The Queen’s coldness towards Humfrey had meantime diminished daily, though he could not guess whether she really viewed his course as the right one, or whether she forgave this as well as all other injuries in the calm gentle state into which she had come, not greatly moved by hope or fear, content alike to live or die.
Richard, in much anxiety, was to remain another day or two at Fotheringhay, on the plea of his wearied horses and of the Sunday rest.
Meantime Mary diligently wrote the conditions, but perhaps more to satisfy her daughter than with much hope of their acceptance.
“Yea, madam, they are gone! They stole away at once, and are far on the way to Fotheringhay, with these same conditions.” So spoke Davison, under-secretary, Walsingham being still indisposed.
“And therefore will I see whether the Queen of Scots will ratify them, ere I go farther in the matter,” returned Elizabeth.
“She will ratify them without question,” said the Secretary, ironically, “seeing that to escape into the hands of one of your Majesty’s enemies is just what she desires.”
“She leaves her daughter as a pledge.”
“Yea, a piece of tinsel to delude your Majesty.”
Elizabeth swore an oath that there was truth in every word and gesture of the maiden.
“The poor wench may believe all she said herself,” said Davison. “Nay, she is as much deluded as the rest, and so is that honest, dull-pated sailor, Talbot. If your Majesty will permit me to call in a fellow I have here, I can make all plain.”
“Who is he? You know I cannot abide those foul carrion rascals you make use of,” said Elizabeth, with an air of disgust.
“This man is gentleman born. Villain he may be, but there is naught to offend your Majesty in him. He is one Langston, a kinsman of this Talbot’s; and having once been a Papist, but now having seen the error of his ways, he did good service in the unwinding of the late horrible plot.”
“Well, if no other way will serve you but I must hear the fellow, have him in.”
A neatly-dressed, small, elderly man, entirely arrayed in black, was called in, and knelt most humbly before the Queen. Being bidden to tell what he knew respecting the lady who had appeared before the Queen the day before, calling herself Bride Hepburn, he returned for answer that he believed it to be verily her name, but that she was the daughter of a man who had fled to France, and become an archer of the Scottish guard.