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,
"If I may venture--" said Guido, eagerly.
"Speak, Messer Guido."
"Why, it would appear, your Majesty, that tea is a sort of stuff for
"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
"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
"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
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
"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,
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
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
"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
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