Beneath the noble roof of Westminster Hall, with the morning sun streaming in high aloft, at seven in the morning of the 14th of September, the Court met for the trial of Antony Babington and his confederates. The Talbot name and recommendation obtained ready admission, and Lord Talbot, Richard, and his son formed one small party together with William Cavendish, who had his tablets, on which to take notes for the use of his superior, Walsingham, who was, however, one of the Commissioners.
There they sat, those supreme judges, the three Chief-Justices in their scarlet robes of office forming the centre of the group, which also numbered Lords Cobham and Buckhurst, Sir Francis Knollys, Sir Christopher Hatton, and most of the chief law officers of the Crown.
“Is Mr. Secretary Walsingham one of the judges here?” asked Diccon. “Methought he had been in the place of the accuser.”
“Peace, boy, and listen,” said his father; “these things pass my comprehension.”
Nevertheless Richard had determined that if the course of the trial should offer the least opportunity, he would come forward and plead his former knowledge of young Babington as a rash and weak-headed youth, easily played upon by designing persons, but likely to take to heart such a lesson as this, and become a true and loyal subject. If he could obtain any sort of mitigation for the poor youth, it would be worth the risk.
The seven conspirators were brought in, and Richard could hardly keep a rush of tears from his eyes at the sight of those fine, high-spirited young men, especially Antony Babington, the playfellow of his own children.
Antony was carefully dressed in his favourite colour, dark green, his hair and beard trimmed, and his demeanour calm and resigned. The fire was gone from his blue eye, and his bright complexion had faded, but there was an air of dignity about him such as he had never worn before. His eyes, as he took his place, wandered round the vast assembly, and rested at length on Mr. Talbot, as though deriving encouragement and support from the look that met his. Next to him was another young man with the same look of birth and breeding, namely Chidiock Tichborne; but John Savage, an older man, had the reckless bearing of the brutalised soldiery of the Netherlandish wars.