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Title: In Doublet and Hose - A Story for Girls
Author: Madison, Lucy Foster, 1865-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Doublet and Hose - A Story for Girls" ***

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  IN DOUBLET AND HOSE

  _A STORY FOR GIRLS_

  _By_ LUCY FOSTER MADISON

  _Author of_
  "A Colonial Maid" etc.

  _Illustrated by_
  CLYDE O. DELAND

  The Penn Publishing Company
  PHILADELPHIA  MCMIV



  COPYRIGHT 1904 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY

  In Doublet and Hose



[Illustration: "_METHINKS THE MAID WILL SERVE OUR PURPOSE WELL_"]



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                            PAGE
        I  A QUESTION OF SKILL                          7
       II  THE SOLDIER GUEST                           17
      III  THE PAGE'S DRESS                            27
       IV  ANTHONY BABINGTON                           37
        V  ON THE ROAD TO STAFFORD                     48
       VI  A GLIMPSE OF MARY                           56
      VII  FRANCIS TO THE FRONT                        66
     VIII  THE DELIVERY OF THE LETTERS                 75
       IX  THE COMING OF ELIZABETH                     90
        X  THE QUEEN TAKES OFFENSE                    101
       XI  AT THE QUEEN'S COMMAND                     111
      XII  THE FAVOR OF PRINCES                       121
     XIII  A FAMILIAR FACE AND A CHALLENGE            137
      XIV  A STRANGE DUEL                             149
       XV  THE STRANGE WEAKNESS OF FRANCIS STAFFORD   160
      XVI  WHAT CAME OF AN OFFER OF FRIENDSHIP        171
     XVII  WHAT FRANCIS OVERHEARD                     182
    XVIII  AN ADVENTURE                               192
      XIX  A SHELTER FROM THE STORM                   203
       XX  FRANCIS FINDS A HELPER                     213
      XXI  AN UNLOOKED FOR RECEPTION                  223
     XXII  AS IT FELL OUT                             229
    XXIII  IN THE TOWER OF LONDON                     238
     XXIV  A FRIEND IN NEED                           250
      XXV  A GREAT SORROW BEFALLS FRANCIS             260
     XXVI  A FELLOW PRISONER                          272
    XXVII  THE ESCAPE                                 284
   XXVIII  THE THREE VOLUNTEERS                       297
     XXIX  A BRITOMARTE OF THE ARMADA                 304
      XXX  PARDON AND HAPPINESS                       321



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                            PAGE
  "METHINKS THE MAID WILL SERVE OUR PURPOSE WELL!"  frontispiece
  QUEEN MARY'S WIT GRASPED THE SITUATION                      77
  ELIZABETH EXTENDED HER HAND GRACIOUSLY                     107
  THE TWO WERE DEEP IN THE MYSTERIES OF FENCING              156
  SHE GAVE A FAINT GASP                                      190
  "I WILL NOT TELL, SIR FRANCIS"                             248
  "PULL, PULL FOR YOUR LIFE!"                                318



IN DOUBLET AND HOSE



CHAPTER I

A QUESTION OF SKILL


It was June, and the peaceful stillness of a summer's day hung over an
ancient wood which lay in the heart of the New Forest near the village of
Lyndhurst. The wood was a part of a large demesne which had at one time
been bordered by hedges of yew and holly, but these, having been
untrimmed for years, had grown into great bushes which in many places
were choked up by underwood and brambles.

The forest stretched in every direction. Wood after wood rose before the
eye, masses of color, the birches hung with softest green, the oak boughs
breaking into amber and olive made doubly bright by the dark gloom of the
firs. Wide-branched oaks were intermingled with beeches and copsewood of
various descriptions so closely in some places as to intercept the
sunshine. In others the trees receded from each other, forming wide
vistas that gave glimpses of other recesses of sylvan solitude.

Down the long sunlit glades the gold belted bees sounded their humming
horns through every flowery town of the weald. Gauze-winged dragon-flies
darted hither and thither while butterflies of every hue sailed by on
wings of sheeny bronze. In the bracken wild roses rioted in the richest
profusion; the foxglove blazed like pillars of fire through the shadowy
underwood and the woodbine flaunted its tall head proudly among the
leaves. A gentle breeze rustled the fern, and breathed upon the quaking
grass, setting its beautiful spikelets in motion until they seemed like
fairy bells rung by elfin fingers. The flutter and hum of the wild things
served but to intensify the stillness of the wood.

All at once the deep bass notes of a hound broke upon the air. Louder and
louder grew the baying, and soon from out of the purplish shade of the
trees there dashed a large greyhound followed by a laughing, panting
maiden.

"Content thee, Echo," she cried flinging herself upon the sward under a
wide-spreading oak. "I have breath to follow thee no more. Rest until our
good cousin joins us."

The dog obediently stretched himself by her side, and once more quiet
reigned in the wold. Presently the maiden sat up with an impatient
movement.

"He tarries long," she said throwing a mass of auburn curls from a broad,
low brow. "Marry! I fear that we have done but an ill turn to the good
Hugh."

As she spoke the form of an elderly man emerged from the trees and
approached her slowly. He was withered and thin and though but fifty
years of age seemed much older. His doublet and hose were of some dark
stuff and his short cloak was surmounted by a huge ruff, the edges of
which almost joined the brim of the small, high, cone-shaped hat which
partly concealed his gray hair.

"By the mass, Francis! methinks that thou dost grow more unmannerly each
day. Thou art as unthinking as the butterfly, else thou wouldst not have
burdened my fore-wearied flesh with thy bow."

"In sooth, it was but a poor return for thy kindness to leave thee my
bow," observed the girl as she hastened to relieve him of the crossbow
that he held. "Thy pardon, Master Hugh. I was intent upon the race and
thought not of it. It was a good dash, I promise you."

"Ay! I make no doubt of it," grumbled the old man seating himself. "But
'twere meeter for a maiden to embroider, or to play the virginals than to
shoot the bow or run with the hounds as thou dost."

"Said I not my Latin well this morning, cousin?" queried Francis. "Doth
not my lady mother instruct me in the tent and cross-stitch each day?
Besides doth not even the Queen's Majesty disport herself with the bow?
'Tis the fashion, good my master."

"Ay! 'Dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt,'"[A] spoke the old
man sharply.

"Be not angry, cousin, I did but ill in running from thee."

"Marry! let it pass, but I mislike such sturdiness, Francis. Thou hast
led me a sorry chase and we are far from the Hall. If I mistake not, we
are even now in Sanborne Park and that, thou knowest, is trespass."

"Nay, cousin; not unless we kill some of the red deer with which it
abounds, and that we have not done--yet," spoke the maiden demurely.

"The thought of such a thing should not be entertained by the daughter of
Lord William Stafford. Thou durst not think it, Francis."

"Durst not?" laughed Francis teasingly. "Should one stray in our path I
will show thee what I durst."

"Boast not, girl. It bespeaks ill for thy breeding. Thou art too prone to
vaunt thy skill in shooting. Not so was that flower of womanhood, the
Lady Jane Grey. Once," and the tutor spoke warmly for this was a favorite
theme, "once it was my good hap to pass some time at Broadgate, her
father's seat in Leicestershire, and never have I seen her like for love
of learning. Greek, Latin, French and Italian spoke she as well as her
own tongue. Some knowledge had she also of Hebrew, Chaldee and Arabic.
She loved not such idle sport as the chase. Would that thou wert like
her."

"Out upon thee for so evil a wish," chided Francis, but there was a merry
twinkle in her eye that softened the harshness of her tone. "Wouldst have
me beheaded? Yet it may be that I am such a dullard that thou dost wish
that I should meet with a like fate."

"Nay, child! Thou knowest better." The face of the old man softened
involuntarily as he gazed into the laughing countenance of the girl
before him.

Her head was crowned by a mass of red gold hair which, guiltless of
crisping or curling pins, fell in ringlets over her shoulders; her
complexion was of creamy fairness; her features regular, her eyes dark
and luminous; her whole expression full of winsomeness; but there was a
sparkle in the dark eyes now so full of mischief, and a set to the rich
red lips that spoke volumes for the spirit of Mistress Francis Stafford.

"I would only that thy desire for learning was like to that of the Lady
Jane's," went on the tutor. "Yet I do not dislike thy courage, and thou
art a good wench, surely."

"Hark!" cried Francis springing to her feet. "I hear the hounds. Look
ware, Echo! Look ware! Ware, ware!"

The greyhound, answering with short sharp yelps, rushed forward
frantically, and then stood at gaze as a tall red deer bounded from the
covert into the open glade. The noble animal's strength was almost spent.
His mouth was embossed with foam and large round tears were dropping from
his eyes. With a motion that was at once despairing and majestic he
turned to face his pursuers as a pack of hounds dashed from the trees and
surrounded him, making the air hideous with their clamor.

Instantly the maiden fitted a shaft to her bow and let fly a bolt as the
tutor uttered a shrill cry of remonstrance:

"Stay thy hand, girl! Knowest thou not the danger?"

Before the wounded animal could turn to charge this new assailant an
answering twang sounded from among the trees and a second arrow, sent
with unerring precision, imbedded itself in the deer's body. As the stag
fell, a lad of some sixteen years, clad in the dress of a forester, ran
hastily forward and reached the animal at the same moment that Francis
did.

"Behold, cousin," cried the girl triumphantly, "I have slain the deer.
Could thy Lady Jane Grey have done so well, thinkest thou?"

"Nay, fair maid," and the boy turned quickly, "'twas mine own bolt that
did the deed. Behold for thyself that thy shaft struck too far to the
left."

"'Tis false," cried Francis angrily. "'Twas mine arrow that slew him.
This one is mine, and thou seest that it alone hath entered the vital
part. 'Tis thine that is too far to the left."

"Nay; not mine, but thine," retorted the lad. "What? Would I, who lack
but little of man's estate be excelled by a girl? See for thyself,
mistress. The two are not an inch apart. The point is only which did the
deed. On mine honor, I tell thee, that it was mine own arrow. Thou seest
that it hath penetrated deeper than thine."

"I see naught of the kind," answered Francis with passion. "It was mine
that did it."

"Good master," said the boy appealing to the tutor, "didst mark that the
stag fell not until he received my shot?"

"Ay! I noted it, lad, and 'tis a point well taken," quoth Master Hugh.
"But a truce to thy quibbling. Here are the huntsmen."

The noise of the horns had been growing louder and louder as the hunting
party drew near, but the boy and girl were so absorbed in their
controversy that they had not heeded it.

"Fair maiden, there is a penalty," began the lad, but one of the hunters
called out:

"Beshrew me! if the quarry be not slain! What varlet hath done this?"

As Francis started forward the lad spoke,

"I, good my master. Give me thy knife, I pray thee, that I may make the
essay."

"What, ho, boy? Thou? Then instead of breaking the stag, thou shalt break
the jail. Knowest thou not that it is trespass to kill deer upon the land
of another?"

"He did it not," cried Francis. "'Twas I. What is the penalty? My father,
Lord William Stafford, will requite the loss; but permit me, I pray, to
take trophy of my skill."

"Thou?" The foresters who had surrounded the youth looked with amusement
at the girl, and then broke into loud guffaws.

"Heed her not, masters. Could a maiden do such a thing? She knows not of
what she speaks."

"Nay; give heed to me, I beseech you," cried Francis, but the lad
interrupted her.

"Permit it to be as I have said, mistress. If there be penalty, 'twere
meeter for me to suffer it than for thee. Withdraw, I beseech you."

"The boy is right," said Hugh Greville. "It is no place for thee,
Francis. I will speak to thy father concerning the matter. Meantime we
can serve no good purpose here. Come!"

"No, no," cried the girl trying vainly to make the foresters attend her.
"'Twas I who killed the deer. It was not this lad."

But the verderers paying no further attention to her words busied
themselves about the cutting up of the deer. With a burst of angry tears
Francis reluctantly permitted the tutor to lead her away.

-----
  [A]  While fools avoid one error they fall into the opposite
       one.



CHAPTER II

THE SOLDIER GUEST


Passing out of the park, Francis and her tutor came into the forest
proper. One vast sea of woods rolled, a flood of green, over hill and
valley onward and ever on till lost among the moors. Presently they
ascended Stoney Cross Hill and there opened out one long view. On the
northeast rose the hills of Winchester but the city was hidden in their
valley. To the east lay Southampton by the waterside; and to the north,
gleamed the green Wiltshire downs lit up by the sunlight.

Among the beeches but a short distance away lay Castle Malwood with its
single trench and Forest lodge, where tradition says that William Rufus
feasted before his death, and down in the valley was the spot where he is
said to have fallen. The road now became a long avenue of trees--beeches
with their smooth trunks, oaks growing in groups, with here and there
long lawns stretching far away into distant woods. All at once the manor
burst upon the view.

Situated in the midst of a noble park which crowned the summit of one of
the hills that fringed the borders of the weald, Stafford Hall, in this
year of grace 1586, the twenty-eighth of Elizabeth, was graceful and
stately in the extreme. The general design of the castle was a
parallelogram defended by a round tower at each of the angles with an
Anglo-Saxon keep. The entrance through a vaulted passageway was its most
striking feature. Of the time of the first Edward, there were signs of
decay in tower and still more ancient keep. Crevices bare of mortar gave
rare holding ground for moss and wall flower, and ivy and clematis
mantled chapel and turrets with a dank shroud that added to the
picturesqueness of the building.

The park, full of ferny depths, glorious old oaks and deep glades,
stretched away on one side toward the soft recesses of the forest. On the
other its wooded declivities sloped down to an idle brook now stopped up
by water-lilies and white crowfoot. The fair corn lands sloping to the
southeast so as to miss no gleam of morning or noonday sun; the fat
meadows where the herbage hid the hocks of the browsing kine, and the
hanging woods holding so many oaks and beeches ripe for the felling,
formed an appanage that was almost royal.

The views of the castle, the winding declivity of hill, the trees, the
fields, the exquisite landscape in the distance made an assemblage of
nature's beauties that was at once inspiring and noble.

But Francis Stafford was too angry to heed either beauty of scene or sky,
and she hurried toward the Hall with so quick a step that the tutor could
scarcely keep pace with her.

"I cry you mercy, Francis," he panted querulously as the girl paused
reluctantly in answer to his pleading. "Age hath stolen my vigor and I
cannot walk as thou canst. Already thou hast made me plod many a weary
step beyond my strength; and now thou wouldst have me run as though I
were a lad. Thou art too unheeding."

"A truce to thy chiding, cousin," rebuked the girl sharply. "I marvel
that thou dost appeal to my compassion. Thou knowest my skill with the
bow, and thou didst see the deer fall under my shaft; yet thou didst say
with the boy that 'twas he who did the deed. Catiff! How dared he claim
the stag? And 'twas a hart royal!"

"Yet had he not done so thou wouldst have had to suffer fine and
imprisonment. Dost know the law? It says----"

"I care not what it says," declared Francis haughtily. "If I offend
against the law then 'twere meet that I should bear the penalty. My
father shall right the matter."

Master Greville knowing full well the futility of contradicting his
charge when she was in such a wilful mood said no more, but meekly
followed her as she started once more on her way. Through the great
doors, which were of weathered oak thickly studded with nails, over which
hung the family coat of arms, a shield, azure, three quatrefoils, argent,
the girl and the old man passed across the paved courtyard, up a flight
of steps to the terrace which led to the porch and from thence to the
ante-hall passage.

Serving men clothed in blue with the family arms upon the left sleeve,
and retainers clothed also in blue but without the heraldic device
thronged courtyard, terrace and hall. Francis hastened through the
ante-hall passage to the great hall which lay beyond. The floors were
freshly strewn with rushes, the walls were hung with rich tapestries
representing stories from the classics. The upper end contained an oriel
window under which was a fringed dais. On one side of the apartment was a
huge fireplace over which the ancestral arms hung with the arms of
England over them. On the other side towered lofty windows. A screen
gallery, an organ and a high table completed the hall which was the
principal room of the castle and the place where all of the feasts,
mummeries and masques were held.

Ushers were hurrying through the great hall for it was "covering time,"
and the household was mustering for the midday meal. Francis threaded her
way through the crowd of yeomen to the door of the presence chamber, and
drawing aside the arras that hid the entrance, opened it and entered.

"My father," she began abruptly, and then paused for she saw that her
father was not alone.

"Is it you, my daughter?" Lord Stafford rose to meet her. The resemblance
between them was very striking. "I had just asked for you. This is my
child, Fortescue. She of whom we were speaking. Give greeting, Francis,
to my good friend Captain Fortescue."

Francis gave a quick glance at her father's guest. He was a man of
commanding stature, with black hair and keen black eyes that held a cruel
light in them. He was arrayed in a blue velvet jerkin with hose of the
same material. A large beaver hat with a long feather in it lay on the
table. A rapier depending from his belt completed his attire which was
that of a soldier. Without heeding this fact something in his bearing
caused the girl to address him as a priest.

"I give thee welcome, good father."

"Said I not that the wench was shrewd?" asked Lord Stafford with a hearty
laugh.

"Ay, my lord; and 'twas well said," returned the guest. "My child, do you
not see that I am attired as a soldier?"

"I crave forbearance," faltered Francis in some confusion. "I did not
notice thy dress, but judged from thy manner. Nathless, priest or
soldier, I give thee greeting. Prithee heed not mine error."

"'Twas naught," smiled Captain Fortescue. "It is to my praise that thou
didst accost me as an holy man. My lord, methinks the maid will serve our
purpose well."

"I trow so," answered Lord Stafford with a proud look. "She hath spirit
and courage to a rare degree in a maid. I know no lad of her age that can
equal her in hunting or hawking. No tercelet for her, but the fiercest
goshawk that e'er seized quarry. How now, Francis?"

"My father, I knew that thou wouldst believe my skill," said Francis
eagerly. "Yet a lad did but now contend that he it was who shot a deer in
the forest," and she related the incident graphically.

"Beshrew me, I doubt not but that thine was the arrow that slew the buck,
yet it contents me well that the lad should endure the penalty of the
deed in thy stead. How now, Greville?" to the tutor. "Was the youth of
noble birth?"

"Methought there seemed something of the gentle in him, though he was
but meanly garbed. Yet the apparel doth not always make the man,"
answered Greville.

"Not always," acquiesced Lord Stafford.

"He was not noble," interjected Francis shortly. "Else he would not have
claimed the deer. I would, good my father, that you compass his release,
and let me take the consequences of my action. I killed the deer."

"Be that as it may, child, the lad must bear the penalty. There are
matters of grave import that must now be considered, and thou canst aid
me."

"I aid thee?" asked the girl in surprise. "Father, didst thou say my
aid?"

"Thine, child. Come to me anon, and I will acquaint thee with the full
import of the matter. Greville, thou standest like a hind. Give greeting
to our guest. One would think that thou hadst never been at court."

"I give thee welcome, sir," said Greville bowing. "As my lord's friend, I
welcome thee."

"Methinks thy countenance is not unfamiliar, Master Greville," and the
soldier returned his obeisance courteously.

"In London mayhap thou hast seen me. It was mine abode for a time,"
replied the tutor carelessly.

"Perchance 'twas there," mused the other with a searching look at the old
man. "But howsoe'er that may be, later will I pledge to our better
friendship."

"I drink with no enemy of the queen," said Greville coldly.

"Greville!" exclaimed Lord Stafford.

"We differ not, Master Greville," smiled the soldier. "My life, my
service, my all is devoted to our queen. God bless Her Majesty!"

"God bless Her Majesty, Elizabeth," returned Greville pointedly.

"Thy mother waits thee, Francis, in her tiring-room," interposed Lord
Stafford hastily. "Come to me anon. Greville, no more of this an thou
lovest me."

The tutor without another word withdrew from the room accompanied by his
pupil.

"Was it not strange, cousin, that I should have thought our guest a
priest?" queried Francis when they were beyond the portals of the door.

"Nay; the habit doth not always proclaim the monk," quoth Greville
sententiously. "You spoke truer than you knew when you called him
'father.'"

"Is he in sooth then a priest?" asked the girl curiously. "Why comes he
then in such array? Are not priests always welcome in my father's
house?"

"Is it not within thy ken that an edict hath been passed making it
treason for priests to be found within the kingdom, and felony to harbor
them? And, forsooth, there is much reason for such a law. So many have
been the plots against the Queen's Majesty that much precaution must be
taken to preserve her from them."

"Would evil befall my father should it come to the ears of the queen that
he had given a priest entertainment?"

"I make no doubt of it, child. Therefore it behooves us to be silent
respecting the matter. But, by my life, girl! we dally too long. Away!
and set a guard upon thy lips. If thou canst carry so weighty a matter
sub silentio then will I deem thee better than the most of thy sex."



CHAPTER III

THE PAGE'S DRESS


The bower chamber of the Lady Penelope Stafford was both large and lofty
yet there was nothing there of ponderous grandeur. The walls were covered
with soft arras embroidered in bright coloring skilfully blended. The
rich furniture was designed for ease and comfort rather than pomp and
parade. The chamber was lighted by a large window with broad casements
between the mullions, and with flowing tracery above of arch and
quatrefoil.

On a low couch sat Lady Stafford swinging gently to and fro a delicate
gold handled fan of flamingo feathers which ever and anon she laid aside
to direct Francis who sat on a low stool at her feet plying some
embroidery work.

"So, my daughter," said the lady indicating a cross-stitch. "Take heed to
thy work else thou wilt not excel with the needle. Marry, I marvel that
thou dost accomplish anything with such unskilful fingers. Knowest thou
not that the Queen's Majesty did fashion a shirt of cambric for her
brother when she was but six years old? I trow that that is more than
thou couldst do now; and thou art more than double that age."

"I crave thy forbearance, my sweet mother," pleaded Francis. "My fancy
dwells not upon my task, but the rather do I wonder in what manner I may
be of service to my father. Dost thou know, my mother?"

"I could make a shrewd hazard as to its nature, Francis. Content thee,
child. Thou wilt soon know all." A look of anxiety crossed the lady's
face as she spoke, which the girl was quick to note.

"Thou art troubled, my mother. Prithee tell me the cause."

"Nay, girl. Thy father will open up the matter to thy ears when he deems
it best. Until then neither thou nor I may speak of it. 'Tis a woman's
lot to obey, and never to question the decree of either father or
husband."

"But why?" asked the maiden. "Have we not minds with which to reason?
Can we not think as well as men? Wherefore then should we yield blind
unreasoning obedience when mind and soul are as noble as theirs? Methinks
that women's judgments are as wise as men's."

"Child, child," exclaimed the lady startled by the girl's vehemence.
"Thou hast too much of thy sire in thee for a girl. I fear such spirit.
Study lowliness, for a woman should be meek. Stifle whatever of
questioning may come into thy heart, and render implicit obedience to thy
father."

"That I will do, mother. Have I not ever reverenced him? 'Tis pleasure to
obey his will. The more because I have so much of him in me. 'Twas he who
taught me how to string a bow, and 'twas he who guided my maiden hand and
eye until had I a brother he could not excel in hunting or hawking."

"I know, my daughter, yet my heart misgives me because of these very
things. Hadst thou been a boy all this would not come amiss. But thou art
a girl, and full of the weaknesses of women despite thy skill in men's
sports. Nature, howsoe'er disguised, will soon or late assert herself.
Thou art a woman, therefore again I say, steep thy soul in humility. I
fear that haughtiness in thee which thy father doth abet. Methinks it
bodes but ill both to thee and to him. But this give ear to: in all
things be submissive to thy father. Heedst thou, Francis?"

"Yes, my mother."

"I have thus spoken because dire forebodings have seized me of late. Thy
proud spirit ill brooks authority, and thou wilt soon be of an age when
if thy will should clash with thy father's, I trow not the consequences.
Therefore have I counseled thee. But of this no more."

For a time the two sat in silence, and then Francis broke the quiet:

"My mother, there is something that I would fain ask."

"Say on, my child."

"When I speak of it to Master Greville he calls me disloyal, but I mean
it not so. 'Tis only that I would know. My mother, why doth Elizabeth
reign as queen if our rightful queen is Mary of Scotland? Dost thou
believe her to be the true heiress to the crown?"

"Yes, child; as what true adherent of the faith doth not? Yet hath
Elizabeth been a good queen save and except that she hath made severe
laws against the exercise of our religion. But England hath truly
prospered under her."

"But there be some that would willingly raise Mary to the throne, are
there not?"

"'Tis treason to say so, but there be some in very truth. 'Tis because
the queen fears them that she hath kept Mary so long a prisoner."

"How long hath it been, mother?"

"Near nineteen years. It is a long, long time. She was full of youth and
beauty when she set foot upon English soil, but now she hath grown old
before her time with disease and confinement. Truly the queen hath dealt
harshly with her own kin."

"Master Greville saith that she is a cruel bad woman, and that if she
could compass the death of our queen she would do so."

"Greville speaks of that of which he knows naught," said Lady Stafford
sharply. "He hath let the gossip of the court fill him to repletion. It
hath been said that Mary was a wicked woman, yet I believe it not. That
she desireth her liberty is no crime, but rather the longing of all
nature to be free. Mary is the daughter and the granddaughter of a king.
Sometime queen of France, and crowned queen of Scotland. She is cousin
german to Elizabeth, and if common natures cannot brook confinement what
wonder is it that she sighs for freedom? This desire hath caused her to
attempt escape often by the aid of friends, and given rise to the belief
that many would raise her to the throne."

"Is Elizabeth beautiful, mother? Greville says that she is the most
lovely woman in the world. That none can compare with her for beauty, or
for learning."

Lady Stafford laughed and then checked herself.

"Child," she said, "it is my prayer that thou wilt grow here in thine own
home as a wild flower without sight of queen or court. But if it should
chance, which God forfend, that thou art called to the court, then
remember what thy tutor hath told thee, and count the queen the most
beautiful of women."

"But is she?"

"The queen is learned, child, beyond what is usual for her sex. Greville
will tell thee that there never was her like for knowledge, save and
except the Lady Jane Grey, the which would be treason to speak. I mind
well when Elizabeth was crowned that she was fair to look upon, but that
was twenty-eight years ago. The queen is now past fifty years of age.
Doth a flower retain its loveliness forever? I trow not. Yet methinks I
do but ill in speaking thus to thee. Elizabeth believes that time for her
hath stopped, and that age but enhances those charms which are the pride
of women. Yet I have heard otherwise."

"You go not to court, my mother. Why?"

"Because of its troubles and its dangers, Francis. Better to bide afar
off in this remote spot than to dwell among the jealousies of courtiers.
The favor of princes is uncertain, and even royalty is not always well
disposed toward the happiness of a subject. I would fain never behold the
court again, and I pray that thou mayst never be called to its
treacherous pleasures."

"Art thou here, my child?" asked Lord Stafford coming in at this moment.
"This is a favorable time, I ween, for me to unfold my wishes to thee.
Madam, will you bring the page's dress?"

Lady Stafford arose and drew from a chest of drawers the doublet, hose
and short cloak of a page.

"Withdraw, Francis, to the tiring room, and don these habiliments,"
commanded her father.

"But why," began the girl, but Lord Stafford waved his hand impatiently.

"Do as I tell thee, girl. When thou art habited, return and hear the
reason for thy strange attire."

Presently with a merry laugh Francis bounded into the room, and, doffing
the jaunty bonnet that perched upon her tresses, swept him a deep bow.

"Am I not a fair boy, my lord?" she cried gaily. "Do I not grace the
garb?"

"By my halidom, thou dost in very truth," exclaimed her father laughing.
"But thy tresses? Should they not be clipped?"

"Nay, good my lord," spoke Lady Stafford entreatingly. "Command not that,
I pray thee. Thou shalt see how cunningly my hand can knot them up with
silken strings. It will not be amiss in a lad."

"Leave them then, if thou wilt be the better contented," said the father.
"And now, child, if thou wilt but bring thy nimble wit into the part,
thou shalt please me well. How say thee? Wilt thou bear me company upon a
grave mission? Will thy courage fail, or canst thou, as if thou wert in
very truth my son, aid me to compass that to which I am pledged? How now,
girl? Hast courage for such an undertaking?"

"My father, what mean you?" asked Francis in bewilderment.

"Take heed to my words. There is on foot a movement to release from her
vile durance Mary, Queen of Scots. Too long hath she lain imprisoned. I
am to carry to her letters of import that inform her of the design. But
Mary is so immured, that heretofore it hath been impossible to gain
access to her. A lad would serve the purpose, but there be none known to
me of like courage and wit as thyself. Girl, canst thou wear that garb
and bear thyself as a man?"

"Ay, my lord; and to do more if needful," spoke Francis boldly.

"There spoke myself in you," said her father approvingly. "Then hearken!
at the first sign of the dawn we set forth, thou and I, for Chartley. How
now, sweet chuck?" as a sob escaped the mother. "Fear naught. Thy
birdling will return to thee the better for having stretched her wings
beyond the nest."

"I fear, my lord, for you both," said the lady brokenly. "You know how
all these attempts have ended, and Elizabeth hath no mercy for the
perpetrators of them."

"Now, now, be of good cheer. There is naught of harm meant to the queen.
'Tis only to give Mary freedom. Think only of thy daughter. Not many
mothers in England can boast of such a girl."

"Would that I had given thee a daughter of gentler spirit," sobbed the
lady. "Oh, my lord, pardon my utterance. I fear, I fear----"

"There! we will return safely and thou wilt forget thy misgivings in the
success of our enterprise. But now to bed, to bed. The first gray of the
morning must find us on our way. To bed, my child."



CHAPTER IV

ANTHONY BABINGTON


It was that darkest hour of the night, the one just before the dawn, that
Francis was summoned to attend her father. None of the household was
stirring save Brooks, an old servitor, who stood at the foot of the steps
with the horses. The statues of terrace and court gleamed ghostly white
in the darkness, and the grim old keep frowned darkly upon them. The
deserted aspect of the courtyard filled the girl with dismay. High
purposes and noble resolves flourish in the bright light of day and grow
into mightiness in the first hours of the night, but the early dawn
chills enthusiasm and makes the inspirations of the night before seem
poor and weak and hardly worth an effort.

Something of this feeling oppressed Francis Stafford. She missed the
shouting of the gallants, the screaming of the hawks, the yelping of the
dogs and the blowing of horns that was the accompaniment of a
hunting-party. Instead of such a triumphal departure there was only the
low sobbing of Lady Stafford as she bade them farewell.

"My lord, you will have great care for you both, will you not?" she
murmured, trying to control her emotion. "Oh, I like not the journey! I
like it not!"

"Be not dismayed," comforted her husband. "We will return soon, and there
is no danger. We will be with thee again ere thou hast had time to miss
us."

The lady said no more but embraced them mournfully. Both father and child
were silent as they swept out of the courtyard into the park beyond.
Presently the sky began to soften in the east, and the gray uncertain
light gave place to the blushing dawn. Soon the dark shadows that lurked
under the trees fled before the golden beams of the sun. Suddenly the
note of a lark rang out silvery and joyous. Bird after bird took up the
note until from every tree and shrub there swelled a grand chorus as
larks and throstles poured forth their matin song of praise.

"How beautiful!" cried Francis, her eyes sparkling, her spirits rising.
"My father, right glad am I to be here with thee."

"Thine is a wild spirit, Francis," said her father rousing himself. "You
mind me of these birds, so wild and free yet sweet withal. Child, mayhap
I have done ill in taking thee thus from thy mother. And yet, we are not
in the queen's favor! Should misfortune overtake one it would involve
all."

"Father, if by act of mine I can further thy purpose, make use of me, I
pray. Glad am I that thou dost deem me worthy of thy confidence. And do
we not go to the aid of Mary, our rightful queen? What excuse need we for
so doing? Oh, if I can once behold her, can but once kiss her hand, then
would I be willing to lose even my life if 'twere needful."

Lord Stafford smiled at her enthusiasm.

"Has the infection seized upon thee too, child? In like manner so do I
feel, and so do hundreds of others. Strange what an influence Mary Stuart
wields over human hearts! God forfend that thy life should be required,
Francis, though many have been lost in her cause. But I would not that
thine should be numbered among them. Marry, it saddens me to think on't.
No more of this!"

"What name shall you call me by, my father, since I am your page?" asked
Francis presently.

"Thine own. 'Tis a name that thou dost wear because it was my father's,
and will serve. But bear thyself in accordance with it and none will deem
thee other than thou seemest. And I--I must teach my tongue to say boy
instead of child. We have a long ride before us, and I fear that thy
strength will fail ere we reach its end."

"Fear not, good my father. Thou knowest how used to fatigue I am in
hunting and hawking."

"I know thy strength, else I should have feared to risk thee for so long
a jaunt. And thou hast never been so far from home before."

"No; I went with thee once to Lymington where I saw The Solent, and in
the distance the Isle of Wight. But never have I been even across
Southampton water."

"True; I had forgot. Then thou wilt be entertained greatly, for we go
through Wilts, Gloucester and Worcester before we reach Stafford."

And so conversing on through the woods they passed until at length they
came to Bramshaw, a little village standing partly in Hampshire and
partly in Wiltshire and forming the forest boundary. Before them swelled
the rounded forms of the Wiltshire downs, and from their midst towered
the spire of Salisbury with the mound of old Sarum looming darkly
behind.

"I prithee tell me, father," said Francis, "what is that which I see in
yon distance? Methinks it looks like the tower of a church."

"Its looks belie it not, Francis. It is the spire of the cathedral of
Saint Mary, than which there is none higher in England. In the valley
lies Salisbury where we will stop for rest and refreshment. Yon conical
mound is Old Sarum which hath been a fortress from the earliest times.
The fosse and rampart belong to the Roman period. In the vast plain which
lies beneath it the Conqueror reviewed his victorious armies, and there
also did the English landholders swear fealty to him."

Francis looked with the delight of one who goes abroad for the first
time. At the beautiful cathedral, then at the old fort, and lastly at the
town itself which lay in the valley at the confluence of four rivers: the
upper Avon, the Wiley, the Bourne and the Nadder. In the centre of the
city was a large handsome square for the market-place from which the
streets branched off at right angles. The streams flowed uncovered
through the streets which added greatly to the picturesqueness of the
place.

Lord Stafford turned into one of the side streets, and drew rein before a
small inn, The Mermaid by name. As he rode into the courtyard the host
hurried forward to greet him.

"Good my lord," he said obsequiously, "light, and grace my poor house, I
pray you. There be one here who hath waited since yester e'en to see
you."

"Beshrew me, sayst thou so!" ejaculated Lord Stafford. "I thought not to
meet with any here. But oft must a man's pleasuring be staid for by
affairs of business. Is it not true, good Giles?"

"Marry, 'tis only too true," replied the host.

"Where is he that would speak with me, Giles?"

"In the east parlor, my lord. I crave forbearance, sir, for placing any
in the room which is reserved for your use, but I knew not that you were
about to fare this way."

"Trouble not thyself concerning the matter, good Giles," returned his
lordship. "Come, Francis."

Tossing his cloak to Francis he strode toward the entrance of the tavern.
The girl threw the garment over her arm, started to follow him, and then
paused in sheerest confusion at finding the eyes of the myrmidons of the
inn upon her.

Donning male attire in her own home had been mere sport, but with the
curious eyes of strangers upon her the girl felt painfully embarrassed.

"Look to thyself, boy," came in sharp tones from her father, and there
was a note of warning in the faint emphasis that he placed upon the word
boy.

Thus adjured Francis collected her wits, and, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, she followed after her father with all the
boldness which she could assume. Lord Stafford wended his way to the
east parlor of the inn with the air of being perfectly familiar with the
place, giving his orders to the rotund host as he went.

"'Tis but a short time that we will trouble thee, Giles," he said. "Serve
us with dinner, I pray you. We will rest for a time, and then speed
onward. Anthony," he ejaculated as the host threw open the door of the
chamber, "it is thou?"

"'Tis even I, my lord," answered a tall young man coming forward. "I had
news that you were coming this way and hurried hither to greet you."

"Right glad am I to see thee, Babington," was Stafford's rejoinder. "I
have much to say to thee. Hast dined?"

"No, my lord."

"Then let us eat, and afterward there will be leisure for converse. Be in
haste with thy meal, Giles."

The host hastened from the room while Francis slipped quietly into the
nearest chair, and looked with interest at the young man. She had heard
of Anthony Babington. His attachment to Mary of Scotland was well known,
and his devotion invested him with a romantic glamour now that she too
had espoused the same cause. The young man was speaking in low, rapid
tones to her father:

"I tell you, my lord, that the attempt will not be successful. No
invasion or insurrection can occur during Elizabeth's life, for any open
endeavor in Mary's favor will cause Sir Amyas Paulet to slay her. He hath
sworn it."

"Then, Anthony, it may be unwise to try to release Mary from her prison.
She hath suffered much of late from illness. It was my hope that if we
were successful, to place her where she might obtain the comforts of
which she hath been bereft, and so placed she would regain her health."

"The matter hath gone too far to end in her mere release," cried
Babington earnestly. "Elizabeth must die."

"Babington, thou art mad!" exclaimed Lord Stafford starting up in
horror.

"Mad? Nay; I have just begun to see that I have been called to rid
England of that most unjust queen who transcends the laws of blood by
keeping her own kin imprisoned as she hath done. And I am not alone,
Stafford. There are others who believe as I do. Wilt thou join us?"

"Never," cried Lord Stafford sternly. "May my right hand drop from its
shoulder ere it be raised against England's queen. Unjust to Mary she
hath been. Unjust in her treatment of her, and unjust in usurping the
throne. But still she is her father's daughter, and crowned queen of
England. If it be so that the release of Mary can be compassed, and
Elizabeth forced to recognize her as her successor, I will join the
effort even as I have already pledged to do. But no more."

"Hast thou not seen Ballard?" asked the young man in surprise.

"Yes; he tarried with me at mine own house as Captain Fortescue. How
now?"

"He said that thou wert ripe for the project," mused the other.

"Not to assassinate Elizabeth," returned Lord Stafford firmly. "I go to
Chartley now to acquaint Mary with the plan for her release. But I tell
thee, Anthony, if what thou tellest me be true, then will I withdraw
from the enterprise."

"My lord, I did but try thee. Some there be who advocate the slaying of
Elizabeth, but they are few. I beseech you, as you have given your
pledge, aid us in acquainting Mary with the plan for her rescue. No more
than this do we ask, and thou art depended on for this much."

"As mine honor hath been given, I will continue to Chartley," said Lord
Stafford.

"Then, my lord, wilt thou bear this letter also from me," and Babington
handed him a small missive. "It hath given her some uneasiness at not
hearing from me, and I would ease her mind."

"Yes, Anthony; the letter shall be given her with these others." Lord
Stafford concealed it in his belt. "Methinks that thou art in a bad way,
my lad."

"More anon," said Babington. "Our host comes. Thy dinner is served, my
lord."



CHAPTER V

ON THE ROAD TO STAFFORD


Francis was so absorbed in the thoughts engendered by the conversation
that she had just heard that she forgot all about her character as page
and her duties as such. She was recalled to herself by a sharp reprimand
from her father:

"Thy duty, Francis. Attend to the serving."

Babington turned a startled glance upon her as she arose in obedience to
her father's command.

"The page?" he cried. "Did he hear our converse, my lord?"

"Yes; but fear not, Anthony. I would stake mine honor upon his silence.
Thou canst be trusted, Francis?"

With heightened color, for the blood mounted to her cheeks at the intent
gaze of the young man, the girl answered earnestly:

"Yes, my lord. Naught of what I have heard shall pass my lips. Not even
the rack should wring it from me."

"Protest not too much, boy," rebuked Babington. "Older and wiser men than
thou have succumbed to its tortures."

"You speak words of wisdom, Anthony," remarked Lord Stafford. "Let us
hope that the boy will not be tried by so grievous an instrument. Yet I
do believe that he will be discreet."

"He seems a proper lad," returned the other. "A little backward,
forsooth, but with none of the malapertness of some pages."

Francis, now completely at ease as she saw that the young man believed
her to be what she appeared, flashed an arch look at her father. Lord
Stafford smiled slightly, but his countenance soon became overcast with
gravity. The meal over, the host withdrew, and the elder man turned once
more to the younger one.

"Anthony," he said, "I must on my way, but let me plead with thee that if
thou dost entertain a thought of such rash emprises as thy words suggest,
to forego them. Naught but disaster could follow upon such projects."

"My lord, say no more an thou lovest me," replied Babington. "Mary's
sufferings cry aloud for vengeance. Sleeping or waking her wrongs are
before me. My lord, she is a prisoner; made to submit to privations that
even the basest criminals do not undergo. Couldst thou have seen her at
Tutbury or Wingfield as I have done, you would wonder no longer that
deeds of blood suggest themselves."

"Anthony, thou art mad," exclaimed Lord Stafford compassionately.

"Mad! nay; but Mary Stuart hath languished too long in her chains. I
would dare anything to release her from them."

"And so would we all who love and reverence her as the true heiress of
England's crown, Anthony. Yet I fear that thou dost meditate wrong to
Elizabeth, but surely thou wouldst not raise thy hand against a woman?"

"Ay, my lord! Against a woman, or what not for Mary's sake."

"But Mary would not approve such measure."

"No; therefore do we only contemplate her rescue. The softness of her
heart doth prevent other aims."

"Anthony," said Lord Stafford preparing to renew his journey, "I see that
thou art ripe for some foolhardy enterprise. I misdoubt thy loyalty to
Elizabeth, and fear that thou wilt soon engage in mischief. Had I not
pledged mine honor to take these letters to Mary I would have naught to
do with the matter. Thou hast raised grave doubts as to the nature of
this undertaking. I fear for thee, for myself and family, and most of all
do I fear for Mary Stuart. Thou knowest how eagerly Walsingham watches
for an excuse to compass her death. Remember that, Anthony, and by the
love you bear to her, forego the thoughts that charge thy brain."

"Fear naught, my lord. Thy doubts carry thee farther than the issue
warrants," said Babington lightly.

"I bid you farewell, Anthony, but my heart is heavy with foreboding," and
Lord Stafford embraced him. "Would that I had known all this ere mine
honor had become involved."

"Be of good cheer. You lay too much stress upon the matter," and the
young man returned his embrace. "Farewell."

"Fare you well." Lord Stafford proceeded to the courtyard followed by
Francis. When the girl would have ridden behind him, he motioned her
silently to come beside him. Wonderingly she obeyed, for not thus were
pages wont to travel with their lords.

"My child," said Lord Stafford when they had left the tavern behind and
were on the old Roman road to Bath, "I have done ill in embarking upon
this emprise, and more than ill in engaging thee in it also. There are
dark days before us, Francis."

"My father," and leaning from her horse the girl kissed him. "No matter
what befall thou hast deemed me worthy to share thy danger, and I will
not repine. But I like not to think that they wish to kill the queen."

"Think not on that, Francis," said her father hastily. "On that matter my
heart is heavy, though I trow such attempt will not be made. Anthony but
raves. Such thoughts are not for thy young heart. Dismiss them, I entreat
thee."

"Let us rather think only that we are to carry the tidings to Mary that
an effort will be made to release her. Surely it is right to seek to
relieve her suffering," said the girl sweetly.

"It is in very truth, my child. Thou and I are not concerned in aught but
in bearing good news; therefore will I cheer up, sweet chuck, though I am
greatly troubled."

And by an effort he put aside the dire forebodings that filled his soul,
and tried to enter into the enjoyment of his daughter who, with the
elasticity of youth, had turned to the more cheerful scenes around them.

Frequently he called her attention to some historic spot, or pointed out
the beauties of the sylvan landscape. And thus, sometimes in sweet
converse in which Francis learned to know her father better than she had
ever known him; at others, in long lapses of silence the more eloquent
that there was no conversation, and in stopping for rest and refreshment
at taverns did the days pass without further incident. Yet though nothing
of import transpired, the journey was not without interest to Francis.

Bath, on the right bank of the river Avon, presented a great variety of
beautiful landscape; the old city of Gloucester, city of churches and
beloved of kings; Tewkesbury, site of the battle between Lancastrians and
Yorkists which placed the crown upon the head of Edward the Fourth;
Worcester, with its glorious cathedral, filled her with delight. The
beauty of the diversified scenery, consisting of hill, vale, forest and
river, the numerous remains of Druid, British, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and
Norman to which her father called her attention; all these things
contributed to her pleasure, and served to banish everything from her
mind save the happiness of the moment.

"And now, Francis," said Lord Stafford on the evening of the fourth day,
"yonder lies Stafford, and we are near the end of our travel. Behold, on
yon mount, called 'Castle Hill,' the place where stood a noble castle
built by William the Conqueror. He conferred it upon Robert de Torri who
took the name de Stafford from whom, as thou dost well ken, our family
hath sprung. Art thou weary, girl?"

"Yes, father, but the journey hath nevertheless been full of delight,"
returned Francis brightly though her drooping body spoke of the fatigue
by which she was almost overcome. "Yet right glad am I that we are come
to Stafford. And on the morrow it may be that I shall see Queen Mary."

"Mayhap, child. But now put from thee all thought save that of rest. Let
the morrow bring what it will, this night shall be devoted to quiet and
repose."

Putting spurs to his horse the tired animal renewed his speed, and they
were soon within the gates of the city.



CHAPTER VI

A GLIMPSE OF MARY


Francis' wish of beholding the Queen of Scots was gratified in a most
unexpected manner.

"Do you remain here, my child," said Lord Stafford the next morning. "I
would behold for myself if what I have heard of Mary's keeper, Sir Amyas
Paulet, be true. If he be not so strict as report hath it, access to Mary
may be easy. I would rather, if it be possible, that the matter be
dispatched without employ of thee."

"But thou wouldst still let me see Mary, father?"

"By my troth, I would. Thou hast well merited it. But now farewell for a
season. When I return we can tell better how to conclude this business."

"My father, what shall I do until thy return? Could I not go forth to the
place where stood the castle of our ancestors? I would fain examine
it."

Lord Stafford hesitated for a moment before replying, and then said
thoughtfully:

"Thou mayst, if thou wilt. I know that I need not tell thee to remember
that though thou dost wear a man's habit thou art still in truth a maid,
and to demean thyself in accordance therewith. But still as thou dost
wear the habit, more of liberty may be given thee than otherwise thou
couldst enjoy. Yes; go to Castle Hill, an thou wishest, but say to none
what and for why we tarry in the town."

"I am thy daughter, sir," said Francis proudly. "Thou dost deem me worthy
to abet thy enterprises. I will so bear myself that thou couldst ask no
more of me than if I were thy son."

"No more," said Lord Stafford smilingly. "Thou leavest me with no regret
that thou art not my son. A son could do no more."

He kissed her and left the chamber. Francis followed after him to the
courtyard of the inn where she stood watching him until he was lost to
view. Then drawing her cloak about her she left the yard, and walked
slowly toward the eminence upon which the great castle formerly stood.

The ruins were interesting and served to entertain the girl for some
time, but at length becoming weary, it occurred to her to set forth to
meet her father.

"It seems long since he started," she mused. "It cannot be a great while
ere he returns. Therefore to beguile my loneliness I will go to meet
him."

Passing through the gates of the town she struck boldly into the open
plain through which the road ran to Chartley. On and on she walked, the
road turning and winding until at length it forked; one branch going to
the left, the other to the right. Francis paused in bewilderment.

"Which shall I take?" she asked herself looking first at one and then at
the other. "My faith, but either stretches forth invitingly. I have it! I
will cast my dagger, and traverse that one toward which it points."

So saying she unsheathed a small poniard from her belt and drew herself
up to cast the weapon, when the clatter of horses' hoofs broke upon her
ear. She looked up startled. From behind a bend in the road to the right
there came at full gallop a party consisting of several men and a lady.
Francis was so amazed at their sudden appearance that she still retained
her position, the dagger poised ready for the throw. With a cry of horror
the lady spurred her horse to her side.

"Boy," she cried, "what art thou about to do? Stay thy hand, I command.
Knowest thou not that self-destruction is forbid?"

Francis gave vent to a merry peal of laughter as the lady's meaning
flashed upon her.

"Be not dismayed, fair lady," she said doffing her bonnet and making a
deep courtesy. "I was not planning self-destruction. Life holds too much
of promise to end it now. I was but wondering which of these two roads
led to Chartley, and thought to follow the one toward which a throw of
the dagger would point."

The lady joined in the laugh, and then became grave.

"To Chartley?" she said. "And what wouldst thou at Chartley?"

It was on the tip of the girl's tongue to reply, "I go to meet my
father," but she caught herself in time. None must know of his journey
there, and even though she who asked were beautiful and gracious she must
be discreet.

"I wished to see Queen Mary," she answered after a moment's hesitation.

"To see Mary?" broke in one of the men who had drawn near during the
above colloquy. "And may I ask, young sir, what business thou hast with
Mary?"

"Why, why," stammered Francis abashed by his harsh address and rude
bearing. "I have no business. I only wished to see the queen."

"Queen forsooth! Of what is she queen?" asked the other brusquely. "Of
nothing, I trow. Not even is she mistress of her own actions. Queen
forsooth!"

"Thou speakest truly, Paulet," said the lady mildly. "Yet methinks it not
becoming in thee to taunt Mary Stuart with the miserable state to which
she hath been reduced. Boy, thou didst wish to see Mary. I am she."

"Mary? Art thou in truth Queen Mary?" Francis exclaimed rapturously, and
seeing the assenting smile on the lady's face she darted to her side and
seizing her hand she kissed it fervently. "Oh," she cried, "if thou art
Mary, know that mistress of thy actions thou mayst not be, but thou dost
reign in truth a queen over this poor heart."

The dark eyes of Mary Stuart filled with tears and she pressed the girl's
hand tenderly.

"Such homage is sweet to the poor captive, my lad. It gladdens our heart
to know that there are some who still hold Mary in reverence. Take this
and wear in remembrance of her who is grateful for even the homage of a
page."

She drew from her neck a chain of gold to which was attached a locket
which she threw over the girl's head. With an exclamation of delight
Francis pressed it to her lips passionately.

"It shall never leave me while life lasts," she declared. "But may I not
wait upon you at your castle, Your Highness? I would be of service to
you."

Her eyes sought the lady's with a meaning look that Mary was quick to
catch.

"Nay;" broke in Sir Amyas Paulet for the gruff old puritan was very
rigid with his illustrious captive. "Thou hast had thy wish, boy, and
obtained what was doubtless thy object: a chain for a kiss, a locket for
an obeisance. It pays to give court to reduced royalty. Away with thee,
and let me not see thy face at Chartley, else thou shalt meet a gruff
reception."

"Then farewell." Francis drew as close to the lady's side as she could.
"There are letters," she whispered.

"Away!" Sir Amyas laid a hand upon the bridle of Mary's horse and turned
the animal from the girl. "I will have no whisperings. Away, boy!"

"Be not overcome, my pretty lad," and Mary drew rein despite the protests
of her uncivil guardian. "We thank thee for thy homage, and hope to see
thee again when we journey forth. Farewell."

"Farewell," returned Francis sinking upon one knee and saluting her. "I
will see you again, Your Grace."

With an impatient exclamation Sir Amyas Paulet gave a sharp blow to
Mary's horse, which reared and plunged at the treatment, almost
unseating the lady, able horsewoman though she was. The animal then
dashed away followed by the grim old puritan and the remainder of the
party who had halted at some little distance from them.

As soon as they were out of sight Francis took the locket in her hand.

"And I have seen Mary," she said with gladness. "How it will surprise my
father. How beautiful is the locket, and how full of graciousness and
sweetness she is! Service in her behalf must be a joy."

She turned and retraced her steps toward Stafford unmindful of the fact
that she had started to meet her father.

It had been morning when Lord Stafford had left his daughter; the sun was
declining in the west when, discouraged and low in spirit, he returned to
the tavern!

"It is even worse than report hath it," he said as he entered the
apartment where Francis awaited him. "Chartley is as much a prison for
Mary as the tower itself would be. When I sought admission to its gates I
was refused and threatened, forsooth. The manor is surrounded by a moat
and is well defended. The walls can be scaled only by birds. Methinks
that there is cause for Babington's wild frenzy."

"Father," spoke Francis demurely, though there was exultation in her
tones, "I saw Mary."

"My child, what do you say?" ejaculated Lord Stafford in surprise. "How
couldst thou? You were not at Chartley."

"Nathless I saw the queen," and Francis laughed gleefully. "See what she
graciously gave me."

Her father took the chain and locket in his hands and examined them
closely.

"It doth indeed come from Mary," he said looking at the name, Marie R,
engraved upon it. "Thou hast accomplished wonders, Francis. Tell me how
the matter fell out?"

Francis related all that had happened. Lord Stafford listened intently.

"Sir Amyas is an austere jailer," he observed. "He thinketh to do his
duty more acceptably to Elizabeth by treating Mary with rigor. Mary is
quick of wit, and I doubt not that this will put her on the alert. Child,
I must trust to thy wit to help me in this. Canst thou compass it?"

"I am sure so," answered Francis with the confidence of youth. "To-morrow
I will again repair to the forked roads, and mayhap she will be there."

"Mayhap," said her father, "but I misdoubt it. Paulet may be suspicious
of thee, but 'twill do no harm to be there. We will try to get the
letters to her, but if we do not succeed then must Ballard, or Captain
Fortescue as he calls himself, find some other means of communicating
with her."

"We will succeed. Never fear," said Francis with conviction.



CHAPTER VII

FRANCIS TO THE FRONT


The next morning Francis was early at the crossroads but although she
waited for several hours neither Mary nor any of her party appeared.

"It is as I thought it would be," said Lord Stafford, "but we must not be
discouraged. You must go to the same place for several days. I feel sure
that if Mary can compass it she will fare that way again. It is our only
hope of opening up communication with her."

Three more days passed without result, but on the morning of the fourth
day a cavalcade appeared. Francis was delighted to see Mary in their
midst. Not as before on a horse but in a coach. As she stood with
uncovered head the party swept by her without stopping. The queen bowed
and smiled, but when the girl would have darted to the side of the coach
she was prevented by the gentlemen of the guard who closed around it.

"Oh," cried the girl, tears of disappointment streaming from her eyes,
"what shall I do? What can I do?" But the equipage swept on bearing Mary
from her sight and Francis gave way to her grief unrestrainedly.

"And I thought to have done so much," she murmured when she had become
calm. "Ah! my father did well to say that Sir Amyas was an austere man.
Little doth it comfort Mary to be a queen when there is such an one to
control her actions. Well, I must to the inn."

She turned to go back to the town when her eye was caught by a filmy bit
of linen which was caught in a bush by the wayside.

"'Twas hers," cried Francis catching it up eagerly. "How foolish to
repine when I should have known that there would be some sign."

Examining the dainty bit of cloth carefully she found it covered over
with a lot of characters whose meaning she could not fathom.

"I must take it to my father," she said concealing the linen in her
bosom. "Mayhap he can decipher it." And she hastened to return to the
tavern joyful at having obtained at least a token.

"It is written in cipher," remarked Lord Stafford, examining the bit of
cloth attentively. "It is my good fortune to have the key to some of the
ciphers which she uses. It may be that it is the one that will unravel
the meaning of this for us."

Francis awaited the result with impatience while her father applied
himself to the task of deciphering the characters. Presently he looked up
triumphantly.

"I have it, child. Mary is in truth on the alert. She knows that we have
messages for her. Listen! she says: 'I find no security in writing by
carrier; the best recipe for secret writing is alum dissolved in a little
clear water twenty-four hours before it is required to write with. In
order to read it the paper must be wetted in a basin of water and then
held to the fire; the secret writing then appears white and may easily be
read until the paper gets dry. You may write in this manner on white
taffeta or white linen, especially lawn; and as a token when anything is
written on a piece of taffeta or linen a little snip can be cut off from
one of the corners. Friend, if so be that you have letters, transcribe
their message in the above manner. As to the manner of their delivery I
know not. I will this way as often as the disposition of my jailer will
permit. Adieu, my friend--though I know not thy name, yet thy features
are engraved upon the heart of your queen,

                                                    'MARIE, ROYNE.'"

"There!" Lord Stafford smoothed the piece of cloth complacently. "The
thing that troubles is how to give her the papers and letters. 'Tis my
belief that they would be as easy to deliver as to transcribe their
contents upon cloth to give her. She must be made aware of the plan for
her rescue."

"What is the plan, father?"

"To overwhelm her escort while she is taking the air, child. Babington is
to come with one hundred men and carry Mary off. Her escort seldom
consists of more than eighteen or twenty men, and we think she might be
easily taken from them."

"But would not other of Sir Amyas's men follow after and retake her?"

"We hope to place her in a secure spot ere they could do so, Francis.
Once across the border Elizabeth would have no power over her, and her
son, unfilial though he hath shown himself, could not for very shame
refuse her safe asylum. Then she might, if she would so choose, retire to
France where she could dwell in peace."

"She must have those letters, my father."

"Yes, Francis; but how? My mind plays me false when I would discover a
way. It is not active. We must think, think, Francis."

Francis arose and walked to the window where she stood abstractedly
looking through the lattice which overhung a large yard, surrounded by
the stables of the hostelry. Some yeomen were dressing their own or their
masters' horses, whistling, singing and laughing. Suddenly she bent
forward eagerly.

"My father," she cried, "prithee come here!"

"What is it, Francis?" asked Lord Stafford joining her.

"Dost see the boy on the cart that has just entered the yard?"

"Yes."

"What is he, think you?"

"My child, he is a carter. What doth make thee so full of interest in
him?"

"Might it not be that as a carter he would go to Chartley sometimes?"

"Gramercy! I see thy meaning. How full of wit thou art!"

Francis smiled, much gratified.

"If it can be compassed would it not be excellent to enter Chartley as a
carter? The thing is to get within the gates. Then the delivery of the
letters would be easy."

"'Tis excellently thought of, child, but there are guards within as well.
'Twould still require adroitness to accomplish the rest."

"Trust me! If I can get within, the rest shall follow," said she with
great determination. "I will enter into talk with that carter and see
what can be done with him. My father, do I bear myself in a manner
befitting my garb?"

"Thou art a very model of pagehood, Francis. Go, my child. Heavy as the
burden of this emprise is it seems to have shifted its weight to thy
shoulders. Find if the lad goes to Chartley, and if so, the way may be
opened for us to enter therein. Divers means must be employed to
accomplish our aims."

The girl left the chamber and, assuming the careless frowardness of a
page, sauntered into the yard.

"Good-morrow, my lad," she said, stopping by the side of the boy who was
busily engaged in removing sacks, baskets and other receptacles from the
cart.

"Good-morrow, young sir," returned the wight civilly. "It hath been some
days since I saw your worshipful sir. Methought that you had gone away."

"Nay; I tarry here still for there is good cheer to be found at the Red
Hand," quoth Francis with a bold swagger. "How busy thou art."

"Yes; the likes o' us have to be. What with loading the cart, delivering,
and unloading again, and caring for the nag I find the time full."

"And where doth it all go, lad?"

"To Chartley, sir."

"Chartley? Is not that where Mary of Scotland is confined?" asked
Francis, trying to speak indifferently.

"The very place."

"Didst ever see her, boy?"

"Why, yes, my young master. Many a time and oft since she hath been at
Chartley. She takes the air in the early morning in the gardens and I
have seen her there when I drove in with my cart."

"I would that I might see her. Could I--could I go with you?"

The youth stared for a moment and then answered soberly:

"It is forbid to us to carry aught besides our wares within the gates.
And Sir Amyas is that particular that I misdoubt if he would let you
enter."

"Still I would like to try. 'Tis only for a sight of the queen. And see!
here is a gold piece that thou canst have. Do let me go with thee, Will.
Thy name is Will?"

"That is my name, sir." Will's hand closed over the gold but he still
appeared reluctant. "Well, it shall be as you wish, my young master. But
you must wear other garb than that, else you cannot enter."

"What habit shall I wear, good Will?"

"I will give thee my cloak and bonnet, master. I durst not do this if
thou shouldst want else but to look at the queen. But what harm is there
in that?"

"What in truth, Will? A cat may look at a king, I trow. When do you go
again?"

"To-morrow. Wouldst go then?"

"Ay, Will."

"Then, my master, you must be up with the lark for we start early."

"I will be ready. Then farewell until then. Thou wilt not regret thy
favor to me, Will, I promise thee."

"I hope not, master."

"Thou wilt not. Farewell till the morrow."

And Francis ran lightly back to her father to report the result of the
interview.



CHAPTER VIII

THE DELIVERY OF THE LETTERS


Will was disposed to be taciturn on the way to Chartley. Francis did not
know whether he suspected her design was more than to see Mary or not,
but summoning all the finesse of which she was mistress she made herself
as agreeable as she could, relating stories and incidents of the chase,
until long before the plain which lay between Stafford and Chartley was
crossed, Will's surliness had vanished.

The sun was an hour high when they reached their destination. Chartley,
grim and gray in the morning light, rose before them. The manor was large
and roomy, surrounded by such a high wall that none, unless he were
endowed with the wings of a bird, could scale its heights. A moat
encompassed the whole. The castle with wall and moat forming a stronghold
well suited to its present use as prison.

As they crossed the drawbridge and entered the portals Francis was
surprised to see sentinels everywhere. Her spirit sank a little and her
heart quailed as she noted all of the means employed to insure Mary's
safe-keeping.

"My father was right," she thought. "To obtain entrance is not all. There
will still be difficulty, I fear, in seeing her. What if she comes not to
the garden? But courage! Poor lady! I marvel not that she doth wish to
gain her liberty. Methinks I should die were I to be deprived of my
freedom!" Thus she mused little dreaming that not many weeks would elapse
ere she would be put to the test.

"There are the gardens," said Will breaking in upon her thoughts. "'Tis
there that I have often seen the queen. See, the guard is leaving."

"Don't they guard her through the day, Will?"

"Ay, master. But the sentinels stand not at the doors and windows as they
do at night. The walls only are guarded through the day. There she is,
forsooth."

"I see her not, good Will."

[Illustration: _QUEEN MARY'S WIT GRASPED THE SITUATION_]

"In the main garden, master. To the right."

Francis looked in the direction indicated and soon descried the form of a
woman seated in a large rolling chair which was wheeled by an attendant.
Along the walks of the garden they went pausing ever and anon to pluck
some flower or the cherries which were ripening in the sun. For a moment
only Francis gazed and then, before Will had time to say her nay, she
leaped off from the wagon and bounded swiftly in the direction of the
garden.

"Uds!" growled Will his mouth agape with astonishment. "Methought there
was more to 't than appeared," and he went on to the kitchens.

Meantime Francis, trampling over flowers and vegetables in her haste,
reached the side of Mary, and thrust into her hand the package of
letters. Mary's quick wit grasped the situation instantly. Concealing the
papers about her she drew back from the seeming carter, crying in a loud
voice for she saw one of the guards approaching:

"Well, what meaneth this? Forgive me," she whispered hurriedly, "if I
seem angry. 'Tis but for thine own safety." So saying she drew back still
further from the kneeling girl exclaiming as the guard came up, "I know
thee not, boy. Why dost thou trouble me?"

"I wished to see thee," murmured Francis rising. "Forgive me. I
wished----"

"There!" said Mary. "'Tis no matter. Barbara," to her companion, "hast
thou the purse? Give the lad a groat. Marry! thou art all alike. Ye wish
bounty whether ye deserve it or not. Go, and trouble me no more."

She turned as she spoke and without another glance at the girl passed
back to the house. Francis stood looking at the coin for a moment
undecided what to do for she saw that Will's cart was nowhere in sight.

"Get thee gone," said the guard coming toward her menacingly. He had
overheard Mary's remarks and noted her demeanor, and thought that the
carter lad before him was really seeking to profit by Mary's well-known
generosity. "Go, fellow! or I will take thee to my master. And if thou
troublest the lady again, I will run thee through with my rapier. Go!"

Without a word in reply, glad to have the matter end so, Francis followed
him meekly as he led her to the kitchen doors where Will and other
carters were busy unloading their wagons.

"With which of you came this fellow?" demanded the guard.

"With me, master," spoke Will sullenly.

"See that he accompanies thee no more. 'Tis a mischievous wight and like
to get into trouble. Quick with thy load. I wish to see thy cart safely
beyond the gates."

"Will," said Francis when they were once more outside the gates, "art
angry with me?"

"Ay! 'twere an ill turn that thou did serve me," growled Will. "'Twere an
ill turn, master."

"Forgive me, and you shall have this groat that the queen gave me," and
Francis handed him the coin. "My lord, I know, will give me more to give
thee."

"Well, mayhap it be all right," said Will somewhat mollified, "but you go
no more, young master."

"No, Will; I will not ask it of thee. I have both seen and spoken with
the lady. What more need I?"

"No more, I'll be bound, master," growled Will. "There was more in't than
seeing and speaking, I'll warrant. But I ken none of it. Here we are at
Stafford, master."

"I thank you, Will, for your courtesy," said Francis sweetly as she left
him.

Lord Stafford was awaiting her return anxiously. He folded her close to
his breast as she entered his chamber, saying earnestly:

"Thank Heaven, my daughter, that thou hast returned safely to me. Not for
all the queens in the world would I have thee adventure such a thing
again."

"Why, 'twas naught," laughed the girl. "Mary hath the letters now. 'Twas
not hard to give them after all." She recounted the whole affair.

"Well hast thou done, my child. There will need to be further
communication with Mary, but not from us. We have done our part. No more
of plots or conspiracies will I have, and never again will I subject thee
to such danger. Now we will wend homeward to allay the anxiety of thy
mother. Whenever I have need of a quick wit and a nimble brain I will
call on thee."

"Glad am I to have pleased thee," returned Francis. "There is naught that
I would not undertake for thee, my father."

"I believe it, Francis."

The next morning early they set forth on the return journey. Lord
Stafford seemed to have thrown aside the weight of misgiving that had
oppressed him on his way thither, and was full of the gayest spirits.
With laughter and story did he beguile the way, and once as he jestingly
spoke of her attire, he said laughingly,

"Listen, Francis, and I will tell thee of another such an one. Hast thou
ever heard how the serving man became a queen?"

"The serving man a queen?" cried the girl. "Why how could that be,
father?"

"Listen, and you shall hear." In a rich full voice he trolled the
following ballad:

            THE FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING MEN

            "You beauteous ladyes, great and small,
            I write unto you one and all,
            Whereby that you may understand
            What I have suffered in the land.

            "I was by birth a lady faire,
            An ancient baron's only heire,
            And when my goode old father died
            Then I became a young knight's bride.

            "And then my love built me a bower,
            Bedecked with many a fragrant flower;
            A braver bower you ne'er did see
            Than my true love did build for me.

            "And there I lived a lady gay
            Till fortune wrought my love's decay;
            For there came foes so fierce a band,
            That soon they overran the land.

            "They came upon us in the night,
            And rent my bower and slew my knight;
            And trembling hid in man's array,
            I scarce with life escaped away.

            "Yet though my heart was full of care,
            Heaven would not suffer me to despair;
            Wherefore in haste I changed my name
            From fair Elise to Sweet Williame.

            "And then withal I cut my hair,
            Resolv'd my man's attire to wear;
            And in my beaver, hose and band,
            I travel'd far through many a land.

            "At length all wearied with my toil,
            I sate me down to rest awhile;
            My heart it was so filled with woe,
            That down my cheeks the tears did flow.

            "It chanced the king of that same place,
            With all his lords a hunting was,
            And seeing me weep, upon the same
            Askt who I was, and whence I came.

            "Then to His Grace I did reply,
            'I am a poor and friendless boy,
            Though nobly born, now forc'd to be
            A serving man of low degree.'

            "'Stand up, fair youth,' the king reply'd,
            For thee a service I'll provide;
            But tell me first what thou canst do
            Thou shall be fitted thereunto.

            "'Chuse, gentle youth,' said he, 'thy place,'
            Then I reply'd, 'If it please Your Grace,
            To show such favor unto me,
            Your chamberlain I fain would be.'

            "Now mark what fortune did provide;
            The king he would a hunting ride
            With all his lords and noble train,
            Sweet Williame must at home remain.

            "And meeting with a ladye's vest,
            Within the same myself I drest;
            With silken robes and jewels rare,
            I deckt me as a lady faire.

            "And taking up a lute straitway,
            Upon the same I strove to play;
            And sweetly to the same did sing,
            As made both hall and chamber ring:

            "'My father was as brave a lord,
            As ever Europe might afford;
            My mother was a lady bright:
            My husband was a valiant knight.

            "'But now, alas! my husband's dead,
            And all my friends are from me fled,
            My former days are past and gone,
            And I am now a serving man.'

            "The king who had a hunting gone,
            Grew weary of his sport anon,
            And leaving all his gallant train,
            Turn'd on the sudden home again.

            "And when he reached his statlye tower,
            Hearing one sing within his bower,
            He stopt to listen and to see
            Who sang there so melodiouslie.

            "A crimson dye my face orespred,
            I blush'd for shame and hung my head,
            To find my sex and story known,
            When as I thought I was alone.

            "'Faire ladye, pardon me,' says he,
            'Thy virtue shall rewarded be.
            And since it is so fairly tryde,
            Thou shall become my royal bride.'

            "Then strait to end his loving strife
            He took Sweet Williame for his wife.
            The like before was never seen,
            A serving man become a queen."

Francis laughed merrily when he finished.

"Poor Williame! but it ended well after all. Well, my days for man's
attire will soon be o'er."

"'Tis to be hoped so," answered her father. "Though the dress well
becomes thee."

At length, though they had returned by easier stages than they had
performed the journey to Stafford, Lyndhurst was reached, and soon the
turrets of Stafford Hall became visible.

"Home again, my child," spoke Lord Stafford cheerily. "Right glad am I to
enter its gates once more. How is it with thee, Francis? Thou hast fared
widely. Dost still revere thy home?"

"More than ever, my father. Never have I seen it look so beautiful. Even
the stones seem to smile a welcome."

"Marry, there stands my lady wife! Look, she sees us."

With a cry of joy the lady ran to greet them.

"Ye are safe," she cried embracing them. "Ah, but it hath been long, long
since ye left. Methought something had befallen you."

"No; my sweet wife. Weary we may be with the journey, and ready for the
good cheer which we know awaits us, but well otherwise. How now, sweet
chuck? Thou art pale, and even though thou hast us safe with thee, yet
doth thy lip still quiver, and thy form tremble. What is it? Speak,
madam, I beseech thee."

"My lord, I wot not what to think of it, but to-day a messenger came from
the queen saying that Elizabeth in her royal progress through Hampshire
would honor us with a visit."

"Elizabeth here?" cried Lord Stafford in astonishment. "Art sure?"

"Sure, my lord. What doth it portend? Is there hidden menace in the fact?
Doth she suspect, think you, that Ballard hath been here? My lord, what
can it mean?"

"Madam, I know not. We are her subjects. If Her Majesty chooses to visit
us we can but receive her. But look not so pale. 'Tis but a matter of a
few days' entertainment, and surely we would do ill to be churlish of
them. It is not the first time that royalty hath honored Stafford. Right
well do I remember that Henry, Elizabeth's bluff old father, favored us
with a visit. With his own hand he brought down many a fat buck in yon
forest park. Right well pleased was my father with that visit."

"True, my lord; but he had favor with Henry, and had naught to fear."

"And what is there to fear from his daughter? We must bestir ourselves to
give the queen most royal welcome. Here she will not find the 'princely
pleasures of Kenilworth,' but nathless! hearty welcome and good cheer are
much even to a queen. How now, girl! Thou dost not look displeased?"

"Neither am I, good my father," spoke Francis quickly. With the natural
instinct of youth she delighted at the prospect of the pleasures in
store. "Glad will I be to see the queen even though she be old and not so
beautiful as Mary."

"Beshrew me, girl! let no such words pass thy lips," cried her father in
consternation. "'Twere treason, forsooth."

"Have no fear. I will speak naught of that order to any save thee and my
lady mother. Discreet am I and full of matter, but nothing will I
disclose."

"Thou hast need to be discreet," replied her mother. "Be not malapert and
froward, child."

"Said the messenger when she was coming?" now asked the nobleman.

"On the third day from this, my lord."

"'Tis but short notice for what must be done," mused Lord Stafford.
"Supplies must be obtained for the queen's retinue, and pageants prepared
to amuse her. Call Greville, my wife. Bid him hasten to the presence
chamber. Francis, repair to thy chamber and rest. Thou dost merit it. It
will be thy part, madam, to attend to the ordering of the royal
apartments. As for me there will be much to employ me during the next few
days. Pray Heaven, that Ballard come not during the festivities."



CHAPTER IX

THE COMING OF ELIZABETH


The days that followed were full of bustle and activity. The officers of
the household scoured the country far and near to secure provisions and
delicacies sufficient for the queen and her retinue. Game, droves of
bullocks, sheep, hogs and great hampers of groceries filled the larders
to overflowing. Near and remote neighbors and kinsmen embraced the
opportunity to send contributions. No man knew when his own time might
come and sympathized accordingly. The queen was not tolerant of any but a
royal reception, and a visit, while an honor, was not always an unmixed
blessing; as many an impoverished nobleman could testify.

Hugh Greville, the tutor, was overjoyed at her coming, and, as master of
the pageants preparing for the amusement of the queen, assumed a pompous
importance greatly at variance with his usual manner.

"We must have a play, my lord," he said to Lord Stafford who was for the
moment idle. "Her Majesty doth take delight in a play. This to be
preceded by an address in Latin. Latin, my lord, because the queen is
learned, and deference should be paid to her knowledge. The welcome to be
spoken by a boy."

"Have what thou wilt, Greville, so that it will please the queen,"
returned the nobleman. "I had word from my Lord of Leicester this morning
that his mummers accompanied Elizabeth in her progress. They will give
the play with more of satisfaction, I trow, than any of the strolling
players who have come hither. The address of welcome could be managed,
but what boy couldst thou get to deliver it? Boys there be in plenty, but
boys with Latinity----" and he shrugged his shoulders.

"Had your lordship only a son," sighed Greville regretfully, "it would be
right fitting for him to give the speech. I myself would write it.
'Twould only need to be conned well. Ah, would that thou hadst a son!"

"Gramercy!" spoke Francis overhearing the tutor's speech. "Hath he not a
daughter? I will give thy harangue, Master Greville."

"Nay;" and the old man shook his head positively. "'Twill not do,
Francis. The Queen's Majesty would relish it more if 'twere spoken by a
lad. Her heart inclineth to them. A pretty lad, for she loves beauty.
Marry! 'tis pity thou art a girl!"

"Father," Francis spoke quickly, a roguish light coming into her eyes, "I
could put on the page's dress again, and who would be the wiser? Not the
queen, I trow, for she doth not know whether or no thou hast a son."

"If it might be," said Greville eagerly. "The girl is brighter than most
lads, and could quickly con the speech. What say you, my lord?"

"Let the child have her way in this, my lord," spoke Lady Stafford
joining them. "Did she not don the garb to please thee? Now that it be
for her pleasure deny her not, I entreat."

"When thou pleadest for her, madam, I cannot deny," said her husband
slowly. "I thought never to see thee in such dress again, Francis. There
seemed necessity for it before. Now----"

"Now there is necessity also," broke in Francis. "Shall the queen go
without her welcome for the want of a boy? I trow not, when Francis
Stafford makes so good an one. Fear not, my father. I have become so
accustomed to the dress that each day do I don it. And 'tis but sport."

"Have thine own way," said Lord Stafford resignedly. "Do but honor the
queen, and I will not inquire too closely concerning the manner."

Pleased at receiving the permission, Francis applied herself to
memorizing the speech prepared by the tutor while the other preparations
went on royally. Elizabeth was to arrive in the afternoon, and on the
morning of that day her master of horse, the Earl of Leicester, with his
stepson, the Earl of Essex, came to see that everything was in readiness.
Then in company with Lord Stafford they went forth to escort the queen to
the Hall.

A great concourse of people stood without the gates. Lord Stafford's
retainers were drawn up on either side of the base court ready to shout
a welcome so soon as the queen appeared. At the top of the stairs leading
to the terrace stood Francis arrayed in doublet and hose of purple
velvet. A short cloak of the material hung gracefully from her shoulders.
A purple velvet bonnet with a long white feather crowned her head. Her
curls were blown about her cheeks by the breeze; her color was coming and
going for she was somewhat dismayed at the magnitude of the task she had
set herself. Stories that she had heard of the great queen's anger at
those who failed to perform well their parts rushed to her mind and
almost overwhelmed her with confusion.

"Courage," whispered Greville who stood near her. "Courage, girl.
Remember who thou art, and whom thou art to welcome. Do thy father
credit, else I will repent me of having intrusted so important a duty to
thee."

"I will, good cousin," returned Francis her spirit rising at his words.
"Not even the presence of the queen shall make me forget what is due my
father. But hark!"

A blare of trumpets sounded without the gates. The bell in the tower,
used only upon great occasions, pealed forth merrily. The musicians
stationed in court, terrace, and hall struck up, and viols, sackbuts,
cornets and recorders sounded, while from the retainers and people who
thronged the roads and the court there went up a great shout of
acclamation as a glittering cavalcade appeared.

The dresses of the courtiers were a blaze of splendor remarkable even in
that imaginative age. First rode the Earl of Leicester, magnificent in
black satin, his horse richly caparisoned with embroidered furnishings.
On the right of the queen was the Earl of Essex resplendent in cloth of
silver. Upon her left, rode Sir Walter Raleigh gorgeous in white satin
raiment. Back of them came the ladies of the court, maids of honor, and
the gentlemen. In the midst of all these was the one upon whom all eyes
were bent--Elizabeth. She was attired in white silk bordered with pearls
the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk shot with silver
threads. Instead of a chain she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels.
Her air was stately, and as she passed along in great state and
magnificence, she bowed graciously first to one side and then to the
other. Wherever she turned her face the people fell upon their knees,
crying,--"God save the queen, Elizabeth!" To which she replied,--"I thank
you, my good people."

At the foot of the terrace she alighted from her chariot, and, escorted
by Lord Stafford, ascended the steps and approached the place where
Francis stood. The girl gazed at her earnestly, mentally contrasting her
with Mary of Scotland.

Elizabeth was very stately though her stature was not great; her face,
oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her
nose a little hooked; her lips narrow and compressed; her teeth black as
were most of the ladies' teeth at that period from the excessive use of
sugar. She wore a wig of false red hair; and upon her head sat a small
crown of gold reported to be made of some of the celebrated Lunebourg
table. When she reached the terrace two cannons were shot off; the one
filled with a sweet powder; the other with sweet water, odoriferous and
pleasant; the firing being imitated by a crash of instruments. When the
noise of these had died away Francis stepped forward, and began timidly,
gaining self-possession as she proceeded:

        "Oh Excellent Queen! true adamant of hearts,
        Out of that sacred garland ever grew
        Garlands of virtues, beauties, and perfections,
        That crowns your crown, and dims your fortune's beams,
        Welcome, and thrice welcome!

"O lady, that doth ennoble the title you possess, with the honor of your
worthiness, rather crowning the great crown that derives fame from having
so excellent an owner, than you receiving to yourself any ornament
therefrom; vouchsafe with patient attention to hear the words which I, by
commandment, am here to deliver unto you. Disdain not to smile upon our
feeble efforts to entertain you, yet do I dare warrant myself so far upon
the show of rare beauty, as that malice cannot fall from so fair a mind.
Welcome! This hall and all it contains are yours. Do with them as you
list, fair queen, but oh, disdain not to breathe your favor upon us.
Welcome and thrice welcome to these portals! Loving hearts greet you,
and declare you queen of them as well as of Love and Beauty."

Elizabeth listened smilingly, and as the girl concluded she passed her
hand over her auburn curls saying affably:

"Well done, thou pretty lad! I like well the spirit as well as the
delivery of it. Thy Latinity holds much to be commended. And what may be
thy name?"

"Francis Stafford, may it please Your Grace."

"It does please me. Francis? Ah, well do I ken that was the name of thy
father, my lord," and she turned to Lord Stafford.

"You speak aright, Your Highness," answered he.

"Thou shalt come to me anon, thou pretty lad, for I would speak with thee
further," said the queen as she moved away. "Hast thou other children, my
lord?"

"This is mine only one," replied Lord Stafford.

"And was the welcome of your composing?" queried she.

"Nay; I am not so ready with the pen," laughed Stafford. "I am not a
Sidney, my liege. Greville did it. Dost remember him?"

"Assuredly. Where is he? Ah, Greville," as the tutor overwhelmed with
rapture at her notice, threw himself on his knees before her, and seizing
the hand which she graciously extended to him, covered it with kisses.
"Art well?"

"Ah, madam, madam," murmured the old man, "can you ask that when it hath
been so long since I have been in your presence? As well expect the
flower to flourish without the rays of the sun."

"There, flatterer," said the queen tapping him lightly on the shoulder to
Francis' amazement for she expected her to take no notice of such
adulation. "Thou must come to the court oftener, Greville."

Greville arose as she passed on, his face aglow with gratification.

"Child, is she not the most gracious, the most lovely of sovereigns?" he
whispered to Francis.

"Gracious, I grant thee, cousin; but lovely, no. My mother is fairer by
far than she."

"Hark ye, lad," said a courtier who had overheard the girl's words, "a
hint in thine ear: repeat not that speech. Nay; think it not even. It
behooves thee, and me, and all of us to believe that the queen is the
loveliest, the fairest, and the most learned of all women, bar none;
which she is. God bless her!"

"God bless Elizabeth," echoed Greville fervently, but Francis, with a
haughty look at the speaker, turned upon her heel, and entered the hall.



CHAPTER X

THE QUEEN TAKES OFFENSE


The queen at length reached the great hall of the castle, gorgeously hung
with tapestries for her reception, and resounding to the strains of soft
and delicious music. At the upper end of the chamber was a throne and
beside it a door which opened into a suite of apartments for the queen
whenever it should be her pleasure to be private. The hall was thronged
with spectators, for a masque was to be given, and menials as well as
courtiers were interested in the pageant.

Francis mingled with the crowd purposing to retire very soon to her bower
to don habit more befitting her sex, but enjoying for the nonce the
freedom which her garb gave her. Presently she felt her cloak twitched as
some one said:

"Where is your sister, sir? I see her not among those who attend the
queen."

"My sister?" The girl wheeled about, and uttered an exclamation of
amazement as she recognized the speaker. "What dost thou here?" she
demanded sternly. "And why art thou in that attire?"

The boy, for it was the lad who had shot the deer in the chase, gave vent
to a low laugh.

"I came to see the queen. Why should I not? I am her leal and true
subject, which is more than thou canst say even if thou didst rattle off
her welcome so glibly in Latin. As for my dress, it is my own. Why should
I not wear it, Master Stafford?"

"I am as true a subject to the queen as thou art," retorted Francis. "Why
art thou here? Thou shouldst be in durance for the deer which thou didst
shoot in the forest," and a sneer curled her lips.

"So she told you of it," exclaimed the lad.

"She? Whom mean you?" queried Francis in bewilderment.

"Thy sister, stupid. How else couldst thou have known of the deer? Truly,
thou art as much like her as one pea is to another. Should you but don
her frock there would be none that could tell ye apart. Where is she?"

Francis laughed outright as the lad's mistake dawned upon her, and a
merry twinkle came into her eyes.

"My sister is occupied," she answered mischievously. "Marry! it were well
for thee that it was she with whom thou didst dispute over the deer. But
thou hast been punished enough, else I would not let thee leave this hall
before thou wouldst feel the weight of my whip."

"Beshrew me, I like not thy brag," cried the other angrily. "Know, Master
Stafford, that I was not punished. So soon as the keepers found who and
what I was they made apology for treating me in such an unmannerly
fashion, and brought me the horns of the deer as trophy of my skill. They
now repose in mine own abode."

"Brought thee the horns in trophy of thy skill?" repeated the girl in
wrathful incredulity. "Brought them to thee, forsooth! Why, minion, thou
didst not kill the deer. I slew it myself."

"Marry! dost thou take thy sister's quarrel upon thee," cried the boy.
"Know then that I slew it, and I am ready to maintain the matter by force
of arms."

"Francis," Greville came up opportunely at this moment, "thou art
forgetting thyself. Thy mother wishes thy presence. Why doth thou show
choler toward this lad? Why, it is the lad who shot the deer!"

"You too, Greville," exclaimed Francis bitterly. "I think the sight of
Elizabeth hath addled thy wits. As for you, young sir, 'tis well that my
duty to my mother calls me hence else thou shouldst not get off so
easily."

"At another time then," replied the boy, "thou wilt find me at thy
service. We can settle our difference then."

"Now heaven forfend!" ejaculated the tutor urging Francis away. "This
comes of donning male habit. I will report the matter to my lady,
Francis. She will see to't that thou dost conduct thyself in more seemly
manner. 'Twould but amuse my lord."

"Keep a still tongue in thy head, cousin," said the girl sharply. "Meddle
not with that that doth not concern thee. Couldst thou not see that the
fellow did but laud himself? The varlet dare not meet me."

"Methought he spoke not without courage," observed Greville. "I should
judge by his dress that his rank was equal to thine."

"His dress, forsooth! What doth hinder any hind from appearing in rich
attire?"

"The law of the queen. It regulates dress according to rank, and works
with severity against those who dare transgress it," returned Greville.
"There stands thy lady mother. I entreat thee, girl, abide close by her
side during the queen's visit else thy sharp tongue may work mischief for
all of us. My lady, here is the child."

Lady Stafford who stood near the queen and her ladies looked
reproachfully at her daughter.

"Hast thou not changed thy garb yet, my child?" she asked. "It behooves
thee to do so at once for it savors of disrespect to the queen not to
appear in other array."

"Nay;" said Elizabeth who had overheard her words. "The lad is well
enough as he is. We warrant that he wished not to miss any of this
pageant which hath been prepared in our honor. He shall attend us in our
own chamber to which we and our ladies will now retire for some privacy.
Come, my boy."

Much embarrassed Lady Stafford strove to stammer forth the truth but the
queen waved her hand peremptorily.

"No more, madam. It is our wish that he attend us as he is. He shall don
other garb later."

There was nothing left for Francis to do but to follow her as she retired
with the ladies to the apartments which had been allotted to her use. For
the first time the girl was painfully conscious of the incongruousness of
her attire. That the queen might ask her attendance had not occurred to
any of them, and had it done so the affair would have seemed easy of
explanation, but it had been found exceedingly difficult to get a
hearing. She resolved, however, that should occasion present she would
tell all hoping that the queen would pardon the deception, if such it
might be called.

[Illustration: _ELIZABETH EXTENDED HER HAND GRACIOUSLY_]

For some time Elizabeth conversed with her maids, taking no notice of
Francis, but at length she said abruptly,

"Come here, my lad."

Francis approached diffidently, and, unused to the customs of the court,
remained standing.

"Kneel, boy," whispered one of the ladies whom she afterward learned was
the Duchess of Rutland. "Where are thy manners?"

"Thy pardon," murmured Francis in consternation sinking upon one knee. "I
knew not. I----"

"There! 'tis naught." Elizabeth extended her hand graciously, and the
girl retained presence of mind enough to kiss it respectfully. "My good
Rutland, expect not court manners in the midst of a forest. The youth
means well enough, I dare say, and I liked well his words of welcome.
'Tis a pretty lad! His tresses match our own for brightness."

Francis looked up somewhat indignantly. Her locks were of red in truth,
but they were glossy and lustrous becoming golden in the sun, while
Elizabeth's were a dull red and false.

"Oh, no, Your Majesty;" interposed one of the ladies. "The lad's hair is
well enough, but I should as soon think of likening a weed to a rose as
of comparing such lack-lustre locks to your liege's."

"Foolish girl!" chided Elizabeth though a smile played about her lips for
this great queen did not object to the most fulsome flattery. "To speak
such words to me who am an old woman. Now the lad, we dare affirm, doth
not think me so fair as his mother who is, in truth, a beautiful woman.
Speak, boy!" She smiled at Francis as she spoke and rearranged her
draperies coquettishly.

Francis' young nature was filled with scorn for the vanity of the woman
before her, queen though she was. Her mother's face arose before her with
its delicate complexion guiltless of the powder and the rouge affected by
the ladies of the court. Her tresses were streaked somewhat with gray,
but they were still her own. Her eyes were as blue as periwinkles and
full of tenderness and love. The girl's eyes swept the painted face above
her, and her heart grew hot within her breast at the queen's question.
Amazed at her own audacity she arose and said boldly:

"Madam, I crave pardon, but my mother is to me the fairest woman in the
world."

For an instant there was dead silence in the chamber. An expression of
fury crossed the queen's face. She half rose from her couch, and then
sank back upon it.

"We were near forgetting, Sir Malapert, that thou hadst not had benefit
of court life. Thy manners must be mended ere thou dost come into our
presence again. Go! you weary me. Come near me no more. And he is a pupil
of Greville's!" Francis heard her exclaim as she hurried away. "My life,
the boy is duller than he looks!"

Full of consternation at what she had done, angry and resentful also,
Francis sought her parents to relate the incident to them.

"Oh, child, child," moaned the mother. "What hast thou done! What hast
thou done!"

"My mother, was it not the truth? Thou art fairer; a thousand times
fairer than she. She is an ugly old woman----"

"My daughter," interrupted Lord Stafford, "say no more. Elizabeth is the
queen, and whatever may be her weaknesses and faults she is still the
queen. And mark you, child! though she hath many faults she hath also
great virtues. For this reason her people overlook her vanity and exalt
her. She is a queen, but she is also a woman. Thou art too young to
understand all that that means yet. Now, let me think how to make
amends."

"She said that I was to come near her no more while she remained. I am
sorry if I did wrong in speaking so, but still it is the truth. My mother
is the fairer."

"Hush, hush," whispered the lady drawing her close. "'Tis treason, child.
What doth it matter to us whether or no I am the fairer. It bodes us ill
to say so. Oh, child, I am afeared."

"Let us ask Greville to aid us," said Lord Stafford. "Mayhap he can
suggest a remedy, for well doth he ken Elizabeth's humors."



CHAPTER XI

AT THE QUEEN'S COMMAND


But neither Greville's obsequious homage, nor Lord and Lady Stafford's
apologies could regain the goodwill of the queen. Seeing her state of
mind Lord Stafford advised that Francis should retain her chamber during
the rest of Elizabeth's visit.

For the three days that the queen remained at the Hall her demeanor was
such as to fill its master with a vague uneasiness. Lady Stafford she
hardly tolerated, and though Lord Stafford lavished gifts upon her, yet
she refused to be propitiated.

"Surely," Francis heard her father say to her mother, "the remark of a
child would not suffice for such behavior? Elizabeth is vain beyond most
women, yet 'twere doing her an injustice to deem her capable of
resentment for so slight a thing. Can she have learned of Ballard's
presence in England? Of our visit to Chartley? And yet none save we
three knew whither we went. And you would be discreet, I trow. Francis,
young as she is, would reveal naught that would do me harm. She is too
straightforward, too truthful,"--he stopped with a light laugh and kissed
his wife. "What spirit the girl had to tell the queen that thou wert
fairer," he said. "Thou art so in truth, Penelope, yet for my life I
durst not tell it to Elizabeth."

"Nay; I would not have thee to, my lord. Say that Elizabeth is the
loveliest, the fairest of womankind, I care not so that I may keep thee
with me. But our child, my lord! I fear for that very directness which
thou dost commend. A weaker spirit would be more politic. I would not
that she be less truthful, but I wish, I wish----"

"Nay, sweetheart, wish not that she be other than she is. I would not
have her fawning upon the queen as do the maids of the court. Dost mark
what words of flattery they utter and yet with what ridicule they speak
of her to each other when they think that there is none to hear? I would
not that Francis should be as they are."

"Nor I," acquiesced the mother. "Yet sometimes truth doth not meet with
the merit it deserves."

"True; but let us think not on that, but be grateful that our child is as
she is."

Francis' heart glowed with love and tenderness toward her parents, and
she was grieved that words of hers had brought such disquiet upon them.

"I must try," she mused, "to retain my truth and yet not offend by it.
But how could I have said other than I did? My mother is fairer to me.
There was but the one answer to be given to such a question."

Over and over she turned the matter in her mind striving to reconcile
policy with truthfulness. A problem which has vexed the souls of men
since the beginning of time.

At last the queen took her departure. As she bade her host and hostess
farewell, she said:

"Madam, I thank you for your entertainment. My lord, though thou bearest
me no good will, yet shalt thou find that Elizabeth doth not forget that
thy father was the friend of her father. 'Tis pity that more attention
hath not been given to thy son's manners, but the fault shall be
amended, I promise you. England surely hath schools for its youth that
are equal to those of thy faith abroad."

"Madam, what mean you?" asked the nobleman detecting the menace in her
words.

"We shall see what we shall see," was the queen's enigmatical rejoinder.
She swept to her chariot, and with her brilliant train, soon left
Stafford Hall behind.

As the days glided by, and no sign or message came from her, the anxiety
engendered by her last words faded away, and once more a feeling of
security crept into their hearts. This false confidence was dispelled
however one warm day in July when a messenger from the queen rode into
the courtyard, and demanded an audience with the master of the Hall. The
guest had been but a short time in the presence chamber when Lord
Stafford emerged from the apartment with pale face.

"Bid my lady and my daughter repair hither without delay," he cried
hailing a servitor.

"But, my lord," Francis heard him say as they hastened to the room in
answer to the summons, "I do but speak the truth when I declare that, as
I live by bread, I have no son. I have but one child, and that a
daughter. She is here to speak for herself."

"What is it, father?" asked Francis going to him, while Lord Shrope, the
queen's messenger, looked his bewilderment.

"The queen hath commanded that my son, Francis Stafford, shall accompany
my Lord Shrope to the court to become one of her pensioners. He doubts my
word when I say that I have no son."

"Nay, my lord; I must believe you if you say that you have none," said
the nobleman courteously. "But there is misapprehension somewhere. If I
do not misreckon foully the queen spoke of both seeing and speaking with
him during her progress hither. There is grave misunderstanding, I
fear."

"Alas! my lord, this comes of deception," Lord Stafford despairing cried.
"Let me unfold to thee all that chanced during Her Majesty's stay, and do
you advise me what course to pursue for I am nigh bereft of wit."

"Let me hear all, Stafford," returned the other. "Thou knowest that I
bear a heart well disposed toward thee, and will gladly do aught that
will aid thee. Full well do I remember how thou and I did consort
together at the court, and there hath been none to take thy place since
thou didst go into retirement upon thy marriage. Therefore, say on."

"I thank thee that thou hast spoken so favorably and kindly of the
friendship that once held between us," replied Lord Stafford. "Albeit, I
would not curry favor with thee because of it. But to the matter in hand.
Know then that when the Queen's Majesty was about to come hither, and we
were preparing for her reception, Hugh Greville, my daughter's tutor and
my kinsman, did lament that I had no son to speak the welcome to
Elizabeth. In an idle moment, I unwittingly consented that Francis should
don the habit of a page and deliver the speech not thinking that the
queen would do more than to listen to it. But she was drawn to the girl
and spoke words of approbation to her, enquiring her name. 'Francis,' she
observed as the child gave it her, 'ah! well do I ken, my lord, that that
was your father's name.' Then as she moved on she asked if I had other
children. To which I answered, 'No.' Methought that that would end the
matter, but mark you! She bade my supposed son to attend her in her
chamber; and then, thou knowest the tenor of the court talk, she asked if
she did not deem her mother fairer than she, the queen, was. My daughter,
Shrope, knows naught but to speak the truth. She is a maiden of tender
years, simply brought up, and as wild and free as the linnet that sings
upon yon bough. She spoke the truth when she answered that to her, her
mother was the fairest woman that lived. Elizabeth spurned her from her
presence, and conveyed threat as to the manners of my son when she left
the hall. 'Ods life, my lord! to what pass hath England come when
children must be taught to dissemble and fawn else they be subjected to
discipline by the queen? Had she not enough courtiers to hail her as
'Diana,' and 'The Miracle of Time,' and other things of like ilk that she
must needs try to subvert my child from truth? Gramercy! I am ready at
this moment to enter the tilt-yard to defend the girl's saying against
all comers. Her mother is the fairest lady that ere the sun shone on.
I----"

"Hold, Stafford, thou ravest! Be not so heated in thy words. Give pause
while I think on what thou hast told me."

Lord Stafford tried to subdue his feelings while the other sat in
thought. Presently Lord Shrope looked up.

"Stafford, for the sake of that old friendship to which I have before
referred, bear with me for what I am about to say. Rumor hath whispered
that thou hast given entertainment to Jesuits which, as thou knowest, is
felony. Nay;" as Lord Stafford was about to speak, "I would not ask thee
if it be true or no. But for that cause do I say, let the girl assume
once more her male attire and go with me to the court. Elizabeth likes
not to be made the victim of a hoax, but there are times when none enjoys
a jest more than she. When the time is propitious, I and other of thy
friends, will disclose the matter to the queen. Believe me when I say
that it will be best so."

"Let Francis go from me to that court?" cried the father in agonized
tones. "I cannot! I will not! She shall not stir from here! I will go to
the queen and lay the whole affair before her."

"Do not so, my lord. There are those who have the queen's ear who have
whispered against thee. Stafford Hall hath broad lands in its demesne,
and covetous eyes have been cast upon it. 'Twould be a choice morsel for
some favorite. 'Twould not be wise for thee to appear at court just
now."

"Father," said Francis, "why should I not do as thy friend advises? I
would not that aught of harm should come to thee, and surely none can
come to me? Let me go. It will be but a short time until my return,
because I feel certain that when the queen learns that there was naught
of intent to deceive she will pardon all. Once, my father, thou didst say
that she was a queen but still a woman. A woman, my father, with a
woman's heart and a woman's compassion."

"A woman, yes; with a woman's vanity, and a woman's spite," broke from
Lord Stafford.

"Stafford, Stafford, it is well for thee that none other hears thee. Thy
daughter hath well said that Elizabeth is a woman. Lion-hearted as well
becomes a Tudor, but properly appealed to, sympathetic and generous. Be
guided in this by me, my lord, and let her go."

"Yes, my father," pleaded Francis.

"It shall be as her mother says," said Lord Stafford turning to his wife
who had stood as if stricken since hearing the advice of Lord Shrope.
"Speak, my wife. Shall we keep our daughter, and defy Elizabeth----"

"Oh, no, no!" sobbed Lady Stafford. "I am loath to let her go, and yet I
would not have her stay if by so doing we shall seem to defy the queen.
My lord, surely harm could not come to the child, while for thee, I fear,
I fear."

"Then I may go." Francis sprang to her mother and embraced her. "Oh, 'tis
only for my father that we need to fear. Naught of harm will I come to."

"Upon mine honor, Stafford," said Lord Shrope going to Lord Stafford who
had bowed his head upon his hands, "even as I have two lady birds of
daughters of mine own, so will I look after thine. Take heart, old
friend. I believe that all will be well else I would not advise this
step. Courage!"



CHAPTER XII

THE FAVOR OF PRINCES


The Bow bells were ringing as Francis and her escort, Lord Shrope, drew
near the city of London three days later. It was sunset and the silvery
peal of the bells was clearly borne to them upon the evening breeze.
Merrily they rang. Now wild and free; now loud and deep; now slower and
more slow until they seemed to knell the requiem of the day.

"How beautiful!" exclaimed Francis involuntarily drawing rein. "Pause, I
pray you, my lord. Do they always ring so?"

"Ay, child. Ever since and long before they sounded so musically in Dick
Whittington's ears: 'Turn again, turn again, thrice lord mayor of
London'! What think you they say? Do they bear a message to your ears?"

The girl listened intently.

"Methinks they say, 'Come not to London, Francis! Come not to London
town!' But is there not in truth amidst all their toning some melody or
chant?"

"There is, child, but not as thou hast so fancifully thought a warning to
thee. How melodious is their chime! Think the rather on that than on
aught else."

"Yes, my lord; and how wonderful is the city! Marry! whatever betides I
shall have seen London!"

She sat erect as she spoke, and drank in the scene with appreciative
eyes. Lord Shrope looked at Britain's metropolis with pride.

The last rays of the setting sun fell lingeringly upon the great city.
For great it was though it numbered but one and thirty thousand
inhabitants at this time. Paris alone excelled it in numbers. London, as
the representative of England in her supremacy of the seas, her
intellectual grandeur, and above all as the friend of those who dared to
oppose the power of Rome, London stood in the eyes of all men as the
greatest city of the world.

The towers and turrets that gleamed above the strong walls that
encircled the city; the sure gates that gave entrance thereto; the
princely palaces with their large gardens, rich porches and stately
galleries; the open fields that came up close to the walls; the distant
hills of Essex, Middlesex, Surrey and Kent covered thickly with woods;
the silvery Thames, the silent highway of the Londoners, its bosom
covered by a forest of masts and spanned by the great bridge,--even then
old,--with its gateways, towers, drawbridges, houses, mills, chapel and
wharfs; all these went to make a picture that thrilled every English
heart.

The girl looked first this way and then that as though she could never
drink her fill.

"My lord," she cried, "prithee tell me which of all those turrets is the
Tower?"

"To the east, child. The white tower that rises so majestically from the
surrounding turrets. Therein is written the whole history of England.
That is the lofty citadel which it is said the great Julius himself
raised. And yonder lies Saint Paul's. That sombre and dungeon like
stronghold is Baynard's castle. To our left is Westminster, and yon
beautiful palace is Whitehall. It is known of all men how it reverted to
the crown at the fall of Wolsey. The queen's father adorned it in its
present manner. There stands Somerset house, and yonder is Crosby. On the
bankside in Southwark are the theatres and Paris gardens where are the
bear pits. Look about thee, Francis. On every building, almost on every
stone is writ the history of our forbears. On all those walls are traces
of Roman, Briton, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. History in stone. What sermons
they might preach to us had they but tongues!"

"It is beautiful!" said Francis again.

"The bells have ceased their chiming," said Lord Shrope. "I would not
break into thy enjoyment, child, but we must hasten. Before the darkness
falls we must enter Greenwich where Elizabeth is."

With a deep drawn sigh, Francis gave one more look about her and then
they passed into the city.

Within the immediate vicinity of the walls there were many gardens and
open spaces. The houses with their fanciful gables and vanes, and tall
twisted chimneys invited and enchained the eye. The streets were narrow,
and alleys, courts and by-paths abounded in every direction. While they
were at a distance they had heard only the subdued noises of the city,
above which the bells sounded clearly. But now as they passed through the
streets their ears were assailed by the cries of the pent-house keepers,
or the noises of the apprentices as they set upon some offending
pedestrian. The din was almost indescribable. And yet in the midst of the
confusion there was music. From every barber shop came the twang of
cittern or guitar, while song burst from the lips of every tankard
bearer.

All these, with other wonders, Francis encountered as they wended their
way through alleys and byways until presently they came to London Stone.

"Now here will I dismount," cried Francis pleased and excited by all that
she had seen and heard.

"But why, child? We have not yet reached the wharf where we take the
wherry for Greenwich. Why should you pause here?"

"Because," cried the girl with a laugh, "if I cannot take possession of
the city, I can at least emulate that arch traitor, Jack Cade, and strike
my staff upon this stone." So saying she struck the ancient stone a sharp
blow with her whip.

"Beshrew me, girl!" cried the nobleman laughing, "thou shouldst in very
truth have been a boy! Marry! who but a lad would have thought on such a
thing! But hasten! The last rays of yon setting sun must see us at the
palace."

Francis remounted her palfrey, and without further incident they came to
the wharf. Leaving their horses in the charge of some of the servitors of
Lord Shrope they descended the stairs that led through one of the
numerous water gates to the river, and entered one of the wherries that
lay clustered about waiting for fares.

"See the barges," cried the girl as they shot London Bridge and passed
down the river. "How many there are!"

The bosom of the river was covered over with barges, wherries and
vessels of every description. Busy as it was fleets of swans were sailing
upon its smooth surface, the noise of their gabble mingling agreeably
with the song of the watermen.

"Yes, many;" assented Lord Shrope in answer to the girl's remark, as
retinues of barges passed them, filled with many a freight of brave men
and beautiful women. "Hearken, how the oarsmen keep time to their oars."

Francis listened with delight as the song of the wherrymen swelled in a
mighty chorus, for every boatman sang the same thing:

"Heave ho! rumbelow!"

"And the swans," she cried excitedly.

"Yes; 'tis a pleasant sight, and many have wondered that they should stay
upon the river when it is so busy, but they are kindly treated and no
harm suffered to come to them. Behold the dwellings of the nobles."

Nothing could have been more picturesque at this time than the north bank
of the Thames with its broad gardens, lofty trees and embattled turrets
and pinnacles of the palaces, each of which had its landing-place and
private retinue of barges and wherries.

"This is the Tower," said the nobleman as they drew near that grim
fortress. A low browed projecting arch, above which was a tower forming a
striking part of the stronghold, attracted the girl's attention. Steps
led up from the river to a small ricket in the arch which gave entrance
into the Tower.

"That is the Traitors' Gate," said Lord Shrope. "Through that wicket pass
all those guilty of treason."

A shudder passed over Francis as she gazed at the forbidding portals.

"Why dost thou shiver?" asked Lord Shrope kindly, as he noticed her
involuntary tremor.

"Sir," answered Francis, in mournful tones, "I fear that Tower. Something
seems to whisper me that yon grim walls and I will become better
acquainted."

"Now Heaven forfend!" ejaculated Lord Shrope. "Thy doubts of thy
reception at the queen's hands render thee fearful. Take courage, child.
All will yet be well. 'Tis not amiss that thou shouldst be doubtful, as
the issue is uncertain. Were you but as the queen thinks, and not in
masquerade, you would fare well at court. For 'tis worthy the ambition of
any young man, be his rank of the highest, or his prospects the most
brilliant, to become one of the queen's pensioners. For thus doth Her
Majesty accomplish divers things: she honoreth those who are such;
obligeth their kindred and alliance, and fortifieth herself; for none can
be brought near her person without becoming willing to lay down life
itself in her behalf."

"I should not be, were I in truth the boy she thinks me," declared
Francis.

"Subdue such spirit, girl," rebuked he. "The queen is graciousness itself
to those whom she favors, but frowardness and pertness are not to her
liking. In sooth, she tolerates them not in those near her. For thy
father's sake, have a care to thy words. The slight disfavor under which
thou dost labor will soon be overcome, I doubt not, if thou wilt show
thyself submissive to her will. But I mean not to chide thee, child, for
I know that thy maiden heart cannot but fail thee in this hour. I would,
an I could, turn thy mind to more of liking toward the queen else will
it be hard for thee to sue to her. Elizabeth is a great ruler. The land
hath never before enjoyed so much of peace and prosperity. Even her
enemies cannot gainsay this fact. But I fear that I weary thee, and thou
art troubled enough."

"Nay, my lord; I know that thou dost speak from the fulness of
experience, and therefore do thy words carry weight. I am not weary but
my heart doth fail me when I think of the queen and the court. I am but a
maiden, my lord, unlearned in the ways of courtiers, and should I fail to
find favor with the queen, who shall stand between me and her will? Who
is there who would brave her displeasure to speak one word for me? Marry!
not one!"

"Think not on that aspect, girl, an thou wouldst maintain thy spirit. He
who would achieve his end dwells not on failure. Think on thy father. For
his sake thou must get the favor of the queen. For his sake so demean
thyself that all that he hath done will be condoned. Mark thee, Francis!
There are those who whisper that he is the more inclined to Mary of
Scotland than to Elizabeth of England. There lies his danger."

"I thank you, my lord, for your words," said Francis. "Well will I heed
them. Thou hast been to me as a father in the discharge of thy duty,
though it must be irksome to thee to be burdened with so troublesome a
charge. Nathless, I thank thee for thy words and for thy care."

Her eyes filled with tears as she spoke and she turned her head quickly
that he might not see them.

"Thou art welcome to all that I have done," said Lord Shrope brusquely to
hide his feelings for he was filled with pity for the forlorn state of
the girl. "Troublesome thou hast not been, but full of courage until now.
How now? Wilt thou play the girl when thou dost wear that garb? Command
thyself, I pray, for we draw near the palace."

"'Tis true I wear this garb," sobbed Francis, "but yet I am a maiden,
with a maiden's fears and a maiden's weakness. Prithee bear with me for a
moment until I am myself again."

She gave way to the emotion that overwhelmed her, for she was wearied by
the journey, excited over the new and strange scenes of the past few
days, and overwrought with her fears. Lord Shrope bent a look of
compassion upon her, but uttered no word.

The song of the boatmen ceased as they drew near the landing stairs of
the palace. There were numerous wherries waiting to unload their human
freight, and this gave Francis time to recover her composure. So soon as
she was calm Lord Shrope motioned to the watermen and they drew up at the
stairs which led to the great gate of the palace. Courtyard and terrace
were filled with gaily-dressed ladies and nobles. Here a lady attended by
her gentlewomen traced her way delicately, a gentleman-usher making way
for her, her train upheld by a page. Then gallants ruffled along, their
attire vying with that of the ladies for brilliancy and richness. Each
courtier wore a rose behind his ear, and upon his shoes were roses also
to hide the strings. Each bore a long sword upon one side and a poniard
on the other, and behind him a body of serving men, proportioned to his
estate and quality, all of whom walked with the air of military
retainers and were armed with swords and bucklers. Laughing, jesting and
making merry, they seemed not to have a care, though many a satin doublet
and silken vest concealed a heart as full of anxiety as that of the girl
who had just come among them.

"Beshrew me, my lord," exclaimed a noble in brave attire as Lord Shrope
entered the palace yard with his charge. "Art thou come again? Methought
I heard that wast sent to France."

"And France is (Francis) here," retorted his lordship, indicating his
companion.

"Good! I' faith, very good, if Francis be his name," laughed the other.
"A proper lad, I trow. The queen hath ever an eye for beauty."

"Where is Her Grace?" questioned Lord Shrope.

"In the presence chamber," was the reply.

"Then let us hie thither," spoke my lord, and Francis hurried after him,
confused and embarrassed, as she encountered the curious gaze of the
courtiers and ladies. They passed through the lofty halls and
ante-chambers of the palace until at length they stood in the long
gallery at the upper end of which were the folding doors that gave
entrance to the presence chamber.

"Go not in, my lord," pleaded the usher of the black rod in charge of the
door. "Something hath gone amiss with Her Highness, and the moment is not
favorable."

"I thank you, Master Usher, but the queen bade me seek her instantly upon
my return," said Lord Shrope. "I needs must go to her now. Come,
Francis."

So saying he boldly entered the chamber. It was hung with magnificent
tapestries toward which Francis cast not so much as a single glance, so
intent was she upon the form which seemed to dominate the room. At one
end of the apartment was a dais upon which the queen sat under a royal
canopy, surrounded by her ministers and some courtiers. They stood about
with dismayed countenances for the queen was in a rage. She looked up as
the two entered, and stared for a moment as if seeking to know the
meaning of their entrance.

"My liege sovereign," cried Lord Shrope without waiting for the Lord
Chamberlain to announce him, "I have come. Behold here is the lad for
whom you sent me."

"Out of my sight," cried the queen angrily. "'Ods death! is there none to
keep the door that every minion that lists may enter? Out of my sight,
and plague me not with a sight of that boy. Away, varlet!"

With crestfallen visage Lord Shrope arose, bowed profoundly and hurried
Francis out of the chamber.

"I should have heeded thy warning, sir," he said to the usher. "Now I
cannot seek the queen until she bids me to her."

"What shall I do?" asked the girl almost in tears. "Whither shall I go?"

"Thou shalt come with me, my child. My lady wife will look to thy
comfort. There shalt thou abide until it shall be safe to approach
Elizabeth. Thy star is not in the ascendant."

"And I have involved thee too in Her Grace's displeasure," said Francis
with contrition.

"Nay; Elizabeth is too just to harbor ill toward me who hath but wrought
her pleasure. Though verily the humors of princes like their favors are
uncertain. But come!"



CHAPTER XIII

A FAMILIAR FACE AND A CHALLENGE


Lady Shrope received the girl with kindness but her anxiety, when her
husband recounted the manner of his reception by the queen, was great.

"Thou hast no cause for fear," remarked Lord Shrope. "Elizabeth is the
very muster of justice and honor. When she hath suffered a few hours to
pass she will repent her of her injustice."

The nobleman was right. At an early hour the next day he was summoned to
the presence of the queen, and bade to bring his charge with him.

"I cry your pardon, my lord," said Elizabeth extending her hand to him
graciously. "Thine entrance yester e'en was ill-timed. We had received
tidings that ruffled our royal dignity and permitted us to treat thee
with undue rigor. Dost forgive thy queen, my lord?"

"There is naught I would not forgive Elizabeth," returned he with
earnestness. "Had I known I would have delayed seeking an audience but
methought it was your wish that I should come to you upon my first
arrival. Forgive me that I did misinterpret your desire."

"If thou hast forgiven me then do I forgive thee," said the queen. "Rise,
my lord, and I will speak of this boy, and then to other matters.
Business of state awaits the morning hours."

"He is here, my liege, to speak for himself," answered he, and beckoned
Francis to come forward.

She did so diffidently and kneeled before the queen.

"Nay; I wish not to speak with him, my lord," and Francis noted with
dismay that she did not extend her hand to her. "Let him take his place
with the pages. They will soon let him into the manners of the court, I
trow. When he shall have rubbed off some of the rustic mayhap I will have
something to say to him."

"My liege," ventured the nobleman, "will you listen to something
concerning the lad which 'tis best that you should know?"

"Now, by my faith, my lord! thou dost try our patience," said Elizabeth
sharply. "Said we not that affairs of state awaited us. We go at once to
the council chamber. My lord chamberlain," turning to that official whose
white staff indicated his office, "place this lad where his manners will
meet with the most improvement."

She swept out of the room followed by her ministers, while the courtiers
and ladies dispersed according to their fancy.

Francis had remained in a kneeling posture all this time scarcely able to
control her tears. A tap on the shoulder aroused her, and looking up she
saw the kindly face of Lord Hunsdon, the lord chamberlain, bending over
her.

"Be not disheartened, boy," he said compassionately. "The tide will turn,
and thou wilt soon be swept upon the flood into the sunshine of Her
Majesty's regard. Come, and I will show thee those who are to be thy
fellow companions."

"My lord chamberlain," said Lord Shrope hurriedly, "out of the goodness
of your heart, permit me one word. The lad is unacquainted with the
court, and unused to the society of pages whom as thou knowest, albeit
their outward 'havior conforms to custom, yet still are ofttimes
unmannerly in their demeanor to each other. For that reason, and for the
love which once I did bear his father, I entreat you, let the lad remain
with me. I will see to't that his deportment is all that could be
asked."

"My lord, I dare not," was the chamberlain's reply. "Thou knowest that
where the queen commands she exacts obedience to her behests. He must go
with the pages."

"My lord, a word in your ear. The lad is not as he seems." And Lord
Shrope rapidly explained the matter.

"Ha! sayst thou so?" explained Lord Hunsdon regarding Francis earnestly.
"By my halidom, my lord, there is none who would take her to be other
than she appears. Somewhat delicate looking, forsooth, but there are many
lads as maiden-like. If the matter be given to the queen in proper manner
she will regard it with lenient eyes, but if not, she may treat it as
deceit practised upon herself. That she would not forgive."

"True;" assented Lord Shrope. "'Tis that aspect of the affair that
troubles me. Thou seest that for this cause I would that the girl might
remain with my lady wife."

"It may not be," said the chamberlain. "Let the girl be in attendance
with the pages in accordance with the queen's command until she learns of
the child's sex, which, for the damsel's sake, I would discover soon."

"I thank you, my lord, for your kindness," returned Lord Shrope. "It is
my desire also that the queen should learn of the affair at an early
season. But the time must be propitious."

"Yes; the time must be propitious." The lord chamberlain turned to
Francis who had listened to the above conversation with blushing cheeks.
"It seems best, my child, to carry out the queen's command at least in
part. Canst thou so bear thyself that none will be the wiser of thy sex?
The discipline of the palace is strict and the pages observe
punctiliously the outward forms of respect. Still the minions do ofttimes
o'erstep the bounds and indulge in rare pranks. Methinks 'twould be wise
for them to know naught of thy disguise. The knaves are as full of
mischief as sprites."

"I fear them not," said Francis spiritedly. "I fear naught but the
queen's displeasure. For any other, I care not who he be, woe to him who
dares touch Francis Stafford." She touched the poniard that dangled from
her belt significantly as she spoke.

"Child," cried the old lord in delight, "thou wearest the proper garb.
Thou wast never meant for a girl. Zounds! what spirit! And so thou
fearest naught in all England but the displeasure of the queen. Gramercy!
the air of the court is beginning to tell upon thee for those are the
words of a courtier. Come! I no longer fear for thee so long as thou dost
continue to bear thyself in so fearless a manner."

"I bid you farewell, my lord," said Francis to Lord Shrope.

"Farewell for a season, my child. Return to my lady when thy duties are
ended," said her friend. "Lighter will my heart be when thou art once
more in thy father's house. Marry! I would that I had not advised
bringing thee thither. Now I know not what may befall."

"Chide not thyself, my lord," returned Francis who had recovered her
natural courage now that the interview with the queen was over. "All will
be well in a few days, I doubt not. Meantime, it suits me well that I am
to see somewhat of the court."

"Marry! it suits not me," returned his lordship bluntly. "I like not to
see a wild bird caged. The linnet is never so sweet as in its own
woodland."

"But the hawk flies as high for its keeper as when seeking its own
quarry," said Francis as she moved away. "Again, my lord, farewell until
the eventide."

"Farewell. Be discreet, child."

Francis followed Lord Hunsdon through several lofty halls and chambers.
Finally the official caught sight of a youth who stood idly by a pillar.

"Devereaux," he called. "I would speak with thee."

"I am here, my lord." The boy was at his side instantly. "Command me, I
pray you. How can I serve you?"

"Take this lad, and make him thy pupil, Edward. He hath been sent here to
be taught manners. There be none so well versed in such things as thou
art. Therefore do I give him into thy charge."

The youth raised his head and gave a keen searching glance at Francis.
The recognition was instantaneous. Francis gave a slight exclamation for
the boy was he with whom she had contested the slaying of the deer.
Beyond a slight sparkle of his eye the lad betrayed no sign of ever
having seen her before.

"And, Edward, I know the custom that prevails amongst the pages of
treating with undue harshness such as come among ye for the first time. I
charge you, as you wish to curry favor with me, that this lad shall meet
with naught but gentleness. Dost hear, Edward?"

"Ay, my lord. It shall be as thou sayst. He shall be treated with
gentleness. With exceeding great gentleness, I promise you."

The boy's manner was very deferential, but the ears of Francis caught
the sinister meaning that lurked beneath his words.

"My lord," she said boldly, "is there none other to whom I may be
consigned except this youth? I like not his appearance."

"Like not Edward?" exclaimed Lord Hunsdon in surprise. "Why, what caprice
is this? He is a proper lad, and there is no other of the pages so
trustworthy. Thou shouldst deem thyself fortunate to be put into his
hands."

"Marry, sir," remarked Edward Devereaux with a sorrowful air, "'tis pity
that my visage is so unattractive. If the boy is afeared," with a slight
emphasis on the word, "you would best place him with another. Fear makes
cowards of us all, and breeds distrust of the most worthy."

"Gramercy," cried the girl hotly, "dost thou think that I fear thee,
sirrah? Nay; my lord, I will take none other for my mentor than he.
Mayhap while he imparts to me the nice customs of the court, he will in
turn learn of me something he wots not of. Marry! we each have much to
learn."

"Tut! is this the way to begin?" said his lordship impatiently. "Edward,
I shall look to thee for a good report of thy charge."

"It shall be well, sir," returned Edward Devereaux bowing profoundly. The
chamberlain left the two, and the boy faced the girl. "So," he said, "we
are come to learn manners, are we? By my faith, 'tis time. Thou dost
discover too much heat, Master Stafford, and that, thou shouldst know, is
not permitted at court. Take that for thy first lesson."

"I will take naught for my lesson from thee," said Francis quickly. "Who
art thou to teach manners to me?"

"Hast never heard of Edward Devereaux?" queried the lad. "Much hast thou
missed for he is before you," and he bowed mockingly. "Know, Francis
Stafford, that thou and I have a feud of long standing. Hast heard thy
father speak of Sir Thomas Devereaux of Kent? I am his son, cousin german
to Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex. Surely, even if thou dost reside far
from the court, thou dost know that there hath always been enmity between
the Devereaux and the Staffords?"

"Ay! I know of it," assented Francis. "And that is why thou didst claim,
the deer which was slain by my hand in the park?"

"So thou dost still claim the deer? Mark you, Francis Stafford! We of the
court think it not honorable to claim that which doth not belong to us.
Thou hadst no shadow of hand in the deed. It lies between thy sister and
me. Yet still thou sayst,--'I slew it.' Hark ye! if ye so choose we can
settle the matter in the great park some eventide. But for the sake of
truth say no more that you slew it. It is between thy sister and
myself."

"My sister," murmured Francis, and then remembering herself: "My sister
be it."

"And thou and I will meet and decide the business once for all," went on
Devereaux. "Come! what say you to the third night from this? There are
duties that forbid the undertaking sooner."

"But, but," stammered Francis. "I----"

"Ah! thou dost fear." Edward Devereaux looked his scorn. "We will drop
the matter. But thou must fight, or concede that I slew the deer."

"I fear nothing," cried the girl. "I will meet thee when and where thou
wilt."

"Then on the third night from this, thou and I will meet in the park
close by the wicket of the western gate. I will show thee this day where
it lieth. And now we must to duty."



CHAPTER XIV

A STRANGE DUEL


Now, Francis Stafford knew but little of the noble art of fencing. Once
or twice her father had given her the foils and shown her some of the
attitudes and thrusts, but beyond that her knowledge did not extend. It
was with considerable trepidation, therefore, that she thought of the
approaching combat.

"Marry!" she mused. "Were it not that Master Devereaux would impute it to
fear I would not engage in such contest. It is not befitting my maiden
dignity, and I know my mother would not approve. Yet there have been
maiden warriors, why should there not be maiden duelists. I doubt not,
were the truth known, that there have been many. But howsoe'er that may
be, my father, I know, would not like me to submit to the implication of
fear; albeit I would not harm the lad even though he be the son of my
father's enemy."

Through the watches of the night the question of swordsmanship troubled
her, and when the morning came she had reached no solution of the
difficulty.

"I dare not appeal to any who know my sex," she thought as she took her
place among the pages that swarmed one of the ante-chambers. "I would
that I knew of one that would teach me to thrust and to parry."

While she was thus musing a courtier approached her. He was gorgeously
arrayed. Jewels to a fabulous amount adorned his person. Even upon his
pantoufles or shoes were large pearls instead of the roses beloved of the
gallants. His beard was pointed, his eyes set close together; his manner,
when he chose, was irresistible, and his smile very winning. There was a
pipe of the new found tobacco in his mouth,--a weed that had just been
imported from the new world.

"My fair lad," said the courtier removing his pipe, and speaking in the
broad soft accent of Devonshire, "I have not marked thy face before. Art
new to the court?"

"Yes, my lord," answered Francis noting with delight the accent. "I am
Francis Stafford from Hampshire, but newly arrived at the court. But
thou, thou art from Devon, I am sure. It is my mother's native heath."

"True, boy; I am from Devon. Sayst thou that thy mother is from that
shire? Then thou and I should be good friends. Bethink you! Could you
play Hermes for me to one of the maids of honor?"

"I could, my lord. But prithee tell me whom I serve?" and the girl looked
eagerly into his face.

"I am Walter Raleigh," answered he. "This weed hath given me somewhat of
fame."

"Nay;" said Francis quickly. "Not the weed but thine own achievements."

"By my faith, thou art as silvery tongued as Orpheus with his lute," said
Sir Walter with a smile. "Mark me, boy! I would not that any should know
of this message, least of all the queen. 'Tis not that there is aught of
harm in it, lad. As thou art new to the court thou mayest not know that
it is not permitted to any to deem any fair save the queen, and so we are
sometimes forced to send tokens sub rosa."

"I know, Sir Walter," said Francis sadly. "'Tis for that very self-same
cause that I am here."

"Then, lad, we understand each other. Know you Mistress Elizabeth
Throckmorton, one of the queen's maids?"

"Nay; 'tis but my second day in the palace," replied Francis.

"Then must I show her to thee," said Sir Walter. "As Her Majesty goes to
take the air upon the river to-day I will linger a little behind. When
the maids of honor come forth, mark well my action. As they pass I will
drop my glove at the feet of her who is Elizabeth Throckmorton."

"I will note thy action, Sir Walter, and give to the lady thy token in
such manner that none save the fair one herself shall be the wiser."

"Good, my lad! Thou art a true Hermes. As gracious in thy service as was
ever that messenger of the gods. Thou wilt make me thy debtor a
thousandfold. What guerdon dost thou wish?"

"Nay, Sir Walter; I want nothing. 'Tis pleasing to me to be of service to
thee."

"Why, boy, 'tis the custom of the court to take all that one can get,"
cried Sir Walter who was noted for that very thing. "Hast thou no favor
to ask? No desire of thine inmost heart?"

"Oh," cried the girl as a thought darted into her mind, looking at him
timidly, "if I might be beholden to you for one favor. If thou wouldst,
Sir Walter----" she paused.

"Speak on, lad," said Raleigh kindly. "Thou are not the first to prefer
request for service. In truth thou wouldst be a rara avis shouldst thou
not demand something. There lives no man, nor woman, nor child at the
court who hath not his own end to further. Therefore speak and say what I
shall give thee."

"Sir Walter," said Francis emboldened by his words, "thou art a great
swordsman and noted for thy skill in the use of that weapon. Impart to me
that knowledge, I beseech you."

"Is that thy wish?" cried Sir Walter in amazement. "Right willingly will
I teach thee, for I perceive that thou art a lad of parts. 'Tis an art
that is more excellent than any other military exercise, because there is
very great and general use thereof. Not only in general wars, but also
in particular combats. Seek me anon, and I will soon make thee a master
of the sword."

With a dazzling smile he left her. Francis repaired to the courtyard to
await the coming of the queen and her maidens.

The royal barge, manned by watermen attired in regal liveries, lay at the
foot of the great stairs which ascended from the river. The yeomen of the
guard in scarlet jerkins with halberds in their hands, guarded the
passage from the palace to the waterside. Presently the ushers issued
from the mansion, flanked by a band of gentlemen pensioners. After this,
amidst a crowd of ladies and gentlemen, came Elizabeth herself.

Sir Walter Raleigh walked by the queen, but, as if pushed back from his
position by the press of people who crowded to see her, he dropped
slightly to the rear. As the ladies went gaily by, laughing and talking,
he let fall his gauntlet just in front of a beautiful girl. Recovering
the glove as Elizabeth looked about inquiringly for him he resumed his
place by her side. He was in high favor at this time, and consequently
obliged to be in constant attendance upon her.

Francis looked attentively at the lady so indicated and followed the
maids as unobtrusively as possible to the boats. The young ladies of
honor were to be in a boat by themselves with two older ladies for
chaperons. As soon as the girl perceived this she pushed forward boldly,
and, with true page-like officiousness, proffered her services to the
beautiful Elizabeth Throckmorton.

"I have a page of mine own in attendance, young sir," said the lady with
a smile. "Nathless I thank you for your courtesy."

"Fair lady," said Francis in a low tone, "hast ever heard of Hermes?"

"He was the messenger of the gods, sir," returned she in surprise.
"Why?"

"Because I am he," returned the supposed page with a bow. "Albeit I come
not from the gods. 'Twas Eros who sent me, therefore, I beseech you to
permit me to hand you to the boat."

With a laugh and a deep blush Mistress Throckmorton extended her hand,
and Francis led her to the barge, leaving the missive of Sir Walter in
the maiden's soft palm.

Later in the day, receiving a summons from Raleigh she hastened to him
and reported the success of her mission. "Gramercy, boy! thou wert most
gallant in the delivery," laughed Sir Walter. "And now for thy first
lesson with the sword." And soon the two were deep in the mysteries of
fencing.

"Every man should be master of this weapon," declared the sailor when
Francis, exhausted by the swift play of the blades, sank down for a few
moments' rest. "Even though one be small of stature and weak of strength,
dexterity with the sword may make him master of a much larger adversary.
I could tell thee tales, lad, as would make thy hair to rise of the way I
have seen the sword used. Have to, boy! I have but little more time to
give thee. Thou art an apt scholar! So! that was a good parry. A little
removing of the foot, a sudden turning of the hands, a slight declining
of the body, and thine opponent is at thy mercy. So, lad, so!"

[Illustration: _THE TWO WERE DEEP IN THE MYSTERIES OF FENCING_]

The fencing lesson was repeated the next day. Francis no longer dreaded
the meeting with Edward Devereaux, and when the night fell, she stole
away to the dueling place confident that she would be the victor in the
affair.

There was no one at the wicket of the western gate, and she sat down to
await the coming of her adversary with impatience. The broad yellow beams
of the full moon lighted up the open spaces of the park with a brightness
as if the sun had just set while the shadows under the trees were darker
and heavier by contrast. Numerous statues gleamed in the pale light like
ghosts newly risen from their sepulchres. Fountains threw jets of water
into the air, caught the moonbeams, and fell again into their basins in
showers of molten silver. A light breeze ruffled the leaves and came with
refreshing coolness after the sultriness of the day. All was still save
for the music of the night bird of song. The beauty of the scene, the
melody of the nightingales, oppressed Francis with a sense of
melancholy.

"Am I doing aright," she said aloud. "Surely I could do naught else
unless I betrayed my sex. Now the matter hath gone so far that I must
bear myself as if I were in sooth a boy. But I will not kill the lad.
Only make him acknowledge my skill with the deer. I would that he would
come. I know not why, but I feel my courage departing from me in the
loneliness of the night."

At this instant, as if in answer to her wish, there was the sound of
hurried footsteps, and soon the form of Edward Devereaux appeared among
the trees.

"I crave thy pardon, Master Stafford," he cried, "if I have kept thee
waiting. Sir Christopher Hatton detained me, and I could not come sooner.
Draw and defend thyself."

He drew his own sword as he spoke and threw himself on guard. Without one
word of reply Francis placed herself on the defensive. And then began a
curious scene. Parry, thrust and parry--the steel rattled, and the
strange duel was on. The nightingales ceased their singing as if amazed
at the folly of the human things. The only sound that fell upon the air
besides the clash of the blades was the labored breathing of the
contestants. Francis' new-found knowledge stood her well in hand, and she
pressed her opponent furiously. Suddenly she made a false step----

"A hit! a hit!" cried Edward Devereaux.

As the rapier entered her right arm the weakness of her sex overcame the
girl. She uttered a faint cry, and, for the first time in her life, fell
in a dead faint.



CHAPTER XV

THE STRANGE WEAKNESS OF FRANCIS STAFFORD


When Francis recovered consciousness she found Edward Devereaux bending
over her with the utmost concern.

"You live," he cried joyfully as she opened her eyes. "Now Heaven be
praised! Methought that I had killed thee, Master Stafford."

"Methought that it was to be a tilt a l'outrance," said Francis trying to
rise. "Oh," she moaned sinking back as dizziness again assailed her. "I
know not why but I am so weak. Bethink you that I am dying, Master
Devereaux?"

"I understand it not," returned the lad much perturbed. "The wound is
naught. See! I slashed the sleeve of thy doublet and examined it. The cut
should tingle and smart as all such do when green, but there is naught in
it that should cause thy death. Art thou still no better?"

"Nay;" said Francis feebly. "I am sure that my time is come. Good Edward,
I beseech you, bring me a priest that he may shrive me."

"There is no priest in all the castle walls, Francis Stafford. Know you
not that priests and all such popery are forbid? I will call a
chirurgeon."

"Nay; do not so," said the girl. "What this weakness that has o'ertaken
me may be, I know not, unless it be death. E'er I depart I would assoil
my soul of all taint. Therefore incline thine ear, Master Devereaux, and
receive my confession. It cuts me to the quick to make acknowledgment,
but I have hated thee because thy skill with the bow was greater than
mine." She paused for a moment. It was hard for Francis Stafford to
confess fault even though she believed herself to be dying. Soon she
continued: "It was thine arrow, Edward Devereaux, that slew the deer. I
knew it at the time, but I liked not to own thy skill. Wilt thou pardon
me?"

"Gladly, gladly," said Devereaux. "Only I know not how thou couldst have
seen the arrow. Thou wert not there."

"I was, Edward," returned Francis. "I am in truth Francis Stafford, but I
am the daughter instead of the son of my father."

"Thou!--A girl!" The youth drew back in astonishment. "And I struck thee
with my sword? O chivalry! I am undone! I am undone!"

"Nay; take it not so to heart. The blame is not thine. How couldst thou
know that I was other than I seemed?"

"But I struck thee!" The boy seemed almost stunned. "Would Sidney have
been guilty of such an act? Would the basest hind in the field have
lifted a sword against a woman? Fair mistress," he cried in distress
offering his sword to her, "do one last favor for Edward Devereaux. Bury
that sword in the breast of him who is unworthy to bear it."

"In the name of St. George, what means this?" cried Lord Shrope as he and
Lord Hunsdon ran out from among the trees.

"By my faith, my lord," cried the chamberlain bursting into a laugh. "If
there has not been a duel!"

"Art hurt, Francis?" and Lord Shrope bent over the girl with solicitude.

"My lord, methought just now that I was dying, but the weakness that
overcame me hath departed," and the girl staggered to her feet with his
assistance.

"But thou art wounded? Girl, girl, what doth it mean?" Lord Shrope caught
hold of the sleeve that dangled from her bared arm.

"Edward," said the lord chamberlain sternly, "I am surprised at thee. Is
this thy honor? Thou wert to treat this girl with gentleness. I had thy
word. Thou knowest also that no brawling is permitted near the person of
the queen. It shall go hard with thee for this. Francis Stafford might
not know the law, albeit ignorance excuses none, but thou didst. Besides,
in the name of chivalry, what cause had you to draw your sword against a
maiden?"

"My lord," said Devereaux who had received the rebuke with bowed head,
"deal with me as you list. There is no penalty too severe to be visited
upon me. There is naught that can restore self-esteem to Edward
Devereaux. But, I beseech you, believe me when I say that I knew not
until now that yon maiden was a boy only in attire. My lord, believe
this, and you may do with me as you will."

"'Tis true," corroborated Francis. "He is no more at fault for the
encounter than I, my lord. And he knew not that I was not a boy, until,
thinking that my end was near, I told him. I know not why I felt so
weak."

"Thou didst swoon, child," said Lord Shrope. "'Tis a matter that is of
frequent occurrence among thy sex. Didst never experience it before?"

"Never," replied Francis with a light laugh. Save for the sting and smart
of the wound she was fully herself. "And I like it not. I' faith, were I
to have them often, there would be few sins of Francis Stafford's that
would be unknown."

"Didst confess to Edward?" laughed Lord Shrope. "You two should be great
friends anent this."

"No;" said Francis. "I confessed that he killed the deer, and that its
horns were justly his. I will not retract that, but still do I count him
mine enemy, even as his father and mine are at feud."

"So be it," said Edward Devereaux mournfully. "Thou canst not, maiden,
hate me more than I loathe myself."

"Come, Francis," said Lord Shrope, "we must to my lady. We were filled
with alarm when thou didst not come at the usual hour, and my lord and I
have sought for thee everywhere. It was lucky chance that brought us this
way. Child, child, I would that thy father had thee with him, or else
were here. I would also that the queen were not so obdurate in her mind
against thee. But she will not have thy name broached to her. Something
lies underneath it all. Hadst thou been concerned in treasonous
undertakings the matter would be plain. As it is--but why think of it?
That wound of thine which to a man would be a mere scratch must with thee
be looked to. Let us away."

The inconvenience caused by the hurt was short, but, before the girl
resumed her place among the pages, Lord Shrope again ventured to speak of
her to the queen.

"My liege," he said one morning when the queen had been particularly
gracious to him, "I would that you would let me speak of Francis
Stafford. There is somewhat----"

"Now a murrain on thee, Shrope, for mentioning that name," cried
Elizabeth her humor changing instantly. "We, too, have somewhat to say of
Francis Stafford, but the time is not yet ripe. When it is, then will I
hear what thou hast to say. Until then we would not be plagued with the
matter. Hearest thou?"

"I do, my sovereign mistress," answered Lord Shrope humbly. "I hear and
will heed thy commands. Only take not from me thy divine favor."

"Hadst thou ever been connected with any enterprise against her," he said
to Francis as he reported the result of the interview, "I could
understand it. As it is, her mood toward thee gives me great concern."

"Trouble not thyself, my good friend," answered Francis, though she
herself was more disturbed than she cared to admit. Perhaps the journey
to Chartley had come to the queen's ears, and that enterprise wore a
different complexion now to the girl than it had done ere her coming to
the court. "Trouble not about me. Thou canst do no more than thou hast
done."

And so she went back to her place among the pages. The greeting between
her and Edward Devereaux was formal. As the time passed she became aware
that the lad's manner toward her was quite different from what it had
been before their encounter. Now he seemed to regard her with something
akin to admiration, and assumed a protecting air toward her, assuming
many of her duties, that irked the girl exceedingly.

"Prithee, sirrah," she said one day pettishly when his guardianship was
more than usually apparent, "who gave thee leave to watch over me? It
irks me to have thee play the protector. Beshrew me, but Francis Stafford
can care for herself."

"I crave pardon, Master Stafford," replied Devereaux who never by word or
deed dropped a hint that he knew aught of her sex. "I crave pardon if I
have offended. I will vex thee no more."

From that time his care was more unobtrusive, but Francis was still
conscious of it, and it was gall and wormwood to her. She could not
forget the acknowledgment of his skill had been wrung from her when she
thought herself dying. Although she could not but admit that Devereaux
was innocent in the matter, she felt as though a fraud had been
perpetrated upon her, and, girl-like, held him responsible for it.

And so life at the court went on. A great family under the same walls,
loving and hating. The courtiers divided into factions; their followers
being kept from brawling only by the presence of the queen. The serving
men followed the example of their betters and squabbled in the kitchen;
the butlers drank on the sly in the cellars; the maids chattered in the
halls; the pages pilfered from the buttery; the matrons busied in the
still rooms compounding fragrant decoctions for perfumes, or bitter doses
for medicine; the stewards weighing money in the treasury; gallants
dueling in the orchard or meeting their ladies on the stairs. But Francis
liked it all.

The gallant courtiers with their song and fence, and quibble and prattle
and pun; the gaily dressed ladies; the masques in the great hall of the
castle; the pomp and ceremony that attended the queen when she went
abroad: all appealed to her æsthetic nature.

She soon learned to distinguish the courtiers. The Gipsy Earl of
Leicester, with his swarthy handsome face; the tall and comely vice
chamberlain, Sir Christopher Hatton; the venerable Burleigh; the trusty
and wily Walsingham; the gay, witty and sarcastic Harrington, godson of
the queen, and the fiery and impetuous Earl of Essex, stepson to
Leicester.

Sometimes a low, broad-shouldered, heavily-built man would appear at
court followed by brawny sailors who bore great chests of gold gathered
from the Spanish Main. Then the court would be filled with the deeds of
Sir Francis Drake, and of the wondrous happenings in that new world which
lay over the sea.

Youth does not examine closely below the surface, and so to the girl all
was bright and beautiful. She herself would have entered into the life
more fully, but that the cloud of the queen's displeasure hung over her.
There is no place where a sense of the august disapprobation makes itself
so quickly felt as a court. And, as the days went by and Elizabeth still
refused to permit her approach, Francis found herself more and more
isolated.

Even the courtiers who had formerly called upon her to perform services
for them now chose other of the pages, while the pages themselves no
longer stopped to chat or gossip with her.

Thus the days went by.



CHAPTER XVI

WHAT CAME OF AN OFFER OF FRIENDSHIP


One thing had puzzled Francis upon her first arrival at the court. That
was the number of those who had red hair. She soon came to know, however,
that most of the ladies wore wigs of false hair over their own tresses
out of compliment to the queen. The demand for hair was therefore great,
and frequently the supply was not equal to it. Divers means were employed
to obtain such locks, as the girl soon found to her sorrow.

"Where art thou from, my pretty page?" asked a lady one day pausing
before her.

"Hampshire, an it please your ladyship," answered Francis grateful for
the attention. She thought the lady must have recently arrived else she
would not stop to bandy words with one who was without the pale of the
queen's good will.

"Hampshire? Ah, yes! I passed through the shire once with Her Majesty on
one of her progresses," remarked she. "My lad, know you that you are a
pretty boy? But certes! of course you do. Nathless, hear it again from
me."

"I thank your ladyship," returned Francis with blushing cheeks. "'Tis
only your kindness that bids you so to speak."

"Hear the boy!" laughed the lady, shaking her finger archly. "Nay; I
shall not give thee more compliments, but I would have thee know that I
am thy friend. I am aware that the queen regards thee with disfavor, and
I would aid thee. If thou carest to know more come to the Round Tower
which is the dormitory of the maids of honor this night. There is my
bower. I am the Lady Priscilla Rutland. Know you the place?"

"Yes, my lady; but why, why?----" began Francis, but the lady interrupted
her.

"Fie, fie, naughty boy! art thou so curious? Ask no more until to-night."
With a quizzical look she went on her way leaving the girl staring after
her.

"What said the Lady Priscilla to thee?" demanded Edward Devereaux drawing
near. "Beware of her, Francis Stafford. She is full of wiles and deceit.
'Tis unseemly to speak ill of a woman, but I would fain warn thee. When
Mistress Priscilla is most gracious she is bent on mischief. Therefore do
I bid thee to beware of her."

"Am I so rich in friends that I can cast from me one who proffers amity?"
inquired the girl bitterly. "Who art thou, Master Devereaux, that thou
sayst do this, or do that, and expect me to obey? Thou art mine foe, the
son of my father's foe. What hast thou to do with me?"

"The son of thy father's foe, 'tis true," answered Devereaux, "but not
thine, Francis. I make no war on women though I did unwittingly strike
thee once. I repent me that ever I claimed to have slain that deer. Yet
hear me, mistress. Had the foresters not come as they did, I would have
given thee the horns. I came to thy father's castle to offer them to
thee, but dost thou remember how didst greet me with scorn? And I,
thinking thee to be thy brother, did answer in like manner."

"Thou hast been long in the telling, master," remarked the girl
scornfully. "Dost expect me to believe thee?"

"Upon mine honor it is the truth. But to the matter in hand. Believe me,
'tis for thy good to have naught to do with the Lady Priscilla Rutland. I
have been longer at the court than thou and therefore know of that of
which I speak."

"I am tired of thy watching and prating," declared Francis with spirit.
"I am no child to be chidden. Leave me, and know that Francis Stafford
will do as seemeth best to her."

"As you will, mistress. But if you come to grief blame me not," and the
lad walked away.

"I hate him," ejaculated the girl, her eyes filling with angry tears. "I
hate him with his trite speeches and his sage advice! Why doth he not
leave me in peace? I will go to the Lady Priscilla were it only to show
him that I regard not his words."

Nevertheless she could not but wonder why any lady should take such a
sudden interest in her, and a slight misgiving lurked in her heart as she
approached the Round Tower, entered its portals, and made her way to the
Lady Priscilla's bower.

The lady was lying on a couch surrounded by her tire women.

"So, my pretty lad," she said with a careless glance, "thou hast come.
Didst thou not have enough of flattery? Gramercy! hath it not always been
true that sugar would catch more flies than vinegar?"

"What mean you?" stammered Francis, her sensitive nature becoming aware
of the change in the lady's manner from the caressing sweetness of the
morning to the mocking air of the moment.

"Didst think thy beauty had ensnared me?" queried the lady quizzically.
"It hath. As the yellow metal of the earth hath always thrown a spell
over men so the red gold of thy hair hath fascinated me. I dote on thy
locks, my fair page. Ay! so much so that they and I shall ne'er be parted
more. Celeste! Annabelle! have at him!"

"Why, why," cried the girl, struggling to rise as the maids set upon her.
"My lady! My lady!"

But strong as her outdoor life had made her, she was no match for the
damsels of the Lady Priscilla. Soon she lay back in her chair bound hand
and foot.

"No harm is meant thee, master page," remarked the lady as, armed with a
huge pair of shears, she approached the maiden. "'Tis only that thy
silken tresses have tangled my heart in their meshes until sleep hath
fled my pillow. I think on their lustre day and night. And so do I take
them to adorn mine own pate. Thinkest thou that they could cover a fairer
head?"

"Oh, madam," cried the girl tearfully as the shears snipped relentlessly
over her head, for her hair had always been a weak point with her. "O,
spare my hair, I entreat!"

"Fie, sir page! Thou dost shame thy manhood. True, thou art yet guiltless
of beard, yet still thou shouldst not play the woman."

"But, madam, I shall report this to the queen. What think you she will
say when she knows that one of her ladies was guilty of this outrage?"

"She would not listen to thee, malapert. Should she do so, I would say
that Priscilla Rutland knew no peace until she could emulate in her own
locks the regal color that crowned her august mistress' brow. That she
would stoop to do anything could she but faintly follow such beauty. But
I fear not thy disclosure, sirrah. Art thou not in disgrace? Then what
boots it what thou sayst?"

"True;" said Francis and opened her lips no more. Clip, clip, went the
shears until at last all of her ringlets lay, a mass of ruddy gold, in a
great heap among the rushes. Francis looked at them, and then at the
mocking face of the lady, and her heart throbbed with wrath.

"Madam," she said as the Lady Priscilla untied her bonds and she was once
more free, "I will never forgive this."

"Thou art rude, sirrah," laughed the lady. "But I blame thee not. Be
patient, master page. I will come to thee when thy locks have been woven
into a wig and thou shalt see how well they become me."

"Thou shalt never wear hair of mine," cried Francis, white with anger.
Before the lady or her maids could prevent she seized a lamp from one of
the scones and threw it into the midst of red curls.

"Help! Help!" cried the lady and the maids simultaneously, for the lamp
which was of the simplest manufacture, being a wick fed by oil, set fire
instantly to the curls and surrounding rushes. Scattering to the right
and left the maids called lustily: "Fire! Fire! Seize the boy!"

Staying only long enough to see that there was no probability of saving
the hair, Francis dashed through the arras, and fled through chamber
after chamber trying to find an exit.

"This way," she heard a voice call as, bewildered and confused, she
paused, not knowing which way to turn.

To her amazement, Edward Devereaux stood in a door of a chamber beckoning
to her. She gave an exclamation of surprise but, enemy though she
considered him, followed him without hesitation. Through a maze of rooms
the boy led the way with the air of one to whom they were familiar; then
down a flight of steps, through an open window and out upon a balcony
that overlooked the great garden.

"We will conceal ourselves in the shrubbery," he said vaulting lightly
over the rail into the garden below, followed closely by the girl. They
stopped in the shadow of a clump of close clipped black yews. "Here we
can remain," he said, "until the hue and cry is over. What happened,
Francis?"

Francis poured forth her story rapidly.

"I hate this vile court," she cried with a burst of passionate tears as
she concluded. "I want my home! Oh, I want to go home!"

"I blame you not, Francis Stafford," said Edward Devereaux forbearing to
taunt her with the fact that had she heeded his words this last misery
would not have come upon her. "You feel as we all feel at times, yet are
we constrained to bide here. Were it in truth to serve the queen, God
bless her, there would be joy in staying. But to be at the beck and call
of every noble; to bear the trains of the ladies or dance attendance upon
them is not the life that a youth wishes. I pity thee, Francis, and thy
plight is not so bad as it will be should yon tower burn to the ground."

"Oh!" Francis looked up with startled eyes. "I did not think of that. It
was not my intent to burn the tower. Think you that it is in danger,
Edward?"

"Mayhap not," answered the boy regarding the tower with anxious eyes. "We
can but watch."

The two stood looking at the building in silence. As the moments passed
the lights disappeared from the windows, darkness settled over the tower,
and all was quiet. Francis drew a long breath of relief.

"It was unthinking and unheeding in me to throw the light," she said.
"What if the building had burned? The castle might have followed and thus
endangered the life of the queen. Oh, miserable girl that I am! What
would my father say to me?"

"Be not so cast down," comforted Edward. "Thou hadst great provocation,
and pardon me, mistress, but thy temper is not of the gentlest."

"I know," said Francis with unwonted meekness. "But when I saw my hair,
my pretty hair," she paused, her utterance choked, unwilling to give way
to her grief before him.

The boy touched the shorn head compassionately.

"'Twill not be long before it will grow again," he said. "And so long as
thou must wear that garb it will be all the better. I have seen many
longing glances cast at thy locks, Francis. 'Tis wonder that such mishap
hath not occurred before. If thou dost not wear them, thou hast at least
put it out of their power to grace the head of another. There is
something in that."

"Yes;" said Francis with a flash of spirit. "I would not that harm should
come to the palace, yet glad am I that the tresses were consumed. Thou
hast been kind to me, Master Devereaux. And yet thou art mine enemy!"

"Better an open enemy than a deceitful friend," quoth Edward
sententiously. "Say no more, Francis Stafford. If I have been of service
to thee, let it in some measure atone for my churlishness in killing that
deer. But we must to our several abodes else we shall bring the
displeasure of my lord chamberlain upon us. We shall have enough to
answer to this charge. I fear the issue to-morrow. Come!"



CHAPTER XVII

WHAT FRANCIS OVERHEARD


Francis awaited the coming of the day with some trepidation, fearing that
she might be obliged to render an account of the night before. And indeed
had the result been other than it was, she would have been called to a
very serious reckoning. It was marvelous that there was not more damage
sustained, but it came to her ears during the day that the fire had been
extinguished before it had gone beyond the rushes. The hair had been
totally consumed.

The girl soon became aware that the episode was known throughout the
court. When the Lady Priscilla Rutland made her appearance there was
subdued laughter and titterings among the ladies and their gallants.
Francis' shorn head was the cynosure of all eyes, but her manner was so
haughty that it repelled all facetious remarks.

The incident was recounted to Elizabeth. The queen laughed heartily at
the discomfiture of the lady for she was never ill pleased when one of
her maids brought ridicule upon herself, and turning to Lord Shrope who
stood near while it was being related she remarked graciously:

"Upon my word, my lord, there is more in that charge of thine than I
thought. If certain rumors which have come to our ears be not verified we
will have him placed nearer our person. Methinks such spirit well trained
could be made useful."

"You speak truly, madam," returned Lord Shrope. "I know not what is the
nature of the rumors, but knowing Francis Stafford, I make bold to say
that Rumor hath played thee false."

"We shall see, my lord," was Elizabeth's reply.

Lord Shrope feared to press the matter, but as soon as it was expedient
he hastened to seek Francis.

"The tide hath turned, child," he ejaculated. "Fate hath at last become
propitious to thee, for Elizabeth hath begun to look upon thee with
kindness. The accident of the hair hath done for thee what naught else
hath been able to do," and he told her what the queen had said.

To his surprise Francis was not so elated as he expected. On the contrary
his words filled her with alarm.

"Said the queen of what the rumors consisted?" she asked with
uneasiness.

"No, child; but there can be naught of harm in them. Thy life hath been
so innocent in thy Hampshire wilds that there is no act or thought of
thine but could be laid open to the queen. Thou hast naught to fear from
any gossip. 'Tis only when conscious of baseness that we fear to have our
lives searched. Thou hast done nothing wrong; therefore fear nothing."

"My lord," said Francis touched by his faith, "you honor me too much.
Pray Heaven that you may never have cause to repent your words."

"Tut, child! why should I repent them? Now be advised by me, and take
advantage of the humor of the queen. A good husbandman, as thou knowest,
improves the sunshine to make hay. We must do likewise. It is the queen's
habit to repair to her closet to play each day upon the virginals. This
she doeth for the most part privately, but, as she plays markedly well,
she is not ill pleased to have others hear her. Especially is this true
if it transpires accidentally. Now do you place yourself in the gallery
behind the arras. When the queen plays seem to be drawn into her presence
by the sweetness of her music, even as Orpheus drew Eurydice from among
the demons. Then excuse thy intrusion with some well-timed phrase.
Elizabeth is great, but she hath a weakness for judicious flattery the
which, in truth, doth not ill accord with her femininity. Then, if she
receive thee graciously, throw thyself upon her mercy and confess all."

"But, my lord, doth it not savor too much of guile?" objected Francis,
her spirit revolting at the manner of the transaction.

"It doth, Francis, but what would you? 'Tis the manner of all courts, and
the queen is not deceived thereby. Such things the rather appeal to her
if the fashion of them be adroit. What boots the method then if the end
is accomplished, and the queen pleased. No harm is done."

"My lord, I like not the style of it. It seemeth to me that nothing is
ever done in a straightforward manner any more. Is life full of naught
but crookedness and devious windings and turnings? Let me go to the queen
openly, I beseech you."

"Nay; 'twill avail thee nothing. Subdue thy pride for once, and be guided
by one to whom all the ways of the court are as an open book. Thou dost
hold thyself with too much of spirit. Set not thyself above those who are
older and of superior wisdom."

Francis felt the rebuke so sharply spoken, and answered in a conciliatory
manner.

"My lord, I intend not to hold my judgment higher than thine for thou art
of superior wisdom and age. I am willing to be guided by thee, but I
would that the end could be gained by other ways than those of
crookedness."

"'Tis for thy parents' sake as well as thine," observed the other. "Thou
knowest how full of anxiety they must be, and how solicitously they await
thy return. Thou shouldst be willing to adopt any course that would allay
that uneasiness and restore thee to their arms."

"And I am willing," responded the girl with fervor. "Away, indecision!
Away, doubts! No longer will I listen to ye; for what says Will
Shakspeare:

                "'Our doubts are traitors,
             And make us lose the good we oft might win,
                By fearing to attempt.'

Speak on, my lord. Unfold again thy plan, and I will follow it, be the
issue what it may."

"There spake the Stafford blood," exclaimed the nobleman approvingly.
"Listen, girl, then haste thee to the queen's gallery; for on the hazard
of this die depends thy fortune."

Francis gave heed to all of his instructions, and then made her way to
the queen's apartment. The chamber was unoccupied, and she looked about
in quest of some suitable hiding-place. At one end of the room the
mullioned window opened upon a long balcony which overlooked the private
garden. Francis resolved to place herself there rather than behind the
rich tapestries.

She had scarcely taken her position near an open window where she could
both see and hear without being herself seen when Elizabeth entered. To
the girl's consternation she was not alone, but attended by Walsingham,
Burleigh, Hatton and Leicester.

Elizabeth seemed much agitated, and Francis, unwilling to be a listener
in matters of state, looked about her for some means of retiring when her
attention was caught by a name.

"And thou art sure, Walsingham, of the truth of this matter? Hast thou
indisputable proofs that Anthony Babington is guilty of design to murder
us? Long have I known that he inclined toward the claims of our cousin,
Mary of Scotland, but so too do my Lord Stafford, my Lord Percy, and
other of our subjects. Yet none of these gentlemen would lift a hand
against the person of his queen. Art sure of what thou art saying?"

"I have here the proofs, Your Majesty," returned Walsingham. "Here is a
tablet upon which is painted the face of Babington and five others who
are associated with him in perilous enterprise, as thou seest engraved.
Further: here are letters which have passed between Mary of Scotland and
the conspirators in which she commends the performance of the deed. The
act was to be committed on thy way to chapel."

"Then, my lord, if this be true, why have you not apprehended these men?
Methinks that the safety of your queen should be your first
consideration."

"Her Highness is right," cried Leicester. "Upon her life depends not only
the safety of her ministers but the welfare of the Commonwealth."

"Pardon me, my liege lady," said Walsingham, "if I have seemed to be
careless of that life which is so dear to all of us. But I wished to
involve Mary so deeply in this conspiracy as to open the way to rid the
country of her. Your Majesty will never be safe while that woman lives.
She is a menace as long as she remains in England."

"Deport her then," suggested Elizabeth. "France would gladly receive
her."

"Nay, madam. That were to place her where she could abet the design of
Phillip to invade England. That bourne from which no traveler returns is
the only proper abode for Mary Stuart. And for thy protection, madam, I
took precautions. Ballard, the priest, as thou knowest, hath long since
been confined in the Tower. Babington has been lodged in mine own house
where I could watch him. He can be taken at any time. That time hath now
come. The warrants are issued, not only for him, but for Tilney, Savage,
Tichbourne, Stafford and other conspirators associated in the
enterprise."

Stafford! Francis gave a faint gasp, and started up in terror. Her
father? Was he to be taken with these men? But the queen was speaking:

"Lord Stafford?" she said interrogatively. "Stafford, Walsingham? Surely
not he. He is an honorable gentleman, and would not be concerned in such
foul designs."

"Did I not tell you some time since that it was whispered in mine ear
that Stafford and his son delivered letters to Mary? The whisper hath
become a certainty. Those letters were to apprise the queen of the intent
to slay thee, deliver her from custody, and raise her to the throne. This
hour will I send to arrest Lord Stafford as well as the others. And
then----"

[Illustration: _SHE GAVE A FAINT GASP_]

"Death to the traitors," said Burleigh impressively. "They must perish,
as must all who are traitors to England and to England's queen."

Francis waited to hear no more. Her father to be taken and tried for
treason? That would mean death. She must warn him.

She ran quickly to the other end of the balcony, and swung herself over
the balustrade. Hastily she made her way through the grounds to Lord
Shrope's lodgings, bursting in upon that astonished nobleman just as he
was about to partake of his dinner.



CHAPTER XVIII

AN ADVENTURE


"I must see thee, my lord, alone," she cried in such tones that her
friend arose without a word and conducted her into his own withdrawing
room.

"How now, Francis? What mishap hath attended thy enterprise? Gramercy,
girl! what is it? Thou art disheveled and as excited as though some
untoward accident had befallen thee. What said the queen? Say what hath
happened?"

"My lord," gasped the girl scarcely able to articulate, "once thou didst
love my father. For the sake of that love, I pray you, grant me aid to
reach him."

"Child, what is it?" cried he in alarm "Tell me what hath occurred? Hath
Elizabeth sent thee from her?"

"I have not seen the queen," said Francis trying to speak with calmness.
"After I had hidden myself as you bade me, the queen in company with
Hatton, Lord Burleigh, Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Leicester entered
the chamber. They discovered to her a plot to slay her, and to elevate
Mary of Scotland to the throne, furthered by Anthony Babington, and
others, among whom they named my father. My lord, I must go to him. Aid
me I beseech you."

Lord Shrope's face turned white, and he withdrew himself from the girl's
clinging hands.

"A plot to slay the queen? The saints defend us! Girl, I cannot, I dare
not aid thee. It would be as much as my life is worth."

"You must, my lord. I must reach my father. I must and will, my lord."

"If William Stafford be concerned in conspiracy against Elizabeth he must
abide the consequences. I will aid no traitor to the queen."

"My lord, he is no traitor," cried the girl in despair. "He did wish to
release Mary from bondage, for he had compassion on her misery as who
hath not? But that he is party to the design to murder the queen, I deny.
I know, my lord, I know."

"What do you know? Are you too engaged in conspiracies? I thought thee as
innocent as the daisy that grows in thy father's field."

"I am in no plots nor conspiracies, sir," declared Francis. "But we lose
time in idle words. Give me thine aid to reach my father, I implore
thee."

"Never, girl! And thou,--thou must be restrained of thy liberty, for I
see that thou knowest much of this matter."

He turned toward the door as he spoke, but Francis was before him.

"My lord," she said, and there was determination in her manner, "thou
shalt not touch me, nor cause others to touch me. Heaven be my witness
that I speak truth when I say that my father is innocent of design to
murder the queen. I must have means to reach him, and thou must give them
to me."

"Must? Thou useth strange terms, girl! Not only will I not give thee aid,
but I will take thee into custody."

He sprang toward her, but the girl turned upon him fiercely with uplifted
dagger.

"Lay but one finger upon me, and I will slay thee," she said in a low
intense voice.

"Francis Stafford, this from you?"

"Ay, sir, from me. I would kill thee, or any who sought to hold me from
my father. The queen herself should not keep me from him."

"Seditious girl! those are words of treason."

"I care not," cried Francis recklessly. "I care not, my lord. And if thou
wilt not give me aid thy life shall pay the forfeit."

"Dost threaten me, girl?"

"Ay! if you deny me. I will slay thee and take thy signet ring."

"If I aid thee, what then?"

"I will tell no word of it to any man," declared she earnestly. "No word,
my lord. Thou shalt not be implicated in any manner, as indeed, why
should you? I am determined to reach my father, and if to do so I must
kill thee, I will do so."

"I believe in thee, Francis. Thy love for him is great. For the sake of
that love, and also for that which once I bore him, I will aid thee. Not
because of thy threats, girl. They are but talk of an excited brain."

"Nay, my lord; you do me wrong. I would carry them out if it were
necessary, albeit I am glad to have gained the end without bloodshed."

"Here is my signet ring, Francis. By that token the boatmen will take
thee to London. By that token also thou mayest obtain horses at my house.
Go, girl! Even now thou mayest be too late. As for me, with that ring on
thee, 'twill be my undoing, but--take it."

"Say that I stole it, my lord. Say that I forced it from thee," cried
Francis, receiving it from him joyfully.

"That thou forced it from me?" echoed Lord Shrope with a laugh. "Why,
girl, I had rather be beheaded."

"Then will I leave it at thy house in London when I shall have obtained a
horse," said the girl dropping upon one knee by his side. "Forgive me, my
lord, for my words," and she kissed his hand with fervor. "Thou hast
always been kind to me, but my father, sir. There is naught that I would
not do for him."

"Thou art forgiven. But hasten! Time is precious."

Without further parley Francis bounded from the room, and hurried
through the palace yard, out of the great gate and down to the steps that
led to the river.

Within the yard and at the landing-place there was a great deal of
confusion. Servitors were running to and fro, courtiers were grouped
together talking excitedly, while numerous officials and dignitaries were
taking boat for London. Among these latter the girl discerned the form of
Walsingham, the queen's secretary of state. Her heart sank at sight of
him.

"He goes to send pursuivants for my father," was her thought, and her
conclusion was correct. The secretary was indeed on his way to cause the
arrest of the conspirators.

Seeing her among the followers of Walsingham, the watermen permitted her
to enter one of the wherries and she found herself being carried to
London more expeditiously than would otherwise have been the case. There
was no indulgence on the part of the boatmen in song. Stern and silent
they bent to their oars, responding with all their mights to Walsingham's
"Faster, my men, faster!"

It seemed to Francis that they no sooner reached London than the whole
city was ablaze with the news. Traffic was suspended, and citizens
discussed in hushed accents the plot to kill the queen.

Francis made haste to Lord Shrope's house in Broad Street, and by means
of the ring, procured an excellent horse. Mounting him she urged the
animal to great speed and was soon outside the city.

"Heaven grant that I may reach my father before Walsingham's men," she
murmured. "I have gotten the start of them somehow. Let me make the most
of it."

Now the reason for her advantage was this: several of the conspirators,
notably the six who had associated together to assassinate the queen,
were in London awaiting their opportunity. Anthony Babington lodged at
Walsingham's own house, lured there by the wily secretary under pretense
of taking him into his confidence; while Babington, to further his own
ends, seemingly acquiesced in the minister's plans. It was a case of
duplicity against duplicity, craft matched against craft, with the odds
on the side of Elizabeth's brainy secretary. For the reason that the
chief conspirators were in London, Walsingham tarried there to apprehend
them before sending forth to arrest the other gentlemen concerned in the
plot who lived somewhat remotely from the city. But the conspirators had
gotten wind of his intentions, and when he reached the city they had
fled.

All this the girl did not know until long afterward. Now she pushed
forward with the utmost expedition, hoping to reach the Hall before the
pursuivants started. The weather was warm, it being the last of July, and
the Hall was two days' journey from London by hard riding. Therefore
whatever distance she might gain in the first stage of the trip would be
of incalculable advantage.

Toward the end of the day, her horse showing great signs of fatigue,
Francis was of necessity forced to allow the animal to settle into a
walk. As the steed slackened pace the girl relapsed into thought. So
absorbed did she become that she was startled into something closely akin
to fright when a man sprang from behind some trees, ran into the road,
and seized her horse by the bridle.

At this time the woods and forests of England were infested by
highwaymen, gipsies, or Egyptians as they were called, and wandering
vagrants whose depredations had been the cause of severe legislation to
rid the country of its pests. It had not occurred to Francis that she
might be molested by any of these, and she could not forbear a slight
scream at the appearance of the man.

His clothing, though of rich material, was torn and ragged as though it
had been caught by thorns in the unfrequented paths of the forest. His
head was bare of covering, his locks disheveled; his face and hands were
of an uneven dark color as though stained with some decoction unskilfully
applied. His whole manner was so distraught that Francis trembled
excessively.

"Boy," cried the man wildly, "dismount, and give me thy horse."

At the first sound of his voice the girl started violently, leaned
forward and scanned his face keenly.

"Anthony Babington," she cried as she recognized the unhappy man, "how
came you here?"

"You know me?" cried Babington in dismay. "Who in the fiend's name are
you that know me?"

"One that knows all of your nefarious purpose," said Francis accusingly,
her girl nature imputing to this man her father's trouble. "Wretched man,
knowest thou that the queen's men search for thee even now?"

"Ha!" cried Babington peering into her face, "'tis the page that was with
Stafford at Salisbury. Boy, where is thy master?"

"At Stafford Hall."

"And thou! Thou art not with him. Hast thou been at court?" Babington
peered suspiciously into her countenance.

"Yes;" answered the unsuspecting girl. "I have been at court, Anthony
Babington, where all thy deed is known. The whole palace, ay! the whole
city of London is in an uproar because of the discovery of thy intention
to kill the queen. I was present when the matter was discovered to the
queen. Death will be thy portion if thou art apprehended. Why stand you
here? If you would save yourself, fly!"

"Thou present when it was discovered? Then it is thou who hast betrayed
us? Varlet! Base brawler of men's secrets! die, ere thou canst betray
others."

His dagger flashed in the air as he spoke, but ere it could descend
Francis gave him a sharp, stinging cut across the face with her whip.
With a cry of rage Babington let fall the poniard, and before he could
regain the weapon the girl dashed away. On she rode, never stopping until
at length the night fell, and she knew that she was far from the wretched
Babington.



CHAPTER XIX

A SHELTER FROM THE STORM


The morning of the second day found Francis once more on her way without
having seen any of the queen's men. The day was unusually warm, and both
the girl and her horse, wearied by the hard riding, showed the effects of
the journey. But fatigued though she was she pushed resolutely on,
pausing only to care for the tired animal. At length the road entered a
deep wood and she gave a sigh of relief as the grateful shade of the
trees enveloped her. The horse too seemed to revive somewhat and went
forward with more briskness.

So dense was the shade that Francis was not aware that the sky had become
overcast with clouds until a distant peal of thunder broke upon her ear.

"A storm is coming," she cried. "I must seek shelter; but where?"

It was a problem that would have puzzled a head older and wiser than
that of Francis Stafford. She was in the midst of a dense forest. She
looked about her in dismay.

"Beshrew me!" she uttered, "these woods are impenetrable enough to
furnish hiding-place for Robin Hood and all his men. Surely there must be
an inn or house somewhere near. Patience! I will find shelter. On, good
horse!"

The mutterings of the thunder became louder and deeper as the storm
approached. The clouds scudded across the heavens swiftly, borne on the
wings of a heavy wind. Suddenly a blinding flash of lightning zigzagged
across the sky followed by a deafening crash of thunder, and the storm
broke in all its force. The rain came down in torrents. The trees bent
and swayed in the wind, tossing their proud heads as if in defiance to
the storm king. The horse snorted in terror as flash after flash of
lightning blazed across the road. Francis was drenched to the skin, but
she struggled on, soothing the frightened animal as best she could.

Presently she thought she saw an opening in the trees. Drawing closer she
was overjoyed to find that there really was a path through the wood.
Turning into it she followed it for some distance, finally coming to an
open glade where stood what looked to be an ancient inn.

One wing had fallen into decay. The rose covered trellis of the porch lay
rotting on the ground. All about the building hung an air of dilapidation
and decay that forbade the thought of cheer. One part of the tumbled down
structure looked as though it might serve as a shelter, and the girl
hastened to the door of this portion and knocked.

There was no response, and Francis rapped again; this time more loudly
than before, resolving to force the door should there be no answer. She
waited a few moments, and then there came a high shrill voice from behind
the closed door.

"Who's there?"

"One who desires shelter from the storm. Open, i' God's name!"

"And who be ye that seek shelter of Dame Margery? Know you not that men
call me the white witch?"

"I care not," exclaimed Francis impatiently. "Open, woman, else I will
force the door."

There was a muttering of protest, then the bolts were drawn, and the door
opened. A woman stood in the aperture. A woman, old and bent, and looking
not unlike the witch she called herself. A hood of brown sat on her white
hair; a brown lappet was thrown about her, and she supported herself by
means of a staff. Her black eyes regarded the girl with keenness from
under her shaggy brows.

"Now thou art brave, forsooth, who dares take shelter here," she said.
"There are those, and they are many, who would brave the fiercest storm
rather than risk Dame Margery's evil eye."

"But not I," said Francis boldly. Nevertheless she made the sign of the
cross, for the age was a superstitious one and the belief in witches and
witchcraft well nigh universal. "Good dame, tell me, I pray, where I may
put my horse. Give us both shelter, and thou shall have this angel for
thy guerdon."

She held the gold piece out as she spoke. The woman's fingers closed over
it eagerly.

"Back of the house are the stables," she said a trifle more civilly.
"There will ye find food for the beast as well as cover. But thou wilt
have to be thine own groom, young sir. These old bones be racked with
rheums."

"I thank you," answered Francis briefly. Following the direction
indicated by the beldame she led her horse round the house where she
found the stables in somewhat better condition than she had expected.
After looking after the welfare of the animal she muttered a short
prayer, and entered the dwelling with a bold front.

The door gave entrance into a large, low ceiled room whose rafters were
grimed with smoke and dirt. A low bed stood in one corner of the room; a
small deal table and three chairs completed the simple furnishings, but
the girl's eyes were caught by the strings of herbs that depended from
the walls, and the cabalistic signs that were everywhere in evidence. A
fire burned on the hearth and over it, depending from a crane, hung a
large kettle in which something savory was brewing.

A black cat which had been stretched near the fire rose at her entrance,
and spat as if he resented the intrusion as well as his mistress.
Francis glanced at the mysterious signs, the black cat, the old woman,
and a half wish came into her mind that she had braved the fury of the
storm rather than enter such an abode. As if in answer to her thought the
dame spoke:

"Draw nigh the fire, boy, and dry thy wet garments. Marry! hearest thou
the rain? Even the dwelling of a witch, I trow, is better than to be out
in't. Hark!"

The storm had redoubled its fury. The wind shrieked and howled as though
a thousand demons were loosed from durance and were exulting in their
freedom. The rain came down in sheets, while peal on peal of thunder
crashed and rolled. Francis shuddered and drew nearer the fire. The steam
arose from her saturated garments, and rendered her uncomfortable. The
old woman noticed her discomfort and said not unkindly:

"Boy, no garments have I of thy sex, but if thou wilt play the woman for
the nonce thou canst have of mine apparel until thine own be dried."

For the first time since she had left the court Francis laughed. She
flushed rosy red under the old woman's glance, and then grew bewildered
and confused at her continued scrutiny, and answered with an effort at
self-command.

"I thank you, my good dame, but I will stay as I am an it please you."

"Content yourself,--master," answered the dame with the slightest
hesitation before the word. "'Twas but to soften thy distress."

She spoke no more, but busied herself about the brew over the fire.
Presently she placed some of the stew before the girl, saying,

"Eat, sir. Thou wilt find it to thy liking, I trow."

"It is in sooth," replied Francis falling to heartily. Under the
influence of warmth and comfort her fear of the woman had vanished.
"Think you, good mother, that the storm will soon pass?"

"Nay;" answered she her face softening at the appellation. "Not till
midnight comes; for

               "When storm comes at end of day
               The midnight hour takes the rain away.'"

The girl's face clouded.

"Then I must forth at midnight," she declared.

"Thy need must be urgent that impels thee onward through the darkness,"
observed the woman keenly. "Boy, what is thy business? Would have me read
the stars for its issue?"

"Nay, mother," answered Francis in agitated tones. "Were it favorable all
would be well, but if it were evil I would not know of it. But it will
not be ill. It must not, shall not be!"

She arose and paced the floor, chafing that she must be inactive when
time was so precious. The dame regarded her curiously. Presently she
spoke.

"Mistress, I may not call thee because of thy garb. Master, I cannot
because of thy sex; but whatsoe'er thou art, tell old Margery why thou
art so dressed, and why you wander forth alone?"

"Woman, are you in very truth a witch?" cried the girl in astonishment.

"So men call me," returned Margery dryly.

"But save for the few who were told, not one at the court penetrated my
masquerade," said Francis. "Then how is it, that thou, at our first
meeting, know that my dress covers a maiden?"

"Old Margery hath lived long, and her eyes are sharp," answered the dame.
"But tell me. What brings you hither, if you are of the court?"

Francis paused in front of the woman and looked long and earnestly into
her eyes. Something she saw there made her say impulsively:

"Good mother, thou must be in truth the witch men call thee, because
thine eyes impel me to tell thee all. Listen! and I will unfold the tale
from the beginning." And she recounted the affair of Elizabeth's coming,
the reason for donning the page's dress, her going to court, and now the
cause of her desire to reach her father. The woman listened attentively.

"Child, thou hast done well. And thou sayst that none of the queen's men
have passed thee?"

"None, mother. I have outstripped them all," exulted Francis. "Let me but
continue in the lead for a few hours longer so that my father may have
opportunity to get to a place of safety, and I care not how soon they
come."

At this moment there came the sound of hoarse shouting of men, followed
by the clatter of horses' hoofs, and then above the storm came a loud
knocking at the door.

"Open in the name of the queen," came the stern command.



CHAPTER XX

FRANCIS FINDS A HELPER


"It is the pursuivants," cried Francis in consternation. "Good mother,
hide me, I entreat. They must not know that I am here."

Then, indeed, was she thankful that she had taken the old woman into her
confidence. The beldame arose and with an agility that was surprising in
one of her years glided across the room, and opened a small door that was
so small, and black, and grimy that it had escaped the girl's attention.

"Enter," whispered the woman. "Enter and fear nothing. They shall not
know of thy presence."

Francis passed through the entrance and closed the door after her just as
the rapping came again with renewed vigor.

"What, ho inside!" came a voice. "Give entrance, whosoe'er ye be, else it
will be made by force."

"Now who be ye who would seek admittance to the house of a white witch?"
asked Dame Margery's shrill voice.

"Gramercy! we will show who we be," and there was a sound as of a man
pressing against the panels of the door. The dame undid the fastenings
and threw open the door. A man who had evidently put his shoulder against
it for the purpose of forcing an entrance sprawled his entire length on
the floor. With a loud laugh at his discomfiture several other men
crowded into the room.

"Marry! what an unmannerly welcome," cried the man picking himself up.
"My good woman, is this the way to receive guests?"

"Be that the way to enter a body's house?" cried the dame. "Ye bean't
gentle, surely, else ye would know that an old woman can't move the
swiftest when she's bent with the rheums."

"I crave thy pardon, dame," said the leader who was evidently a man of
high degree. "I crave thy pardon for such an unceremonious entrance. I
thought that no one was within. Give us shelter from the storm and
supper. Then must we on our way. We pay for your trouble."

"Well, ye won't get either supper or shelter here. Do ye take this for an
inn?" she asked querulously.

"Nay, dame; for then would we find greeting and good cheer," returned the
leader good naturedly. "This seemeth more in truth like witch's dwelling.
Whatsoe'er it be here we stay until the storm abates. We are from the
queen, woman."

Dame Margery said no more, but began to bestir herself about the supper.

"Some of you see about the horses," commanded the leader, placing himself
before the fire.

Two of the men went out and presently returned.

"'Tis a crazy sort of a barn, sir," said one, "but it encloses as good a
bit of horseflesh as e'er trod a heath. How now, dame? Where didst thou
get so fine a horse?"

"Are there men here other than us?" asked the leader hastily. "If there
be we must look to ourselves for we are on the queen's business, and
naught must delay us."

"No men, sir," answered Margery.

"The stable is bad, sayst thou, Martin?" with an expression of relief on
his face as he heard the dame's reply. "The dwelling, too, is none of the
best."

"None asked ye to enter it," said the woman bluntly. "An ye like not mine
abode, ye can leave it."

"Hold thy tongue, old beldame!" said the leader imperiously. "Nay;" as
the dame flashed an angry glance at him, "be not prodigal of thy looks.
An thou cast the evil eye on me, I'll sheathe my blade in thy flesh. We
want no witch's work here."

Margery made no answer, but placed the supper before them. The men fell
to, and soon disposed of all that was on the table. Then the leader began
to show signs of impatience for the storm had not yet subsided.

"Beshrew me!" he exclaimed to his companions. "I fear that we will be
compelled to pass the night in this vile place. Marry! how it rains!"

"It doth, Master Wainwright," answered one. "But better the storm than
pass the night in the abode of a witch, and if yon dame be not the
veriest witch in the kingdom then I ne'er saw one. The house makes me
creepy. 'Tis fitting place for some dark deed to be committed. The horse
in the stable, I dare say, belonged to some belated traveler caught like
ourselves in a storm afar from an inn. Marked you how she answered me not
when I spoke on't? How the wind howls, and how blue the taper burns!
'Sblood! I'd sooner be out in the storm."

"I would not," observed Master Wainwright. "One drenching a day is enough
for me. Marry! there is naught to do but to possess our souls in
patience. I dare say, we will o'ertake the boy on the morrow."

"Marry! yes, master. If he be out in this storm he will drown like a rat.
Who would have thought that he could have kept so far ahead of us?"

"They ride fast who flee from justice," quoth another sententiously. "If
we be not careful he will outstrip us, and we will be void of our
quarry."

"Be not alarmed. We will o'ertake him," reassured the leader. "Though I
like not for the storm to continue. It delays us too much." He mused for
a moment and then turned to the dame suddenly.

"My good woman," he said, "have ye seen aught of a boy to-day?"

"A boy? What boy?" asked she stupidly.

"A boy of the court in page's dress. Hast thou seen him?"

"No boy have I seen this day," answered the dame stolidly. "Marry! nor
for many days for the matter of that. What did ye want with the boy?"

"We have a warrant for his arrest," said the leader. "Also one for his
father, Lord William Stafford. What think you, my good dame? There has
been foul attempt to slay the queen."

"Ye do well to say 'attempt,'" said the woman. "Elizabeth will never die
by the hand of an assassin."

"Say ye so?" asked the leader eagerly. "Good dame, how will she die?"

"Not in her bed. No hand shall be raised against her, and she dies by
misease; yet shall she not die in bed," and the old woman nodded
prophetically.

"Ask her how long the queen will live," whispered one. "The queen waxeth
in years and it may not be amiss to be prepared."

"Seek no further, sir," said Margery quickly. "Know that thou wilt never
live to see the day of her death. Thy time is nigh."

"Now a murrain on thee for that foul prophecy," cried the man starting
up, his hand on the hilt of his sword. But Master Wainwright interposed.

"No brawling, sirrah. We are on the queen's business. Thou and thy right
arm may be needed ere it be completed. Have done!"

The man sank back. Quiet fell upon them, broken only by the sweep of the
rain against the house and the fitful howling of the wind. Night
deepened, and still the storm continued. The men disposed themselves
about the hearth for their damp clothing made them chilly, and soon one
after another fell into slumber, until, after a time, all were asleep.
Then Dame Margery rose to her feet and tiptoeing to the small door opened
it, and passed out of the room.

Francis stood just within where she could hear everything that went on in
the outer chamber. She came forward eagerly as the woman entered.

"Mother," she cried, "those men must be detained here, but how? Canst
thou help me?"

"Child, I could make them sleep until the sun was high noon, but they are
about the queen's business, and I durst not."

"Good mother, tell me how, and let me do it," coaxed Francis. "I must get
to my father. O, if you have ever had a loved one, for the sake of that
one, give me the aid I ask. I am but a girl. Weak and helpless with the
great queen and her ministers against me. Yet I must warn my father. O
dame, I lack so little of being home. If I had a few hours more, just a
few hours! Please, good mother,"--she paused, and flinging her arms
around the woman's neck, she kissed her. Dame Margery's frame shook and
she held the girl close. Then she whispered, stroking her hair softly:

"My bonny maiden, thou shalt have thy wish. For that kiss I would give
thee anything. It hath been years since Margery felt the touch of fresh
young lips. Men fear me, and children shun me, but thou hast not. Once
more, child."

Gratefully Francis kissed her; not once but many times. Then the dame
stole softly out, and the girl followed her. To a corner cupboard the old
woman went, and taking out a phial that held some dark mixture she held
it to the light for a second and shook it gently. Then with that
marvelous agility that had caused Francis to wonder earlier in the
evening she glided among the sleeping men and let fall a tiny drop of the
decoction near the nostrils of each slumberer. A sweet odor filled the
room so subtle and penetrating that the girl beat a hasty retreat into
the smaller chamber, fearing that she too might be overcome by it.

"Come, child," called Margery. "They sleep as slept the seven sleepers of
long ago. And so they will sleep until the dawn. I dare not give them
more for fear of death. And they are the queen's men. Thou wilt have to
hasten, child. With these few hours' advantage thou shouldst reach thy
father in time. The storm hath broken. Now thou must away."

The storm had indeed passed. The rain still fell, but gently. In the west
a few stars peeped between the rifts in the clouds.

"How can I ever repay thee?" whispered Francis embracing the dame warmly.
"Heaven bless thee, mother. Farewell!"

"Farewell. Fear naught. Trust to the guidance of thy horse and this
lanthorne. The night is dark, but the dawn comes early. Ride now for thy
life, girl. Farewell."



CHAPTER XXI

AN UNLOOKED FOR RECEPTION


The night was dark as Dame Margery had said. The broken clouds that
flitted across the sky obscured the faint light of the stars that
struggled to peep through the nebulous masses. At another time the
superstitious spirit of the girl would have shrunk from the noises of the
wood, and found omens in the hoot of the owl, or the moaning of the wind
as it sobbed fitfully through the trees. But now the screech of the night
bird and the soughing of the wind fell upon deaf ears for she was so
absorbed in the one idea of getting home that all else was unheeded.

In the darkness she was obliged to proceed slowly, trusting rather to the
instinct of the horse than to the dim light of the lantern. The dripping
trees saturated her garments almost as thoroughly as if it were indeed
raining, but the fire of filial love was in her heart, and its flame
rendered her impervious to creature discomforts. At length the dawn
came, and the sun's bright beams soon dispersed the mists of the night,
his revivifying rays inspiring the girl with new courage. The horse, of
his own volition, struck into a brisker gait, and Francis was obliged to
control her emotion as each succeeding moment brought her nearer the
Hall.

Just before noon the turrets of Stafford Hall came into view. With a cry
of exultation she spurred her horse forward.

"On, on!" she cried. "Thy journey is almost done!"

At full gallop she sped through the gates and into the base court. Her
father's horse, bridled and saddled, stood at the foot of the steps
leading to the terrace.

"Mistress Francis," cried Brooks, the old servitor who held the horse,
"how came you here?"

"My father?" gasped Francis as she sprang to the ground.

"In the presence chamber, mistress. He----"

She waited to hear no more, but ran up the steps, through the ante-rooms,
and bounded into the presence chamber.

Lord Stafford and his wife stood with their arms twined about each other,
as if in the act of saying farewell. They started at her entrance, the
utmost surprise upon their faces when they saw who the intruder was.

"Father!" exclaimed Francis running to him with outstretched arms.
"Father!"

Her father did not stir to meet her, but, folding his arms, regarded her
sternly.

"False girl," he cried, "why come you hither?"

"To save thee, my father." Francis paused bewildered by his manner.
"Father, they accuse thee of treason. The queen's men are coming to take
thee to the Tower. You must fly."

"And do you bid me fly? You who have betrayed me? You whom I trusted? You
who vowed that not even the rack could extort one syllable from your
lips? Base girl, is it thus that thou dost requite my love? Away! Go back
to that court whose enticements have caused thee to betray thy father."

"I betray thee?" cried Francis in horror. "I, Francis Stafford, betray my
father? Never! Never!"

"Seek not to deny it, girl. One hath been here from the court. I know
that every incident of the journey to Chartley, even to the meeting with
Babington at Salisbury, is known to the queen. Who knew all this but
thee? Fool that I was to confide in thee! But thou wert so cock-sure of
thy ability! So apt and froward with thy promises, that I believed in
thee."

"My father, if there are those who say that I betrayed thee, they speak
not the truth. I have come to warn thee of peril. Even now the
pursuivants are on their way to take thee. Oh, sir! tarry no longer but
fly. 'Tis death to be taken, father. Death!"

She wrung her hands as her father stood there so unheedingly when time
was so precious.

"And if it be death, by whose hand hath it been wrought? Why hast thou
dallied at court so long? Why dost thou still wear that garb which shames
thy modesty?"

"Father, hear me," cried Francis, flinging herself at his feet. "If ever
thou didst bear aught of affection to her that kneels to thee, believe me
when I say that I betrayed thee not. May my tongue be palsied if I speak
not the truth. Father, by all the saints, I----"

"False girl, perjure not thy soul," and he strove to release himself from
her grasp. "Unclasp thine arms, Francis Stafford, and hearken to a
father's curse. May----"

"Hold, my lord!" shrieked Lady Stafford. "Curse not thy child! Curse not
thine own flesh and blood!"

"No child is she of mine, madam. Rather do I believe her some changeling
forced upon us by witches' craft. Never did Stafford betray trust before!
Stay me not! Whether child or changeling yet still shall she be cursed."

"Father, father, I am innocent of having done this monstrous, wicked
thing! 'Twas Anthony Babington that hath so maliciously spoken about me!
I know----"

"How know you that 'twas Babington?" demanded her father quickly. "Girl,
thine own words condemn thee. Say no more! I will listen to thy false
words no longer. I curse the day that thou wast born. I curse thee----"

"Forbear," shrieked the girl in agonized tones. "O, father, withhold thy
curse! Hear me for the love of mercy."

But Lord Stafford tore himself from her clinging hands, and hastily left
the room.

"Father," cried Francis, darting after him. "Father!"

He heeded her not, but strode out of the castle to the place where old
Brooks held his horse.

"Father, father!" The frantic girl reached him as he mounted his steed
and held out her arms entreatingly. But the father answered never a word,
and without another look at her gave spur to his horse, and dashed
through the open gates of the court.

Then a great cry of anguish broke from the girl's lips. A black mist rose
before her eyes, engulfing her in its choking, smothering embrace. She
swayed unsteadily and fell in an unconscious heap upon the ground.



CHAPTER XXII

AS IT FELL OUT


When consciousness returned to Francis Stafford she was lying on a couch
in the presence chamber with her mother bending over her.

"Mother," she cried as a full realization of all that had taken place
rushed over her. "He is gone! My father is gone, and he hath cursed me!"
And she burst into a flood of tears.

"Think not on it, child," said the mother, her own eyes streaming. "Thou
didst try him greatly. It was ill in thee not to return to us, but thou
art young and full well do I ken the allurements that court life holds
for youth. But this thy father could have pardoned had this been all."

"My mother, art thou too against me?" The girl struggled to a sitting
position, her indignation giving her strength. "Dost thou believe that I
betrayed my father, or that I lingered at court from choice? Then what
avails it if I tell thee all? Am I not thy child, and wherefore should I
do so evil? Would that I had died ere this had come upon me!"

She flung herself back upon the couch and wept bitterly. Her mother,
alarmed at the intensity of her grief, strove to soothe her.

"Let me make my moan, mother. If my father would have but listened, he
would have known that I did not betray him; but he would not. He would
not!"

"Judge him not too harshly, Francis. Now tell me the cause of thy delay.
Why thou didst not send us word? Why thou didst not return?"

"Who was there to do my bidding? I would not have been here even yet had
I not heard the queen and her ministers planning to arrest the
conspirators. So soon as I heard my father's name I left the court
without leave, and came hither with all dispatch to warn him."

"Tell me all, Francis," urged her mother. "All that hath happened thee
from the beginning. I fear me much that thy father hath done thee
wrong."

"He hath," said Francis bitterly. "Grievous wrong! And as I live by
bread, there hath never been aught but love toward him in my heart. But
now----Oh, my mother," she cried with another outburst of woe, "my heart
is broken!"

"There, child! weep not so much. Thy father will repent him of his
injustice when he learns the truth. Dry thine eyes and tell all that hath
befallen thee."

Presently, when she had become calmer, Francis complied with the request,
and told her mother all that had occurred since she left her.

"And thy hair! Thy pretty hair!" cried Lady Stafford weeping when Francis
related that incident. "Ah, child, I repent me that ever I consented to
let thee leave me. But continue, I pray thee! I would know all."

And the girl continued her narrative to its close. Her mother clasped her
close when she finished it.

"We have done thee great wrong, my daughter. Forgive me and thy father
also. We should have known that thou wouldst not have done this thing,
but when we did not hear, and thou didst not come, we marveled at it
greatly. This morning Anthony Babington came, and told us that all was
known to the queen through thy treachery. And thou must be lenient toward
us that we believed him."

"But why didst thou, mother! Have I been so ill a daughter that ye must
believe the first word against me? I can not forgive it."

"Not now, my child, while thy hurt is recent, but later thy mother must
not sue to thee in vain. But, Francis, come to my tiring room. I mislike
that garb. Methinks it hath caused all our woe. Come, and let me see thee
in thy proper attire once more."

"Nay;" said Francis resolutely, "from this time forth I wear none other.
'Twas at my father's bidding that I donned it. I will discard it only
when he calls me 'daughter' again. Otherwise I shall go to my grave
Francis Stafford, the page."

"Francis, Francis," wailed the lady, "thou art distraught. Entertain not
such purpose, I entreat. Soften thy proud heart, and be not stubborn
when thy mother pleads with thee. For my sake, child, remove that
dress."

"Nay, mother;" replied she obdurately, "seek not to change my purpose,
for it is fixed. This page's dress I wear until my father takes me once
more to his heart."

"Thou art as unyielding and inflexible as thy sire," cried her mother.
"What can I do between ye? Have thy way, thou wilful girl! Naught remains
for thy mother but to pray that the day may be hastened when all will be
well with us again."

Just then there came a clattering of hoofs in the courtyard, and the
sound of voices. Lady Stafford sprang to her feet in alarm.

"What is it?" she cried. "Oh, child, what if they have taken thy
father?"

"'Tis the queen's men," said Francis starting up. "They seek my father,
but they seek in vain. I have foiled them."

A sense of exultation swept over her, causing her to forget for the time
her father's distrust. She faced the men who entered the apartment
triumphantly.

"What seek ye?" she demanded with scorn.

"Thy father, boy, and thee," was the reply. "We know that thou hast
warned him so that he hath given us the slip. But marry! the game is but
afoot, and we the greyhounds who will bring him to bay. Of him anon. Here
is a warrant for one Francis Stafford. Art thou he?"

"I am," answered the girl haughtily.

"Then, Francis Stafford, son of William, Lord Stafford, in the name of
the queen, I arrest thee on a charge of high treason."

"Arrest thee, Francis?" cried her mother flinging her arms about the
girl. "Oh, child, why thee?"

"I was with my father at Chartley, mother," said Francis calmly. "If he
be guilty of treason, why, then so am I."

"But I knew not that thou wert in danger," sobbed the mother. "Oh,
Francis, why didst thou not go with thy father? Why didst thou not tell
him of it? Why, why?"

"I did not think of it," answered Francis simply. "I thought only of
him."

"How thou hast been misjudged," exclaimed the lady weeping bitterly. "Oh,
cruel, cruel fate that hath befallen thee!"

"Cease thy lamentation, woman," commanded the officer sternly. "Make
ready to accompany thy son to London."

"I?"

"My mother!" exclaimed Francis and her mother in one breath.

"Thou. Thou canst no longer remain here, because this Hall and its estate
are forfeited to the crown by the treason of its owner. 'Tis the queen's
command that thou dost go with thy son to London there to be immured in
the Tower. Make ready, madam. Ye two must this hour to the queen."

"But what crime have I committed?" asked the poor lady in dismay.

"I know not, madam. 'Tis the queen's command," was the reply.

"'Tis the worst of all crimes, my mother," said Francis with irony. "Thou
art too fair. 'Tis a fault unforgivable by Elizabeth."

"Hush, child," whispered the lady quickly. "Make our sad plight no worse
by thy railing."

"Stay, boy!" cried Wainwright as Francis started to leave the apartment
with her mother. "Remain where thou art. I would have speech with thee."

Wonderingly, the girl paused, and Master Wainwright, making a peremptory
motion to Lady Stafford to leave them, continued:

"Thou art too elusive to be out of my sight, young sir. Now answer these
queries. Wert thou in the dwelling of old Margery when we entered it?"

"Marry! what is it to thee where I was," answered Francis, desiring not
to get the dame into trouble.

"Be not too pert, sir page. I wrung from the old woman that thou wert,
after I found that we o'erslept. Now, boy, was it due to thee or to the
witch that we slept so long?"

"To me, master," replied the girl boldly. "Upon my shoulders cast all
blame. Impute nothing to the old woman. I did all, for I knew that I must
distance thee to warn my father. And thou wert outstripped! Thou wert
close after the game but he took to soil, and the track is lost, good
master."

"Crow on, my bantam," cried Wainwright angrily. "Thou wilt sing another
tune when Sir Francis Walsingham hath thee. And mark me, sirrah! The
track will be regained, and the game brought to cover ere thou dost
reach the Tower. Then upon Tower Hill thou canst behold its breaking
up."

Francis turned pale as death at this reference to what would be her
father's fate if taken.

"Ah, that hipped thee, young cock! Dost ken what happens to traitors?
'Twill be thy fate as well as thy father's. Dream on't, master! Now must
you and your mother take horse for London."

"To-day?" said Francis faintly, a sense of weakness coming over her. "Oh,
sir, not to-day, beseech you. I have ridden so much. I am so tired!"

"This day shalt thou start," said Wainwright rejoicing with all the might
of a small man in the power over another. "No pleading will avail thee.
Thou must go!"

"As you will then," answered Francis wearily, though every muscle in her
tired body rebelled at this further tax upon her strength.

And so the long, weary journey to London was again begun.



CHAPTER XXIII

IN THE TOWER OF LONDON


It was a dreary journey. The motive which had sustained the girl in her
former trip from the city to her home was lacking. The fatigue incident
to travel, the unjust reception of her by her father, with the
doubtfulness of his escape, and the uncertainty of what was to become of
her mother and herself, now bore upon her with such overwhelming force as
to almost crush even her brave spirit. Lady Stafford suffered a like
mental anguish, and so, on account of the weakness of the two prisoners,
the guard was compelled to return to the city by slow stages.

Upon their entrance within the gates they found that the whole city was
in an uproar, caused by the apprehension of Anthony Babington and several
others of the conspirators. Bells were ringing, bonfires burning and the
most vehement satisfaction expressed by the people, who, with shouts and
singing of psalms, gave every demonstration of joy at the escape of the
queen from their treasonable designs.

When it became known that these two were also implicated, a hooting,
jeering mob followed them through the streets, hurling vile epithets upon
them, and taunting them with their disgrace. Lady Stafford drooped under
the attack, but the assault roused the spirit in Francis, and she sat
erect, her flashing eyes and contemptuous looks bespeaking the tempest
that raged in her heart.

"Bear up, my mother," she said to Lady Stafford who could scarcely sit
her horse. "Give not the rabble cause to laugh and jibe."

"But, my child, that we of the house of Stafford, be thus dishonored!"
exclaimed the lady in anguish. "Oh, I cannot bear it! I cannot bear it!
Carest thou not for this disgrace?"

"I could weep my heart out, if it would avail aught," uttered Francis in
low, intense tones. "Bethink you, mother, that this mob of the streets
shall see one tear from me? Nay; 'twould give them too much of
pleasure."

"And has it come to this? That thou shouldst be an example to thy
mother?" asked the lady sitting up. "Let them rage! Not another tear
shall they behold. There will be time enough for tears later."

And so saying she followed her daughter's example and rode with uplifted
head, apparently indifferent to the taunts of the people who followed
them down to the waterside, even to the wharf where they embarked for the
Tower.

Babington and his companions occupied another boat which preceded them
down the river, and Francis felt relief when she saw that her father was
not among them. The tide being in their favor, the boat passed swiftly
down the river, shot London Bridge, and all too soon drew near the sombre
mass of the Tower.

In spite of her undaunted front Francis could not forbear a shudder as
their wherry drew near Saint Thomas' tower. As a mere matter of form the
boats were challenged by the sentinels. A wicket, composed of immense
beams of wood, was opened and they shot beneath the gloomy arch, through
the Traitors' gate. A feeling of dread took possession of the girl as
her gaze fell upon the slimy walls of the dismal arch. The wherrymen
ceased rowing and the water rippled sullenly against the sides of the
boat which soon, impelled by the former efforts of the oarsmen, touched
the steps.

The lieutenant of the Tower, followed by numerous warders, appeared and
gave acknowledgment of their receipt to the guard. Slowly the prisoners
ascended the damp and slippery steps, Francis and her mother being the
last to go up. A few quick commands and Babington and the others were
hurried away, each man between two warders. Then the lieutenant turned to
Lady Stafford.

"Follow me, madam," he said making a respectful salutation. "I will
conduct you to your chamber, where, I pray your pardon, my orders are to
place you under some restraint. You, young master, will remain here until
my return. The time will be but short."

"Oh," cried the lady in supplicating tones, "are we to be separated?"

"Such are my commands, madam," returned he in tones of commiseration.
"Thou art to be confined in the Brick Tower. Thy son in the Beauchamp
Tower. Come!"

"Oh, my child! my child!" sobbed the mother throwing her arms about
Francis. "What will be thy fate? What will they do to thee?"

"Calm thyself, my mother," comforted Francis. "We can but hope. Mayhap
the good keeper will permit us to see each other occasionally. Go now,
mother. We must not vex him."

Clasping her convulsively to her breast for a moment, Lady Stafford
released her, and then followed the lieutenant, weeping bitterly.

Then Francis sat her down in the midst of the warders upon that very
stone where Elizabeth had rested when she herself passed into the Tower,
a prisoner to the jealousy of her sister, Mary. Soon the lieutenant
returned and said courteously:

"And now, master, be pleased to follow me to your chamber."

Francis arose and followed him without a word. Through the outer ward
they passed through the lofty portal which formed the principal entrance
to the inner ward over which rose a dismal-looking structure, then
called the Garden Tower, but later known as the Bloody Tower. Passing
beneath these grim portals the lieutenant led his prisoner into the inner
ward, over the Tower Green, and at last paused before an embattled
structure of the time of King John, just opposite the great keep, or the
White Tower. Ascending the circular stairway, he unlocked the double
doors that led into the tower, and they passed into a large, low-roofed
dark apartment that held a very scanty array of furniture. Then he
withdrew, the bolt clasped, the chain clanged, and Francis was left
alone.

A sense of desolation swept over the girl as the full realization of the
situation burst upon her, and the blackness of despair filled her soul
with anguish. She was alone. She had no one to lean upon. No ear to which
she could impart her sorrows. Her mother a prisoner like herself. Her
father--a fugitive wandering she knew not whither. As the bitterness of
her lot assailed her in all its force she could no longer control herself
but gave way to a passionate burst of grief. She looked at the stone
walls by which she was enclosed, the massive iron-girded door and the
hopelessness of her situation bore with crushing weight upon her.

There was no eye to see, no longer need for control, and she gave vent to
her despair unrestrainedly. At length the fountain of her tears was dry,
and becoming more composed she sought to regain her fortitude.

"I have done no wrong," she said aloud. "No wrong? Was it wrong to give
those letters to Mary? But my father bade me. My father! Ah, no word of
that must pass my lips. Cruel and unjust he hath been, but never shall
word or act of mine bear witness against him. I must fortify my soul for
I fear that I will be questioned."

Her foreboding proved true. Early the next morning the door leading into
the chamber was opened, and Sir Francis Walsingham with two others
entered. Francis' heart sank at sight of them, but she nerved herself for
the ordeal.

"Good-morrow, Master Stafford," said the secretary courteously. "We give
you good-morrow."

"Good-morrow, Sir Francis. And to you, gentlemen, good-morrow," returned
she.

"My lad," said Walsingham not unkindly, seating himself before her, "thou
art charged with a heinous crime, and methinks that thou art too young to
be concerned in such weighty matters. Therefore, am I with these lords,
come to examine thee somewhat anent it."

"With what am I charged, sir?" asked Francis.

"With that most atrocious of all crimes,--treason," was the reply.

"My lord, I meant not to be guilty of treason against the queen," said
the girl earnestly. "If aught that I have done seemeth so in her eyes,
believe me I pray you, when I say that it was not so intended."

"I do believe it," answered the secretary. "I think that thou hast been
made use of by others to further design of bold and unscrupulous men.
Didst thou ever meet with Anthony Babington?"

"Yes, Sir Francis."

"Where?"

"Once at Salisbury, and once in the forest as I left London."

"What passed at those meetings?" Walsingham drew closer, expecting from
the girl's demeanor to find ready answers to his inquiries.

"I cannot tell you, sir, of the nature of the first," answered Francis.
"I will gladly do so of the second."

"Relate it then."

"He was trying to make his escape when his design upon the queen became
known. He sprang upon me when I was unaware, seized the bridle of my
horse, and demanded that I give the animal to him."

"Which you refused?"

"Which I refused to do, sir."

"Did he recognize you?"

"Yes."

"And you him?"

"Yes, Sir Francis."

"Did you know that he was trying to escape from arrest?"

"Yes;" answered Francis again.

"Then why did you not let him have the horse?" queried Walsingham.

"Because I wished to reach my father," replied the girl simply.

"But why did you want to reach your father?" and the secretary bent
forward. "How knew you that he was in danger?"

"Why, I heard you tell the queen that you were going to arrest him, and I
wished to warn him."

"Thou heardst me tell the queen?" cried the minister in surprise. "Boy,
how couldst thou? We were in the queen's own chamber. How couldst thou
hear it?"

"I went there to seek a favor from Her Majesty, and awaited her coming
upon the balcony outside the window. When the queen entered, the
vice-chamberlain, Lord Burleigh, my Lord of Leicester, and yourself were
with her. I feared then to come into the room. Thus I could but hear all
that passed. When I found that my father was in danger I left the balcony
and the palace as quickly, determined to warn him of his peril."

"Then you knew that he was concerned in the plot to kill the queen?" and
Walsingham eyed her keenly.

"He was not," cried the girl eagerly.

"Then why should he flee?" asked the merciless inquisitor. "No peer of
the realm hath aught to fear if he be innocent of foul design."

Francis was so disconcerted by this question that she did not attempt to
reply, but looked at him hopelessly.

The wily minister saw her confusion and pressed his advantage.

"Thou needest not to answer, boy, on the condition that thou tell to me
all that passed the first time that you saw Babington."

"I cannot do that, sir."

"'Twill be the better for thee," warned the secretary. "We have knowledge
that thou and thy father did meet with Babington at an inn in Salisbury.
For thine own sake, thou wouldst best reveal what took place. Reflect!
Thine own safety depends upon it."

"I will not tell, Sir Francis," returned Francis bravely.

"Have a care, boy. There are ways of extorting confessions from unwilling
lips."

"I do not misunderstand your meaning," returned the girl with white lips,
"but I cannot tell."

[Illustration: "_I WILL NOT TELL, SIR FRANCIS_"]

"What did your father when the proposition was made to kill the queen?"
asked Walsingham so suddenly that Francis was caught unawares.

"He would have naught to do with it," answered she promptly, glad to
speak in his favor. "He rejected it with horror."

"Ah, ha! he did know of it!" ejaculated the secretary. "Thou hast
betrayed thyself. Come! Let us have the full particulars."

"Sir," said Francis, perceiving the snare into which she had fallen, "I
am unable to meet your craft with like guile. Therefore question me no
further. I will say no more."

And despite all attempts to trip her into answering, she maintained an
obstinate silence with regard to all their questions.

"Let us leave him," said Walsingham at length. "Obdurate lad, thou wilt
regret thy stubbornness ere long. There are other means of dealing with
such spirits than gentleness. We will return ere long, and if thou art
still of the same mind, thou shalt taste them." And he withdrew, leaving
Francis to face this new trial.



CHAPTER XXIV

A FRIEND IN NEED


It was with much apprehension that Francis awaited the return of the
secretary. Stories that she had heard regarding the tortures inflicted
upon prisoners in the Tower came to her mind with such vividness and
force as to cause her soul to sicken with fear.

"I must not think on them," she said, trying to drive this terror from
her mind. For diversion she arose and examined the inscriptions in the
room. "How many there have been before me!" she mused gazing at the coats
of arms and other devices with which the walls were covered. "What
melancholy memorials of illustrious and unfortunate people! Here is the
name of the Earl of Arundel."

She looked long and earnestly at the autograph of that unhappy nobleman,
Phillip Howard, Earl of Arundel, who was beheaded for aspiring to the
hand of Mary Stuart. This name was written boldly over the fireplace,
and the girl turned from it with a sigh as the thought occurred to her
that all who were connected in any manner with that ill-starred princess
must meet with some untoward fate.

She passed with a shudder from the next inscription bearing the recent
date of 1582, which read:

               "Thomas Miagh which liethe here alone
               That fain wold from hence begone
               By torture straunge my trouth was tryed
               Yet of my liberty denied;"

for that "torture straunge" suggested thoughts of too painful a nature to
dwell upon. The next bore the date, "Anno D. 1571, 10 Sept., and read:

"The most unhappy man in the world is he that is not patient in
adversities; for men are not killed with the adversities they have, but
with the impatience they suffer."

And so she went from one to another, marveling at the resignation,
patience and endurance breathed by many of the inscriptions, and
shuddering at the thought of those "straunge tortures" which were hinted
at by others.

Three days elapsed. On the morning of the fourth day, as Francis sat
listlessly awaiting the coming of her jailer with her noonday meal, which
was the only diversion that her prison life afforded, the door opened to
admit, not her keeper, but Sir Francis Walsingham and two warders. Every
particle of color left her face at sight of him, and she uttered a silent
prayer for help as she arose in response to his greeting.

"Well, young master, I hope that I find you in a more amiable frame of
mind to-day?" half questioned, half asserted the secretary.

"Sir," replied she, "I am of the same opinion as heretofore. I confess
that if to carry letters to Mary, Queen of Scots, be treason, then am I
guilty of rebellion against the queen's highness. Therefore, adjudge me
guilty, and give me, I beseech you, a speedy death. But, if the word of
one who stands in peril of life may be taken, I solemnly declare that my
father is innocent of all design of harming the Queen of England."

"That declaration, boy, will not save him," replied Walsingham sternly.
"By not revealing the conspiracy, if he knew of it, he acquiesced in it.
His first duty was to his sovereign. I now ask you for the last time with
gentleness, in the name of the queen, did he know of it?"

Francis remained silent.

"'Tis enough," said the minister sternly. "'Tis the law that he who
refuses to answer a query put in the queen's name, may be questioned in a
far sharper manner. Bring him along, wardens."

"There is no need," said Francis with dignity as the two advanced toward
her. "I will attend without force."

The wardens bowed and opening the door of the chamber, ushered her into
the corridor. Traversing this for a short distance they came to a flight
of steps which they descended. Here they were confronted by a strong door
which one of the men opened. It admitted them to a dark, narrow passage
of considerable extent so far as could be discerned. After pursuing a
direct course for some time they came to an opening on the left, into
which they struck. This hall was so narrow that they were obliged to
walk singly. The roof was clustered with nitrous drops and the floor was
slippery with moisture.

Francis did not know what part of the Tower she was in but she had heard
that the whole substructure of the fortress was threaded with
subterranean passages which led to different parts of the edifice. This
particular one was contrived in the thickness of the ballium wall which
led from Beauchamp Tower to Develin Tower. On either side of the corridor
was a range of low, strong doors which gave entrance to dungeons, and
horrible thoughts of what the inmates of these noisome cells must endure
flashed across the girl's mind, rendering her faint and sick.

At the end of the passage was an open door leading to a small circular
chamber which the four entered and the door was closed. Francis gave one
quick glance around her and her senses reeled for the room was one of the
torture chambers of the Tower.

On the ground was a large brazier beside which lay an immense pair of
pincers. In one corner stood a great oaken frame about three feet high
moved by rollers. This was the rack. Upon the wall hung a broad hoop of
iron opening in the centre with a hinge--a dreadful instrument of torture
called the Scavenger's daughter. The walls and floor were covered with
gauntlets, saws and other implements of torture, but the rack caught and
held her eyes with terrible fascination.

Walsingham seated himself at a small table upon which were writing
materials, and turning to Francis said earnestly,

"Gaze about thee, boy, and reflect upon what thou seest. There is yet
time to tell all that thou knowest. Think well ere thou dost doom thy
tender limbs to the rack."

The perspiration started forth in great drops upon the girl's forehead.
Her trembling lips could scarcely frame her utterance as she answered:

"Do to me as ye list, Sir Francis. I will not speak further concerning my
father."

With an exclamation of impatience the secretary made a sign. From behind
a stone pillar there stepped forth a man at whose appearance Francis
could not forbear a scream. He was tall and very attenuated, clothed
wholly in black. His face thin and sinister was of a pale sickly color
while his eyes, black and glittering, held the gaze with a basilisk
glare. He was the sworn tormentor of the Tower.

Francis shrieked at sight of him, striving in vain to control her terror.
Just as the torturer reached her side the door was flung open and a
warder, accompanied by Lord Shrope, burst into the room.

"Sir Francis, Sir Francis," cried Lord Shrope in agitated accents, "for
the love of mercy, forbear!"

"My lord," cried Walsingham starting up, "what means this intrusion?"

"It means, sir, that for thy honor's sake, for the love which thou
bearest thine own fair daughter, I implore you to desist. Wouldst thou
subject a maiden to the rack?"

"A what, my lord?" cried the secretary aghast.

"A maiden," repeated Lord Shrope. "Francis Stafford is not the son but
the daughter of Lord Stafford."

"Then, in the name of St. George, why this disguise?" asked the
secretary.

"Tell him, child," commanded the nobleman, but Francis clung to him
convulsively, unable to speak. Seeing her condition, Lord Shrope related
the matter hurriedly, concluding with:

"I knew that you knew not her sex, Walsingham, so I sought you to inform
you anent it. Learning that you had come here, and fearing that this step
would be taken, for well do I ken the stubbornness of the girl where her
father is concerned, I hastened hither."

"But, my lord, if this act be foregone how shall we proceed? Thou knowest
well all evidence that can be obtained anent every one implicated with
that 'bosom serpent, Mary,' should be gotten wil or nil."

"My Lord of Burleigh is seeking you," said Lord Shrope. "He reporteth
that Babington hath made full confession, and hath thrown himself upon
the mercy of the queen."

"Say you so?" Walsingham started for the door, and then paused. "Thy
services will not be needed to-day," he said to the tormentor. "As for
thee," turning to Francis, "thy sex protects thee from torture, but in
sooth I wonder that one so young should be so staunch."

"Wouldst thou have a daughter speak aught that would go against her
father?" asked Francis finding her voice at last. "Nay; 'twas cruel to
expect it even though I were in truth my father's son."

"Yet still it hath been done," answered the secretary.

"Perchance thou wilt be more fortunate than I in informing Her Majesty of
the matter," suggested Lord Shrope. "Thou hast her ear."

"True, my lord; yet what would it avail? The queen is not disposed to be
lenient now since the design upon her life was so nearly successful. She
would grant the maiden proper attire, I trow, but no more."

"I do not wish other garb than this," interposed the girl. "None shall
give it me save my father."

"Then must the matter drop," said Walsingham. "Damsel, I will speak to
the lieutenant of the Tower, and thou shalt have other lodgings but more
clemency thou must not expect."

"I crave none, sir," answered Francis.

"My lord, will you come with me, or go with the girl?" queried the
secretary.

"With you, Sir Francis. I dare not stay," whispered Lord Shrope. "Later,
if I may, I will see thee, child. It would not do now."

And with a friendly pressure of her hands he followed after the minister
while Francis was conducted back to her prison.



CHAPTER XXV

A GREAT SORROW BEFALLS FRANCIS


And now began a weary time for Francis Stafford. Some hope had crept into
her heart after she had seen Lord Shrope, but as the days went by and she
heard nothing from him she felt once more friendless and hopeless.

At first her jailer would have nothing to say to her and brought her food
and drink, maintaining the strictest silence. As the girl became pale and
worn from her confinement he softened visibly. So much so that Francis
began anew her pleadings with him to give her some tidings of her
mother.

"It is forbid to talk much with prisoners," said the man gruffly, yet not
unkindly, "but I see no harm in telling thee that thy mother hath been
moved nearer to thee."

"Nearer?" cried Francis joyfully. "Oh, good warder, pray you, where?"

"She hath been taken to the Bell Tower which lieth directly south of this
tower," answered the keeper.

"So near?" murmured Francis. "That is welcome tidings, good jailer.
Prithee tell me but one thing more. How bears she the confinement?"

"Nay, master; that I cannot answer. I am not her keeper, and therefore
know naught of her condition." This he said compassionately for it was
known to the warder and other officials of the Tower that Lady Stafford
was failing fast under her imprisonment which was the reason of her
removal to other quarters.

Not being aware of this fact Francis felt happier at the near proximity
of her mother, and applied herself earnestly to the books which the
jailer had brought at her solicitation.

"How Hugh Greville would rejoice could he but know what pleasure these
give me," she murmured one day looking up from the volume she held in her
hand. "And truly I never knew before the delights to be found in
learning. If I continue I may become as learned as Lady Jane----Marry!
was she not confined in this very room?"

Rising hastily she went to the wall that lay between the two recesses
upon the left-hand side of the chamber and looked at the name carved
there: IANE.

"Whom could it mean but that unhappy lady," she mused. "Perchance it is
her spirit that haunts this gloomy abode and inspires me to studious
thoughts. It must be that she too was immured in this room. If my grim
keeper prove amiable I will ask him."

But the keeper soon deprived her of this comfort, small though it was.

"Nay;" he said in answer to her inquiry. "The Lady Jane was not kept
here. That was written by either her husband or one of his brothers who
were imprisoned in this place. Know you not that only male prisoners are
incarcerated in the Beauchamp Tower? Look about at those inscriptions,
and thou wilt see that none of them belong to women--save and except that
one."

"True;" said Francis meditatively. "I had not observed that."

She relapsed into thought and the keeper withdrew. Francis cared no more
for the signature. It had been something of a solace to think that she
was occupying the same room as that used by the hapless Jane; so small a
thing does it take to comfort one in such circumstances.

"I'll carve my own name," she resolved suddenly. "And then there will be
one woman amongst them."

Taking her dagger from her belt, for that had been left to her, she began
to cut her name as best she could upon the stone. It was an interesting
occupation, and she was amazed to find how quickly the time sped while
she was so engaged. The keeper smiled when he found her so intent upon
her self-imposed task that she did not heed his entrance.

"They all do it," he remarked grimly. "Albeit thou hast waited longer
than some. But eat, my master. There will be time and to spare for
finishing."

"You speak truly," assented the girl almost cheerfully for the mere
distraction of her thoughts served to raise her spirits. "Truly; and for
that cause I will teach my hand to move more slowly so that it will take
a long, long time. And I trow it will for the stone is very hard."

But despite her best efforts the name grew all too quickly, and, as many
another had done before her, she grieved when her toil was ended.

                          FRANCIS STAFFORD,
                                 1586

was the inscription which she had carved below that of IANE. A feeling of
deep depression now took possession of her that even her books failed to
dispel.

"If I could but see my mother," she said pleadingly to the jailor. "Do
you not think, good sir, that I might? Let me speak to the lieutenant.
Surely he will not refuse me!"

"Thou mayst see her soon," said the jailor with such a note of kindness
in his voice that she looked up startled. "Meseems there is some talk of
permitting it."

"Is there aught amiss?" asked she tremblingly.

"Nay; why should there be?" queried the keeper evasively. "This day
perished more of the conspirators against the queen. Making fourteen in
all."

"Was my father among them?" Francis gasped rather than asked the
question.

"No, boy; he hath not been apprehended, and it is thought that he hath
escaped into France."

"Oh, if it be in truth so. I care not then for aught else," murmured
Francis.

"Then rest in peace; for of a certainty he hath not been taken, and thou
wilt have dire need for all thy fortitude," and with these mysterious
words he hastily quitted the room.

"What meant he?" asked Francis apprehensively. "What could he mean? What
could befall me now? Perchance he meant that life would be demanded next.
But no; the veriest wretch hath time given for preparation. Then why not
I?"

She paced the floor restlessly unable to rid herself of the misgivings
that were creeping over her. It was customary for the warder to lock her
within one of the small cells that adjoined the larger chamber for
greater security at night, but as the usual time passed and he did not
come her uneasiness increased.

At last the key grated in the lock, and the door swung open to admit the
lieutenant of the Tower and a warder.

"Be not alarmed, master," said the lieutenant courteously. "We are come
to take thee to thy mother."

"What hath happened? Why come you at night to take me to her?" demanded
Francis.

"Be brave, and I will tell thee. Thy mother hath not been well for some
time and is failing fast. We fear that she will not live much longer. For
that cause, and because it is her desire, are we taking thee to her. Nay;
there is no time for lamentation now, boy. Bear thyself like a man."

For a moment Francis leaned on him heavily almost stunned by the
information.

"Courage, lad. Far better death than the slow lingering of years in these
grim walls. Many have entered here younger and fairer than she, and
endured worse than death in a lifetime imprisonment. Grieve not, but the
rather rejoice that she will be freed from sorrow."

"Peace!" cried Francis, her soul full of bitterness. "Peace! and lead me
to my mother."

The lieutenant, without further speech, led the way across the Tower
Green to the southwestern angle of the inner ballium where his own
lodgings adjoined the Bell Tower. Kept a close prisoner for more than two
months, at another time Francis would have been overpowered with joy at
finding herself once more in the open air. But now the breeze fanned her
cheeks unnoticed. She followed after the warder, who lighted the way with
a torch, seeing and heeding nothing.

The short distance was soon traversed. Entering the lieutenant's lodgings
they passed into a long gallery leading in a westerly direction and were
soon in the upper chamber of the Bell Tower. This was the room occupied
by Elizabeth at the time of her incarceration during her sister Mary's
reign. That it had been the abode of royalty was the last thought that
occurred to Francis Stafford. It held but one thing for her, which was
the emaciated form of her mother who lay upon the bed.

With an exclamation of joy Lady Stafford tried to hold out her hands to
her daughter, but dropped them weakly on her breast. Too moved to speak
Francis could only clasp her close as if she could never let her go.

"My daughter! My daughter!" murmured the mother feebly. "At last I have
thee, hold thee again!"

"My mother!" uttered the girl brokenly. "My mother!"

"Does she wander?" whispered the lieutenant to the physician. "Didst thou
hear her say 'daughter'?"

"Yea; but her mind is clear. She is weak but not distraught." And the
physician looked at the dying woman earnestly.

"Will she last long?" queried Sir Michael, the lieutenant, and the
physician answered slowly:

"Nay; her life may go out at any moment."

As in a dream Francis heard both questions and answers, but did not
comprehend their import. Presently her mother spoke:

"Francis, I am dying."

"Nay;" broke from the girl passionately. "Not now, mother. Not when we
have just found each other again. You must not, shall not die."

"Hush, child! We must not spend the time in woe. I want you to promise me
that never again will you be connected with plot against the queen.
Promise me."

"She hath killed thee," burst from Francis wildly. "Killed thee, my
mother, and driven my father forth a fugitive. Oh, I hate her! I hate
her!"

"Hush, oh hush!" wailed the mother, a look of fear crossing her face as
the lieutenant and the physician started forward at the girl's words.
"Good masters, heed her not. She is distraught with grief.
I--Francis----"

She threw out her arms and strove to clasp her daughter, but they fell to
her side. A swift pallor spread over her face, a gasping, choking sound
rattled noisily, and she was dead. For a moment the girl seemed dazed by
what had happened, and then she threw herself upon her mother with a wild
shriek.

"Mother, mother, speak to me!"

"Thy mother is dead," said the physician trying to draw her away.

"Touch me not," she cried in frenzied accents turning upon him so
fiercely that involuntarily he recoiled. "Minion! leave me. Leave me with
my mother."

"That may not be, my child," said the physician gently noting the wild
light of her eyes. "That may not be. The queen----"

"The queen?" cried the girl shrilly. "Yes; the queen! England's great
queen! Oh, she is truly great! 'Tis a crime to be fairer than the queen!
Ha, ha! a great queen! Truly a great queen!"

"Girl or boy, whiche'er you be, cease such words," commanded the
lieutenant sternly. "Thou utterest treason."

"Treason? Ay, sir, treason! Treason for thee, but not for me. I claim no
queen but Mary of Scotland. I----"

"Mary of Scotland hath been condemned to death. She will be executed as
soon as Elizabeth signs the death warrant."

"To die?" shrieked the girl. "Mary to die! If Mary must die, then shall
Elizabeth also. Nay; stay me not! I go to kill the queen!"

She drew her poniard and made a dash for the door; but the lieutenant
caught her ere she reached it.

"Unhand me, varlet," she panted. "Ye shall not stay me from my purpose."

"Girl, do you utter such words in the presence of the dead? Look on thy
mother and say if still thou dost hold to thy design?"

He turned her forcibly toward her mother's form on the couch. Francis
pressed a hand to her brow as though bewildered, and then as if drawn by
that still calm face drew closer, and gazed steadfastly upon it. The
sweet sereneness of the dead calmed her. Presently a sob convulsed her
frame, and flinging herself upon the body she burst into a passion of
weeping.

"Let her weep," observed the physician. "'Tis all that hath kept her from
becoming completely distraught."

"I will send a woman to her," said the lieutenant. "The girl, if so she
be, and no boy would rave so, hath been too long alone. We are but rude
nurses for such sorrow. Truly it grieves me that one so young should meet
with so much of misery."

And he left the apartment.



CHAPTER XXVI

A FELLOW PRISONER


A merciful illness prostrated Francis for many weeks, and when at length
she crept slowly toward health, the winter had passed and spring was
abroad in the land. Her convalescence was tedious, owing to a settled
melancholy utterly unlike her usual buoyant disposition, which had taken
possession of her. Upon one point only did a gleam of her native spirit
flash forth. This was when Mrs. Shelton, the wife of one of the keepers,
brought her the apparel suitable to her sex.

"Nay; vex me not with them, good mistress," exclaimed Francis. "'Twas by
my father's command that I donned this attire, and, by my faith, I will
exchange it for no other until he bids me."

"That may be never, Mistress Stafford," retorted the woman impatiently.
"Thou mayst never see him again."

"Then will I wear it to my grave," was Francis' answer. "I am fixed in
this resolve, Mistress Shelton, and naught can turn me from it."

"As ye please then," quoth the dame. "Full surely thou art as stubborn a
lady as it hath ever been my hap to see. But if ye will not, ye will
not;" and she took the garments away.

Francis now occupied her mother's apartment in the Bell Tower, and
because of this fact found a curious contentment in it.

"It may be that her spirit lingers here loth to leave me alone," she
thought, and she took to watching for a sign that such was the case.

She was roused from this dangerous train of thought by Mrs. Shelton
appearing before her one day with a basket of figs. The girl uttered an
exclamation of delight at sight of them, so small a thing does it take to
arouse interest sometimes.

"For me?" she cried. "Whence came they? Who could have sent them?"

"Ask me not, mistress. I know naught of them save that they came from
without the gates of the Tower. Sir Michael searched the basket, and as
there was nothing but the fruit, he let it pass."

"Who could have sent them?" murmured Francis, again in ecstasy. It was so
sweet not to be forgotten. To know that some one still remembered her.
"Could it be my father? Nay; he would not dare. Lord Shrope? Yea; it must
have been he. Good, kind friend that he is!"

From this time forward her recovery was rapid. And when the following
month brought a bouquet of sweet smelling flowers, the third, a basket of
cherries, her joy knew no bounds. Thereafter no month went by without
some token reaching her from that unknown person who seemed so full of
sweet remembrance of her.

"Now blessings be upon his head who hath so much of thought for me," she
exclaimed rapturously as a guitar took the place of fruit or flowers. "No
more shall I be lonely with such companion."

And so with books, guitar, and an occasional walk in the gardens of the
lieutenant where she went to take the air, Francis passed her time not
unhappily. She was upheld by the thought that she was not forgotten. Thus
summer passed into fall; fall into winter, and winter in turn gave way
to spring, to that memorable spring of 1588 when all England was stirred
by the rumor of the threatened invasion of Spain. At this time the gifts
to Francis ceased, and such an important part of her existence had they
become that their stoppage grieved her more than the threats of the
invasion.

Books and music lost interest, and she took to watching the comings and
goings of prisoners through the grated loop-hole overlooking the south
ward through which all personages must pass to reach the Garden Tower
which was over the principal entrance to the inner ward. One day while
thus engaged she uttered an ejaculation and bent forward to take a nearer
view of a prisoner who was just brought within by way of the Byward Tower
through which lay the main gate to the Tower. This was used from Tower
Hill and by royalty when the Tower was used as a castle.

"What is it, deary?" asked Mrs. Shelton, who was in the chamber.

"Edward Devereaux," answered the girl excitedly. "Now why hath he been
sent here? Gramercy! methought none of the pages stood higher in the
queen's favor than he."

"'Tis past knowing," remarked the woman in a matter-of-fact tone. "He who
stands high with the queen to-day, to-morrow may be beheaded on Tower
Hill. Marry! 'tis better to be one of the people, for they are held dear
by the queen. Beseems that Her Grace cares naught for the courtiers. They
are always being sent here, either to be held in durance for life, else
to be beheaded. I am glad that I am not of the court."

Francis did not heed her words, but was so excited at beholding a face
that she knew that she leaned forward as far as she could, calling
loudly:

"Edward! Edward Devereaux!"

The youth looked up, but the girl was uncertain as to whether he saw her
or not. Mrs. Shelton hurried forward at the sound of her voice.

"Child!" she cried pulling her forcibly from the window, "dost want to be
taken elsewhere and lodged? There are other towers far gloomier than
this, and if thou carest not to taste their shadows thou wilt be more
circumspect."

"Thy pardon, mistress," said Francis recovering her self-possession. "I
meant not to transgress, 'tis the first time since I saw my mother that I
have looked upon a face that was known to me. I could not but greet him,
e'en though he be mine enemy."

"Thine enemy?" said the woman curiously. "How now, mistress? Tell me the
tale. 'Twill speed the hour and, forsooth, there is need of entertainment
here."

Thus adjured Francis related the story of the shooting of the deer; the
incident of the duel; spoke of the enmity that had always existed between
the families of Staffords and Devereaux; narrated how Edward had favored
her when the Lady Priscilla Rutland had stolen her hair; concluding
with:

"Therefore, thou seest, good Mistress Shelton, that there can be naught
but enmity betwixt us twain. He hath done me service, 'tis true, and
otherwise is a proper youth, I dare say. Yet still he is mine enemy."

"'Yet still he is mine enemy,'" mocked Mrs. Shelton. "Marry, girl! 'Tis
marvelous hate that thou showest when thou dost call to him when he hath
been brought into durance. 'Yet still he is mine enemy.'" She laughed.

"Make merry, an ye will, mistress," said Francis, "but still is it as I
tell ye."

"There, child! I meant not to vex thee," appeased the woman who had grown
fond of Francis, so long had she been in her keeping. "I must learn more
of the lad."

"Do find why he hath been committed," cried the girl eagerly. "I can but
wonder at it. Hath he too been engaged in treasonable enterprise----"

"Nay;" interrupted Mrs. Shelton, "for then he would have entered under
the tower of St. Thomas through the Traitor's Gate."

In a few days she reported to Francis that the charge against him was a
nominal one. He seemed to be committed only to be restrained of his
liberty and was given the privilege of the Tower, wandering through the
wards at pleasure save only that he could not pass the outer walls of the
fortress.

And so it happened one day that when Francis, attended by Mrs. Shelton,
was taking the air in the lieutenant's garden Edward Devereaux chanced to
be walking there also. Seeing them he doffed his bonnet and approached,
deferentially speaking to Mrs. Shelton:

"Gracious madam, may I be permitted to speak with your charge?"

"It is not the custom for one prisoner to hold converse with another,
young sir," replied Mrs. Shelton. "But, as ye are enemies, I will indulge
thy request, albeit ye speak that I may hear all."

"I thank you, madam, for your courtesy," replied the youth bowing.
"Mistress Francis, how fare you?"

"Well, Master Devereaux," answered Francis. "That is," she added, "as
well as one may fare who rests under the displeasure of the queen."

"You say truly," sighed Devereaux. "Yet, me thinks that to be under the
queen's displeasure brings not more ill than to stand high in her
grace."

"What mean you, Master Devereaux?"

"Why, truly, you lie under her ill will, and so abide in this grim
fortress; while I, who am her favorite page, do dwell in the same place."

"But wherefore?" asked Francis. "Of what crime hast thou been guilty?"

"None, Francis. Save and except that I wearied of the court and its vain
pleasures. I would play a man's part as did Sir Phillip Sidney. There was
a man, noble, chivalrous and brave! Ready to adventure all things, yet he
was the flower of courtesy! He was my example. I wished, like him, to
achieve renown, and so when the news came that the Armada was about to
embark from Spain, I asked her leave to go with Drake, who was to set
sail for Cadiz to obstruct the Spanish fleet's progress. She refused to
let me go, and so I ran away to Plymouth, where was my Lord Howard in
charge of our ships there awaiting the coming of the enemy. But the queen
held me in so much favor that she feared for my safety, and so sent after
me, and had me conveyed hither to remain until the danger be over.
Gramercy!" he broke forth his lips curling with scorn, "am I to stay here
mewed up like a girl when every son of England should be in arms against
the Spaniard?"

"But are the Spaniards coming, in truth, Edward?"

"So rumor hath it, Francis. 'Twas said that they have set sail already,
but I know not the truth of the matter."

"Thou art not much changed," said Francis presently.

"But thou art, Francis. Thou art taller, and thinner; yea, and paler,"
observed Devereaux with such a note of compassion in his voice that
Francis flushed. The youth noted her annoyance and added quickly: "And
still do you wear the dress of a page? Fie, Francis! art so enamored of
male attire?"

"Nay; Master Devereaux," replied Francis. "I marvel that I tell thee why
I do so, seeing that it concerns thee not, but I wish not to don my
maiden dress until my father bids me. How long that will be, I trow not,
since I have heard naught of him since I came to this place."

"Thy father dwells in France. He with some others of the conspirators
succeeded in escaping to that country."

"And Lord Shrope? How is he? Fain would I know, for truly he hath been
mine only friend in this dire time of need."

"Lord Shrope hath been in the Netherlands for nigh two years past,
Francis."

"Marry, child!" exclaimed Mrs. Shelton. "Then it could not have been he
who sent thee all those things."

"No; who, who could it have been? Methought in all England I had no
friend but him. Would that I knew the donor's name that I might cherish
it forever."

"'Twas thine enemy, Francis. Oh, stupid girl, where are thine eyes! See,
his looks betray him," laughed Mrs. Shelton.

"Was it thou, Edward Devereaux?" demanded Francis.

"Well, what if it were thine enemy, Francis? What then? Wouldst still
cherish his name?"

"Surely it was not thee, Edward Devereaux?"

"It was even I, Francis Stafford."

"But why, why?" asked she in bewilderment. "You are mine enemy and the
son of my father's enemy. Why then shouldst thou show such favor to me?"

"I robbed thee of that deer, Francis. 'Twas fitting that I should amend
the theft if possible." A merry twinkle crept into Edward's eye. "And
thou hast still to forgive me the blow I struck thee in our encounter."

"I should thank thee, Master Devereaux," said Francis constrainedly. "I
do thank thee from my heart, though I see no cause yet for thy action. At
another season perchance I may be able to thank thee in manner more
befitting the courtesy. I thought it from a friend, and it grieves me
that I find it otherwise. Pray you pardon me that I can do no more than
say, I thank you."

"'Tis enough," answered Edward. "At another season perchance thou mayst
find it in thy heart to say, 'Ned, I forgive thee the deer; I forgive
thee the blow that thou gavest me, and I forgive thee that thou art mine
enemy.'"

"It may be," said the girl coldly. "Come, good mistress, 'tis time that
we did go in. And so fare you well, Master Devereaux."

"Fare you well, mistress," answered Devereaux courteously.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE ESCAPE


Frequently after this Francis saw Edward Devereaux in the garden, but she
preserved such a distant demeanor toward him that the youth did not dare
to address her.

"Fie upon thee, lady bird," chided Mrs. Shelton. "Is it thus that thou
dost requite such favor? Thou dost not deserve to be remembered."

"But I thought that the gifts came from Lord Shrope," said Francis. "And
they are from mine enemy."

"But they served the self-same purpose, chuck, as if they were in truth
from him. Did they not rouse thee from thy depression? I tell thee that I
have been long in these grim walls, and I have seen men of high degree
forgotten and forsaken by friends. They have remained here years without
one token from without. Thou hast been favored to no small extent, and
now thou dost repine and will not touch thy guitar because, forsooth,
'twas sent thee by 'thine enemy.' Marry! Pray Heaven send me such
enemies!"

"It may be that I have been somewhat ungracious," said Francis
penitently. "If thou wilt permit, good mistress, I will tell the lad so.
But I wish it had been my Lord Shrope."

"Out upon thee for such a wish, child! Marry! to desire to be remembered
by an old man rather than by a young, handsome----" she laughed and added
slyly, "enemy. Were he not in the queen's favor thou couldst not have
liberty to speak with him, and thou art foolish to let slip such
opportunity for converse. The queen may repent her of his imprisonment at
any time, and then thou mayst never see another to hold communion with."

"Am I always to stay here, Mrs. Shelton?" asked Francis wistfully.
"Though in truth were I to be freed I would not know where to go. Still
'tis hard to be shut up within this dreary place."

"I know not, child."

"Why have I not been brought to trial?" continued the girl, "Others were
tried and sentenced and met their doom, while I linger on, not knowing
what my fate is to be."

"I know not," answered Mrs. Shelton again. "Question it not, girl. There
are those here who have lain for years in like uncertainty, and will so
wait until death releases them."

"And their lot will be mine," observed the maiden mournfully. "Happy were
they who met death on the block! I am so young and so strong. 'Twill be
long ere the tomb claims me. And to look forward to all those years--oh,
'tis hard, hard!" She paused for a time, and then went on pathetically:
"I dreamed of the fens and the wildwood last night, mistress. Methought
the breeze came fresh from the distant sea. I felt its breath upon my
cheek. I heard the sound of the horns, and the bay of the hounds as they
were unleashed for the chase. I mounted my palfrey, and dashed in pursuit
of the dogs. I rode as ne'er I rode before. On and on! and then, as the
clamor of the hounds told me the game was brought to bay, I reached for
my bow, and--touched the walls of my prison. Then I awoke. It was all a
dream," she ended with a sob. "All a dream, and I shall never ride in
the forest again."

"There, sweetheart! think no more on it," soothed Mrs. Shelton. "Come!
let us go down to the bonny laddie who, even if he be thine enemy is more
real than dreams."

Francis composed herself and followed the woman into the garden where
Edward Devereaux already wandered. As she answered his greeting with a
slight smile the youth ventured to enter into conversation.

"Hast heard the report?" he began eagerly. "'Tis said that the Spanish
have been driven back to their coasts by a storm, but are again preparing
to sail for England. Oh, for a chance at them! If I could but once take a
Don by the beard I would content me to stay in these walls forever."

"Say not so, Master Devereaux," said Francis. "'Tis a dreary place, and
hadst thou been here for nigh two years as I have been thou wouldst not
utter such things. 'Tis dreary--dreary!" She sighed heavily, and despite
herself a tear rolled down her cheek.

"How now, Francis," cried Devereaux touched by her distress. "Thou with
the megrims? Why, Francis, 'tis unlike thy spirit!"

"I had a dream," said Francis striving to repress her tears, "and it hath
made me long for liberty." And she related it to him.

"I wonder not at thy longing," said the lad. "I too desire with all my
heart to be free. And," he lowered his voice and glanced about for Mrs.
Shelton but she was busied over some plants, and out of earshot, "and I
intend to be soon."

"What!" cried Francis, her grief forgotten, looking at him with
eagerness.

"Not so loud," cautioned Edward. "I mean to escape, Francis, and to go to
Lord Howard to help fight the Spaniards."

"Oh, Edward," breathed the girl, "take me with you."

"Nay; I cannot. Thou art but a girl, and the risk would be too great. I
have the freedom of this inner ward, but there still remains the outer
ward and the moat, which, as thou knowest, is on all sides of the Tower,
and on the south there is the Thames also. The hazard would be too
great."

"Nay, nay," pleaded Francis, her soul on fire at the mere mention of
escape. "Do take me."

"But what couldst thou do even were we to succeed?" demanded Devereaux.
"Where couldst thou go?"

"To my father in France," replied Francis.

"Nay; but"--began Devereaux again when the girl caught his hand and held
it tightly with her own.

"I will not let thee go until thou dost consent," she cried with some of
her old wilfulness. "Oh, Edward, do say yes."

Devereaux looked at her thin hands, her face so pale and worn, so
different from its former sauciness, and all the chivalry of his nature
rose up.

"When thou dost speak so, Francis," he said gently, "I can deny thee
nothing."

"And thou wilt?" cried she with shining eyes.

"Yea, Francis; but consider well the danger. If we fail it may mean
death."

"We will not fail," declared the girl with positiveness. "If we do, is
not death better than imprisonment? I promise that I will kill at least
one Spaniard."

"I will hold thee to that vow," laughed Devereaux. "But thy woman comes,
Francis. I will inform thee of the plan when I fix on one. Fare you
well."

"Fare you well," returned Francis.

"Thine enemy's converse hath done thee good," commented Mrs. Shelton
waggishly on their return to the upper chamber of the Bell Tower.

Francis looked at her a moment and then said with dignity:

"I had forgot that he was mine enemy, mistress. Besides, I may have been
somewhat unmannerly in my treatment of Master Devereaux, and it behooves
me as a gentlewoman to make other recompense for his courtesy."

"And say you so, Francis?" laughed Mrs. Shelton who considered the affair
great sport. "Belike it be no unpleasant duty. But there, child! 'Tis
little of entertainment thou hast, so make merry with the lad for I fear
that he will not remain here long."

"I fear so too," answered Francis, and in her heart lay the unspoken wish
that not only Devereaux's time but her own might be short.

The days passed and Edward Devereaux had not yet matured a scheme for
their flight. June waxed and waned, and July was upon them. Then one day,
when the girl had almost despaired of hearing him speak of the attempt
again, Devereaux said to her in a low tone:

"Art thou willing to make the effort to-night, Francis?"

"To-night?" cried Francis thrilling at the thought. "Yea; to-night,
Edward. But how?"

"Does Mrs. Shelton stay in your chamber at night?"

"Not now. Not since I recovered from mine illness."

"And is there not a flight of steps leading to the roof?"

"Yes;" replied Francis surprised. "How knew you that?"

"Easily. The alarm bell of the fortress stands on that roof, and there
must of necessity be communication from the inside as well as from the
outside. Besides all the other towers are so connected. Thou knowest that
my lodging is the uppermost story of the Bloody Tower where tradition
hath it that the two princes of York were murdered by Richard of
Gloucester. I have found that between the outer wall of the Tower and the
chamber there is a passage communicating with the top of the ballium wall
to the west. Along that I will proceed until I reach the roof of the Bell
Tower where I will make fast the rope for our descent. After we are down
we must make use of our wits to pass the gate in the Byward Tower and so
reach Tower wharf where friends will await us with a boat. There is no
moon, and the darkness will favor the plan. There are secret passages
which lead out of the Tower but these I have been unable to discover.
They are known to but few and those few are incorruptible. The passage
leading to my lodgings is all that I have knowledge of, and I had much
ado to find that, and to obtain the rope."

"But the sentinel, Edward? There is always one stationed by the bell."

"Leave him to me, Francis," said Devereaux evasively. "Do you fear to
adventure it?"

"Nay, Edward. I rather rejoice at the opportunity for action."

"Then await my coming. And to-night the die will be cast. Liberty and
England, or imprisonment and death! All depends upon this throw. Do you
fear, Francis?"

"No;" answered she proudly. "I am no weakling that I should fear. Dost
thou not know the motto of the Staffords: À l'outrance? (To the utmost) I
am a Stafford. Therefore will I dare to the utmost."

"Well said, mistress. If my courage fail me thou wilt inspire it anew. So
fare you well until night."

They parted, and Francis returned to her chamber to await the coming of
the darkness with what patience she could. The hours went by on leaden
wings. At last the portal leading to the roof was opened, and Edward
Devereaux's voice sounded in a low whisper:

"Francis!"

"I am here," answered the girl thrilled by the call.

"Then come!"

Gladly she obeyed, and ascended the short flight of steps, and soon stood
beside the form of Devereaux on the roof.

"The sentinel," she whispered.

"Lies there," and Devereaux pointed to a dark figure extended at full
length beside the belfry. "Mind him not. We must hasten. Here is the
rope. Descend, and loose not thine hold of it until thy feet have touched
ground as thou lovest life. Remember the fate of Griffin of Wales."

Francis grasped the rope and swung herself clear of the belfry. For a
moment she swayed dizzily, then the rope settled, and steadying herself
by means of the roughened surface of the old walls she slipped quickly to
the ground. The Bell Tower consisted of only one story above the ground
one so that the feat was not so difficult as it would have been from any
of the other towers. Giving a tug to the rope in token that she had
reached the ground in safety she waited Devereaux's coming with
palpitating heart. In a few moments he was beside her.

For a second they stood silently, but no sound from the battlements above
betokened that their flight had been discovered. Grasping the girl's hand
Devereaux drew her quickly across the outer ward into the shadow of the
Byward Tower through which was the principal entrance. This was guarded
by a burly warder whom the youth could not hope to overcome by strength,
so he resolved upon a strategy. With a low breathed injunction to Francis
he bent over, and ran at full tilt into the man as he came toward them,
hitting him, as he had foreseen, directly in the stomach and upsetting
him. With a roar and a shout the guard sprang to his feet just as they
darted past him. The drawbridge leading across the moat was closed, but,
nothing daunted, the two leaped over the railing into the moat below.

The sentinels on the battlements of the tower heard the splash and
instantly gave the alarm. The bell rang; lights flashed along the
ramparts, and numerous shots were fired into the moat after the
fugitives. The moat was wide and deep, and Francis whose physical vigor
was undermined by her long confinement, felt her strength failing.

"Leave me, Edward," she gasped. "I can hold out no longer. Save
thyself!"

"Never!" came from Devereaux valiantly, and he supported her with his
arm. "Lean on me. The wharf is not far distant. Courage!"

As they neared the other side a low whistle sounded, which the lad
answered in like manner. Then indistinctly the form of a man became
visible on the opposite bank. Again the whistle came, and a line was
thrown out to them. This Edward grasped, and they were soon towed to
shore, and pulled from the water.

"We must hasten," said the man who had come to their assistance. "The
whole garrison is aroused."

With all the speed they could muster they hurried to the Tower wharf
where a boat was in waiting.

"Devereaux," said a man grasping the hand of the youth, "is it thou?"

"In very truth 'tis I, Walter. And right glad am I to be here. But
hasten, beseech you. I would not be retaken for all the wealth of
Spain."

The boat shot out from the wharf into the river, and passed swiftly down
the stream.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE THREE VOLUNTEERS


Some distance down the river a vessel lay at anchor. To this the boat
made its way and lay alongside. Devereaux, the young man whom he had
called Walter, and Francis scrambled aboard, and the wherry put off. The
sails of the ship were raised, and, as she glided swiftly toward the open
sea, Devereaux gave a shout of exultation.

"Now for Plymouth and the Dons," he cried gaily. "Oh, Francis, is it not
glorious to be free?"

"Yes;" replied Francis, scarce able to speak so overcome was she by her
emotion.

"And as soon as we touch Plymouth thou canst take passage in another
vessel for France."

Then indeed did the girl turn upon him with flashing eyes.

"France?" she cried. "Go to France while England is in danger? Never!
Never! At Plymouth do I stay, Edward Devereaux, with the fleet. I am
resolved to meet the Dons as well as thou."

"But, Francis, thy faith! 'Tis the same as the Spaniards! Thou canst not
meet them."

"'Tis true that I am Catholic, but still am I not born English? Never
would I see alien foot tread English soil, be the intruder of whatever
faith he may."

"And there spake a true Englishman," said he whom Edward had called
Walter. "So spake Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral of the navy. And so
also hath spoken every true Englishman of Roman Catholic faith. Who is
thy friend, Edward? I was surprised to find that another accompanied thee
in thy flight from the Tower."

As Devereaux opened his lips to reply, Francis touched his hand warningly
and answered for herself.

"I am Francis Stafford. I was imprisoned in the Tower charged with
treason to the queen, though of that I am innocent."

"Well, Master Stafford, prove thy mettle at this, England's time of need,
and it may be that England's queen will overlook thy past transgressions.
I am Walter Mildemay, kinsman of Edward Devereaux, and a true subject of
the queen's majesty, save and except for abetting the rescue of Edward
Devereaux. For that I hope to make my peace with the queen if we meet the
Spaniards."

"Hath their ships been sighted yet, Walter?" asked Edward.

"Nay; but they watch for them hourly as they have been doing for days.
'Twill surely not be much longer till they come."

The summer's sun was casting its lengthening shadows across the quiet
harbor of Plymouth as the little vessel containing the three, Walter
Mildemay, Edward Devereaux, and Francis Stafford, anchored not far from
the town. A boat put off, bearing the three named to the place where they
had been informed Admiral Lord Howard was.

It was the memorable evening of July 19, 1588, and an exciting game of
bowls was being played upon the green back of the Pelican Inn known to
every officer of Her Majesty's navy. Standing round the bowling alley
were a group of men watching the game with interest. Lord Howard of
Effingham, the Lord High Admiral of England; Sir Robert Southwell, his
son-in-law, the captain of the Elizabeth Joncas; Sir Walter Raleigh and
Sir Richard Grenville; Martin Frobisher and John Davis; John Hawkins and
his pupil, Sir Francis Drake, the vice admiral of the fleet.

The three paused as they entered this illustrious group. Sir Walter
Raleigh was the first to spy them.

"Ha, my apt pupil of the sword!" he cried. "Why came you hither?"

"We are come to join the fleet," answered Francis boldly.

"Lord Howard, here be three more volunteers," cried Raleigh. "Verily it
beseems that all of England's sons have come forth for the fight."

"And they have done well," answered the deep voice of the noble admiral.

          "'Come the three corners of arms,
          And we shall shock them! Nought shall make us rue,
          If England to herself do rest but true.'

So says that knave--Will Shakespeare. Edward, thou here again? I thought
the queen held thee in durance?"

"She did, my lord admiral," returned Devereaux. "But think you that I was
to be mewed up like a girl when England had need of me? I trow not!"

"Spoken like a true Englishman, boy, save the slur upon the girl. Know,
Master Edward, that so enthusiastic are women and girls that if we men
wax faint hearted in the strife English women and English maidens will
take up the battle for their country."

"I crave pardon, my lord. Such speech was unworthy an Englishman when the
proof is by his----"

"I am Francis Stafford, my lord," interrupted the girl, knowing full well
what Edward was about to say. "My father and I were accused of treason to
the queen when Anthony Babington conspired against her life. I escaped
from the Tower in company with Master Devereaux. Do not, I beseech you,
say me nay when I plead for place with you. I would fain prove that I am
a true and loyal subject of Her Majesty."

"And thou shalt be given the opportunity, lad. And thou, young sir," to
Walter Mildemay, "art thou escaped from the Tower also?"

"Nay, sir; I am but accessory to their flight," replied the young man.

"The saints preserve us!" ejaculated his lordship piously. "Now Heaven
send the Dons soon else I shall have such a storm about mine ears as
never wind did raise."

At this moment an old sailor burst into the midst of the group.

"My lord, my lord!" cried the weather-beaten old salt to the lord high
admiral, "they're coming. I saw 'em off the Lizard last night; they're
coming full sail, hundreds of 'em a darkening the waters!"

A cheer rose from the lips of the men; a spirit of excitement stirred
every heart. Nay; not every breast, for Sir Francis Drake, the vice
admiral, said coolly to his chief as he hurled the bowl along the smooth,
worn planks:

"There will be time enough to finish the game, and then we'll go out and
give the Dons a thrashing."

And now the beacon lights flashed the news from hilltop to hilltop, and
on to London, and thence northward to the Scottish borders, and westward
throughout Wales until every village and town of every shire in England
thrilled with the tidings. Forgetful of religious dissensions, of feud,
and of private wrong, all Englishmen arose as one man to repel the
invading foe.

Amidst all the confusion incident to the announcement of the old seaman,
Devereaux drew Francis aside and whispered entreatingly:

"Francis, I implore thee to remain here. 'Tis not seemly that thou
shouldst board ship. There will be fighting, and----"

"And thou wouldst have all the glory, Edward Devereaux," cried the girl
unjust as she often was when indignant. "Dost thou think that I fear?
What hath life to yield that would equal the sweetness of striking one
blow for England? Think you an English girl cannot fight as well as an
English lad?"

"Nay, nay, Francis; but for my sake----"

"For thy sake?" echoed the girl in surprise. "Why should I stay for thy
sake? Come! we lose time."



CHAPTER XXIX

A BRITOMARTE OF THE ARMADA


The call was sounded. It rang through every ship like a trumpet note and
every man sprang to his duty.

"On to the Dons! No Spanish Inquisition!" was the watch-cry of the
English navy, and with great difficulty, for the wind was against them,
they steered for the open sea.

It was not until the next day that they came within sight of the Armada.
The most powerful fleet that had ever been known since the beginning of
time. Blest by the pope, sent forth amid the prayers and the fastings of
the people, the fleet had been cleared of every unclean thing, for
haughty England who styled herself the mistress of the seas was to be
humbled upon her own element and made to yield her lands to the
foreigners.

The great Spanish ships, built high like castles and towers, stretched in
the form of a crescent measuring at least seven miles from horn to horn.
They came slowly on, and, although under full sail, yet as though the
winds labored and the ocean sighed under the burden of it, says Camden.
When they reached the open channel Lord Howard discovered his policy to
his men.

They were not to come to close quarters with the towering, unwieldy
galleons, but to pour broadside after broadside into them at a distance
and to bide their opportunity to fall upon them. Nearer and nearer drew
the two fleets, the Spanish preparing to begin the action at daybreak.
But at two o'clock the gibbous moon arose in a clear sky and showed to
the astonished Spanish the English fleet lying in their rear just out of
cannon shot.

The next morning Lord Howard, sending before him a pinnace called the
Defiance, provoked the fight by discharging a piece of her ordnance and
presently out of his own ship, called the Ark Royal, thundered upon a
Spanish craft which he supposed was that of the Spanish Admiral, Medina
Sidonia, but which proved to be that of Alphonso de Leon.

At the same time Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher fell terribly upon the
rear which was valiantly commanded by Juan Martinez de Recaldo. The
English invaded, retired, and re-invaded them from every quarter with
incredible celerity. The Spanish captain general was nonplused. The
English ships ran in, doing as much damage as possible without coming to
close quarters, while his lumbering craft were useless to chase and
cripple so agile an enemy. The great galleons and galleasses of Spain
towered beside the English ships like "Flemish dray horses beside light
Arabian coursers."

Fiercer waxed the fight. Recaldo finding his vessel much battered,
rejoined his chief with difficulty and Medina re-collecting his scattered
vessels held on his course. For two hours the fight continued, and then
Lord Howard thought best to retire to await the coming of other ships
which had not yet left the harbor.

Flushed and elated with the victory, with not a single vessel and
scarcely a man lost, the English exulted that the great Armada which had
been devised to strike terror into their hearts was not so invincible
after all.

"Is it not glorious, Edward," cried Francis Stafford from a coil of rope
upon which she had thrown herself. "How the Dons flew! Oh, 'tis enough to
stir a stone to enthusiasm!"

"'Twould be glorious, Francis, were it not for thee," answered the youth.
"The thought that thou art here hampers my every action, and always am I
looking to see that thou art safe. Would thou wert in England; even in
the Tower so that thou wert not here."

"And wherefore? Do I not bear myself as becomes an English lad?" cried
Francis. "In all the wide world there is no place that I would rather be
than upon the deck of the Ark Royal. So from henceforth speak no more of
this. And, Edward, drop no hint of my sex to any. Wherefore should not an
English maiden espouse the cause of her country as well as an English
youth? Thou seest that there are lads here as maiden like in appearance
as I. Give no thought to me, I beseech you."

"I will speak of it no more, Francis," rejoined Devereaux. "And yet I
would that thou wert not here."

The girl turned from him impatiently, and hastily joined a group of
which the admiral was the centre; for Lord Howard had taken them upon his
own vessel.

The next night the air was stormy and the night dark. The English fleet
was startled by an explosion on one of the Spanish ships and soon the
flames were seen to spring high into the air. But other ships went to her
aid and the fire was soon quenched, but the principal galleon of Seville
commanded by Pedro de Valdez collided with another vessel and, her
foremast being broken, was forsaken and became a prey to Sir Francis
Drake.

Dark as the night was, Lord Howard on the Ark Royal, accompanied by two
ships only--the Mary and the Rose--hotly pursued the Spaniards. The rest
of the English fleet lay still because Drake had neglected to carry a
lighted lantern in the poop of his vessel as had been commanded.

At break of day, having a prosperous north wind, the Spaniards bore down
upon the English, but the English, to take advantage of the wind, turned
westward. And then began a series of maneuvres in which each fleet
contended to deprive each other of the benefit of the wind. The contest
did not last long and before noon the English having slipped between the
Armada and the land bore down upon them right before the wind.

And then began a fierce fight which was waged with varying success. For,
while in one place the English valiantly rescued the ships of London
which were hemmed in by the Spaniards, in another Recaldo, being in
danger, was disengaged with no less resolution by the Spaniards. Never
before was such lightning and thunder of artillery heard, most of which,
notwithstanding, went vainly from the Spanish, flying clear over the
English ships. Only Cock, an Englishman, died gloriously in the midst of
his enemies upon his own small bark.

The English ships being of lesser build than the Spanish invaded the
Spaniards with great dexterity and having discharged their ordnance
withdrew into the open sea and leveled all their shot with a certain and
successful aim at the ponderous Spanish vessels.

And still the English admiral thought it not best to grapple and risk the
fortune of a hand-to-hand fight. For the enemy had a strong and well
appointed army aboard which he lacked, and, their ships standing higher
than his own vessels, threatened nothing less than certain destruction to
those fighting them from below. This was the most fierce and bloody
skirmish of all, though it only resulted in the capture of one huge
galleon and a few small craft by the English. There was a mutual
cessation of hostilities for all the next day for the wind fell dead and
each fleet was compelled to drift idly with the tide.

The calm was still unbroken when the next day dawned, the twenty-fifth
day of the month sacred to St. James, the patron saint of Spain. A small
galleon of Portugal called the Saint Anne being unable to keep pace with
the rest of the fleet was set upon by a number of small English craft,
seeing which three of the great galleasses rowed furiously to her aid.
Lord Howard's Ark Royal, the Golden Lion of his brother, Lord Sheffield's
Bear, and others towed by fisher boats met them with such salvos of shot
that, had not the Spanish fleet come up to rescue them, they would have
shared the fate of Valdez. After this time the galleasses would not fight
again. The wind sprang up by noon and the fight became general. All
afternoon it raged, and then, terribly battered, the Armada would fight
no more; but, "gathering into a roundel" set all sail for Calais, where
Medina hoped to find a force from the French to help him and then to
Dunkirk to join with Parma and the great flotilla of the Netherlands.

And so with a full southwest wind the Spanish fleet went on, the English
fleet following them. It was determined not to attack them until they
reached the straits of Calais, where Lord Seymour and William Winter
would join the navy.

Meantime Lord Howard conferred Knighthood upon John Hawkins, Martin
Frobisher, Thomas Howard, Lord Sheffield and Roger Townsend for valor and
fortitude. And now from every bay and harbor of England there put forth
numbers of small craft hired by the youth of England, who hastened to
join themselves to the fleet, for the Spanish fleet, though battered and
dispirited, was not yet broken, and should it be joined by the forces
which Medina expected all would indeed go ill with England.

The Armada anchored in Calais Roads and within cannon shot of it lay the
English fleet. The next day being the Sabbath both fleets observed the
day with appropriate services, the loud chants of the Spaniard mingling
strangely with the hymns of the English.

Francis Stafford, wearied and fatigued, retired to the cabin and, finding
it deserted, swung a hammock in one corner and clambering into it was
soon fast asleep.

"I tell thee, Drake," 'twas the voice of Lord Howard that awakened her,
"the queen must have been inspired to invent so ingenious a device. If it
succeeds----"

"It will succeed, my lord," interrupted Drake positively, "That is if
there can be found men who will adventure it. But it will take cool heads
and stout hearts and an absolute fearlessness of danger. I think I know
two men who will go but there must be others."

Instantly the girl sat upright in the hammock.

"My lord," she cried, "send me."

Lord Howard and Sir Francis Drake started in astonishment.

"Boy, I thought thee asleep," cried the admiral. "How long hast thou been
awake?"

"But just to hear you say that you needed men for some service," answered
Francis, springing lightly out of the hammock.

"I said men, not boys," said Drake smiling.

"Speak not so, Sir Francis," reproved the admiral. "The lad hath borne
well his part though he is so slight and maiden-like."

"And there is this to be considered," went on Francis eagerly. "I have
escaped from the Tower. My father, as ye know, is an exile. What lies
before me but imprisonment, or that worse than death, exilement from my
native land. 'Twere better to send me whatever may be the hazard than
others who can illy be spared."

"Listen, boy, and thou shalt hear what the enterprise is. I trow that it
will quell even thy brave spirit, burning though it be with valor. This
night some of our ships covered over with rosin and pitch and filled with
sulphur, gunpowder and other combustibles, are to be sent into the midst
of the Spanish, fired and set adrift amongst them. 'Tis fraught with
great danger and peril to the lives of those who adventure it."

"Still let me be one of them," pleaded the girl earnestly.

"There is much in the lad's favor," said Drake meditatively. "He speaks
truth when he declares that it would be best to send one who lies under
the queen's disfavor than another."

"Yes; and if successfully performed it may bring him pardon. Elizabeth
cannot but look with favor upon those who help to carry out a project
devised by herself. Drake, I give my consent for the lad to go."

"Perchance Edward Devereaux----" began Francis and then paused. What
right had she to bring another into peril that might result in loss of
life? But Lord Howard laughingly said:

"Another youth, Sir Francis, who burns to distinguish himself."

"Then let him have his chance," was the vice-admiral's reply. "You and I
would have jumped at such opportunity, my lord."

"Go you then, Stafford, to Master Devereaux and tell him privately of the
enterprise. 'Twill be naught against him if he chooses not to accompany
the expedition. If he should so select, come to me, both of you."

Francis eagerly sought young Devereaux. It so chanced that he stood for
the moment apart from his fellows. Joining him she said in a low tone:

"Edward, do you wish to adventure a most perilous undertaking?"

"Marry! Francis Stafford! how canst thou ask such question? Thou knowest
that I burn to do something. It chafes me to be so inactive while in such
near distance lies the Spaniard."

"Then hearken! This night ships besmeared with pitch and rosin and filled
with combustibles are to be sent into the midst of yon fleet. Two men are
already chosen to guide them thither, and thou and I can accompany them
also. But the admiral bids me say that it may be dangerous."

"Huzzah!" pealed forth from the lips of the youth like the blast of a
trumpet.

"Hush!" whispered Francis. "He desires it not to be made public. Come to
him."

She could scarce keep pace with his eagerness as he bounded before her
into the presence of the English commanders.

"I thank you, my lords," he said bowing to them, "for this opportunity.
When shall we be off?"

The two men could not forbear a smile.

"There is no hurry, Devereaux," said Lord Howard. "It will be after night
falls before the ships are started. Art sure that the peril is well
understood? It may be that you will not come back."

"It may be so, sir," answered the young man. "Sir Francis or any one of
us may be taken in the next engagement. But who would preserve life if by
giving it he may keep England and England's queen from the invader?"

"Spoken like a true Englishman, lad," cried Drake heartily. "Now, my
lord, these two will return with me and, in God's name, with my two Devon
men we shall this night so put upon the Spaniards as they shall ne'er
dream of setting foot on English soil again."

"Go," said the lord admiral placing an arm about the neck of each. "Go,
my lads. My hopes and prayers go with you. And should aught happen to
ye, the queen shall know that ye died in her service. And so fare you
well."

"Fare you well," answered they both and followed after Drake to his own
boat--The Revenge.

About two o'clock Monday morning eight ships smeared all over the outside
with pitch and rosin, their ordnance loaded with stones and bullets and
filled with sulphur and other materials suddenly combustible glided out
from among the English fleet and took their way silently toward the
Spanish ships lying so serenely at anchor. The night was cloudy. The moon
was late in its last quarter and did not rise till morning. The darkness
favored their enterprise. The wind blew in long, low gusts from the
westward which drove them full upon the Armada. Presently as the dark
forms of the ships bore full upon the Spanish vessels a tiny spark of
light gleamed like a twinkling star at the stern of the boats. For a
second it wavered and flickered and then in a moment more a red glare
lighted up the heavens and cast a lurid glow upon the two fleets, the
cliffs of England and the sea and showing plainly two boats--with Young
and Prowse, the two men of Devon in one; Francis and Edward in the
other.

With a rush and roar the flames leaped madly from stem to stern and up
through all the rigging sending out great tongues of fire forward,
backward, sideways threatening total destruction to anything that came
within their reach.

"Pull, Francis," cried Devereaux bending with desperate strength to the
oars. "Pull for your life."

The girl obeyed with a will. And now from the ships of Spain there went
up a fearful cry. A panic seized upon them at sight of those awful
burning vessels. They cried out that not only was there danger of fire
but that they contained deadly engines also. Everything was in confusion.
Panic-stricken they weighed anchor, cut their cables, hoisted their sails
and struck for the open sea, every ship afoul of her neighbor. A huge
galleass had her rudder broken and drifted helplessly with the tide.

[Illustration: "_PULL, PULL FOR YOUR LIFE!_"]

With shouts and cries of joy the English fleet sailed after the Armada.
Meantime the small boats pulled hastily for the nearest English vessel,
but so suddenly did the Spanish scatter, and the English change to take
advantage of their flight, that the position of the boats became
dangerous in the extreme: for what with the high wind, the burning ships,
the rolling of the deep, the helter-skelter flight of the Armada and the
pursuit of the English their position was, to say the least, precarious.

Devereaux changed the course of his boat several times, but as he was
borne in spite of himself among the Spanish vessels he cried despairingly
to Francis,

"It is of no avail, Francis. We must die."

"Look!" was the girl's reply.

Full well upon them bore a galleon, The Saint Matthew.

"Dogs of heretics," cried the commander from the poop of the vessel,
"die!"

"Ned, dear Ned!" shrieked Francis, throwing herself upon him, striving to
shield him from the bullets and arrows that rained about them. The lad
gave her one look, and opened his lips to reply when, with a shout of
wild joy from the sailors, The Revenge glided in between the frail bark
and her towering foe.

"Heave ho," cried Francis Drake in stentorian tones. "Lie to, my lads.
Did'st think we'd leave such likely lads to perish? Nay; below with ye,"
as they were pulled on deck. "Ye have done your part. The rest of us will
now bear the brunt of action."

And the English fleet swept on to deal the final blow to His Most
Catholic Majesty, Philip of Spain's, Invincible Armada.



CHAPTER XXX

PARDON AND HAPPINESS


The final blow which sent the Armada flying northward had been given.
With not a single ship taken and but one, the small bark of Cock, lost,
and not more than sixty men killed, the English fleet sent up a pæan of
joy, and drew up for conference before following further the fleeing
enemy.

"Ye two," said the lord admiral to Francis and Devereaux, "seeing that ye
lie under Her Most Sovereign Majesty's displeasure, shall bear to her the
tidings of our victory. None deserve it more, and, please God, by so
doing ye shall win pardon from her. As for me I shall on after the
Spaniard as long as provisions and ammunition will permit."

And so it came about that Francis and Devereaux proceeded to the camp at
Tilbury, where the queen was at this time. She was dining in the tent of
Lord Leicester, the lieutenant general of the land forces, herself being
the generalissimo, when they arrived. There were present, beside the
queen and the earl, Sir Francis Walsingham, who had come down from London
for conference with the queen; Hatton, the vice chamberlain, the young
Earl of Essex who, despite his inexperience, had been made the
captain-general of the cavalry, and Lord Shrope, who had hastened to
return to England upon hearing of his country's peril. Francis flashed a
glance of joyful recognition at him, but was deterred from other greeting
by the presence of the queen.

Elizabeth had risen at their approach, and when the girl beheld her high
pale forehead furrowed by lines of care, the lofty features sharpened by
anxiety, she felt her heart glow toward her sovereign and the last
feeling of animosity which had lain so long in her heart faded away never
to return. It was therefore with a sincere feeling of reverence that she
knelt before Elizabeth, who had shown herself at this time to be a true
daughter of the lion-hearted Plantagenets.

"Ye bear messages from the lord admiral," cried the queen somewhat
anxiously. "Rise, Edward Devereaux, and deliver thyself of them."

"Most gracious madam," said Edward, rising gracefully, "the strength of
the enemy is broken. Dispirited and distraught they fly before the lord
admiral. Madam, the Armada is no more. Here are letters writ by Lord
Howard, in which he gives the victory in detail."

"Now God be praised," ejaculated the queen, "but this is news indeed. My
Lord of Essex, do you spread the tidings throughout the camp that my
loving people may rejoice with me. Thy indulgence, Master Devereaux,
while I peruse my Lord Howard's dispatches. Retain thy place that I may
confer with thee later."

Rapidly she glanced over the epistles, and then turned to the assembled
lords.

"My lords," she cried, "behold these lads! They have borne themselves
with signal valor during the meeting with the Spaniards. They two, in
company with two others of whom more anon, set fire to the ships which
brought fear and panic into the fleet of the enemy. Which same device was
recommended by us to the lord admiral. Speak, Edward Devereaux! What
reward dost thou wish for thy service?"

"Thy pardon, Most Gracious Lady, for breaking the bounds in which you
placed me."

"Ah, Ned, Ned," said Elizabeth with that archness which, despite her
fifty-five years, she continued to employ, "didst thou not know that thy
queen placed thee there for thy safety?"

"True, madam;" assented Devereaux. "But not the strongest dungeon of the
Tower should have held me in durance when thy person, and my country were
in danger."

"Thy silvery tongue no less than thy service doth well incline me to thy
will, Ned," said she graciously. "Thou art forgiven. And thou?" she added
turning to the kneeling girl. "Art thou not that Francis Stafford lately
concerned in plot against our person?"

"I am that most unhappy being, madam," said Francis, rising and looking
the queen steadfastly in the face. "I throw myself upon your mercy, Your
Majesty, and crave forgiveness. My only plea for so great a fault is,
that at that time I had not been brought near your person and knew you
not. Had I known you I would never have transgressed. Do with me as you
will. Return me to the Tower, or use your pleasure upon me in any fashion
as seemeth best to you, only forgive me."

"Hast thy father schooled thee to speak thus?" demanded the queen.

"My father? Nay; I know not where he is. I have not seen him since I
entered the Tower nearly two years ago," answered the girl.

The queen said something in a low tone to Lord Shrope. That nobleman
immediately left the tent, and all eyes centred expectantly upon the
queen. Francis looked at her with a growing anxiety as she remained
silent. Was she going to remand her to the Tower? Were not her services
deserving of some recognition? What was meant by that continued
stillness? The queen stood regarding her with those keen, piercing eyes
whose fires age had not dimmed, and Francis met her gaze with a sort of
fascination, her eyes dilated, her lips parted as she waited the issue.

Presently Lord Shrope reentered the tent and with him there came one at
sight of whom Francis gave a great cry.

"My father!" And not even the presence of the queen could prevent her
from running forward to embrace him. Her father gave no sign that he knew
of her presence, but advancing to where the queen stood, knelt before her
saying:

"You sent for me, Your Grace, and I am here."

"My Lord Stafford," said Elizabeth affably, "thou knowest that when thou
didst present thyself before us, beseeching us to permit you to be of
service in defending our person, that we agreed that time should prove
thy worth. My lord, thou and thy son have redeemed yourselves nobly in
our eyes. Rise, my lord! You are restored to your right of blood and to
your property. Thy son also hath our full and free forgiveness."

"Madam, thou art graciousness itself," said Lord Stafford kissing her
hand. "I do repent me of all my transgression against you, but from this
time forth, my queen, by the grace of God, you will have no stauncher
subject than William Stafford. As for my daughter----"

"Thy daughter?" cried Elizabeth. "Thy daughter? What mean you,
Stafford?"

"He means, Your Highness," cried Lord Shrope, "that his son is not a boy,
but a girl."

"Hold thy tongue, Shrope!" commanded the queen sharply. "Thy wits are
addled. Who is there who will read the riddle clearly? Thou, Francis
Stafford?"

But Francis, utterly miserable in that her father took no notice of her,
was sobbing bitterly and therefore could not reply.

"Let me read it, Your Majesty," said Lord Stafford, and receiving consent
he related the whole story from the time of her coming to Stafford Hall,
concluding with,

"I know not, Your Highness, why she doth continue to wear the garb unless
from dire perversity----"

"Nay;" cried Francis, her spirit asserting itself. "'Tis because 'twas at
thy bidding that I donned it, and I vowed never to remove it until thou
didst bid me so to do. Oh, would that I had perished in battle ere thy
hardness toward me should pierce me with such agony!" And she again gave
way to her grief.

"Why, what hath she done, my lord?" asked the queen curiously.

"She betrayed my trust, Your Grace," answered Lord Stafford.

"Nay, Stafford," exclaimed both Walsingham and Lord Shrope together. "You
wrong the girl."

"Wrong her?" asked Lord Stafford eagerly. "Speak, my lords! If ye can
convince me of that ye shall remove all that my heart holdeth of
bitterness. I long to take her to my breast again, but I would not so
long as I believe that she betrayed trust."

"She would not betray thee, Stafford, even when threatened with torture,"
spoke the secretary. "My Lord Shrope can bear witness to the truth of
what I speak."

With a bound Lord Stafford reached the weeping girl and caught her to
him.

"My daughter! My daughter!" he cried. "Can you ever forgive me? Say that
you forgive me."

"And you do believe in me?" questioned Francis clinging to him
convulsively. "Say that you do, my father."

"I do, I do, my child."

"My lord, we will permit you to retire until you are calmer," came from
the queen.

"Thank her, Francis," said Lord Stafford leading the girl forward. "Thank
our gracious queen who hath shown so much of kindness to us."

"There, sweetheart!" said Elizabeth as Francis with streaming eyes tried
to articulate her gratitude. "'Twill suffice for the present. We like thy
spirit, and later will receive thee into service near us. When thou hast
donned thy maiden attire we would see thee again. Though, by my faith, if
all men would honor the garb as thou hast done, there would be few knaves
in the kingdom."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"And this is Mistress Francis Stafford?" cried Edward Devereaux as, two
days later, Francis stood on the banks of the river watching the queen as
she embarked for London. "Upon my word, Francis; thy attire well becomes
thee."

"'Hast thou found me, oh, mine enemy?'" quoth the girl gaily turning a
bright face toward him.

"Thine enemy, Francis?" said the youth reproachfully. "I thought that
that had passed. After all that we have been through together thou
shouldst not call me so."

"And art thou not mine enemy?" asked she archly. "Nay;" as a pained look
crossed his face, "I know that thou art not."

"And neither art thou mine," asserted Edward. "Ah, Francis, may not we
two bury that old enmity by a union of our families in us? If thy father
give consent wilt thou agree also?"

"If my father consent, then so will I also, Edward," spoke the girl
softly, adding saucily--"'tis the only way that I'll ever get that deer's
horns."



STORIES FOR GIRLS


=BETTY WALES, FRESHMAN=. By MARGARET WARDE. ILLUSTRATED BY EVA M. NAGEL.
"Every nice girl likes college, though everyone likes it for a different
reason," says one of the college girls in this delightful story, and the
same thing might be said of the book. Betty and her chums get all the
good and all the fun out of their freshman year at college. In its course
are some triumphs, little and great, friendships made and marred, a few
heart-burnings, and many an honest hard-won happiness. The girl who has
been to college will wish she were back among them, and the one who is
going will find herself eager to be with such as Betty and her friends,
and to do as they do.

=EARNING HER WAY=. By MRS. CLARKE JOHNSON. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH. A
charming story of an ambitious girl who overcomes in a most original
manner many obstacles that stand in the way of securing a college course.
While many of her experiences are of a practical nature, and show a
brave, self-reliant spirit, some of her escapades and adventures are most
exciting, yet surrounding the whole there is an atmosphere of refinement
and inspiration that is most helpful and pleasing.

=HER COLLEGE DAYS=. By MRS. CLARKE JOHNSON. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH.
This is a most interesting and healthful tale of a girl's life in a New
England college. The trustful and unbounded love of the heroine for her
mother and the mutual and self-sacrificing devotion of the mother to the
daughter are so beautifully interwoven with the varied occurrences and
exciting incidents of college life as to leave a most wholesome
impression upon the mind and heart of the reader.

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STORIES FOR GIRLS


=TWO WYOMING GIRLS=. By MRS. CARRIE L. MARSHALL. ILLUSTRATED BY IDA
WAUGH. Two girls, thrown upon their own resources, are obliged to "prove
up" their homestead claim. This would be no very serious matter were it
not for the persecution of an unscrupulous neighbor, who wishes to
appropriate the property to his own use. The girls endure many
privations, have a number of thrilling adventures, but finally secure
their claim and are generally well rewarded for their courage and
perseverance.

=THE GIRL RANCHERS=. By MRS. CARRIE L. MARSHALL. ILLUSTRATED BY IDA
WAUGH. A story of life on a sheep ranch in Montana. The dangers and
difficulties incident to such a life are vividly pictured, and the
interest in the story is enhanced by the fact that the ranch is managed
almost entirely by two young girls. By their energy and pluck, coupled
with courage, kindness, and unselfishness, they succeed in disarming the
animosity of the neighboring cattle ranchers, and their enterprise
eventually results successfully.

=IN DOUBLET AND HOSE.= By LUCY FOSTER MADISON. ILLUSTRATED BY CLYDE O.
DELAND. A story of the time of Queen Elizabeth. The heroine and her
family favor the claims of Mary of Scotland to England's throne. During a
visit of Elizabeth to the home of the heroine's parents, the queen
becomes displeased, and as a punishment, orders the girl to attend her at
Court. Her adventures there and the incidents which lead to her
confinement in the Tower of London, her escape therefrom, and final
restoration to favor with the great Queen, form a most interesting
narrative.

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STORIES FOR GIRLS


=A DAUGHTER OF THE UNION=. By LUCY FOSTER MADISON. ILLUSTRATED BY CLYDE
O. DELAND. A story of the Civil War in which the interest centers about a
brave young girl who is sent by her father from New York to New Orleans
as a bearer of important messages. Aided by Admiral Farragut she delivers
these after running the Mississippi blockade. Later she is forced to
leave New Orleans and is captured and held a prisoner at Vicksburg until
its surrender to General Grant.

=A COLONIAL MAID OF OLD VIRGINIA=. By LUCY FOSTER MADISON. Illustrated by
CLYDE O. DELAND. The heroine, while yet a motherless babe, is adopted by
a wealthy planter of Virginia. At an early age she evinces a strong love
for the cause of the colonies, while her uncle and his family are ardent
adherents of the King. Her many deeds of heroism carry her to
Philadelphia during its occupancy by the British, thence to Valley Forge,
the Wyoming massacre, and finally to the surrender at Yorktown.

=A MAID AT KING ALFRED'S COURT=. By LUCY FOSTER MADISON. Illustrated by
IDA WAUGH. This is a strong and well told tale of the 9th century. It is
a faithful portrayal of the times, and is replete with historical
information. The trying experiences through which the little heroine
passes, until she finally becomes one of the great Alfred's family, are
most entertainingly set forth. Nothing short of a careful study of the
history of the period will give so clear a knowledge of this little known
age as the reading of this book.

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STORIES FOR GIRLS


=A MAID OF THE FIRST CENTURY=. By LUCY FOSTER MADISON. Illustrated by IDA
WAUGH. A little maid of Palestine goes in search of her father, who for
political reasons, has been taken as a slave to Rome. She is shipwrecked
in the Mediterranean, but is rescued by a passing vessel bound for
Britain. Eventually an opportunity is afforded her for going to Rome,
where, after many trying and exciting experiences, she and her father are
united and his liberty is restored to him.

=THE WHIRLIGIG=. By EVELYN RAYMOND. Illustrated by RUTH ROLLINS. She is
called "The Whirligig" because she is so apt to be blown about by her
emotions. It is not until she goes to live with an old aunt and uncle and
is thrown upon her own resources, that she develops a steadier and
stronger character. She is a great comfort to the elderly people, and at
a time when the whole village is threatened with a flood, she rides down
the valley and warns the people of their danger. She is a very natural,
lovable girl, and the story ends all too soon.

=A YANKEE GIRL IN OLD CALIFORNIA=. By EVELYN RAYMOND. Illustrated by IDA
WAUGH. A young girl, reared among most delightful surroundings in
Vermont, suddenly discovers that, owing to a clause in her father's will,
she must make her future home with relatives in the lower portion of old
California. No more interesting experience could come in the life of any
bright, observing girl than that of an existence in this semi-tropical
region, with its wealth of Spanish tradition, its glorious climate, and
its abundance of flowers and foliage.

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STORIES FOR GIRLS


=A QUAKER MAIDEN=. By EVELYN RAYMOND. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH. A young
girl reared in all the simplicity of a Quaker family is suddenly
transported to the home of a wealthy cousin. She is at first greeted with
derision, but gradually her unfailing gentleness and sterling character
win the respect of her cousins, and at a time of financial disaster she
becomes the reliance of the entire family.

=A DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST=. By EVELYN RAYMOND. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH.
The heroine of this unusual tale resides with her uncle on an island in
the backwoods of Maine, and her exciting adventures, her unique animal
pets, her rescue of her father from unlawful imprisonment, all combine to
form a story of exceptional interest and merit. Considerable information
concerning animal and plant life is interwoven with the story.

=MY LADY BAREFOOT=. By EVELYN RAYMOND. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH. A
beautifully told story of the trials of a little backwoods girl who lives
in a secluded place with an eccentric uncle, until his death. The
privations she undergoes during his life-time, her search for other
relatives, her rather uncongenial abode with them, her return to her
early home to acquire her uncle's estate, and thus to enjoy a useful and
happy life, form a most interesting narrative of a girl whose ruggedness
and simplicity of character must appeal to the admiration of all
readers.

  CLOTH BINDING        ILLUSTRATED        EACH, $1.25
             THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
  923 ARCH STREET                        PHILADELPHIA



STORIES FOR GIRLS


=THE LITTLE LADY OF THE FORT=. By ANNIE M. BARNES. Illustrated by HELÈNE
WOOD. A dramatic story dealing with the struggles of the early French and
Spanish settlers for supremacy in the Carolinas. The heroine is an only
daughter of the French commandant and is enticed from the fort and held
captive by the Spaniards. Her release is finally effected by a young
Spaniard whom she befriended, but not until after she has endured many
severe trials.

=THE FERRY MAID OF THE CHATTAHOOCHEE=. By ANNIE M. BARNES. Illustrated by
IDA WAUGH. An heroic little Georgia girl, in her father's extremity,
takes charge of his ferry, and through many vicissitudes and several
impending calamities, succeeds in carrying out her purpose of supporting
her invalid parent and his family. The heroine's cheerfulness and hearty
good humor, combined with an unflinching zeal in her determination to
accomplish her work, show a character which cannot fail to appeal to
young people.

=DOROTHY DAY=. By JULIE M. LIPPMANN. Illustrated by IDA WAUGH. This is a
most interesting story of a bright and spirited young girl whose widowed
mother remarries. The impulsive girl chafes under the new relationship,
being unwilling to share with another the bounteous love of her mother
which she had learned to claim wholly for her own. By the exercise of
great tact and kindness, the obdurate Dorothy is at last won over, and
becomes a most estimable girl.

  CLOTH BINDING        ILLUSTRATED        EACH, $1.25
             THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
  923 ARCH STREET                        PHILADELPHIA



  Transcriber's Notes:

  Archaic and variable spelling, as well as punctuation, has been
  preserved as printed except as indicated below.

  The following changes, shown in brackets, were made to the original
  text:

  Page 30: "My mother, there is something that I would fain ask.
  [added missing double quote mark at the end of the sentence]

  Page 86: More than ever, my father, Never have I [changed comma to
  a period]

  Page 138: and Frances noted with dismay [Francis]

  Page 141: The lord chamberlain turned to Frances [Francis]

  Page 155: with true page-like officiousness, proferred [proffered]

  Page 209: her face softening at the apellation. [appellation]

  Page 214: With a loud laugh at his discomforture [discomfiture]

  Page 306: The great galleons and galleases [galleasses]

  Page 318: A huge gallease had her rudder [galleass]

  The following words were found in both hyphenated and unhyphenated
  forms in the original text and both forms have been retained: hunting
  party (hunting-party) lifetime (life-time); also, the obsolete spelling
  of Shakespeare (Shakspeare) was retained.

  Illustrations have been moved where necessary so that they are not
  in the middle of a paragraph.

  There is one footnote and it has been placed at the end of the chapter
  in which it appears.





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