T HIS was a busy day at Scrooby Inn. Before the sun had set, the great house with its fifty rooms had been made ready to receive the party. The long table in the dining hall was spread with the finest linen. In the kitchen the three big brick ovens were filled with browning bread, cakes, and other dainties. Fowls were being roasted, before the open fire.
Many times that afternoon the children ran to an upper window to look for the royal guests. The sun sank lower and lower, but still they did not come.
"Perhaps they have lost their way," said Fear.
"They will have a guide, so they cannot lose their way," replied Jonathan, "but perhaps they have been met by robbers."
In those days travelers were often overtaken by bands of rough men who robbed them of money and horses. So Jonathan's words filled their hearts with dismay. There were three very sober little faces in the window.
But before the sun was quite gone, the thrilling note of a bugle was heard and those faces brightened in a moment. Out of a little grove far down the road, appeared a company of horsemen. Nearer and nearer they came until the first rider, proudly bearing the red and gold banner of his queen, was in plain view.
Upon the shining spears and plumed helmets of the knights who rode behind him, fell the last rays of the setting sun, making them glisten like gold.
Within the square formed by the horsemen was a splendid coach, heavily carved and richly gilded. Upon the driver's seat rode two coachmen, dressed in gay liveries of red and gray. Two footmen sat upon the high seat behind. The coach was drawn by six fine black horses, which arched their beautiful necks and daintily lifted their slender feet as they sped toward the village.
The party was soon so near that the sound of the horses' feet could be heard, and, sometimes, the clear ring of their silver bridles.
The news of the royal visit had spread through the town, and at every gate was a group of villagers eager to greet the queen and her party. As they rode through the street the air rang with cries of, "Long live the queen!"
The great gates of Scrooby Inn were thrown open, and a maid was sent to bring the children into the garden, where William Brewster and his entire household had gathered to receive the queen.
There was a moment of breathless waiting, then over the bridge and into the yard swept the dazzling company of knights, and the splendid coach.
The footmen sprang to the ground and opened the doors. Again rang the cry, "Long live the queen!"
Jonathan waved and shouted with the rest, but little Patience was silent. As she glanced from one to another of the four ladies who stepped from the coach, a look of disappointment clouded her face. She was looking for a lady with many strings of jewels about her bare throat, and a sparkling crown upon her head.
Patience had seen pictures of many queens; all had worn crowns and jewels. Surely there was no queen in this party. "Jonathan, where is the queen? I do not see her," she whispered, tears of disappointment filling her eyes.
"Hush!" answered Jonathan, softly. "That is she in the blue velvet gown and the hat with the long white plumes. You did not think she would wear a crown when traveling, did you?"
Perhaps the lady may have heard something for she looked down at the children and smiled. As Patience looked into the kind, beautiful face, her disappointment melted away and she forgave the queen for not wearing her jewels.
Jonathan and Patience and Fear saw very little of the queen and her company that night, for Mistress Brewster believed that children should be neither seen nor heard when there were strangers at the inn.
It seemed very hard to go to bed at the usual time when there were knights and a real queen in the house. They were sure they could not go to sleep; but when Mistress Brewster went to their beds half an hour later, all three were in a dreamland of kings and queens, knights and ladies, castles and deep forests.
Patience wakened very early the next morning. She dressed quickly and went down to the garden to gather fresh flowers for the breakfast table. Yet, early as she was, some one was there before her. A lady was bending over a bush of beautiful roses; when she turned, Patience saw it was the queen.
The child bowed in the quaint, pretty way her mother had taught her. She was wondering whether she ought to go back into the house, when the lady smiled and said:
"I am admiring your roses. How fresh and pretty they are with the dew still on them!"
"This bush is my very own," said Patience, as she gathered some blossoms for the lady. "I call these the Bradford roses because William Bradford gave the bush to me."
She gathered some blossoms for the lady.
"And who is William Bradford?"
"Oh, he is a young friend of father's. He does not live in Scrooby, but he comes here to church every Sunday, and so do Master Chilton and his family and ever so many others. We have a large chapel in our house right over the dining room. Nearly every one in Scrooby comes here to church, and some people come as far as twenty miles."
"I noticed a beautiful church as we rode through the village yesterday," the lady said. "I should think you would all go there."
"That is King James's church," answered Patience. "If we go there we have to worship just as he wishes us to. Father thinks the king's way is not right. Almost every one about here says the king's way is not right, so we do not go to his church."
"King James would not like to hear that," said the queen, gently, "and it would not be safe for you to talk to every stranger so freely."
Poor little Patience! What had she said! Suddenly she remembered that she had been telling a very great secret. Her face turned as red as the roses and her eyes filled with tears.
"Never mind, little one," said the queen, kindly. "Your secret is safe with me. Let us forget all about it."
Then she talked to the child about the flowers, and Patience took her to see the lilies which grew in one of the ponds in the garden.
An hour later three children stood at the gate of Scrooby Inn, watching a gilded coach and a company of horsemen disappear down the road.
Soon the coach was gone and the last glistening spear was lost to sight. Although she never saw her again, Patience always remembered the beautiful queen who shared their secret.