Bridgefield was a peaceable household, and the castle and manor beyond might envy its calm.
From the time of the marriage of Elizabeth Cavendish with the young Earl of Lennox all the shreds of comfort which had remained to the unfortunate Earl had vanished. First he had to clear himself before Queen Elizabeth from having been a consenting party, and then he found his wife furious with him at his displeasure at her daughter’s aggrandisement. Moreover, whereas she had formerly been on terms of friendly gossiphood with the Scottish Queen, she now went over to the Lennox side because her favourite daughter had married among them; and it was evident that from that moment all amity between her and the prisoner was at an end.
She was enraged that her husband would not at once change his whole treatment of the Queen, and treat her as such guilt deserved; and with the illogical dulness of a passionate woman, she utterly scouted and failed to comprehend the argument that the unhappy Mary was, to say the least of it, no more guilty now than when she came into their keeping, and that to alter their demeanour towards her would be unjust and unreasonable.
“My Lady is altogether beyond reason,” said Captain Talbot, returning one evening to his wife; “neither my Lord nor her daughter can do ought with her; so puffed up is she with this marriage! Moreover, she is hotly angered that young Babington should have been sent away from her retinue without notice to her, and demands our Humfrey in his stead as a page.”
“He is surely too old for a page!” said his mother, thinking of her tall well-grown son of fifteen.
“So said I,” returned Richard. “I had sooner it were Diccon, and so I told his lordship.”
Before Richard could speak for them, the two boys came in, eager and breathless. “Father!” cried Humfrey, “who think you is at Hull? Why, none other than your old friend and shipmate, Captain Frobisher!”
“Ha! Martin Frobisher! Who told thee, Humfrey?”
“Faithful Ekins, sir, who had it from the Doncaster carrier, who saw Captain Frobisher himself, and was asked by him if you, sir, were not somewhere in Yorkshire, and if so, to let you know that he will be in Hull till May-day, getting men together for a voyage to the northwards, where there is gold to be had for the picking—and if you had a likely son or two, now was the time to make their fortunes, and show them the world. He said, any way you might ride to see an old comrade.”
“A long message for two carriers,” said Richard Talbot, smiling, “but Martin never was a scribe!”
“But, sir, you will let me go,” cried Humfrey, eagerly. “I mean, I pray you to let me go. Dear mother, say nought against it,” entreated the youth. “Cis, think of my bringing thee home a gold bracelet like mother’s.”
“What,” said his father, “when my Lady has just craved thee for a page.”