Her Majesty’s arrival, like other great events, was delayed from hour to hour; and it was now announced by a breathless post that her Majesty, being detained by her gracious desire to receive the homage of her lieges who had thronged to wait upon her at Warwick, it would be the hour of twilight ere she entered the Castle. The intelligence released for a time those who were upon duty, in the immediate expectation of the Queen’s appearance, and ready to play their part in the solemnities with which it was to be accompanied; and Wayland, seeing several horsemen enter the Castle, was not without hopes that Tressilian might be of the number. That he might not lose an opportunity of meeting his patron in the event of this being the case, Wayland placed himself in the base-court of the Castle, near Mortimer’s Tower, and watched every one who went or came by the bridge, the extremity of which was protected by that building. Thus stationed, nobody could enter or leave the Castle without his observation, and most anxiously did he study the garb and countenance of every horseman, as, passing from under the opposite Gallery-tower, they paced slowly, or curveted, along the tilt-yard, and approached the entrance of the base-court.
But while Wayland gazed thus eagerly to discover him whom he saw not, he was pulled by the sleeve by one by whom he himself would not willingly have been seen.
This was Dickie Sludge, or Flibbertigibbet, who, like the imp whose name he bore, and whom he had been accoutred in order to resemble, seemed to be ever at the ear of those who thought least of him. Whatever were Wayland’s internal feelings, he judged it necessary to express pleasure at their unexpected meeting.
“Ha! is it thou, my minikin—my miller’s thumb—my prince of cacodemons—my little mouse?”
“Ay,” said Dickie, “the mouse which gnawed asunder the toils, just when the lion who was caught in them began to look wonderfully like an ass.”
“Thy, thou little hop-the-gutter, thou art as sharp as vinegar this afternoon! But tell me, how didst thou come off with yonder jolterheaded giant whom I left thee with? I was afraid he would have stripped thy clothes, and so swallowed thee, as men peel and eat a roasted chestnut.”
“Had he done so,” replied the boy, “he would have had more brains in his guts than ever he had in his noddle. But the giant is a courteous monster, and more grateful than many other folk whom I have helped at a pinch, Master Wayland Smith.”
“Beshrew me, Flibbertigibbet,” replied Wayland, “but thou art sharper than a Sheffield whittle! I would I knew by what charm you muzzled yonder old bear.”