During that close imprisonment at Tixall Cicely learnt to know her
mother both in her strength and weakness. They were quite alone;
except that Sir Walter Ashton daily came to perform the office of
taster and carver at their meals, and on the first evening his wife
dragged herself upstairs to superintend the arrangement of their
bedroom, and to supply them with toilette requisites according to her
own very limited not
ons and possessions. The Dame was a very homely,
hard-featured lady, deaf, and extremely fat and heavy, one of the old
uncultivated rustic gentry who had lagged far behind the general
civilisation of the country, and regarded all refinements as effeminate
French vanities. She believed, likewise, all that was said against
Queen Mary, whom she looked on as barely restrained from plunging a
dagger into Elizabeth's heart, and letting Parma's hell-hounds loose
upon Tixall. To have such a guest imposed on her was no small
grievance, and nothing but her husband's absolute mandate could have
induced her to come up with the maids who brought sheets for the bed,
pillows, and the like needments. Mary tried to make her requests as
moderate as necessity would permit; but when they had been shouted into
her ears by one of the maids, she shook her head at most of them, as
articles unknown to her. Nor did she ever appear again. The
arrangement of the bed-chamber was performed by two maidservants, the
Knight himself meanwhile standing a grim sentinel over the two ladies
in the outer apartment to hinder their holding any communication
through the servants. All requests had to be made to him, and on the
first morning Mary made a most urgent one for writing materials, books,
and either needlework or spinning.
Pen and ink had been expressly forbidden, the only book in the house
was a thumbed and torn primer, but Dame Joan, after much grumbling at
fine ladies' whims, vouchsafed to send up a distaff, some wool, a piece
of unbleached linen, and a skein of white thread.
Queen Mary executed therewith an exquisite piece of embroidery, which
having escaped Dame Joan's first impulse to burn it on the spot,
remained for many years the show and the wonder of Tixall. Save for
this employment, she said she should have gone mad in her utter
uncertainty about her own fate, or that of those involved with her. To
ask questions of Ashton was like asking them of a post. He would give
her no notion whether her servants were at Chartley or not, whether
they were at large or in confinement, far less as to who was accused of
the plot, and what had been discovered. All that could be said for him
was that his churlishness was passive and according to his ideas of
duty. He was a very reluctant and uncomfortable jailer, but he never
insulted, nor wilfully ill-used his unfortunate captive.
Thus Mary was left to dwell on the little she knew, namely, that
Babington and his fellows were arrested, and that she was supposed to
be implicated; but there her knowledge ceased, except that Humfrey's
warning convinced her that Cuthbert Langston had been at least one of
the traitors. He had no doubt been offended and disappointed at that
meeting during the hawking at Tutbury.
"Yet I need scarcely seek the why or the wherefore," she said. "I have
spent my life in a world of treachery. No sooner do I take a step on
ground that seems ever so firm, than it proves a quicksand. They will
swallow me at last."
Daily--more than daily--did she and Cicely go over together that
hurried conversation on the moor, and try to guess whether Langston
intended to hint at Cicely's real birth. He had certainly not
disclosed her secret as yet, or Paulett would never have selected her
as sprung of a loyal house, but he might guess at the truth, and be
waiting for an opportunity to sell it dearly to those who would regard
her as possessed of dangerous pretensions.
And far more anxiously did the Queen recur to examining Cicely on what
she had gathered from Humfrey. This was in fact nothing, for he had
been on his guard against either telling or hearing anything
inconsistent with loyalty to the English Queen, and thus had avoided
conversation on these subjects.
Nor did the Queen communicate much. Cicely never understood clearly
what she dreaded, what she expected to be found among her papers, or
what had been in the packet thrown into the well. The girl did not
dare to ask direct questions, and the Queen always turned off indirect
inquiries, or else assured her that she was still a simple happy child,
and that it was better for her own sake that she should know nothing,
then caressed her, and fondly pitied her for not being admitted to her
mother's confidence, but said piteously that she knew not what the
secrets of Queens and captives were, not like those of Mistress Susan
about the goose to be dressed, or the crimson hose to be knitted for a
surprise to her good husband.
But Cicely could see that she expected the worst, and believed in a set
purpose to shed her blood, and she spent much time in devotion, though
sorely distressed by the absence of all those appliances which her
Church had taught her to rest upon. And these prayers, which often
began with floods of tears, so that Cicely drew away into the window
with her distaff in order not to seem to watch them, ended with
rendering her serene and calm, with a look of high resignation, as
having offered herself as a sacrifice and martyr for her Church.
And yet was it wholly as a Roman Catholic that she had been hated,
intrigued against, and deposed in her own kingdom? Was it simply as a
Roman Catholic that she was, as she said, the subject of a more cruel
plot than that of which she was accused?
Mysterious woman that she was, she was never more mysterious than to
her daughter in those seventeen days that they were shut up together!
It did not so much strike Cicely at the time, when she was carried
along with all her mother's impulses and emotions, without reflecting
on them, but when in after times she thought over all that then had
passed, she felt how little she had understood.
They suffered a good deal from the heat and closeness of the rooms, for
Mary was like a modern Englishwoman in her craving for free air, and
these were the dog-days. They had contrived by the help of a diamond
that the Queen carried about with her, after the fashion of the time,
to extract a pane or two from the lattices so ingeniously that the
master of the house never found it out. And as their two apartments
looked out different ways, they avoided the full sunshine, for they had
neither curtains nor blinds to their windows, by moving from one to the
other; but still the closeness was very oppressive, and in the heat of
the day, just after dinner, they could do nothing but lie on the table,
while the Queen told stories of her old life in France, till sometimes
they both went to sleep. Most of her dainty needlework was done in the
long light mornings, for she hardly slept at all in the hot nights.
Cis scarcely saw her in bed, for she prayed long after the maiden had
fallen asleep, and was up with the light and embroidering by the window.
She only now began to urge Cicely to believe as she did, and to join
her Church, taking blame to herself for never having attempted it more
seriously. She told of the oneness and the glory of Roman Catholicism
as she had seen it in France, held out its promises and professions,
and dwelt on the comfort of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and
the Saints; assuring Cicely that there was nothing but sacrilege,
confusion, and cruelty on the other side.
Sometimes the maiden was much moved by the tender manner and persuasive
words, and she really had so much affection and admiration for her
mother as to be willing to do all that she wished, and to believe her
the ablest and most clear-sighted of human beings; but whenever Mary
was not actually talking to her, there was a curious swaying back of
the pendulum in her mind to the conviction that what Master Richard and
Mistress Susan believed must be the right thing, that led to
trustworthy goodness. She had an enthusiastic love for the Queen, but
her faith and trust were in them and in Humfrey, and she could see
religious matters from their point of view better than from that of her
So, though the Queen often felt herself carrying her daughter along,
she always found that there had been a slipping back to the old
standpoint every time she began again. She was considering with some
anxiety of the young maiden's future.
"Could I but send thee to my good sister, the Duchess of Lorraine, she
would see thee well and royally married," she said. "Then couldst thou
be known by thine own name, and rank as Princess of Scotland. If I can
only see my Courcelles again, she would take thee safely and prove
all--and thy hand will be precious to many. It may yet bring back the
true faith to England, when my brave cousin of Guise has put down the
Bearnese, and when the poor stumbling-block here is taken away."
"Oh speak not of that, dear madam, my mother."
"I must speak, child. I must think how it will be with thee, so
marvellously saved, and restored to be my comfort. I must provide for
thy safety and honour. Happily the saints guarded me from ever
mentioning thee in my letters, so that there is no fear that Elizabeth
should lay hands on thee, unless Langston should have spoken--the which
can hardly be. But if all be broken up here, I must find thee a
dwelling with my kindred worthy of thy birth."
"Mr. and Mrs. Talbot would take me home," murmured Cicely.
"Girl! After all the training I have bestowed on thee, is it possible
that thou wouldst fain go back to make cheeses and brew small beer with
those Yorkshire boors, rather than reign a princess? I thought thy
heart was nobler."
Cicely hung her head ashamed. "I was very happy there," she said in
"Happy--ay, with the milkmaid's bliss. There may be fewer sorrows in
such a life as that--just as those comely kine of Ashton's that I see
grazing in the park have fewer sorrows than human creatures. But what
know they of our joys, or what know the commonalty of the joy of
ruling, calling brave men one's own, riding before one's men in the
field, wielding counsels of State, winning the love of thousands? Nay,
nay, I will not believe it of my child, unless 'tis the base Border
blood that is in her which speaks."
Cicely was somewhat overborne by being thus accused of meanness of
tastes, when she had heard the Queen talk enviously of that same homely
life which now she despised so heartily. She faltered in excuse,
"Methought, madam, you would be glad to think there was one loving
shelter ever open to me."
"Loving! Ah! I see what it is," said the Queen, in a tone of disgust.
"It is the sailor loon that has overthrown it all. A couple of walks
in the garden with him, and the silly maid is ready to throw over all
"Madam, he spoke no such word to me."
"'Twas the infection, child--only the infection."
"Madam, I pray you--"
"Whist, child. Thou wilt be a perilous bride for any commoner, and let
that thought, if no other, keep thee from lowering thine eyes to such
as he. Were I and thy brother taken out of the way, none would stand
between thee and both thrones! What would English or Scots say to find
thee a household Joan, wedded to one of Drake's rude pirate fellows? I
tell thee it would be the worse for him. They have made it treason to
wed royal blood without Elizabeth's consent. No, no, for his sake, as
well as thine own, thou must promise me never thus to debase thy royal
"Mother; neither he nor I have thought or spoken of such a matter since
we knew how it was with me.
"And you give me your word?"
"Yea, madam," said Cicely, who had really never entertained the idea of
marrying Humfrey, implicit as was her trust in him as a brother and
"That is well. And so soon as I am restored to my poor servants, if I
ever am, I will take measures for sending the French remnant to their
own land; nor shall my Courcelles quit thee till she hath seen thee
safe in the keeping of Madame de Lorraine or of Queen Louise, who is
herself a kinswoman of ours, and, they say, is piety and gentleness
"As you will, madam," said Cicely, her heart sinking at the thought of
the strange new world before her, but perceiving that she must not be
the means of bringing Humfrey into trouble and danger.
Perhaps she felt this the more from seeing how acutely her mother
suffered at times from sorrow for those involved in her disaster. She
gave Babington and his companions, as well as Nau and Curll, up for
lost, as the natural consequence of having befriended her; and she
blamed herself remorsefully, after the long experience of the fatal
consequences of meddling in her affairs, for having entered into
correspondence with the bright enthusiastic boy whom she remembered,
and having lured him without doubt to his death.
"Alack! alack!" she said, "and yet such is liberty, that I should
forget all I have gone through, and do the like again, if the door
seemed opened to me. At least there is this comfort, cruel child, thy
little heart was not set on him, gracious and handsome though he
were--and thy mother's most devoted knight! Ah! poor youth, it wrings
my soul to think of him. But at least he is a Catholic, his soul will
be safe, and I will have hundreds of masses sung for him. Oh that I
knew how it goes with them! This torture of silent suspense is the
most cruel of all."
Mary paced the room with impatient misery, and in such a round the
weary hours dragged by, only mitigated by one welcome thunderstorm, for
seventeen days, whose summer length made them seem the more endless.
Cicely, who had never before in her life been shut up in the house so
many hours, was pale, listless, and even fretful towards the Queen, who
bore with her petulance so tenderly as more than once to make her weep
bitterly for very shame. After one of these fits of tears, Mary
pleaded earnestly with Sir Walter Ashton for permission for the maiden
to take a turn in the garden every day, but though the good gentleman's
complexion bore testimony that he lived in the fresh air, he did not
believe in its efficacy; he said he had no orders, and could do nothing
without warrant. But that evening at supper, the serving-maid brought
up a large brew of herbs, dark and nauseous, which Dame Ashton had sent
as good for the young lady's megrim.
"Will you taste it, sir?" asked the Queen of Sir Walter, with a revival
of her lively humour.
"The foul fiend have me if a drop comes within my lips," muttered the
knight. "I am not bound to taste for a tirewoman!" he added, leaving
it in doubt whether his objection arose from distaste to his lady's
messes, or from pride; and he presently said, perhaps half-ashamed of
himself, and willing to cast the blame on the other side,
"It was kindly meant of my good dame, and if you choose to flout at,
rather than benefit by it, that is no affair of mine."
He left the potion, and Cicely disposed of it by small instalments at
the windows; and a laugh over the evident horror it excited in the
master, did the captives at least as much good as the camomile,
centaury, wormwood, and other ingredients of the bowl.
Happily it was only two days later that Sir Walter announced that his
custody of the Queen was over, and Sir Amias Paulett was come for her.
There was little preparation to make, for the two ladies had worn their
riding-dresses all the time; but on reaching the great door, where Sir
Amias, attended by Humfrey, was awaiting them, they were astonished to
see a whole troop on horseback, all armed with head-pieces, swords and
pistols, to the number of a hundred and forty.
"Wherefore is this little army raised?" she asked.
"It is by order of the Queen," replied Ashton, with his accustomed
surly manner, "and need enough in the time of such treasons!"
The Queen turned to him with tears on her cheeks. "Good gentlemen,"
she said, "I am not witting of anything against the Queen. Am I to be
taken to the Tower?"
"No, madam, back to Chartley," replied Sir Amias.
"I knew they would never let me see my cousin," sighed the Queen.
"Sir," as Paulett placed her on her horse, "of your pity tell me
whether I shall find all my poor servants there."
"Yea, madam, save Mr. Nau and Mr. Curll, who are answering for
themselves and for you. Moreover, Curll's wife was delivered two days
This intelligence filled Mary with more anxiety than she chose to
manifest to her unsympathising surroundings; Cis meanwhile had been
assisted to mount by Humfrey, who told her that Mrs. Curll was thought
to be doing well, but that there were fears for the babe. It was
impossible to exchange many words, for they were immediately behind the
Queen and her two warders, and Humfrey could only tell her that his
father had been at Chartley, and had gone on to London; but there was
inexpressible relief in hearing the sound of his voice, and knowing she
had some one to think for her and protect her. The promise she had
made to the Queen only seemed to make him more entirely her brother by
putting that other love out of the question.
There was a sad sight at the gate,--a whole multitude of
wretched-looking beggars, and poor of all ages and degrees of misery,
who all held out their hands and raised one cry of "Alms, alms,
gracious Lady, alms, for the love of heaven!"
Mary looked round on them with tearful eyes, and exclaimed, "Alack,
good folk, I have nothing to give you! I am as much a beggar as
The escort dispersed them roughly, Paulett assuring her that they were
nothing but "a sort of idle folk," who were only encouraged in laziness
by her bounty, which was very possibly true of a certain proportion of
them, but it had been a sore grief to her that since Cuthbert
Langston's last approach in disguise she had been prevented from giving
In due time Chartley was reached, and the first thing the Queen did on
dismounting was to hurry to visit poor Barbara Curll, who had--on her
increasing illness--been removed to one of the guest-chambers, where
the Queen now found her, still in much distress about her husband, who
was in close imprisonment in Walsingham's house, and had not been
allowed to send her any kind of message; and in still more immediate
anxiety about her new-born infant, who did not look at all as if its
little life would last many hours.
She lifted up her languid eyelids, and scarcely smiled when the Queen
declared, "See, Barbara, I am come back again to you, to nurse you and
my god-daughter into health to receive your husband again. Nay, have
no fears for him. They cannot hurt him. He has done nothing, and is a
Scottish subject beside. My son shall write to claim him," she
declared with such an assumed air of confidence that a shade of hope
crossed the pale face, and the fear for her child became the more
pressing of the two griefs.
"We will christen her at once," said Mary, turning to the nearest
attendant. "Bear a request from me to Sir Amias that his chaplain may
come at once and baptize my god-child."
Sir Amias was waiting in the gallery in very ill-humour at the Queen's
delay, which kept his supper waiting. Moreover, his party had a strong
dislike to private baptism, holding that the important point was the
public covenant made by responsible persons, and the notion of the
sponsorship of a Roman Catholic likewise shocked him. So he made
ungracious answer that he would have no baptism save in church before
the congregation, with true Protestant gossips.
"So saith he?" exclaimed Mary, when the reply was reported to her.
"Nay, my poor little one, thou shalt not be shut out of the Kingdom of
Heaven for his churlishness." And taking the infant on her knee, she
dipped her hand in the bowl of water that had been prepared for the
chaplain, and baptized it by her own name of Mary.
The existing Prayer-book had been made expressly to forbid lay baptism
and baptism by women, at the special desire of the reformers, and Sir
Amias was proportionately horrified, and told her it was an offence for
the Archbishop's court.
"Very like," said Mary. "Your Protestant courts love to slay both body
and soul. Will it please you to open my own chambers to me, sir?"
Sir Amias handed the key to one of her servants but she motioned him
"Those who put me forth must admit me," she said.
The door was opened by one of the gentlemen of the household, and they
entered. Every repository had been ransacked, every cabinet stood open
and empty, every drawer had been pulled out. Wearing apparel and the
like remained, but even this showed signs of having been tossed over
and roughly rearranged by masculine fingers.
Mary stood in the midst of the room, which had a strange air of
desolation, an angry light in her eyes, and her hands clasped tightly
one into the other. Paulett attempted some expression of regret for
the disarray, pleading his orders.
"It needs not excuse, sir," said Mary, "I understand to whom I owe this
insult. There are two things that your Queen can never take from
me--royal blood and the Catholic faith. One day some of you will be
sorry for what you have now put upon me! I would be alone, sir," and
she proudly motioned him to the door, with a haughty gesture, showing
her still fully Queen in her own apartments. Paulett obeyed, and when
he was gone, the Queen seemed to abandon the command over herself she
had preserved all this time. She threw herself into Jean Kennedy's
arms, and wept freely and piteously, while the good lady, rejoicing at
heart to have recovered "her bairn," fondled and soothed her with soft
Scottish epithets, as though the worn woman had been a child again.
"Yea, nurse, mine own nurse, I am come back to thee; for a little
while--only a little while, nurse, for they will have my blood, and oh!
I would it were ended, for I am aweary of it all."
Jean and Elizabeth Curll tried to cheer and console her, alarmed at
this unwonted depression, but she only said, "Get me to bed, nurse, I
am sair forfaughten."
She was altogether broken down by the long suspense, the hardships and
the imprisonment she had undergone, and she kept her bed for several
days, hardly speaking, but apparently reposing in the relief afforded
by the recovered care and companionship of her much-loved attendants.
There she was when Paulett came to demand the keys of the caskets where
her treasure was kept. Melville had refused to yield them, and all the
Queen said was, "Robbery is to be added to the rest," a sentence which
greatly stung the knight, but he actually seized all the coin that he
found, including what belonged to Nau and Curll, and, only retaining
enough for present expenses, sent the rest off to London.