“Perhaps she is right,” said the one ambassador to the other. “These English are incomprehensible!”
In due time the boat drew up at the stairs leading to the palace of Richmond. Cicely, in the midst of her trepidation, perceived that Diccon was among the gentlemen pensioners who made a lane from the landing to receive them, as she was handed along by M. de Bellievre. In the hall there was a pause, during which the mufflings were thrown off, and Cicely appeared in her simple black, a great contrast to her cavalier, who was clad from neck to knee in pale pink satin, quilted, and with a pearl at each intersection, earrings in his ears, perfumed and long-fringed gloves in his hand—a perfect specimen of the foppery of the Court of France. However, he might have been in hodden gray without her perceiving it. She had the sensation of having plunged into deep, unknown waters, without rope or plank, and being absolutely forced to strike out for herself; yet the very urgency of the moment, acting on her high blood and recent training, made her, outwardly, perfectly self-possessed and calm. She walked along, holding her head in the regal manner that was her inheritance, and was so utterly absorbed in the situation that she saw nothing, and thought only of the Queen.
This was to be a private audience, and after a minute’s demur with the clerk of the chamber, when Chateauneuf made some explanation, a door was opened, a curtain withdrawn, and the two ambassadors and the young lady were admitted to Elizabeth’s closet, where she sat alone, in an arm-chair with a table before her. Cicely’s first glance at the Queen reminded her of the Countess, though the face was older, and had an intellect and a grandeur latent in it, such as Bess of Hardwicke had never possessed; but it was haggard and worn, the eyelids red, either with weeping, or with sleeplessness, and there was an anxious look about the keen light hazel eyes which was sometimes almost pathetic, and gave Cicely hope. To the end of her days she never could recollect how the Queen was arrayed; she saw nothing but the expression in those falcon eyes, and the strangely sensitive mouth, which bewrayed the shrewish nose and chin, and the equally inconsistent firmness of the jaw.
The first glance Cicely encountered was one of utter amazement and wrath, as the Queen exclaimed, “Whom have you brought hither, Messieurs?”
Before either could reply, she, whom they had thought a raw, helpless girl, moved forward, and kneeling before Elizabeth said, “It is I, so please your Majesty, I, who have availed myself of the introduction of their Excellencies to lay before your Majesty a letter from my mother, the Queen of Scots.”
Queen Elizabeth made so vehement and incredulous an exclamation of amazement that Cicely was the more reminded of the Countess, and this perhaps made her task the easier, and besides, she was not an untrained rustic, but had really been accustomed to familiar intercourse with a queen, who, captive as she was, maintained full state and etiquette.