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 ViewedLoch Leven Castle
The Love Token
Ten Years After
The Ebbing Well
My Lady's Remorse
Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity
Return To Scotland
Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster
"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 horrible
"Well, if no other way will serve you but I must hear the fellow, have
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
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 invaders.
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
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 vile cheat!"
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 Gorion.
"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
"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, danger, exile?"
"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
"Child," said the Queen, as she came in, "is thy mind set on wedding an
"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
"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 now overtaking."
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
"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 the shock.
"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 arrest her."
"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
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
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, harsh men?"
"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 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 cares!"
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