The letters were sewn up in the most ingenious manner in her dress by Mary Seaton, in case any search should be made; but the only woman Sir Amias would be able to employ in such a matter was purblind and helpless, and they trusted much to his implicit faith in the Talbots.
There was only just time to complete her preparations before she was summoned; and with an almost convulsive embrace from her mother, and whispered benedictions from Jean Kennedy, she left the dreary walls of Fotheringhay.
Humfrey rode with them through the Chase. Both he and Cicely were very silent. When the time came for parting, Cicely said, as she laid her hand in his, “Dear brother, for my sake do all thou canst for her with honour.”
“That will I,” said Humfrey. “Would that I were going with thee, Cicely!”
“So would not I,” she returned; “for then there would be one true heart the less to watch over her.”
“Come, daughter!” said Richard, who had engaged one of the gentlemen in conversation so as to leave them to themselves. “We must be jogging. Fare thee well, my son, till such time as thy duties permit thee to follow us.”
“And have you brought her back again! O my lass! my lass!” cried Mistress Susan, surprised and delighted out of her usual staid composure, as, going out to greet her husband, an unexpected figure was seen by his side, and Cicely sprang into her arms as if they were truly a haven of rest.
Susan looked over her head, even in the midst of the embrace, with the eyes of one hungering for her first-born son, but her husband shook his head. “No, mother, we have not brought thee the boy. Thou must content thyself with her thou hast here for a little space.”
“I hope it bodes not ill,” said Susan.
“It bodes,” said Richard, “that I have brought thee back a good daughter with a pair of pale cheeks, which must be speedily coloured anew in our northern breezes.”
“Ah, how sweet to be here at home,” cried Cicely, turning round in rapturous greeting to all the serving men and women, and all the dogs. “We want only the boys! Where is Ned?”
Their arrival having been unannounced, Ned was with Master Sniggius, whose foremost scholar he now was, and who kept him much later than the other lads to prepare him for Cambridge; but it was the return to this tender foster-mother that seemed such extreme bliss to Cicely. All was most unlike her reluctant return two years previously, when nothing but her inbred courtesy and natural sweetness of disposition had prevented her from being contemptuous of the country home. Now every stone, every leaf, seemed precious to her, and she showed herself, even as she ascended the steps to the hall, determined not to be the guest but the daughter. There was a little movement on the parents’ part, as if they bore in mind