Most ViewedMary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity
Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France
An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots
Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death
The Little Waif
Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court
Least ViewedReturn To Scotland
The Love Token
Ten Years After
Hunting Down The Deer
The Ebbing Well
My Lady's Remorse
Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity
Queen Mary's Presence Chamber
The Huckstering Woman
When Cicely had been carried into a chamber by Master Talbot, and laid
half-conscious and moaning on the grand carved bed, Mrs. Talbot by word
and gesture expelled all superfluous spectators. She would have
preferred examining alone into the injury sustained by the maiden,
which she did not think beyond her own management; but there was no
refusing the services of Maitre Gorion, or of Mrs. Kennedy, who indeed
treated her authoritatively, assuming the direction of the sick-room.
She found herself acting under their orders as she undid the boddice,
while Mrs. Kennedy ripped up the tight sleeve of the riding dress, and
laid bare the arm and shoulder, which had been severely bruised and
twisted, but neither broken nor dislocated, as Mrs. Kennedy informed
her, after a few rapid words from the Frenchman, unintelligible to the
English lady, who felt somewhat impatient of this invasion of her
privileges, and was ready to say she had never supposed any such thing.
The chirurgeon skipped to the door, and for a moment she hoped that she
was rid of him, but he had only gone to bring in a neat case with which
his groom was in waiting outside, whence he extracted a lotion and
sponge, speaking rapidly as he did so.
"Now, madam," said Jean Kennedy, "lift the lassie, there, turn back her
boddice, and we will bathe her shouther. So! By my halidome!"
"Ah! Mort de ma vie!"
The two exclamations darted simultaneously from the lips of the
Scottish nurse and the French doctor. Susan beheld what she had at the
moment forgotten, the curious mark branded on her nursling's shoulder,
which indeed she had not seen since Cicely had been of an age to have
the care of her own person, and which was out of the girl's own sight.
No more was said at the moment, for Cis was reviving fast, and was so
much bewildered and frightened that she required all the attention and
soothing that the two women could give, but when they removed the rest
of her clothing, so that she might be laid down comfortably to rest,
Mrs. Kennedy by another dexterous movement uncovered enough of the
other shoulder to obtain a glimpse of the monogram upon it.
Nothing was spoken. Those two had not been so many years attendants on
a suspected and imprisoned queen without being prudent and cautious;
but when they quitted the apartment after administering a febrifuge,
Susan felt a pang of wonder, whether they were about to communicate
their discovery to their mistress. For the next quarter of an hour,
the patient needed all her attention, and there was no possibility of
obeying the summons of a great clanging bell which announced dinner.
When, however, Cis had fallen asleep it became possible to think over
the situation. She foresaw an inquiry, and would have given much for a
few words with her husband; but reflection showed her that the one
point essential to his safety was not to betray that he and she had any
previous knowledge of the rank of their nursling. The existence of the
scroll might have to be acknowledged, but to show that Richard had
deciphered it would put him in danger on all hands.
She had just made up her mind on this point when there was a knock at
the door, and Mrs. Kennedy bore in a salver with a cup of wine, and
took from an attendant, who remained outside, a tray with some more
solid food, which she placed on the broad edge of the deep-set window,
and coming to the bedside, invited Mrs. Talbot to eat, while she
watched the girl. Susan complied, though with little appetite, and
Mrs. Kennedy, after standing for a few minutes in contemplation, came
to the window. She was a tall woman, her yellow hair softened by an
admixture of gray, her eyes keen and shrewd, yet capable of great
tenderness at times, her features certainly not youthful, but not a
whit more aged than they had been when Susan had first seen her
fourteen years ago. It was a quiet mouth, and one that gave a sense of
trust both in its firmness, secrecy, and kindness.
"Madam," said she, in her soft Scotch voice, lowered considerably, but
not whispering, and with her keen eyes fixed on Susan--"Madam, what
garred ye gie your bit lassie yonder marks? Ye need not fear, that
draught of Maister Gorion's will keep her sleeping fast for a good hour
or two longer, and it behoves me to ken how she cam by yonder brands."
"She had them when she came to us," said Susan.
"Ye'll no persuade me that they are birth marks," returned Mistress
Jean. "Such a thing would be a miracle in a loyal Scottish Catholic's
wean, let alone an English heretic's."
"No," said Susan, who had in fact only made the answer to give herself
time to think whether it were possible to summon her husband. "They
never seemed to me birth marks."
"Woman," said Jean Kennedy, laying a strong, though soft hand, on her
wrist, "this is not gear for trifling. Is the lass your ain bairn? Ha!
I always thought she had mair of the kindly Scot than of the Southron
about her. Hech! so they made the puir wean captive! Wha gave her
till you to keep? Your lord, I trow."
"The Lord of heaven and earth," replied Susan. "My husband took her,
the only living thing left on a wreck off the Spurn Head."
"Hech, sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Kennedy, evidently much struck, but still
exercising great self-command. "And when fell this out?"
"Two days after Low Sunday, in the year of grace 1568," returned Susan.
"My halidome!" again ejaculated Jean, in a low voice, crossing herself.
"And what became of honest Ailie--I mean," catching herself up, "what
befell those that went with her?"
"Not one lived," said Susan, gravely. "The mate of my husband's ship
took the little one from the arms of her nurse, who seemed to have been
left alone with her by the crew, lashed to the wreck, and to have had
her life freshly beaten out by the winds and waves, for she was still
warm. I was then lying at Hull, and they brought the babe to me, while
there was still time to save her life, with God's blessing."
"And the vessel?" asked Jean.
"My husband held it to be the Bride of Dunbar, plying between that port
"Ay! ay! Blessed St. Bride!" muttered Jean Kennedy, with an
awe-stricken look; then, collecting herself, she added, "Were there no
tokens, save these, about the little one, by which she could be known?"
"There was a gold chain with a cross, and what you call a reliquary
about her little neck, and a scroll written in cipher among her
swaddling bands; but they are laid up at home, at Bridgefield."
It was a perplexing situation for this simple-hearted and truthful
woman, and, on the other hand, Jean Kennedy was no less devoted and
loyal in her own line, a good and conscientious woman, but shrewder,
and, by nature and breeding, far less scrupulous as to absolute truth.
The one idea that Susan, in her confusion, could keep hold of was that
any admission of knowledge as to who her Cis really was, would be a
betrayal of her husband's secret; and on the other hand she saw that
Mrs. Kennedy, though most keen to discover everything, and no doubt
convinced that the maiden was her Queen's child, was bent on not
disclosing that fact to the foster-mother.
She asked anxiously whether Mistress Cicely knew of her being only an
adopted child, and Susan replied that they had intended that she never
should learn that she was of alien birth; but that it had been revealed
by the old sailor who had brought her on board the Mastiff, though no
one had heard him save young Humfrey and the girl herself, and they had
been, so far as she knew, perfectly reserved on the subject.
Jean Kennedy then inquired how the name of Cicely had been given, and
whether the child had been so baptized by Protestant rites.
"Wot you who the maid may be, madam?" Susan took courage to ask; but
the Scotswoman would not be disconcerted, and replied,
"How suld I ken without a sight of the tokens? Gin I had them, maybe I
might give a guess, but there was mony a leal Scot sairly bestead, wife
and wean and all, in her Majesty's cause that wearie spring."
Here Cis stirred in her sleep, and both women were at her side in a
moment, but she did not wake.
Jean Kennedy stood gazing at the girl with eagerness that she did not
attempt to conceal, studying each feature in detail; but Cis showed in
her sleep very little of her royal lineage, which betrayed itself far
more in her gait and bearing than in her features. Susan could not
help demanding of the nurse whether she saw any resemblance that could
show the maiden's parentage.
The old lady gave a kind of Scotch guttural sound expressive of
disappointment, and said, "I'll no say but I've seen the like
beetle-broo. But we'll waken the bairn with our clavers. I'll away
the noo. Maister Gorion will see her again ere night, but it were ill
to break her sleep, the puir lassie!"
Nevertheless, she could not resist bending over and kissing the
sleeper, so gently that there was no movement. Then she left the room,
and Susan stood with clasped hands.
"My child! my child! Oh, is it coming on thee? Wilt thou be taken
from me! Oh, and to what a fate! And to what hands! They will never
never love thee as we have done! O God, protect her, and be her
And Susan knelt by the bed in such a paroxysm of grief that her
husband, coming in unshod that he might not disturb the girl,
apprehended that she had become seriously worse.
However, his entrance awoke her, and she found herself much better, and
was inclined to talk, so he sat down on a chest by the bed, and related
what Diccon had told him of the reappearance of the woman with the
basket of spar trinkets.
"Beads and bracelets," said Cicely.
"Ay?" said he. "What knowest thou of them?"
"Only that she spake the words so often; and the Queen, just ere that
doctor began his speech, asked of me whether she did not sell beads and
"'Tis a password, no doubt, and we must be on our guard," said Richard,
while his wife demanded with whom Diccon had seen her speaking.
"With Gorion," returned he. "That was what made the lad suspect
something, knowing that the chirurgeon can barely speak three sentences
in any tongue but his own, and those are in their barbarous Scotch. I
took the boy with me and inquired here, there, and everywhere this
afternoon, but could find no one who had ever seen or heard of any one
"Tell me, Cis," exclaimed Susan, with a sudden conviction, "was she
like in any fashion to Tibbott the huckster-woman who brought young
Babington into trouble three years agone?"
"Women's heads all run on one notion," said Richard. "Can there be no
secret agents save poor Cuthbert, whom I believe to be beyond seas?"
"Nay, but hear what saith the child?" asked Susan.
"This woman was not nearly so old as Tibbott," said Cis, "nor did she
walk with a staff, nor had she those grizzled black brows that were
wont to frighten me."
"But was she tall?" asked Susan.
"Oh yes, mother. She was very tall--she came after Diccon and me with
long strides--yet it could never have been Tibbott!"
Susan had reasons for thinking otherwise, but she could not pursue the
subject at that time, as she had to go down to supper with her husband,
and privacy was impossible. Even at night, nobody enjoyed extensive
quarters, and but for Cicely's accident she would have slept with Dyot,
the tirewoman, who had arrived with the baggage, which included a
pallet bed for them. However, the young lady had been carried to a
chamber intended for one of Queen Mary's suite; and there it was
decreed that she should remain for the night, the mother sleeping with
her, while the father and son betook themselves to the room previously
allotted to the family. Only on the excuse of going to take out her
husband's gear from the mails was Susan able to secure a few words with
him, and then by ordering out Diccon, Dyot, and the serving-man. Then
she could succeed in saying, "Mine husband, all will soon out--Mistress
Kennedy and Master Gorion have seen the brands on the child's
shoulders. It is my belief that she of the 'beads and bracelets' bade
the chirurgeon look for them. Else, why should he have thrust himself
in for a hurt that women-folk had far better have tended? Now, that
kinsman of yours knew that poor Cis was none of ours, and gave her a
hint of it long ago--that is, if Tibbott were he, and not something
Richard shook his head. "Give a woman a hint of a seminary priest in
disguise, and she would take a new-born baby for one. I tell thee I
heard that Cuthbert was safe in Paris. But, be that as it may, I trust
thou hast been discreet."
"So I strove to be," said Susan. "Mrs. Kennedy questioned me, and I
"What?" sharply demanded her husband.
"Nought but truth," she answered, "save that I showed no knowledge who
the maid really is, nor let her guess that you had read the scroll."
"That is well. Frank Talbot was scarce within his duty when he gave me
the key, and it were as much as my head were worth to be known to have
been aware of the matter." To this Susan could only assent, as they
were interrupted by the serving-man coming to ask directions about the
bestowal of the goods.
She was relieved by this short colloquy, but it was a sad and wakeful
night for her as Cicely slept by her side. Her love was too truly
motherly not to be deeply troubled at the claim of one of differing
religion and nation, and who had so uncertain and perilous a lot in
which to place her child. There was also the sense that all her
dearest, including her eldest son, were involved in the web of intrigue
with persons far mightier and more unscrupulous than themselves; and
that, however they might strive to preserve their integrity, it would
be very hard to avoid suspicion and danger.
In this temporary abode, the household of the Queen and of the Earl ate
together, in the great hall, and thus while breaking their fast in the
morning Jean Kennedy found opportunity to examine Richard Talbot on all
the circumstances of the wreck of the Bride of Dunbar, and the finding
of the babe. She was much more on her guard than the day before, and
said that she had a shrewd suspicion as to who the babe's parents might
be, but that she could not be certain without seeing the reliquary and
the scroll. Richard replied that they were at home, but made no offer
of sending for them. "Nor will I do so," said he to his wife, "unless
I am dealt plainly with, and the lady herself asks for them. Then
should I have no right to detain them."
M. Gorion would not allow his patient to leave her room that day, and
she had to remain there while Susan was in attendance on the Queen, who
did not appear to her yet to have heard of the discovery, and who was
entering with zest into the routine of the place, where Dr. Jones might
be regarded as the supreme legislator.
Each division of the great bath hall was fitted with drying and
dressing room, arranged commodiously according to the degree of those
who were to use them. Royalty, of course, enjoyed a monopoly, and
after the hot bath, which the Queen took immediately after rising, she
breakfasted in her own apartments, and then came forth, according to
the regimen of the place, by playing at Trowle Madame. A board with
arches cut in, just big enough to permit the entrance of the balls used
in playing at bowls was placed on the turf at a convenient distance
from the player. Each arch was numbered, from one to thirteen, but the
numbers were irregularly arranged, and the game consisted in rolling
bowls into the holes in succession, each player taking a single turn,
and the winner reaching the highest number first,--being, in fact, a
sort of lawn bagatelle. Dr. Jones recommended it as good to stretch
the rheumatic joints of his patients, and Queen Mary, an adept at all
out-of-door games, delighted in it, though she had refused an offer to
have the lawn arranged for it at Sheffield, saying that it would only
spoil a Buxton delight. She was still too stiff to play herself, but
found infinite amusement in teaching the new-comers the game, and poor
Susan, with her thoughts far away, was scarcely so apt a pupil as
befitted a royal mistress, especially as she missed Mrs. Kennedy.
When she came back, she found that the dame had been sitting with the
patient, and had made herself very agreeable to the girl by drawing out
from her all she knew of her own story from beginning to end, having
first shown that she knew of the wreck of the Bride of Dunbar.
"And, mother," said Cis, "she says she is nearly certain that she knows
who my true parents were, and that she could be certain if she saw the
swaddling clothes and tokens you had with me. Have you, mother? I
never knew of them."
"Yes, child, I have. We did not wish to trouble and perturb your mind,
little one, while you were content to be our daughter."
"Ah, mother, I would fain be yours and father's still. They must not
take me from you. But suppose I was some great and noble lord's
daughter, and had a great inheritance and lordship to give Humfrey!"
"Alas, child! Scottish inheritances are wont to bring more strife than
Nevertheless, Cis went on supposing and building castles that were pain
and grief to her foreboding auditor. That evening, however, Richard
called his wife. It was late, but the northern sunset was only just
over, and Susan could wander out with him on the greensward in front of
the Earl's house.
"So this is the tale we are to be put off with," he said, "from the
Queen herself, ay, herself, and told with such an air of truth that it
would almost make me discredit the scroll. She told me with one of her
sweetest smiles how a favourite kinswoman of hers wedded in secret with
a faithful follower of hers, of the clan Hepburn. Oh, I assure you it
might have been a ballad sung by a harper for its sadness. Well, this
fellow ventured too far in her service, and had to flee to France to
become an archer of the guard, while the wife remained and died at
Lochleven Castle, having given birth to our Cis, whom the Queen in due
time despatched to her father, he being minded to have her bred up in a
French nunnery, sending her to Dunbar to be there embarked in the Bride
"And the father?"
"Oh, forsooth, the father! It cost her as little to dispose of him as
of the mother. He was killed in some brawl with the Huguenots; so that
the poor child is altogether an orphan, beholden to our care, for which
she thanked me with tears in her eyes, that were more true than mayhap
the poor woman could help."
"Poor lady," said Susan. "Yet can it not be sooth indeed?"
"Nay, dame, that may not be. The cipher is not one that would be used
in simply sending a letter to the father."
"Might not the occasion have been used for corresponding in secret with
"I tell thee, wife, if I read one word of that letter, I read that the
child was her own, and confided to the Abbess of Soissons! I will read
it to thee once more ere I yield it up, that is if I ever do.
Wherefore cannot the woman speak truth to me? I would be true and
faithful were I trusted, but to be thus put off with lies makes a man
ready at once to ride off with the whole to the Queen in council."
"Think, but think, dear sir," pleaded Susan, "how the poor lady is
pressed, and how much she has to fear on all sides."
"Ay, because lies have been meat and drink to her, till she cannot
speak a soothfast word nor know an honest man when she sees him."
"What would she have?"
"That Cis should remain with us as before, and still pass for our
daughter, till such time as these negotiations are over, and she
recover her kingdom. That is--so far as I see--like not to be till
latter Lammas--but meantime what sayest thou, Susan? Ah! I knew,
anything to keep the child with thee! Well, be it so--though if I had
known the web we were to be wound into, I'd have sailed for the Indies
with Humfrey long ago!"
Next: Mother And Child
Previous: Beads And Bracelets