“I mistrust me of that great seal; it bodes us no good, Chris,” she replied doubtfully, and paling a little.
“The message within is no medlar to soften by keeping,” said Emlyn. “Give it me. I was schooled in a nunnery, and can read their scrawls.”
So, nothing loth, Cicely handed her the paper, which she took in her strong fingers, broke the seal, snapped the silk, unfolded, and read. It ran thus—
“To Sir Christopher Harflete, to Mistress Cicely Foterell, to Emlyn Stower, the waiting-woman, and to all others whom it may concern.
“I, Clement Maldon, Abbot of Blossholme, having heard of the death of Sir John Foterell, Knt., at the cruel hands of the forest thieves and outlaws, sent last night to serve the declaration of my wardship, according to my prerogative established by law and custom, over the person and property of you, Cicely, his only child surviving. My messengers returned saying that you had fled from your home of Shefton Hall. They said further that it was rumoured that you had ridden with your foster-mother, Emlyn Stower, to Cranwell Towers, the house of Sir Christopher Harflete. If this be so, for the sake of your good name it is needful that you should remove from such company at once, as there is talk about you and the said Sir Christopher Harflete. I purpose, therefore, God permitting me, to ride this day to Cranwell Towers, and if you be there, as your lawful guardian and ghostly father, to command you, being an infant under age, to accompany me thence to the Nunnery of Blossholme. There I have determined, in the exercise of my authority, you shall abide until a fitting husband is found for you, unless, indeed, God should move your heart to remain within its walls as one of the brides of Christ.
Now when the reading of this letter was finished, the three of them stood a little while staring at each other, knowing well that it meant trouble for them all, till Cicely said—
“Bring me ink and paper, Nurse. I will answer this Abbot.”
So they were brought, and Cicely wrote in her round, girlish hand—
“My Lord Abbot,
“In answer to your letter, I would have you know that as my noble father (whose cruel death must be inquired of and avenged) bade me with his last words, I, fearing that a like fate would overtake me at the hands of his murderers, did, as you suppose, seek refuge at this house. Here, yesterday, I was married in the face of God and man in the church of Cranwell, as you may learn from the paper sent herewith. It is not, therefore, needful that you should seek a husband for me, since my dear lord, Sir Christopher Harflete, and I are one till death do part us. Nor do I admit that now, or at any time, you had or have right of wardship over my person or the lands and goods which I hold and inherit. “Your humble servant,
This letter Cicely copied out fair and sealed, and presently it was given to the Abbot’s messenger, who placed it in his pouch and rode off as fast as the snow would let him.