Unknown to history a st.., p.13

Unknown to History: A Story of the Captivity of Mary of Scotland, page 13


Unknown to History: A Story of the Captivity of Mary of Scotland

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  The Countess was by no means pacified by the investigation, and bothshe and her family remained at Court, maligning her husband and hiscaptive. As the season advanced, bringing the time for the Queen'sannual resort to the waters of Buxton, Lord Shrewsbury was obliged toentreat Mrs. Talbot again to be her companion, declaring that he hadnever known so much peace as with that lady in the Queen's chambers.

  The journey to Buxton was always the great holiday of the imprisonedCourt. The place was part of the Shrewsbury property, and the Earl hada great house there, but there were no conveniences for exercising sostrict a watch as at Sheffield, and there was altogether a relaxationof discipline. Exercise was considered an essential part of thetreatment, and recreations were there provided.

  Cis had heard so much of the charms of the expedition, that she wasenraptured to hear that she was to share it, together with Mrs. Talbot.The only drawback was that Humfrey had promised to come home after thispresent voyage, to see whether his little Cis were ready for him; andhis father was much disposed to remain at home, receive him first, andcommunicate to him the obstacles in the way of wedding the young lady.However, my Lord refused to dispense with the attendance of his mosttrustworthy kinsman, and leaving Ned at school under charge of thelearned Sniggius, the elder and the younger Richard Talbot rode forthwith the retinue of the Queen and her warder.

  Neither Cicely nor Diccon had ever left home before, and they were inraptures which would have made any journey delightful to them, far morea ride through some of the wildest and loveliest glades that Englandcan display. Nay, it may be that they would better have enjoyedsomething less like Sheffield Park than the rocks, glens, and woods,through which they rode. Their real delight was in the towns andvillages at which there was a halt, and every traveller they saw wassuch a wonder to them, that at the end of the first day they werealmost as full of exultation in their experiences, as if, with Humfrey,they had been far on the way to America.

  The delight of sleeping at Tideswell was in their eyes extreme, thoughthe hostel was so crowded that Cis had to share a mattress with Mrs.Talbot, and Diccon had to sleep in his cloak on the floor, which hepersuaded himself was high preferment. He woke, however, much soonerthan was his wont, and finding it useless to try to fall asleep again,he made his way out among the sleeping figures on the floor and hall,and finding the fountain in the midst of the court, produced his soapand comb from his pocket, and made his morning toilet in the open airwith considerable satisfaction at his own alertness. Presently therewas a tap at the window above, and he saw Cicely making signals to himto wait for her, and in a few minutes she skipped out from the doorinto the sunlight of the early summer morning.

  "No one is awake yet," she said. "Even the guard before the Queen'sdoor is fast asleep. I only heard a wench or two stirring. We canhave a run in the fields and gather May dew before any one is afoot."

  "'Tis not May, 'tis June," said matter-of-fact Diccon. "But yonder isa guard at the yard gate; will he let us past?"

  "See, here's a little wicket into a garden of pot-herbs," said Cis. "Nodoubt we can get out that way, and it will bring us the sooner into thefields. I have a cake in my wallet that mother gave me for thejourney, so we shall not fast. How sweet the herbs smell in thedew--and see how silvery it lies on the strawberry leaves. Ah! thounaughty lad, think not whether the fruit be ripe. Mayhap we shall findsome wild ones beyond."

  The gate of the garden was likewise guarded, but by a yeoman who wellknew the young Talbots, and made no difficulty about letting them outinto the broken ground beyond the garden, sloping up into a littlehill. Up bounded the boy and girl, like young mountaineers, throughgorse and fern, and presently had gained a sufficient height to lookover the country, marking the valleys whence still were rising"fragrant clouds of dewy steam" under the influence of the sunbeams,gazing up at the purple heights of the Peak, where a few lines of snowstill lingered in the crevices, trying to track their past journey fromtheir own Sheffield, and with still more interest to guess which woodedvalley before them contained Buxton.

  "Have you lost your way, my pretty mistress?" said a voice close tothem, and turning round hastily they saw a peasant woman with a largebasket on her arm.

  "No," said Cicely courteously, "we have only come out to take the airbefore breakfast."

  "I crave pardon," said the woman, curtseying, "the pretty lady belongsto the great folk down yonder. Would she look at my poor wares? Hereare beads and trinkets of the goodly stones, pins and collars,bracelets and eardrops, white, yellow, and purple," she said,uncovering her basket, where were arranged various ornaments made ofDerbyshire spar.

  "We have no money, good woman," said Cicely, rising to return, vaguelyuncomfortable at the woman's eye, which awoke some remembrance ofTibbott the huckster, and the troubles connected with her.

  "Yea, but if my young mistress would only bring me in to the Great Ladythere, I know she would buy of me my beads and bracelets, of give me analms for my poor children. I have five of them, good young lady, andthey lie naked and hungry till I can sell my few poor wares, and theyeomen are so rough and hard. They would break and trample every poorbead I have in pieces rather than even let my Lord hear of them. Butif even my basket could be carried in and shown, and if the good Earlheard my sad tale, I am sure he would give license."

  "He never does!" said Diccon, roughly; "hold off, woman, do not hang onus, or I'll get thee branded for a vagabond."

  The woman put her knuckles into her eyes, and wailed out that it wasall for her poor children, and Cicely reproved him for his roughness,and as the woman kept close behind them, wailing, moaning, andpersuading, the boy and girl were wrought upon at last to give herleave to wait outside the gate of the inn garden, while they sawwhether it was possible to admit her or her basket.

  But before they reached the gate, they saw a figure beyond it, scanningthe hill eagerly. They knew him for their father even before heshouted to them, and, as they approached, his voice was displeased:"How now, children; what manners are these?"

  "We have only been on the hillside, sweet father," said Cis, "Dicconand I together. We thought no harm."

  "This is not Sheffield Chase, Cis, and thou art no more a child, but amaiden who needs to be discreet, above all in these times. Whom did Isee following you?"

  "A poor woman, whom--Ha, where is she?" exclaimed Cis, suddenlyperceiving that the woman seemed to have vanished.

  "A troublesome begging woman who beset us with her wares," said Diccon,"and would give us no peace, praying that we would get them carried into the Queen and her ladies, whining about her children till she madeCis soft-hearted. Where can she have hidden herself?"

  The man who was stationed as sentry at the gate said he had seen thewoman come over the brow of the hill with Master Diccon and MistressCicely, but that as they ran forward to meet Captain Talbot she haddisappeared amid the rocks and brushwood.

  "Poor woman, she was afraid of our father," said Cicely; "I would wecould see her again."

  "So would not I," said Richard. "It looks not well, and heed me well,children, there must be no more of these pranks, nor of wandering outof bounds, or babbling with strangers. Go thou in to thy mother, Cis,she hath been in much trouble for thee."

  Mistress Susan was unusually severe with the girl on the indiscretionof gadding in strange places with no better escort than Diccon, and ofentering into conversation with unknown persons. Moreover, Cicely'shair, her shoes, and camlet riding skirt were all so dank with dew thatshe was with difficulty made presentable by the time the horses werebrought round.

  The Queen, who had not seen the girl that morning, made her come andride near her, asking questions on the escapade, and giving one of herbewitching pathetic smiles as she said how she envied the power of thusdancing out on the greensward, and breathing the free and fresh morningair. "My Scottish blood loves the mountains, and bounds the morefreely in the fresh breeze," she
said, gazing towards the Peak. "Ilove the scent of the dew. Didst get into trouble, child? Methought Iheard sounds of chiding?"

  "It was no fault of mine," said Cis, inclined to complain when shefound sympathy, "the woman would speak to us."

  "What woman?" asked the Queen.

  "A poor woman with a basket of wares, who prayed hard to be allowed toshow them to your Grace or some of the ladies. She said she had fivesorely hungered children, and that she heard your Grace was acompassionate lady."

  "Woe is me, compassion is full all that I am permitted to give," saidthe Queen, sadly; "she brought trinkets to sell. What were her wares,saidst thou?"

  "I had no time to see many," said Cis, "something pure and white like anew-laid egg, I saw, and a necklet, clouded with beauteous purple."

  "Ay, beads and bracelets, no doubt," said the Queen.

  "Yes, beads and bracelets," returned Cicely, the soft chime of theQueen's Scottish accent bringing back to her that the woman had twicepressed on her beads and bracelets.

  "She dwelt on them," said the Queen lightly. "Ay, I know the chant ofthe poor folk who ever hover about our outskirts in hopes to sell theircountry gewgaws, beads and bracelets, collars and pins, little guessingthat she whom they seek is poorer than themselves. Mayhap, ourArgus-eyed lord may yet let the poor dame within his fence, and we maybe able to gratify thy longing for those same purple and white beadsand bracelets."

  Meantime the party were riding on, intending to dine at Buxton, whichmeant to reach it by noonday. The tall roof of the great hall erectedby the Earl over the baths was already coming in sight, and by and bythey would look into the valley. The Wye, after coming down one ofthose lovely deep ravines to be found in all mountainous countries,here flowed through a more open space, part of which had beenartificially levelled, but which was covered with buildings, rising outamongst the rocks and trees.

  Most conspicuous among them was a large freshly-built erection in Tudorarchitecture, with a wide portal arch, and five separate gablesstarting from one central building, which bore a large clock-tower, andwas decorated at every corner with the Talbots' stout and sturdy form.This was the great hall, built by the present Earl George, andcontaining five baths, intended to serve separately for each sex,gentle and simple, with one special bath reserved for the sole use ofthe more distinguished visitors. Besides this, at no great distance,was the Earl's own mansion, "a very goodly house, four square, fourstories high," with stables, offices, and all the requisites of anobleman's establishment, and this was to be the lodging of theScottish Queen.

  Farther off was another house, which had been built by permission ofthe Earl, under the auspices of Dr. Jones, probably one of the first ofthe long series of physicians who have made it their business toenhance the fame of the watering-places where they have set up theirstaff. This was the great hostel or lodging-house for the patients ofcondition who resorted to the healing springs, and nestled here andthere among the rocks were cottages which accommodated, after afashion, the poorer sort, who might drag themselves to the spot in thehope of washing away their rheumatic pains and other infirmities. In adistant and magnificent way, like some of the lesser German potentates,the mighty Lord of Shrewsbury took toll from the visitors to his baths,and this contributed to repair the ravages to his fortune caused by themaintenance of his royal captive.

  Arriving just at noontide, the Queen and her escort beheld a motleycrowd dispersed about the sward on the banks of the river, some playingat ball, others resting on benches or walking up and down in groups,exercise being recommended as part of the cure. All thronged togetherto watch the Earl and his captive ride in with their suite, thehousehold turning out to meet them, while foremost stood a dapperlittle figure with a short black cloak, a stiff round ruff, and asquare barrett cap, with a gold-headed cane in one hand and a paper inthe other.

  "Prepare thy patience, Cis," whispered Barbara Mowbray, "now shall wenot be allowed to alight from our palfreys till we have heard his fullwelcome to my Lord, and all his plans for this place, how--it is to bemade a sanctuary for the sick during their abode there, for all causessaving sacrilege, treason, murder, burglary, and highway robbery, witha license to eat flesh on a Friday, as long as they are drinking thewaters!"

  It was as Mistress Mowbray said. Dr. Jones's harangue on the progressof Buxton and its prospects had always to be endured before any one wasallowed to dismount; but royalty and nobility were inured to listeningwith a good grace, and Mary, though wearied and aching, sat patientlyin the hot sunshine, and was ready to declare that Buxton put her ingood humour. In fact the grandees and their immediate attendantsendured with all the grace of good breeding; but the farther from thescene of action, the less was the patience, and the more restless andconfused the movements of the retinue.

  Diccon Talbot, hungry and eager, had let his equally restless ponyconvey him, he scarce knew where, from his father's side, when he saw,making her way among the horses, the very woman with the basket whom hehad encountered at Tideswell in the early morning. How could she havegone such a distance in the time? thought the boy, and he presentlycaught the words addressed to one of the grooms of the Scottish Queen'ssuite. "Let me show my poor beads and bracelets." The Scotsmaninstantly made way for her, and she advanced to a wizened thin oldFrenchman, Maitre Gorion, the Queen's surgeon, who jumped down from hishorse, and was soon bending over her basket exchanging whispers in thelowest possible tones; but a surge among those in the rear drove Dicconup so near that he was absolutely certain that they were speakingFrench, as indeed he well knew that M. Gorion never could succeed inmaking himself understood in English.

  The boy, bred up in the perpetual caution and suspicion of Sheffield,was eager to denounce one who he was sure was a conspirator; but he washemmed in among horses and men, so that he could not make his way outor see what was passing, till suddenly there was a scattering to theright and left, and a simultaneous shriek from the ladies in front.

  When Diccon could see anything, his father was pressing forward to agroup round some one prostrate on the ground before the house, andthere were exclamations, "The poor young lady! The chirurgeon! To thefront, the Queen is asking for you, sir," and Cicely's horse with loosebridle passed before his eyes.

  "Let me through! let me through!" cried the boy; "it is my sister."

  He threw his bridle to a groom, and, squeezing between horses and underelbows, succeeded in seeing Cis lying on the ground with her eyes shutand her head in his mother's lap, and the French surgeon bending overher. She gave a cry when he touched her arm, and he said something inhis mixture of French and English, which Diccon could not hear. TheQueen stood close by, a good deal agitated, anxiously asking questions,and throwing out her hands in her French fashion. Diccon, muchfrightened, struggled on, but only reached the party just as his fatherhad gathered Cicely up in his arms to carry her upstairs. Dicconfollowed as closely as he could, but blindly in the crowd in thestrange house, until he found himself in a long gallery, shut out,among various others of both sexes. "Come, my masters and mistressesall," said the voice of the seneschal, "you had best to your chambers,there is naught for you to do here."

  However, he allowed Diccon to remain leaning against the balustrade ofthe stairs which led up outside the house, and in another minute hisfather came out. "Ha, Diccon, that is well," said he. "No, thou canstnot enter. They are about to undress poor little Cis. Nay, it seemednot to me that she was more hurt than thy mother could well have dealtwith, but the French surgeon would thrust in, and the Queen would haveit so. We will walk here in the court till we hear what he saith ofher. How befell it, dost thou ask? Truly I can hardly tell, but Ibelieve one of the Frenchmen's horses got restless either with a fly orwith standing so long to hear yonder leech's discourse. He must needscut the beast with his rod, and so managed to hit White Posy, whostarts aside, and Cis, sitting unheedfully on that new-fangled Frenchsaddle, was thrown in an instant."

  "I shall laugh at her well for letting herself b
e thrown by a Frenchmanwith his switch," said Diccon.

  "I hope the damage hath not been great," said his father, anxiouslylooking up the stair. "Where wast thou, Dick? I had lost sight ofthee."

  "I was seeking you, sir, for I had seen a strange sight," said Dick."That woman who spoke with us at Tideswell was here again; yea, and shetalked with the little old Frenchman that they call Gorion, the samethat is with Cis now."

  "She did! Folly, boy! The fellow can hardly comprehend five words ofplain English together, long as he hath been here! One of the Queen'swomen is gone in even now to interpret for him."

  "That do I wot, sir. Therefore did I marvel, and sought to tell you."

  "What like was the woman?" demanded Richard.

  Diccon's description was lame, and his father bade him hasten out ofthe court, and fetch the woman if he could find her displaying hertrinkets to the water-drinkers, instructing him not to alarm her byperemptory commands, but to give her hopes of a purchaser for herspars. Proud of the commission entrusted to him, the boy salliedforth, but though he wandered through all the groups on the sward, andencountered two tumblers and one puppet show, besides a bear andmonkey, he utterly failed in finding the vendor of the beads andbracelets.

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