Most ViewedMary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity
Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France
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
Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court
The Fall Of Bothwell
Least ViewedLoch Leven Castle
The Ebbing Well
The Love Token
My Lady's Remorse
Return To Scotland
Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster
Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity
Ten Years After
The Huckstering Woman
Bridgefield was a peaceable household, and the castle and manor beyond
might envy its calm.
From the time of the marriage of Elizabeth Cavendish with the young
Earl of Lennox all the shreds of comfort which had remained to the
unfortunate Earl had vanished. First he had to clear himself before
Queen Elizabeth from having been a consenting party, and then he found
his wife furious with him at his displeasure at her daughter's
aggrandisement. Moreover, whereas she had formerly been on terms of
friendly gossiphood with the Scottish Queen, she now went over to the
Lennox side because her favourite daughter had married among them; and
it was evident that from that moment all amity between her and the
prisoner was at an end.
She was enraged that her husband would not at once change his whole
treatment of the Queen, and treat her as such guilt deserved; and with
the illogical dulness of a passionate woman, she utterly scouted and
failed to comprehend the argument that the unhappy Mary was, to say the
least of it, no more guilty now than when she came into their keeping,
and that to alter their demeanour towards her would be unjust and
"My Lady is altogether beyond reason," said Captain Talbot, returning
one evening to his wife; "neither my Lord nor her daughter can do ought
with her; so puffed up is she with this marriage! Moreover, she is
hotly angered that young Babington should have been sent away from her
retinue without notice to her, and demands our Humfrey in his stead as
"He is surely too old for a page!" said his mother, thinking of her
tall well-grown son of fifteen.
"So said I," returned Richard. "I had sooner it were Diccon, and so I
told his lordship."
Before Richard could speak for them, the two boys came in, eager and
breathless. "Father!" cried Humfrey, "who think you is at Hull? Why,
none other than your old friend and shipmate, Captain Frobisher!"
"Ha! Martin Frobisher! Who told thee, Humfrey?"
"Faithful Ekins, sir, who had it from the Doncaster carrier, who saw
Captain Frobisher himself, and was asked by him if you, sir, were not
somewhere in Yorkshire, and if so, to let you know that he will be in
Hull till May-day, getting men together for a voyage to the northwards,
where there is gold to be had for the picking--and if you had a likely
son or two, now was the time to make their fortunes, and show them the
world. He said, any way you might ride to see an old comrade."
"A long message for two carriers," said Richard Talbot, smiling, "but
Martin never was a scribe!"
"But, sir, you will let me go," cried Humfrey, eagerly. "I mean, I
pray you to let me go. Dear mother, say nought against it," entreated
the youth. "Cis, think of my bringing thee home a gold bracelet like
"What," said his father, "when my Lady has just craved thee for a page."
"A page!" said Humfrey, with infinite contempt--"to hear all their
tales and bickerings, hold skeins of silk, amble mincingly along
galleries, be begged to bear messages that may have more in them than
one knows, and be noted for a bear if one refuses."
The father and Cis laughed, the mother looked unhappy.
"So Martin is at Hull, is he?" said Richard, musingly. "If my Lord can
give me leave for a week or fortnight, methinks I must ride to see the
stout old knave."
"And oh, sweet father! prithee take me with you," entreated Humfrey,
"if it be only to come back again. I have not seen the sea since we
came here, and yet the sound is in my ears as I fall asleep. I entreat
of you to let me come, good my father."
"And, good father, let me come," exclaimed Diccon; "I have never even
seen the sea!"
"And dear, sweet father, take me," entreated little Ned.
"Nay," cried Cis, "what should I do? Here is Antony Babington borne
off to Cambridge, and you all wanting to leave me."
"I'll come home better worth than he!" muttered Humfrey, who thought he
saw consent on his father's brow, and drew her aside into the deep
"You'll come back a rude sailor, smelling of pitch and tar, and Antony
will be a well-bred, point-device scholar, who will know how to give a
lady his hand," said the teasing girl.
"And so the playful war was carried on, while the father, having
silenced and dismissed the two younger lads, expressed his intention of
obtaining leave of absence, if possible, from the Earl."
"Yea," he added to his wife, "I shall even let Humfrey go with me. It
is time he looked beyond the walls of this place, which is little
better than a prison."
"And will you let him go on this strange voyage?" she asked wistfully,
"he, our first-born, and our heir."
"For that, dame, remember his namesake, my poor brother, was the one
who stayed at home, I the one to go forth, and here am I now! The
lad's words may have set before thee weightier perils in yonder park
than he is like to meet among seals and bears under honest old Martin."
"Yet here he has your guidance," said Susan.
"Who knows how they might play on his honour as to talebearing? Nay,
good wife, when thou hast thought it over, thou wilt see that far
fouler shoals and straits lie up yonder, than in the free open sea that
God Almighty made. Martin is a devout and godly man, who hath matins
and evensong on board each day when the weather is not too foul, and
looks well that there be no ill-doings in his ship; and if he have a
berth for thy lad, it will be a better school for him than where
two-thirds of the household are raging against one another, and the
third ever striving to corrupt and outwit the rest. I am weary of it
all! Would that I could once get into blue water again, and leave it
"You will not! Oh! you will not!" implored Susan. "Remember, my dear,
good lord, how you said all your duties lay at home."
"I remember, my good housewife. Thou needst not fear for me. But
there is little time to spare. If I am to see mine old friend, I must
get speech of my Lord to-night, so as to be on horseback to-morrow.
Saddle me Brown Dumpling, boys."
And as the boys went off, persuading Cis, who went coyly protesting
that the paddock was damp, yet still following after them, he added,
"Yea, Sue, considering all, it is better those two were apart for a
year or so, till we see better what is this strange nestling that we
have reared. Ay, thou art like the mother sparrow that hath bred up a
cuckoo and doteth on it, yet it mateth not with her brood."
"It casteth them out," said Susan, "as thou art doing now, by your
"Only for a flight, gentle mother," he answered, "only for a flight, to
prove meanwhile whether there be the making of a simple household bird,
or of a hawk that might tear her mate to pieces, in yonder nestling."
Susan was too dutiful a wife to say more, though her motherly heart was
wrung almost as much at the implied distrust of her adopted daughter as
by the sudden parting with her first-born to the dangers of the
northern seas. She could better enter into her husband's fears of the
temptations of page life at Sheffield, and being altogether a wife,
"bonner and boughsome," as her marriage vow held it, she applied
herself and Cis to the choosing of the shirts and the crimping of the
ruffs that were to appear in Hull, if, for there was this hope at the
bottom of her heart, my Lord might refuse leave of absence to his
The hope was fallacious; Richard reported that my Lord was so much
relieved to find that he had detected no fresh conspiracy, as to be
willing to grant him a fortnight's leave, and even had said with a sigh
that he was in the right on't about his son, for Sheffield was more of
a school for plotting than for chivalry.
It was a point of honour with every good housewife to have a store of
linen equal to any emergency, and, indeed, as there were no washing
days in the winter, the stock of personal body-linen was at all times
nearly a sufficient outfit; so the main of Humfrey's shirts were to be
despatched by a carrier, in the trust that they would reach him before
the expedition should sail.
There was then little to delay the father and son, after the mother,
with fast-gathering tears resolutely forced back, had packed and
strapped their mails, with Cis's help, Humfrey standing by, booted and
spurred, and talking fast of the wonders he should see, and the gold
and ivory he should bring home, to hide the qualms of home-sickness,
and mother-sickness, he was already beginning to feel; and maybe to get
Cis to pronounce that then she should think more of him than of Antony
Babington with his airs and graces. Wistfully did the lad watch for
some such tender assurance, but Cis seemed all provoking brilliancy and
teasing. "She knew he would be back over soon. Oh no, he would
never go to sea! She feared not. Mr. Frobisher would have none of
such awkward lubbers. More's the pity. There would be some peace to
get to do her broidery, and leave to play on the virginals when he was
But when the horsemen had disappeared down the avenue, Cis hid herself
in a corner and cried as if her heart would break.
She cried again behind the back of the tall settle when the father came
back alone, full of praises of Captain Frobisher, his ship, and his
company, and his assurances that he would watch over Humfrey like his
Meantime the domestic storms at the park were such that Master Richard
and his wife were not sorry that the boy was not growing up in the
midst of them, though the Countess rated Susan severely for her
Queen Elizabeth was of course much angered at the Lennox match, and the
Earl had to write letter after letter to clear himself from any
participation in bringing it about. Queen Mary also wrote to clear
herself of it, and to show that she absolutely regretted it, as she had
small esteem for Bess Cavendish. Moreover, though Lady Shrewsbury's
friendship might not be a very pleasant thing, it was at least better
than her hostility. However, she was not much at Sheffield. Not only
was she very angry with her husband, but Queen Elizabeth had strictly
forbidden the young Lord Lennox from coming under the same roof with
his royal sister-in-law. He was a weakly youth, and his wife's health
failed immediately after her marriage, so that Lady Shrewsbury remained
almost constantly at Chatsworth with her darling.
Gilbert Talbot, who was the chief peacemaker of the family, went to and
fro, wrote letters and did his best, which would have been more
effective but for Mary, his wife, who, no doubt, detailed all the
gossip of Sheffield at Chatsworth, as she certainly amused Sheffield
with stories of her sister Bess as a royal countess full of airs and
humours, and her mother treating her, if not as a queen, at least on
the high road to become one, and how the haughty dame of Shrewsbury ran
willingly to pick up her daughter's kerchief, and stood over the fire
stirring the posset, rather than let it fail to tempt the appetite
which became more dainty by being cossetted.
The difference made between Lady Lennox and her elder sisters was not a
little nettling to Dame Mary Talbot, who held that some consideration
was her due, as the proud mother of the only grandson of the house of
Shrewsbury, little George, who was just able to be put on horseback in
the court, and say he was riding to see "Lady Danmode," and to drink
the health of "Lady Danmode" at his meals.
Alas! the little hope of the Talbots suddenly faded. One evening after
supper a message came down in haste to beg for the aid of Mistress
Susan, who, though much left to the seclusion of Bridgefield in
prosperous days, was always a resource in trouble or difficulty. Little
George, then two and a half years old, had been taken suddenly ill
after a supper on marchpane and plum broth, washed down by Christmas
ale. Convulsions had come on, and the skill of Queen Mary's apothecary
had only gone so far as to bleed him. Susan arrived only just in time
to see the child breathe his last sigh, and to have his mother, wild
with tumultuous clamorous grief, put into her hands for such soothing
and comforting as might be possible, and the good and tender woman did
her best to turn the mother's thoughts to something higher and better
than the bewailing at one moment "her pretty boy," with a sort of
animal sense of bereavement, and the next with lamentations over the
honours to which he would have succeeded. It was of little use to speak
to her of the eternal glories of which he was now secure, for Mary
Talbot's sorrow was chiefly selfish, and was connected with the loss of
her pre-eminence as parent to the heir-male.
However, the grief of those times was apt to expend itself quickly, and
when little George's coffin, smothered under heraldic devices and
funeral escutcheons, had been bestowed in the family vault, Dame Mary
soon revived enough to take a warm interest in the lords who were next
afterwards sent down to hold conferences with the captive; and her
criticism of the fashion of their ruffs and doublets was as animated as
ever. Another grief, however, soon fell upon the family. Lady Lennox's
ailments proved to be no such trifles as her sisters and sisters-in-law
had been pleased to suppose, and before the year was out, she had
passed away from all her ambitious hopes, leaving a little daughter.
The Earl took a brief leave of absence to visit his lady in her
affliction at Chatsworth, and to stand godfather to the motherless
"She will soon be fatherless, too," said Richard Talbot on his return
to Bridgefield, after attending his lord on this expedition. "My young
Lord Lennox, poor youth, is far gone in the wasting sickness, as well
as distraught with grief, and he could scarcely stand to receive my
"Our poor lady!" said Susan, "it pities me to think what hopes she had
fixed upon that young couple whom she had mated together."
"I doubt me whether her hopes be ended now," quoth Richard. "What
think you she hath fixed on as the name of the poor puling babe yonder?
They have called her Arbel or Arabella."
"Arabella, say you? I never heard such a name. It is scarce
Christian. Is it out of a romaunt?"
"Better that it were. It is out of a pedigree. They have got the
whole genealogy of the house of Lennox blazoned fair, with crowns and
coronets and coats of arms hung up in the hall at Chatsworth, going up
on the one hand through Sir AEneas of Troy, and on the other hand
through Woden to Adam and Eve! Pass for all before the Stewart line
became Kings of Scots! Well, it seems that these Lennox Stewarts
sprang from one Walter, who was son to King Robert II., and that the
mother of this same Walter was called Anhild, or as the Scots here call
it Annaple, but the scholars have made it into Arabella, and so my
young lady is to be called. They say it was a special fancy of the
"So I should guess. My lady would fill her head with such thoughts,
and of this poor youth being next of kin to the young Scottish king,
and to our own Queen."
"He is not next heir to Scotland even, barring a little one we wot of,
Dame Sue. The Hamiltons stand between, being descended from a daughter
of King James I."
"So methought I had heard. Are they not Papists?"
"Yea! Ah ha, sweetheart, there is another of the house of Hardwicke as
fain to dreams of greatness for her child as ever was the Countess,
though she may be more discreet in the telling of them."
"Ah me, dear sir, I dreamt not of greatness for splendour's
sake--'twere scarce for the dear child's happiness. I only thought of
what you once said, that she may be the instrument of preserving the
"And if so, it can only be at a mighty cost!" said her husband.
"Verily," said Susan, "glad am I that you sent our Humfrey from her.
Would that nought had ever passed between the children!"
"They were but children," said Richard; "and there was no contract
"I fear me there was what Humfrey will hold to, or know good reason
why," said his mother.
"And were the young King of Scots married and father to a goodly heir,
there is no reason he should not hold to it," rejoined Richard.
However Richard was still anxious to keep his son engaged at a distance
from Sheffield. There was great rejoicing and thankfulness when one of
the many messengers constantly passing between London and Sheffield
brought a packet from Humfrey, whose ship had put into the Thames
instead of the Humber.
The packet contained one of the black stones which the science of the
time expected to transmute into gold, also some Esquimaux trinkets made
of bone, and a few shells. These were for the mother and Cis, and
there were also the tusks of a sea-elephant which Humfrey would lay up
at my Lord's London lodgings till his father sent tidings what should
be done with them, and whether he should come home at once by sea to
Hull, or if, as he much desired to do, he might join an expedition
which was fitting out for the Spanish Main, where he was assured that
much more both of gold and honour was to be acquired than in the cold
northern seas, where nothing was to be seen for the fog at most times,
and when it cleared only pigmies, with their dogs, white bears, and
seals, also mountains of ice bigger than any church, blue as my lady's
best sapphires, green as her emeralds, sparkling as her diamonds, but
ready to be the destruction of the ships.
"One there was," wrote Humfrey, "that I could have thought was no other
than the City that the blessed St. John saw descending from Heaven, so
fair was it to look on, but they cried out that it was rather a City of
Destruction, and when we had got out of the current where it was
bearing down on us, our noble captain piped all hands up to prayers,
and gave thanks for our happy deliverance therefrom."
Susan breathed a thanksgiving as her husband read, and he forbore to
tell her of the sharks, the tornadoes, and the fevers which might make
the tropical seas more perilous than the Arctic. No Elizabethan
mariner had any scruples respecting piracy, and so long as the captain
was a godly man who kept up strict discipline on board, Master Richard
held the quarterdeck to be a much more wholesome place than the
Manor-house, and much preferred the humours of the ship to those of any
other feminine creature; for, as to his Susan, he always declared that
she was the only woman who had none.
So she accepted his decision, and saw the wisdom of it, though her
tender heart deeply felt the disappointment. Tenderly she packed up
the shirts which she and Cis had finished, and bestrewed them with
lavender, which, as she said, while a tear dropped with the gray
blossoms, would bring the scent of home to the boy.
Cis affected to be indifferent and offended. Master Humfrey might do
as he chose. She did not care if he did prefer pitch and tar, and
whale blubber and grease, to hawks and hounds, and lords and ladies.
She was sure she wanted no more great lubberly lads--with a sly cut at
Diccon--to tangle her silk, and torment her to bait their hooks. She
was well quit of any one of them.
When Diccon proposed that she should write a letter to Humfrey, she
declared that she should do no such thing, since he had never attempted
to write to her. In truth Diccon may have made the proposal in order
to obtain a companion in misfortune, since Master Sniggius, emulous of
the success of other tutors, insisted on his writing to his brother in
Latin, and the unfortunate epistle of Ricardus to Onofredus was revised
and corrected to the last extremity, and as it was allowed to contain
no word unknown to Virgilius Maro, it could not have afforded much
delectation to the recipient.
But when Mrs. Susan had bestowed all the shirts as neatly as possible,
on returning to settle them for the last time before wrapping them up
for the messenger, she felt something hard among them. It was a tiny
parcel wrapped in a piece of a fine kerchief, tied round with a tress
of dark hair, and within, Susan knew by the feeling, a certain chess
rook which had been won by Cis when shooting at the butts a week or two
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