comer sit near him, and asked many questions, so that Humfrey was the
chief speaker all supper time, with here and there a note from his
father, the only person who had made the same voyage.
All heard with
eager interest of the voyage, the weeds in the Gulf Stream, the
strange birds and fishes, of Walter Raleigh's Virginian colony and
its ill success, of the half-starved men whom Sir Richard Grenville
had found only too ready to leave Roanoake, of dark-skinned Indians,
of chases of Spanish ships, of the Peak of Teneriffe rising white
from the waves, of phosphorescent seas, of storms, and of shark-
Supper over, the audience again gathered round the young traveller, a
perfect fountain of various and wonderful information to those who
had for the most part never seen a book of travels. He narrated
simply and well, without his boyish shy embarrassment and
awkwardness, and likewise, as his father alone could judge, without
boasting, though, if to no one else, to Diccon and Cis, listening
with wide open eyes, he seemed a hero of heroes. In the midst of his
narration a message came that the Queen of Scots requested the
presence of Mistress Cicely. Humfrey stared in discomfiture, and
asked when she would return.
"Not to-night," faltered the girl, and the mother added, for the
benefit of the bystanders, "For lack of other ladies of the
household, much service hath of late fallen to Cicely and myself, and
she shares the Queen's chamber."
Humfrey had to submit to exchange good-nights with Cicely, and she
made her way less willingly than usual to the apartments of the
Queen, who was being made ready for her bed. "Here comes our
truant," she exclaimed as the maiden entered. "I sent to rescue thee
from the western seafarer who had clawed thee in his tarry clutch.
Thou didst act the sister's part passing well. I hear my Lord and
all his meine have been sitting, open-mouthed, hearkening to his
tales of savages and cannibals."
"O madam, he told us of such lovely isles," said Cis. "The sea, he
said, is blue, bluer than we can conceive, with white waves of
dazzling surf, breaking on islands fringed with white shells and
coral, and with palms, their tops like the biggest ferns in the
brake, and laden with red golden fruit as big as goose eggs. And the
birds! O madam, my mother, the birds! They are small, small as our
butterflies and beetles, and they hang hovering and quivering over a
flower so that Humfrey thought they were moths, for he saw nothing
but a whizzing and a whirring till he smote the pretty thing dead,
and then he said that I should have wept for pity, for it was a
little bird with a long bill, and a breast that shines red in one
light, purple in another, and flame-coloured in a third. He has
brought home the little skin and feathers of it for me."
"Thou hast supped full of travellers' tales, my simple child."
"Yea, madam, but my Lord listened, and made Humfrey sit beside him,
and made much of him - my Lord himself! I would fain bring him to
you, madam. It is so wondrous to hear him tell of the Red Men with
crowns of feathers and belts of beads. Such gentle savages they be,
and their chiefs as courteous and stately as any of our princes, and
yet those cruel Spaniards make them slaves and force them to dig in
mines, so that they die and perish under their hands."
"And better so than that they should not come to the knowledge of the
faith," said Mary.
"I forgot that your Grace loves the Spaniards," said Cis, much in the
tone in which she might have spoken of a taste in her Grace for
spiders, adders, or any other noxious animal.
"One day my child will grow out of her little heretic prejudices, and
learn to love her mother's staunch friends, the champions of Holy
Church, and the representatives of true knighthood in these
degenerate days. Ah, child! couldst thou but see a true Spanish
caballero, or again, could I but show thee my noble cousin of Guise,
then wouldst thou know how to rate these gross clownish English
mastiffs who now turn thy silly little brain. Ah, that thou couldst
once meet a true prince!"
"The well," murmured Cicely.
"Tush, child," said the Queen, amused. "What of that? Thy name is
not Cis, is it? 'Tis only the slough that serves thee for the nonce.
The good youth will find himself linked to some homely, housewifely
Cis in due time, when the Princess Bride is queening it in France or
Austria, and will own that the well was wiser than he."
Poor Cis! If her inmost heart declared Humfrey Talbot to be prince
enough for her, she durst not entertain the sentiment, not knowing
whether it were unworthy, and while Marie de Courcelles read aloud a
French legend of a saint to soothe the Queen to sleep, she lay
longing after the more sympathetic mother, and wondering what was
passing in the hall.
Richard Talbot had communed with his wife's eyes, and made up his
mind that Humfrey should know the full truth before the Queen should
enjoin his being put off with the story of the parentage she had
invented for Bride Hepburn; and while some of the gentlemen followed
their habit of sitting late over the wine cup, he craved their leave
to have his son to himself a little while, and took him out in the
summer twilight on the greensward, going through the guards, for whom
he, as the gentleman warder, had the password of the night. In
compliment to the expedition of the day it had been made "True love
and the Flowing Well." It sounded agreeable in Humfrey's ears; he
repeated it again, and then added "Little Cis! she hath come to
woman's estate, and she hath caught some of the captive lady's pretty
tricks of the head and hands. How long hath she been so thick with
"Since this journey. I have to speak with thee, my son."
"I wait your pleasure, sir," said Humfrey, and as his father paused a
moment ere communicating his strange tidings, he rendered the matter
less easy by saying, "I guess your purpose. If I may at once wed my
little Cis I will send word to Sir John Norreys that I am not for
this expedition to the Low Countries, though there is good and manly
work to be done there, and I have the offer of a command, but I gave
not my word till I knew your will, and whether we might wed at once."
"Thou hast much to hear, my son."
"Nay, surely no one has come between!" exclaimed Humfrey. "Methought
she was less frank and more coy than of old. If that sneaking
traitor Babington hath been making up to her I will slit his false
gullet for him."
"Hush, hush, Humfrey! thy seafaring boasts skill not here. No _man_
hath come between thee and yonder poor maid."
"Poor! You mean not that she is sickly. Were she so, I would so
tend her that she should be well for mere tenderness. But no, she
was the very image of health. No man, said you, father? Then it is
a woman. Ah! my Lady Countess is it, bent on making her match her
own way? Sir, you are too good and upright to let a tyrannous dame
like that sever between us, though she be near of kin to us. My
mother might scruple to cross her, but you have seen the world, sir."
"My lad, you are right in that it is a woman who stands between you
and Cis, but it is not the Countess. None would have the right to do
so, save the maiden's own mother."
"Her mother! You have discovered her lineage! Can she have ought
against me? - I, your son, sir, of the Talbot blood, and not ill
"Alack, son, the Talbot may be a good dog but the lioness will scarce
esteem him her mate. Riddles apart, it is proved beyond question
that our little maid is of birth as high as it is unhappy. Thou
canst be secret, I know, Humfrey, and thou must be silent as the
grave, for it touches my honour and the poor child's liberty."
"Who is she, then?" demanded Humfrey sharply.
His father pointed to the Queen's window. Humfrey stared at him, and
muttered an ejaculation, then exclaimed, "How and when was this
Richard went over the facts, giving as few names as possible, while
his son stood looking down and drawing lines with the point of his
"I hoped," ended the father, "that these five years' absence might
have made thee forget thy childish inclination;" and as Humfrey,
without raising his face, emphatically shook his head, be went on to
add - "So, my dear son, meseemeth that there is no remedy, but that,
for her peace and thine own, thou shouldest accept this offer of
brave Norreys, and by the time the campaign is ended, they may be
both safe in Scotland, out of reach of vexing thy heart, my poor
"Is it so sure that her royal lineage will be owned?" muttered
Humfrey. "Out on me for saying so! But sure this lady hath made
light enough of her wedlock with yonder villain."
"Even so, but that was when she deemed its offspring safe beneath the
waves. I fear me that, however our poor damsel be regarded, she will
be treated as a mere bait and tool. If not bestowed on some foreign
prince (and there hath been talk of dukes and archdukes), she may
serve to tickle the pride of some Scottish thief, such as was her
"Sir! sir! how can you speak patiently of such profanation and
cruelty? Papist butchers and Scottish thieves, for the child of your
hearth! Were it not better that I stole her safely away and wedded
her in secret, so that at least she might have an honest husband?"
"Nay, his honesty would scarce be thus manifest," said Richard, "even
if the maid would consent, which I think she would not. Her head is
too full of her new greatness to have room for thee, my poor lad.
Best that thou shouldest face the truth. And, verily, what is it but
her duty to obey her mother, her true and veritable mother, Humfrey?
It is but making her ease harder, and adding to her griefs, to strive
to awaken any inclination she may have had for thee; and therefore it
is that I counsel thee, nay, I might command thee, to absent thyself
while it is still needful that she remain with us, passing for our
Humfrey still traced lines with his sword in the dust. He had always
been a strong-willed though an obedient and honourable boy, and his
father felt that these five years had made a man of him, whom, in
spite of mediaeval obedience, it was not easy to dispose of
"There's no haste," he muttered. "Norreys will not go till my Lord
of Leicester's commission be made out. It is five years since I was
"My son, thou knowest that I would not send thee from me willingly.
I had not done so ere now, but that it was well for thee to know the
world and men, and Sheffield is a mere nest of intrigue and
falsehood, where even if one keeps one's integrity, it is hard to be
believed. But for my Lord, thy mother, and my poor folk, I would
gladly go with thee to strike honest downright blows at a foe I could
see and feel, rather than be nothing better than a warder, and be
driven distracted with women's tongues. Why, they have even set
division between my Lord and his son Gilbert, who was ever the
dearest to him. Young as he is, methinks Diccon would be better away
with thee than where the very air smells of plots and lies."
"I trow the Queen of Scots will not be here much longer," said
Humfrey. "Men say in London that Sir Ralf Sadler is even now setting
forth to take charge of her, and send my Lord to London."
"We have had such hopes too often, my son," said Richard. "Nay, she
hath left us more than once, but always to fall back upon Sheffield
like a weight to the ground. But she is full of hope in her son, now
that he is come of age, and hath put to death her great foe, the Earl
"The poor lady might as well put her faith in - in a jelly-fish," said
Humfrey, falling on a comparison perfectly appreciated by the old
"Heh? She will get naught but stings. How knowest thou?"
"Why, do none know here that King James is in the hands of him they
call the Master of Gray?"
"Queen Mary puts in him her chief hope."
"Then she hath indeed grasped a jelly-fish. Know you not, father,
those proud and gay ones, with rose-coloured bladders and long blue
beards - blue as the azure of a herald's coat?"
"Ay, marry I do. I remember when I was a lad, in my first voyage,
laying hold on one. I warrant you I danced about till I was nearly
overboard, and my arm was as big as two for three days later. Is the
fellow of that sort? The false Scot."
"Look you, father, I met in London that same Johnstone who was one of
this lady's gentlemen at one time. You remember him. He breakfasted
at Bridgefield once or twice ere the watch became more strict."
"Yea, I remember him. He was an honest fellow for a Scot."
"When he made out that I was the little lad he remembered, he was
very courteous, and desired his commendations to you and to my
mother. He had been in Scotland, and had come south in the train of
this rogue, Gray. I took him to see the old Pelican, and we had a
breakfast aboard there. He asked much after his poor Queen, whom he
loves as much as ever, and when he saw I was a man he could trust,
your true son, he said that he saw less hope for her than ever in
Scotland - her friends have been slain or exiled, and the young
generation that has grown up have learned to dread her like an
incarnation of the scarlet one of Babylon. Their preachers would
hail her as Satan loosed on them, and the nobles dread nothing so
much as being made to disgorge the lands of the Crown and the Church,
on which they are battening. As to her son, he was fain enough to
break forth from one set of tutors, and the messages of France and
Spain tickled his fancy - but he is nought. He is crammed with
scholarship, and not without a shrewd apprehension; but, with respect
be it spoken, more the stuff that court fools are made of than kings.
It may be, as a learned man told Johnstone, that the shock the Queen
suffered when the brutes put Davy to death before her eyes, three
months ere his birth, hath damaged his constitution, for he is at the
mercy of whosoever chooses to lead him, and hath no will of his own.
This Master of Gray was at first inclined to the Queen's party,
thinking more might be got by a reversal of all things, but now he
finds the king's men so strong in the saddle, and the Queen's French
kindred like to be too busy at home to aid her, what doth he do, but
list to our Queen's offers, and this ambassage of his, which hath a
colour of being for Queen Mary's release, is verily to make terms
with my Lord Treasurer and Sir Francis Walsingham for the pension he
is to have for keeping his king in the same mind."
"Turning a son against a mother! I marvel that honourable
counsellors can bring themselves to the like."
"Policy, sir, policy," said Humfrey. "And this Gray maketh a fine
show of chivalry and honour, insomuch that Sir Philip Sidney himself
hath desired his friendship; but, you see, the poor lady is as far
from freedom as she was when first she came to Sheffield."
"She is very far from believing it, poor dame. I am sorry for her,
Humfrey, more sorry than I ever thought I could be, now I have seen
more of her. My Lord himself says he never knew her break a promise.
How gracious she is there is no telling."
"That we always knew," said Humfrey, looking somewhat amazed, that
his honoured father should have fallen under the spell of the "siren
between the cold earth and moon."
"Yes, gracious, and of a wondrous constancy of mind, and evenness of
temper," said Richard. "Now that thy mother and I have watched her
more closely, we can testify that, weary, worn, and sick of body and
of heart as she is, she never letteth a bitter or a chiding word pass
her lips towards her servants. She hath nothing to lose by it.
Their fidelity is proven. They would stand by her to the last, use
them as she would, but assuredly their love must be doubly bound up
in her when they see how she regardeth them before herself. Let what
will be said of her, son Humfrey, I shall always maintain that I
never saw woman, save thine own good mother, of such evenness of
condition, and sweetness of consideration for all about her, ay, and
patience in adversity, such as, Heaven forbid, thy mother should ever
"Amen, and verily amen," said Humfrey. "Deem you then that she hath
not worked her own woe?"
"Nay, lad, what saith the Scripture, 'Judge not, and ye shall not be
judged'? How should I know what hath passed seventeen years back in
"Ay, but for present plots and intrigues, judge you her a true
"Humfrey, thou hadst once a fox in a cage. When it found it vain to
dash against the bars, rememberest thou how it scratched away the
earth in the rear, and then sat over the hole it had made, lest we
should see it?"
"The fox, say you, sir? Then you cannot call her ought but false."
"They tell me," said Sir Richard, "that ever since an Italian named
Machiavel wrote his Book of the Prince, statecraft hath been craft
indeed, and princes suck in deceit with the very air they breathe.
Ay, boy, it is what chiefly vexes me in the whole. I cannot doubt
that she is never so happy as when there is a plot or scheme toward,
not merely for her own freedom, but the utter overthrow of our own
gracious Sovereign, who, if she hath kept this lady in durance, hath
shielded her from her own bloodthirsty subjects. And for
dissembling, I never saw her equal. Yet she, as thy mother tells me,
is a pious and devout woman, who bears her troubles thus cheerfully
and patiently, because she deems them a martyrdom for her religion.
Ay, all women are riddles, they say, but this one the most of all!"
"Thinkest thou that she hath tampered with - with that poor maiden's
faith?" asked Humfrey huskily.
"I trow not yet, my son," replied Richard; "Cis is as open as ever
to thy mother, for I cannot believe she hath yet learnt to dissemble,
and I greatly suspect that the Queen, hoping to return to Scotland,
may be willing to keep her a Protestant, the better to win favour
with her brother and the lords of his council; but if he be such a
cur as thou sayest, all hope of honourable release is at an end. So
thou seest, Humfrey, how it lies, and how, in my judgment, to remain
here is but to wring thine own heart, and bring the wench and thyself
to sore straits. I lay not my commands on thee, a man grown, but
such is my opinion on the matter."
"I will not disobey you, father," said Humfrey, "but suffer me to
consider the matter."
CHAPTER XVIII. CIS OR SISTER.
Buxtona, quae calidae celebraris nomine lymphae
Forte mihi post hac non adeunda, Vale.
(Buxton of whose warm waters men tell,
Perchance I ne'er shall see thee more, Farewell.)
Thus wrote Queen Mary with a diamond upon her window pane, smiling as
she said, "There, we will leave a memento over which the admirable
Dr. Jones will gloat his philosophical soul. Never may I see thee
more, Buxton, yet never thought I to be so happy as I have here
She spoke with the tenderness of farewell to the spot which had
always been the pleasantest abode of the various places of durance
which had been hers in England. Each year she had hoped would be her
last of such visits, but on this occasion everything seemed to point
to a close to the present state of things, since not only were the
negotiations with Scotland apparently prosperous, but Lord Shrewsbury
had obtained an absolute promise from Elizabeth that she would at all
events relieve him from his onerous and expensive charge. Thus there
was general cheerfulness, as the baggage was bestowed in carts and on
beasts of burthen, and Mary, as she stood finishing her inscription
on the window, smiled sweetly and graciously on Mistress Talbot, and
gave her joy of the arrival of her towardly and hopeful son, adding,
"We surprised him at the well! May his Cis, who is yet to be found,
I trow, reward his lealty!"
That was all the notice Mary deigned to take of the former relations
between her daughter and young Talbot. She did not choose again to
beg for secrecy when she was sure to hear that she had been
forestalled, and she was too consummate a judge of character not to
have learnt that, though she might despise the dogged, simple
straightforwardness of Richard and Susan Talbot, their honour was
perfectly trustworthy. She was able for the present to keep her
daughter almost entirely to herself, since, on the return to
Sheffield, the former state of things was resumed. The Bridgefield
family was still quartered in the Manor-house, and Mistress Talbot
continued to be, as it were, Lady Warder to the captive in the place
of the Countess, who obstinately refused to return while Mary was
still in her husband's keeping. Cicely, as Mary's acknowledged
favourite, was almost always in her apartments, except at the meals
of the whole company of Shrewsbury kinsfolk and retainers, when her
place was always far removed from that of Humfrey. In truth, if ever
an effort might have obtained a few seconds of private conversation,
a strong sense of embarrassment and perplexity made the two young
people fly apart rather than come together. They knew not what they
wished. Humfrey might in his secret soul long for a token that Cis
remembered his faithful affection, and yet he knew that to elicit one
might do her life-long injury. So, however he might crave for word
or look when out of sight of her, an honourable reluctance always
withheld him from seeking any such sign in the short intervals when
he could have tried to go beneath the surface. On the other hand,
this apparent indifference piqued her pride, and made her stiff,
cold, and almost disdainful whenever there was any approach between
them. Her vanity might be flattered by the knowledge that she was
beyond his reach; but it would have been still more gratified could
she have discovered any symptoms of pining and languishing after her.
She might peep at him from under her eyelashes in chapel and in hall;
but in the former place his gaze always seemed to be on the minister,
in the latter he showed no signs of flagging as a trencher companion.
Both mothers thought her marvellously discreet; but neither beheld
the strange tumult in her heart, where were surging pride, vanity,
ambition, and wounded affection.
In a few days, Sir Ralf Sadler and his son-in-law Mr. Somer arrived
at Sheffield in order to take the charge of the prisoner whilst
Shrewsbury went to London. The conferences and consultations were
endless, and harassing, and it was finally decided that the Earl
should escort her to Wingfield, and, leaving her there under charge
of Sadler, should proceed to London. She made formal application for
Mistress Cicely Talbot to accompany her as one of her suite, and her
supposed parents could not but give their consent, but six
gentlewomen had been already enumerated, and the authorities would
not consent to her taking any more ladies with her, and decreed that
Mistress Cicely must remain at home.
"This unkindness has made the parting from this place less joyous
than I looked for," said Mary, "but courage, ma mignonne. Soon shall
I send for thee to Scotland, and there shalt thou burst thine husk,
and show thyself in thy true colours;" and turning to Susan, "Madam,
I must commit my treasure to her who has so long watched over her."
"Your Grace knows that she is no less my treasure," said Susan.
"I should have known it well," returned the Queen, "from the
innocence and guilelessness of the damsel. None save such a mother
as Mistress Talbot could have made her what she is. Credit me,
madam, I have looked well into her heart, and found nought to undo
there. You have bred her up better than her poor mother could have
done, and I gladly entrust her once more to your care, assured that
your well-tried honour will keep her in mind of what she is, and to
what she may be called."
"She shall remember it, madam," said Susan.
"When I am a Queen once more," said Mary, "all I can give will seem
too poor a meed for what you have been to my child. Even as Queen of
Scotland or England itself, my power would be small in comparison
with my will. My gratitude, however, no bounds can limit out to me."
And with tears of tenderness and thankfulness she kissed the cheeks
and lips of good Mistress Talbot, who could not but likewise weep for
the mother thus compelled to part with her child.
The night was partly spent in caresses and promises of the brilliant
reception preparing in Scotland, with auguries of the splendid
marriage in store, with a Prince of Lorraine, or even with an