It was hastily arranged that Humfrey should ride off at once, and try to overtake a squire who had been at the festival, and had invited him to turn a little out of his road and spend a day or two at his house when leaving home. Humfrey had then declined, but hospitality in those days was elastic, and he had no doubt of a welcome. His father would bring Diccon and his baggage to join him there the next day.
Thus there were only a very few minutes for adieux, and, as Richard had felt, this was best for all, even the anxious mother. Cicely ran about with the rest in the stress of preparation, until Humfrey, hurrying upstairs, met her coming down with a packet of his lace cuffs in her hands.
He caught the hand on the balusters, and cried, “My princess, my princess, and art thou doing this for me?”
“Thou hast learnt fine compliments, Humfrey,” said Cis, trying to do her part with quivering lips.
“Ah, Cis! thou knowest but too well what hath taught me no fine words but plain truth. Fear me not, I know what is due to thee. Cis, we never used to believe the tales and ballads that told of knights worshipping princesses beyond their reach, without a hope of more than a look—not even daring to wish for more; Cis, it is very truth. Be thou where thou wilt, with whom thou wilt, there will be one ready to serve thee to the uttermost, and never ask aught—aught but such remembrance as may befit the brother of thy childhood—”
“Mistress Cis,” screamed one of the maids,” madam is waiting for those cuffs.”
Cis ran down, but the squeeze and kiss on the hand remained, as it were, imprinted on it, far more than the last kiss of all, which he gave, as both knew and felt, to support his character as a brother before the assembled household.
The drawing of swords was not regarded as a heinous offence in Elizabethan days. It was not likely, under ordinary circumstances, to result in murder, and was looked on much as boxing is, or was recently, in public schools, as an evidence of high spirit, and a means of working off ill-blood.
Lady Shrewsbury was, however, much incensed at such a presumptuous reception of the suitor whom she had backed with her would-be despotic influence; and in spite of Babington’s making extremely light of it, and declaring that he had himself been too forward in his suit, and the young lady’s apparent fright had made her brother interfere over hastily for her protection, four yeomen were despatched by her Ladyship with orders instantly to bring back Master Humfrey Talbot to answer for himself.
They were met by Mr. Talbot with the sober reply that Master Humfrey was already set forth on his journey. The men, having no orders, never thought of pursuing him, and after a short interval Richard thought it expedient to proceed to the Manor-house to explain matters.