In turning, Norfolk came against them at the very end of the path. The man'_reen coat was spotted with filth, one of his sleeves was torn off and dangle_bout his heel. The mule's knees were cut, and the woman trembled with he_idden face and shrinking figure.
They made him choke with rage and fear. Some other procession might have com_gainst these vagabonds, and the blame would have been his. It disgusted hi_hat they were within a yard of himself.
'Are there no side paths?' he asked harshly.
Culpepper blazed round upon him:
'How might I know? Why sent you no guide?' His vivid red beard was matted int_ails, his face pallid and as if blazing with rage. The porter had turned the_oose into the empty garden.
'Kat is sore hurt,' he mumbled, half in tears. 'Her arm is welly broken.' H_lared at the Duke. 'Care you no more for your own blood and kin?'
'Who is your Kat? Can I know all the Howards?'
'Aye, we may trust you not to succour your brother's children.'
The Duke said:
'Why, she shall back to the palace. They shall comfort her.'
'That shall she not,' Culpepper flustered. 'Sh'ath her father's commands t_asten to Dover.'
The Duke caught her eyes in the fur hood that hid her face like a Mooris_oman's veil. They were large, grey and arresting beneath the pallor of he_orehead. They looked at him, questioning and judging.
'Wilt not come to my lodging?' he asked.
'Aye, will I,' came a little muffled by the fur.
'That shall she not,' Culpepper repeated.
The Duke looked at him with gloomy and inquisitive surprise.
'Aye, I am her mother's cousin,' he said. 'I fend for her, which you hav_ever done. Her father's house is burnt by rioters, and her men are joined i_he pillaging. But I'll warrant you knew it not.'
Katharine Howard with her sound hand was trying to unfasten her hood, hastil_nd eagerly.
'Wilt come?' the Duke asked hurriedly. 'This must be determined.'
Culpepper hissed: 'By the bones of St. Nairn she shall not.' She lifted he_aimed hand involuntarily, and, at the sear of pain, her eyes closed.
Immediately Culpepper was beside her knees, supporting her with his arms an_uttering sounds of endearment and despair.
The Duke, hearing behind him the swish pad of heavy soft shoes, as if a bea_ere coming over the pavement, faced the King.
'This is my brother's child,' he said. 'She is sore hurt. I would not leav_er like a dog,' and he asked the King's pardon.
'Why, God forbid,' the King said. 'Your Grace shall succour her.' Culpeppe_ad his back to them, caring nothing for either in his passion. Henry said:
'Aye, take good care for her,' and passed on with Privy Seal on his arm.
The Duke heaved a sigh of relief. But he remembered again that Anne of Cleve_as coming, and his black anger that Cromwell should thus once again have th_ing thrown back to him came out in his haughty and forbidding tone t_ulpepper:
'Take thou my niece to the water-gate. I shall send women to her.' He hastene_rostily up the path to be gone before Henry should return again.
Culpepper resolved that he would take barge before ever the Duke could send.
But the mule slewed right across the terrace; his cousin grasped the brute'_eck and her loosened hood began to fall back from her head.
The King, standing twenty yards away, with his hand shaking Cromwell'_houlder, was saying:
'See you how grey I grow.'
The words came hot into a long harangue. He had been urging that he must hav_ore money for his works at Calais. He was agitated because a French chalk pi_utside the English lines had been closed to his workmen. They must brin_halk from Dover at a heavy cost for barges and balingers. This was what i_as to quarrel with France.
Cromwell had his mind upon widening the breach with France. He said that _oll tax might be levied on the subjects of Charles and Francis then i_ondon. There were goldsmiths, woolstaplers, horse merchants, whore-masters, painters, musicians and vintners… .
The King's eyes had wandered to the grey river, and then from a deep and mood_bstraction he had blurted out those words.
Henry was very grey, and his face, inanimate and depressed, made him seem wor_nd old enough. Cromwell was not set to deny it. The King had his glass… .
He sighed a little and began:
'The heavy years take their toll.'
Henry caught him up suddenly:
'Why, no. It is the heavy days, the endless nights. You can sleep, you.' Bu_im, the King, incessant work was killing.
'You see, you see, how this world will never let me rest.' In the long, blac_ights he started from dozing. When he took time to dandle his little son _anic would come over him because he remembered that he lived among traitor_nd had no God he could pray to. He had no mind to work… .
Cromwell said that there was no man in England could outwork his King.
'There is no man in England can love him.' His distracted eyes fell upon th_oman on the mule. 'Happy he whom a King never saw and who never saw King,' h_uttered.
The beast, inspired with a blind hatred of Culpepper, was jibbing across th_errace, close at hand. Henry became abstractedly interested in the struggle.
The woman swayed forward over her knees.
'Your lady faints,' he called to Culpepper.
In his muddled fury the man began once again trying to hold her on the animal.
It was backing slowly towards a stone seat in the balustrade, and man an_oman swayed and tottered together.
The King said:
'Let her descend and rest upon the seat.'
His mind was swinging back already to his own heavy sorrows. On the stone sea_he woman's head lay back upon the balustrade, her eyes were closed and he_ace livid to the sky. Culpepper, using his teeth to the finger ends, tore th_loves from his hands.
Henry drew Cromwell towards the gatehouse. He had it dimly in his mind to sen_ne of his gentlemen to the assistance of that man and woman.
'Aye, teach me to sleep at night,' he said. 'It is you who make me work.'
'It is for your Highness' dear sake.'
'Aye, for my sake,' the King said angrily. He burst into a sudden invective:
'Thou hast murdered a many men … for my sake. Thou hast found out plots tha_ere no plots: old men hate me, old mothers, wives, maidens, harlots… . Why, if I be damned at the end thou shalt escape, for what thou didst thou dids_or my sake? Shall it be that?' He breathed heavily. 'My sins are thy glory.'
They reached the long wall of the gatehouse and turned mechanically. A barg_t the river steps was disgorging musicians with lutes like half melons set o_taves, horns that opened bell mouths to the sky, and cymbals that clanged i_he rushing of the river. With his eyes upon them Henry said: 'A common ma_ay commonly choose his bedfellow.' They had reminded him of the Queen fo_hose welcome they had been commanded.
Cromwell swept his hand composedly round the half horizon that held th_alace, the grey river and the inlands.
'Your Highness may choose among ten thousand,' he answered.
The sound of a horn blown faintly to test it within the gatehouse, the tinkl_f a lutestring, brought to the King's lips: 'Aye. Bring me music that shal_harm my thoughts. You cannot do it.'
'A Queen is in the nature of a defence, a pledge, a cement, the keystone of _ulwark,' Cromwell said. 'We know now our friends and our foes. You may res_rom this onwards.'
He spoke earnestly: This was the end of a long struggle. The King should hav_is rest.
They moved back along the terrace. The woman's head still lay back, her chi_howed pointed and her neck, long, thin and supple. Culpepper was bending ove_er, sprinkling water out of his cap upon her upturned face.
The King said to Cromwell: 'Who is that wench?' and, in the same tone: 'Aye, you are a great comforter. We shall see how the cat jumps,' and then, answering his own question, 'Norfolk's niece?'
His body automatically grew upright, the limp disappeared from his gait and h_oved sturdily and gently towards them.
Culpepper faced round like a wild cat from a piece of meat, but seeing th_reat hulk, the intent and friendly eyes, the gold collar over the chest, th_eavy hands, and the great feet that appeared to hold down the very stones o_he terrace, he stood rigid in a pose of disturbance.
'Why do ye travel?' the King asked. 'This shall be Katharine Howard?'
Culpepper's hushed but harsh voice answered that they came out of Lincolnshir_n the Norfolk border. This was the Lord Edmund's daughter.
'I have never seen her,' the King said.
'Sh'ath never been in this town.'
The King laughed: 'Why, poor wench!'
'Sh'ath been well schooled,' Culpepper answered proudly, 'hath had mastern, hath sung, hath danced, hath your Latin and your Greek… . Hath ten daughters, her father.'
The King laughed again: 'Why, poor man!'
'Poorer than ever now,' Culpepper muttered. Katharine Howard stirred uneasil_nd his face shot round to her. 'Rioters have brent his only house and waste_ll his sheep.'
The King frowned heavily: 'Anan? Who rioted?'
'These knaves that love not our giving our ploughlands to sheep,' Culpeppe_aid. 'They say they starved through it. Yet 'tis the only way to wealth. _ad all my wealth by it. By now 'tis well gone, but I go to the wars to get m_ore.'
'Rioters?' the King said again, heavily.
''Twas a small tulzie—a score of starved yeomen here and there. I kille_even. The others were they that were hanged at Norwich… . But the barns wer_rent, the sheep gone, and the house down and the servants fled. I am he_ousin of the mother's side. Of as good a strain as Howards be.'
Henry, with his eyes still upon them, beckoned behind his back for Cromwell t_ome. A score or so of poor yeomen, hinds and women, cast out of thei_enancies that wool might be grown for the Netherlands weavers, starving, desperate, and seeing no trace of might and order in their hidden lands, ha_anded, broken a few hedges and burnt a few barns before the posse of th_ountry could come together and take them.
The King had not heard of it or had forgotten it, because such risings were s_requent. His brows came down into portentous and bulging knots, his eyes wer_eiled and threatening towards the woman's face. He had conceived that a grea_ebellion had been hidden from his knowledge.
She raised her head and shrieked at the sight of him, half started to he_eet, and once more sank down on the bench, clasping at her cousin's hand. H_aid:
'Peace, Kate, it is the King.'
She answered: 'No, no,' and covered her face with her hands.
Henry bent a little towards her, indulgent, amused, and gentle as if to _hild.
'I am Harry,' he said.
'There was a great crowd, a great cry. One smote me on the arm. And then thi_uiet here.'
She uncovered her face and sat looking at the ground. Her furs were all grey, she had had none new for four years, and they were tight to her young bod_hat had grown into them. The roses embroidered on her glove had com_nstitched, and, against the steely grey of the river, her face in it_hiteness had the tint of mother of pearl and an expression of engrossed an_rievous absence.
'I have fared on foul ways this journey,' she said.
'Thy father's barns we will build again,' the King answered. 'You shall hav_wice the sheep to your dower. Show me your eyes.'
'I had not thought to have seen the King so stern,' she answered.
Culpepper caught at the mule's bridle.
'Y' are mad,' he muttered. 'Let us begone.'
'Nay, in my day,' the King answered, 'y'ad found me more than kind.'
She raised her eyes to his face, steadfast, enquiring and unconcerned. He ben_is great bulk downwards and kissed her upon the temple.
'Be welcome to this place.' He smiled with a pleasure in his own affabilit_nd because, since his beard had pricked her, she rubbed her cheek. Culpeppe_aid:
'Come away. We stay the King's Highness.'
Henry said: 'Bide ye here.' He wished to hear what Cromwell might say of thes_owards, and he took him down the terrace.
Culpepper bent over her with his mouth opened to whisper.
'I am weary,' she said. 'Set me a saddle cushion behind my shoulders.'
He whispered hurriedly:
'I do not like this place.'
'I like it well. Shall we not see brave shews?'
'The mule did stumble on the threshold.'
'I marked it not. The King did bid us bide here.'
She had once more laid her head back on the stone balustrade.
'If thou lovest me… .' he whispered. It enraged and confused him to have t_peak low. He could not think of any words.
She answered unconcernedly:
'If thou lovest my bones … they ache and they ache.'
'I have sold farms to buy thee gowns,' he said desperately.
'I never asked it,' she answered coldly.
Henry was saying:
'Ah, Princes take as is brought them by others. Poor men be commonly at thei_wn choice.' His voice had a sort of patient regret. 'Why brought ye not suc_ wench?'
Cromwell answered that in Lincoln, they said, she had been a coin that woul_ot bear ringing.
'You do not love her house,' the King said. 'Y' had better have brought m_uch a one.'
Cromwell answered that his meaning was she had been won by others. The King'_ighness should have her for a wink.
Henry raised his shoulders with a haughty and angry shrug. Such a quarry wa_elow his stooping. He craved no light loves.
'I do not miscall the wench,' Cromwell answered. She was as her kind. Th_ing's Highness should find them all of a make in England.
'Y' are foul-mouthed,' Henry said negligently. ''Tis a well-spoken wench. Yo_hall find her a place in the Lady Mary's house.'
Cromwell smiled, and made a note upon a piece of paper that he pulled from hi_ocket.
Culpepper, his arms jerking angularly, was creaking out:
'Come away, a' God's name. By all our pacts. By all our secret vows.'
'Ay thou didst vow and didst vow,' she said with a bitter weariness. 'Wha_ast to shew? I have slept in filthy beds all this journey. Speak the Kin_ell. He shall make thee at a word.'
He spat out at her.
'Is thine eye cocked up to that level?… I am very hot, very choleric. Tho_ast seen me. Thou shalt not live. I will slay thee. I shall do such things a_ake the moon turn bloody red.'
'Aye art thou there?' she answered coldly. 'Ye have me no longer upon lon_eaths and moors. Mend thy tongue. Here I have good friends.'
Suddenly he began to entreat:
'Thy mule did stumble—an evil omen. Come away, come away. I know well tho_ovest me.'
'I know well I love thee too well,' she answered, as if in scorn of herself.
'Come away to thy father.'
'Why what a bother is this,' she said. 'Thou wouldst to the wars to get the_old? Thou wouldst trail a pike? Thou canst do little without the ear of som_aptain. Here is the great captain of them all.'
'I dare not speak here,' he muttered huskily. 'But this King… .' He paused an_dded swiftly: 'He is of an ill omen to all Katharines.'
'Why, he shall give me his old gloves to darn,' she laughed. 'Fond knave, thi_ing standeth on a mountain a league high. A King shall take notice of one fo_he duration of a raindrop's fall. Then it is done. One may make oneself er_t reach the ground, or never. Besides, 'tis a well-spoken elder. 'Tis th_pit of our grandfather Culpepper.'
When Henry came hurrying back, engrossed, to send Culpepper and the mule t_he gatehouse for a guide, she laughed gently for pleasure.
Culpepper said tremulously: 'She hath her father's commands to hasten t_over.'
'Her father taketh and giveth commands from me,' Henry answered, and his glov_licked once more towards the gate. He had turned his face away befor_ulpepper's hand grasped convulsively at his dagger and he had Katharin_oward at his side sweeping back towards Cromwell.
She asked, confidingly and curiously: 'Who is that lord?' and, after hi_nswer, she mused, 'He is no friend to Howards.'
'Nay, that man taketh his friends among mine,' he answered. He stopped t_egard her, his face one heavy and indulgent smile. The garter on his knee, broad and golden, showed her the words: ' _Y pense_ '; the collars moved u_nd down on his immense chest, the needlework of roses was so fine that sh_ondered how many women had sat up how many nights to finish it: but the ma_as grey and homely.
'I know none of your ways here,' she said.
'Never let fear blanch thy cheeks till we are no more thy friend,' h_eassured her. He composed one of his gallant speeches:
'Here lives for thee nothing but joy.' Pleasurable hopes should be he_omrades while the jolly sun shone, and sweet content at night her bedfellow… .
He handed her to the care of the Lord Cromwell to take her to the Lady Mary'_odgings. It was unfitting that she should walk with him, and, with his heav_nd bearlike gait, swinging his immense shoulders, he preceded them up th_road path.