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Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France

A Tangle

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots

The Little Waif

Rizzio

Addendum

Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

The Fall Of Bothwell



Least Viewed

Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

The Love Token

My Lady's Remorse

Wingfield Manor

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Return To Scotland

Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster

Ten Years After

The Huckstering Woman






Queen Mary's Presence Chamber








The storm that followed on the instalment of the Lady Arbell at
Sheffield was the precursor of many more. Her grandmother did
sufficiently awake to the danger of alarming the jealousy of Queen
Elizabeth to submit to leave her in the ordinary chambers of the
children of the house, and to exact no extraordinary marks of respect
towards the unconscious infant; but there was no abatement in the
Countess's firm belief that an English-born, English-bred child, would
have more right to the crown than any "foreign princes," as she
contemptuously termed the Scottish Queen and her son.

Moreover, in her two years' intercourse with the elder Countess of
Lennox, who was a gentle-tempered but commonplace woman, she had
adopted to the full that unfortunate princess's entire belief in the
guilt of Queen Mary, and entertained no doubt that she had been the
murderer of Darnley. Old Lady Lennox had seen no real evidence, and
merely believed what she was told by her lord, whose impeachment of
Bothwell had been baffled by the Queen in a most suspicious manner.
Conversations with this lady had entirely changed Lady Shrewsbury from
the friendly hostess of her illustrious captive, to be her enemy and
persecutor, partly as being convinced of her guilt, partly as regarding
her as an obstacle in the path of little Arbell to the throne. So she
not only refused to pay her respects as usual to "that murtheress," but
she insisted that her husband should tighten the bonds of restraint,
and cut off all indulgences.

The Countess was one of the women to whom argument and reason are
impossible, and who was entirely swayed by her predilections, as well
as of so imperious a nature as to brook no opposition, and to be almost
always able to sweep every one along with her.

Her own sons always were of her mind, and her daughters might fret and
chafe, but were sure to take part with her against every one else
outside the Cavendish family. The idea of being kinsfolk to the future
Queen excited them all, and even Mary forgot her offence about the
cradle, and her jealousy of Bess, and ranked herself against her
stepfather, influencing her husband, Gilbert, on whom the unfortunate
Earl had hitherto leant. On his refusal to persecute his unfortunate
captive beyond the orders from the Court, Bess of Hardwicke, emboldened
by the support she had gathered from her children, passionately
declared that it could only be because he was himself in love with the
murtheress. Lord Shrewsbury could not help laughing a little at the
absurdity of the idea, whereupon my lady rose up in virtuous
indignation, calling her sons and daughters to follow her.

All that night, lights might have been seen flitting about at the
Manor-house, and early in the morning bugles sounded to horse. A huge
procession, consisting of the Countess herself, and all her sons and
daughters then at Sheffield, little Lady Arbell, and the whole of their
attendants, swept out of the gates of the park on the way to Hardwicke.
When Richard Talbot went up to fulfil his duties as gentleman porter at
the lodge the courts seemed well-nigh deserted, and a messenger
summoned him at once to the Earl, whom he found in his bed-chamber in
his morning gown terribly perturbed.

"For Heaven's sake send for your wife, Richard Talbot!" he said. "It is
her Majesty's charge that some of mine household, or I myself, see this
unhappy Queen of Scots each day for not less than two hours, as you
well know. My lady has broken away, and all her daughters, on this
accursed fancy--yea, and Gilbert too, Gilbert whom I always looked to
to stand by me; I have no one to send. If I go and attend upon her
alone, as I have done a thousand times to my sorrow, it will but give
colour to the monstrous tale; but if your good wife, an honourable lady
of the Hardwicke kin, against whom none ever breathed a word, will go
and give the daily attendance, then can not the Queen herself find
fault, and my wife's heated fancy can coin nothing suspicious. You
must all come up, and lodge here in the Manor-house till this tempest
be overpast. Oh, Richard, Richard! will it last out my life? My very
children are turned against me. Go you down and fetch your good Susan,
and take order for bringing up your children and gear. Benthall shall
take your turn at the lodge. What are you tarrying for? Do you doubt
whether your wife have rank enough to wait on the Queen? She should
have been a knight's lady long ago, but that I deemed you would be glad
to be quit of herald's fees; your service and estate have merited it,
and I will crave license by to-day's courier from her Majesty to lay
knighthood on your shoulder."

"That was not what I thought of, my Lord, though I humbly thank you,
and would be whatever was best for your Lordship's service, though, if
it would serve you as well, I would rather be squire than knight; but I
was bethinking me how we should bestow our small family. We have a
young damsel at an age not to be left to herself."

"The black-browed maid--I recollect her. Let her e'en follow her
mother. Queen Mary likes a young face, and is kindly disposed to
little maids. She taught Bess Pierrepoint to speak French and work
with her needle, and I cannot see that she did the lass any harm, nay,
she is the only one of them all that can rule her tongue to give a soft
answer if things go not after her will, and a maid might learn worse
things. Besides, your wife will be there to look after the maiden, so
you need have no fears. And for your sons, they will be at school, and
can eat with us."

Richard's doubts being thus silenced he could not but bring his wife to
his lord's rescue, though he well knew that Susan would be greatly
disturbed on all accounts, and indeed he found her deep in the ironing
that followed the great spring wash, and her housewifely mind was as
much exercised as to the effects of her desertion, as was her maternal
prudence at the plunge which her unconscious adopted child was about to
make. However, there was no denying the request, backed as it was by
her husband, looking at her proudly, and declaring she was by general
consent the only discreet woman in Sheffield. She was very sorry for
the Earl's perplexity, and had a loyal pity for the Countess's vexation
and folly, and she was consoled by the assurance that she would have a
free time between dinner and supper to go home and attend to her wash,
and finish her preparations. Cis, who had been left in a state of
great curiosity, to continue compounding pickle while the mother was
called away, was summoned, to don her holiday kirtle, for she was to
join in attendance on the Queen of Scots while Lady Shrewsbury and her
daughters were absent.

It was unmixed delight to the girl, and she was not long in
fresh-binding up her hair--black with a little rust-coloured
tinge--under her stiff little cap, smoothing down the front, which was
alone visible, putting on the well-stiffened ruff with the dainty
little lace edge and close-fitting tucker, and then the gray home-spun
kirtle, with the puffs at the top of the tight sleeves, and the slashes
into which she had persuaded mother to insert some old pink satin, for
was not she sixteen now, and almost a woman? There was a pink
breast-knot to match, and Humfrey's owch just above it, gray stockings,
home-spun and worked with elaborate pink clocks, but knitted by Cis
herself; and a pair of shoes with pink roses to match were put into a
bag, to be assumed when she arrived at the lodge. Out of this simple
finery beamed a face, bright in spite of the straight, almost bushy,
black brows. There was a light of youth, joy, and intelligence, about
her gray eyes which made them sparkle all the more under their dark
setting, and though her complexion had no brilliancy, only the
clearness of health, and her features would not endure criticism, there
was a wonderful lively sweetness about her fresh, innocent young mouth;
and she had a tall lithe figure, surpassing that of her stepmother.
She would have been a sonsie Border lass in appearance but for the
remarkable carriage of her small head and shoulders, which was
assuredly derived from her royal ancestry, and indeed her air and
manner of walking were such that Diccon had more than once accused her
of sailing about ambling like the Queen of Scots, an accusation which
she hotly denied. Her hands bad likewise a slender form and fine
texture, such as none of the ladies of the houses of Talbot or
Hardwicke could rival, but she was on the whole viewed as far from
being a beauty. The taste of the day was altogether for light,
sandy-haired, small-featured women, like Queen Elizabeth or her
namesake of Hardwicke, so that Cis was looked on as a sort of crow, and
her supposed parents were pitied for having so ill-favoured a daughter,
so unlike all their families, except one black-a-vised Talbot
grandmother, whose portrait had been discovered on a pedigree.

Much did Susan marvel what impression the daughter would make on the
true mother as they jogged up on their sober ponies through the long
avenues, whose branches were beginning to wear the purple shades of
coming spring.

Lord Shrewsbury himself met them in front of the lodge, where, in spite
of all his dignity, he had evidently been impatiently awaiting them.
He thanked Susan for coming, as if he had not had a right to order,
gave her his ungloved hand when she had dismounted, then at the single
doorway of the lodge caused his gentleman to go through the form of
requesting admission for himself and Mistress Talbot, his dear
kinswoman, to the presence of the Queen. It was a ceremony daily
observed as an acknowledgment of Mary's royalty, and the Earl was far
too courteous ever to omit it.

Queen Mary's willingness to admit him was notified by Sir Andrew
Melville, a tall, worn man, with the typical Scottish countenance and a
keen steadfast gray eye. He marshalled the trio up a circular
staircase, made as easy as possible, but necessarily narrow, since it
wound up through a brick turret at the corner, to the third and
uppermost story of the lodge.

There, however, was a very handsome anteroom, with tapestry hangings, a
richly moulded ceiling, and wide carved stone chimneypiece, where a
bright fire was burning, around which sat several Scottish and French
gentlemen, who rose at the Earl's entrance. Another wide doorway with
a tapestry curtain over the folding leaves led to the presence chamber,
and Sir Andrew announced in as full style as if he had been marshalling
an English ambassador to the Court of Holyrood, the most high and
mighty Earl of Shrewsbury. The room was full of March sunshine, and a
great wood fire blazed on the hearth. Part of the floor was carpeted,
and overhung with a canopy, proceeding from the tapestried wall, and
here was a cross-legged velvet chair on which sat Queen Mary. This was
all that Cis saw at first, while the Earl advanced, knelt on one step
of the dais, with bared head, exchanging greetings with the Queen. He
then added, that his wife, the Countess, and her daughter, having been
called away from Sheffield, he would entreat her Grace to accept for a
few days in their stead the attendance of his good kinswoman, Mrs.
Talbot, and her daughter, Mistress Cicely.

Mary graciously intimated her consent, and extended her hand for each
to kiss as they knelt in turn on the step; Susan either fancied, or
really saw a wonderful likeness in that taper hand to the little one
whose stitches she had so often guided. Cis, on her part, felt the
thrill of girlhood in the actual touch of the subject of her dreams.
She stood, scarcely hearing what passed, but taking in, from under her
black brows, all the surroundings, and recognising the persons from her
former glimpses, and from Antony Babington's descriptions. The presence
chamber was ample for the suite of the Queen, which had been reduced on
every fresh suspicion. There was in it, besides the Queen's four
ladies, an elderly one, with a close black silk hood--Jean Kennedy, or
Mrs. Kennett as the English called her; another, a thin slight figure,
with a worn face, as if a great sorrow had passed over her, making her
look older than her mistress, was the Queen's last remaining Mary,
otherwise Mrs. Seaton. The gossip of Sheffield had not failed to tell
how the chamberlain, Beatoun, had been her suitor, and she had half
consented to accept him when he was sent on a mission to France, and
there died. The dark-complexioned bright-eyed little lady, on a
smaller scale than the rest, was Marie de Courcelles, who, like the two
others, had been the Queen's companion in all her adventures; and the
fourth, younger and prettier than the rest, was already known to Cis
and her mother, since she was the Barbara Mowbray who was affianced to
Gilbert Curll, the Queen's Scottish secretary, recently taken into her
service. Both these were Protestants, and, like the Bridgefield
family, attended service in the castle chapel. They were all at work,
as was likewise their royal lady, to whom the girl, with the youthful
coyness that halts in the fulfilment of its dreams, did not at first
raise her eyes, having first taken in all the ladies, the several
portions of one great coverlet which they were all embroidering in
separate pieces, and the gentleman who was reading aloud to them from a
large book placed on a desk at which he was standing.

When she did look up, as the Queen was graciously requesting her mother
to be seated, and the Earl excusing himself from remaining longer, her
first impression was one of disappointment. Either the Queen of Scots
was less lovely seen leisurely close at hand than Antony Babington and
Cis's own fancy had painted her, or the last two or three years had
lessened her charms, as well they might, for she had struggled and
suffered much in the interval, had undergone many bitter
disappointments, and had besides endured much from rheumatism every
winter, indeed, even now she could not ride, and could only go out in a
carriage in the park on the finest days, looking forward to her annual
visit to Buxton to set her up for the summer. Her face was longer and
more pointed than in former days, her complexion had faded, or perhaps
in these private moments it had not been worth while to enhance it;
though there was no carelessness in the general attire, the black
velvet gown, and delicate lace of the cap, and open ruff always
characteristic of her. The small curls of hair at her temples had
their auburn tint softened by far more white than suited one who was
only just over forty, but the delicate pencilling of the eyebrows was
as marked as ever; and the eyes, on whose colour no one ever agreed,
melted and sparkled as of old. Cis had heard debates as to their hue,
and furtively tried to form her own opinion, but could not decide on
anything but that they had a dark effect, and a wonderful power of
expression, seeming to look at every one at once, and to rebuke,
encourage, plead, or smile, from moment to moment. The slight cast in
one of them really added to their force of expression rather than
detracted from their beauty, and the delicate lips were ready to second
the glances with wondrous smiles. Cis had not felt the magic of her
mere presence five minutes without being convinced that Antony
Babington was right; the Lord Treasurer and all the rest utterly wrong,
and that she beheld the most innocent and persecuted of princesses.

Meantime, all due formalities having been gone through, Lord Shrewsbury
bowed himself out backwards with a dexterity that Cis breathlessly
admired in one so stately and so stiff, forgetting that he had daily
practice in the art. Then Queen Mary courteously entreated her
visitors to be seated, near herself, asking with a smile if this were
not the little maiden who had queened it so prettily in the brake some
few years since. Cis blushed and drew back her head with a pretty
gesture of dignified shyness as Susan made answer for her that she was
the same.

"I should have known it," said the Queen, smiling, "by the port of her
head alone. 'Tis strange," she said, musing, "that maiden hath the
bearing of head and neck that I have never seen save in my own mother,
the saints rest her soul, and in her sisters, and which we always held
to be their inheritance from the blood of Charlemagne."

"Your grace does her too much honour," Susan contrived to say, thankful
that no less remote resemblance had been detected.

"It was a sad farce when they tried to repeat your pretty comedy with
the chief performer omitted," proceeded the Queen, directing her words
to the girl, but the mother replied for her.

"Your Grace will pardon me, I could not permit her to play in public,
before all the menie of the castle."

"Madame is a discreet and prudent mother," said the Queen. "The
mistake was in repeating the representation at all, not in abstaining
from appearing in it. I should be very sorry that this young lady
should have been concerned in a spectacle a la comtesse."

There was something in the intonation of "this young lady" that won
Cis's heart on the spot, something in the concluding words that hurt
Susan's faithful loyalty towards her kinswoman, in spite of the
compliment to herself. However Mary did not pursue the subject,
perceiving with ready tact that it was distasteful, and proceeded to
ask Dame Susan's opinion of her work, which was intended as a gift to
her good aunt, the Abbess of Soissons. How strangely the name fell
upon Susan's ear. It was a pale blue satin coverlet, worked in large
separate squares, innumerable shields and heraldic devices of Lorraine,
Bourbon, France, Scotland, etc., round the border, and beautiful
meandering patterns of branches, with natural flowers and leaves
growing from them covering the whole with a fascinating regular
irregularity. Cis could not repress an exclamation of delight, which
brought the most charming glance of the winning eyes upon her. There
was stitchery here that she did not understand, but when she looked at
some of the flowers, she could not help uttering the sentiment that the
eyes of the daisies were not as mother could make them.

So, as a great favour, Queen Mary entreated to be shown Mrs. Talbot's
mode of dealing with the eyes of the daisies. No, her good Seaton
would not learn so well as she should; Madame must come and sit by her
and show her. Meantime here was her poor little Bijou whimpering to be
taken on her lap. Would not he find a comforter in sweet Mistress--ah,
what was her name?

"We named her Cicely, so please your Grace," said Susan, unable to help
blushing.

"Cecile, a fair name. Ah! so the poor Antoine called her. I see my
Bijou has found a friend in you, Mistress Cecile"--as the girl's idle
hands were only too happy to caress the pretty little shivering Italian
greyhound rather than to be busy with a needle. "Do you ever hear of
that young Babington, your playfellow?" she added.

"No, madam," said Cis, looking up, "he hath never been here!"

"I thought not," said Queen Mary, sighing. "Take heed to manifest no
pity for me, maiden, if you should ever chance to be inspired with it
for a poor worn-out old prisoner. It is the sure sentence of
misfortune and banishment."

"In his sex, madam," here put in Marie de Courcelles. "If it were so
in ours, woe to some of us."

"That is true, my dear friends," said Mary, her eyes glistening with
dew. "It is the women who are the most fearless, the most faithful,
and whom the saints therefore shield."

"Alas, there are some who are faithful but who are not shielded!"

It was merely a soft low murmur, but the tender-hearted Queen had
caught it, and rising impulsively, crossed the room and gathered Mary
Seaton's hands into hers, no longer the queen but the loving friend of
equal years, soothing her in a low fond voice, and presently sending
her to the inner chamber to compose herself. Then as the Queen
returned slowly to her seat it would be seen how lame she was from
rheumatism. Mrs. Kennedy hurried to assist her, with a nurse-like word
of remonstrance, to which she replied with a bewitching look of
sweetness that she could not but forget her aches and pains when she
saw her dear Mary Seaton in trouble.

Most politely she then asked whether her visitors would object to
listening to the conclusion of her day's portion of reading. There was
no refusing, of course, though, as Susan glanced at the reader and knew
him to be strongly suspected of being in Holy Orders conferred abroad,
she had her fears for her child's Protestant principles. The book,
however, proved to be a translation of St. Austin on the Psalms, and,
of course, she could detect nothing that she disapproved, even if Cis
had not been far too much absorbed by the little dog and its mistress
to have any comprehending ears for theology. Queen Mary confidentially
observed as much to her after the reading, having, no doubt, detected
her uneasy glance.

"You need not fear for your child, madam," she said; "St. Augustine is
respected by your own Queen and her Bishops. At the readings with
which my good Mr. Belton favours me, I take care to have nothing you
Protestants dispute when I know it." She added, smiling, "Heaven knows
that I have endeavoured to understand your faith, and many a minister
has argued with me. I have done my best to comprehend them, but they
agreed in nothing but in their abuse of the Pope. At least so it
seemed to my poor weak mind. But you are satisfied, madam, I see it in
your calm eyes and gentle voice. If I see much of you, I shall learn
to think well of your religion."

Susan made an obeisance without answering. She had heard Sir Gilbert
Talbot say, "If she tries to persuade you that you can convert her, be
sure that she means mischief," but she could not bear to believe it
anything but a libel while the sweet sad face was gazing into hers.

Queen Mary changed the subject by asking a few questions about the
Countess's sudden departure. There was a sort of guarded irony
suppressed in her tone--she was evidently feeling her way with the
stranger, and when she found that Susan would only own to causes Lord
Shrewsbury had adduced on the spur of the moment, she was much too wary
to continue the examination, though Susan could not help thinking that
she knew full well the disturbance which had taken place.

A short walk on the roof above followed. The sun was shining
brilliantly, and lame as she was, the Queen's strong craving for free
air led her to climb her stairs and creep to and fro on Sir Andrew
Melville's arm, gazing out over the noble prospect of the park close
below, divided by the winding vales of the three rivers, which could be
traced up into the woods and the moors beyond, purple with spring
freshness and glory. Mary made her visitors point out Bridgefield, and
asked questions about all that could be seen of the house and
pleasance, which, in truth, was little enough, but she contrived to set
Cis off into a girl's chatter about her home occupations, and would not
let her be hushed.

"You little know the good it does a captive to take part, only in
fancy, in a free harmless life," returned Mary, with the wistful look
that made her eyes so pathetic. "There is no refreshment to me like a
child's prattle."

Susan's heart smote her as she thought of the true relations in which
these two stood to one another, and she forbore from further
interference; but she greatly rejoiced when the great bell of the
castle gave notice of noon, and of her own release. When Queen Mary's
dinner was served, the Talbot ladies in attendance left her and
repaired to the general family meal in the hall.





Next: A Furious Letter

Previous: The Lady Arbell



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