Cicely was sorely disappointed, and wanted to ride on at once by land; but when her foster-father had shown her that the bad weather would be an almost equal obstacle, and that much time would be lost on the road, she submitted with the good temper she had cultivated under such a notable example. She taught Oil-of-Gladness the cookery of one of her mothers and the stitchery of the other; she helped Dust-and-Ashes with his accidence, and enlightened him on the sports of the Bridgefield boys, so that his father looked round dismayed at the smothered laughter, when she assured him that she was only telling how her brother Diccon caught a coney, or the like, and in some magical way smoothed down his frowns with her smile.
Mistress Cicely Talbot’s visit was likely to be an unforgotten era with Dust-and-Ashes and Oil-of-Gladness. The good curate entreated that she and her father would lodge there on their return, and the invitation was accepted conditionally, Mr. Talbot writing to his wife, by the carriers, to send such a load of good cheer from Bridgefield as would amply compensate for the expenses of this hospitality.
People did not pity themselves so much for suspense when, instead of receiving an answer in less than an hour, they had to wait for it for weeks if not months. Mrs. Talbot might be anxious at Bridgefield, and her son at Fotheringhay, and poor Queen Mary, whose life hung in the balance, more heartsick with what old writers well named ‘wanhope’ than any of them; but they had to live on, and rise morning after morning without expecting any intelligence, unable to do anything but pray for those who might be in perils unknown.
After the strain and effort of her trial, Mary had become very ill, and kept her bed for many days. Humfrey continued to fulfil his daily duties as commander of the guards set upon her, but he seldom saw or spoke with any of her attendants, as Sir Andrew Melville, whom he knew the best of them, had on some suspicion been separated from his mistress and confined in another part of the Castle.
Sir Amias Paulett, too, was sick with gout and anxiety, and was much relieved when Sir Drew Drury was sent to his assistance. The new warder was a more courteous and easy-mannered person, and did not fret himself or the prisoner with precautions like his colleague; and on Sir Amias’s reiterated complaint that the guards were not numerous enough, he had brought down five fresh men, hired in London, fellows used to all sorts of weapons, and at home in military discipline; but, as Humfrey soon perceived, at home likewise in the license of camps, and most incongruous companions for the simple village bumpkins, and the precise retainers who had hitherto formed the garrison. He did his best to keep order, but marvelled how Sir Amias would view their excesses when he should come forth again from his sick chamber.