In The Tower
"Here is a letter from Mr. Secretary to the Lieutenant of the Tower,
Master Richard, bidding him admit you to speech of Babington," said
Will Cavendish. "He was loath to give it, and nothing but my Lord
Shrewsbury's interest would have done it, on my oath that you are a
prudent and discreet man, who hath been conversant in these matters for
"Yea, and that long before you were, Master Will,"
aid Richard, always
a little entertained by the young gentleman's airs of patronage.
"However, I am beholden to you."
"That you may be, for you are the only person who hath obtained
admission to the prisoners."
"Not even their wives?"
"Mrs. Tichborne is in the country--so best for her--and Mrs. Babington
hath never demanded it. I trow there is not love enough between them
to make them seek such a meeting. It was one of my mother's matches.
Mistress Cicely would have cleaved to him more closely, though I am
glad you saw through the fellow too well to give her to him. She would
be a landless widow, whereas this Ratcliffe wife has a fair portion for
"Then Dethick will be forfeited?"
"Ay. They say the Queen hath promised it to Raleigh."
"And there is no hope of mercy?"
"Not a tittle for any man of them! Nay, so far from it, her Majesty
asked if there were no worse nor more extraordinary mode of death for
"I should not have thought it of her."
"Her Majesty hath been affrighted, Master Richard, sorely affrighted,
though she put so bold a face upon it, and there is nothing a woman,
who prides herself on her courage, can so little pardon."
So Richard, sad at heart, took boat and ascended the Thames for his
melancholy visit. The gateway was guarded by a stalwart yeoman,
halbert in hand, who detained him while the officer of the guard was
called. On showing the letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, Mr. Talbot
was conducted by this personage across the first paved court to the
lodgings of the Lieutenant under so close a guard that he felt as if he
were about to be incarcerated himself, and was there kept waiting in a
sort of guard-room while the letter was delivered.
Presently the Lieutenant, Sir Owen Hopton, a well-bred courteous
knight, appeared and saluted him with apologies for his detention and
all these precautions, saying that the orders were to keep a close
guard and to hinder all communication from without, so that nothing
short of this letter would have obtained entrance for the bearer, whom
he further required to set down his name and designation in full.
Then, after asking how long the visitor wished to remain with the
prisoners--for Tichborne and Babington were quartered together--he
called a warder and committed Mr. Talbot to his guidance, to remain for
two hours locked up in the cell.
"Sir," added Sir Owen, "it is superfluous to tell you that on coming
out, you must either give me your word of honour that you convey
nothing from the prisoners, or else submit to be searched."
Richard smiled, and observed that men were wont to trust his word of
honour, to which the knight heartily replied that he was sure of it,
and he then followed the warder up stone stairs and along vaulted
passages, where the clang of their footsteps made his heart sink. The
prisoners were in the White Tower, the central body of the grim
building, and the warder, after unlocking the door, announced, with no
unnecessary rudeness, but rather as if he were glad of any comfort to
his charges, "Here, sirs, is a gentleman to visit you."
They had both risen at the sound of the key turning in the lock, and
Antony Babington's face lighted up as he exclaimed, "Mr. Talbot! I
knew you would come if it were possible."
"I come by my Lord's desire," replied Richard, the close wringing of
his hand expressing feeling to which he durst not give way in words.
He took in at the moment that the room, though stern and strong, was
not squalid. It was lighted fully by a window, iron-barred, but not
small, and according to custom, the prisoners had been permitted to
furnish, at their own expense, sufficient garniture for comfort, and as
both were wealthy men, they were fairly provided, and they were not
fettered. Both looked paler than when Richard had seen them in
Westminster Hall two days previously. Antony was as usual neatly
arrayed, with well-trimmed hair and beard, but Tichborne's hung
neglected, and there was a hollow, haggard look about his eyes, as if
of dismay at his approaching fate. Neither was, however, forgetful of
courtesy, and as Babington presented Mr. Talbot to his friend, the
greeting and welcome would have befitted the halls of Dethick or
"Sirs," said the young man, with a sad smile irradiating for a moment
the restless despair of his countenance, "it is not by choice that I am
an intruder on your privacy; I will abstract myself so far as is
"I have no secrets from my Chidiock," cried Babington.
"But Mr. Talbot may," replied his friend, "therefore I will only first
inquire whether he can tell us aught of the royal lady for whose sake
we suffer. They have asked us many questions, but answered none."
Richard was able to reply that after the seclusion at Tixall she had
been brought back to Chartley, and there was no difference in the
manner of her custody, moreover, that she had recovered from her attack
of illness, tidings he had just received in a letter from Humfrey. He
did not feel it needful to inflict a pang on the men who were to die in
two days' time by letting them know that she was to be immediately
brought to trial on the evidence extracted from them. On hearing that
her captivity was not straitened, both looked relieved, and Tichborne,
thanking him, lay down on his own bed, turned his face to the wall, and
drew the covering over his head.
"Ah!" sighed Babington, "is there no hope for him--he who has done
naught but guard too faithfully my unhappy secret? Is he to die for
his faith and honour?"
"Alas, Antony! I am forbidden to give thee hope for any. Of that we
must not speak. The time is short enough for what needs to be spoken."
"I knew that there was none for myself," said Antony, "but for those
whom--" There was a gesture from Tichborne as if he could not bear
this, and he went on, "Yea, there is a matter on which I must needs
speak to you, sir. The young lady--where is she?"--he spoke earnestly,
and lowering his voice as he bent his head.
"She is still at Chartley."
"That is well. But, sir, she must be guarded. I fear me there is one
who is aware of her parentage."
"The Scottish archer?"
"No, the truth."
"You knew it?"
"Not when I made my suit to her, or I should never have dared to lift
my eyes so far."
"I suppose your knowledge came from Langston," said Richard, more
perturbed than amazed at the disclosure.
"Even so. Yet I am not certain whether he knows or only guesses; but
at any rate be on your guard for her sake. He has proved himself so
unspeakable a villain that none can guess what he will do next. He--he
it is above all--yea, above even Gifford and Ballard, who has brought
us to this pass."
He was becoming fiercely agitated, but putting a force upon himself
said, "Have patience, good Mr. Talbot, of your kindness, and I will
tell you all, that you may understand the coilings of the serpent who
led me hither, and if possible save her from them."
Antony then explained that so soon as he had become his own master he
had followed the inclinations which led him to the church of his mother
and of Queen Mary, the two beings he had always regarded with the most
fervent affection and love. His mother's kindred had brought him in
contact with the Roman Catholic priests who circulated in England, at
the utmost peril of their lives, to keep up the faith of the gentry,
and in many cases to intrigue for Queen Mary. Among these plotters he
fell in with Cuthbert Langston, a Jesuit of the third order, though not
a priest, and one of the most active agents in corresponding with Queen
Mary. His small stature, colourless complexion, and insignificant
features, rendered him almost a blank block, capable of assuming any
variety of disguise. He also knew several languages, could imitate
different dialects, and counterfeit male and female voices so that very
few could detect him. He had soon made himself known to Babington as
the huckster Tibbott of days gone by, and had then disclosed to him
that Cicely was certainly not the daughter of her supposed parents,
telling of her rescue from the wreck, and hinting that her rank was
exalted, and that he knew secrets respecting her which he was about to
make known to the Queen of Scots. With this purpose among others,
Langston had adopted the disguise of the woman selling spars with the
password "Beads and Bracelets," and being well known as an agent of
correspondence to the suite of the captive Queen, he had been able to
direct Gorion's attention to the maiden, and to let him know that she
was the same with the infant who had been put on board the Bride of
Dunbar at Dunbar.
How much more did Langston guess? He had told Babington the story
current among the outer circle of Mary's followers of the maiden being
the daughter of the Scotch archer, and had taught him her true name,
encouraging too, his aspirations towards her during the time of his
courtship. Babington believed Langston to have been at that time still
a sincere partizan of Queen Mary, but all along to have entertained a
suspicion that there was a closer relationship between Bride Hepburn
and the Queen than was avowed, though to Babington himself he had only
given mysterious hints.
But towards the end of the captivity at Tutbury, he had made some
further discovery, which confirmed his suspicions, and had led to
another attempt to accost Cicely, and to make the Queen aware of his
knowledge, perhaps in order to verify it, or it might be to gain power
over her, a reward for the introduction, or to extort bribes to
secrecy. For looking back, Antony could now perceive that by this time
a certain greed of lucre had set in upon the man, who had obtained
large sums of secret service money from himself; and avarice, together
with the rebuff he had received from the Queen, had doubtless rendered
him accessible to the temptations of the arch-plotters Gifford and
Morgan. Richard could believe this, for the knowledge had been forced
on him that there were an incredible number of intriguers at that time,
spies and conspirators, often in the pay of both parties, impartially
betraying the one to the other, and sometimes, through miscalculation,
meeting the fate they richly deserved. Many a man who had begun
enthusiastically to work in underground ways for what he thought the
righteous cause, became so enamoured of the undermining process, and
the gold there to be picked up, that from a wrong-headed partizan he
became a traitor--often a double-faced one--and would work secretly in
the interest of whichever cause would pay him best.
Poor Babington had been far too youthfully simple to guess what he now
perceived, that he had been made the mere tool and instrument of these
traitors. He had been instructed in Gifford's arrangement with the
Burton brewer for conveying letters to Mary at Chartley, and had been
made the means of informing her of it by means of his interview with
Cicely, when he had brought the letter in the watch. The letter had
been conveyed to him by Langston, the watch had been his own device.
It was after this meeting, of which Richard now heard for the first
time, that Langston had fully told his belief respecting the true birth
of Bride Hepburn, and assured Babington that there was no hope of his
wedding her, though the Queen might allow him to delude himself with
the idea of her favour in order to bind him to her service.
It was then that Babington consented to Lady Shrewsbury's new match
with the well-endowed Eleanor Ratcliffe. If he could not have Cicely,
he cared not whom he had. He had been leading a wild and extravagant
life about town, when (as poor Tichborne afterwards said on the
scaffold) the flourishing estate of Babington and Tichborne was the
talk of Fleet Street and the Strand, and he had also many calls for
secret service money, so that all his thought was to have more to spend
in the service of Queen Mary and her daughter.
"Oh, sir! I have been as one distraught all this past year," he said.
"How often since I have been shut up here, and I have seen how I have
been duped and gulled, have your words come back to me, that to enter
on crooked ways was the way to destruction for myself and others, and
that I might only be serving worse men than myself! And yet they were
priests who misled me!"
"Even in your own religion there are many priests who would withhold
you from such crimes," said Richard.
"There are! I know it! I have spoken with them. They say no priest
can put aside the eternal laws of God's justice. So these others,
Chidiock here, Donne and Salisbury, always cried out against the
slaying of the Queen, though--wretch that I was--and gulled by Ballard
and Savage, I deemed the exploit so noble and praiseworthy that I even
joined Tichborne with me in that accursed portraiture! Yea, you may
well deem me mad, but it was Gifford who encouraged me in having it
made, no doubt to assure our ruin. Oh, Mr. Talbot! was ever man so
cruelly deceived as me?"
"It is only too true, Antony. My heart is full of rage and indignation
when I think thereof. And yet, my poor lad, what concerns thee most is
to lay aside all such thoughts as may not tend to repentance before
"I know it, I know it, sir. All the more that we shall die without the
last sacraments. Commend us to the prayers of our Queen, sir, and of
her. But to proceed with what imports you to know for her sake, while
I have space to speak."
He proceeded to tell how, between dissipation and intrigue, he had
lived in a perpetual state of excitement, going backwards and forwards
between London and Lichfield to attend to the correspondence with Queen
Mary and the Spanish ambassador in France, and to arrange the details
of the plot; always being worked up to the highest pitch by Gifford and
Ballard, while Langston continued to be the great assistant in all the
correspondence. All the time Sir Francis Walsingham, who was really
aware of all, if not the prime mover in the intrigue, appeared
perfectly unsuspicious; often received Babington at his house, and
discussed a plan of sending him on a commission to France, while in
point of fact every letter that travelled in the Burton barrels was
deciphered by Phillipps, and laid before the Secretary before being
read by the proper owners. In none of these, however, as Babington
could assure Mr. Talbot, had Cicely been mentioned,--the only danger to
her was through Langston.
Things had come to a climax in July, when Babington had been urged to
obtain from Mary such definite approbation of his plans as might
satisfy his confederates, and had in consequence written the letter and
obtained the answer, copies of which had been read to him at his
private examination, and which certainly contained fatal matter to both
him and the Queen.
They had no doubt been called forth with that intent, and a doubt had
begun to arise in the victim's mind whether the last reply had been
really the Queen's own. It had been delivered to him in the street,
not by the usual channel, but by a blue-coated serving-man. Two or
three days later Humfrey had told him of Langston's interview with
Walsingham, which he had at the time laughed to scorn, thinking himself
able to penetrate any disguise of that Proteus, and likewise believing
that he was blinding Walsingham.
He first took alarm a few days after Humfrey's departure, and wrote to
Queen Mary to warn her, convinced that the traitor must be Langston.
Ballard became himself suspected, and after lurking about in various
disguises was arrested in Babington's own lodgings. To disarm
suspicion, Antony went to Walsingham to talk about the French Mission,
and tried to resume his usual habits, but in a tavern, he became aware
that Langston, under some fresh shape, was watching him, and hastily
throwing down the reckoning, he fled without his cloak or sword to
Gage's house at Westminster, where he took horse, hid himself in St.
John's Wood, and finally was taken, half starved, in an outhouse at
Harrow, belonging to a farmer, whose mercy involved him in the like
This was the substance of the story told by the unfortunate young man
to Richard Talbot, whom he owned as the best and wisest friend he had
ever had--going back to the warnings twice given, that no cause is
served by departing from the right; no kingdom safely won by
worshipping the devil: "And sure I did worship him when I let myself be
led by Gifford," he said.
His chief anxiety was not for his wife and her child, who he said would
be well taken care of by the Ratcliffe family, and who, alas! had never
won his heart. In fact he was relieved that he was not permitted to
see the young thing, even had she wished it; it could do no good to
either of them, though he had written a letter, which she was to
deliver, for the Queen, commending her to her Majesty's mercy.
His love had been for Cicely, and even that had never been, as Richard
saw, such purifying, restraining, self-sacrificing affection as was
Humfrey's. It was half romance, half a sort of offshoot from his one
great and absorbing passion of devotion to the Queen of Scots, which
was still as strong as ever. He entrusted Richard with his humblest
commendations to her, and strove to rest in the belief that as many a
conspirator before--such as Norfolk, Throckmorton, Parry--had perished
on her behalf while she remained untouched, that so it might again be,
since surely, if she were to be tried, he would have been kept alive as
a witness. The peculiar custom of the time in State prosecutions of
hanging the witnesses before the trial had not occurred to him.
But how would it be with Cicely? "Is what this fellow guessed the very
truth?" he asked.
Richard made a sign of affirmation, saying, "Is it only a guess on his
Babington believed the man stopped short of absolute certainty, though
he had declared himself to have reason to believe that a child must
have been born to the captive queen at Lochleven; and if so, where else
could she be? Was he waiting for clear proof to make the secret known
to the Council? Did he intend to make profit of it and obtain in the
poor girl a subject for further intrigue? Was he withheld by
consideration for Richard Talbot, for whom Babington declared that if
such a villain could be believed in any respect, he had much family
regard and deep gratitude, since Richard had stood his friend when all
his family had cast him off in much resentment at his change of purpose
At any rate he had in his power Cicely's welfare and liberty, if not
the lives of her adopted parents, since in the present juncture of
affairs, and of universal suspicion, the concealment of the existence
of one who stood so near the throne might easily be represented as high
treason. Where was he?
No one knew. For appearance sake, Gifford had fled beyond seas,
happily only to fall into a prison of the Duke of Guise: and they must
hope that Langston might have followed the same course. Meantime,
Richard could but go on as before, Cicely being now in her own mother's
hands. The avowal of her identity must remain for the present as might
be determined by her who had the right to decide.
"I would I could feel hope for any I leave behind me," said poor
Antony. "I trow you will not bear the maiden my message, for you will
deem it a sin that I have loved her, and only her, to the last, though
I have been false to that love as to all else beside. Tell Humfrey how
I long that I had been like him, though he too must love on without
He sent warm greetings to good Mistress Susan Talbot and craved her
prayers. He had one other care, namely to commend to Mr. Talbot an old
body servant, Harry Gillingham by name, who had attended on him in his
boyhood at Sheffield, and had been with him all his life, being
admitted even now, under supervision from the warders, to wait on him
when dressing and at his meals. The poor man was broken-hearted, and
so near desperation that his master wished much to get him out of
London before the execution. So, as Mr. Talbot meant to sail for Hull
by the next day's tide in the Mastiff, he promised to take the poor
fellow with him back to Bridgefield.
All this had taken much time. Antony did not seem disposed to go
farther into his own feelings in the brief space that remained, but he
took up a paper from the table, and indicating Tichborne, who still
affected sleep, he asked whether it was fit that a man, who could write
thus, should die for a plot against which he had always protested.
Richard read these touching lines:--
My prime of youth is but a frost of care,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my goods is but vain hope of gain.
The day is fled, and yet I saw no sun;
And now I live, and now my life is done.
My spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung;
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green;
My youth is past, and yet I am but young;
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen.
My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun;
And now I live, and now my life is done.
I sought for death, and found it in the wombe;
I lookt for life, and yet it was a shade;
I trode the ground, and knew it was my tombe,
And now I dye, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and yet my glass is run;
And now I live, and now my life is done.
Little used to poetry, these lines made the good man's eyes fill with
tears as he looked at the two goodly young men about to be cut off so
early--one indeed guilty, but the victim of an iniquitous act of
He asked if Mr. Tichborne wished to entrust to him aught that could be
done by word of mouth, and a few commissions were given to him. Then
Antony bethought him of thanks to Lord and Lady Shrewsbury for all they
had done for him, and above all for sending Mr. Talbot; and a message
to ask pardon for having so belied the loyal education they had given
him. The divided religion of the country had been his bane: his
mother's charge secretly to follow her faith had been the beginning,
and then had followed the charms of stratagem on behalf of Queen Mary.
Perhaps, after all, his death, as a repentant man still single minded,
saved him from lapsing into the double vileness of the veteran
intriguers whose prey he had been.
"I commend me to the Mercy Master Who sees my heart," he said.
Herewith the warder returned, and at his request summoned Gillingham, a
sturdy grizzled fellow, looking grim with grief. Babington told him of
the arrangement made, and that he was to leave London early in the
morning with Mr. Talbot, but the man immediately dropped on his knees
and swore a solemn oath that nothing should induce him to leave the
place while his master breathed.
"Thou foolish knave," said Antony, "thou canst do me no good, and wilt
but make thyself a more piteous wretch than thou art already. Why, 'tis
for love of thee that I would have thee spared the sight."
"Am I a babe to be spared?" growled the man. And all that he could be
induced to promise was that he would repair to Bridgefield as soon as
all was over--"Unless," said he, "I meet one of those accursed rogues,
and then a halter would be sweet, if I had first had my will of them."
"Hush, Harry, or Master Warder will be locking thee up next," said
And then came the farewell. It was at last a long, speechless,
sorrowful embrace; and then Antony, slipping from it to his knees,
said--"Bless me! Oh bless me: thou who hast been mine only true
friend. Bless me as a father!"
"May God in Heaven bless thee!" said Richard, solemnly laying his hand
on his head. "May He, Who knoweth how thou hast been led astray,
pardon thee! May He, Who hath felt the agonies and shame of the Cross,
redeem thee, and suffer thee not for any pains of death to fall from
He was glad to hear afterwards, when broken-hearted Gillingham joined
him, that the last words heard from Antony Babington's lips
were--"Parce mihi, Domine JESU!"