He was glad to hear afterwards, when broken-hearted Gillingham joined him, that the last words heard from Antony Babington’s lips were— “Parce mihi, Domine Jesu!”
“Is this my last journey?” said Queen Mary, with a strange, sad smile, as she took her seat in the heavy lumbering coach which had been appointed for her conveyance from Chartley, her rheumatism having set in too severely to permit her to ride.
“Say not so; your Grace has weathered many a storm before,” said Marie de Courcelles. “This one will also pass over.”
“Ah, my good Marie, never before have I felt this foreboding and sinking of the heart. I have always hoped before, but I have exhausted the casket of Pandora. Even hope is flown!”
Jean Kennedy tried to say something of “Darkest before dawn.”
“The dawn, it may be, of the eternal day,” said the Queen. “Nay, my friends, the most welcome tidings that could greet me would be that my weary bondage was over for ever, and that I should wreck no more gallant hearts. What, mignonne, art thou weeping? There will be freedom again for thee when that day comes.”
“O madam, I want not freedom at such a price!” And yet Cicely had never recovered her looks since those seventeen days at Tickhill. She still looked white and thin, and her dark eyebrows lay in a heavy line, seldom lifted by the merry looks and smiles that used to flash over her face. Life had begun to press its weight upon her, and day after day, as Humfrey watched her across the chapel, and exchanged a word or two with her while crossing the yard, had he grieved at her altered mien; and vexed himself with wondering whether she had after all loved Babington, and were mourning for him.
Truly, even without the passion of love, there had been much to shock and appal a young heart in the fate of the playfellow of her childhood, the suitor of her youth. It was the first death among those she had known intimately, and even her small knowledge of the cause made her feel miserable and almost guilty, for had not poor Antony plotted for her mother, and had not she been held out to him as a delusive inducement? Moreover, she felt the burden of a deep, pitying love and admiration not wholly joined with perfect trust and reliance. She had been from the first startled by untruths and concealments. There was mystery all round her, and the future was dark. There were terrible forebodings for her mother; and if she looked beyond for herself, only uncertainty and fear of being commanded to follow Marie de Courcelles to a foreign court, perhaps to a convent; while she yearned with an almost sick longing for home and kind Mrs. Talbot’s motherly tenderness and trustworthiness, and the very renunciation of Humfrey that she had spoken so easily, had made her aware of his full worth, and wakened in her a longing for the right to rest