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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



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Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

The Love Token

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Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Return To Scotland

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

Ten Years After

Unquiet






The Huckstering Woman








The huckstering woman, Tibbott by name, was tended by Queen Mary's
apothecary, and in due time was sent off well provided, to the great
fair of York, whence she returned with a basket of needles, pins (such
as they were), bodkins, and the like articles, wherewith to circulate
about Hallamshire, but the gate-wards would not relax their rules so
far as to admit her into the park. She was permitted, however, to
bring her wares to the town of Sheffield, and to Bridgefield, but she
might come no farther.

Thither Antony Babington came down to lay out the crown which had been
given to him on his birthday, and indeed half Master Sniggius's
scholars discovered needs, and came down either to spend, or to give
advice to the happy owners of groats and testers. So far so good; but
the huckster-woman soon made Bridgefield part of her regular rounds,
and took little commissions which she executed for the household of
Sheffield, who were, as the Cavendish sisters often said in their
spleen, almost as much prisoners as the Queen of Scots. Antony
Babington was always her special patron, and being Humfrey's great
companion and playfellow, he was allowed to come in and out of the
gates unquestioned, to play with him and with Cis, who no longer went
to school, but was trained at home in needlework and housewifery.

Match-making began at so early an age, that when Mistress Susan had
twice found her and Antony Babington with their heads together over the
lamentable ballad of the cold fish that had been a lady, and which sang
its own history "forty thousand fathom above water," she began to
question whether the girl were the attraction. He was now an orphan,
and his wardship and marriage had been granted to the Earl, who, having
disposed of all his daughters and stepdaughters, except Bessie
Cavendish, might very fairly bestow on the daughter of his kinsman so
good a match as the young squire of Dethick.

"Then should we have to consider of her parentage," said Richard, when
his wife had propounded her views.

"I never can bear in mind that the dear wench is none of ours," said
Susan. "Thou didst say thou wouldst portion her as if she were our own
little maid, and I have nine webs ready for her household linen. Must
we speak of her as a stranger?"

"It would scarce be just towards another family to let them deem her of
true Talbot blood, if she were to enter among them," said Richard;
"though I look on the little merry maid as if she were mine own child.
But there is no need yet to begin upon any such coil; and, indeed, I
would wager that my lady hath other views for young Babington."

After all, parents often know very little of what passes in children's
minds, and Cis never hinted to her mother that the bond of union
between her and Antony was devotion to the captive Queen. Cis had only
had a glimpse or two of her, riding by when hunting or hawking, or
when, on festive occasions, all who were privileged to enter the park
were mustered together, among whom the Talbots ranked high as kindred
to both Earl and Countess; but those glimpses had been enough to fill
the young heart with romance, such as the matter-of-fact elders never
guessed at. Antony Babington, who was often actually in the gracious
presence, and received occasional smiles, and even greetings, was
immeasurably devoted to the Queen, and maintained Cicely's admiration
by his vivid descriptions of the kindness, the grace, the charms of the
royal captive, in contrast with the innate vulgarity of their own
Countess.

Willie Douglas (the real Roland Graeme of the escape from Lochleven)
had long ago been dismissed from Mary's train, with all the other
servants who were deemed superfluous; but Antony had heard the details
of the story from Jean Kennedy (Mrs. Kennett, as the English were
pleased to call her), and Willie was the hero of his emulative
imagination.

"What would I not do to be like him!" he fervently exclaimed when he
had narrated the story to Humfrey and Cis, as they lay on a nest in the
fern one fine autumn day, resting after an expedition to gather
blackberries for the mother's preserving.

"I would not be him for anything," said Humfrey.

"Fie, Humfrey," cried Cis; "would not you dare exile or anything else
in a good cause?"

"For a good cause, ay," said Humfrey in his stolid way.

"And what can be a better cause than that of the fairest of captive
queens?" exclaimed Antony, hotly.

"I would not be a traitor," returned Humfrey, as he lay on his back,
looking up through the chequerwork of the branches of the trees towards
the sky.

"Who dares link the word traitor with my name?" said Babington, feeling
for the imaginary handle of a sword.

"Not I; but you'll get it linked if you go on in this sort."

"For shame, Humfrey," again cried Cis, passionately. "Why, delivering
imprisoned princesses always was the work of a true knight."

"Yea; but they first defied the giant openly," said Humfrey.

"What of that?" said Antony.

"They did not do it under trust," said Humfrey.

"I am not under trust," said Antony. "Your father may be a sworn
servant of the Earl and, the Queen--Queen Elizabeth, I mean; but I have
taken no oaths--nobody asked me if I would come here."

"No," said Humfrey, knitting his brows, "but you see we are all trusted
to go in and out as we please, on the understanding that we do nought
that can be unfaithful to the Earl; and I suppose it was thus with this
same Willie Douglas."

"She was his own true and lawful Queen," cried Cis. "His first duty
was to her."

Humfrey sat up and looked perplexed, but with a sudden thought
exclaimed, "No Scots are we, thanks be to Heaven! and what might be
loyalty in him would be rank treason in us."

"How know you that?" said Antony. "I have heard those who say that our
lawful Queen is there," and he pointed towards the walls that rose in
the distance above the woods.

Humfrey rose wrathful. "Then truly you are no better than a traitor,
and a Spaniard, and a Papist," and fists were clenched on both aides,
while Cis flew between, pulling down Humfrey's uplifted hand, and
crying, "No, no; he did not say he thought so, only he had heard it."

"Let him say it again!" growled Antony, his arm bared.

"No, don't, Humfrey!" as if she saw it between his clenched teeth. "You
know you only meant if Tony thought so, and he didn't. Now how can you
two be so foolish and unkind to me, to bring me out for a holiday to
eat blackberries and make heather crowns, and then go and spoil it all
with folly about Papists, and Spaniards, and grown-up people's nonsense
that nobody cares about!"

Cis had a rare power over both her comrades, and her piteous appeal
actually disarmed them, since there was no one present to make them
ashamed of their own placability. Grown-up people's follies were
avoided by mutual consent through the rest of the walk, and the three
children parted amicably when Antony had to return to fulfil his page's
duties at my lord's supper, and Humfrey and Cis carried home their big
basket of blackberries.

When they entered their own hall they found their mother engaged in
conversation with a tall, stout, and weather-beaten man, whom she
announced--"See here, my children, here is a good friend of your
father's, Master Goatley, who was his chief mate in all his voyages,
and hath now come over all the way from Hull to see him! He will be
here anon, sir, so soon as the guard is changed at the Queen's lodge.
Meantime, here are the elder children."

Diccon, who had been kept at home by some temporary damage to his foot,
and little Edward were devouring the sailor with their eyes; and
Humfrey and Cis were equally delighted with the introduction,
especially as Master Goatley was just returned from the Western Main,
and from a curious grass-woven basket which he carried slung to his
side, produced sundry curiosities in the way of beads, shell-work,
feather-work, and a hatchet of stone, and even a curious armlet of
soft, dull gold, with pearls set in it. This he had, with great
difficulty, obtained on purpose for Mistress Talbot, who had once cured
him of a bad festering hurt received on board ship.

The children clustered round in ecstasies of admiration and wonder as
they heard of the dark brown atives, the curious expedients by which
barter was carried on; also of cruel Spaniards, and of savage fishes,
with all the marvels of flying-fish, corals, palm-trees, humming
birds--all that is lesson work to our modern youth, but was the most
brilliant of living fairy tales at this Elizabethan period. Humfrey
and Diccon were ready to rush off to voyage that instant, and even
little Ned cried imitatively in his imperfect language that he would be
"a tailor."

Then their father came home, and joyfully welcomed and clasped hands
with his faithful mate, declaring that the sight did him good; and they
sat down to supper and talked of voyages, till the boys' eyes glowed,
and they beat upon their own knees with the enthusiasm that their
strict manners bade them repress; while their mother kept back her
sighs as she saw them becoming infected with that sea fever so dreaded
by parents. Nay, she saw it in her husband himself. She knew him to
be grievously weary of a charge most monotonously dull, and only varied
by suspicions and petty detections; and that he was hungering and
thirsting for his good ship and to be facing winds and waves. She
could hear his longing in the very sound of the "Ays?" and brief
inquiries by which he encouraged Goatley to proceed in the story of
voyages and adventures, and she could not wonder when Goatley said,
"Your heart is in it still, sir. Not one of us all but says it is a
pity such a noble captain should be lost as a landsman, with nothing to
do but to lock the door on a lady."

"Speak not of it, my good Goatley," said Richard, hastily, "or you will
set me dreaming and make me mad."

"Then it is indeed so," returned Goatley. "Wherefore then come you
not, sir, where a crew is waiting for you of as good fellows as ever
stepped on a deck, and who, one and all, are longing after such a
captain as you are, sir? Wherefore hold back while still in your
prime?"

"Ask the mistress, there," said Richard, as he saw his Susan's white
face and trembling fingers, though she kept her eyes on her work to
prevent them from betraying their tears and their wistfulness.

"O sweet father," burst forth Humfrey, "do but go, and take me. I am
quite old enough."

"Nay, Humfrey, 'tis no matter of liking," said his father, not wishing
to prolong his wife's suspense. "Look you here, boy, my Lord Earl is
captain of all of his name by right of birth, and so long as he needs
my services, I have no right to take them from him. Dost see, my boy?"

Humfrey reluctantly did see. It was a great favour to be thus argued
with, and admitted of no reply.

Mrs. Talbot's heart rejoiced, but she was not sorry that it was time
for her to carry off Diccon and Ned to their beds, away from the
fascinating narrative, and she would give no respite, though Diccon
pleaded hard. In fact, the danger might be the greatest to him, since
Humfrey, though born within the smell of the sea, might be retained by
the call of duty like his father. To Cis, at least, she thought the
sailor's conversation could do no harm, little foreboding the words
that presently ensued. "And, sir, what befell the babe we found in our
last voyage off the Spurn? It would methinks be about the age of this
pretty mistress."

Richard Talbot endeavoured to telegraph a look both of assent and
warning, but though Master Goatley would have been sharp to detect the
least token of a Spanish galleon on the most distant horizon, the
signal fell utterly short. "Ay, sir. What, is it so? Bless me! The
very maiden! And you have bred her up for your own."

"Sir! Father!" cried Cis, looking from one to the other, with eyes and
mouth wide open.

"Soh!" cried the sailor, "what have I done? I beg your pardon, sir, if
I have overhauled what should have been let alone. But," continued the
honest, but tactless man, "who could have thought of the like of that,
and that the pretty maid never knew it? Ay, ay, dear heart. Never
fear but that the captain will be good father to you all the same."

For Richard Talbot had held out his arm, and, as Cis ran up to him, he
had seated her on his knee, and held her close to him. Humfrey
likewise started up with an impulse to contradict, which was suddenly
cut short by a strange flash of memory, so all he did was to come up to
his father, and grasp one of the girl's hands as fast as he could. She
trembled and shivered, but there was something in the presence of this
strange man which choked back all inquiry, and the silence, the
vehement grasp, and the shuddering, alarmed the captain, lest she might
suddenly go off into a fit upon his hands.

"This is gear for mother," said he, and taking her up like a baby,
carried her off, followed closely by Humfrey. He met Susan coming
down, asking anxiously, "Is she sick?"

"I hope not, mother," he said, "but honest Goatley, thinking no harm,
hath blurted out that which we had never meant her to know, at least
not yet awhile, and it hath wrought strangely with her."

"Then it is true, father?" said Humfrey, in rather an awe-stricken
voice, while Cis still buried her face on the captain's breast.

"Yes," he said, "yea, my children, it is true that God sent us a
daughter from the sea and the wreck when He had taken our own little
maid to His rest. But we have ever loved our Cis as well, and hope
ever to do so while she is our good child. Take her, mother, and tell
the children how it befell; if I go not down, the fellow will spread it
all over the house, and happily none were present save Humfrey and the
little maiden."

Susan put the child down on her own bed, and there, with Humfrey
standing by, told the history of the father carrying in the little
shipwrecked babe. They both listened with eyes devouring her, but they
were as yet too young to ask questions about evidences, and Susan did
not volunteer these, only when the girl asked, "Then, have I no name?"
she answered, "A godly minister, Master Heatherthwayte, gave thee the
name of Cicely when he christened thee."

"I marvel who I am?" said Cis, gazing round her, as if the world were
all new to her.

"It does not matter," said Humfrey, "you are just the same to us, is
she not, mother?"

"She is our dear Heaven-sent child," said the mother tenderly.

"But thou art not my true mother, nor Humfrey nor Diccon my brethren,"
she said, stretching out her hands like one in the dark.

"If I'm not your brother, Cis, I'll be your husband, and then you will
have a real right to be called Talbot. That's better than if you were
my sister, for then you would go away, I don't know where, and now you
will always be mine--mine--mine very own."

And as he gave Cis a hug in assurance of his intentions, his father,
who was uneasy about the matter, looked in again, and as Susan, with
tears in her eyes, pointed to the children, the good man said, "By my
faith, the boy has found the way to cut the knot--or rather to tie it.
What say you, dame? If we do not get a portion for him, we do not have
to give one with her, so it is as broad as it is long, and she remains
our dear child. Only listen, children, you are both old enough to keep
a secret. Not one word of all this matter is to be breathed to any
soul till I bid you."

"Not to Diccon," said Humfrey decidedly.

"Nor to Antony?" asked Cis wistfully.

"To Antony? No, indeed! What has he to do with it? Now, to your
beds, children, and forget all about this tale."

"There, Humfrey," broke out Cis, as soon as they were alone together,
"Huckstress Tibbott is a wise woman, whatever thou mayest say."

"How?" said Humfrey.

"Mindst thou not the day when I crossed her hand with the tester father
gave me?"

"When mother whipped thee for listening to fortune-tellers and wasting
thy substance. Ay, I mind it well," said Humfrey, "and how thou didst
stand simpering at her pack of lies, ere mother made thee sing another
tune."

"Nay, Humfrey, they were no lies, though I thought them so then. She
said I was not what I seemed, and that the Talbots' kennel would not
always hold one of the noble northern eagles. So Humfrey, sweet
Humfrey, thou must not make too sure of wedding me."

"I'll wed thee though all the lying old gipsy-wives in England wore
their false throats out in screeching out that I shall not," cried
Humfrey.

"But she must have known," said Cis, in an awestruck voice; "the
spirits must have spoken with her, and said that I am none of the
Talbots."

"Hath mother heard this?" asked Humfrey, recoiling a little, but never
thinking of the more plausible explanation.

"Oh no, no! tell her not, Humfrey, tell her not. She said she would
whip me again if ever I talked again of the follies that the
fortune-telling woman had gulled me with, for if they were not deceits,
they were worse. And, thou seest, they are worse, Humfrey!"

With which awe-stricken conclusion the children went off to bed.





Next: The Bewitched Whistle

Previous: The Oak And The Oaken Hall



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