“You saw him, Susan?”
“Yea, madam. Dame Mary sent for me, but none could be of any aid where it was the will of Heaven to take him.”
“If I had been there,” said the Countess, “I who have brought up eight children and lost none, I should have saved him! So he died in yonder cedar cradle! Well, e’en let Mary keep it. It may be that there is infection in the smell of the cedar wood, and that the child will sleep better out of it. It is too late to do aught this evening, but to-morrow the child shall be lodged as befits her birth, in the presence chamber.”
“Ah, madam!” said Susan, “would it be well for the sweet babe if her Majesty’s messengers, who be so often at the castle, were to report her so lodged?”
“I have a right to lodge my grandchild where and how I please in my own house.”
“Yea, madam, that is most true, but you wot how the Queen treats all who may have any claim to the throne in future times; and were it reported by any of the spies that are ever about us, how royal honours were paid to the little Lady Arbell, might she not be taken from your ladyship’s wardship, and bestowed with those who would not show her such loving care?”
The Countess would not show whether this had any effect on her, or else some sound made by the child attracted her. It was a puny little thing, and she had a true grandmother’s affection for it, apart from her absurd pride and ambition, so that she was glad to hold counsel over it with Susan, who had done such justice to her training as to be, in her eyes, a mother who had sense enough not to let her children waste and die; a rare merit in those days, and one that Susan could not disclaim, though she knew that it did not properly belong to her.
Cis had stood by all the time like a little statue, for no one, not even young Lady Talbot, durst sit down uninvited in the presence of Earl or Countess; but her black brows were bent, her gray eyes intent.
“Mother,” she said, as they went home on their quiet mules, “are great ladies always so rudely spoken to one another?”
“I have not seen many great ladies, Cis, and my Lady Countess has always been good to me.”
“Antony said that the Scots Queen and her ladies never storm at one another like my lady and her daughters.”
“Open words do not always go deep, Cis,” said the mother. “I had rather know and hear the worst at once.” And then her heart smote her as she recollected that she might be implying censure of the girl’s true mother, as well as defending wrath and passion, and she added, “Be that as it may, it is a happy thing to learn to refrain the tongue.”