Her judges? Ay! but how? With the same enthusiastic pity and indignation, mixed with the same misgiving as her own daughter felt. Not wholly innocent, not wholly guilty, yet far less guilty than those who had laid their own crimes on her in Scotland, or who plotted to involve her in meshes partly woven by herself in England. The evil done to her was frightful, but it would have been powerless had she been wholly blameless. Alas! is it not so with all of us?
The second day’s trial came on. Mary Seaton was so overpowered with the strain she had gone through that the Queen would not take her into the hall, but let Cicely sit at her feet instead. On this day none of the Crown lawyers took part in the proceedings; for, as Cavendish whispered to Humfrey, there had been high words between them and my Lord Treasurer and Mr. Secretary; and they had declared themselves incapable of conducting a prosecution so inconsistent with the forms of law to which they were accustomed. The pedantic fellows wanted more direct evidence, he said, and Humfrey honoured them.
Lord Burghley then conducted the proceedings, and they had thus a more personal character. The Queen, however, acted on Melville’s advice, and no longer denied all knowledge of the conspiracy, but insisted that she was ignorant of the proposed murder of Elizabeth, and argued most pertinently that a copy of a deciphered cipher, without the original, was no proof at all, desiring further that Nau and Curll should be examined in her presence. She reminded the Commissioners how their Queen herself had been called in question for Wyatt’s rebellion, in spite of her innocence. “Heaven is my witness,” she added, “that much as I desire the safety and glory of the Catholic religion, I would not purchase it at the price of blood. I would rather play Esther than Judith.”
Her defence was completed by her taking off the ring which Elizabeth had sent to her at Lochleven. “This,” she said, holding it up, “your Queen sent to me in token of amity and protection. You best know how that pledge has been redeemed.” Therewith she claimed another day’s hearing, with an advocate granted to her, or else that, being a Princess, she might be believed on the word of a Princess.
This completed her defence, except so far that when Burghley responded in a speech of great length, she interrupted, and battled point by point, always keeping in view the strong point of the insufficient evidence and her own deprivation of the chances of confuting what was adduced against her.
It was late in the afternoon when he concluded. There was a pause, as though for a verdict by the Commissioners. Instead of this, Mary rose and repeated her appeal to be tried before the Parliament of England at Westminster. No reply was made, and the Court broke up.
CHAPTER XXXVI. A VENTURE.
“Mother, dear mother, do but listen to me.”