“Belike, belike, my son,” said Richard. “There are folk who can take as many forms as a barnacle goose. Keep thou a sharp eye as the fellows pass out, and pull me by the cloak if thou seest him.”
Of course he was not seen, and Richard, who was growing more and more cautious about bringing vague or half-proved suspicions before his Lord, decided to be silent and to watch, though he sighed to his wife that the poor child would soon be in the web.
Cis had not failed to recognise that same identity, and to feel a half-realised conviction that the Queen had not chosen to confide to her that the two female disguises both belonged to Langston. Yet the contrast between Mary’s endearments and the restrained manner of Susan so impelled her towards the veritable mother, that the compunction as to the concealment she had at first experienced passed away, and her heart felt that its obligations were towards her veritable and most loving parent. She told the Queen the whole story at night, to Mary’s great delight. She said she was sure her little one had something on her mind, she had so little to say of her adventure, and the next day a little privy council was contrived, in which Cicely was summoned again to tell her tale. The ladies declared they had always hoped much from their darling page, in whom they had kept up the true faith, but Sir Andrew Melville shook his head and said: “I’d misdoot ony plot where the little finger of him was. What garred the silly loon call in the young leddy ere he kenned whether she wad keep counsel?”
Cicely’s thirst for adventures had received a check, but the Queen, being particularly well and in good spirits, and trusting that this would be her last visit to Buxton, was inclined to enterprise, and there were long rides and hawking expeditions on the moors.
The last of these, ere leaving Buxton, brought the party to the hamlet of Barton Clough, where a loose horseshoe of the Earl’s caused a halt at a little wayside smithy. Mary, always friendly and free-spoken, asked for a draught of water, and entered into conversation with the smith’s rosy-cheeked wife who brought it to her, and said it was sure to be good and pure for the stream came from the Ebbing and Flowing Well, and she pointed up a steep path. Then, on a further question, she proceeded, “Has her ladyship never heard of the Ebbing Well that shows whether true love is soothfast?”
“How so?” asked the Queen. “How precious such a test might be. It would save many a maiden a broken heart, only that the poor fools would ne’er trust it.”
“I have heard of it,” said the Earl, “and Dr. Jones would demonstrate to your Grace that it is but a superstition of the vulgar regarding a natural phenomenon.”
“Yea, my Lord,” said the smith, looking up from the horse’s foot; “’tis the trade of yonder philosophers to gainsay whatever honest folk believed before them. They’ll deny next that hens lay eggs, or blight rots wheat. My good wife speaks but plain truth, and we have seen it o’er and o’er again.”