“Hush, hush! foolish lad,” said Richard, “and thou, Cicely, take good heed that not a word of all this gets abroad. Go to thy mother, child,—nay, I am not wroth with thee, little one. Thou hast not done amiss, but bear in mind that nought is ever taken out of the park without knowledge of me or of thy mother.”
Richard Talbot was of course convinced that witchcraft was not likely to be the most serious part of the misdeeds of Tibbott the huckstress. Committing Antony Babington to the custody of his wife, he sped on his way back to the Manor-house, where Lord Shrewsbury was at present residing, the Countess being gone to view her buildings at Chatsworth, taking her daughter Bessie with her. He sent in a message desiring to speak to my lord in his privy chamber.
Francis Talbot came to him. “Is it matter of great moment, Dick?” he said, “for my father is so fretted and chafed, I would fain not vex him further to-night.—What! know you not? Here are tidings that my lady hath married Bess—yes, Bess Cavendish, in secret to my young Lord Lennox, the brother of this Queen’s unlucky husband! How he is to clear himself before her Grace of being concerned in it, I know not, for though Heaven wots that he is as innocent as the child unborn, she will suspect him!”
“I knew she flew high for Mistress Bess,” returned Richard.
“High! nothing would serve her save royal blood! My poor father says as sure as the lions and fleur-de-lis have come into a family, the headsman’s axe has come after them.”
“However it is not our family.”
“So I tell him, but it gives him small comfort,” said Frank, “looking as he doth on the Cavendish brood as his own, and knowing that there will be a mighty coil at once with my lady and these two queens. He is sore vexed to-night, and saith that never was Earl, not to say man, so baited by woman as he, and he bade me see whether yours be a matter of such moment that it may not wait till morning or be despatched by me.”
“That is for you to say, Master Francis. What think you of this for a toy?” as he produced the parcel with the whistle and its contents. “I went home betimes to-day, as you know, and found my boy Humfrey had just made young Master Babington taste of his fists for trying to make our little wench pass this packet to yonder huckster-woman who was succoured some months back by the Queen of Scots.”
Francis Talbot silently took the whistle and unrolled the long narrow strip of paper. “This is the cipher,” said he, “the cipher used in corresponding with her French kin; Phillipps the decipherer showed me the trick of it when he was at Tutbury in the time of the Duke of Norfolk’s business. Soh! your son hath done good service, Richard. That lad hath been tampered with then, I thought he was over thick with the lady in the lodge. Where is he, the young traitor?”