In The Tower

"Here is a letter from Mr. Secretary to the Lieutenant of the Tower,

Master Richard, bidding him admit you to speech of Babington," said

Will Cavendish. "He was loath to give it, and nothing but my Lord

Shrewsbury's interest would have done it, on my oath that you are a

prudent and discreet man, who hath been conversant in these matters for

many years."

"Yea, and that long before you were, Master Will," said Richard, always

a little entertained by the young gentleman's airs of patronage.

"However, I am beholden to you."

"That you may be, for you are the only person who hath obtained

admission to the prisoners."

"Not even their wives?"

"Mrs. Tichborne is in the country--so best for her--and Mrs. Babington

hath never demanded it. I trow there is not love enough between them

to make them seek such a meeting. It was one of my mother's matches.

Mistress Cicely would have cleaved to him more closely, though I am

glad you saw through the fellow too well to give her to him. She would

be a landless widow, whereas this Ratcliffe wife has a fair portion for

her child."

"Then Dethick will be forfeited?"

"Ay. They say the Queen hath promised it to Raleigh."

"And there is no hope of mercy?"

"Not a tittle for any man of them! Nay, so far from it, her Majesty

asked if there were no worse nor more extraordinary mode of death for


"I should not have thought it of her."

"Her Majesty hath been affrighted, Master Richard, sorely affrighted,

though she put so bold a face upon it, and there is nothing a woman,

who prides herself on her courage, can so little pardon."

So Richard, sad at heart, took boat and ascended the Thames for his

melancholy visit. The gateway was guarded by a stalwart yeoman,

halbert in hand, who detained him while the officer of the guard was

called. On showing the letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, Mr. Talbot

was conducted by this personage across the first paved court to the

lodgings of the Lieutenant under so close a guard that he felt as if he

were about to be incarcerated himself, and was there kept waiting in a

sort of guard-room while the letter was delivered.

Presently the Lieutenant, Sir Owen Hopton, a well-bred courteous

knight, appeared and saluted him with apologies for his detention and

all these precautions, saying that the orders were to keep a close

guard and to hinder all communication from without, so that nothing

short of this letter would have obtained entrance for the bearer, whom

he further required to set down his name and designation in full.

Then, after asking how long the visitor wished to remain with the

prisoners--for Tichborne and Babington were quartered together--he

called a warder and committed Mr. Talbot to his guidance, to remain for

two hours locked up in the cell.

"Sir," added Sir Owen, "it is superfluous to tell you that on coming

out, you must either give me your word of honour that you convey

nothing from the prisoners, or else submit to be searched."

Richard smiled, and observed that men were wont to trust his word of

honour, to which the knight heartily replied that he was sure of it,

and he then followed the warder up stone stairs and along vaulted

passages, where the clang of their footsteps made his heart sink. The

prisoners were in the White Tower, the central body of the grim

building, and the warder, after unlocking the door, announced, with no

unnecessary rudeness, but rather as if he were glad of any comfort to

his charges, "Here, sirs, is a gentleman to visit you."

They had both risen at the sound of the key turning in the lock, and

Antony Babington's face lighted up as he exclaimed, "Mr. Talbot! I

knew you would come if it were possible."

"I come by my Lord's desire," replied Richard, the close wringing of

his hand expressing feeling to which he durst not give way in words.

He took in at the moment that the room, though stern and strong, was

not squalid. It was lighted fully by a window, iron-barred, but not

small, and according to custom, the prisoners had been permitted to

furnish, at their own expense, sufficient garniture for comfort, and as

both were wealthy men, they were fairly provided, and they were not

fettered. Both looked paler than when Richard had seen them in

Westminster Hall two days previously. Antony was as usual neatly

arrayed, with well-trimmed hair and beard, but Tichborne's hung

neglected, and there was a hollow, haggard look about his eyes, as if

of dismay at his approaching fate. Neither was, however, forgetful of

courtesy, and as Babington presented Mr. Talbot to his friend, the

greeting and welcome would have befitted the halls of Dethick or


"Sirs," said the young man, with a sad smile irradiating for a moment

the restless despair of his countenance, "it is not by choice that I am

an intruder on your privacy; I will abstract myself so far as is


"I have no secrets from my Chidiock," cried Babington.

"But Mr. Talbot may," replied his friend, "therefore I will only first

inquire whether he can tell us aught of the royal lady for whose sake

we suffer. They have asked us many questions, but answered none."

Richard was able to reply that after the seclusion at Tixall she had

been brought back to Chartley, and there was no difference in the

manner of her custody, moreover, that she had recovered from her attack

of illness, tidings he had just received in a letter from Humfrey. He

did not feel it needful to inflict a pang on the men who were to die in

two days' time by letting them know that she was to be immediately

brought to trial on the evidence extracted from them. On hearing that

her captivity was not straitened, both looked relieved, and Tichborne,

thanking him, lay down on his own bed, turned his face to the wall, and

drew the covering over his head.

"Ah!" sighed Babington, "is there no hope for him--he who has done

naught but guard too faithfully my unhappy secret? Is he to die for

his faith and honour?"

"Alas, Antony! I am forbidden to give thee hope for any. Of that we

must not speak. The time is short enough for what needs to be spoken."

"I knew that there was none for myself," said Antony, "but for those

whom--" There was a gesture from Tichborne as if he could not bear

this, and he went on, "Yea, there is a matter on which I must needs

speak to you, sir. The young lady--where is she?"--he spoke earnestly,

and lowering his voice as he bent his head.

"She is still at Chartley."

"That is well. But, sir, she must be guarded. I fear me there is one

who is aware of her parentage."

"The Scottish archer?"

"No, the truth."

"You knew it?"

"Not when I made my suit to her, or I should never have dared to lift

my eyes so far."

"I suppose your knowledge came from Langston," said Richard, more

perturbed than amazed at the disclosure.

"Even so. Yet I am not certain whether he knows or only guesses; but

at any rate be on your guard for her sake. He has proved himself so

unspeakable a villain that none can guess what he will do next. He--he

it is above all--yea, above even Gifford and Ballard, who has brought

us to this pass."

He was becoming fiercely agitated, but putting a force upon himself

said, "Have patience, good Mr. Talbot, of your kindness, and I will

tell you all, that you may understand the coilings of the serpent who

led me hither, and if possible save her from them."

Antony then explained that so soon as he had become his own master he

had followed the inclinations which led him to the church of his mother

and of Queen Mary, the two beings he had always regarded with the most

fervent affection and love. His mother's kindred had brought him in

contact with the Roman Catholic priests who circulated in England, at

the utmost peril of their lives, to keep up the faith of the gentry,

and in many cases to intrigue for Queen Mary. Among these plotters he

fell in with Cuthbert Langston, a Jesuit of the third order, though not

a priest, and one of the most active agents in corresponding with Queen

Mary. His small stature, colourless complexion, and insignificant

features, rendered him almost a blank block, capable of assuming any

variety of disguise. He also knew several languages, could imitate

different dialects, and counterfeit male and female voices so that very

few could detect him. He had soon made himself known to Babington as

the huckster Tibbott of days gone by, and had then disclosed to him

that Cicely was certainly not the daughter of her supposed parents,

telling of her rescue from the wreck, and hinting that her rank was

exalted, and that he knew secrets respecting her which he was about to

make known to the Queen of Scots. With this purpose among others,

Langston had adopted the disguise of the woman selling spars with the

password "Beads and Bracelets," and being well known as an agent of

correspondence to the suite of the captive Queen, he had been able to

direct Gorion's attention to the maiden, and to let him know that she

was the same with the infant who had been put on board the Bride of

Dunbar at Dunbar.

How much more did Langston guess? He had told Babington the story

current among the outer circle of Mary's followers of the maiden being

the daughter of the Scotch archer, and had taught him her true name,

encouraging too, his aspirations towards her during the time of his

courtship. Babington believed Langston to have been at that time still

a sincere partizan of Queen Mary, but all along to have entertained a

suspicion that there was a closer relationship between Bride Hepburn

and the Queen than was avowed, though to Babington himself he had only

given mysterious hints.

But towards the end of the captivity at Tutbury, he had made some

further discovery, which confirmed his suspicions, and had led to

another attempt to accost Cicely, and to make the Queen aware of his

knowledge, perhaps in order to verify it, or it might be to gain power

over her, a reward for the introduction, or to extort bribes to

secrecy. For looking back, Antony could now perceive that by this time

a certain greed of lucre had set in upon the man, who had obtained

large sums of secret service money from himself; and avarice, together

with the rebuff he had received from the Queen, had doubtless rendered

him accessible to the temptations of the arch-plotters Gifford and

Morgan. Richard could believe this, for the knowledge had been forced

on him that there were an incredible number of intriguers at that time,

spies and conspirators, often in the pay of both parties, impartially

betraying the one to the other, and sometimes, through miscalculation,

meeting the fate they richly deserved. Many a man who had begun

enthusiastically to work in underground ways for what he thought the

righteous cause, became so enamoured of the undermining process, and

the gold there to be picked up, that from a wrong-headed partizan he

became a traitor--often a double-faced one--and would work secretly in

the interest of whichever cause would pay him best.

Poor Babington had been far too youthfully simple to guess what he now

perceived, that he had been made the mere tool and instrument of these

traitors. He had been instructed in Gifford's arrangement with the

Burton brewer for conveying letters to Mary at Chartley, and had been

made the means of informing her of it by means of his interview with

Cicely, when he had brought the letter in the watch. The letter had

been conveyed to him by Langston, the watch had been his own device.

It was after this meeting, of which Richard now heard for the first

time, that Langston had fully told his belief respecting the true birth

of Bride Hepburn, and assured Babington that there was no hope of his

wedding her, though the Queen might allow him to delude himself with

the idea of her favour in order to bind him to her service.

It was then that Babington consented to Lady Shrewsbury's new match

with the well-endowed Eleanor Ratcliffe. If he could not have Cicely,

he cared not whom he had. He had been leading a wild and extravagant

life about town, when (as poor Tichborne afterwards said on the

scaffold) the flourishing estate of Babington and Tichborne was the

talk of Fleet Street and the Strand, and he had also many calls for

secret service money, so that all his thought was to have more to spend

in the service of Queen Mary and her daughter.

"Oh, sir! I have been as one distraught all this past year," he said.

"How often since I have been shut up here, and I have seen how I have

been duped and gulled, have your words come back to me, that to enter

on crooked ways was the way to destruction for myself and others, and

that I might only be serving worse men than myself! And yet they were

priests who misled me!"

"Even in your own religion there are many priests who would withhold

you from such crimes," said Richard.

"There are! I know it! I have spoken with them. They say no priest

can put aside the eternal laws of God's justice. So these others,

Chidiock here, Donne and Salisbury, always cried out against the

slaying of the Queen, though--wretch that I was--and gulled by Ballard

and Savage, I deemed the exploit so noble and praiseworthy that I even

joined Tichborne with me in that accursed portraiture! Yea, you may

well deem me mad, but it was Gifford who encouraged me in having it

made, no doubt to assure our ruin. Oh, Mr. Talbot! was ever man so

cruelly deceived as me?"

"It is only too true, Antony. My heart is full of rage and indignation

when I think thereof. And yet, my poor lad, what concerns thee most is

to lay aside all such thoughts as may not tend to repentance before


"I know it, I know it, sir. All the more that we shall die without the

last sacraments. Commend us to the prayers of our Queen, sir, and of

her. But to proceed with what imports you to know for her sake, while

I have space to speak."

He proceeded to tell how, between dissipation and intrigue, he had

lived in a perpetual state of excitement, going backwards and forwards

between London and Lichfield to attend to the correspondence with Queen

Mary and the Spanish ambassador in France, and to arrange the details

of the plot; always being worked up to the highest pitch by Gifford and

Ballard, while Langston continued to be the great assistant in all the

correspondence. All the time Sir Francis Walsingham, who was really

aware of all, if not the prime mover in the intrigue, appeared

perfectly unsuspicious; often received Babington at his house, and

discussed a plan of sending him on a commission to France, while in

point of fact every letter that travelled in the Burton barrels was

deciphered by Phillipps, and laid before the Secretary before being

read by the proper owners. In none of these, however, as Babington

could assure Mr. Talbot, had Cicely been mentioned,--the only danger to

her was through Langston.

Things had come to a climax in July, when Babington had been urged to

obtain from Mary such definite approbation of his plans as might

satisfy his confederates, and had in consequence written the letter and

obtained the answer, copies of which had been read to him at his

private examination, and which certainly contained fatal matter to both

him and the Queen.

They had no doubt been called forth with that intent, and a doubt had

begun to arise in the victim's mind whether the last reply had been

really the Queen's own. It had been delivered to him in the street,

not by the usual channel, but by a blue-coated serving-man. Two or

three days later Humfrey had told him of Langston's interview with

Walsingham, which he had at the time laughed to scorn, thinking himself

able to penetrate any disguise of that Proteus, and likewise believing

that he was blinding Walsingham.

He first took alarm a few days after Humfrey's departure, and wrote to

Queen Mary to warn her, convinced that the traitor must be Langston.

Ballard became himself suspected, and after lurking about in various

disguises was arrested in Babington's own lodgings. To disarm

suspicion, Antony went to Walsingham to talk about the French Mission,

and tried to resume his usual habits, but in a tavern, he became aware

that Langston, under some fresh shape, was watching him, and hastily

throwing down the reckoning, he fled without his cloak or sword to

Gage's house at Westminster, where he took horse, hid himself in St.

John's Wood, and finally was taken, half starved, in an outhouse at

Harrow, belonging to a farmer, whose mercy involved him in the like


This was the substance of the story told by the unfortunate young man

to Richard Talbot, whom he owned as the best and wisest friend he had

ever had--going back to the warnings twice given, that no cause is

served by departing from the right; no kingdom safely won by

worshipping the devil: "And sure I did worship him when I let myself be

led by Gifford," he said.

His chief anxiety was not for his wife and her child, who he said would

be well taken care of by the Ratcliffe family, and who, alas! had never

won his heart. In fact he was relieved that he was not permitted to

see the young thing, even had she wished it; it could do no good to

either of them, though he had written a letter, which she was to

deliver, for the Queen, commending her to her Majesty's mercy.

His love had been for Cicely, and even that had never been, as Richard

saw, such purifying, restraining, self-sacrificing affection as was

Humfrey's. It was half romance, half a sort of offshoot from his one

great and absorbing passion of devotion to the Queen of Scots, which

was still as strong as ever. He entrusted Richard with his humblest

commendations to her, and strove to rest in the belief that as many a

conspirator before--such as Norfolk, Throckmorton, Parry--had perished

on her behalf while she remained untouched, that so it might again be,

since surely, if she were to be tried, he would have been kept alive as

a witness. The peculiar custom of the time in State prosecutions of

hanging the witnesses before the trial had not occurred to him.

But how would it be with Cicely? "Is what this fellow guessed the very

truth?" he asked.

Richard made a sign of affirmation, saying, "Is it only a guess on his


Babington believed the man stopped short of absolute certainty, though

he had declared himself to have reason to believe that a child must

have been born to the captive queen at Lochleven; and if so, where else

could she be? Was he waiting for clear proof to make the secret known

to the Council? Did he intend to make profit of it and obtain in the

poor girl a subject for further intrigue? Was he withheld by

consideration for Richard Talbot, for whom Babington declared that if

such a villain could be believed in any respect, he had much family

regard and deep gratitude, since Richard had stood his friend when all

his family had cast him off in much resentment at his change of purpose

and opinion.

At any rate he had in his power Cicely's welfare and liberty, if not

the lives of her adopted parents, since in the present juncture of

affairs, and of universal suspicion, the concealment of the existence

of one who stood so near the throne might easily be represented as high

treason. Where was he?

No one knew. For appearance sake, Gifford had fled beyond seas,

happily only to fall into a prison of the Duke of Guise: and they must

hope that Langston might have followed the same course. Meantime,

Richard could but go on as before, Cicely being now in her own mother's

hands. The avowal of her identity must remain for the present as might

be determined by her who had the right to decide.

"I would I could feel hope for any I leave behind me," said poor

Antony. "I trow you will not bear the maiden my message, for you will

deem it a sin that I have loved her, and only her, to the last, though

I have been false to that love as to all else beside. Tell Humfrey how

I long that I had been like him, though he too must love on without


He sent warm greetings to good Mistress Susan Talbot and craved her

prayers. He had one other care, namely to commend to Mr. Talbot an old

body servant, Harry Gillingham by name, who had attended on him in his

boyhood at Sheffield, and had been with him all his life, being

admitted even now, under supervision from the warders, to wait on him

when dressing and at his meals. The poor man was broken-hearted, and

so near desperation that his master wished much to get him out of

London before the execution. So, as Mr. Talbot meant to sail for Hull

by the next day's tide in the Mastiff, he promised to take the poor

fellow with him back to Bridgefield.

All this had taken much time. Antony did not seem disposed to go

farther into his own feelings in the brief space that remained, but he

took up a paper from the table, and indicating Tichborne, who still

affected sleep, he asked whether it was fit that a man, who could write

thus, should die for a plot against which he had always protested.

Richard read these touching lines:--

My prime of youth is but a frost of care,

My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,

My crop of corn is but a field of tares,

And all my goods is but vain hope of gain.

The day is fled, and yet I saw no sun;

And now I live, and now my life is done.

My spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung;

The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green;

My youth is past, and yet I am but young;

I saw the world, and yet I was not seen.

My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun;

And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought for death, and found it in the wombe;

I lookt for life, and yet it was a shade;

I trode the ground, and knew it was my tombe,

And now I dye, and now I am but made.

The glass is full, and yet my glass is run;

And now I live, and now my life is done.

Little used to poetry, these lines made the good man's eyes fill with

tears as he looked at the two goodly young men about to be cut off so

early--one indeed guilty, but the victim of an iniquitous act of

deliberate treachery.

He asked if Mr. Tichborne wished to entrust to him aught that could be

done by word of mouth, and a few commissions were given to him. Then

Antony bethought him of thanks to Lord and Lady Shrewsbury for all they

had done for him, and above all for sending Mr. Talbot; and a message

to ask pardon for having so belied the loyal education they had given

him. The divided religion of the country had been his bane: his

mother's charge secretly to follow her faith had been the beginning,

and then had followed the charms of stratagem on behalf of Queen Mary.

Perhaps, after all, his death, as a repentant man still single minded,

saved him from lapsing into the double vileness of the veteran

intriguers whose prey he had been.

"I commend me to the Mercy Master Who sees my heart," he said.

Herewith the warder returned, and at his request summoned Gillingham, a

sturdy grizzled fellow, looking grim with grief. Babington told him of

the arrangement made, and that he was to leave London early in the

morning with Mr. Talbot, but the man immediately dropped on his knees

and swore a solemn oath that nothing should induce him to leave the

place while his master breathed.

"Thou foolish knave," said Antony, "thou canst do me no good, and wilt

but make thyself a more piteous wretch than thou art already. Why, 'tis

for love of thee that I would have thee spared the sight."

"Am I a babe to be spared?" growled the man. And all that he could be

induced to promise was that he would repair to Bridgefield as soon as

all was over--"Unless," said he, "I meet one of those accursed rogues,

and then a halter would be sweet, if I had first had my will of them."

"Hush, Harry, or Master Warder will be locking thee up next," said


And then came the farewell. It was at last a long, speechless,

sorrowful embrace; and then Antony, slipping from it to his knees,

said--"Bless me! Oh bless me: thou who hast been mine only true

friend. Bless me as a father!"

"May God in Heaven bless thee!" said Richard, solemnly laying his hand

on his head. "May He, Who knoweth how thou hast been led astray,

pardon thee! May He, Who hath felt the agonies and shame of the Cross,

redeem thee, and suffer thee not for any pains of death to fall from


He was glad to hear afterwards, when broken-hearted Gillingham joined

him, that the last words heard from Antony Babington's lips

were--"Parce mihi, Domine JESU!"

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