In the meantime the two Richard Talbots, father and son, had safely
arrived in London, and had been made welcome at the house of their
Nau and Curll, they heard, were in Walsingham's house, subjected to
close examination; Babington and all his comrades were in the Tower.
The Council was continually sitting to deliberate over the fate of the
latter unhappy men, of whose guilt there was no do
bt; and neither Lord
Talbot nor Will Cavendish thought there was any possibility of Master
Richard gaining permission to plead how the unfortunate Babington had
been worked on and deceived. After the sentence should be pronounced,
Cavendish thought that the request of the Earl of Shrewsbury might
prevail to obtain permission for an interview between the prisoner and
one commissioned by his former guardian. Will was daily attending Sir
Francis Walsingham as his clerk, and was not by any means unwilling to
relate anything he had been able to learn.
Queen Elizabeth was, it seemed, greatly agitated and distressed. The
shock to her nerves on the day when she had so bravely overawed
Barnwell with the power of her eye had been such as not to be easily
surmounted. She was restless and full of anxiety, continually starting
at every sound, and beginning letters to the Queen of Scots which were
never finished. She had more than once inquired after the brave sailor
youths who had come so opportunely to her rescue; and Lord Talbot
thought it would be well to present Diccon and his father to her, and
accordingly took them with him to Greenwich Palace, where they had the
benefit of looking on as loyal subjects, while her Majesty, in royal
fashion, dined in public, to the sound of drums, trumpets, fifes, and
stringed instruments. But though dressed with her usual elaborate
care, she looked older, paler, thinner, and more haggard than when
Diccon had seen her three weeks previously, and neither her eye nor
mouth had the same steadiness. She did not eat with relish, but almost
as if she were forcing herself, lest any lack of appetite might be
observed and commented upon, and her looks continually wandered as
though in search of some lurking enemy; for in truth no woman, nor man
either, could easily forget the suggestion which had recently been
brought to her knowledge, that an assassin might "lurk in her gallery
and stab her with his dagger, or if she should walk in her garden, he
might shoot her with his dagg, or if she should walk abroad to take the
air, he might assault her with his arming sword and make sure work."
Even though the enemies were safe in prison, she knew not but that
dagger, dagg, or arming sword might still be ready for her, and she
believed that any fatal charge openly made against Mary at the trial
might drive her friends to desperation and lead to the use of dagg or
dagger. She was more unhinged than ever before, and commanded herself
with difficulty when going through all the scenes of her public life as
The Talbots soon felt her keen eye on them, and a look of recognition
passed over her face as she saw Diccon. As soon as the meal was over,
and the table of trestles removed, she sent a page to command Lord
Talbot to present them to her.
"So, sir," she said, as Richard the elder knelt before her, "you are
the father of two brave sons, whom you have bred up to do good service;
but I only see one of them here. Where is the elder?"
"So please your Majesty, Sir Amias Paulett desired to retain him at
Chartley to assist in guarding the Queen of Scots."
"It is well. Paulett knows a trusty lad when he sees him. And so do
I. I would have the youths both for my gentlemen pensioners--the elder
when he can be spared from his charge, this stripling at once."
"We are much beholden to your Majesty," said Richard, bending his head
the lower as he knelt on one knee; for such an appointment gave both
training and recommendation to young country gentlemen, and was much
"Methinks," said Elizabeth, who had the royal faculty of remembering
faces, "you have yourself so served us, Mr. Talbot?"
"I was for three years in the band of your Majesty's sister, Queen
Mary," said Richard, "but I quitted it on her death to serve at sea,
and I have since been in charge at Sheffield, under my Lord of
"We have heard that he hath found you a faithful servant," said the
Queen, "yea, so well affected as even to have refused your daughter in
marriage to this same Babington. Is this true?"
"It is, so please your Majesty."
"And it was because you already perceived his villainy?"
"There were many causes, Madam," said Richard, catching at the chance
of saying a word for the unhappy lad, "but it was not so much villainy
that I perceived in him as a nature that might be easily practised upon
by worse men than himself."
"Not so much a villain ready made as the stuff villains are made of,"
said the Queen, satisfied with her own repartee.
"So please your Majesty, the metal that in good hands becomes a brave
sword, in evil ones becomes a treacherous dagger."
"Well said, Master Captain, and therefore, we must destroy alike the
dagger and the hands that perverted it."
"Yet," ventured Richard, "the dagger attempered by your Majesty's
clemency might yet do noble service."
Elizabeth, however, broke out fiercely with one of her wonted oaths.
"How now? Thou wouldst not plead for the rascal! I would have you to
know that to crave pardon for such a fellow is well-nigh treason in
itself. You have license to leave us, sir."
"I should scarce have brought you, Richard," said Lord Talbot, as soon
as they had left the presence chamber, "had I known you would venture
on such folly. Know you not how incensed she is? Naught but your
proved loyalty and my father's could have borne you off this time, and
it would be small marvel to me if the lad's appointment were forgotten."
"I could not choose but run the risk," said Richard. "What else came I
to London for?"
"Well," said his cousin, "you are a brave man, Richard Talbot. I know
those who had rather scale a Spanish fortress than face Queen Elizabeth
in her wrath. Her tongue is sharper than even my stepdame's, though it
doth not run on so long."
Lord Talbot was not quite easy when that evening a gentleman, clad in
rich scarlet and gold, and armed to the teeth, presented himself at
Shrewsbury House and inquired for Mr. Talbot of Bridgefield. However,
it proved to be the officer of the troop of gentlemen pensioners come
to enroll Diccon, tell him the requirements, and arrange when he should
join in a capacity something like that of an esquire to one of the
seniors of the troop. Humfrey was likewise inquired for, but it was
thought better on all accounts that he should continue in his present
situation, since it was especially needful to have trustworthy persons
at Chartley in the existing crisis. Master Richard was well satisfied
to find that his son's immediate superior would be a gentleman of a
good Yorkshire family, whose father was known to him, and who promised
to have a care of Master Richard the younger, and preserve him, as far
as possible, from the perils of dicing, drinking, and running into bad
Launching a son in this manner and equipping him for service was an
anxious task for a father, while day after day the trial was deferred,
the examinations being secretly carried on before the Council till, as
Cavendish explained, what was important should be disclosed.
Of course this implied what should be fatal to Queen Mary. The priest
Ballard was racked, but he was a man of great determination, and
nothing was elicited from him. The other prisoners, and Nau and Curll,
were questioned again and again under threats and promises before the
Council, and the letters that had been copied on their transit through
the beer barrels were read and made the subject of
cross-examination--still all in private, for, as Cavendish said,
"perilous stuff to the Queen's Majesty might come out."
He allowed, however, day after day, that though there was quite enough
to be fatal to Ballard, Babington, Savage, and Barnwell, whatever else
was wanting was not forthcoming. At last, however, Cavendish returned
full of a certain exultation: "We have it," he said,--"a most undoubted
treasonable letter, which will catch her between the shoulders and the
He spoke to Lord Talbot and Richard, who were standing together in a
window, and who knew only too well who was referred to, and what the
expression signified. On a further query from his step-brother,
Cavendish explained that it was a long letter, dated July 16, arranging
in detail the plan for "the Lady's" own rescue from Chartley at the
moment of the landing of the Spaniards, and likewise showing her privy
to the design of the six gentlemen against the life of the Queen, and
desiring to know their names. Nau had, he said, verified the cipher as
one used in the correspondence, and Babington, when it was shown to
him, had declared that it had been given to him in the street by a
stranger serving-man in a blue coat, and that it had removed all doubt
from his mind, as it was an answer to a letter of his, a copy of which
had been produced, but not the letter itself.
"Which we have not found," said Cavendish.
"Not for all that search of yours at Chartley?" said Richard.
"Methought it was thorough enough!"
"The Lady must have been marvellously prudent as to the keeping of
letters," said Will, "or else she must have received some warning; for
there is absolutely naught to be found in her repositories that will
serve our purpose."
"Our purpose!" repeated Richard, as he recollected many little
kindnesses that William Cavendish when a boy had received from the
prisoner at Sheffield.
"Yea, Master Richard," he returned, unabashed. "It is absolutely
needful that we should openly prove this woman to be what we know her
to be in secret. Her Majesty's life will never be safe for a moment
while she lives; and what would become of us all did she overlive the
"Well, Will, for all your mighty word we, you are but the pen in Mr.
Secretary's hand, so there is no need to argue the matter with you,"
The speech considerably nettled Master William, especially as it made
Lord Talbot laugh.
"Father!" said Diccon afterwards, "Humfrey tried to warn Mr. Babington
that we had seen this Langston, who hath as many metamorphoses as there
be in Ovidius Naso, coming privily forth from Sir Francis Walsingham's
closet, but he would not listen, and declared that Langston was holding
Mr. Secretary in play."
"Deceiving and being deceived," sighed his father. "That is ever the
way, my son! Remember that if thou playest false, other men will play
falser with thee and bring thee to thy ruin. I would not leave thee
here save that the gentlemen pensioners are a more honest and manly
sort of folk than yonder gentlemen with their state craft, wherein they
throw over all truth and honour as well as mercy."
This conversation took place as the father and son were making their
way to a house in Westminster, where Antony Babington's wife was with
her mother, Lady Ratcliffe. It had been a match made by Lady
Shrewsbury, and it was part of Richard's commission to see and confer
with the family. It was not a satisfactory interview. The wife was a
dull childish little thing, not yet sixteen; and though she cried, she
had plainly never lived in any real sympathy or companionship with her
husband, who had left her with her parents, while leading the life of
mingled amusement and intrigue which had brought him to his present
state; and the mother, a hard-featured woman, evidently thought herself
cheated and ill used. She railed at Babington and at my Lady Countess
by turns; at the one for his ruinous courses and neglect of her
daughter, at the other for having cozened her into giving her poor
child to a treacherous Papist, who would be attainted in blood, and
thus bring her poor daughter and grandchild to poverty. The old lady
really seemed to have lost all pity for her son-in-law in indignation
on her daughter's account, and to care infinitely less for the saving
of his life than for the saving of his estate. Nor did the young wife
herself appear to possess much real affection for poor Antony, of whom
she had seen very little. There must have been great faults on his
side; yet certainly Richard felt that there was some excuse for him in
the mother-in-law, and that if the unfortunate young man could have
married Cicely his lot might have been different. Yet the good Captain
felt all the more that if Cis had been his own he still would never
have given her to Babington.