The Supplication





In due time the boat drew up at the stairs leading to the palace of

Richmond. Cicely, in the midst of her trepidation, perceived that

Diccon was among the gentlemen pensioners who made a lane from the

landing to receive them, as she was handed along by M. de Bellievre. In

the hall there was a pause, during which the mufflings were thrown off,

and Cicely appeared in her simple black, a great contrast to her

cavalier, who was clad from neck to knee in pale pink satin, quilted,

and with a pearl at each intersection, earrings in his ears, perfumed

and long-fringed gloves in his hand--a perfect specimen of the foppery

of the Court of France. However, he might have been in hodden gray

without her perceiving it. She had the sensation of having plunged

into deep, unknown waters, without rope or plank, and being absolutely

forced to strike out for herself; yet the very urgency of the moment,

acting on her high blood and recent training, made her, outwardly,

perfectly self-possessed and calm. She walked along, holding her head

in the regal manner that was her inheritance, and was so utterly

absorbed in the situation that she saw nothing, and thought only of the

Queen.



This was to be a private audience, and after a minute's demur with the

clerk of the chamber, when Chateauneuf made some explanation, a door

was opened, a curtain withdrawn, and the two ambassadors and the young

lady were admitted to Elizabeth's closet, where she sat alone, in an

arm-chair with a table before her. Cicely's first glance at the Queen

reminded her of the Countess, though the face was older, and had an

intellect and a grandeur latent in it, such as Bess of Hardwicke had

never possessed; but it was haggard and worn, the eyelids red, either

with weeping, or with sleeplessness, and there was an anxious look

about the keen light hazel eyes which was sometimes almost pathetic,

and gave Cicely hope. To the end of her days she never could recollect

how the Queen was arrayed; she saw nothing but the expression in those

falcon eyes, and the strangely sensitive mouth, which bewrayed the

shrewish nose and chin, and the equally inconsistent firmness of the

jaw.



The first glance Cicely encountered was one of utter amazement and

wrath, as the Queen exclaimed, "Whom have you brought hither,

Messieurs?"



Before either could reply, she, whom they had thought a raw, helpless

girl, moved forward, and kneeling before Elizabeth said, "It is I, so

please your Majesty, I, who have availed myself of the introduction of

their Excellencies to lay before your Majesty a letter from my mother,

the Queen of Scots."



Queen Elizabeth made so vehement and incredulous an exclamation of

amazement that Cicely was the more reminded of the Countess, and this

perhaps made her task the easier, and besides, she was not an untrained

rustic, but had really been accustomed to familiar intercourse with a

queen, who, captive as she was, maintained full state and etiquette.



She therefore made answer with dignity, "If it will please your Majesty

to look at this letter, you will see the proofs of what I say, and that

I am indeed Bride Hepburn, the daughter of Queen Mary's last marriage.

I was born at Lochleven on the 20th of February of the year of grace

1567," (footnote--1568 according to our calendar) "and thence secretly

sent in the Bride of Dunbar to be bred up in France. The ship was

wrecked, and all lost on board, but I was, by the grace of God, picked

up by a good and gallant gentleman of my Lord of Shrewsbury's

following, Master Richard Talbot of Bridgefield, who brought me up as

his own daughter, all unknowing whence I came or who I was, until three

years ago, when one of the secret agents who had knowledge of the

affairs of the Queen of Scots made known to her that I was the babe who

had been embarked in the Bride of Dunbar."



"Verily, thou must be a bold wench to expect me to believe such a mere

minstrel's tale," said Elizabeth.



"Nevertheless, madam, it is the simple truth, as you will see if you

deign to open this packet."



"And who or where is this same honourable gentleman who brought you

up--Richard Talbot? I have heard that name before!"



"He is here, madam. He will confirm all I say."



The Queen touched a little bell, and ordered Master Talbot of

Bridgefield to be brought to her, while, hastily casting her eyes on

the credentials, she demanded of Chateauneuf, "Knew you aught of this,

sir?"



"I know only what the Queen of Scotland has written and what this

Monsieur Talbot has told me, madam," said Chateauneuf. "There can be

no doubt that the Queen of Scotland has treated her as a daughter, and

owns her for such in her letter to me, as well as to your Majesty."



"And the letters are no forgery?"



"Mine is assuredly not, madam; I know the private hand of the Queen of

Scots too well to be deceived. Moreover, Madame Curll, the wife of the

Secretary, and others, can speak to the manner in which this young lady

was treated."



"Openly treated as a daughter! That passes, sir. My faithful subjects

would never have left me uninformed!"



"So please your Majesty," here the maiden ventured, "I have always

borne the name of Cicely Talbot, and no one knows what is my real birth

save those who were with my mother at Lochleven, excepting Mrs. Curll.

The rest even of her own attendants only understood me to be a Scottish

orphan. My true lineage should never have been known, were it not a

daughter's duty to plead for her mother."



By this time Mr. Talbot was at the door, and he was received by the

Queen with, "So ho! Master Talbot, how is this? You, that have been

vaunted to us as the very pink of fidelity, working up a tale that

smacks mightily of treason and leasing!"



"The truth is oft stranger than any playwright can devise," said

Richard, as he knelt.



"If it be truth, the worse for you, sir," said the Queen, hotly. "What

colour can you give to thus hiding one who might, forsooth, claim royal

blood, tainted though it be?"



"Pardon me, your Grace. For many years I knew not who the babe was

whom I had taken from the wreck, and when the secret of her birth was

discovered, I deemed it not mine own but that of the Queen of Scots."



"A captive's secrets are not her own, and are only kept by traitors,"

said Elizabeth, severely.



At this Cicely threw herself forward with glowing cheeks. "Madam,

madam, traitor never was named in the same breath with Master Talbot's

name before. If he kept the secret, it was out of pity, and knowing no

hurt could come to your Majesty by it."



"Thou hast a tongue, wench, be thou who thou mayst," said Elizabeth

sharply. "Stand back, and let him tell his own tale."



Richard very briefly related the history of the rescue of the infant,

which he said he could confirm by the testimony of Goatley and of

Heatherthwayte. He then explained how Langston had been present when

she was brought home, and had afterwards made communications to the

Queen of Scots that led to the girl, already in attendance on her,

being claimed and recognised; after which he confessed that he had not

the heart to do what might separate the mother and daughter by

declaring their relationship. Elizabeth meanwhile was evidently

comparing his narrative with the letters of the Queen of Scots, asking

searching questions here and there.



She made a sound of perplexity and annoyance at the end, and said,

"This must be further inquired into."



Here Cicely, fearing an instant dismissal, clasped her hands, and on

her knees exclaimed, "Madam! it will not matter. No trouble shall ever

be caused by my drop of royal blood; no one shall ever even know that

Bride of Scotland exists, save the few who now know it, and have kept

the secret most faithfully. I seek no state; all I ask is my mother's

life. O madam, would you but see her, and speak with her, you would

know how far from her thoughts is any evil to your royal person!"



"Tush, wench! we know better. Is this thy lesson?"



"None hath taught me any lesson, madam. I know what my mother's

enemies have, as they say, proved against her, and I know they say that

while she lives your Grace cannot be in security."



"That is what moves my people to demand her death," said Elizabeth.



"It is not of your own free will, madam, nor of your own kind heart,"

cried Cicely. "That I well know! And, madam, I will show you the way.

Let but my mother be escorted to some convent abroad, in France or

Austria, or anywhere beyond the reach of Spain, and her name should be

hidden from everyone! None should know where to seek her. Not even the

Abbess should know her name. She would be prisoned in a cell, but she

would be happy, for she would have life and the free exercise of her

religion. No English Papist, no Leaguer, none should ever trace her,

and she would disquiet you no more."



"And who is to answer that, when once beyond English bounds, she should

not stir up more trouble than ever?" demanded Elizabeth.



"That do I," said the girl. "Here am I, Bride Hepburn, ready to live

in your Majesty's hands as a hostage, whom you might put to death at

the first stirring on her behalf."



"Silly maid, we have no love of putting folk to death," said Elizabeth,

rather hurt. "That is only for traitors, when they forfeit our mercy."



"Then, O madam, madam, what has been done in her name cannot forfeit

mercy for her! She was shut up in prison; I was with her day and

night, and I know she had naught to do with any evil purpose towards

your Majesty. Ah! you do not believe me! I know they have found her

guilty, and that is not what I came to say," she continued, getting

bewildered in her earnestness for a moment. "No. But, gracious Queen,

you have spared her often; I have heard her say that you had again and

again saved her life from those who would fain have her blood."



"It is true," said Elizabeth, half softened.



"Save her then now, madam," entreated the girl. "Let her go beyond

their reach, yet where none shall find her to use her name against you.

Let me go to her at Fotheringhay with these terms. She will consent

and bless and pray for you for ever; and here am I, ready to do what

you will with me!"



"To hang about Court, and be found secretly wedded to some base groom!"



"No, madam. I give you my solemn word as a Queen's daughter that I

will never wed, save by your consent, if my mother's life be granted.

The King of Scots knows not that there is such a being. He need never

know it. I will thank and bless you whether you throw me into the

Tower, or let me abide as the humblest of your serving-women, under the

name I have always borne, Cicely Talbot."



"Foolish maid, thou mayest purpose as thou sayest, but I know what

wenches are made of too well to trust thee."



"Ah madam, pardon me, but you know not how strong a maiden's heart can

be for a mother's sake. Madam! you have never seen my mother. If you

but knew her patience and her tenderness, you would know how not only

I, but every man or woman in her train, would gladly lay down life and

liberty for her, could we but break her bonds, and win her a shelter

among those of her own faith."



"Art a Papist?" asked the Queen, observing the pronoun.



"Not so, an't please your Majesty. This gentleman bred me up in our

own Church, nor would I leave it."



"Strange--strange matters," muttered Elizabeth, "and they need to be

duly considered."



"I will then abide your Majesty's pleasure," said Cicely, "craving

license that it may be at Fotheringhay with my mother. Then can I bear

her the tidings, and she will write in full her consent to these terms.

O madam, I see mercy in your looks. Receive a daughter's blessing and

thanks!"



"Over fast, over fast, maiden. Who told thee that I had consented?"



"Your Majesty's own countenance," replied Cicely readily. "I see pity

in it, and the recollection that all posterity for evermore will speak

of the clemency of Elizabeth as the crown of all her glories!"



"Child, child," said the Queen, really moved, "Heaven knows that I

would gladly practise clemency if my people would suffer it, but they

fear for my life, and still more for themselves, were I removed, nor

can I blame them."



"Your Majesty, I know that. But my mother would be dead to the world,

leaving her rights solemnly made over to her son. None would know

where to find her, and she would leave in your hands, and those of the

Parliament, a resignation of all her claims."



"And would she do this? Am I to take it on thy word, girl?"



"Your Majesty knows this ring, sent to her at Lochleven," said Cicely,

holding it up. "It is the pledge that she binds herself to these

conditions. Oh! let me but bear them to her, and you shall have them

signed and sealed, and your Majesty will know the sweet bliss of

pardoning. May I carry the tidings to her? I can go with this

gentleman as Cis Talbot returning to her service."



Elizabeth bent her head as though assenting thoughtfully.



"How shall I thank you, gracious Queen?" cried Cicely, joining hands in

a transport, but Elizabeth sharply cut her short.



"What means the wench? I have promised nothing. I have only said I

will look into this strange story of thine, and consider this

proposal--that is, if thy mother, as thou callest her, truly intend

it--ay, and will keep to it."



"That is all I could ask of your Majesty," said Cicely. "The next

messenger after my return shall carry her full consent to these

conditions, and there will I abide your pleasure until the time comes

for her to be conducted to her convent, if not to see your face, which

would be best of all. O madam, what thanks will be worthy of such a

grace?"



"Wait to see whether it is a grace, little cousin," said Elizabeth, but

with a kiss to the young round cheek, and a friendliness of tone that

surprised all. "Messieurs," she added to the ambassadors, "you came,

if I mistake not, to bring me this young demoiselle."



"Who has, I hope, pleaded more effectually than I," returned Bellievre.



"I have made no promises, sir," said the Queen, drawing herself up

proudly.



"Still your Majesty forbids us not to hope," said Chateauneuf.



Wherewith they found themselves dismissed. There was a great increase

of genuine respect in the manner in which Bellievre handed the young

lady from the Queen's chamber through the gallery and hall, and finally

to the boat. No one spoke, for there were many standing around, but

Cicely could read in a glance that passed between the Frenchmen that

they were astonished at her success. Her own brain was in a whirl, her

heart beating high; she could hardly realise what had passed, but when

again placed in the barge the first words she heard were from Bellievre.



"Your Royal Highness will permit me to congratulate you." At the same

time she saw, to her great joy, that M. de Chateauneuf had caused her

foster-father to enter the barge with them. "If the Queen of Scotland

were close at hand, the game would be won," said Bellievre.



"Ah! Milord Treasurer and M. le Secretaire are far too cunning to have

let her be within reach," said Chateauneuf.



"Could we but have bound the Queen to anything," added Bellievre.



"That she always knows how to avoid," said the resident ambassador.



"At least," said Cicely, "she has permitted that I should bear the

terms to my mother at Fotheringhay."



"That is true," said Chateauneuf, "and in my opinion no time should be

lost in so doing. I doubt," he added, looking at Richard, "whether,

now that her Highness's exalted rank is known, the embassy will be

permitted to remain a shelter to her, in case the Queen should demand

her of me."



"Your Excellency speaks my thought," said Richard. "I am even disposed

to believe that it would be wiser to begin our journey this very day."



"I grieve for the apparent inhospitality and disrespect to one whom I

honour so highly," said Chateauneuf, "but I verily believe it would be

the wiser plan. Look you, sir, the enemies of the unfortunate Queen of

Scotland have done all in their power to hinder my colleague from

seeing the Queen, but to-day the Lord Treasurer is occupied at

Westminster, and Monsieur le Secretaire is sick. She sent for us in

one of those wilful moods in which she chooses to assert herself

without their knowledge, and she remains, as it were, stunned by the

surprise, and touched by her Royal Highness's pleading. But let these

gentlemen discover what has passed, or let her recover and send for

them, and bah! they will inquire, and messengers will go forth at once

to stop her Highness and yourself. All will be lost. But if you can

actually be on the way to this castle before they hear of it--and it is

possible you may have a full day in advance--they will be unable to

hinder the conditions from being laid before the Queen of Scots, and we

are witnesses of what they were."



"Oh, let us go! let us go at once, dear sir," entreated Cicely. "I

burn to carry my mother this hope."



It was not yet noon, so early had been the audience, and dark and short

as were the days, it was quite possible to make some progress on the

journey before night. Cicely had kept the necessaries for her journey

ready, and so had Mr. Talbot, even to the purchase of horses, which

were in the Shrewsbury House stables.



The rest of the mails could be fetched by the Mastiff's crew, and

brought to Hull under charge of Goatley. Madame de Salmonnet was a

good deal scandalised at Son Altesse Royale going off with only a male

escort, and to Cicely's surprise, wept over her, and prayed aloud that

she might have good success, and bring safety and deliverance to the

good and persecuted Queen for whom she had attempted so much.



"Sir," said Chateauneuf, as he stood beside Richard, waiting till the

girl's preparations were over, "if there could have been any doubts of

the royal lineage of your charge, her demeanour to-day would have

disproved them. She stood there speaking as an equal, all undaunted

before that Queen before whom all tremble, save when they can cajole

her."



"She stood there in the strength of truth and innocence," said Richard.



Whereat the Frenchman again looked perplexed at these incomprehensible

English.



Cicely presently appeared. It was wonderful to see how that one effort

had given her dignity and womanhood. She thanked the two ambassadors

for the countenance they had given to her, and begged them to continue

their exertions in her mother's cause. "And," she added, "I believe my

mother has already requested of you to keep this matter a secret."



They bowed, and she added, "You perceive, gentlemen, that the very

conditions I have offered involve secrecy both as to my mother's future

abode and my existence. Therefore, I trust that you will not consider

it inconsistent with your duty to the King of France to send no word of

this."



Again they assured her of their secrecy, and the promise was so far

kept that the story was reserved for the private ear of Henri III. on

Bellievre's return, and never put into the despatches.



Two days later, Cicely enjoyed some of the happiest hours of her life.

She stood by the bed where her mother was lying, and was greeted with

the cry, "My child, my child! I thought I never should see thee more.

Domine, nunc dimittis!"



"Nay, dearest mother, but I trust she will show mercy. I bring you

conditions."



Mary laid her head on her daughter's shoulder and listened. It might

be that she had too much experience of Elizabeth's vacillations to

entertain much hope of her being allowed to retire beyond her grasp

into a foreign convent, and she declared that she could not endure that

her beloved, devoted child should wear away her life under Elizabeth's

jealous eye, but Cis put this aside, saying with a smile, "I think she

will not be hard with me. She will be no worse than my Lady Countess,

and I shall have a secret of joy within me in thinking of you resting

among the good nuns."



And Mary caught hope from the anticipations she would not damp, and

gave herself to the description of the peaceful cloister life,

reviewing in turn the nunneries she had heard described, and talking

over their rules. There would indeed be as little liberty as here, but

she would live in the midst of prayer and praise, and be at rest from

the plots and plans, the hopes and fears, of her long captivity, and be

at leisure for penitence. "For, ah! my child, guiltless though I be of

much that is laid to my charge, thy mother is a sinful woman, all

unworthy of what her brave and innocent daughter has dared and done for

her."



Almost equally precious with that mother's greeting was the grave

congratulating look of approval which Cicely met in Humfrey's eyes when

he had heard all from his father. He could exult in her, even while he

thought sadly of the future which she had so bravely risked, watching

over her from a distance in his silent, self-restrained, unselfish

devotion.



The Queen's coldness towards Humfrey had meantime diminished daily,

though he could not guess whether she really viewed his course as the

right one, or whether she forgave this as well as all other injuries in

the calm gentle state into which she had come, not greatly moved by

hope or fear, content alike to live or die.



Richard, in much anxiety, was to remain another day or two at

Fotheringhay, on the plea of his wearied horses and of the Sunday rest.



Meantime Mary diligently wrote the conditions, but perhaps more to

satisfy her daughter than with much hope of their acceptance.





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