“She is welcome to read the letter,” said Mary, smiling; “thy semblance falleth short, my good friend.”
“Nay, madam, that was not the whole of my purport,” said Susan, standing with folded hands, looking from one to another. “Pardon me. My thought was that to take part in all this repeating of thoughtless, idle words, spoken foolishly indeed, but scarce so much in malice as to amuse your Grace with Court news, and treasured up so long, your Majesty descends from being the patient and suffering princess, meek, generous, and uncomplaining, to be—to be—”
“No better than one of them, wouldst thou add?” asked Mary, somewhat sharply, as Susan paused.
“Your Highness has said it,” answered Susan; then, as there was a moment’s pause, she looked up, and with clasped hands added, “Oh, madam! would it not be more worthy, more noble, more queenly, more Christian, to refrain from stinging with this repetition of these vain and foolish slanders?”
“Most Christian treatment have I met with,” returned Mary; but after a pause she turned to her almoner. Master Belton, saying, “What say you, sir?”
“I say that Mrs. Talbot speaks more Christian words than are often heard in these parts,” returned he. “The thankworthiness of suffering is lost by those who return the revilings upon those who utter them.”
“Then be it so,” returned the Queen. “Elizabeth shall be spared the knowledge that some ladies’ tongues can be as busy with her as with her poor cousin.”
With her own hands Mary tore up her own letter, but Curll’s copy unfortunately escaped destruction, to be discovered in after times. Lord and Lady Shrewsbury never knew the service Susan had rendered them by causing it to be suppressed.
The Countess was by no means pacified by the investigation, and both she and her family remained at Court, maligning her husband and his captive. As the season advanced, bringing the time for the Queen’s annual resort to the waters of Buxton, Lord Shrewsbury was obliged to entreat Mrs. Talbot again to be her companion, declaring that he had never known so much peace as with that lady in the Queen’s chambers
The journey to Buxton was always the great holiday of the imprisoned Court. The place was part of the Shrewsbury property, and the Earl had a great house there, but there were no conveniences for exercising so strict a watch as at Sheffield, and there was altogether a relaxation of discipline. Exercise was considered an essential part of the treatment, and recreations were there provided.
Cis had heard so much of the charms of the expedition, that she was enraptured to hear that she was to share it, together with Mrs. Talbot. The only drawback was that Humfrey had promised to come home after this present voyage, to see whether his little Cis were ready for him; and his father was much disposed to remain at home, receive him first, and communicate to him the obstacles in the way of wedding the young lady. However, my Lord refused to dispense with the attendance of his most trustworthy kinsman, and leaving Ned at school under charge of the learned Sniggius, the elder and the younger Richard Talbot rode forth with the retinue of the Queen and her warder.