Beads And Bracelets
The Countess was by no means pacified by the investigation, and both
she and her family remained at Court, maligning her husband and his
captive. As the season advanced, bringing the time for the Queen's
annual resort to the waters of Buxton, Lord Shrewsbury was obliged to
entreat Mrs. Talbot again to be her companion, declaring that he had
never known so much peace as with that lady in the Queen's chambers.
The journey to Buxton was always the great holiday of the imprisoned
Court. The place was part of the Shrewsbury property, and the Earl had
a great house there, but there were no conveniences for exercising so
strict a watch as at Sheffield, and there was altogether a relaxation
of discipline. Exercise was considered an essential part of the
treatment, and recreations were there provided.
Cis had heard so much of the charms of the expedition, that she was
enraptured to hear that she was to share it, together with Mrs. Talbot.
The only drawback was that Humfrey had promised to come home after this
present voyage, to see whether his little Cis were ready for him; and
his father was much disposed to remain at home, receive him first, and
communicate to him the obstacles in the way of wedding the young lady.
However, my Lord refused to dispense with the attendance of his most
trustworthy kinsman, and leaving Ned at school under charge of the
learned Sniggius, the elder and the younger Richard Talbot rode forth
with the retinue of the Queen and her warder.
Neither Cicely nor Diccon had ever left home before, and they were in
raptures which would have made any journey delightful to them, far more
a ride through some of the wildest and loveliest glades that England
can display. Nay, it may be that they would better have enjoyed
something less like Sheffield Park than the rocks, glens, and woods,
through which they rode. Their real delight was in the towns and
villages at which there was a halt, and every traveller they saw was
such a wonder to them, that at the end of the first day they were
almost as full of exultation in their experiences, as if, with Humfrey,
they had been far on the way to America.
The delight of sleeping at Tideswell was in their eyes extreme, though
the hostel was so crowded that Cis had to share a mattress with Mrs.
Talbot, and Diccon had to sleep in his cloak on the floor, which he
persuaded himself was high preferment. He woke, however, much sooner
than was his wont, and finding it useless to try to fall asleep again,
he made his way out among the sleeping figures on the floor and hall,
and finding the fountain in the midst of the court, produced his soap
and comb from his pocket, and made his morning toilet in the open air
with considerable satisfaction at his own alertness. Presently there
was a tap at the window above, and he saw Cicely making signals to him
to wait for her, and in a few minutes she skipped out from the door
into the sunlight of the early summer morning.
"No one is awake yet," she said. "Even the guard before the Queen's
door is fast asleep. I only heard a wench or two stirring. We can
have a run in the fields and gather May dew before any one is afoot."
"'Tis not May, 'tis June," said matter-of-fact Diccon. "But yonder is
a guard at the yard gate; will he let us past?"
"See, here's a little wicket into a garden of pot-herbs," said Cis. "No
doubt we can get out that way, and it will bring us the sooner into the
fields. I have a cake in my wallet that mother gave me for the
journey, so we shall not fast. How sweet the herbs smell in the
dew--and see how silvery it lies on the strawberry leaves. Ah! thou
naughty lad, think not whether the fruit be ripe. Mayhap we shall find
some wild ones beyond."
The gate of the garden was likewise guarded, but by a yeoman who well
knew the young Talbots, and made no difficulty about letting them out
into the broken ground beyond the garden, sloping up into a little
hill. Up bounded the boy and girl, like young mountaineers, through
gorse and fern, and presently had gained a sufficient height to look
over the country, marking the valleys whence still were rising
"fragrant clouds of dewy steam" under the influence of the sunbeams,
gazing up at the purple heights of the Peak, where a few lines of snow
still lingered in the crevices, trying to track their past journey from
their own Sheffield, and with still more interest to guess which wooded
valley before them contained Buxton.
"Have you lost your way, my pretty mistress?" said a voice close to
them, and turning round hastily they saw a peasant woman with a large
basket on her arm.
"No," said Cicely courteously, "we have only come out to take the air
"I crave pardon," said the woman, curtseying, "the pretty lady belongs
to the great folk down yonder. Would she look at my poor wares? Here
are beads and trinkets of the goodly stones, pins and collars,
bracelets and eardrops, white, yellow, and purple," she said,
uncovering her basket, where were arranged various ornaments made of
"We have no money, good woman," said Cicely, rising to return, vaguely
uncomfortable at the woman's eye, which awoke some remembrance of
Tibbott the huckster, and the troubles connected with her.
"Yea, but if my young mistress would only bring me in to the Great Lady
there, I know she would buy of me my beads and bracelets, of give me an
alms for my poor children. I have five of them, good young lady, and
they lie naked and hungry till I can sell my few poor wares, and the
yeomen are so rough and hard. They would break and trample every poor
bead I have in pieces rather than even let my Lord hear of them. But
if even my basket could be carried in and shown, and if the good Earl
heard my sad tale, I am sure he would give license."
"He never does!" said Diccon, roughly; "hold off, woman, do not hang on
us, or I'll get thee branded for a vagabond."
The woman put her knuckles into her eyes, and wailed out that it was
all for her poor children, and Cicely reproved him for his roughness,
and as the woman kept close behind them, wailing, moaning, and
persuading, the boy and girl were wrought upon at last to give her
leave to wait outside the gate of the inn garden, while they saw
whether it was possible to admit her or her basket.
But before they reached the gate, they saw a figure beyond it, scanning
the hill eagerly. They knew him for their father even before he
shouted to them, and, as they approached, his voice was displeased:
"How now, children; what manners are these?"
"We have only been on the hillside, sweet father," said Cis, "Diccon
and I together. We thought no harm."
"This is not Sheffield Chase, Cis, and thou art no more a child, but a
maiden who needs to be discreet, above all in these times. Whom did I
see following you?"
"A poor woman, whom--Ha, where is she?" exclaimed Cis, suddenly
perceiving that the woman seemed to have vanished.
"A troublesome begging woman who beset us with her wares," said Diccon,
"and would give us no peace, praying that we would get them carried in
to the Queen and her ladies, whining about her children till she made
Cis soft-hearted. Where can she have hidden herself?"
The man who was stationed as sentry at the gate said he had seen the
woman come over the brow of the hill with Master Diccon and Mistress
Cicely, but that as they ran forward to meet Captain Talbot she had
disappeared amid the rocks and brushwood.
"Poor woman, she was afraid of our father," said Cicely; "I would we
could see her again."
"So would not I," said Richard. "It looks not well, and heed me well,
children, there must be no more of these pranks, nor of wandering out
of bounds, or babbling with strangers. Go thou in to thy mother, Cis,
she hath been in much trouble for thee."
Mistress Susan was unusually severe with the girl on the indiscretion
of gadding in strange places with no better escort than Diccon, and of
entering into conversation with unknown persons. Moreover, Cicely's
hair, her shoes, and camlet riding skirt were all so dank with dew that
she was with difficulty made presentable by the time the horses were
The Queen, who had not seen the girl that morning, made her come and
ride near her, asking questions on the escapade, and giving one of her
bewitching pathetic smiles as she said how she envied the power of thus
dancing out on the greensward, and breathing the free and fresh morning
air. "My Scottish blood loves the mountains, and bounds the more
freely in the fresh breeze," she said, gazing towards the Peak. "I
love the scent of the dew. Didst get into trouble, child? Methought I
heard sounds of chiding?"
"It was no fault of mine," said Cis, inclined to complain when she
found sympathy, "the woman would speak to us."
"What woman?" asked the Queen.
"A poor woman with a basket of wares, who prayed hard to be allowed to
show them to your Grace or some of the ladies. She said she had five
sorely hungered children, and that she heard your Grace was a
"Woe is me, compassion is full all that I am permitted to give," said
the Queen, sadly; "she brought trinkets to sell. What were her wares,
"I had no time to see many," said Cis, "something pure and white like a
new-laid egg, I saw, and a necklet, clouded with beauteous purple."
"Ay, beads and bracelets, no doubt," said the Queen.
"Yes, beads and bracelets," returned Cicely, the soft chime of the
Queen's Scottish accent bringing back to her that the woman had twice
pressed on her beads and bracelets.
"She dwelt on them," said the Queen lightly. "Ay, I know the chant of
the poor folk who ever hover about our outskirts in hopes to sell their
country gewgaws, beads and bracelets, collars and pins, little guessing
that she whom they seek is poorer than themselves. Mayhap, our
Argus-eyed lord may yet let the poor dame within his fence, and we may
be able to gratify thy longing for those same purple and white beads
Meantime the party were riding on, intending to dine at Buxton, which
meant to reach it by noonday. The tall roof of the great hall erected
by the Earl over the baths was already coming in sight, and by and by
they would look into the valley. The Wye, after coming down one of
those lovely deep ravines to be found in all mountainous countries,
here flowed through a more open space, part of which had been
artificially levelled, but which was covered with buildings, rising out
amongst the rocks and trees.
Most conspicuous among them was a large freshly-built erection in Tudor
architecture, with a wide portal arch, and five separate gables
starting from one central building, which bore a large clock-tower, and
was decorated at every corner with the Talbots' stout and sturdy form.
This was the great hall, built by the present Earl George, and
containing five baths, intended to serve separately for each sex,
gentle and simple, with one special bath reserved for the sole use of
the more distinguished visitors. Besides this, at no great distance,
was the Earl's own mansion, "a very goodly house, four square, four
stories high," with stables, offices, and all the requisites of a
nobleman's establishment, and this was to be the lodging of the
Farther off was another house, which had been built by permission of
the Earl, under the auspices of Dr. Jones, probably one of the first of
the long series of physicians who have made it their business to
enhance the fame of the watering-places where they have set up their
staff. This was the great hostel or lodging-house for the patients of
condition who resorted to the healing springs, and nestled here and
there among the rocks were cottages which accommodated, after a
fashion, the poorer sort, who might drag themselves to the spot in the
hope of washing away their rheumatic pains and other infirmities. In a
distant and magnificent way, like some of the lesser German potentates,
the mighty Lord of Shrewsbury took toll from the visitors to his baths,
and this contributed to repair the ravages to his fortune caused by the
maintenance of his royal captive.
Arriving just at noontide, the Queen and her escort beheld a motley
crowd dispersed about the sward on the banks of the river, some playing
at ball, others resting on benches or walking up and down in groups,
exercise being recommended as part of the cure. All thronged together
to watch the Earl and his captive ride in with their suite, the
household turning out to meet them, while foremost stood a dapper
little figure with a short black cloak, a stiff round ruff, and a
square barrett cap, with a gold-headed cane in one hand and a paper in
"Prepare thy patience, Cis," whispered Barbara Mowbray, "now shall we
not be allowed to alight from our palfreys till we have heard his full
welcome to my Lord, and all his plans for this place, how--it is to be
made a sanctuary for the sick during their abode there, for all causes
saving sacrilege, treason, murder, burglary, and highway robbery, with
a license to eat flesh on a Friday, as long as they are drinking the
It was as Mistress Mowbray said. Dr. Jones's harangue on the progress
of Buxton and its prospects had always to be endured before any one was
allowed to dismount; but royalty and nobility were inured to listening
with a good grace, and Mary, though wearied and aching, sat patiently
in the hot sunshine, and was ready to declare that Buxton put her in
good humour. In fact the grandees and their immediate attendants
endured with all the grace of good breeding; but the farther from the
scene of action, the less was the patience, and the more restless and
confused the movements of the retinue.
Diccon Talbot, hungry and eager, had let his equally restless pony
convey him, he scarce knew where, from his father's side, when he saw,
making her way among the horses, the very woman with the basket whom he
had encountered at Tideswell in the early morning. How could she have
gone such a distance in the time? thought the boy, and he presently
caught the words addressed to one of the grooms of the Scottish Queen's
suite. "Let me show my poor beads and bracelets." The Scotsman
instantly made way for her, and she advanced to a wizened thin old
Frenchman, Maitre Gorion, the Queen's surgeon, who jumped down from his
horse, and was soon bending over her basket exchanging whispers in the
lowest possible tones; but a surge among those in the rear drove Diccon
up so near that he was absolutely certain that they were speaking
French, as indeed he well knew that M. Gorion never could succeed in
making himself understood in English.
The boy, bred up in the perpetual caution and suspicion of Sheffield,
was eager to denounce one who he was sure was a conspirator; but he was
hemmed in among horses and men, so that he could not make his way out
or see what was passing, till suddenly there was a scattering to the
right and left, and a simultaneous shriek from the ladies in front.
When Diccon could see anything, his father was pressing forward to a
group round some one prostrate on the ground before the house, and
there were exclamations, "The poor young lady! The chirurgeon! To the
front, the Queen is asking for you, sir," and Cicely's horse with loose
bridle passed before his eyes.
"Let me through! let me through!" cried the boy; "it is my sister."
He threw his bridle to a groom, and, squeezing between horses and under
elbows, succeeded in seeing Cis lying on the ground with her eyes shut
and her head in his mother's lap, and the French surgeon bending over
her. She gave a cry when he touched her arm, and he said something in
his mixture of French and English, which Diccon could not hear. The
Queen stood close by, a good deal agitated, anxiously asking questions,
and throwing out her hands in her French fashion. Diccon, much
frightened, struggled on, but only reached the party just as his father
had gathered Cicely up in his arms to carry her upstairs. Diccon
followed as closely as he could, but blindly in the crowd in the
strange house, until he found himself in a long gallery, shut out,
among various others of both sexes. "Come, my masters and mistresses
all," said the voice of the seneschal, "you had best to your chambers,
there is naught for you to do here."
However, he allowed Diccon to remain leaning against the balustrade of
the stairs which led up outside the house, and in another minute his
father came out. "Ha, Diccon, that is well," said he. "No, thou canst
not enter. They are about to undress poor little Cis. Nay, it seemed
not to me that she was more hurt than thy mother could well have dealt
with, but the French surgeon would thrust in, and the Queen would have
it so. We will walk here in the court till we hear what he saith of
her. How befell it, dost thou ask? Truly I can hardly tell, but I
believe one of the Frenchmen's horses got restless either with a fly or
with standing so long to hear yonder leech's discourse. He must needs
cut the beast with his rod, and so managed to hit White Posy, who
starts aside, and Cis, sitting unheedfully on that new-fangled French
saddle, was thrown in an instant."
"I shall laugh at her well for letting herself be thrown by a Frenchman
with his switch," said Diccon.
"I hope the damage hath not been great," said his father, anxiously
looking up the stair. "Where wast thou, Dick? I had lost sight of
"I was seeking you, sir, for I had seen a strange sight," said Dick.
"That woman who spoke with us at Tideswell was here again; yea, and she
talked with the little old Frenchman that they call Gorion, the same
that is with Cis now."
"She did! Folly, boy! The fellow can hardly comprehend five words of
plain English together, long as he hath been here! One of the Queen's
women is gone in even now to interpret for him."
"That do I wot, sir. Therefore did I marvel, and sought to tell you."
"What like was the woman?" demanded Richard.
Diccon's description was lame, and his father bade him hasten out of
the court, and fetch the woman if he could find her displaying her
trinkets to the water-drinkers, instructing him not to alarm her by
peremptory commands, but to give her hopes of a purchaser for her
spars. Proud of the commission entrusted to him, the boy sallied
forth, but though he wandered through all the groups on the sward, and
encountered two tumblers and one puppet show, besides a bear and
monkey, he utterly failed in finding the vendor of the beads and