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    Chapter 22

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    Chapter 23
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    James VI. again cruelly tore his mother's heart and dashed her hopes by an unfeeling letter, in which he declared her incapable of being treated with, since she was a prisoner and deposed. The not unreasonable expectation, that his manhood might reverse the proceedings wrought in his name in his infancy, was frustrated. Mary could no longer believe that he was constrained by a faction, but perceived clearly that he merely considered her as a rival, whose liberation would endanger his throne, and that whatever scruples he might once have entertained had given way to English gold and Scottish intimidation.

    "The more simple was I to look for any other in the son of Darnley and the pupil of Buchanan," said she, "but a mother's heart is slow to give up her trust."

    "And is there now no hope?" asked Cicely.

    "Hope, child? Dum spiro, spero. The hope of coming forth honourably to him and to Elizabeth is at an end. There is another mode of coming forth," she added with a glittering eye, "a mode which shall make them rue that they have driven patience to extremity."

    "By force of arms? Oh, madam!" cried Cicely.

    "And wherefore not? My noble kinsman, Guise, is the paramount ruler in France, and will soon have crushed the heretics there; Parma is triumphant in the Low Countries, and has only to tread out the last remnants of faction with his iron boot. They wait only the call, which my motherly weakness has delayed, to bring their hosts to avenge my wrongs, and restore this island to the true faith. Then thou, child, wilt be my heiress. We will give thee to one who will worthily bear the sceptre, and make thee blessed at home. The Austrians make good husbands, I am told. Matthias or Albert would be a noble mate for thee; only thou must be trained to more princely bearing, my little home-bred lassie."

    In spite--nay, perhaps, in consequence--of these anticipations, an entire change began for Cicely. It was as if all the romance of her princely station had died out and the reality had set in. Her freedom was at an end. As one of the suite of the Queen of Scots, she was as much a prisoner as the rest; whereas before, both at Buxton and Sheffield, she had been like a dog or kitten admitted to be petted and played with, but living another life elsewhere, while now there was nothing to relieve the weariness and monotony of the restraint.

    Nor was the petting what it was at first. Mary was far from being in the almost frolicsome mood which had possessed her at Buxton; her hopes and spirits had sunk to the lowest pitch, and though she had an admirably sweet and considerate temper, and was scarcely ever fretful or unreasonable with her attendants, still depression, illness, and anxiety could not but tell on her mode of dealing with her surroundings. Sometimes she gave way entirely, and declared she should waste away and perish in her captivity, and that she only brought misery and destruction on all who tried to befriend her; or, again, that she knew that Burghley and Walsingham were determined to have her blood.

    It was in these moments that Cicely loved her most warmly, for caresses and endearments soothed her, and the grateful affection which received them would be very sweet. Or in a higher tone, she would trust that, if she were to perish, she might be a martyr and confessor for her Church, though, as she owned, the sacrifice would be stained by many a sin; and she betook herself to the devotions which then touched her daughter more than in any other respect.

    More often, however, her indomitable spirit resorted to fresh schemes, and chafed fiercely and hotly at thought of her wrongs; and this made her the more critical of all that displeased her in Cicely.

    Much that had been treated as charming and amusing when Cicely was her plaything and her visitor was now treated as unbecoming English rusticity. The Princess Bride must speak French and Italian, perhaps Latin; and the girl, whose literary education had stopped short when she ceased to attend Master Sniggius's school, was made to study her Cicero once more with the almoner, who was now a French priest named De Preaux, while Queen Mary herself heard her read French, and, though always good-natured, was excruciated by her pronunciation.

    Moreover, Mary was too admirable a needlewoman not to wish to make her daughter the same; whereas Cicely's turn had always been for the department of housewifery, and she could make a castle in pastry far better than in tapestry; but where Queen Mary had a whole service of cooks and pantlers of her own, this accomplishment was uncalled for, and was in fact considered undignified. She had to sit still and learn all the embroidery stitches and lace-making arts brought by Mary from the Court of France, till her eyes grew weary, her heart faint, and her young limbs ached for the freedom of Bridgefield Pleasaunce and Sheffield Park.

    Her mother sometimes saw her weariness, and would try to enliven her by setting her to dance, but here poor Cicely's untaught movements were sure to incur reproof; and even if they had been far more satisfactory to the beholders, what refreshment were they in comparison with gathering cranberries in the park, or holding a basket for Ned in the apple-tree? Mrs. Kennedy made no scruple of scolding her roundly for fretting in a month over what the Queen had borne for full eighteen years.

    "Ah!" said poor Cicely, "but she had always been a queen, and was used to being mewed up close!"

    And if this was the case at Wingfield, how much more was it so at Tutbury, whither Mary was removed in January. The space was far smaller, and the rooms were cold and damp; there was much less outlet, the atmosphere was unwholesome, and the furniture insufficient. Mary was in bed with rheumatism almost from the time of her arrival, but she seemed thus to become the more vigilant over her daughter, and distressed by her shortcomings. If the Queen did not take exercise, the suite were not supposed to require any, and indeed it was never desired by her elder ladies, but to the country maiden it was absolute punishment to be thus shut up day after day. Neither Sir Ralf Sadler nor his colleague, Mr. Somer, had brought a wife to share the charge, so that there was none of the neutral ground afforded by intercourse with the ladies of the Talbot family, and at first the only variety Cicely ever had was the attendance at chapel on the other side of the court.

    It was remarkable that Mary discouraged all proselytising towards the Protestants of her train, and even forbore to make any open attempt on her daughter's faith. "Cela viendra," she said to Marie de Courcelles. "The sermons of M. le Pasteur will do more to convert her to our side than a hundred controversial arguments of our excellent Abbe; and when the good time comes, one High Mass will be enough to win her over."

    "Alas! when shall we ever again assist at the Holy Sacrifice in all its glory!" sighed the lady.

    "Ah, my good Courcelles! of what have you not deprived yourself for me! Sacrifice, ah! truly you share it! But for the child, it would give needless offence and difficulty were she to embrace our holy faith at present. She is simple and impetuous, and has not yet sufficiently outgrown the rude straightforward breeding of the good housewife, Madam Susan, not to rush into open confession of her faith, and then! oh the fracas! The wicked wolves would have stolen a precious lamb from M. le Pasteur's fold! Master Richard would be sent for! Our restraint would be the closer! Moreover, even when the moment of freedom strikes, who knows that to find her of their own religion may not win us favour with the English?"

    So, from whatever motive, Cis remained unmolested in her religion, save by the weariness of the controversial sermons, during which the young lady contrived to abstract her mind pretty completely. If in good spirits she would construct airy castles for her Archduke; if dispirited, she yearned with a homesick feeling for Bridgefield and Mrs. Talbot. There was something in the firm sober wisdom and steady kindness of that good lady which inspired a sense of confidence, for which no caresses nor brilliant auguries could compensate.

    Weary and cramped she was to the point of having a feverish attack, and on one slightly delirious night she fretted piteously after "mother," and shook off the Queen's hand, entreating that "mother, real mother," would come. Mary was much pained, and declared that if the child were not better the next day she should have a messenger sent to summon Mrs. Talbot. However, she was better in the morning; and the Queen, who had been making strong representations of the unhealthiness and other inconveniences of Tutbury, received a promise that she should change her abode as soon as Chartley, a house belonging to the young Earl of Essex, could be prepared for her.

    The giving away large alms had always been one of her great solaces-- not that she was often permitted any personal contact with the poor: only to sit at a window watching them as they flocked into the court, to be relieved by her servants under supervision from some officer of her warders, so as to hinder any surreptitious communication from passing between them. Sometimes, however, the poor would accost her or her suite as she rode out; and she had a great compassion for them, deprived, as she said, of the alms of the religious houses, and flogged or branded if hunger forced them into beggary. On a fine spring day Sir Ralf Sadler invited the ladies out to a hawking party on the banks of the Dove, with the little sparrow hawks, whose prey was specially larks. Pity for the beautiful soaring songster, or for the young ones that might be starved in their nests, if the parent birds were killed, had not then been thought of. A gallop on the moors, though they were strangely dull, gray, and stony, was always the best remedy for the Queen's ailments; and the party got into the saddle gaily, and joyously followed the chase, thinking only of the dexterity and beauty of the flight of pursuer and pursued, instead of the deadly terror and cruel death to which they condemned the created creature, the very proverb for joyousness.

    It was during the halt which followed the slaughter of one of the larks, and the reclaiming of the hawk, that Cicely strayed a little away from the rest of the party to gather some golden willow catkins and sprays of white sloe thorn wherewith to adorn a beaupot that might cheer the dull rooms at Tutbury.

    She had jumped down from her pony for the purpose, and was culling the branch, when from the copsewood that clothed the gorge of the river a ragged woman, with a hood tied over her head, came forward with outstretched hand asking for alms.

    "Yon may have something from the Queen anon, Goody, when I can get back to her," said Cis, not much liking the looks or the voice of the woman.

    "And have you nothing to cross the poor woman's hand with, fair mistress?" returned the beggar. "She brought you fair fortune once; how know you but she can bring you more?"

    And Cicely recognised the person who had haunted her at Sheffield, Tideswell, and Buxton, and whom she had heard pronounced to be no woman at all.

    "I need no fortune of your bringing," she said proudly, and trying to get nearer the rest of the party, heartily wishing she was on, not off, her little rough pony.

    "My young lady is proud," said her tormentor, fixing on her the little pale eyes she so much disliked. "She is not one of the maidens who would thank one who can make or mar her life, and cast spells that can help her to a princely husband or leave her to a prison."

    "Let go," said Cicely, as she saw a retaining hand laid on her pony's bridle; "I will not be beset thus."

    "And this is your gratitude to her who helped you to lie in a queen's bosom; ay, and who could aid you to rise higher or fall lower?"

    "I owe nothing to you," said Cicely, too angry to think of prudence. "Let me go!"

    There was a laugh, and not a woman's laugh. "You owe nothing, quoth my mistress? Not to one who saw you, a drenched babe, brought in from the wreck, and who gave the sign which has raised you to your present honours? Beware!"

    By this time, however, the conversation had attracted notice, and several riders were coming towards them.

    There was an immediate change of voice from the threatening tone to the beggar's whine; but the words were--"I must have my reward ere I speak out."

    "What is this? A masterful beggar wife besetting Mistress Talbot," said Mr. Somer, who came first.

    "I had naught to give her," said Cicely.

    "She should have the lash for thus frightening you," said Somer. "Yonder lady is too good to such vagabonds, and they come about us in swarms. Stand back, woman, or it may be the worse for you. Let me help you to your horse, Mistress Cicely."

    Instead of obeying, the seeming woman, to gain time perhaps, began a story of woe; and Mr. Somer, being anxious to remount the young lady, did not immediately stop it, so that before Cis was in her saddle the Queen had ridden up, with Sir Ralf Sadler a little behind her. There were thus a few seconds free, in which the stranger sprang to the Queen's bridle and said a few hasty words almost inaudibly, and as Cis thought, in French; but they were answered aloud in English--"My good woman, I know all that you can tell me, and more, of this young lady's fortune. Here are such alms as are mine to give; but hold your peace, and quit us now."

    Sir Ralf Sadler and his son-in-law both looked suspicious at this interview, and bade one of the grooms ride after the woman and see what became of her, but the fellow soon lost right of her in the broken ground by the river-side.

    When the party reached home, there was an anxious consultation of the inner circle of confidantes over Cicely's story. Neither she nor the Queen had the least doubt that the stranger was Cuthbert Langston, who had been employed as an agent of hers for many years past; his insignificant stature and colourless features eminently fitting him for it. No concealment was made now that he was the messenger with the beads and bracelets, which were explained to refer to some ivory beads which had been once placed among some spare purchased by the Queen, and which Jean had recognised as part of a rosary belonging to poor Alison Hepburn, the nurse who had carried the babe from Lochleven. This had opened the way to the recovery of her daughter. Mary and Sir Andrew Melville had always held him to be devotedly faithful, but there had certainly been something of greed, and something of menace in his language which excited anxiety. Cicely was sure that his expressions conveyed that he really knew her royal birth, and meant to threaten her with the consequences, but the few who had known it were absolutely persuaded that this was impossible, and believed that he could only surmise that she was of more importance than an archer's daughter.

    He had told the Queen in French that he was in great need, and expected a reward for his discretion respecting what he had brought her. And when he perceived the danger of being overheard, he had changed it into a pleading, "I did but tell the fair young lady that I could cast a spell that would bring her some good fortune. Would her Grace hear it?"

    "So," said Mary, "I could but answer him as I did, Sadler and Somer being both nigh. I gave him my purse, with all there was therein. How much was it, Andrew?"

    "Five golden pieces, besides groats and testers, madam," replied Sir Andrew.

    "If he come again, he must have more, if it can be contrived without suspicion," said the Queen. "I fear me he may become troublesome if he guess somewhat, and have to be paid to hold his tongue."

    "I dread worse than that," said Melville, apart to Jean Kennedy; "there was a scunner in his een that I mislikit, as though her Grace had offended him. And if the lust of the penny-fee hath possessed him, 'tis but who can bid the highest, to have him fast body and soul. Those lads! those lads! I've seen a mony of them. They'll begin for pure love of the Queen and of Holy Church, but ye see, 'tis lying and falsehood and disguise that is needed, and one way or other they get so in love with it, that they come at last to lie to us as well as to the other side, and then none kens where to have them! Cuthbert has been over to that weary Paris, and once a man goes there, he leaves his truth and honour behind him, and ye kenna whether he be serving you, or Queen Elizabeth, or the deil himsel'. I wish I could stop that loon's thrapple, or else wot how much he kens anent our Lady Bride."
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