poor faithful servants enough to carry them to their homes. This
thou must have to provide thee. And for my jewels, they should be
all thine by right, but the more valuable ones, which bear tokens,
might only bring thee under suspicion, poor child."
She wished Cicely to choose among them, but the poor girl had no
heart for choice, and the Queen herself put in her hand a small case
containing a few which were unobtrusive, yet well known to her, and
among them a ring with the Hepburn arms, given by Bothwell. She also
showed her a gold chain which she meant to give to Humfrey. In this
manner time passed, till a message came in that Master Richard Talbot
"Who brought it?" asked the Queen, and when she heard that it was
Humfrey himself who was at the door, she bade him be called in.
"Children," she said, "we were interrupted last night. Let me see
you give your betrothal kiss, and bless you."
"One word, my mother," said Cicely. "Humfrey will not bear me ill-
will if I say that while there can still be any hope that Queen
Elizabeth will accept me for her prisoner in your stead, I neither
can nor ought to wed him."
"Thou mayst safely accept the condition, my son," said Mary.
"Then if these messengers should come to conduct my mother abroad,
and to take me as her hostage, Humfrey will know where to find me."
"Yea, thou art a good child to the last, my little one," said Mary.
"You promise, Humfrey?" said Cicely.
"I do," he said, knowing as well as the Queen how little chance there
was that he would be called on to fulfil it, but feeling that the
agony of the parting was thus in some degree softened to Cicely.
Mary gave the betrothal ring to Humfrey, and she laid her hands on
their clasped ones. "My daughter and my son," she said, "I leave you
my blessing. If filial love and unshaken truth can bring down
blessings from above, they will be yours. Think of your mother in
times to come as one who hath erred, but suffered and repented. If
your Church permits you, pray often for her. Remember, when you hear
her blamed, that in the glare of courts, she had none to breed her up
in godly fear and simple truth like your good mother at Bridgefield,
but that she learnt to think what you view in the light of deadly sin
as the mere lawful instruments of government, above all for the
weaker. Condemn her not utterly, but pray, pray with all your hearts
that her God and Saviour will accept her penitence, and unite her
sufferings with those of her Lord, since He has done her the grace of
letting her die in part for His Church. Now," she added, kissing
each brow, and then holding her daughter in her embrace, "take her
away, Humfrey, and let me turn my soul from all earthly loves and
CHAPTER XLIV. ON THE HUMBER.
Master Talbot had done considerately in arranging that Cicely should
at least begin her journey on a pillion behind himself, for her
anguish of suppressed weeping unfitted her to guide a horse, and
would have attracted the attention of any serving-man behind whom he
could have placed her, whereas she could lay her head against his
shoulder, and feel a kind of dreary repose there.
He would have gone by the more direct way to Hull, through Lincoln,
but that he feared that February Filldyke would have rendered the
fens impassable, so he directed his course more to the north-west.
Cicely was silent, crushed, but more capable of riding than of
anything else; in fact, the air and motion seemed to give her a
He meant to halt for the night at a large inn at Nottingham. There
was much stir in the court, and it seemed to be full of the train of
some great noble. Richard knew not whether to be glad or sorry when
he perceived the Shrewsbury colours and the silver mastiff badge, and
was greeted by a cry of "Master Richard of Bridgefield!" Two or
three retainers of higher degree came round him as he rode into the
yard, and, while demanding his news, communicated their own, that my
Lord was on his way to Fotheringhay to preside at the execution of
the Queen of Scots.
He could feel Cicely's shudder as he lifted her off her horse, and he
replied repressively, "I am bringing my daughter from thence."
"Come in and see my Lord," said the gentleman. "He is a woeful man
at the work that is put on him."
Lord Shrewsbury did indeed look sad, almost broken, as he held out
his hand to Richard, and said, "This is a piteous errand, cousin, on
which I am bound. And thou, my young kinswoman, thou didst not
succeed with her Majesty!"
"She is sick with grief and weariness," said Richard. "I would fain
take her to her chamber."
The evident intimacy of the new-comers with so great a personage as
my Lord procured for them better accommodation than they might
otherwise have had, and Richard obtained for Cicely a tiny closet
within the room where he was himself to sleep. He even contrived
that she should be served alone, partly by himself, partly by the
hostess, a kind motherly woman, to whom he committed her, while he
supped with the Earl, and was afterwards called into his sleeping
chamber to tell him of his endeavours at treating with Lord and Lady
Talbot, and also to hear his lamentations over the business he had
been sent upon. He had actually offered to make over his office as
Earl Marshal to Burghley for the nonce, but as he said, "that of all
the nobles in England, such work should fall to the lot of him, who
had been for fourteen years the poor lady's host, and knew her
admirable patience and sweet conditions, was truly hard."
Moreover, he was joined in the commission with the Earl of Kent, a
sour Puritan, who would rejoice in making her drink to the dregs of
the cup of bitterness! He was sick at heart with the thought.
Richard represented that he would, at least, be able to give what
comfort could be derived from mildness and compassion.
"Not I, not I!" said the poor man, always weak. "Not with those
harsh yoke-fellows Kent and Paulett to drive me on, and that viper
Beale to report to the Privy Council any strain of mercy as mere
treason. What can I do?"
"You would do much, my Lord, if you would move them to restore - for
these last hours - to her those faithful servants, Melville and De
Preaux, whom Paulett hath seen fit to seclude from her. It is rank
cruelty to let her die without the sacraments of her Church when her
conscience will not let her accept ours."
"It is true, Richard, over true. I will do what I can, but I doubt
me whether I shall prevail, where Paulett looks on a Mass as mere
idolatry, and will not brook that it should be offered in his house.
But come you back with me, kinsman. We will send old Master Purvis
to take your daughter safely home."
Richard of course refused, and at the same time, thinking an
explanation necessary and due to the Earl, disclosed to him that
Cicely was no child of his, but a near kinswoman of the Scottish
Queen, whom it was desirable to place out of Queen Elizabeth's reach
for the present, adding that there had been love passages between her
and his son Humfrey, who intended to wed her and see some foreign
service. Lord Shrewsbury showed at first some offence at having been
kept in ignorance all these years of such a fact, and wondered what
his Countess would say, marvelled too that his cousin should consent
to his son's throwing himself away on a mere stranger, of perilous
connection, and going off to foreign wars; but the good nobleman was
a placable man, and always considerably influenced by the person who
addressed him, and he ended by placing the Mastiff at Richard's
disposal to take the young people to Scotland or Holland, or wherever
they might wish to go.
This decided Mr. Talbot on making at once for the seaport; and
accordingly he left behind him the horse, which was to serve as a
token to his son that such was his course. Cicely had been worn out
with her day's journey, and slept late and sound, so that she was not
ready to leave her chamber till the Earl and his retinue were gone,
and thus she was spared actual contact with him who was to doom her
mother, and see that doom carried out. She was recruited by rest,
and more ready to talk than on the previous day, but she was greatly
disappointed to find that she might not be taken to Bridgefield.
"If I could only be with Mother Susan for one hour," she sighed.
"Would that thou couldst, my poor maid," said Richard. "The mother
hath the trick of comfort."
"'Twas not comfort I thought of. None can give me that," said the
poor girl; "but she would teach me how to be a good wife to Humfrey."
These words were a satisfaction to Richard, who had begun to feel
somewhat jealous for his son's sake, and to doubt whether the girl's
affection rose to the point of requiting the great sacrifice made for
his sake, though truly in those days parents were not wont to be
solicitous as to the mutual attachment between a betrothed pair.
However, Cicely's absolute resignation of herself and her fate into
Humfrey's hands, without even a question, and with entire confidence
and peace, was evidence enough that her heart was entirely his; nay,
had been his throughout all the little flights of ambition now so
entirely passed away, without apparently a thought on her part.
It was on the Friday forenoon, a day very unlike their last entrance
into Hull, that they again entered the old town, in the brightness of
a crisp frost; but poor Cicely could not but contrast her hopeful
mood of November with her present overwhelming sorrow, where,
however, there was one drop of sweetness. Her foster-father took her
again to good Mr. Heatherthwayte's, according to the previous
invitation, and was rejoiced to see that the joyous welcome of Oil-
of-Gladness awoke a smile; and the little girl, being well trained in
soberness and discretion, did not obtrude upon her grief.
Stern Puritan as he was, the minister himself contained his
satisfaction that the Papist woman was to die and never reign over
England until he was out of hearing of the pale maiden who had -
strange as it seemed to him - loved her enough to be almost broken-
hearted at her death.
Richard saw Goatley and set him to prepare the Mastiff for an
immediate voyage. Her crew, somewhat like those of a few modern
yachts, were permanently attached to her, and lived in the
neighbourhood of the wharf, so that, under the personal
superintendence of one who was as much loved and looked up to as
Captain Talbot, all was soon in a state of forwardness, and
Gillingham made himself very useful. When darkness put a stop to the
work and supper was being made ready, Richard found time to explain
matters to Mr. Heatherthwayte, for his honourable mind would not
permit him to ask his host unawares to perform an office that might
possibly be construed as treasonable. In spite of the preparation
which he had already received through Colet's communications, the
minister's wonder was extreme. "Daughter to the Queen of Scots, say
you, sir! Yonder modest, shamefast maiden, of such seemly carriage
and gentle speech?"
Richard smiled and said - "My good friend, had you seen that poor
lady - to whom God be merciful - as I have done, you would know that
what is sweetest in our Cicely's outward woman is derived from her;
for the inner graces, I cannot but trace them to mine own good wife."
Mr. Heatherthwayte seemed at first hardly to hear him, so overpowered
was he with the notion that the daughter of her, whom he was in the
habit of classing with Athaliah and Herodias, was in his house,
resting on the innocent pillow of Oil-of-Gladness. He made his guest
recount to him the steps by which the discovery had been made, and at
last seemed to embrace the idea. Then he asked whether Master Talbot
were about to carry the young lady to the protection of her brother
in Scotland; and when the answer was that it might be poor protection
even if conferred, and that by all accounts the Court of Scotland was
by no means a place in which to leave a lonely damsel with no
faithful guardian, the minister asked -
"How then will you bestow the maiden?"
"In that, sir, I came to ask you to aid me. My son Humfrey is
following on our steps, leaving Fotheringhay so soon as his charge
there is ended; and I ask of you to wed him to the maid, whom we will
then take to Holland, when he will take service with the States."
The amazement of the clergyman was redoubled, and he began at first
to plead with Richard that a perilous overleaping ambition was
leading him thus to mate his son with an evil, though a royal, race.
At this Richard smiled and shook his head, pointing out that the very
last thing any of them desired was that Cicely's birth should be
known; and that even if it were, her mother's marriage was very
questionable. It was no ambition, he said, that actuated his son,
"But you saw yourself how, nineteen years ago, the little lad
welcomed her as his little sister come back to him. That love hath
grown up with him. When, at fifteen years old, he learnt that she
was a nameless stranger, his first cry was that he would wed her and
give her his name. Never hath his love faltered; and even when this
misfortune of her rank was known, and he lost all hope of gaining
her, while her mother bade her renounce him, his purpose was even
still to watch over and guard her; and at the end, beyond all our
expectations, they have had her mother's dying blessing and entreaty
that he would take her."
"Sir, do you give me your word for that?"
"Yea, Master Heatherthwayte, as I am a true man. Mind you, worldly
matters look as different to a poor woman who knoweth the headsman is
in the house, as to one who hath her head on her dying pillow. This
Queen had devised plans for sending our poor Cis abroad to her French
and Lorraine kindred, with some of the French ladies of her train."
"Heaven forbid!" broke out Heatherthwayte, in horror. "The rankest
of Papists - "
"Even so, and with recommendations to give her in marriage to some
adventurous prince whom the Spaniards might abet in working woe to us
in her name. But when she saw how staunch the child is in believing
as mine own good dame taught her, she saw, no doubt, that this would
be mere giving her over to be persecuted and mewed in a convent."
"Then the woman hath some bowels of mercy, though a Papist."
"She even saith that she doubteth not that such as live honestly and
faithfully by the light that is in them shall be saved. So when she
saw she prevailed nothing with the maid, she left off her endeavours.
Moreover, my son not only saved her life, but won her regard by his
faith and honour; and she called him to her, and even besought him to
be her daughter's husband. I came to you, reverend sir, as one who
has known from the first that the young folk are no kin to one
another; and as I think the peril to you is small, I deemed that you
would do them this office. Otherwise, I must take her to Holland and
see them wedded by a stranger there."
Mr. Heatherthwayte was somewhat touched, but he sat and considered,
perceiving that to marry the young lady to a loyal Englishman was the
safest way of hindering her from falling into the clutches of a
Popish prince; but he still demurred, and asked how Mr. Talbot could
talk of the mere folly of love, and for its sake let his eldest son
and heir become a mere exile and fugitive, cut off, it might be, from
"For that matter, sir," said Richard, "my son is not one to loiter
about, as the lubberly heir, cumbering the land at home. He would,
so long as I am spared in health and strength, be doing service by
land or sea, and I trust that by the time he is needed at home, all
this may be so forgotten that Cis may return safely. The maid hath
been our child too long for us to risk her alone. And for such love
being weak and foolish, surely, sir, it was the voice of One greater
than you or I that bade a man leave his father and mother and cleave
unto his wife."
Mr. Heatherthwayte still murmured something about "youth" and
"lightly undertaken," and Master Talbot observed, with a smile, that
when he had seen Humfrey he might judge as to the lightness of
Richard meanwhile was watching somewhat anxiously for the arrival of
his son, who, he had reckoned, would make so much more speed than was
possible for Cis, that he might have almost overtaken them, if the
fatal business had not been delayed longer than he had seen reason to
anticipate. However, these last words had not long been out of his
mouth when a man's footsteps, eager, yet with a tired sound and with
the clank of spurs, came along the paved way outside, and there was a
knock at the door. Some one else had been watching; for, as the
street door was opened, Cicely sprang forward as Humfrey held out his
arms; then, as she rested against his breast, he said, so that she
alone could hear, "Her last words to me were, 'Give her my love and
blessing, and tell her my joy is come - such joy as I never knew
Then they knew the deed was done, and Richard said, "God have mercy
on her soul!" Nor did Mr. Heatherthwayte rebuke him. Indeed there
was no time, for Humfrey exclaimed, "She is swooning." He gathered
her in his arms, and carried her where they lighted him, laying her
on Oil's little bed, but she was not entirely unconscious, and
rallied her senses so as to give him a reassuring look, not quite a
smile, and yet wondrously sweet, even in the eyes of others. Then,
as the lamp flashed on his figure, she sprang to her feet, all else
forgotten in the exclamation.
"O Humfrey, thou art hurt! What is it? Sit thee down."
They then saw that his face was, indeed, very pale and jaded, and
that his dress was muddied from head to foot, and in some places
there were marks of blood; but as she almost pushed him down on the
chest beside the bed, he said, in a voice hoarse and sunk, betraying
"Naught, naught, Cis; only my beast fell with me going down a hill,
and lamed himself, so that I had to lead him the last four or five
miles. Moreover, this cut on my hand must needs break forth bleeding
more than I knew in the dark, or I had not frighted thee by coming in
such sorry plight," and he in his turn gazed reassuringly into her
eyes as she stood over him, anxiously examining, as if she scarce
durst trust him, that if stiff and bruised at all, it mattered not.
Then she begged a cup of wine for him, and sent Oil for water and
linen, and Humfrey had to abandon his hand to her, to be cleansed and
bound up, neither of them uttering a word more than needful, as she
knelt by the chest performing this work with skilful hands, though
there was now and then a tremor over her whole frame.
"Now, dear maid," said Richard, "thou must let him come with us and
don some dry garments: then shalt thou see him again."
"Rest and food - he needs them," said Cis, in a voice weak and
tremulous, though the self-restraint of her princely nature strove to
control it. "Take him, father; methinks I cannot hear more to-night.
He will tell me all when we are away together. I would be alone, and
in the dark; I know he is come, and you are caring for him. That is
enough, and I can still thank God."
Her face quivered, and she turned away; nor did Humfrey dare to shake
her further by another demonstration, but stumbled after his father
to the minister's chamber, where some incongruous clerical attire had
been provided for him, since he disdained the offer of supping in
Mr. Heatherthwayte was much struck with the undemonstrativeness of
their meeting, for there was high esteem for austerity in the Puritan
world, in contrast to the utter want of self-restraint shown by the
more secular characters.
When Humfrey presently made his appearance with his father's cloak
wrapped over the minister's clean shirt and nether garments, Richard
said, "Son Humfrey, this good gentleman who baptized our Cis would
fain be certain that there is no lightness of purpose in this thy
"Nay, nay, Mr. Talbot," broke in the minister, "I spake ere I had
seen this gentleman. From what I have now beheld, I have no doubts
that be she who she may, it is a marriage made and blessed in
"I thank you, sir," said Humfrey, gravely; "it is my one hope
They spoke no more till he had eaten, for he was much spent, having
never rested more than a couple of hours, and not slept at all since
leaving Fotheringhay. He had understood by the colour of the horse
left at Nottingham which road to take, and at the hostel at Hull had
encountered Gillingham, who directed him on to Mr. Heatherthwayte's.
What he brought himself to tell of the last scene at Fotheringhay has
been mostly recorded by history, and need not here be dwelt upon.
When Bourgoin and Melville fell back, unable to support their
mistress along the hall to the scaffold, the Queen had said to him,
"Thou wilt do me this last service," and had leant on his arm along
the crowded hall, and had taken that moment to speak those last words
for Cicely. She had blessed James openly, and declared her trust
that he would find salvation if he lived well and sincerely in the
faith he had chosen. With him she had secretly blessed her other
Humfrey was much shaken and could hardly command his voice to answer
the questions of Master Heatherthwayte, but he so replied to them
that, one by one, the phrases and turns were relinquished which the
worthy man had prepared for a Sunday's sermon on "Go see now this
accursed woman and bury her, for she is a king's daughter," and he
even began to consider of choosing for his text something that would
bid his congregation not to judge after the sight of their eyes, nor
condemn after the hearing of their ears.
When Humfrey had eaten and drunk, and the ruddy hue was returning to
his cheek, Mr. Heatherthwayte discovered that he must speak with his
churchwarden that night. Probably the pleasure of communicating the
tidings that the deed was accomplished added force to the
consideration that the father and son would rather be alone together,
for he lighted his lantern with alacrity, and carried off Dust-and-
Ashes with him.
Then Humfrey had more to tell which brooked no delay. On the day
after the departure of his father and Cicely, Will Cavendish had
arrived, and Humfrey had been desired to demand from the prisoner an
immediate audience for that gentleman. Mary had said, "This is anent
the child. Call him in, Humfrey," and as Cavendish had passed the
guard he had struck his old comrade on the shoulder and observed,
"What gulls we have at Hallamshire."
He had come out from his conference fuming, and desiring to hear from
Humfrey whether he were aware of the imposture that had been put on
the Queen and upon them all, and to which yonder stubborn woman still
chose to cleave - little Cis Talbot supposing herself a queen's
daughter, and they all, even grave Master Richard, being duped. It
was too much for Will! A gentleman, so nearly connected with the
Privy Council, was not to be deceived like these simple soldiers and
sailors, though it suited Queen Mary's purposes to declare the maid
to be in sooth her daughter, and to refuse to disown her. He
supposed it was to embroil England for the future that she left such
a seed of mischief.
And old Paulett had been fool enough to let the girl leave the
Castle, whereas Cavendish's orders had been to be as secret as
possible lest the mischievous suspicion of the existence of such a
person should spread, but to arrest her and bring her to London as
soon as the execution should be over; when, as he said, no harm would
happen to her provided she would give up the pretensions with which
she had been deceived.
"It would have been safer for you both," said poor Queen Mary to
Humfrey afterwards, "if I had denied her, but I could not disown my
poor child, or prevent her from yet claiming royal rights. Moreover,
I have learnt enough of you Talbots to know that you would not owe
your safety to falsehood from a dying woman."
But Will's conceit might be quite as effectual. He was under orders
to communicate the matter to no one not already aware of it, and as
above all things he desired to see the execution as the most
memorable spectacle he was likely to behold in his life, and he
believed Cicely to be safe at Bridgefield, he thought it unnecessary
to take any farther steps until that should be over. Humfrey had
listened to all with what countenance he might, and gave as little
sign as possible.