“That shall he never do while your Grace has English watch-dogs to guard you,” returned Talbot.
“The Talbot is a trusty hound by water or by land,” said Elizabeth, surveying the goodly proportion of the elder brother. “Whelps of a good litter, though yonder lad be somewhat long and lean. Well, and how fares Sir Francis? Let him make his will, for the Spaniards one day will have his blood.”
“I have letters and a token from him for your Grace,” said Humfrey.
“Come then in,” said the Queen. “We will see it in the bower, and hear what thou wouldst say.”
A bower, or small summer-house, stood at the end of the path, and here she took her way, seating herself on a kind of rustic throne evidently intended for her, and there receiving from Humfrey the letter and the gift, and asking some questions about the voyage; but she seemed preoccupied and anxious, and did not show the enthusiastic approbation of her sailors’ exploits which the young men expected. After glancing over it, she bade them carry the letter to Mr. Secretary Walsingham the next day; nor did she bid the party remain to supper; but as soon as half a dozen of her gentlemen pensioners, who had been summoned by her orders, came up, she rose to return to the palace.
Will Cavendish, who was in training for a statesman, and acted as a secretary to Sir Francis Walsingham, advised that the letters should be carried to him at once that same evening, as he would be in attendance on the Queen the next morning, and she would inquire for them.
The great man’s house was not far off, and he walked thither with Humfrey, who told him what he had seen, and asked whether it ought not at once to be reported to Walsingham.
Will whistled. “They are driving it very close,” he said. “Humfrey; old comrade, thy brains were always more of the order fit to face a tough breeze than to meddle with Court plots. Credit me, there is cause for what amazed thee. The Queen and her Council know what they are about. Risk a little, and put an end to all the plottings for ever! That’s the word.”
“Risk even the Queen’s life?”
Will Cavendish looked sapient, and replied, “We of the Council Board know many a thing that looks passing strange.”
Mr. Secretary Walsingham’s town house was, like Lord Talbot’s, built round a court, across which Cavendish led the way, with the assured air of one used to the service, and at home there. The hall was thronged with people waiting, but Cavendish passed it, opened a little wicket, and admitted his friends into a small anteroom, where he bade them remain, while he announced them to Sir Francis.
He disappeared, shutting a door behind him, and after a moment’s interval another person, with a brown cloak round him, came hastily and stealthily across to the door. He had let down the cloak which muffled his chin, not expecting the presence of any one, and there was a moment’s start as he was conscious of the young men standing there. He passed through the door instantly, but not before Humfrey had had time to recognise in him no other than Cuthbert Langston, almost the last person he would have looked for at Sir Francis Walsingham’s. Directly afterwards Cavendish returned.