The Warrant





"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

plot."



"Well, if no other way will serve you but I must hear the fellow, have

him in."



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

Scottish guard.



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

brought forward.



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

her heart.



"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

unhappy race?"



"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

other ladies.



"Child," said the Queen, as she came in, "is thy mind set on wedding an

archduke?"



"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

occasion.



"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

left unguarded."



"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

eldest son."



"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

latest.



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

morning.



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

was ready.



"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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