Paul's Walk





Will Cavendish, who was in training for a statesman, and acted as a

secretary to Sir Francis Walsingham, advised that the letters should be

carried to him at once that same evening, as he would be in attendance

on the Queen the next morning, and she would inquire for them.



The great man's house was not far off, and he walked thither with

Humfrey, who told him what he had seen, and asked whether it ought not

at once to be reported to Walsingham.



Will whistled. "They are driving it very close," he said. "Humfrey;

old comrade, thy brains were always more of the order fit to face a

tough breeze than to meddle with Court plots. Credit me, there is

cause for what amazed thee. The Queen and her Council know what they

are about. Risk a little, and put an end to all the plottings for

ever! That's the word."



"Risk even the Queen's life?"



Will Cavendish looked sapient, and replied, "We of the Council Board

know many a thing that looks passing strange."



Mr. Secretary Walsingham's town house was, like Lord Talbot's, built

round a court, across which Cavendish led the way, with the assured air

of one used to the service, and at home there. The hall was thronged

with people waiting, but Cavendish passed it, opened a little wicket,

and admitted his friends into a small anteroom, where he bade them

remain, while he announced them to Sir Francis.



He disappeared, shutting a door behind him, and after a moment's

interval another person, with a brown cloak round him, came hastily and

stealthily across to the door. He had let down the cloak which muffled

his chin, not expecting the presence of any one, and there was a

moment's start as he was conscious of the young men standing there. He

passed through the door instantly, but not before Humfrey had had time

to recognise in him no other than Cuthbert Langston, almost the last

person he would have looked for at Sir Francis Walsingham's. Directly

afterwards Cavendish returned.



"Sir Francis could not see Captain Talbot, and prayed him to excuse

him, and send in the letter."



"It can't be helped," said Cavendish, with his youthful airs of

patronage. "He would gladly have spoken with you when I told him of

you, but that Maude is just come on business that may not tarry. So

you must e'en entrust your packet to me."



"Maude," repeated Humfrey, "Was that man's name Maude? I should have

dared be sworn that he was my father's kinsman, Cuthbert Langston."



"Very like," said Will, "I would dare be sworn to nothing concerning

him, but that he is one of the greatest and most useful villains

unhung."



So saying, Will Cavendish disappeared with the letters. He probably

had had a caution administered to him, for when he returned he was

evidently swelling with the consciousness of a State secret, which he

would not on any account betray, yet of the existence of which he

desired to make his old comrade aware.



Humfrey asked whether he had told Mr. Secretary of the man in Richmond

Park.



"Never fear! he knows it," returned the budding statesman. "Why, look

you, a man like Sir Francis has ten thousand means of intelligence that

a simple mariner like you would never guess at. I thought it strange

myself when I came first into business of State, but he hath eyes and

ears everywhere, like the Queen's gown in her picture. Men of the

Privy Council, you see, must despise none, for the lewdest and meanest

rogues oft prove those who can do the best service, just as the

bandy-legged cur will turn the spit, or unearth the fox when your

gallant hound can do nought but bay outside."



"Is this Maude, or Langston, such a cur?"



Cavendish gave his head a shake that expressed unutterable things,

saying: "Your kinsman, said you? I trust not on the Talbot side of the

house?"



"No. On his mother's side. I wondered the more to see him here as he

got that halt in the Rising of the North, and on the wrong side, and

hath ever been reckoned a concealed Papist."



"Ay, ay. Dost not see, mine honest Humfrey, that's the very point that

fits him for our purpose?"



"You mean that he is a double traitor and informer."



"We do not use such hard words in the Privy Council Board as you do on

deck, my good friend," said Cavendish. "We have our secret

intelligencers, you see, all in the Queen's service. Foul and dirty

work, but you can't dig out a fox without soiling of fingers, and if

there be those that take kindly to the work, why, e'en let them do it."



"Then there is a plot?"



"Content you, Humfrey! You'll hear enough of it anon. A most foul,

bloody, and horrible plot, quite enough to hang every soul that has

meddled in it, and yet safe to do no harm--like poor Hal's blunderbuss,

which would never go off, except when it burst, and blew him to pieces."



Will felt that he had said quite enough to impress Humfrey with a sense

of his statecraft and importance, and was not sorry for an interruption

before he should have said anything dangerous. It was from Frank

Pierrepoint, who had been Diccon's schoolmate, and was enchanted to see

him. Humfrey was to stay one day longer in town in case Walsingham

should wish to see him, and to show Diccon something of London, which

they had missed on their way to Plymouth.



St. Paul's Cathedral was even then the sight that all Englishmen were

expected to have seen, and the brothers took their way thither,

accompanied by Frank Pierrepoint, who took their guidance on his hands.

Had the lads seen the place at the opening of the century they would

have thought it a piteous spectacle, for desecration and sacrilege had

rioted there unchecked, the magnificent peal of bells had been gambled

away at a single throw of the dice, the library had been utterly

destroyed, the magnificent plate melted up, and what covetous

fanaticism had spared had been further ravaged by a terrible fire. At

this time Bishop Bancroft had done his utmost towards reparation, and

the old spire had been replaced by a wooden one; but there was much of

ruin and decay visible all around, where stood the famous octagon

building called Paul's Cross, where outdoor sermons were preached to

listeners of all ranks. This was of wood, and was kept in moderately

good repair. Beyond, the nave of the Cathedral stretched its length,

the greatest in England. Two sets of doors immediately opposite to one

another on the north and south sides had rendered it a thoroughfare in

very early times, in spite of the endeavours of the clergy; and at this

time "Duke Humfrey's Walk," from the tomb of Duke Humfrey Stafford, as

the twelve grand Norman bays of this unrivalled nave were called, was

the prime place for the humours of London; and it may be feared that

this, rather than the architecture, was the chief idea in the minds of

the youths, as a babel of strange sounds fell on their ears, "a still

roar like a humming of bees," as it was described by a contemporary,

or, as Humfrey said, like the sea in a great hollow cave. A cluster of

choir-boys were watching at the door to fall on any one entering with

spurs on, to levy their spur money, and one gentleman, whom they had

thus attacked, was endeavouring to save his purse by calling on the

youngest boy to sing his gamut.



Near at hand was a pillar, round which stood a set of men, some rough,

some knavish-looking, with the blue coats, badges, short swords, and

bucklers carried by serving-men. They were waiting to be hired, as if

in a statute fair, and two or three loud-voiced bargains were going on.

In the middle aisle, gentlemen in all the glory of plumed hats,

jewelled ears, ruffed necks, Spanish cloaks, silken jerkins, velvet

hose, and be-rosed shoes, were marching up and down, some

attitudinising to show their graces, some discussing the news of the

day, for "Paul's Walk" was the Bond Street, the Row, the Tattersall's,

the Club of London. Twelve scriveners had their tables to act as

letter-writers, and sometimes as legal advisers, and great amusement

might be had by those who chose to stand listening to the blundering

directions of their clients. In the side aisles, horse-dealing,

merchants' exchanges, everything imaginable in the way of traffic was

going on. Disreputable-looking men, who there were in sanctuary from

their creditors, there lurked around Humfrey Stafford's tomb; and young

Pierrepoint's warning to guard their purses was evidently not wasted,

for a country fellow, who had just lost his, was loudly demanding

justice, and getting jeered at for his simplicity in expecting to

recover it.



"Seest thou this?" said a voice close to Humfrey, and he found a hand

on his arm, and Babington, in the handsome equipment of one of the

loungers, close to him.



"A sorry sight, that would grieve my good mother," returned Humfrey.



"My Mother, the Church, is grieved," responded Antony. "This is what

you have brought us to, for your so-called religion," he added,

ignorant or oblivious that these desecrations had been quite as

shocking before the Reformation. "All will soon be changed, however,"

he added.



"Sir Thomas Gresham's New Exchange has cleared off some of the traffic,

they say," returned Humfrey.



"Pshaw!" said Antony; "I meant no such folly. That were cleansing one

stone while the whole house is foul with shame. No. There shall be a

swift vengeance on these desecrators. The purifier shall come again,

and the glory and the beauty of the true Faith shall be here as of old,

when our fathers bowed before the Holy Rood, instead of tearing it

down." His eye glanced with an enthusiasm which Humfrey thought

somewhat wild, and he said, "Whist! these are not things to be thus

spoken of."



"All is safe," said Babington, drawing him within shelter of the

chantry of Sir John Beauchamp's tomb. "Never heed Diccon--Pierrepoint

can guide him," and Humfrey saw their figures, apparently absorbed in

listening to the bidding for a horse. "I have things of moment to say

to thee, Humfrey Talbot. We have been old comrades, and had that

childish emulation which turns to love in manhood in the face of

perils."



Humfrey, recollecting how they had parted, held out his hand in

recognition of the friendliness.



"I would fain save thee," said Babington. "Heretic and rival as thou

art, I cannot but love thee, and I would have thee die, if die thou

must, in honourable fight by sea or land, rather than be overtaken by

the doom that will fall on all who are persecuting our true and lawful

confessor and sovereign."



"Gramercy for thy good will, Tony," said Humfrey, looking anxiously to

see whether his old companion was in his right mind, yet remembering

what had been said of plots.



"Thou deem'st me raving," said Antony, smiling at the perplexed

countenance before him, "but thou wilt see too late that I speak sooth,

when the armies of the Church avenge the Name that has been profaned

among you!"



"The Spaniards, I suppose you mean," said Humfrey coolly. "You must be

far gone indeed to hope to see those fiends turned loose on this

peaceful land, but by God's blessing we have kept them aloof before, I

trust we may again."



"You talk of God's blessing. Look at His House," said Babington.



"He is more like to bless honest men who fight for their Queen, their

homes and hearths, than traitors who would bring in slaughterers and

butchers to work their will!"



"His glory is worked through judgment, and thus must it begin!"

returned the young man. "But I would save thee, Humfrey," he added.

"Go thou back to Plymouth, and be warned to hold aloof from that prison

where the keepers will meet their fit doom! and the captive will be set

free. Thou dost not believe," he added. "See here," and drawing into

the most sheltered part of the chantry, he produced from his bosom a

picture in the miniature style of the period, containing six heads,

among which his own was plainly to be recognised, and likewise a face

which Humfrey felt as if he should never forget, that which he had seen

in Richmond Park, quailing beneath the Queen's eye. Round the picture

was the motto--



"Hi mihi sunt comites quos ipsa pericula jungunt."





"I tell thee, Humfrey, thou wilt hear--if thou dost live to hear--of

these six as having wrought the greatest deed of our times!"



"May it only be a deed an honest man need not be ashamed of," said

Humfrey, not at all convinced of his friend's sanity.



"Ashamed of!" exclaimed Babington. "It is blest, I tell thee, blest by

holy men, blest by the noble and suffering woman who will thus be

delivered from her martyrdom."



"Babington, if thou talkest thus, it will be my duty to have thee put

in ward," said Humfrey.



Antony laughed, and there was a triumphant ring very like insanity in

his laughter. Humfrey, with a moment's idea that to hint that the

conspiracy was known would blast it at once, if it were real, said, "I

see not Cuthbert Langston among your six. Know you, I saw him only

yestereven going into Secretary Walsingham's privy chamber."



"Was he so?" answered Babington. "Ha! ha! he holds them all in play

till the great stroke be struck! Why! am not I myself in Walsingham's

confidence? He thinketh that he is about to send me to France to watch

the League. Ha! ha!"



Here Humfrey's other companions turned back in search of him; Babington

vanished in the crowd, he hardly knew how, and he was left in

perplexity and extreme difficulty as to what was his duty as friend or

as subject. If Babington were sane, there must be a conspiracy for

killing the Queen, bringing in the Spaniards and liberating Mary, and

he had expressly spoken of having had the latter lady's sanction, while

the sight of the fellow in Richmond Park gave a colour of probability

to the guess. Yet the imprudence and absurdity of having portraits

taken of six assassins before the blow was struck seemed to contradict

all the rest. On the other hand, Cavendish had spoken of having all

the meshes of the web in the hands of the Council; and Langston or

Maude seemed to be trusted by both parties.



Humfrey decided to feel his way with Will Cavendish, and that evening

spoke of having met Babington and having serious doubts whether he were

in his right mind. Cavendish laughed, "Poor wretch! I could pity

him," he said, "though his plans be wicked enough to merit no

compassion. Nay, never fear, Humfrey. All were overthrown, did I

speak openly. Nay, to utter one word would ruin me for ever. 'Tis

quite sufficient to say that he and his fellows are only at large till

Mr. Secretary sees fit, that so his grip may be the more sure."



Humfrey saw he was to be treated with no confidence, and this made him

the more free to act. There were many recusant gentlemen in the

neighbourhood of Chartley, and an assault and fight there were not

improbable, if, as Cavendish hinted, there was a purpose of letting the

traitors implicate themselves in the largest numbers and as fatally as

possible. On the other hand, Babington's hot head might only fancy he

had authority from the Queen for his projects. If, through Cicely, he

could convey the information to Mary, it might save her from even

appearing to be cognisant of these wild schemes, whatever they might

be, and to hint that they were known was the surest way to prevent

their taking effect. Any way, Humfrey's heart was at Chartley, and

every warning he had received made him doubly anxious to be there in

person, to be Cicely's guardian in case of whatever danger might

threaten her. He blessed the fiction which still represented him as

her brother, and which must open a way for him to see her, but he

resolved not to take Diccon thither, and parted with him when the roads

diverged towards Lichfield, sending to his father a letter which Diccon

was to deliver only into his own hand, with full details of all he had

seen and heard, and his motives for repairing to Chartley.



"Shall I see my little Cis?" thought he. "And even if she play the

princess to me, how will she meet me? She scorned me even when she was

at home. How will it be now when she has been for well-nigh a year in

this Queen's training? Ah! she will be taught to despise me! Heigh ho!

At least she may be in need of a true heart and strong arm to guard

her, and they shall not fail her."



Will Cavendish, in the plenitude of the official importance with which

he liked to dazzle his old playfellow, had offered him a pass to

facilitate his entrance, and he found reason to be glad that he had

accepted it, for there was a guard at the gate of Chartley Park, and he

was detained there while his letter was sent up for inspection to Sir

Amias Paulett, who had for the last few months acted as warder to the

Queen.



However, a friendly message came back, inviting him to ride up. The

house--though called a castle--had been rebuilt in hospitable domestic

style, and looked much less like a prison than Sheffield Lodge, but at

every enclosure stood yeomen who challenged the passers-by, as though

this were a time of alarm. However, at the hall-door itself stood Sir

Amias Paulett, a thin, narrow-browed, anxious-looking man, with the

stiffest of ruffs, over which hung a scanty yellow beard.



"Welcome, sir," he said, with a nervous anxious distressed manner.

"Welcome, most welcome. You will pardon any discourtesy, sir, but

these are evil times. The son, I think, of good Master Richard Talbot

of Bridgefield? Ay, I would not for worlds have shown any lack of

hospitality to one of his family. It is no want of respect, sir. No;

nor of my Lord's house; but these are ill days, and with my charge,

sir--if Heaven itself keep not the house--who knows what may chance or

what may be laid on me?"



"I understand," said Humfrey, smiling. "I was bred close to Sheffield,

and hardly knew what 'twas to live beyond watch and ward."



"Yea!" said Paulett, shaking his head. "You come of a loyal house,

sir; but even the good Earl was less exercised than I am in the charge

of this same lady. But I am glad, glad to see you, sir. And you would

see your sister, sir? A modest young lady, and not indevout, though I

have sometimes seen her sleep at sermon. It is well that the poor

maiden should see some one well affected, for she sitteth in the very

gate of Babylon; and with respect, sir, I marvel that a woman, so godly

as Mistress Talbot of Bridgefield is reported to be, should suffer it.

However, I do my poor best, under Heaven, to hinder the faithful of the

household from being tainted. I have removed Preaux, who is well known

to be a Popish priest in disguise, and thus he can spread no more of

his errors. Moreover, my chaplain, Master Blunden, with other godly

men, preaches three times a week against Romish errors, and all are

enforced to attend. May their ears be opened to the truth! I am about

to attend this lady on a ride in the Park, sir. It might--if she be

willing--be arranged that your sister, Mistress Talbot, should spend

the time in your company, and methinks the lady will thereto agree, for

she is ever ready to show a certain carnal and worldly complaisance to

the wishes of her attendants, and I have observed that she greatly

affects the damsel, more, I fear, than may be for the eternal welfare

of the maiden's soul."





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