“Here is a letter from Mr. Secretary to the Lieutenant of the Tower, Master Richard, bidding him admit you to speech of Babington,” said Will Cavendish. “He was loath to give it, and nothing but my Lord Shrewsbury’s interest would have done it, on my oath that you are a prudent and discreet man, who hath been conversant in these matters for many years.”
“Yea, and that long before you were, Master Will,” said Richard, always a little entertained by the young gentleman’s airs of patronage. “However, I am beholden to you.”
“That you may be, for you are the only person who hath obtained admission to the prisoners.”
“Not even their wives?”
“Mrs. Tichborne is in the country—so best for her—and Mrs. Babington hath never demanded it. I trow there is not love enough between them to make them seek such a meeting. It was one of my mother’s matches. Mistress Cicely would have cleaved to him more closely, though I am glad you saw through the fellow too well to give her to him. She would be a landless widow, whereas this Ratcliffe wife has a fair portion for her child.”
“Then Dethick will be forfeited?”
“Ay. They say the Queen hath promised it to Raleigh.”
“And there is no hope of mercy?”
“Not a tittle for any man of them! Nay, so far from it, her Majesty asked if there were no worse nor more extraordinary mode of death for them.”
“I should not have thought it of her.”
“Her Majesty hath been affrighted, Master Richard, sorely affrighted, though she put so bold a face upon it, and there is nothing a woman, who prides herself on her courage, can so little pardon.”
So Richard, sad at heart, took boat and ascended the Thames for his melancholy visit. The gateway was guarded by a stalwart yeoman, halbert in hand, who detained him while the officer of the guard was called. On showing the letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, Mr. Talbot was conducted by this personage across the first paved court to the lodgings of the Lieutenant under so close a guard that he felt as if he were about to be incarcerated himself, and was there kept waiting in a sort of guard-room while the letter was delivered.
Presently the Lieutenant, Sir Owen Hopton, a well-bred courteous knight, appeared and saluted him with apologies for his detention and all these precautions, saying that the orders were to keep a close guard and to hinder all communication from without, so that nothing short of this letter would have obtained entrance for the bearer, whom he further required to set down his name and designation in full. Then, after asking how long the visitor wished to remain with the prisoners—for Tichborne and Babington were quartered together— he called a warder and committed Mr. Talbot to his guidance, to remain for two hours locked up in the cell.