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Chapter 1

  • In the great place of Smithfield, towards noon, Thomas Culpepper sat his hors_n the outskirts of the crowd. By his side Hogben, the gatewarden, had muc_do to hold his pikestaff across his horse's crupper in the thick of th_eople.
  • The pavement of heads filled the place—bare some of them, some of the_overed, according as their owners had cast their caps on high for joy at th_ishop of Worcester's words against the Papist that was to be burned, or a_hey pressed their thumbs harder down in disfavour and waited to shew thei_oy at the hanging of the three Protestants that should follow. In the centr_owered on high a great gallows from which depended a chain; and at the end o_he chain, half-hidden by the people, but shewing his shoulders and his head, a man in a friar's cowl. And, towering as high as the gallows, painted gree_s to its coat and limbs, but gilt in the helmet and brandishing a grea_pear, was the image called David Darvel Gatheren that the Papist Wels_dored. This image had been brought there that, in its burning, it migh_onsume the friar Forest. It gazed, red-cheeked and wooden, across th_unlight space at the pulpit of the Bishop of Worcester in his white cassoc_nd black hat, waving his white arms and exhorting the man in the gallows t_epent at the last moment. Some words of Latimer might now and again be heard; the chained friar stood upon the rungs of a ladder set against the gallow_ost; he hung down his head and shook it, but no word could be heard to com_rom his lips.
  • 'Damnable heretic and foul traitor!' Latimer's urgings came across the sea o_eads. 'Here sitteth his Majesty's council——' At these words went up a littl_uzz of question, but sufficient from all that great crowd to send as it wer_ wind that blew away the Bishop's words. For the style 'his Majesty' was s_ew to the land that people were questioning what new council this might be, or what lord's whose style they did not know. Latimer waved his arm behin_im, half turning, to indicate the King's men. These ministers, bravel_onneted so that the jewels sparkled, habited in brown so that the red clot_overing their tiers of seats shewed between their arms and shoulders, sat, like a gay bank of flowers above the lake of heads, surrounded by many othe_ords and ladies in shining colours. They sat there ready to sign the pardo_hat was prepared if the friar would be moved by fear or by the Bishop'_rgument to hang his head and recant.
  • The friar, truly, hung his head, clung to the rungs of the ladder, trembled s_hat all men might see, and once caught furiously at the iron chain and shoo_t; but no word came from his lips. Culpepper was bursting with pride an_atisfaction because he was a made man and would have all the world to kno_t. He swung his green bonnet round his red head and called for huzzays whe_he friar shewed fear. Hogben called for huzzays for Squahre Tom of Lincoln, and many men cheered. But the silence dropped again, and the Bishop's words, raised now very high, dominated the sunlight and eddied around the tall face_f the house fronts behind.
  • 'Here have sat the nobles of the realm and the King's Majesty's mos_onourable council only to have granted pardon to you, wretched creature, i_ut some spark of repentance would have happened in ye.' Hanging his cowle_oll beneath the beam that reached gigantic and black across the crowd, th_riar shook his head slowly. 'Declared to you your errors I have,' crie_atimer. 'Openly and manifestly by the scriptures of God, with many and godl_xhortations have I moved you to repentance. Yet will you neither hear no_peak——'
  • 'Bones of St. Nairn!' Culpepper cried; 'here is too much speaking and no work.
  • Huzzay! e caitiffs. Burn. Burn. Burn. For the honour of England.' And, starting from his figure at the verge of the crowd, cries went up of 'Huzzay!'
  • of 'Burn!' and 'St George for London!' and unquiet rumours and struggles an_aving in the crowd of heads, so that the Bishop's voice was not heard an_ore that day.
  • But through the crowd a silence fell as the image slowly and totteringly move_orward, ankle deep only in the crowd. Ropes from the figure's neck ran ou_nd tightened—some among the crowd began to sing the song against Wels_apists that ran—
  • > _'David Darvel Gatheren_ > _As sayeth the Welshmen_ > _Fetched outlaws out of hell!_ '
  • >
  • and the burden of it rose so loud that the image swayed over and fell unheard.
  • At that too a silence fell, and presently there came the sound of axe_hopping. The friar, swaying on his ladder, looked down and then made a grea_ign of the cross. The Bishop in his pulpit, raising his white arms in horro_nd imprecation, seemed to be giving the signal for new uproars.
  • Whilst he shouted with delight, Culpepper felt a man catch at his leg. H_icked his foot loose, but his hand on the bridle was clutched. There was _air man at his horse's shoulder that bore Privy Seal's lion badge upon hi_hest. His face was upturned, and in the clamour he spoke indistinguishabl_ords. Culpepper struck towards the mouth with his fist; the man shrank back, but stood, nevertheless, close still in the crowd. When the silence fel_gain, Culpepper could hear amongst the swift chopping of the axes the words—
  • 'I rede ye ride swiftly to Hampton. I am the Lord Cromwell's man.'
  • Culpepper brought his excited mind from the thought of the burning and the jo_f the day, with its crowd and its odour of men, and sunshine and tumult.
  • 'Ye say? Swine,' he shouted. 'Come aside!' He caught at the man's collar an_icked his horse and pulled at its jaws till it drew them out of the thi_rowd to a street's opening.
  • 'Sir,' the man said—he had a goodly cloth suit of dark green that spoke to hi_eing of weight in some house-hold—'ye are like to lose your farms at Bromle_n ye hasten not to Master Viridus, who holdeth the deedings to you.'
  • Culpepper uttered an inarticulate roar and smote his patient horse on the sid_f the head for two minutes of fierce blows, digging with his heels into th_irthings.
  • 'Sir,' the man said again, 'some lord will have these lands an ye come not t_ampton ere six of the clock. I know not the way of it that be a servant. Bu_aster Viridus sent me with this message.'
  • Already a thin swirl of blue smoke was ascending past the friar's figure t_he bright sky; it caressed the beam of the gallows and Culpepper's bloodsho_ye pursued it upwards.
  • 'Before God!' he muttered, 'I was set to see this burning. Ye have seen many; I never a one.' A new spasm of rage caught him: he dragged at his horse'_ead, and shouting, 'Gallop! gallop!' set off into the dark streets, his cron_ehind his back.
  • In the Poultry he knocked over a man in a red coat that had a gold chain abou_is neck; on the Chepe he jumped his horse across a pigman's booth—it brough_own Hogben, horse and pike; three drunken men were fighting in Paternoste_treet—Culpepper charged above their bodies; but very shortly he came throug_emple Bar and was in the marshes and fields. Well out between the hedgerow_e was aware that one galloped behind him. He drew a violent rein where th_ow Brook crossed the deep muddied road and looked back.
  • 'Sir,' he called, 'this night I will hold a mouse on a chain above a coa_ire. So I will see a burning, and my cousin Kat shall see it with me.' H_purred on again.
  • By the time he was come to Brentford four men, habited like the first, rod_ehind him. When he stayed to let his horse drink from the river opposit_ichmond Hill, he was aware that across the stream a pageant with sweet musi_arched a little beyond the further bank. He could see the tops of pikes an_ennons amid the tree trunks.
  • He muttered that such a pageant he would very soon make for himself; for, filled with the elation of his new magnificence, since Privy Seal was hi_riend and Viridus was earnest to do him favour, he imagined that no captai_or lord in that land soon should overpass him. For that any lord shoul_esire his new lands troubled him little; only he hastened to cut that lord'_hroat and to kiss his cousin Kat.
  • It was a quarter before six when he drew rein in the green yard that la_efore the King's arch in Hampton. There befel the strangest scuffle there; flaring for a moment and gone out like the gunpowder they sometimes lit i_aucers for sport. A man called Lascelles came slowly from under the arch t_eet him, and then, running over the green grass from the little side door, came the young Poins in red breeches, pulling off a red coat that he had ha_ut half the time to don and tugging at his sword whose hilt was caught in th_leeve hole. Even as he issued, Lascelles, walking slowly, began to run and t_all. Four other men of Privy Seal's ran from under the arch, and the four me_hat had followed behind him so far, closed their horses round his. The bo_ad his sword out and his coat gave as he ran. Lascelles closed near him o_he grass, stretched out a foot to trip, and the boy lay sprawling, his hand_tretched out, his sword three yards before him. The four men that had ru_rom the arch had him up upon his feet and held his arms when Culpepper ha_idden the hundred yards from the gate to them.
  • 'Why,' said Culpepper, gazing upon the boy's face, 'it was thee wouldst hav_y farms.' He spat in the boy's face and rode complacently under the archwa_here were many men of Privy Seal's in the side chambers and on the steps tha_an steeply to the King's new hall.
  • 'I do conceive now,' Culpepper, in descending from his horse, spoke t_ascelles, 'wherefore that knave would have had me stay in Calais and b_arder of barges. 'A would have my lands here.'
  • Word was given him that he must without delay go to the Sieur Viridus, and i_ high good humour he followed the lead of Lascelles through the rabbit warre_f small and new passages of the palace. In them it was already nearly dark.
  • It was in that way that, landing at the barge stage, a little stiff with th_old of his barge journey, Throckmorton came upon the young Poins in hi_carlet breeches, his face cut and bleeding in his contact with the earth, hi_word gone. Privy Seal's men that had fallen upon him had kicked him out o_he palace gates. They had no warrant yet to take him; the quarrel was none o_heirs. The boy was of the King's Guard, it was true, but his company lay the_t the Tower.
  • Throckmorton cursed at him when he heard his news; and when he heard tha_ulpepper was then in the palace where window lights already shone before him, he ran to the archway. He had no time for reflection save as he ran. Word wa_iven him in the archway itself that Privy Seal would see him instantly an_ith great haste and urgency. He asked only for news where Thomas Culpeppe_as, and ran, upon the disastrous hearing that Viridus had taken him up th_rivy stairway. And, in that darkness, thoughts ran in his head. Disaster wa_ere. But what? Privy Seal called for him. He had no time for Privy Seal.
  • Culpepper was gone to Kat Howard's room. Viridus there had taken him. Ther_as no other room up the winding staircase to which he could go. Here wa_isaster! For whether he stayed Culpepper or no, Privy Seal must know that h_ad betrayed him. As he ran swiftly the desperate alternative coursed in hi_ind. Rich, the Chancellor of the Augmentations, and he had their tale pat, that Privy Seal was secretly raising the realm against the King. He himsel_ad got good matter that morning listening to the treasonable talking of th_rinter Badge.
  • Several men in the stair angle would have stopped him when at last he was a_oot of the winding stairs. He whispered:
  • 'I be Throckmorton upon my master's business,' and was through and in th_arkness of the stairway.
  • Why was there no cresset? Why were there these men? It came into his mind tha_lready the King had heard Culpepper. Already Katharine was arrested. H_roaned as he mounted the stairs. For in that case, with those men behind him, he was in a gaol already. He paused to go back; then it came to him that, i_e could win forward and find the King, who alone, by giving ear, could sav_im, he would yet not know first how Katharine had fared. He had a grea_tabbing at his heart with that thought, and once more mounted.
  • From the door next hers there streamed a light. Hers was closed. He ran to i_nd knocked, leaning his head against the panels to listen. There was n_ound, no sound at all when he knocked again. It was intolerable. He thrus_he door open. No woman was there and no man. He went in. He thought: 'If th_oom be in disorder——'
  • He made out in the twilight that the room stood as always; the chair loome_here it should; there was a spark on the hearth; the books were ordered o_he table; no stool was overturned. He stood amid these things, his hear_eating tumultuously, his ears pricked up, stilling his breathing to listen, in the blue twilight, like a wild beast.
  • A voice said:
  • 'Body o' God! Throckmorton!' beneath its breath, the light of the next doo_rew large and smaller again; he caught from there the words: 'It i_hrockmorton.' And at the sound Throckmorton loosened his dagger in it_heath. Some glimmering of the plan reached him; they were awaitin_atharine's coming, and a great load fell from his mind. She was not ye_aken.
  • He paused to stroke his beard for fear it was disordered, pulled from over hi_houlder the medallion on the chain; it had flown there as he ran. He pushe_jar the next door a minute later, having thought many thoughts and appearin_tately and calm.
  • He replaced the door at its exact angle and gazed at the three silent men.
  • Thomas Culpepper, his brows knotted, his lips moving, was holding his hea_skew to see the measurements upon a map of his farm at Bromley. Tha_ascelles had gone out and come back saying that one Throckmorton was in th_ext room was nothing to him. The next room was nothing to him; he was ther_o hear of his farms.
  • Viridus, silent, dark and enigmatic, gazed at a spot upon the table; Lascelles, his mouth a little open, his eyes dilated, had his hands upon it.
  • Without speaking, Throckmorton noted that the room was empty save for th_able and benches; the hangings had been taken down; all the furnishings wer_one. That morning the room had been well filled, warm, and in the occupanc_f the Lady Deedes. Therefore Cromwell had worked this change. No other ha_his power. They waited, then, those three, for the coming of Katharine Howar_r the King. Lascelles shewed fear and surprise at his being there; therefor_ascelles was deeply concerned in this matter. Lascelles was in the service o_ranmer that morning; now he sat there. Thus he, too, for certain, was in thi_lan; he was a new servant to Privy Seal—and new servants are zealous. Wit_iridus he had had some talk of events. Therefore Lascelles was the greates_anger.
  • Throckmorton moved slowly behind Culpepper and sat down beside him; in hi_eft hand he had his small dagger, its blue blade protruding from the ham; Culpepper beside him was at his right. He said very softly in Italian t_ascelles:
  • 'Both your hands are upon the table; if you move one my dagger pierces you_ye to the brain. So also if you speak in the English language.'
  • Lascelles muttered: 'Judas! _Traditore!_ ' Viridus sat motionless, an_ulpepper moved his finger across the plan of the farm.
  • 'Here is the mixen,' he appealed to Viridus, who nodded.
  • It was as if Throckmorton, with his slow manner and low voice, was a frien_ho had come in to speak to Lascelles about the weather or the burnings. H_as no concern of Culpepper's, nor was Lascelles who had spoken no word a_ll.
  • Throckmorton kept his head turned towards Lascelles as if he were stil_ddressing him, and spoke in the same level voice, still in Italian.
  • 'Viridus, to thee I speak. This is a very great matter.' Unconsciously he use_he set form of words of Privy Seal. 'Consider well these things. The day o_ur master is nigh at an end. Rich, Chancellor of the Augmentations, thy cron_nd master, and my ally, hath made a plan to go with me to the King this nigh_ith witnesses and papers accusing Privy Seal of raising the land against hi_ighness. Will you join with us, or will you be lost with Privy Seal?'
  • Viridus kept his eyes upon the same spot of the table.
  • 'Tell me more,' he said. 'This matter is very weighty.' His tone was level, monotonous and still. He too might have been saying that the sunshine that da_ad been long.
  • 'A fad to talk Latin of ye courtiers,' Culpepper said with uninterested scorn.
  • 'Ye will forget God's language of English.' He slapped Throckmorton on th_leeve. 'See, what a fine farm I have for my deserts,' he said.
  • 'Ye shall have better,' Throckmorton said. 'I have moved the King in you_ehalf.' But he kept his eyes on Lascelles.
  • Culpepper cast back his cap from his eyes and leant away the better to sla_hrockmorton on the back.
  • 'Ye ha' heard o' my deeds,' he said.
  • 'All England rings with them,' Throckmorton said. He interjected, 'Still!
  • hound!' to Lascelles in Italian, and went on to Culpepper: 'I ha' moved th_ing to come this night to thy cousin's room hard by for I knew ye would go t_er. The King is hot to speak with thee. Comport thyself as I do bid thee an_rt a made man indeed.'
  • Culpepper laughed with hysterical delight.
  • 'By Cock!' he shouted. 'Master Viridus, thou art naught to this. Three farm_hall not content me nor yet ten.'
  • Throckmorton's eyes shot a glance at Viridus and back again to Lascelles'
  • face.
  • 'If you speak I slay you,' he said. Lascelles' eyes started from his head, hi_outh worked, and on the table his hands jerked convulsively. But Throckmorto_ad seen that Viridus still sat motionless.
  • 'By Cock!' Culpepper cried. 'By Guy and Cock! let me kiss thee.'
  • 'Sir,' Throckmorton said, 'I pray you speak no more words, not at all till _id you speak. I am a very great lord here; you shall observe gravity an_ecorum or never will I bring you to the King. You are not made for Courts.'
  • 'Oh, I kiss your hands,' Culpepper answered him. 'But wherefore have you _agger?'
  • 'Sir,' Throckmorton said again, 'I will have you silent, for if the Kin_hould pass the door he will be offended by your babble.' He interjected t_iridus, speaking in Italian, 'Speak thou to this fool and engage him t_hink. I can give you no more grounds, but you must quickly decide either t_o with Rich the Chancellor and myself or to remain the liege of the Priv_eal.'
  • Never once did he take his eyes from Lascelles, and the sweat stood upon hi_orehead. Once when Lascelles moved he slid the dagger along the table with _harp motion and a gasping of breath, as a pincer pressed to the death wil_ake a faint. Yet his voice neither raised itself nor fell one shade.
  • 'And if I will aid you in this, what reward do I get?' Viridus asked. He to_poke low and unmovedly, keeping his eyes upon the table.
  • 'The one-half of my enrichments for five years, the one-half of those of th_hancellor, and my voice for you with the King and with the new Queen.'
  • 'And if I will not go with you?'
  • 'Then when the King passeth this door I do cry out "Treason! treason!" an_ou, I, and this man, and this shall to-night sleep in the King's prison, no_n Privy Seal's. And I will have you think that I am sib and rib with Ka_oward who shall sway the King if her cousin be induced not to play th_east.'
  • Viridus spoke no word; but when Culpepper, idle and gaping, reached out hi_and to take the black flagon of wine that was between them under the candle_n the table, Viridus stretched forth his hand and clasped the bottle.
  • 'It is not expedient that you drink,' he said.
  • 'Why somever then?' Culpepper asked.
  • 'That neither do you make a beast of yourself if you come before the King'_reat majesty this night,' Viridus said in his cold and minatory voice, 'no_et smell beastly of liquors when you kiss the King his hand.'
  • Culpepper said:
  • 'By Cock! I had forgot the King's highness.'
  • 'See that you kneel before him and speak not; see that you raise your eyes no_rom the floor nor breathe loudly; see that when the King's high and awfu_ajesty dismisses you you go quietly.' Throckmorton spoke. 'See that you spea_ot with nor of your cousin. For so dreadful is a king, and this King mor_han others; and so terrible his wrath and desire of worship—and this King'_ore than others—that if ye speak above a whisper's sound, if ye act othe_han as a babe before its preceptor's rod, you are cast out utterly an_ndone. You shall never more have farms nor lands; you shall never more hav_oyance nor gladness; you shall rot forgotten in a hole as you had never don_rave things for the King's grace.'
  • 'By Cock!' Culpepper said, 'it seems it is easier to talk of a king than wit_ne.'
  • 'See that you remember it,' Throckmorton said, 'for with great trouble have _rought this King so far to talk with you!'
  • He moved his dagger yet nearer to Lascelles' form and held his finger to hi_ip. Viridus had never once moved; he stayed now as still as ever. Culpeppe_rammed his hand over his lips.
  • For from without there came the sound of voices and, in that dead silence, th_ustle of a woman's gown, swishing and soft. A deep voice uttered heavily:
  • 'Aye, I know your feelings. I have had my sadness.' It paused for a moment, and mouthed on: 'I can cap your Lucretius too with " _Usque adeo res humana_is abdita——_ "' It seemed that for a moment the speaker stayed before th_oor where all three held their breaths. 'I have read more of the Fathers, o_ate days, than of the writers profane.'
  • They heard the breathing of a heavy man who had mounted stairs. The voic_ounded more faintly:
  • 'Now you have naught further to think of than the goodly words o_cclesiastes: " _Et cognovi quod non esset melius, nisi laetare et… ._ "' Th_oice died dead away with the closing of the door. And as a torch passed, Throckmorton knew that the King had waited there whilst light was being mad_n Katharine's room. He said softly to Viridus:
  • 'Whilst I go unto them you shall hold this dagger against this fool's throat.
  • We gain as many hours as we may hold him from blabbing to Privy Seal. An_onsider that we must bring to the King Rich and Udal and many other witnesse_his night.'
  • 'Throckmorton,' Viridus said, 'before thou goest thou shalt satisfy me of man_hings. I have not yet given myself into thy hands.'