“And,” said Richard, “who think you came to see me at Wingfield? None other than Cuthbert Langston”
“Hath he left his merchandise at Hull?”
“Ay, so he saith. He would fain have had my good word to my lord for a post in the household, as comptroller of accounts, clerk, or the like. It seemed as though there were no office he would not take so that he might hang about the neighbourhood of this queen.”
“Then you would not grant him your recommendation?”
“Nay, truly. I could not answer for him, and his very anxiety made me the more bent on not bringing him hither. I’d fain serve in no ship where I know not the honesty of all the crew, and Cuthbert hath ever had a hankering after the old profession.”
“Verily then it were not well to bring him hither.”
“Moreover, he is a lover of mysteries and schemes,” said Richard. “He would never be content to let alone the question of our little wench’s birth, and would be fretting us for ever about the matter.”
“Did he speak of it?”
“Yes. He would have me to wit that a nurse and babe had been put on board at Dumbarton. Well, said I, and so they must have been, since on board they were. Is that all thou hast to tell me? And mighty as was the work he would have made of it, this was all he seemed to know. I asked, in my turn, how he came to know thus much about a vessel sailing from a port in arms against the Lords of the Congregation, the allies of her Majesty?”
“What said he?”
“That his house had dealings with the owners of the Bride of Dunbar. I like not such dealings, and so long as this lady and her train are near us, I would by no means have him whispering here and there that she is a Scottish orphan.”
“It would chafe my Lady Countess!” said Susan, to whom this was a serious matter. “Yet doth it not behove us to endeavour to find out her parentage ?”
“I tell you I proved to myself that he knew nothing, and all that we have to do is to hinder him from making mischief out of that little,” returned Richard impatiently.
The honest captain could scarcely have told the cause of his distrust or of his secrecy, but he had a general feeling that to let an intriguer like Cuthbert Langston rake up any tale that could be connected with the party of the captive queen, could only lead to danger and trouble.
The oaks of Sheffield Park were one of the greatest glories of the place. Giants of the forest stretched their huge arms over the turf, kept smooth and velvety by the creatures, wild and tame, that browsed on it, and made their covert in the deep glades of fern and copse wood that formed the background.