“I’ll wed thee though all the lying old gipsy-wives in England wore their false throats out in screeching out that I shall not,” cried Humfrey.
“But she must have known,” said Cis, in an awestruck voice; “the spirits must have spoken with her, and said that I am none of the Talbots.”
“Hath mother heard this?” asked Humfrey, recoiling a little, but never thinking of the more plausible explanation.
“Oh no, no! tell her not, Humfrey, tell her not. She said she would whip me again if ever I talked again of the follies that the fortune-telling woman had gulled me with, for if they were not deceits, they were worse. And, thou seest, they are worse, Humfrey!”
With which awe-stricken conclusion the children went off to bed.
A child’s point of view is so different from that of a grown person, that the discovery did not make half so much difference to Cis as her adopted parents expected. In fact it was like a dream to her. She found her daily life and her surroundings the same, and her chief interest was—at least apparently—how soon she could escape from psalter and seam, to play with little Ned, and look out for the elder boys returning, or watch for the Scottish Queen taking her daily ride. Once, prompted by Antony, Cis had made a beautiful nosegay of lilies and held it up to the Queen when she rode in at the gate on her return from Buxton. She had been rewarded by the sweetest of smiles, but Captain Talbot had said it must never happen again, or he should be accused of letting billets pass in posies. The whole place was pervaded, in fact, by an atmosphere of suspicion, and the vigilance, which might have been endurable for a few months, was wearing the spirits and temper of all concerned, now that it had already lasted for seven or eight years, and there seemed no end to it. Moreover, in spite of all care, it every now and then became apparent that Queen Mary had some communication with the outer world which no one could trace, though the effects endangered the life of Queen Elizabeth, the peace of the kingdom, and the existence of the English Church. The blame always fell upon Lord Shrewsbury; and who could wonder that he was becoming captiously suspicious, and soured in temper, so that even such faithful kinsmen as Richard Talbot could sometimes hardly bear with him, and became punctiliously anxious that there should not be the smallest loophole for censure of the conduct of himself and his family?
The person on whom Master Goatley’s visit had left the most impression seemed to be Humfrey. On the one hand, his father’s words had made him enter into his situation of trust and loyalty, and perceive something of the constant sacrifice of self to duty that it required, and, on the other hand, he had assumed a position towards Cis of which he in some degree felt the force. There was nothing