“Brother, quotha? Yea, and as good brother he shall be to thee, and welcome, so long as thou art Cis Talbot by day—but no more, child. Princesses mate not with Yorkshire esquires. When the Lady Bride takes her place in the halls of her forefathers, she will be the property of Scotland, and her hand will be sought by princes. Ah, lassie! let it not grieve thee. One thing thy mother can tell thee from her own experience. There is more bliss in mating with our equals, by the choice of others, than in following our own wild will. Thou gazest at me in wonder, but verily my happy days were with my gentle young king—and so will thine be, I pray the saints happier and more enduring than ever were mine. Nothing has ever lasted with me but captivity, O libera me.”
And in the murmured repetition the mother fell asleep, and the daughter, who had slumbered little the night before, could not but likewise drop into the world of soothing oblivion, though with a dull feeling of aching and yearning towards the friendly kindly Humfrey, yet with a certain exultation in the fate that seemed to be carrying her on inevitably beyond his reach.
CHAPTER XVI. 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 reward enough.”
“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.”