Most ViewedMary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity
Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France
An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots
Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death
The Little Waif
Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court
Least ViewedReturn To Scotland
The Bewitched Whistle
My Lady's Remorse
Hunting Down The Deer
Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity
Queen Mary's Presence Chamber
Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster
The Love Token
Before The Commissioners
Loch Leven Castle
The Peak Cavern
It was quite true that at this period Queen Mary had good hope of
liberation in the most satisfactory manner possible--short of being
hailed as English Queen. Negotiations were actually on foot with James
VI. and Elizabeth for her release. James had written to her with his
own hand, and she had for the first time consented to give him the
title of King of Scotland. The project of her reigning jointly with
him had been mooted, and each party was showing how enormous a
condescension it would be in his or her eyes! Thus there was no great
unlikelihood that there would be a recognition of the Lady Bride, and
that she would take her position as the daughter of a queen.
Therefore, when Mary contrived to speak to Master Richard Talbot and
his wife in private, she was able to thank them with gracious
condescension for the care they had bestowed in rearing her daughter,
much as if she had voluntarily entrusted the maiden to them, saying she
trusted to be in condition to reward them.
Mistress Susan's heart swelled high with pain, as though she had been
thanked for her care of Humfrey or Diccon, and her husband answered.
"We seek no reward, madam. The damsel herself, while she was ours, was
"And I must still entreat, that of your goodness you will let her
remain yours for a little longer," said Mary, with a touch of imperious
grace, "until this treaty is over, and I am free, it is better that she
continues to pass for your daughter. The child herself has sworn to me
by her great gods," said Mary, smiling with complimentary grace, "that
you will preserve her secret--nay, she becomes a little fury when I
express my fears lest you should have scruples."
"No, madam, this is no state secret; such as I might not with honour
conceal," returned Richard.
"There is true English sense!" exclaimed Mary. "I may then count on
your giving my daughter the protection of your name and your home until
I can reclaim her and place her in her true position. Yea, and if your
concealment should give offence, and bring you under any displeasure of
my good sister, those who have so saved and tended my daughter will
have the first claim to whatever I can give when restored to my
"We are much beholden for your Grace's favour," said Richard, somewhat
stiffly, "but I trust never to serve any land save mine own."
"Ah! there is your fierete," cried Mary. "Happy is my sister to have
subjects with such a point of honour. Happy is my child to have been
bred up by such parents!"
Richard bowed. It was all a man could do at such a speech, and Mary
further added, "She has told me to what bounds went your goodness to
her. It is well that you acted so prudently that the children's hearts
were not engaged; for, as we all know but too well royal blood should
have no heart."
"I am quite aware of it, madam," returned Richard, and there for the
time the conversation ended. The Queen had been most charming, full of
gratitude, and perfectly reasonable in her requests, and yet there was
some flaw in the gratification of both, even while neither thought the
disappointment would go very hard with their son. Richard could never
divest himself of the instinctive prejudice with which soft words
inspire men of his nature, and Susan's maternal heart was all in revolt
against the inevitable, not merely grieving over the wrench to her
affections, but full of forebodings and misgivings as to the future
welfare of her adopted child. Even if the brightest hopes should be
fulfilled; the destiny of a Scottish princess did not seem to Southern
eyes very brilliant at the best, and whether poor Bride Hepburn might
be owned as a princess at all was a doubtful matter, since, if her
father lived (and he had certainly been living in 1577 in Norway), both
the Queen and the Scottish people would be agreed in repudiating the
marriage. Any way, Susan saw every reason to fear for the happiness
and the religion alike of the child to whom she had given a mother's
love. Under her grave, self-contained placid demeanour, perhaps Dame
Susan was the most dejected of those at Buxton. The captive Queen had
her hopes of freedom and her newly found daughter, who was as yet only
a pleasure, and not an encumbrance to her, the Earl had been assured
that his wife's slanders had been forgotten. He was secure of his
sovereign's favour, and permitted to see the term of his weary
jailorship, and thus there was an unusual liveliness and cheerfulness
about the whole sojourn at Buxton, where, indeed, there was always more
or less of a holiday time.
To Cis herself, her nights were like a perpetual fairy tale, and so
indeed were all times when she was alone with the initiated, who were
indeed all those original members of her mother's suite who had known
of her birth at Lochleven, people who had kept too many perilous
secrets not to be safely entrusted with this one, and whose finished
habits of caution, in a moment, on the approach of a stranger, would
change their manner from the deferential courtesy due to their
princess, to the good-natured civility of court ladies to little Cicely
Dame Susan had been gratified at first by the young girl's sincere
assurances of unchanging affection and allegiance, and, in truth, Cis
had clung the most to her with the confidence of a whole life's
danghterhood, but as the days went on, and every caress and token of
affection imaginable was lavished upon the maiden, every splendid
augury held out to her of the future, and every story of the past
detailed the charms of Mary's court life in France, seen through the
vista of nearly twenty sadly contrasted years, it was in the very
nature of things that Cis should regard the time spent perforce with
Mistress Talbot much as a petted child views its return to the strict
nurse or governess from the delights of the drawing-room. She liked to
dazzle the homely housewife with the wonderful tales of French
gaieties, or the splendid castles in the air she had heard in the
Queen's rooms, but she resented the doubt and disapproval they
sometimes excited; she was petulant and fractious at any exercise of
authority from her foster-mother, and once or twice went near to betray
herself by lapsing into a tone towards her which would have brought
down severe personal chastisement on any real daughter even of
seventeen. It was well that the Countess and her sharp-eyed daughter
Mary were out of sight, as the sight of such "cockering of a malapert
maiden" would have led to interference that might have brought matters
to extremity. Yet, with all the forbearance thus exercised, Susan
could not but feel that the girl's love was being weaned from her; and,
after all, how could she complain, since it was by the true mother? If
only she could have hoped it was for the dear child's good, it would
not have been so hard! But the trial was a bitter one, and not even
her husband guessed how bitter it was.
The Queen meantime improved daily in health and vigour in the splendid
summer weather. The rheumatism had quitted her, and she daily rode and
played at Trowle Madame for hours after supper in the long bright July
evenings. Cis, whose shoulder was quite well, played with great
delight on the greensward, where one evening she made acquaintance with
a young esquire and his sisters from the neighbourhood, who had come
with their father to pay their respects to my Lord Earl, as the head of
all Hallamshire. The Earl, though it was not quite according to the
recent stricter rules, ventured to invite them to stay to sup with the
household, and afterwards they came out with the rest upon the lawn.
Cis was walking between the young lad and his sister, laughing and
talking with much animation, for she had not for some time enjoyed the
pleasure of free intercourse with any of her fellow-denizens in the
happy land of youth.
Dame Susan watched her with some uneasiness, and presently saw her
taking them where she herself was privileged to go, but strangers were
never permitted to approach, on the Trowle Madame sward reserved for
the Queen, on which she was even now entering.
"Cicely!" she called, but the young lady either did not or would not
hear, and she was obliged to walk hastily forward, meet the party, and
with courteous excuses turn them back from the forbidden ground. They
submitted at once, apologising, but Cis, with a red spot on her cheek,
cried, "The Queen would take no offence."
"That is not the matter in point, Cicely," said Dame Susan gravely.
"Master and Mistress Eyre understand that we are bound to obedience to
Master Eyre, a well-bred young gentleman, made reply that he well knew
that no discourtesy was intended, but Cis pouted and muttered,
evidently to the extreme amazement of Mistress Alice Eyre; and Dame
Susan, to divert her attention, began to ask about the length of their
ride, and the way to their home.
Cis's ill humour never lasted long, and she suddenly broke in, "O
mother, Master Eyre saith there is a marvellous cavern near his
father's house, all full of pendants from the roof like a minster, and
great sheeted tables and statues standing up, all grand and ghostly on
the floor, far better than in this Pool's Hole. He says his father
will have it lighted up if we will ride over and see it."
"We are much beholden to Master Eyre," said Susan, but Cis read refusal
in her tone, and began to urge her to consent.
"It must be as my husband wills," was the grave answer, and at the same
time, courteously, but very decidedly, she bade the strangers farewell,
and made her daughter do the same, though Cis was inclined to
resistance, and in a somewhat defiant tone added, "I shall not forget
your promise, sir. I long to see the cave."
"Child, child," entreated Susan, as soon as they were out of hearing,
"be on thy guard. Thou wilt betray thyself by such conduct towards me."
"But, mother, they did so long to see the Queen, and there would have
been no harm in it. They are well affected, and the young gentleman is
a friend of poor Master Babington."
"Nay, Cis, that is further cause that I should not let them pass
onward. I marvel not at thee, my maid, but thou and thy mother queen
must bear in mind that while thou passest for our daughter, and hast
trust placed in thee, thou must do nothing to forfeit it or bring thy
fa--, Master Richard I mean, into trouble."
"I meant no harm," said Cis; rather crossly.
"Thou didst not, but harm may be done by such as mean it the least."
"Only, mother, sweet mother," cried the girl, childlike, set upon her
pleasure, "I will be as good as can be. I will transgress in nought if
only thou wilt get my father to take me to see Master Eyre's cavern."
She was altogether the home daughter again in her eagerness, entreating
and promising by turns with the eager curiosity of a young girl bent on
an expedition, but Richard was not to be prevailed on. He had little or
no acquaintance with the Eyre family, and to let them go to the cost
and trouble of lighting up the cavern for the young lady's amusement
would be like the encouragement of a possible suit, which would have
been a most inconvenient matter. Richard did not believe the young
gentleman had warrant from his father in giving this invitation, and if
he had, that was the more reason for declining it. The Eyres, then
holding the royal castle of the Peak, were suspected of being secretly
Roman Catholics, and though the Earl could not avoid hospitably bidding
them to supper, the less any Talbot had to do with them the better, and
for the present Cis must be contented to be reckoned as one.
So she had to put up with her disappointment, and she did not do so
with as good a grace as she would have shown a year ago. Nay, she
carried it to Queen Mary, who at night heard her gorgeous description
of the wonders of the cavern, which grew in her estimation in
proportion to the difficulty of seeing them, and sympathised with her
disappointment at the denial.
"Nay, thou shalt not be balked," said Mary, with the old queenly habit
of having her own way. "Prisoner as I am, I will accomplish this. My
daughter shall have her wish."
So on the ensuing morning, when the Earl came to pay his respects, Mary
assailed him with, "There is a marvellous cavern in these parts, my
Lord, of which I hear great wonders."
"Does your grace mean Pool's Hole?"
"Nay, nay, my Lord. Have I not been conducted through it by Dr. Jones,
and there writ my name for his delectation? This is, I hear, as a
palace compared therewith."
"The Peak Cavern, Madam!" said Lord Shrewsbury, with the distaste of
middle age for underground expeditions, "is four leagues hence, and a
dark, damp, doleful den, most noxious for your Grace's rheumatism."
"Have you ever seen it, my Lord?"
"No, verily," returned his lordship with a shudder.
"Then you will be edified yourself, my Lord, if you will do me the
grace to escort me thither," said Mary, with the imperious suavity she
well knew how to adopt.
"Madam, madam," cried the unfortunate Earl, "do but consult your
physicians. They will tell you that all the benefits of the Buxton
waters will be annulled by an hour in yonder subterranean hole."
"I have heard of it from several of my suite," replied Mary, "and they
tell me that the work of nature on the lime-droppings is so marvellous
that I shall not rest without a sight of it. Many have been instant
with me to go and behold the wondrous place."
This was not untrue, but she had never thought of gratifying them in
her many previous visits to Buxton. The Earl found himself obliged
either to utter a harsh and unreasonable refusal, or to organise an
expedition which he personally disliked extremely, and moreover
distrusted, for he did not in the least believe that Queen Mary would
be so set upon gratifying her curiosity about stalactites without some
ulterior motive. He tried to set on Dr. Jones to persuade Messieurs
Gorion and Bourgoin, her medical attendants, that the cave would be
fatal to her rheumatism, but it so happened that the Peak Cavern was
Dr. Jones's favourite lion, the very pride of his heart. Pool's Hole
was dear to him, but the Peak Cave was far more precious, and the very
idea of the Queen of Scots honouring it with her presence, and leaving
behind her the flavour of her name, was so exhilarating to the little
man that if the place had been ten times more damp he would have
vouched for its salubrity. Moreover, he undertook that fumigations of
fragrant woods should remove all peril of noxious exhalations, so that
the Earl was obliged to give his orders that Mr. Eyre should be
requested to light up the cave, and heartily did he grumble and pour
forth his suspicions and annoyance to his cousin Richard.
"And I," said the good sailor, "felt it hard not to be able to tell him
that all was for the freak of a silly damsel."
Mistress Cicely laughed a little triumphantly. It was something like
being a Queen's daughter to have been the cause of making my Lord
himself bestir himself against his will. She had her own way, and
might well be good-humoured. "Come, dear sir father," she said, coming
up to him in a coaxing, patronising way, which once would have been
quite alien to them both, "be not angered. You know nobody means
treason! And, after all, 'tis not I but you that are the cause of all
the turmoil. If you would but have ridden soberly out with your poor
little Cis, there would have been no coil, but my Lord might have paced
stately and slow up and down the terrace-walk undisturbed."
"Ah, child, child!" said Susan, vexed, though her husband could not
help smiling at the arch drollery of the girl's tone and manner, "do
not thou learn light mockery of all that should be honoured."
"I am not bound to honour the Earl," said Cis, proudly.
"Hush, hush!" said Richard. "I have allowed thee unchecked too long,
maiden. Wert thou ten times what thou art, it would not give thee the
right to mock at the gray-haired, highly-trusted noble, the head of the
name thou dost bear."
"And the torment of her whom I am most bound to love," broke from
Richard's response to this sally was to rise up, make the young lady
the lowest possible reverence, with extreme and displeased gravity, and
then to quit the room. It brought the girl to her bearings at once.
"Oh, mother, mother, how have I displeased him?"
"I trow thou canst not help it, child," said Susan, sadly; "but it is
hard that thou shouldst bring home to us how thine heart and thine
obedience are parted from us."
The maiden was in a passion of tears at once, vowing that she meant no
such thing, that she loved and obeyed them as much as ever, and that if
only her father would forgive her she would never wish to go near the
cavern. She would beg the Queen to give up the plan at once, if only
Sir Richard would be her good father as before.
Susan looked at her sadly and tenderly, but smiled, and said that what
had been lightly begun could not now be dropped, and that she trusted
Cis would be happy in the day's enjoyment, and remember to behave
herself as a discreet maiden. "For truly," said she, "so far from
discretion being to be despised by Queen's daughters, the higher the
estate the greater the need thereof."
This little breeze did not prevent Cicely from setting off in high
spirits, as she rode near the Queen, who declared that she wanted to
enjoy through the merry maiden, and who was herself in a gay and
joyous mood, believing that the term of her captivity was in sight,
delighted with her daughter, exhilarated by the fresh breezes and rapid
motion, and so mirthful that she could not help teasing and bantering
the Earl a little, though all in the way of good-humoured grace.
The ride was long, about eight miles; but though the Peak Castle was a
royal one, the Earl preferred not to enter it, but, according to
previous arrangement, caused the company to dismount in the valley, or
rather ravine, which terminates in the cavern, where a repast was
spread on the grass. It was a wonderful place, cool and refreshing,
for the huge rocks on either side cast a deep shadow, seldom pierced by
the rays of the sun. Lofty, solemn, and rich in dark reds and purples,
rose the walls of rock, here and there softened by tapestry of ivy or
projecting bushes of sycamore, mountain ash, or with fruit already
assuming its brilliant tints, and jackdaws flying in and out of their
holes above. Deep beds of rich ferns clothed the lower slopes, and
sheets of that delicate flower, the enchanter's nightshade, reared its
white blossoms down to the bank of a little clear stream that came
flowing from out of the mighty yawning arch of the cavern, while above
the precipice rose sheer the keep of Peak Castle.
The banquet was gracefully arranged to suit the scene, and comprised,
besides more solid viands, large bowls of milk, with strawberries or
cranberries floating in them. Mr. Eyre, the keeper of the castle, and
his daughter did the honours, while his son superintended the lighting
and fumigation of the cavern, assisted, if not directed by Dr. Jones,
whose short black cloak and gold-headed cane were to be seen almost
everywhere at once.
Presently clouds of smoke began to issue from the vast archway that
closed the ravine. "Beware, my maidens," said the Queen, merrily, "we
have roused the dragon in his den, and we shall see him come forth
anon, curling his tail and belching flame."
"With a marvellous stomach for a dainty maiden or two," added Gilbert
Curll, falling into her humour.
"Hark! Good lack!" cried the Queen, with an affectation of terror, as
a most extraordinary noise proceeded from the bowels of the cavern,
making Cis start and Marie de Courcelles give a genuine shriek.
"Your Majesty is pleased to be merry," said the Earl, ponderously. "The
sound is only the coughing of the torchbearers from the damp whereof I
warned your Majesty."
"By my faith," said Mary, "I believe my Lord Earl himself fears the
monster of the cavern, to whom he gives the name of Damp. Dread
nothing, my Lord; the valorous knight Sir Jones is even now in conflict
with the foul worm, as those cries assure me, being in fact caused by
The jest was duly received, and in the midst of the laughter, young
Eyre came forward, bowing low, and holding his jewelled hat in his
hand, while his eyes betrayed that he had recently been sneezing
"So please your Majesty," he said, "the odour hath rolled away, and all
is ready if you will vouchsafe to accept my poor guidance."
"How say you, my Lord?" said Mary. "Will you dare the lair of the
conquered foe, or fear you to be pinched with aches and pains by his
lurking hobgoblins? If so, we dispense with your attendance."
"Your Majesty knows that where she goes thither I am bound to attend
her," said the rueful Earl.
"Even into the abyss!" said Mary. "Valiantly spoken, for have not
Ariosto and his fellows sung of captive princesses for whom every cave
held an enchanter who could spirit them away into vapour thin as air,
and leave their guardians questing in vain for them?"
"Your Majesty jests with edged tools," sighed the Earl.
Old Mr. Eyre was too feeble to act as exhibitor of the cave, and his
son was deputed to lead the Queen forward. This was, of course, Lord
Shrewsbury's privilege, but he was in truth beholden to her fingers for
aid, as she walked eagerly forward, now and then accepting a little
help from John Eyre, but in general sure-footed and exploring eagerly
by the light of the numerous torches held by yeomen in the Eyre livery,
one of whom was stationed wherever there was a dangerous pass or a
freak of nature worth studying.
The magnificent vaulted roof grew lower, and presently it became
necessary to descend a staircase, which led to a deep hollow chamber,
shaped like a bell, and echoing like one. A pool of intensely black
water filled it, reflecting the lights on its surface, that only
enhanced its darkness, while there moved on a mysterious flat-bottomed
boat, breaking them into shimmering sparks, and John Eyre intimated
that the visitors must lie down flat in it to be ferried one by one
over a space of about fourteen yards.
"Your Majesty will surely not attempt it," said the Earl, with a
"Wherefore not? It is but a foretaste of Charon's boat!" said Mary,
who was one of those people whose spirit of enterprise rises with the
occasion, and she murmured to Mary Seaton the line of Dante--
"Quando noi fermerem li nostri passi
Su la triate riviera a' Acheronte."
"Will your Majesty enter?" asked John Eyre. "Dr. Jones and some
gentlemen wait on the other side to receive you."
"Some gentlemen?" repeated Mary. "You are sure they are not Minos and
Rhadamanthus, sir? My obolus is ready; shall I put it in my mouth?"
"Nay, madam, pardon me," said the Earl, spurred by a miserable sense of
his duties; "since you will thus venture, far be it from me to let you
pass over until I have reached the other aide to see that it is fit for
"Even as you will, most devoted cavalier," said Mary, drawing back; "we
will be content to play the part of the pale ghosts of the unburied
dead a little longer. See, Mary, the boat sinks down with him and his
mortal flesh! We shall have Charon complaining of him anon."
"Your Highness gars my flesh grue," was the answer of her faithful Mary.
"Ah, ma mie! we have not left all hope behind. We can afford to smile
at the doleful knight, ferried o'er on his back, in duteous and loyal
submission to his task mistress. Child, Cicely, where art thou? Art
afraid to dare the black river?"
"No, madam, not with you on the other side, and my father to follow me."
"Well said. Let the maiden follow next after me. Or mayhap Master
Eyre should come next, then the young lady. For you, my ladies, and
you, good sirs, you are free to follow or not, as the fancy strikes
you. So--here is Charon once more--must I lie down?"
"Ay, madam," said Eyre, "if you would not strike your head against
yonder projecting rock."
Mary lay down, her cloak drawn about her, and saying, "Now then, for
Acheron. Ah! would that it were Lethe!"
"Her Grace saith well," muttered faithful Jean Kennedy, unversed in
classic lore, "would that we were once more at bonnie Leith. Soft
there now, 'tis you that follow her next, my fair mistress."
Cicely, not without trepidation, obeyed, laid herself flat, and was
soon midway, feeling the passage so grim and awful, that she could
think of nothing but the dark passages of the grave, and was shuddering
all over, when she was helped out on the other side by the Queen's own
Some of those in the rear did not seem to be similarly affected, or
else braved their feelings of awe by shouts and songs, which echoed
fearfully through the subterranean vaults. Indeed Diccon, following
the example of one or two young pages and grooms of the Earl's, began
to get so daring and wild in the strange scene, that his father became
anxious, and tarried for him on the other side, in the dread of his
wandering away and getting lost, or falling into some of the fearful
dark rivers that could be heard--not seen--rushing along. By this
means, Master Richard was entirely separated from Cicely, to whom,
before crossing the water, he had been watchfully attending, but he
knew her to be with the Queen and her ladies, and considered her
natural timidity the best safeguard against the chief peril of the
cave, namely, wandering away.
Cicely did, however, miss his care, for the Queen could not but be
engrossed by her various cicerones and attendants, and it was no one's
especial business to look after the young girl over the rough descent
to the dripping well called Roger Rain's House, and the grand
cathedral-like gallery, with splendid pillars of stalagmite, and
pendants above. By the time the steps beyond were reached, a toilsome
descent, the Queen had had enough of the expedition, and declined to go
any farther, but she good-naturedly yielded to the wish of Master John
Eyre and Dr. Jones, that she would inscribe her name on the farthest
column that she had reached.
There was a little confusion while this was being done, as some of the
more enterprising wished to penetrate as far as possible into the
recesses of the cave, and these were allowed to pass forward--Diccon
and his father among them. In the passing and repassing, Cicely
entirely lost sight of all who had any special care of her, and went
stumbling on alone, weary, frightened, and repenting of the wilfulness
with which she had urged on the expedition. Each of the other ladies
had some cavalier to help her, but none had fallen to Cicely's lot, and
though, to an active girl, there was no real danger where the
torchbearers lined the way, still there was so much difficulty that she
was a laggard in reaching the likeness of Acheron, and could see no
father near as she laid herself down in Charon's dismal boat, dimly
rejoicing that this time it was to return to the realms of day, and yet
feeling as if she should never reach them. A hand was given to assist
her from the boat by one of the torchbearers, a voice strangely
familiar was in her ears, saying, "Mistress Cicely!" and she knew the
eager eyes, and exclaimed under her breath, "Antony, you here? In
hiding? What have you done?"
"Nothing," he answered, smiling, and holding her hand, as he helped her
forward. "I only put on this garb that I might gaze once more on the
most divine and persecuted of queens, and with some hope likewise that
I might win a word with her who deigned once to be my playmate. Lady, I
know the truth respecting you."
"Do you in very deed?" demanded Cicely, considerably startled.
"I know your true name, and that you are none of the mastiff race,"
"Did--did Tibbott tell you, sir?" asked Cicely.
"You are one of us," said Antony; "bound by natural allegiance in the
land of your birth to this lady."
"Even so," said Cis, here becoming secure of what she had before
doubted, that Babington only knew half the truth he referred to.
"And you see and speak with her privily," he added.
"As Bess Pierrepoint did," said she.
These words passed during the ascent, and were much interrupted by the
difficulties of the way, in which Antony rendered such aid that she was
each moment more impelled to trust to him, and relieved to find herself
in such familiar hands. On reaching the summit the light of day could
be seen glimmering in the extreme distance, and the maiden's heart
bounded at the sight of it; but she found herself led somewhat aside,
where in a sort of side aisle of the great bell chamber were standing
together four more of the torch-bearers.
One of them, a slight man, made a step forward and said, "The Queen
hath dropped her kerchief. Mayhap the young gentlewoman will restore
"She will do more than that!" said Antony, drawing her into the midst
of them. "Dost not know her, Langston? She is her sacred Majesty's
own born, true, and faithful subject, the Lady--"
"Hush, my friend; thou art ever over outspoken with thy names,"
returned the other, evidently annoyed at Babington's imprudence.
"I tell thee, she is one of us," replied Antony impatiently. "How is
the Queen to know of her friends if we name them not to her?"
"Are these her friends?" asked Cicely, looking round on the five
figures in the leathern coats and yeomen's heavy buskins and shoes, and
especially at the narrow face and keen pale eyes of Langston.
"Ay, verily," said one, whom Cicely could see even under his disguise
to be a slender, graceful youth. "By John Eyre's favour have we come
together here to gaze on the true and lawful mistress of our hearts,
the champion of our faith, in her martyrdom." Then taking the kerchief
from Langston's hand, Babington kissed it reverently, and tore it into
five pieces, which he divided among himself and his fellows, saying,
"This fair mistress shall bear witness to her sacred Majesty that
we--Antony Babington, Chidiock Tichborne, Cuthbert Langston, John
Charnock, John Savage--regard her as the sole and lawful Queen of
England and Scotland, and that as we have gone for her sake into the
likeness of the valley of the shadow of death, so will we meet death
itself and stain this linen with our best heart's blood rather than not
bring her again to freedom and the throne!"
Then with the most solemn oath each enthusiastically kissed the white
token, and put it in his breast, but Langston looked with some alarm at
the girl, and said to Babington, "Doth this young lady understand that
you have put our lives into her hands?"
"She knows! she knows! I answer for her with my life," said Antony.
"Let her then swear to utter no word of what she has seen save to the
Queen," said Langston, and Cicely detected a glitter in that pale eye,
and with a horrified leap of thought, recollected how easy it would be
to drag her away into one of those black pools, beyond all ken.
"Oh save me, Antony!" she cried clinging to his arm.
"No one shall touch you. I will guard you with my life!" exclaimed the
impulsive young man, feeling for the sword that was not there.
"Who spoke of hurting the foolish wench?" growled Savage; but Tichborne
said, "No one would hurt you, madam; but it is due to us all that you
should give us your word of honour not to disclose what has passed,
save to our only true mistress."
"Oh yes! yes!" cried Cicely hastily, scarcely knowing what passed her
lips, and only anxious to escape from that gleaming eye of Langston,
which had twice before filled her with a nameless sense of the
necessity of terrified obedience. "Oh! let me go. I hear my father's
She sprang forward with a cry between joy and terror, and darted up to
Richard Talbot, while Savage, the man who looked most entirely unlike a
disguised gentleman, stepped forward, and in a rough, north country
dialect, averred that the young gentlewoman had lost her way.
"Poor maid," said kind Richard, gathering the two trembling little
hands into one of his own broad ones. "How was it? Thanks, good
fellow," and he dropped a broad piece into Savage's palm; "thou hast
done good service. What, Cis, child, art quaking?"
"Hast seen any hobgoblins, Cis?" said Diccon, at her other side. "I'm
sure I heard them laugh."
"Whist, Dick," said his father, putting a strong arm round the girl's
waist. "See, my wench, yonder is the goodly light of day. We shall
soon be there."
With all his fatherly kindness, he helped the agitated girl up the
remaining ascent, as the lovely piece of blue sky between the
retreating rocks grew wider, and the archway higher above them. Cis
felt that infinite repose and reliance that none else could give, yet
the repose was disturbed by the pang of recollection that the secret
laid on her was their first severance. It was unjust to his kindness;
strange, doubtful, nay grisly, to her foreboding mind, and she shivered
alike from that and the chill of the damp cavern, and then he drew her
cloak more closely about her, and halted to ask for the flask of wine
which one of the adventurous spirits had brought, that Queen
Elizabeth's health might be drunk by her true subjects in the bowels of
the earth. The wine was, of course, exhausted; but Dr. Jones bustled
forward with some cordial waters which he had provided in case of
anyone being struck with the chill of the cave, and Cicely was made to
By this time she had been missed, and the little party were met by some
servants sent by the Earl at the instance of the much-alarmed Queen to
inquire for her. A little farther on came Mistress Talbot, in much
anxiety and distress, though as Diccon ran forward to meet her, and she
saw Cicely on her husband's arm, she resumed her calm and staid
demeanour, and when assured that the maiden had suffered no damage, she
made no special demonstrations of joy or affection. Indeed, such would
have been deemed unbecoming in the presence of strangers, and
disrespectful to the Queen and the Earl, who were not far off.
Mary, on the other hand, started up, held out her arms, received the
truant with such vehement kisses, as might almost have betrayed their
real relationship, and then reproached her, with all sorts of endearing
terms, for having so terrified them all; nor would she let the girl go
from her side, and kept her hand in her own, Diccon meanwhile had
succeeded in securing his father's attention, which had been wholly
given to Cicely till she was placed in the women's hands. "Father," he
said, "I wish that one of the knaves with the torches who found our Cis
was the woman with the beads and bracelets, ay, and Tibbott, too."
"Belike, belike, my son," said Richard. "There are folk who can take
as many forms as a barnacle goose. Keep thou a sharp eye as the
fellows pass out, and pull me by the cloak if thou seest him."
Of course he was not seen, and Richard, who was growing more and more
cautious about bringing vague or half-proved suspicions before his
Lord, decided to be silent and to watch, though he sighed to his wife
that the poor child would soon be in the web.
Cis had not failed to recognise that same identity, and to feel a
half-realised conviction that the Queen had not chosen to confide to
her that the two female disguises both belonged to Langston. Yet the
contrast between Mary's endearments and the restrained manner of Susan
so impelled her towards the veritable mother, that the compunction as
to the concealment she had at first experienced passed away, and her
heart felt that its obligations were towards her veritable and most
loving parent. She told the Queen the whole story at night, to Mary's
great delight. She said she was sure her little one had something on
her mind, she had so little to say of her adventure, and the next day a
little privy council was contrived, in which Cicely was summoned again
to tell her tale. The ladies declared they had always hoped much from
their darling page, in whom they had kept up the true faith, but Sir
Andrew Melville shook his head and said: "I'd misdoot ony plot where
the little finger of him was. What garred the silly loon call in the
young leddy ere he kenned whether she wad keep counsel?"
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