that passed around her.
Susan found herself obliged at once to take up the reins, and become
head nurse and housekeeper. The old squire trusted implicitly to
her, and helplessly put the keys into her hands, and the serving-men
and maids, in some shame at the condition in which the hall had been
found, bestirred themselves to set it in order, so that there was a
chance of the ordinary appearance of things being restored by supper-
time, when Richard hoped to persuade his father to come down to his
Long before this, however, a trampling had been heard in the court,
and a shrill voice, well known to Richard and Susan, was heard
demanding, "Come home, is she - Master Diccon too? More shame for
you, you sluttish queans and lazy lubbers, never to have let me know;
but none of you have any respect - "
A visit from my Lady Countess was a greater favour to such a
household as that of Bridgefield than it would be to a cottage of the
present day; Richard was hurrying downstairs, and Susan only tarried
to throw off the housewifely apron in which she had been compounding
a cooling drink for the poor old lady, and to wash her hands, while
Humfrey, rushing up to her, exclaimed "Mother, mother, is it the
Queen Elizabeth herself was not inaptly represented by her namesake
of Hardwicke, the Queen of Hallamshire, sitting on her great white
mule at the door, sideways, with her feet on a board, as little
children now ride, and attended by a whole troop of gentlemen ushers,
maidens, prickers, and running footmen. She was a woman of the same
type as the Queen, which was of course enough to stamp her as a
celebrated beauty, and though she had reached middle age, her pale,
clear complexion and delicate features were well preserved. Her chin
was too sharp, and there was something too thin and keen about her
nose and lips to promise good temper. She was small of stature, but
she made up for it in dignity of presence, and as she sat there, with
her rich embroidered green satin farthingale spreading out over the
mule, her tall ruff standing up fanlike on her shoulders, her riding-
rod in her hand, and her master of the horse standing at her rein,
while a gentleman usher wielded an enormous, long-handled, green fan,
to keep the sun from incommoding her, she was, perhaps, even more
magnificent than the maiden queen herself might have been in her more
private expeditions. Indeed, she was new to her dignity as Countess,
having been only a few weeks married to the Earl, her fourth husband.
Captain Talbot did not feel it derogatory to his dignity as a
gentleman to advance with his hat in his hand to kiss her hand, and
put a knee to the ground as he invited her to alight, an invitation
his wife heard with dismay as she reached the door, for things were
by no means yet as they should be in the hall. She curtsied low, and
advanced with her son holding her hand, but shrinking behind her.
"Ha, kinswoman, is it thou!" was her greeting, as she, too, kissed
the small, shapely, white, but exceedingly strong hand that was
extended to her; "So thou art come, and high time too. Thou shouldst
never have gone a-gadding to Hull, living in lodgings; awaiting thine
husband, forsooth. Thou art over young a matron for such gear, and
so I told Diccon Talbot long ago."
"Yea, madam," said Richard, somewhat hotly, "and I made answer that
my Susan was to be trusted, and truly no harm has come thereof."
"Ho! and you reckon it no harm that thy father and mother were left
to a set of feckless, brainless, idle serving-men and maids in their
trouble? Why, none would so much as have seen to thy brother's poor
body being laid in a decent grave had not I been at hand to take
order for it as became a distant kinsman of my lord. I tell thee,
Richard, there must be no more of these vagabond seafaring ways.
Thou must serve my lord, as a true retainer and kinsman is bound -
Nay," in reply to a gesture, "I will not come in, I know too well in
what ill order the house is like to be. I did but take my ride this
way to ask how it fared with the mistress, and try if I could shake
the squire from his lethargy, if Mrs. Susan had not had the grace yet
to be here. How do they?" Then in answer, "Thou must waken him,
Diccon - rouse him, and tell him that I and my lord expect it of him
that he should bear his loss as a true and honest Christian man, and
not pule and moan, since he has a son left - ay, and a grandson. You
should breed your boy up to know his manners, Susan Talbot," as
Humfrey resisted an attempt to make him do his reverence to my lady;
"that stout knave of yours wants the rod. Methought I heard you'd
borne another, Susan! Ay! as I said it would be," as her eye fell on
the swaddled babe in a maid's arms. "No lack of fools to eat up the
poor old squire's substance. A maid, is it? Beshrew me, if your
voyages will find portions for all your wenches! Has the leech let
blood to thy good-mother, Susan? There! not one amongst you all
bears any brains. Knew you not how to send up to the castle for
Master Drewitt? Farewell! Thou wilt be at the lodge to-morrow to
let me know how it fares with thy mother, when her brain is cleared
by further blood-letting. And for the squire, let him know that I
expect it of him that he shall eat, and show himself a man!"
So saying, the great lady departed, escorted as far as the avenue
gate by Richard Talbot, and leaving the family gratified by her
condescension, and not allowing to themselves how much their feelings
CHAPTER III. THE CAPTIVE.
Death and sorrow seemed to have marked the house of Bridgefield, for
the old lady never rallied after the blood-letting enjoined by the
Countess's medical science, and her husband, though for some months
able to creep about the house, and even sometimes to visit the
fields, had lost his memory, and became more childish week by week.
Richard Talbot was obliged to return to his ship at the end of the
month, but as soon as she was laid up for the winter he resigned his
command, and returned home, where he was needed to assume the part of
master. In truth he became actually master before the next spring,
for his father took to his bed with the first winter frosts, and in
spite of the duteous cares lavished upon him by his son and daughter-
in-law, passed from his bed to his grave at the Christmas feast.
Richard Talbot inherited house and lands, with the undefined sense of
feudal obligation to the head of his name, and ere long he was called
upon to fulfil those obligations by service to his lord.
There had been another act in the great Scottish tragedy. Queen Mary
had effected her escape from Lochleven, but only to be at once
defeated, and then to cross the Solway and throw herself into the
hands of the English Queen.
Bolton Castle had been proved to be too perilously near the Border to
serve as her residence, and the inquiry at York, and afterwards at
Westminster, having proved unsatisfactory, Elizabeth had decided on
detaining her in the kingdom, and committed her to the charge of the
Earl of Shrewsbury.
To go into the history of that ill-managed investigation is not the
purpose of this tale. It is probable that Elizabeth believed her
cousin guilty, and wished to shield that guilt from being proclaimed,
while her councillors, in their dread of the captive, wished to
enhance the crime in Elizabeth's eyes, and were by no means
scrupulous as to the kind of evidence they adduced. However, this
lies outside our story; all that concerns it is that Lord Shrewsbury
sent a summons to his trusty and well-beloved cousin, Richard Talbot
of Bridgefield, to come and form part of the guard of honour which
was to escort the Queen of Scots to Tutbury Castle, and there attend
All this time no hint had been given that the little Cicely was of
alien blood. The old squire and his lady had been in no state to
hear of the death of their own grandchild, or of the adoption of the
orphan and Susan was too reserved a woman to speak needlessly of her
griefs to one so unsympathising as the Countess or so flighty as the
daughters at the great house. The men who had brought the summons to
Hull had not been lodged in the house, but at an inn, where they
either had heard nothing of Master Richard's adventure or had drowned
their memory in ale, for they said nothing; and thus, without any
formed intention of secrecy, the child's parentage had never come
Indeed, though without doubt Mrs. Talbot was very loyal in heart to
her noble kinsfolk, it is not to be denied that she was a good deal
more at peace when they were not at the lodge. She tried devoutly to
follow out the directions of my Lady Countess, and thought herself in
fault when things went amiss, but she prospered far more when free
from such dictation.
She had nothing to wish except that her husband could be more often
at home, but it was better to have him only a few hours' ride from
her, at Chatsworth or Tutbury, than to know him exposed to the perils
of the sea. He rode over as often as he could be spared, to see his
family and look after his property; but his attendance was close, and
my Lord and my Lady were exacting with one whom they could thoroughly
trust, and it was well that in her quiet way Mistress Susan proved
capable of ruling men and maids, farm and stable as well as house,
servants and children, to whom another boy was added in the course of
the year after her return to Bridgefield.
In the autumn, notice was sent that the Queen of Scots was to be
lodged at Sheffield, and long trains of waggons and sumpter horses
and mules began to arrive, bringing her plenishing and household
stuff in advance. Servants without number were sent on, both by her
and by the Earl, to make preparations, and on a November day, tidings
came that the arrival might be expected in the afternoon. Commands
were sent that the inhabitants of the little town at the park gate
should keep within doors, and not come forth to give any show of
welcome to their lord and lady, lest it should be taken as homage to
the captive queen; but at the Manor-house there was a little family
gathering to hail the Earl and Countess. It chiefly consisted of
ladies with their children, the husbands of most being in the suite
of the Earl acting as escort or guard to the Queen. Susan Talbot,
being akin to the family on both sides, was there with the two elder
children; Humfrey, both that he might greet his father the sooner,
and that he might be able to remember the memorable arrival of the
captive queen, and Cicely, because he had clamoured loudly for her
company. Lady Talbot, of the Herbert blood, wife to the heir, was
present with two young sisters-in-law, Lady Grace, daughter to the
Earl, and Mary, daughter to the Countess, who had been respectively
married to Sir Henry Cavendish and Sir Gilbert Talbot, a few weeks
before their respective parents were wedded, when the brides were
only twelve and fourteen years old. There, too, was Mrs. Babington
of Dethick, the recent widow of a kinsman of Lord Shrewsbury, to whom
had been granted the wardship of her son, and the little party
waiting in the hall also numbered Elizabeth and William Cavendish,
the Countess's youngest children, and many dependants mustered in the
background, ready for the reception. Indeed, the castle and manor-
house, with their offices, lodges, and outbuildings, were an absolute
little city in themselves. The castle was still kept in perfect
repair, for the battle of Bosworth was not quite beyond the memory of
living men's fathers; and besides, who could tell whether any day
England might not have to be contested inch by inch with the
Spaniard? So the gray walls stood on the tongue of land in the
valley, formed by the junction of the rivers Sheaf and Dun, with
towers at all the gateways, enclosing a space of no less than eight
acres, and with the actual fortress, crisp, strong, hard, and
unmouldered in the midst, its tallest square tower serving as a look-
out place for those who watched to give the first intimation of the
The castle had its population, but chiefly of grooms, warders, and
their families. The state-rooms high up in that square tower were so
exceedingly confined, so stern and grim, that the grandfather of the
present earl had built a manor-house for his family residence on the
sloping ground on the farther side of the Dun.
This house, built of stone, timber, and brick, with two large courts,
two gardens, and three yards, covered nearly as much space as the
castle itself. A pleasant, smooth, grass lawn lay in front, and on
it converged the avenues of oaks and walnuts, stretching towards the
gates of the park, narrowing to the eye into single lines, then going
absolutely out of sight, and the sea of foliage presenting the utmost
variety of beautiful tints of orange, yellow, brown, and red. There
was a great gateway between two new octagon towers of red brick, with
battlements and dressings of stone, and from this porch a staircase
led upwards to the great stone-paved hall, with a huge fire burning
on the open hearth. Around it had gathered the ladies of the Talbot
family waiting for the reception. The warder on the tower had blown
his horn as a signal that the master and his royal guest were within
the park, and the banner of the Talbots had been raised to announce
their coming, but nearly half an hour must pass while the party came
along the avenue from the drawbridge over the Sheaf ere they could
arrive at the lodge.
So the ladies, in full state dresses, hovered over the fire, while
the children played in the window seat near at hand.
Gilbert Talbot's wife, a thin, yellow-haired, young creature,
promising to be like her mother, the Countess, had a tongue which
loved to run, and with the precocity and importance of wifehood at
sixteen, she dilated to her companions on her mother's constant
attendance on the Queen, and the perpetual plots for that lady's
escape. "She is as shifty and active as any cat-a-mount; and at
Chatsworth she had a scheme for being off out of her bedchamber
window to meet a traitor fellow named Boll; but my husband smelt it
out in good time, and had the guard beneath my lady's window, and the
fellows are in gyves, and to see the lady the day it was found out!
Not a wry face did she make. Oh no! 'Twas all my good lord, and my
sweet sir with her. I promise you butter would not melt in her
mouth, for my Lord Treasurer Cecil hath been to see her, and he has
promised to bring her to speech of her Majesty. May I be there to
see. I promise you 'twill be diamond cut diamond between them."
"How did she and my Lord Treasurer fare together?" asked Mrs.
"Well, you know there's not a man of them all that is proof against
her blandishments. Her Majesty should have women warders for her.
'Twas good sport to see the furrows in his old brow smoothing out
against his will as it were, while she plied him with her tongue.
I never saw the Queen herself win such a smile as came on his lips,
but then he is always a sort of master, or tutor, as it were, to the
Queen. Ay," on some exclamation from Lady Talbot, "she heeds him
like no one else. She may fling out, and run counter to him for the
very pleasure of feeling that she has the power, but she will come
round at last, and 'tis his will that is done in the long run. If
this lady could beguile him indeed, she might be a free woman in the
"And think you that she did?"
"Not she! The Lord Treasurer is too long-headed, and has too strong
a hate to all Papistry, to be beguiled more than for the very moment
he was before her. He cannot help the being a man, you see, and they
are all alike when once in her presence - your lord and father, like
the rest of them, sister Grace. Mark me if there be not tempests
brewing, an we be not the sooner rid of this guest of ours. My
mother is not the woman to bear it long."
Dame Mary's tongue was apt to run on too fast, and Lady Talbot
interrupted its career with an amused gesture towards the children.
For the little Cis, babe as she was, had all the three boys at her
service. Humfrey, with a paternal air, was holding her on the
window-seat; Antony Babington was standing to receive the ball that
was being tossed to and fro between them, but as she never caught it,
Will Cavendish was content to pick it up every time and return it to
her, appearing amply rewarded by her laugh of delight.
The two mothers could not but laugh, and Mrs. Babington said the
brave lads were learning their knightly courtesy early, while Mary
Talbot began observing on the want of likeness between Cis and either
the Talbot or Hardwicke race. The little girl was much darker in
colouring than any of the boys, and had a pair of black, dark, heavy
brows, that prevented her from being a pretty child. Her adopted
mother shrank from such observations, and was rejoiced that a winding
of horns, and a shout from the boys, announced that the expected
arrival was about to take place. The ladies darted to the window,
and beholding the avenue full of horsemen and horsewomen, their
accoutrements and those of their escort gleaming in the sun, each
mother gathered her own chicks to herself, smoothed the plumage
somewhat ruffled by sport, and advanced to the head of the stone
steps, William Cavendish, the eldest of the boys, being sent down to
take his stepfather's rein and hold his stirrup, page fashion.
Clattering and jingling the troop arrived. The Earl, a stout, square
man, with a long narrow face, lengthened out farther by a light-
coloured, silky beard, which fell below his ruff, descended from his
steed, gave his hat to Richard Talbot, and handed from her horse a
hooded and veiled lady of slender proportions, who leant on his arm
as she ascended the steps.
The ladies knelt, whether in respect to the heads of the family, or
to the royal guest, may be doubtful.
The Queen came up the stairs with rheumatic steps, declaring,
however, as she did so, that she felt the better for her ride, and
was less fatigued than when she set forth. She had the soft, low,
sweet Scottish voice, and a thorough Scottish accent and language,
tempered, however, by French tones, and as, coming into the warmer
air of the hall, she withdrew her veil, her countenance was seen.
Mary Stuart was only thirty-one at this time, and her face was still
youthful, though worn and wearied, and bearing tokens of illness.
The features were far from being regularly beautiful; there was a
decided cast in one of the eyes, and in spite of all that Mary
Talbot's detracting tongue had said, Susan's first impression was
disappointment. But, as the Queen greeted the lady whom she already
knew, and the Earl presented his daughter, Lady Grace, his
stepdaughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, and his kinswoman, Mistress Susan
Talbot, the extraordinary magic of her eye and lip beamed on them,
the queenly grace and dignity joined with a wonderful sweetness
impressed them all, and each in measure felt the fascination.
The Earl led the Queen to the fire to obtain a little warmth before
mounting the stairs to her own apartments, and likewise while Lady
Shrewsbury was dismounting, and being handed up the stairs by her
second stepson, Gilbert. The ladies likewise knelt on one knee to
greet this mighty dame, and the children should have done so too, but
little Cis, catching sight of Captain Richard, who had come up
bearing the Earl's hat, in immediate attendance on him, broke out
with an exulting cry of "Father! father! father!" trotted with
outspread arms right in front of the royal lady, embraced the booted
leg in ecstasy, and then stretching out, exclaimed "Up! up!"
"How now, malapert poppet!" exclaimed the Countess, and though at
some distance, uplifted her riding-rod. Susan was ready to sink into
the earth with confusion at the great lady's displeasure, but Richard
had stooped and lifted the little maid in his arms, while Queen Mary
turned, her face lit up as by a sunbeam, and said, "Ah, bonnibell,
art thou fain to see thy father? Wilt thou give me one of thy
kisses, sweet bairnie?" and as Richard held her up to the kind face,
"A goodly child, brave sir. Thou must let me have her at times for a
playfellow. Wilt come and comfort a poor prisoner, little sweeting?"
The child responded with "Poor poor," stroking the soft delicate
cheek, but the Countess interfered, still wrathful. "Master Richard,
I marvel that you should let her Grace be beset by a child, who, if
she cannot demean herself decorously, should have been left at home.
Susan Hardwicke, I thought I had schooled you better."
"Nay, madam, may not a babe's gentle deed of pity be pardoned?" said
"Oh! if it pleasures you, madam, so be it," said Lady Shrewsbury,
deferentially; "but there be children here more worthy of your notice
than yonder little black-browed wench, who hath been allowed to
thrust herself forward, while others have been kept back from
importuning your Grace."
"No child can importune a mother who is cut off from her own," said
Mary, eager to make up for the jealousy she had excited. "Is this
bonnie laddie yours, madam? Ah! I should have known it by the
She held her white hand to receive the kisses of the boys: William
Cavendish, under his mother's eye, knelt obediently; Antony
Babington, a fair, pretty lad, of eight or nine, of a beautiful pink
and white complexion, pressed forward with an eager devotion which
made the Queen smile and press her delicate hand on his curled locks;
as for Humfrey, he retreated behind the shelter of his mother's
farthingale, where his presence was forgotten by every one else, and,
after the rebuff just administered to Cicely, there was no
inclination to bring him to light, or combat with his bashfulness.
The introductions over, Mary gave her hand to the Earl to be
conducted from the hall up the broad staircase, and along the great
western gallery to the south front, where for many days her
properties had been in course of being arranged.
Lady Shrewsbury followed as mistress of the house, and behind, in
order of precedence, came the Scottish Queen's household, in which
the dark, keen features of the French, and the rufous hues of the
Scots, were nearly equally divided. Lady Livingstone and Mistress
Seaton, two of the Queen's Maries of the same age with herself, came
next, the one led by Lord Talbot, the other by Lord Livingstone.
There was also the faithful French Marie de Courcelles, paired with
Master Beatoun, comptroller of the household, and Jean Kennedy, a
stiff Scotswoman, whose hard outlines did not do justice to her
tenderness and fidelity, and with her was a tall, active, keen-faced
stripling, looked on with special suspicion by the English, as Willie
Douglas, the contriver of the Queen's flight from Lochleven. Two
secretaries, French and Scottish, were shrewdly suspected of being
priests, and there were besides, a physician, surgeon, apothecary,
with perfumers, cooks, pantlers, scullions, lacqueys, to the number
of thirty, besides their wives and attendants, these last being
"permitted of my lord's benevolence."
They were all eyed askance by the sturdy, north country English, who
naturally hated all strangers, above all French and Scotch, and
viewed the band of captives much like a caged herd of wild beasts.
When on the way home Mistress Susan asked her little boy why he would
not make his obeisance to the pretty lady, he sturdily answered, "She
is no pretty lady of mine. She is an evil woman who slew her
"Poor lady! tongues have been busy with her," said his father.
"How, sir?" asked Susan, amazed, "do you think her guiltless in the
"I cannot tell," returned Richard. "All I know is that many who have
no mercy on her would change their minds if they beheld her patient
and kindly demeanour to all."
This was a sort of shock to Susan, as it seemed to her to prove the
truth of little Lady Talbot's words, that no one was proof against
Queen Mary's wiles; but she was happy in having her husband at home
once more, though, as he told her, he would be occupied most of each
alternate day at Sheffield, he and another relation having been
appointed "gentlemen porters," which meant that they were to wait in
a chamber at the foot of the stairs, and keep watch over whatever
went in or out of the apartments of the captive and her suite.
"And," said Richard, "who think you came to see me at Wingfield?
None other than Cuthbert Langston"