you can actually be on the way to this castle before they hear of it-
-and it is possible you may have a full day in advance - they will be
unable to hinder the conditions from being laid before the Queen of
Scots, and we are witnesses of what they were."
"Oh, let us go! let us go at once, dear sir," entreated Cicely. "I
burn to carry my mother this hope."
It was not yet noon, so early had been the audience, and dark and
short as were the days, it was quite possible to make some progress
on the journey before night. Cicely had kept the necessaries for her
journey ready, and so had Mr. Talbot, even to the purchase of horses,
which were in the Shrewsbury House stables.
The rest of the mails could be fetched by the Mastiff's crew, and
brought to Hull under charge of Goatley. Madame de Salmonnet was a
good deal scandalised at Son Altesse Royale going off with only a
male escort, and to Cicely's surprise, wept over her, and prayed
aloud that she might have good success, and bring safety and
deliverance to the good and persecuted Queen for whom she had
attempted so much.
"Sir," said Chateauneuf, as he stood beside Richard, waiting till the
girl's preparations were over, "if there could have been any doubts
of the royal lineage of your charge, her demeanour to-day would have
disproved them. She stood there speaking as an equal, all undaunted
before that Queen before whom all tremble, save when they can cajole
"She stood there in the strength of truth and innocence," said
Whereat the Frenchman again looked perplexed at these
Cicely presently appeared. It was wonderful to see how that one
effort had given her dignity and womanhood. She thanked the two
ambassadors for the countenance they had given to her, and begged
them to continue their exertions in her mother's cause. "And," she
added, "I believe my mother has already requested of you to keep this
matter a secret."
They bowed, and she added, "You perceive, gentlemen, that the very
conditions I have offered involve secrecy both as to my mother's
future abode and my existence. Therefore, I trust that you will not
consider it inconsistent with your duty to the King of France to send
no word of this."
Again they assured her of their secrecy, and the promise was so far
kept that the story was reserved for the private ear of Henri III. on
Bellievre's return, and never put into the despatches.
Two days later, Cicely enjoyed some of the happiest hours of her
life. She stood by the bed where her mother was lying, and was
greeted with the cry, "My child, my child! I thought I never should
see thee more. Domine, nunc dimittis!"
"Nay, dearest mother, but I trust she will show mercy. I bring you
Mary laid her head on her daughter's shoulder and listened. It might
be that she had too much experience of Elizabeth's vacillations to
entertain much hope of her being allowed to retire beyond her grasp
into a foreign convent, and she declared that she could not endure
that her beloved, devoted child should wear away her life under
Elizabeth's jealous eye, but Cis put this aside, saying with a smile,
"I think she will not be hard with me. She will be no worse than my
Lady Countess, and I shall have a secret of joy within me in thinking
of you resting among the good nuns."
And Mary caught hope from the anticipations she would not damp, and
gave herself to the description of the peaceful cloister life,
reviewing in turn the nunneries she had heard described, and talking
over their rules. There would indeed be as little liberty as here,
but she would live in the midst of prayer and praise, and be at rest
from the plots and plans, the hopes and fears, of her long captivity,
and be at leisure for penitence. "For, ah! my child, guiltless
though I be of much that is laid to my charge, thy mother is a sinful
woman, all unworthy of what her brave and innocent daughter has dared
and done for her."
Almost equally precious with that mother's greeting was the grave
congratulating look of approval which Cicely met in Humfrey's eyes
when he had heard all from his father. He could exult in her, even
while he thought sadly of the future which she had so bravely risked,
watching over her from a distance in his silent, self-restrained,
The Queen's coldness towards Humfrey had meantime diminished daily,
though he could not guess whether she really viewed his course as the
right one, or whether she forgave this as well as all other injuries
in the calm gentle state into which she had come, not greatly moved
by hope or fear, content alike to live or die.
Richard, in much anxiety, was to remain another day or two at
Fotheringhay, on the plea of his wearied horses and of the Sunday
Meantime Mary diligently wrote the conditions, but perhaps more to
satisfy her daughter than with much hope of their acceptance.
CHAPTER XLIII. THE WARRANT
"Yea, madam, they are gone! They stole away at once, and are far on
the way to Fotheringhay, with these same conditions." So spoke
Davison, under-secretary, Walsingham being still indisposed.
"And therefore will I see whether the Queen of Scots will ratify
them, ere I go farther in the matter," returned Elizabeth.
"She will ratify them without question," said the Secretary,
ironically, "seeing that to escape into the hands of one of your
Majesty's enemies is just what she desires."
"She leaves her daughter as a pledge."
"Yea, a piece of tinsel to delude your Majesty."
Elizabeth swore an oath that there was truth in every word and
gesture of the maiden.
"The poor wench may believe all she said herself," said Davison.
"Nay, she is as much deluded as the rest, and so is that honest,
dull-pated sailor, Talbot. If your Majesty will permit me to call in
a fellow I have here, I can make all plain."
"Who is he? You know I cannot abide those foul carrion rascals you
make use of," said Elizabeth, with an air of disgust.
"This man is gentleman born. Villain he may be, but there is naught
to offend your Majesty in him. He is one Langston, a kinsman of this
Talbot's; and having once been a Papist, but now having seen the
error of his ways, he did good service in the unwinding of the late
"Well, if no other way will serve you but I must hear the fellow,
have him in."
A neatly-dressed, small, elderly man, entirely arrayed in black, was
called in, and knelt most humbly before the Queen. Being bidden to
tell what he knew respecting the lady who had appeared before the
Queen the day before, calling herself Bride Hepburn, he returned for
answer that he believed it to be verily her name, but that she was
the daughter of a man who had fled to France, and become an archer of
the Scottish guard.
He told how he had been at Hull when the infant had been saved from
the wreck, and brought home to Mistress Susan Talbot, who left the
place the next day, and had, he understood, bred up the child as her
own. He himself, being then, as he confessed, led astray by the
delusions of Popery, had much commerce with the Queen's party, and
had learnt from some of the garrison of Dunfermline that the child on
board the lost ship was the offspring of this same Hepburn, and of
one of Queen Mary's many namesake kindred, who had died in childbirth
at Lochleven. And now Langston professed bitterly to regret what he
had done when, in his disguise at Buxton, he had made known to some
of Mary's suite that the supposed Cicely Talbot was of their country
and kindred. She had been immediately made a great favourite by the
Queen of Scots, and the attendants all knew who she really was,
though she still went by the name of Talbot. He imagined that the
Queen of Scots, whose charms were not so imperishable as those which
dazzled his eyes at this moment, wanted a fresh bait for her victims,
since she herself was growing old, and thus had actually succeeded in
binding Babington to her service, though even then the girl was
puffed up with notions of her own importance and had flouted him.
And now, all other hope having vanished, Queen Mary's last and ablest
resource had been to possess the poor maiden with an idea of being
actually her own child, and then to work on her filial obedience to
offer herself as a hostage, whom Mary herself could without scruple
leave to her fate, so soon as she was ready to head an army of
Davison further added that the Secretary Nau could corroborate that
Bride Hepburn was known to the suite as a kinswoman of the Queen, and
that Mr. Cavendish, clerk to Sir Francis Walsingham, knew that
Babington had been suitor to the young lady, and had crossed swords
with young Talbot on her account.
Elizabeth listened, and made no comment at the time, save that she
sharply questioned Langston; but his tale was perfectly coherent, and
as it threw the onus of the deception entirely on Mary, it did not
conflict either with the sincerity evident in both Cicely and her
foster-father, or with the credentials supplied by the Queen of
Scots. Of the ciphered letter, and of the monograms, Elizabeth had
never heard, though, if she had asked for further proof, they would
have been brought forward.
She heard all, dismissed Langston, and with some petulance bade
Davison likewise begone, being aware that her ministers meant her to
draw the moral that she had involved herself in difficulties by
holding a private audience of the French Ambassadors without their
knowledge or presence. It may be that the very sense of having been
touched exasperated her the more. She paced up and down the room
restlessly, and her ladies heard her muttering - "That she should
cheat me thus! I have pitied her often; I will pity her no more! To
breed up that poor child to be palmed on me! I will make an end of
it; I can endure this no longer! These tossings to and fro are more
than I can bear, and all for one who is false, false, false, false!
My brain will bear no more. Hap what hap, an end must be made of it.
She or I, she or I must die; and which is best for England and the
faith? That girl had well-nigh made me pity her, and it was all a
Thus it was that Elizabeth sent for Davison, and bade him bring the
warrant with him.
And thus it was that in the midst of dinner in the hall, on the
Sunday, the 5th of February, the meine of the Castle were startled by
the arrival of Mr. Beale, the Clerk of the Council, always a bird of
sinister omen, and accompanied by a still more alarming figure a
strong burly man clad in black velvet from head to foot. Every one
knew who he was, and a thrill of dismay, that what had been so long
expected had come at last, went through all who saw him pass through
the hall. Sir Amias was summoned from table, and remained in
conference with the two arrivals all through evening chapel time - an
event in itself extraordinary enough to excite general anxiety. It
was Humfrey's turn to be on guard, and he had not long taken his
station before he was called into the Queen's apartments, where she
sat at the foot of her bed, in a large chair with a small table
before her. No one was with her but her two mediciners, Bourgoin and
"Here," she said, "is the list our good Doctor has writ of the herbs
he requires for my threatened attack of rheumatism."
"I will endeavour, with Sir Amias's permission, to seek them in the
park," said Humfrey.
"But tell me," said Mary, fixing her clear eyes upon him, "tell me
truly. Is there not a surer and more lasting cure for all my ills in
preparation? Who was it who arrived to-night?"
"Madame," said Humfrey, bowing his head low as he knelt on one knee,
"it was Mr. Beale."
"Ay, and who besides?"
"Madam, I heard no name, but" - as she waited for him to speak
further, he uttered in a choked voice - "it was one clad in black."
"I perceive," said Mary, looking up with a smile. "A more effectual
Doctor than you, my good Bourgoin. I thank my God and my cousin
Elizabeth for giving me the martyr's hope at the close of the most
mournful life that ever woman lived. Nay, leave me not as yet, good
Humfrey. I have somewhat to say unto thee. I have a charge for
thee." Something in her tone led him to look up earnestly in her
face. "Thou lovest my child, I think," she added.
The young man's voice was scarcely heard, and he only said, "Yea,
madam;" but there was an intensity in the tone and eyes which went to
"Thou dost not speak, but thou canst do. Wilt thou take her,
Humfrey, and with her, all the inheritance of peril and sorrow that
dogs our unhappy race?"
"Oh" - and there was a mighty sob that almost cut off his voice - "My
life is already hers, and would be spent in her service wherever,
whatever she was."
"I guessed it," said the Queen, letting her hand rest on his
shoulder. "And for her thou wilt endure, if needful, suspicion,
"They will be welcome, so I may shield her."
"I trust thee," she said, and she took his firm strong hand into her
own white wasted one. "But will thy father consent? Thou art his
eldest son and heir."
"He loves her like his own daughter. My brother may have the lands."
"'Tis strange," said Mary, "that in wedding a princess, 'tis no
crown, no kingdom, that is set before thee, only the loss of thine
own inheritance. For now that the poor child has made herself known
to Elizabeth, there will be no safety for her between these seas. I
have considered it well. I had thought of sending her abroad with my
French servants, and making her known to my kindred there. That
would have been well if she could have accepted the true faith, or
if - if her heart had not been thine; but to have sent her as she is
would only expose her to persecution, and she hath not the mounting
spirit that would cast aside love for the sake of rising. She lived
too long with thy mother to be aught save a homely Cis. I would have
made a princess of her, but it passes my powers. Nay, the question
is, whether it may yet be possible to prevent the Queen from laying
hands on her."
"My father is still here," said Humfrey, "and I deem not that any
orders have come respecting her. Might not he crave permission to
take her home, that is, if she will leave your Grace?"
"I will lay my commands on her! It is well thought of," said the
Queen. "How soon canst thou have speech with him?"
"He is very like to come to my post," said Humfrey, "and then we can
walk the gallery and talk unheard."
"It is well. Let him make his demand, and I will have her ready to
depart as early as may be to-morrow morn. Bourgoin, I would ask thee
to call the maiden hither."
Cicely appeared from the apartment where she had been sitting with
the other ladies.
"Child," said the Queen, as she came in, "is thy mind set on wedding
"Marriage is not for me, madam," said Cicely, perplexed and shaken by
this strange address and by Humfrey's presence.
"Nay, didst not once tell me of a betrothal now many years ago? What
wouldst say if thine own mother were to ratify it?"
"Ah! madam," said Cicely, blushing crimson however, "but I pledged
myself never to wed save with Queen Elizabeth's consent."
"On one condition," said the Queen. "But if that condition were not
observed by the other party - "
"How - what, mother!" exclaimed Cicely, with a scream. "There is no
fear - Humfrey, have you heard aught?"
"Nothing is certain," said Mary, calmly. "I ask thee not to break
thy word. I ask thee, if thou wert free to marry, if thou wouldst be
an Austrian or Lorraine duchess, or content thee with an honest
English youth whose plighted word is more precious to him than gold."
"O mother, how can you ask?" said Cicely, dropping down, and hiding
her face in the Queen's lap.
"Then, Humfrey Talbot, I give her to thee, my child, my Bride of
Scotland. Thou wilt guard her, and shield her, and for thine own
sake as well as hers, save her from the wrath and jealousy of
Elizabeth. Hark, hark! Rise, my child. They are presenting arms.
We shall have Paulett in anon to convey my rere-supper."
They had only just time to compose themselves before Paulett came in,
looking, as they all thought, grimmer and more starched than ever,
and not well pleased to find Humfrey there, but the Queen was equal
to the occasion.
"Here is Dr. Bourgoin's list of the herbs that he needs to ease my
aches," she said. "Master Talbot is so good as to say that, being
properly instructed, he will go in search of them."
"They will not be needed," said Paulett, but he spoke no farther to
the Queen. Outside, however, he said to Humfrey, "Young man, you do
not well to waste the Sabbath evening in converse with that blinded
woman;" and meeting Mr. Talbot himself on the stair, he said, "You
are going in quest of your son, sir. You would do wisely to admonish
him that he will bring himself into suspicion, if not worse, by
loitering amid the snares and wiles of the woman whom wrath is even
Richard found his son pacing the gallery, almost choked with
agitation, and with the endeavour to conceal it from the two stolid,
heavy yeomen who dozed behind the screen. Not till he had reached
the extreme end did Humfrey master his voice enough to utter in his
father's ear, "She has given her to me!"
Richard could not answer for a moment, then he said, "I fear me it
will be thy ruin, Humfrey."
"Not ruin in love or faithfulness," said the youth. "Father, you
know I should everywhere have followed her and watched over her, even
to the death, even if she could never have been mine."
"I trow thou wouldst," said Richard.
"Nor would you have it otherwise - your child, your only daughter, to
be left unguarded."
"Nay, I know not that I would," said Richard. "I cannot but care for
the poor maid like mine own, and I would not have thee less true-
hearted, Humfrey, even though it cost thee thine home, and us our
"You have Diccon and Ned," said Humfrey. And then he told what had
passed, and his father observed that Beale had evidently no knowledge
of Cicely's conference with the Queen, and apparently no orders to
seize her. It had oozed out that a commission had been sent to five
noblemen to come and superintend the execution, since Sir Amias
Paulett had again refused to let it take place without witnesses, and
Richard undertook to apply at once to Sir Amias for permission to
remove his daughter, on the ground of saving her tender youth from
"Then," said he, "I will leave a token at Nottingham where I have
taken her; whether home or at once to Hull. If I leave Brown Roundle
at the inn for thee, then come home; but if it be White Blossom, then
come to Hull. It will be best that thou dost not know while here,
and I cannot go direct to Hull, because the fens at this season may
not be fit for riding. Heatherthwayte will need no proofs to
convince him that she is not thy sister, and can wed you at once, and
you will also be able to embark in case there be any endeavour to
"Taking service in Holland," said Humfrey, "until there may be safety
in returning to England."
Richard sighed. The risk and sacrifice were great, and it was to him
like the loss of two children, but the die was cast; Humfrey never
could be other than Cicely's devoted champion and guardian, and it
was better that it should be as her husband. So he repaired to Sir
Amias, and told him that he desired not to expose his daughter's
tender years and feeble spirits to the sight of the Queen's death,
and claimed permission to take her away with him the next day, saying
that the permission of the Queen had already been granted through his
son, whom he would gladly also take with him.
Paulett hemmed and hawed. He thought it a great error in Mr. Talbot
to avoid letting his daughter be edified by a spectacle that might go
far to moderate the contagion of intercourse with so obstinate a
Papist and deceiver. Being of pitiless mould himself, he was
incapable of appreciating Richard's observation that compassion would
only increase her devotion to the unfortunate lady. He would not, or
could not, part with Humfrey. He said that there would be such a
turmoil and concourse that the services of the captain of his yeomen
would be indispensable, but that he himself, and all the rest, would
be free on the Thursday at latest.
Mr. Talbot's desire to be away was a surprise to him, for he was in
difficulties how, even in that enormous hall, to dispose of all who
claimed by right or by favour to witness what he called the tardy
fulfilment of judgment. Yet though he thought it a weakness, he did
not refuse, and ere night Mr. Talbot was able to send formal word
that the horses would be ready for Mistress Cicely at break of day
the next morning.
The message was transmitted through the ladies as the Queen sat
writing at her table, and she at once gave orders to Elizabeth Curll
to prepare the cloak bag with necessaries for the journey.
Cicely cried out, "O madam my mother, do not send me from you!"
"There is no help for it, little one. It is the only hope of safety
or happiness for thee."
"But I pledged myself to await Queen Elizabeth's reply here!"
"She has replied," said Mary.
"How?" cried Cicely. "Methought your letter confirming mine offers
had not yet been sent."
"It hath not, but she hath made known to me that she rejects thy
terms, my poor maid."
"Is there then no hope?" said the girl, under her breath, which came
short with dismay.
"Hope! yea," said Mary, with a ray of brightness on her face, "but
not earthly hope. That is over, and I am more at rest and peace than
I can remember to have been since I was a babe at my mother's knee.
But, little one, I must preserve thee for thine Humfrey and for
happiness, and so thou must be gone ere the hounds be on thy track."
"Never, mother, I cannot leave you. You bid no one else to go!" said
Cis, clinging to her with a face bathed in tears.
"No one else is imperilled by remaining as thy bold venture has
imperilled thee, my sweet maid. Think, child, how fears for thee
would disturb my spirit, when I would fain commune only with Heaven.
Seest thou not that to lose thy dear presence for the few days left
to me will be far better for me than to be rent with anxiety for
thee, and it may be to see thee snatched from me by these stern,
"To quit you now! It is unnatural! I cannot."
"You will go, child. As Queen and as mother alike, I lay my commands
on you. Let not the last, almost the only commands I ever gave thee
be transgressed, and waste not these last hours in a vain strife."
She spoke with an authority against which Cis had no appeal, save by
holding her hand tight and covering it with kisses and tears. Mary
presently released her hand and went on writing, giving her a little
time to restrain her agony of bitter weeping. The first words spoken
were, "I shall not name thee in my will, nor recommend thee to thy
brother. It would only bring on thee suspicion and danger. Here,
however, is a letter giving full evidence of thy birth, and
mentioning the various witnesses who can attest it. I shall leave
the like with Melville, but it will be for thy happiness and safety
if it never see the light. Should thy brother die without heirs,
then it might be thy duty to come forward and stretch out thy hand
for these two crowns, which have more thorns than jewels in them.
Alas! would that I could dare to hope they might be exchanged for a
crown of stars! But lie down on the bed, my bairnie. I have much
still to do, and thou hast a long journey before thee."
Cicely would fain have resisted, but was forced to obey, though
protesting that she should not sleep; and she lay awake for a long
time watching the Queen writing, until unawares slumber overpowered
her eyes. When she awoke, the Queen was standing over her saying,
"It is time thou wert astir, little one!"
"Oh! and have I lost all these hours of you?" cried Cicely, as her
senses awoke to the remembrance of the situation of affairs.
"Mother, why did you not let me watch with you?"
Mary only smiled and kissed her brow. The time went by in the
preparations, in all of which the Queen took an active part. Her
money and jewels had been restored to her by Elizabeth's orders
during her daughter's absence, and she had put twenty gold pieces in
the silken and pearl purse which she always used. "More I may not
give thee," she said. "I know not whether I shall be able to give my