fine mind to understand things like that!"

"In sooth, good Messer Guido," said Elizabeth, with a smile, "your

research and power of logic do you great credit. We doubt not to learn

more of these new empires from your learned pains than ever from

Raleigh, Drake, and the other travellers whose dull wits go but to the

surface of things. But, Lord warrant us!" she continued, "here standeth

our page, having as yet no answer. Go, sirrah, and bid Sir Percevall and

this great American to our presence straight."

Then, turning again to Guido, she said:

"Messer Guido, we enjoin it upon your learning that you do make a note

of the petition of this American, as well as of those things which he

may answer in explanation of his design."

With a bow, Guido stepped to one side and, carefully folding the

newspaper, drew from his bosom his tablets and prepared to obey.

All eyes turned curiously to the door as it opened to admit the two

suitors, who were followed by the page. Sir Percevall, with plumed hat

in one hand and sword hilt in the other, advanced ponderously, bowing

low at every other step. Droop hurriedly deposited his two boxes upon

the floor and followed his monitor, closely imitating his every step and

gesture. Having no sword, he thought it best to put his left hand into

his bosom, an attitude which he recollected in a picture of Daniel


The fat knight was about to kneel to kiss the royal hand, but Elizabeth,

smiling, detained him.

"Nay, nay!" she said. "You, Sir Percevall, have paid your debt of homage

in advance for a twelvemonth. He who kisses the dust at our feet hath

knelt for ten." Then, turning to Droop, who was down on both knees, with

his hand still in his breast: "What now!" she exclaimed. "Hath your hand

suffered some mischance, Sir American, that you hide it in your bosom?"

"Not a mite--not a mite!" Droop stuttered, quickly extending the member

in question. "Nay, your Majesty--in sooth, no--my hand beeth all right!"

"We learn from the Lord Treasurer," said Elizabeth, addressing Sir

Percevall, "that your petition hath reference to a monopoly. Know you

not, Sir Knight, that these be parlous days for making of new

monopolies? Our subjects murmur, and 'tis said that we have already been

too generous with these great gifts. Have you considered of this?"

"My liege," said Sir Percevall, "these things have we considered. Nor

would we tempt this awful Presence with petitions looking to tax further

the public patience. But, please your Majesty, Master Droop, my client

here," indicating the still kneeling man with a sweeping gesture, "hath

brought into being an instrument, or rather two instruments, of

marvellous fashion and of powers strange. Of these your Majesty's

subjects have had hitherto no knowledge, and it is in the making and

selling of these within this realm that we do here crave a right of

monopoly under the Great Seal."

"Excuse me, forsooth, your Majesty," Droop broke in, "but would thou

mind if I get up, my liege?"

"Nay, rise, rise, Master Droop!" exclaimed the Queen, smothering a

laugh. "We find matter for favor in your sponsor's speech. Can you more

fully state the nature of this petition?"

"Yes, ma'am--your Majesty," said Droop, rising and dusting off his

knees. "I am the inventor of a couple of things, forsooth, that are away

ahead of the age. Marry, yes! I call 'em a bicycle and a phonograph."

"Well, did you ever!" murmured Rebecca, amazed at this impudent claim to


Messer Guido paused in his writing and began to unfold his precious

American newspaper, while Droop went on, encouraged by the attentive

curiosity which he had evidently excited in the Queen.

"Now, the bicycle--or the bike, fer short--is a kind of a wagon or

vehycle, you wot. When you mount on it, you can trundle yerself along

like all possessed----"

"Gramercy!" broke in the Queen, in a tone of irritation. "What have we

here! We must have plain English, Master Droop. American idioms are

unknown to us."

As Droop opened his mouth to reply, Guido stepped forward with a great

rustling of paper.

"May it please your Gracious Majesty--" he panted, eagerly.

"Speak, Messer Guido."

"I would fain question this gentleman, your Majesty, touching certain

things contained herein." He shook the paper at arm's length and glared

at Droop, who returned the look with a calm eye.

"You may proceed, sir," said Elizabeth.

"Why, Master Droop, you that are the inventor of this same 'bicycle,'

how explain you this?"

He thrust the paper under Droop's nose, pointing to an advertisement


"Here," he continued, "here have we a picture bearing the legend,

'Baltimore Bicycle--Buy No Other'--" He paused, but before Copernicus

could speak he went on breathlessly: "And look on this, Master

Droop--see here--here! Another drawing, this time with the legend,

'Edison's Phonographs.' How comes it that you have invented these

things? Can you invent on this 21st day of May, in the year of our Lord

1598, what was here set forth as early as--as--" he turned the paper

back to the first page, "as early as April--" he stopped, turned pale,

and choked. Droop looked mildly triumphant.

"Well--well!" cried Elizabeth, "hast lost thy voice, man?"

"My liege," murmured the bewildered savant, "the date--this


"Is dated in 1898," said Droop, solemnly. "This here bike and phonograph

won't be invented by anyone else for three hundred years yet."

Elizabeth frowned angrily and grasped the arms of her chair in an access

of wrath which, after a pause, found vent in a torrent of words:

"Now, by God's death, my masters, you will find it ill jesting in this

presence! What in the fiend's name! Think ye, Elizabeth of England may

be tricked and cozened--made game of by a scurvy Italian bookworm and a


The adjectives and expletives which followed may not be reported here.

As the storm of words progressed, growing more violent in its

continuance, Droop stood open-mouthed, not comprehending the cause of

this tirade. Of the others, but one preserved his wits at this moment of


Sir Percevall, well aware that the Queen's fury, unless checked, would

produce his and his client's ruin, determined to divert this flood of

emotion into a new channel. With the insight of genius, the fat knight

realized that only a woman's curiosity could avert a queen's rage, and

with what speed he could he stumbled backward to where Droop had left

his exhibits. He lifted the box containing the phonograph and, taking

the instrument out, held it on the palm of his huge left hand and bent

his eyes upon it in humble and resigned contemplation.

The quick roving eye of the angry Queen caught sight of this queer

assemblage of cogs, levers, and cylinder, and for the first time her

too-ready tongue tripped. She looked away and recovered herself to the

end of the sentence. She could not resist another look, however, and

this time her words came more slowly. She paused--wavered--and then

fixed her gaze in silence upon the enigmatical device. There was a

unanimous smothered sigh as the bystanders recognized their good

fortune. Guido, frightened half to death, slipped unobserved out of a

side door, and was never seen at Greenwich again. Nor has that fatal

newspaper been heard from since.

"What may that be, Sir Percevall?" the Queen inquired at length,

settling back in her chair as comfortably as her ruff would permit.

"This, my liege, is the phonograph," said the knight, straightening

himself proudly.

"An my Greek be not at fault," said the Queen, "this name should purport

a writer of sound."

Sir Percevall's face fell. He was no Greek scholar, and this query

pushed him hard. Fortunately for him, Elizabeth turned to Droop as she

concluded her sentence.

"Hath your invention this intent, Master Droop?" she said.

"Verily, I guess you've hit it--I wot that's right!" stammered the still

frightened man.

A very audible murmur of admiration passed from one to another of the

assembled courtiers and ladies-in-waiting. These expressions reached the

ears of the Queen, for whom they were indeed intended, and the

consciousness of her acumen restored Elizabeth entirely to good-humor.

"The conceit is very novel, is it not, my lord?" she said, turning to

Baron Burleigh.

"Novel, indeed, and passing marvellous if achieved, your Majesty," was

the suave reply.

"How write you sounds with this device, Master Droop?" she asked.

"Why, thusly, ma'am--your Majesty," said Droop, with renewed courage.

"One speaketh, you wot--talketh-like into this hole--this aperture." He

turned and pointed to the mouth-piece of the instrument, which was still

in Sir Percevall's hands. "Hevin' done this, you wot, this little

pin-like pricketh or scratcheth the wax, an' the next time you go over

the thing, there you are!"

Conscious of the lameness of this explanation, Droop hurried on, hoping

to forestall further questions.

"Let me show ye, my liege, how she works, in sooth," he said, taking the

phonograph from the knight. Looking all about, he could see nothing at

hand whereon to conveniently rest the device.

"Marry, you wouldn't mind ef I was to set this right here on your

table, would ye, my liege?" he asked.

Permission was graciously accorded, and, depositing the phonograph,

Droop hurried back to get his records. Holding a wax cylinder in one

hand, he proceeded.

"Now, your Majesty can graciously gaze on this wax cylinder," he said.

"On here we hev scrawled--written--a tune played by a cornet. It is

'Home, Sweet Home.' Ye've heerd it, no doubt?"

"Nay, the title is not familiar," said the Queen, looking about her.

With one accord, the courtiers shook their heads in corroboration.

"Is that so? Well, well! Why, every boy and gal in America knows that

tune well!" said Droop.

He adjusted the cylinder and a small brass megaphone, and, having wound

the motor, pressed the starting-button. Almost at once a stentorian

voice rang through the apartment:

"Home, Sweet Home--Cornet Solo--By Signor Paolo Morituri--Edison


The sudden voice, issuing from the dead revolving cylinder, was so

unexpected and startling that several of the ladies screamed and at

least one gentleman pensioner put his hand to his sword-hilt. Elizabeth

herself started bolt upright and turned pale under her rouge as she

clutched the arms of her chair. Before she could express her feelings

the cornet solo began, and the entire audience gradually resumed its

wonted serenity before the close of the air.

"Marvellous beyond telling!" exclaimed Elizabeth, in delight. "Why, this

contrivance of yours, Master Droop, shall make your name and fortune

throughout our realm. Have you many such ingenious gentlemen in your

kingdom, Lady Rebecca?"

"Oh, dear me, yes!" said Rebecca, somewhat contemptuously. "Copernicus

Droop ain't nobody in America."

Droop glanced reproachfully at his compatriot, but concluded not to give

expression to his feelings. Accordingly, he very quickly substituted

another cylinder, and turned again to the Queen.

"Now, your Majesty," said he, "here's a comic monologue. I tell you,

verily, it's a side-splitter!"

"What may a side-splitter be, Master Droop?"

"Why, in sooth, somethin' almighty funny, you know--make a feller laugh,

you wot."

Elizabeth nodded and, with a smile of anticipation, which was copied by

all present, prepared to be amused.

Alas! The monologue was an account of how a farmer got the best of a

bunco steerer in New York City, and was delivered in the esoteric

dialect of the Bowery. It was not long before willing smiles gave place

to long-drawn faces of comic bewilderment, and, although Copernicus set

his best example by artificial grins and pretended inward laughter, he

could evoke naught but silence and bored looks.

"Marry, sir," said Elizabeth, when the monologue was at an end, "this

needs be some speech of an American empire other than that you come

from. Could you make aught of it, Lady Rebecca?"

"Nothin' on airth!" was the reply. "Only a word now an' then about a

farmer--an' somethin' about hayseed."

"Now, here's a reg'lar bird!" said Droop, hastily, as he put in a new


"Can you thus record e'en the voices of fowls?" said the Queen, with

renewed interest.

Hopeless of explaining, Droop bowed and touched the starting-button. The

announcement came at once.

"Liberty Bells March--Edison Record," and after a few preliminary

flourishes, a large brass band could be heard in full career.

This proved far more pleasing to the Queen and her suite.

"So God mend us, a merry tune and full of harmony!" said the Queen.

"But that ain't all, your Majesty," said Droop. "Here's a blank

cylinder, now." He adjusted it as he spoke and unceremoniously pushed

the instrument close to the Queen. "Here," he said, "jest you talk

anythin' you want to in there and you'll see suthin' funny, I'll bet

ye!" He was thoroughly warmed to his work now, and the little court

etiquette which he had acquired dropped from him entirely.

The Queen's eager interest had been so aroused that she was unconscious

of his too familiar manner. Leaning over the phonograph as Droop

started the motor, she looked about her and said, with a titter: "What

shall we say? Weighty words should grace so great an occasion, my


"Oh, say the Declaration of Independence or the 'Charge of the Light

Brigade'!" Droop exclaimed. "Any o' them things in the school-books!"

Elizabeth saw that the empty cylinder was passing uselessly and wasted

no time in discussion, but began to declaim some verses of Horace.

"M--m--m--" exclaimed Droop, doubtfully. "I don't know as this

phonograph will work on Latin an' Greek!"

The Queen completed her quotation and, sitting back again in her chair:

"Now, Master Droop, we have done our part," she said.

Droop readjusted the repeating diaphragm and started the motor once

more. There were two or three squeaks and then an affected little


"What shall we say?" it began. "Weighty words should grace so great an

occasion, my lords."

Elizabeth laughed a little hysterically to hear her unstudied phrase

repeated, and then, with a look of awe, listened to the repetition of

the verses she had recited.

"Can any voice be so repeated?" she asked, seriously, when this record

was completed.

"Anyone ye please--any ye please!" said the delighted promoter, visions

of uncounted wealth dancing in his head. "Now, here's a few words was

spoken on a cylinder jest two or three weeks ago by Miss Wise," he

continued, hunting through his stock of records. "Ah, here it is! It's

all 'bout Mister Bacon--I daresay you know him." The Queen looked a

little stern at this. "Tells all 'bout him, I believe. I ferget jest

what it said, but we can soon see."

The cylinder was that before which Phoebe had read an extract from the

volume on Bacon's supposed parentage and his writings while she was at

the North Pole. Little did Droop conceive what a train he was

unconsciously lighting as he adjusted the cylinder in place. As he said,

he had forgotten the exact purport of the extract in question, but, even

had he recollected it, he would probably have so little understood its

terrific import that his course would have been the same. Ignorant of

his danger, he pushed the starting-button and looked pleasantly at the

Queen, whose dislike of anything having to do with Francis Bacon had

already brought a frown to her face.

All too exactly the fateful mechanism ground out the very words and

voice of Phoebe:

"It is thus made clear from the indubitable evidence of the plays

themselves, that Francis Bacon wrote the immortal works falsely ascribed

to William Shakespeare, and that the gigantic genius of this man was the

result of the possession of royal blood. In this unacknowledged son of

Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England, was made manifest to all countries

and for all centuries the glorious powers inherent in the regal blood of


As the fearful meaning of these words was developed by the machine,

amazement gave place to consternation in those present and consternation

to abject terror. Each fear-palsied courtier looked with pale face to

right and left as though to seek escape. The fat knight, hitherto all

complacency, listening to this brazen traducer of the Queen's virgin

honor, seemed to shrink within himself, and his very clothing hung loose

upon him.

Droop and Rebecca, ignorant of the true bearing of the spoken words,

gazed in amazement from one to another until, glancing at the Queen,

their eyes remained fixed and fascinated.

The unthinkable insult implied in the words repeated was trebled in

force by being spoken thus publicly and in calm accents to her very

face. She--the daughter of Henry the Eighth; she--Elizabeth of

England--the Virgin Queen--to be thus coolly proclaimed the mother of

this upstart barrister!

As a cyclone approaches, silent and terrific, visible only in the swift

swirling changes of a livid and blackened sky, so the fatal passion in

that imperial bosom was known at first only in the gleaming of her black

eyes beneath contorted brows and the spasmodic changes that swept over

the pale red-painted face.

The danger thus portended was clear even to the bewildered Droop, and,

before the instrument had said its say, he began to slip very quietly

toward the door.

As the speech ended, Elizabeth emitted a growl that grew into a shriek

of fury, and, with her hair actually rising on her head, she threw

herself bodily upon the offending phonograph.

In her two hands she raised the instrument above her, and with a

maniac's force hurled it full at the head of Copernicus Droop.

Instinctively he dodged, and the mass of wood and steel crashed against

the door of the chamber, bursting it open and causing the two guards

without to fall back.

Droop saw his chance and took it. Turning, with a yell he dashed past

the guards and across the antechamber to the main entrance-hall. The

Queen, choked with passion, could only gasp and point her hand

frantically after the fleeing man, but at once her gentlemen, drawing

their swords, rushed in a body from the room with cries of

"Treason--treason! Stop him! Catch him!"

Down the main hallway and out into the silent court-yard Droop fled on

the wings of fear, pursued by a shouting throng, growing every moment


As he emerged into the yard a sentry tried to stop him, but, with a

single side spring, the Yankee eluded this danger and flung himself

upon his bicycle, which he found leaning against the palace wall.

"Close the gates! Trap him!" was the cry, and the ponderous iron gates

swung together with a clang. But just one second before they closed, the

narrow bicycle, with its terror-stricken burden, slipped through into

the street beyond and turned sharply to the west, gaining speed every

instant. Droop had escaped for the moment, and now bent every effort

upon reaching the Panchronicon in safety.

Then, as the tumult of futile chase faded into silence behind the

straining fugitive, there might have been seen whirling through the

ancient streets of London a weird and wondrous vision.

Perched on a whirl of spokes gleaming in the moonlight, a lean black

figure in rumpled hose, with flying cloak, slipped ghostlike through the

narrow streets at incredible speed. Many a footpad or belated townsman,

warned by the mystic tinkle of a spectral bell, had turned with a start,

to faint or run at sight of this uncanny traveller.

His hat was gone and his close-cropped head bent low over the

handle-bars. The skin-tight stockings had split from thigh to heel, mud

flew from the tires, beplastering the luckless figure from nape to

waist, and still, without pause, he pushed onward, ever onward, for

London Bridge, for Southwark, and for safety. The way was tortuous, dark

and unfamiliar, but it was for life or death, and Copernicus Droop was