“Nay, lad, what saith the Scripture, ’Judge not, and ye shall not be judged’? How should I know what hath passed seventeen years back in Scotland?”
“Ay, but for present plots and intrigues, judge you her a true woman?”
“Humfrey, thou hadst once a fox in a cage. When it found it vain to dash against the bars, rememberest thou how it scratched away the earth in the rear, and then sat over the hole it had made, lest we should see it?”
“The fox, say you, sir? Then you cannot call her ought but false.”
“They tell me,” said Sir Richard, “that ever since an Italian named Machiavel wrote his Book of the Prince, statecraft hath been craft indeed, and princes suck in deceit with the very air they breathe. Ay, boy, it is what chiefly vexes me in the whole. I cannot doubt that she is never so happy as when there is a plot or scheme toward, not merely for her own freedom, but the utter overthrow of our own gracious Sovereign, who, if she hath kept this lady in durance, hath shielded her from her own bloodthirsty subjects. And for dissembling, I never saw her equal. Yet she, as thy mother tells me, is a pious and devout woman, who bears her troubles thus cheerfully and patiently, because she deems them a martyrdom for her religion. Ay, all women are riddles, they say, but this one the most of all!”
“Thinkest thou that she hath tampered with—with that poor maiden’s faith?” asked Humfrey huskily.
“I trow not yet, my son,” replied Richard; “Cis is as open as ever to thy mother, for I cannot believe she hath yet learnt to dissemble, and I greatly suspect that the Queen, hoping to return to Scotland, may be willing to keep her a Protestant, the better to win favour with her brother and the lords of his council; but if he be such a cur as thou sayest, all hope of honourable release is at an end. So thou seest, Humfrey, how it lies, and how, in my judgment, to remain here is but to wring thine own heart, and bring the wench and thyself to sore straits. I lay not my commands on thee, a man grown, but such is my opinion on the matter.”
“I will not disobey you, father,” said Humfrey, “but suffer me to consider the matter.”
Buxtona, quae calidae celebraris nomine lymphae
Forte mihi post hac non adeunda, Vale.
(Buxton of whose warm waters men tell,
Perchance I ne’er shall see thee more, Farewell.)
Thus wrote Queen Mary with a diamond upon her window pane, smiling as she said, “There, we will leave a memento over which the admirable Dr. Jones will gloat his philosophical soul. Never may I see thee more, Buxton, yet never thought I to be so happy as I have here been.”