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Ford Madox Ford
The Fifth Queen Crowned
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2018
Copyright © 2018 Sovereign Classic
All rights reserved.
THE MAJOR CHORD
‘The Bishop of Rome——’
Thomas Cranmer began a hesitating speech. In the pause after the words the King himself hesitated, as if he poised between a heavy rage and a sardonic humour. He deemed, however, that the humour could the more terrify the Archbishop—and, indeed, he was so much upon the joyous side in those summer days that he had forgotten how to browbeat.
‘Our holy father,’ he corrected the Archbishop. ‘Or I will say my holy father, since thou art a heretic——’
Cranmer’s eyes had always the expression of a man’s who looked at approaching calamity, but at the King’s words his whole face, his closed lips, his brows, the lines from his round nose, all drooped suddenly downwards.
‘Your Grace will have me write a letter to the—to his—to him——’
The downward lines fixed themselves, and from amongst them the panic-stricken eyes made a dumb appeal to the griffins and crowns of his dark green hangings, for they were afraid to turn to the King. Henry retained his heavy look of jocularity: he jumped at a weighty gibe—
‘My Grace will have thy Grace write a letter to his Holiness.’
He dropped into a heavy impassivity, rolled his eyes, fluttered his swollen fingers on the red and gilded table, and then said clearly, ‘My. Thy. His.’
When he was in that mood he spoke with a singular distinctness that came up from his husky and ordinary joviality like something dire and terrible—like that something that upon a clear smooth day will suggest to you suddenly the cruelty that lies always hidden in the limpid sea.
‘To Cæsar—egomet, I mineself—that which is Cæsar’s: to him—that is to say to his Holiness, our lord of Rome—the things which are of God! But to thee, Archbishop, I know not what belongs.’
He paused and then struck his hand upon the table: ‘Cold porridge is thy portion! Cold porridge!’ he laughed; ‘for they say: Cold porridge to the devil! And, since thou art neither God’s nor the King’s, what may I call thee but the devil’s self’s man?’
A heavy and minatory silence seemed to descend upon him; the Archbishop’s thin hands opened suddenly as if he were letting something fall to the ground. The King scowled heavily, but rather as if he were remembering past heavinesses than for any present griefs.
‘Why,’ he said, ‘I am growing an old man. It is time I redded up my house.’
It was as if he thought he could take his time, for his heavily pursed eyes looked down at the square tips of his fingers where they drummed on the table. He was such a weighty man that the old chair in which he sat creaked at the movement of his limbs. It was his affectation of courtesy that he would not sit in the Archbishop’s own new gilded and great chair that had been brought from Lambeth on a mule’s back along with the hangings. But the other furnishings of that Castle of Pontefract were as old as the days of Edward IV—even the scarlet wood of the table had upon it the arms of Edward IV’s Queen Elizabeth, side by side with that King’s. Henry noted it and said—
‘It is time these arms were changed. See that you have here fairly painted the arms of my Queen and me—Howard and Tudor—in token that we have passed this way and sojourned in this Castle of Pontefract.’
He was dallying with time as if it were a luxury to dally: he looked curiously round the room.
‘Why, they have not housed you very well,’ he said, and, as the Archbishop shivered suddenly, he added, ‘there should be glass in the windows. This is a foul old kennel.’
‘I have made a complaint to the Earl Marshal,’ Cranmer said dismally, ‘but ‘a said there was overmuch room needed above ground.’
This room was indeed below ground and very old, strong, and damp. The Archbishop’s own hangings covered the walls, but the windows shot upwards through the stones to the light; there was upon the ground of stone not a carpet but only rushes; being early in the year, no provision was made for firing, and the soot of the chimney back was damp, and sparkled with the track of a snail that had lived there undisturbed for many years, and neither increasing, because it had no mate, nor dying, because it was well fed by the ferns that, behind the present hangings, grew in the joints of the stones. In that low-ceiled and dark place the Archbishop was aware that above his head were fair and sunlit rooms, newly painted and hung, with the bosses on the ceilings fresh silvered or gilt, all these fair places having been given over to kinsmen of the yellow Earl Marshal from the Norfolk Queen downwards. And the temporal and material neglect angered him and filled him with a querulous bitterness that gnawed up even through his dread of a future—still shadowy—fall and ruin.
The King looked sardonically at the line of the ceiling. He had known that Norfolk, who was the Earl Marshal, had the mean mind to make him set these indignities upon the Archbishop, and loftily he considered this result as if the Archbishop were a cat mauled by his own dog whose nature it was to maul cats.
The Archbishop had been standing with one hand on the arm of his heavy chair, about to haul it back from the table to sit himself down. He had been standing thus when the King had entered with the brusque words—
‘Make you ready to write a letter to Rome.’
And he still stood there, the cold feet among the damp rushes, the cold hand still upon the arm of the chair, the cap pulled forward over his eyes, the long black gown hanging motionless to the boot tops that were furred around the ankles.
‘I have made a plaint to the Earl Marshal,’ he said; ‘it is not fitting that a lord of the Church should be so housed.’
Henry eyed him sardonically.
‘Sir,’ he said, ‘I am being brought round to think that ye are only a false lord of the Church. And I am minded to think that ye are being brought round to trow even the like to mine own self.’
His eyes rested, little and twinkling like a pig’s, upon the opening of the Archbishop’s cloak above his breastbone, and the Archbishop’s right hand nervously sought that spot.
‘I was always of the thought,’ he said, ‘that the prohibition of the wearing of crucifixes was against your Highness’ will and the teachings of the Church.’
A great crucifix of silver, the Man of Sorrows depending dolorously from its arms and backed up by a plaque of silver so that it resembled a porter’s badge, depended over the black buttons of his undercoat. He had put it on upon the day when secretly he had married Henry to the papist Lady Katharine Howard. On the same day he had put on a hair shirt, and he had never since removed either the one or the other. He had known very well that this news would reach the Queen’s ears, as also that he had fasted thrice weekly and had taken a Benedictine sub-prior out of chains in the tower to be his second chaplain.
‘Holy Church! Holy Church!’ the King muttered amusedly into the stiff hair of his chin and lips. The Archbishop was driven into one of his fits of panic-stricken boldness.
‘Your Grace,’ he said, ‘if ye write a letter to Rome you will—for I see not how ye may avoid it—reverse all your acts of this last twenty years.’
‘Your Grace,’ the King mocked him, ‘by your setting on of chains, crucifixes, phylacteries, and by your aping of monkish ways, ye have reversed—well ye know it—all my and thy acts of a long time gone.’
He cast himself back from the table into the leathern shoulder-straps of the chair.
‘And if,’ he continued with sardonic good-humour, ‘my fellow and servant may reverse my acts—videlicet, the King’s—wherefore shall not I—videlicet, the King—reverse what acts I will? It is to set me below my servants!’
‘I am minded to redd up my house!’ he repeated after a moment.
‘Please it, your Grace——’ the Archbishop muttered. His eyes were upon the door.
The King said, ‘Anan?’ He could not turn his bulky head, he would not move his bulky body.
‘My gentleman!’ the Archbishop whispered.
The King looked at the opposite wall and cried out—
‘Come in, Lascelles. I am about cleaning out some stables of mine.’
The door moved noiselessly and heavily back, taking the hangings with it; as if with the furtive eyes and feathery grace of a blonde fox Cranmer’s spy came round the great boards.
‘Ay! I am doing some cleansing,’ the King said again. ‘Come hither and mend thy pen to write.’
Against the King’s huge bulk—Henry was wearing purple and black upon that day—and against the Archbishop’s black and pillar-like form, Lascelles, in his scarlet, with his blonde and tender beard had an air of being quill-like. The bones of his knees through his tight and thin silken stockings showed almost as those of a skeleton; where the King had great chains of gilt and green jewels round his neck, and where the Archbishop had a heavy chain of silver, he had a thin chain of fine gold and a tiny badge of silver-gilt. He dragged one of his legs a little when he walked. That was the fashion of that day, because the King himself dragged his right leg, though the ulcer in it had been cured.
Sitting askew in his chair at the table, the King did not look at this gentleman, but moved the fingers of his outstretched hand in token that his crook of the leg was kneeling enough for him.
‘Take your tablets and write,’ Henry said; ‘nay, take a great sheet of parchment and write——’
‘Your Grace,’ he added to the Archbishop, ‘ye are the greatest penner of solemn sentences that I have in my realm. What I shall say roughly to Lascelles you shall ponder upon and set down nobly, at first in the vulgar tongue and then in fine Latin.’ He paused and added—
‘Nay; ye shall write it in the vulgar tongue, and the Magister Udal shall set it into Latin. He is the best Latinist we have—better than myself, for I have no time——’
Lascelles was going between a great cabinet with iron hinges and the table. He fetched an inkhorn set into a tripod, a sandarach, and a roll of clean parchment that was tied around with a green ribbon.
Upon the gold and red of the table he stretched out the parchment as if it had been a map. He mended his pen with a little knife and kneeled down upon the rushes beside the table, his chin level with the edge. His whole mind appeared to be upon keeping the yellowish sheet straight and true upon the red and gold, and he raised his eyes neither to the Archbishop’s white face nor yet to the King’s red one.
Henry stroked the short hairs of his neck below the square grey beard. He was reflecting that very soon all the people in that castle, and very soon after, most of the people in that land would know what he was about to say.
‘Write now,’ he said. ‘”Henry—by the grace of God—Defender of the Faith—King, Lord Paramount.”’ He stirred in his chair.
‘Set down all my styles and titles: “Duke Palatine—Earl—Baron—Knight”—leave out nothing, for I will show how mighty I am.’ He hummed, considered, set his head on one side and then began to speak swiftly—
‘Set it down thus: “We, Henry, and the rest, being a very mighty King, such as few have been, are become a very humble man. A man broken by years, having suffered much. A man humbled to the dust, crawling to kiss the wounds of his Redeemer. A Lord of many miles both of sea and land.” Why, say—
‘”Guide and Leader of many legions, yet comes he to thee for guidance.” Say, too, “He who was proud cometh to thee to regain his pride. He who was proud in things temporal cometh to thee that he may once more have the pride of a champion in Christendom——”’
He had been speaking as if with a malicious glee, for his words seemed to strike, each one, into the face of the pallid figure, darkly standing before him. And he was aware that each word increased the stiff and watchful constraint of the figure that knelt beside the table to write. But suddenly his glee left him; he scowled at the Archbishop as if Cranmer had caused him to sin. He pulled at the collar around his throat.
‘No,’ he cried out, ‘write down in simple words that I am a very sinful man. Set it down that I grow old! That I am filled with fears for my poor soul! That I have sinned much! That I recall all that I have done! An old man, I come to my Saviour’s Regent upon earth. A man aware of error, I will make restitution tenfold! Say I am broken and aged and afraid! I kneel down on the ground——’
He cast his inert mass suddenly a little forward as if indeed he were about to come on to his knees in the rushes.
‘Say——’ he muttered—’say——’
But his face and his eyes became suffused with blood.
‘It is a very difficult thing,’ he uttered huskily, ‘to meddle in these sacred matters.’
He fell heavily back into his chair-straps once more.
‘I do not know what I will have you to say,’ he said.
He looked broodingly at the floor.
‘I do not know,’ he muttered.
He rolled his eyes, first to the face of the Archbishop, then to Lascelles—
‘Body of God—what carved turnips!’ he said, for in the one face there was only panic, and in the other nothing at all. He rolled on to his feet, catching at the table to steady himself.
‘Write what you will,’ he called, ‘to these intents and purposes. Or stay to write—I will send you a letter much more good from the upper rooms.’
Cranmer suddenly stretched out, with a timid pitifulness, his white hands. But, rolling his huge shoulders, like a hastening bear, the King went over the rushes. He pulled the heavy door to with such a vast force that the latch came again out of the hasp, and the door, falling slowly back and quivering as if with passion, showed them his huge legs mounting the little staircase.
A long silence fell in that dim room. The Archbishop’s lips moved silently, the spy’s glance went, level, along his parchment. Suddenly he grinned mirthlessly and as if at a shameless thought.
‘The Queen will write the letter his Grace shall send us,’ he said.
Then their eyes met. The one glance, panic-stricken, seeing no issue, hopeless and without resource, met the other—crafty, alert, fox-like, with a dance in it. The glances transfused and mingled. Lascelles remained upon his knees as if, stretching out his right knee behind him, he were taking a long rest.
It was almost within earshot of these two men in their dim cell that the Queen walked from the sunlight into shadow and out again. This great terrace looked to the north and west, and, from the little hillock, dominating miles of gently rising ground, she had a great view over rolling and very green country. The original builders of the Castle of Pontefract had meant this terrace to be flagged with stone: but the work had never been carried so far forward. There was only a path of stone along the bowshot and a half of stone balustrade; the rest had once been gravel, but the grass had grown over it; that had been scythed, and nearly the whole space was covered with many carpets of blue and red and other very bright colours. In the left corner when you faced inwards there was a great pavilion of black cloth, embroidered very closely with gold and held up by ropes of red and white. Though forty people could sit in it round the table, it appeared very small, the walls of the castle towered up so high. They towered up so high, so square, and so straight that from the terrace below you could hardly hear the flutter of the huge banner of St George, all red and white against the blue sky, though sometimes in a gust it cracked like a huge whip, and its shadow, where it fell upon the terrace, was sufficient to cover four men.
To take away from the grimness of the flat walls many little banners had been suspended from loopholes and beneath windows. Swallow-tailed, long, or square, they hung motionless in the shelter, or, since the dying away of the great gale three days before, had looped themselves over their staffs. These were all painted green, because that was the Queen’s favourite colour, being the emblem of Hope.
A little pavilion, all of green silk, at the very edge of the platform, had all its green curtains looped up, so that only the green roof showed; and, within, two chairs, a great leathern one for the King, a little one of red and white wood for the Queen, stood side by side as if they conversed with each other. At the top of it was a golden image of a lion, and above the peak of the entrance another, golden too, of the Goddess Flora, carrying a cornucopia of flowers, to symbolise that this tent was a summer abode for pleasantness.
Here the King and Queen, for the four days that they had been in the castle, had delighted much to sit, resting after their long ride up from the south country. For it pleased Henry to let his eyes rest upon a great view of this realm that was his, and to think nothing; and it pleased Katharine Howard to think that now she swayed this land, and that soon she would alter its face.
They looked out, over the tops of the elm trees that grew right up against the terrace wall; but the land itself was too green, the fields too empty of dwellings. There was no one but sheep between all the hedgerows: there was, in all the wide view, but one church tower, and where, in place and place, there stood clusters of trees as if to shelter homesteads—nearly always the homesteads had fallen to ruin beneath the boughs. Upon one ridge one could see the long walls of an unroofed abbey. But, to the keenest eye no men were visible, save now and then a shepherd leaning on his crook. There was no ploughland at all. Now and then companies of men in helmets and armour rode up to or away from the castle. Once she had seen the courtyard within the keep filled with cattle that lowed uneasily. But these, she had learned, had been taken from cattle thieves by the men of the Council of the Northern Borders. They were destined for the provisioning of that castle during her stay there, they being forfeit, whether Scotch or English.
‘Ah,’ she said, ‘whilst his Grace rides north to meet the King’s Scots I will ride east and west and south each day.’
At that moment, whilst the King had left Cranmer and his spy and, to regain his composure, was walking up and down in her chamber, she was standing beside the Duke of Norfolk about midway between the end of the terrace and the little green pavilion.
She was all in a dark purple dress, to please the King whose mood that colour suited; and the Duke’s yellow face looked out above a suit all of black. He wore that to please the King too, for the King was of opinion that no gathering looked gay in its colours that had not many men in black amongst the number.
‘You do not ride north with his Grace?’
He leaned upon his two staves, one long and of silver, the other shorter and gilt; his gown fell down to his ankles, his dark and half-closed eyes looked out at a tree that, struck lately by lightning, stretched up half its boughs all naked from a little hillock beside a pond a mile away.
‘So it is settled between his Grace and me,’ she said. She did not much like her uncle, for she had little cause. But, the King being away, she walked with him rather than with another man.
‘I ask, perforce,’ he said, ‘for I have much work in the ordering of your progresses.’
‘We meant that you should have that news this day,’ she said.
He shot one glance at her face, then turned his eyes again upon the stricken tree. Her face was absolutely calm and without expression, as it had been always when she had directed him what she would have done. He could trace no dejection in it: on the other hand, he gave her credit for a great command over her features. That he had himself. And, in the niece’s eyes, as they moved from the backs of a flock of sheep to the dismantled abbey on the ridge, there was something of the enigmatic self-containment that was in the uncle’s steady glance. He could observe no dejection, and at that he humbled himself a little more.
‘Ay,’ he said, ‘the ordering of your progresses is a heavy burden. I would have you commend what I have done here.’
She looked at him, at that, as if with a swift jealousy. His eyes were roving upon the gay carpets, the pavilions, and the flags against the grim walls, depending in motionless streaks of colour.
‘The King’s Grace’s self,’ she said, ‘did tell me that all these things he ordered and thought out for my pleasuring.’
Norfolk dropped his eyes to the ground.
‘Aye,’ he said, ‘his Grace ordered them and their placing. There is no man to equal his Grace for such things; but I had the work of setting them where they are. I would have your favour for that.’
She appeared appeased and gave him her hand to kiss. There was a little dark mole upon the third finger.
‘The last niece that I had for Queen,’ he said, ‘would not suffer me to kiss her hand.’
She looked at him a little absently, for, because since she had been Queen—and before—she had been a lonely woman, she was given to thinking her own thoughts whilst others talked.
She was troubled by the condition of her chief maid Margot Poins. Margot Poins was usually tranquil, modest, submissive in a cheerful manner and ready to converse. But of late she had been moody, and sunk in a dull silence. And that morning she had suddenly burst out into a smouldering, heavy passion, and had torn Katharine’s hair whilst she dressed it.
‘Ay,’ Margot had said, ‘you are Queen: you can do what you will. It is well to be Queen. But we who are dirt underfoot, we cannot do one single thing.’
And, because she was lonely, with only Lady Rochford, who was foolish, and this girl to talk to, it had grieved the Queen to find this girl growing so lumpish and dull. At that time, whilst her hair was being dressed, she had answered only—
‘Yea; it is good to be a Queen. But you will find it in Seneca——’ and she had translated for Margot the passage which says that eagles are as much tied by weighty ropes as are finches caught in tiny fillets.
‘Oh, your Latin,’ Margot had said. ‘I would I had never heard the sound of it, but had stuck to clean English.’
Katharine imagined then that it was some new flame of the Magister Udal’s that was troubling the girl, and this troubled her too, for she did not like that her maids should be played with by men, and she loved Margot for her past loyalties, readiness, and companionship.
She came out of her thoughts to say to her uncle, remembering his speech about her hands—
‘Aye; I have heard that Anne Boleyn had six fingers upon her right hand.’
‘She had six upon each, but she concealed it,’ he answered. ‘It was her greatest grief.’
Katharine realised that his sardonic tone, his bitter yellow face, the croak in his voice, and his stiff gait—all these things were signs of his hostility to her. And his mention of Anne Boleyn, who had been Queen, much as she was, and of her bitter fate, this mention, if it could not be a threat, was, at least, a reminder meant to give her fears and misgiving. When she had been a child—and afterwards, until the very day when she had been shown for Queen—her uncle had always treated her with a black disdain, as he treated all the rest of the world. When he had—and it was rarely enough—come to visit her grandmother, the old Duchess of Norfolk, he had always been like that. Through the old woman’s huge, lonely, and ugly halls he had always stridden, halting a little over the rushes, and all creatures must keep out of his way. Once he had kicked her little dog, once he had pushed her aside; but probably, then, when she had been no more than a child, he had not known who she was, for she had lived with the servants and played with the servants’ children, much like one of them, and her grandmother had known little of the household or its ways.
She answered him sharply—
‘I have heard that you were no good friend to your niece, Anne Boleyn, when she was in her troubles.’
He swallowed in his throat and gazed impassively at the distant oak tree, nevertheless his knee trembled with fury. And Katharine knew very well that if, more than another, he took pleasure in giving pain with his words, he bore the pain of other’s words less well than most men.
‘The Queen Anne,’ he said, ‘was a heretic. No better was she than a Protestant. She battened upon the goods of our Church. Why should I defend her?’
‘Uncle,’ she said, ‘where got you the jewel in your bonnet?’
He started a little back at that, and the small veins in his yellow eye-whites grew inflamed with blood.
‘Queen——’ he brought out between rage and astonishment that she should dare the taunt.
‘I think it came from the great chalice of the Abbey of Rising,’ she said. ‘We are valiant defenders of the Church, who wear its spoils upon our very brows.’
It was as if she had thrown down a glove to him and to a great many that were behind him.
She knew very well where she stood, and she knew very well what her uncle and his friends awaited for her, for Margot, her maid, brought her alike the gossip of the Court and the loudly voiced threats and aspirations of the city. For the Protestants—she knew them and cared little for them. She did not believe there were very many in the King’s and her realm, and mostly they were foreign merchants and poor men who cared little as long as their stomachs were filled. If these had their farms again they would surely return to the old faith, and she was minded to do away with the sheep. For it was the sheep that had brought discontent to England. To make way for these fleeces the ploughmen had been dispossessed.
It was natural that Protestants should hate her; but with Norfolk and his like it was different. She knew very well that Norfolk came there that day and waited every day, watching anxiously for the first sign that the King’s love for her should cool. She knew very well that they said in the Court that with the King it was only possession and then satiety. And she knew very well that when Norfolk’s eyes searched her face it was for signs of dismay and of discouragement. And when Norfolk had said that he himself had placed the banners, the tents, the pavilions and carpets that made gay all that grim terrace of the air, he was essaying to make her think that the King was abandoning the task of doing her honour. This had made her angry, for it was such folly. Her uncle should have known that the King had discussed all these things with her, asking her what she liked, and that all these bright colours and these plaisaunces were what her man had gallantly thought out for her. She carried her challenge still further.
‘It ill becomes us Howards and all like us,’ she said, ‘to talk of how we will defend the Church of God——’
‘I am a swordsman only,’ he said. ‘Give me that——’
She was not minded to listen to him.
‘It becomes us ill,’ she said; ‘and I take shame in it. For, a very few years agone we Howards were very poor. Now we are very rich—though it is true that my father is still a very poor man, and your stepmother, my grandmother, has known hard shifts. But we Howards, through you who are our head, became amongst the richest in the land. And how?’
‘I have done services——’ the Duke began.
‘Why, there has been no new wealth made in this realm,’ she said; ‘it came from the Church. Consider what you have had of this Abbey of Risings that I speak of, because I knew it well as a child, and saw many times then, sparkling in that which held the blood of my Saviour, the jewel that is now in your cap.’
The Abbey of Risings, after the visitors had been to it and the monks had been driven out, had fallen to the Duke of Norfolk. And his men had stripped the lead from the roofs, the glass from the windows, the very tiles from the floor. And this little abbey was only one of many, large and small, that had fallen to the Duke, so that it was true enough that, through him, the Howards had become a very rich family.
Norfolk burst into a sudden speech—
‘I hold these things only as a trust,’ he said. ‘I am ready to restore.’
‘Why, that is very well,’ Katharine said; ‘and I have hopes that soon you will be called to make that restoration to your God.’
Norfolk looked at the square toes of his shoes for a long time.
‘Will you have all things to be given back?’ he said at last after he had thought much.
‘The King will have all things be as they were before the Queen Katharine, my namesake of Aragon, was undone,’ Katharine answered. ‘And me he will have to take her place so that all things shall be as before they were.’
The Duke, leaning on his silver and gold staves, shrugged his shoulders very slowly.
‘This will make a very great confusion,’ he said.
‘Ay,’ Katharine answered, ‘there will a very many be confounded, and a great number of hundreds be much annoyed.’
She broke in again upon his slow meditations—
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘this is a very pitiful thing! Privy Seal that is dead and done with worked with a very great cunning. Well he knew that for most men the heart resideth in the pocket. Therefore, though ye said all that he rode this land with a bridle of iron, he was very careful to stop all your mouths alike with pieces of gold. It was not only to his friends that he gave what had been taken from God, but he was very careful that much also should fall into the greedy mouths of those that cried out. If he had not done this, do you think that he would have remained so long above the earth that he made weary? No. But since he made all rich alike with this plunder, so there was no man, either Catholic or Lutheran, very anxious to have him away. And, now that he is dead he worketh still. For who among you lords that do call yourselves sons of the Church, but holdeth of the Church’s goods? Oh, bethink you! bethink you! The moment is at hand when ye may work restoration. See that ye do it willingly and with good hearts, smoothing and making plain the way by which the bruised feet of our Saviour shall come across this, His land.’
Norfolk kept his eyes upon the ground.
‘Why, for me,’ he said, ‘I am very willing. This day I will send to set clerks at work discovering that which is mine and that which came from the Church; but I think you will find some that will not do it so eagerly.’
She believed him very little; and she said—
‘Why, if you will do this thing I think there will not many be behindhand.’
He did what he could to conceal his wincing, and her voice changed its tone.
‘Sir,’ she said, and she was eager and pleading, ‘you have many men that take counsel with you, for I trow that you and my Lord of Winchester do lead such lords as be Catholic in this realm. I know very well that you and my Lord Bishop of Winchester and such Catholic lords would have me to be your puppet and so work as you would have me, giving back to the Church such things as have fallen to Protestants or to men that ye mislike. But that may not be, for, since I owe mine advancement not to you, nor to mine own efforts, but to God alone, so to God alone do I owe fealty.’
She stretched out towards him the hand that he had kissed. The tail of her coif fell almost to her feet; her body in the fresh sunlight was all cased in purple velvet, only the lawn of her undershirt showed, white and tremulous at her wrists and her neck; and, fair and contrasted with the gold of her hair, her face came out of its abstraction, to take on a pitiful and mournful earnestness.
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘if you shall speak for God in the councils that you will hold, believe that your rewards shall be very great. I think that you have been a man of a very troubled mind, for you have thought only or mostly of the affairs of this world. But do now this one good stroke for God His piteous sake, and such a peace shall descend upon you as you have never yet known. You shall have no more griefs; you shall have no more fears. And that is better than the jewels of chalices, and than much lead from the roofs of abbeys. Speak you thus in these councils that you shall hold, give you such advice to them that come to you seeking it, and this I promise you—for it is too little a thing to promise you the love of a Queen and a King’s favour, though that too ye shall not lack—but this I promise you, that there shall descend upon your heart that most blessed miracle and precious wealth, the peace of God.’
When Henry was calmed by his pacing in her chamber he came out to her in the sunlight, rolling and bear-like, and so huge that the terrace seemed to grow smaller.
‘Chuck,’ he said to her, ‘I ha’ done a thing to pleasure thee.’ He moved two fingers upwards to save the Duke of Norfolk from falling to his knees, caught Katharine by the elbow, and, turning upon himself as on a huge pivot, swung her round him so that they faced the pavilion. ‘Sha’t not talk with a citron-faced uncle,’ he said; ‘sha’t save sweet words for me. I will tell thee what I ha’ done to pleasure thee.’
‘Save it a while and do another ere ye tell me,’ she said.
‘Now, what is your reasoning about that, wise one?’ he asked.