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Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard

Jean Plaidy

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Title Page


The King’s Pleasure

The King’s Secret Matter

Happiest of Women

No Other Will Than His

About the Author

A Reader’s Group Guide

An Excerpt From In The Courts of Love

Other books by Jean Plaidy

Copyright Page

Defiled is my name, full sore

Through cruel spite and false report,

That I may say for evermore,

Farewell to joy, adieu comfort.

For wrongfully ye judge of me;

Unto my fame a mortal wound,

Say what ye list, it may not be,

Ye seek for that shall not be found.

Written by ANNE BOLEYN in the Tower of London

The King’s Pleasure

IN THE SEWING-ROOM at Hever, Simonette bent over her work and, as she sat there, her back to the mullioned window through which streamed the hot afternoon sunshine—for it was the month of August and the sewing-room was in the front of the castle, overlooking the moat—a little girl of some seven years peeped round the door, smiled and advanced towards her. This was a very lovely little girl, tall for her age, beautifully proportioned and slender; her hair was dark, long and silky smooth, her skin warm and olive, her most arresting feature her large, long-lashed eyes. She was a precocious little girl, the most brilliant little girl it had ever been Simonette’s good fortune to teach; she spoke Simonette’s language almost as well as Simonette herself; she sang prettily and played most excellently those magical instruments which her father would have her taught.

Perhaps, Simonette had often thought, on first consideration it might appear that there was something altogether too perfect about this child. But no, no! There was never one less perfect than little Anne. See her stamp her foot when she wanted something really badly and was determined at all costs to get it; see her playing shuttlecock with the little Wyatt girl! She would play to win; she would have her will. Quick to anger, she was ever ready to speak her mind, reckless of punishment; she was strong-willed as a boy, adventurous as a boy, as ready to explore those dark dungeons that lay below the castle as her brother George or young Tom Wyatt. No, no one could say she was perfect; she was just herself, and of all the Boleyn children Simonette loved her best.

From whom, Simonette wondered, do these little Boleyns acquire their charm? From Sir Thomas, their father, who with the inheritance from his merchant ancestors had bought Blickling in Norfolk and Hever in Kent, as well as an aristocratic wife to go with them? But no! One could not say it came from Sir Thomas; for he was a mean man, a grasping man, a man who was determined to make a place for himself no matter at what cost to others. There was no warmth in his heart, and these young Boleyns were what Simonette would call warm little people. Reckless they might be; ambitious one could well believe they would be; but every one of them—Mary, George and Anne—were loving people; one could touch their hearts easily; they gave love, and so received it. And that, thought Simonette, is perhaps the secret of charm. Perhaps then from their lady mother? Well...perhaps a little. Though her ladyship had been a very pretty woman her charm was a fragile thing compared with that of her three children. Mary, the eldest, was very pretty, but one as French as Simonette must tremble more for Mary than for George and Anne. Mary at eleven was a woman already; vivacious and shallow as a pleasant little brook that babbled incessantly because it liked people to pause and say: “How pretty!” Unwise and lightsome, that was Mary. One trembled to think of the little baggage already installed in a foreign court where the morals—if one could believe all one heard—left much to be desired by a prim French governess. And handsome George, who had always a clever retort on his lips, and wrote amusing poetry about himself and his sisters—and doubtless rude poetry about Simonette—he had his share of the Boleyn charm. Brilliant were the two youngest; they recognized each other’s brilliance and loved each other well. How often had Simonette seen them, both here at Hever and at Blickling, heads close together, whispering, sharing a secret! And their cousins, the Wyatt children, were often with them, for the Wyatts were neighbors here in Kent as they were in Norfolk. Thomas, George and Anne; they were the three friends. Margaret and Mary Wyatt with Mary Boleyn were outside that friendship; not that they cared greatly, Mary Boleyn at any rate, for she could always amuse herself planning what she would do when she was old enough to go to court.

Anne came forward now and stood before her governess, her demure pose—hands behind her back—belying the sparkle in her lovely eyes. The pose was graceful as well as demure, for grace was as natural to Anne as breathing. She was unconsciously graceful, and this habit of standing thus had grown out of a desire to hide her hands, for on the little finger of her left one there grew the beginning of a sixth nail. It was not unsightly; it would scarcely be noticed if the glance were cursory; but she was a dainty child, and this difference in her—it could hardly be called a deformity—was most distasteful to her. Being herself, she had infused into this habit a charm which was apparent when she stood with others of her age; one thought then how awkwardly they stood, their hands hanging at their sides.

“Simonette,” she said in Simonette’s native French, “I have wonderful news! It is a letter from my father. I am to go to France.”

The sewing-room seemed suddenly unbearably quiet to Simonette; outside she heard the breeze stir the willows that dripped into the moat; the tapestry slipped from her fingers. Anne picked it up and put it on the governess’s lap. Sensitive and imaginative, she knew that she had broken the news too rashly; she was at once contrite, and flung her arms round Simonette’s brown neck.

“Simonette! Simonette! To leave you will be the one thing to spoil this news for me.”

There were real tears in her eyes, but they were for the hurt she had given Simonette, not for the inevitable parting; for she could not hide the excitement shining through her tears. Hever was dull without George and Thomas, who were both away continuing their education. Simonette was a darling; Mother was a darling; but it is possible for people to be darlings and at the same time be very, very dull; and Anne could not endure dullness.

“Simonette!” she said. “Perhaps it will be for a very short time.” She added, as though this should prove some consolation to the stricken Simonette, “I am to go with the King’s sister!”

Seven is so young! Even a precocious seven. This little one at the court of France! Sir Thomas was indeed an ambitious man. What did he care for these tender young things who, because they were of an unusual brilliance, needed special care! This is the end, thought Simonette. Ah, well! And who am I to undertake the education of Sir Thomas Boleyn’s daughter for more than the very early years of her life!

“My father has written, Simonette....He said I must prepare at once...”

How her eyes sparkled! She who had always loved the stories of kings and queens was now to take part in one herself; a very small part, it was true, for surely the youngest attendant of the princess must be a very small part; Simonette did not doubt that she would play it with zest. No longer would she come to Simonette with her eager questions, no longer listen to the story of the King’s romance with the Spanish princess. Simonette had told that story often enough. “She came over to England, the poor little princess, and she married Prince Arthur and he died, and she married his brother, Prince Henry...King Henry.” “Simonette, have you ever seen the King?” “I saw him at the time of his marriage. Ah, there was a time! Big and handsome, and fair of skin, rosy like a girl, red of hair and red of beard; the handsomest prince you could find if you searched the whole world.” “And the Spanish princess, Simonette?” Simonette would wrinkle her brows; as a good Frenchwoman she did not love the Spaniards. “She was well enough. She sat in a litter of cloth of gold, borne by two white horses. Her hair fell almost to her feet.” Simonette added grudgingly: “It was beautiful hair. But he was a boy prince; she was six years older.” Simonette’s mouth would come close to Anne’s ear: “There are those who say it is not well that a man should marry the wife of his brother.” “But this is not a man, Simonette. This is a king!”

Two years ago George and Thomas would sit in the window seats and talk like men about the war with France. Simonette did not speak of it; greatly she had feared that she, for the sins of her country, might be turned from the castle. And the following year there had been more war, this time with the treacherous Scots; of this Anne loved to talk, for at the battle of Flodden Field it was her grandfather the Duke of Norfolk and her two uncles, Thomas and Edmund, who had saved England for the King. The two wars were now satisfactorily concluded, but wars have reverberating consequences; they shake even the lives of those who believe themselves remote. The echoes extended from Paris and Greenwich to the quiet of a Kentish castle.

“I am to go in the train of the King’s sister who is to marry the King of France, Simonette. They say he is very, very old and...” Anne shivered. “I should not care to marry a very old man.”

“Nonsense!” said Simonette, rising and throwing aside her tapestry. “If he is an old man, he is also a king. Think of that!”

Anne thought of it, her eyes glistening, her hands clasped behind her back. What a mistake it is, thought Simonette, if one is a governess, to love too well those who come within one’s care.

“Come now,” she said. “We must write a letter to your father. We must express our pleasure in this great honor.”

Anne was running towards the door in her eagerness to speed up events, to bring about more quickly the exciting journey. Then she thought sadly once more of Simonette...dear, good, kind, but so dull Simonette. So she halted and went back and slipped one hand into that of her governess.

In their apartments at Dover Castle the maids of honor giggled and whispered together. The youngest of them, whom they patronized shamefully—more because of her youth than because she lacked their noble lineage—listened eagerly to everything that was said.

How gorgeous they were, these young ladies, and how different in their own apartments from the sedate creatures they became when they attended state functions! Anne had thought them too lovely to be real, when she had stood with them at the formal solemnization of the royal marriage at Greenwich, where the Duke of Longueville had acted as proxy for the King of France. Then her feet had grown weary with so much standing, and her eyes had ached with the dazzle, and in spite of all the excitement she had thought longingly of Simonette’s strong arms picking her up and carrying her to bed. Here in the apartment the ladies threw aside their brilliant clothes and walked about without any, discussing each other and the lords and esquires with a frankness astonishing—but at the same time very interesting—to a little girl of seven.

The King was at Dover, for he had accompanied his favorite sister to the coast; and here in the castle they had tarried a whole month, for outside the waves rose high against the cliffs, and the wind shrieked about the castle walls, rattling its windows and doors and bellowing down the great chimneys as if it mocked the plans of kings. Challengingly the wind and the waves tossed up the broken parts of ships along that coast, to show what happened to those who would ignore the sea’s angry mood. There was nothing to be done but wait; and in the castle the time was whiled away with masques, balls and banquets, for the King must be amused.

Anne had had several glimpses of him—a mountain of a man with fair, glowing skin and bright hair; when he spoke, his voice, which matched his frame, bellowed forth, and his laughter shook him; his jewel-trimmed clothes were part of his dazzling personality; men went in fear of him, for his anger came sudden as his laughter; and his little mouth, ready enough to smile at a jest which pleased him, could as readily become the most cruel in the world.

Here in the apartment the ladies talked constantly of the King, of his Queen, and—to them all just now the most fascinating of the royal family group—of Mary Tudor, whom they were accompanying across the Channel to Louis of France.

“Would it not be strange,” said Lady Anne Grey, “if my lady ran off with Suffolk!”

“Strange indeed!” answered her sister Elizabeth. “I would not care to be in her shoes, nor in my Lord Suffolk’s, if she were to do that. Imagine the King’s anger!”

Little Anne shivered, imagining it. She might be young, but she was old enough to sense the uneasy atmosphere that filled the castle. The waiting had been too long, and Mary Tudor—the loveliest creature, thought Anne, she had ever set eyes on—was wild as the storm that raged outside, and about as dependable as the English climate. Eighteen she was, and greatly loved by the King; she possessed the same auburn-colored hair, fair skin, blue eyes; the same zest for living. The resemblance between them was remarkable, and the King, it was said, was moved to great tenderness by her. Willful and passionate, there were two ingredients in her nature which mixed together to make an inflammable brew; one was her ambition, which made her eager to share the throne of France; the other was her passionate love for handsome Charles Brandon; and as her moods were as inconstant as April weather, there was danger in the air. To be queen to a senile king, or duchess to a handsome duke? Mary could not make up her mind which she wanted, and with her maids she discussed her feelings with passion, fretful uncertainty and Tudor frankness.

“It is well,” she had said to little Anne, for the child’s grace and precocity amused her, “that I do not have to make up my mind myself, for I trow I should not know which way to turn.” And she would deck herself with a gift of jewels from the King of France and demand that Anne should admire her radiant beauty. “Shall I not make a beautiful Queen of France, little Boleyn?” Then she would wipe her eyes. “You cannot know...how could you, how handsome he is, my Charles! You are but a child; you know nothing of the love of men. Oh, that I had him here beside me! I swear I would force him to take me here and now, and then perhaps the old King of France would not be so eager for me, eh, Anne?” She wept and laughed alternately; a difficult mistress.

How different the castle of Dover from that of Hever! How one realized, listening to this talk, of which one understood but half, that one was a child in worldly matters. What matter if one did speak French as well as the Ladies Anne and Elizabeth Grey! What was a knowledge of French when one was in almost complete ignorance of the ways of the world? One must learn by listening.

“The King, my dear, was mightily affected by the lady in scarlet. Did you not see?”

“And who was she?”

Lady Elizabeth put her fingers to her lips and laughed cunningly.

“What of the Queen?” asked little Anne Boleyn; which set the ladies laughing.

“The Queen, my child, is an old woman. She is twenty-nine years old.”

“Twenty-nine!” cried Anne, and tried to picture herself at that great age, but she found this impossible. “She is indeed an old woman.”

“And looks older than she is.”

“The King—he too is old,” said Anne.

“You are very young, Anne Boleyn, and you know nothing...nothing at all. The King is twenty-three years old, and that is a very good age for a man to be.”

“It seems a very great age,” said little Anne, and set them mocking her. She hated to be mocked, and reproved herself for not holding her tongue; she must be silent and listen; that was the way to learn. The ladies twittered together, whispering secrets which Anne must not hear. “Hush! She is but a child! She knows nothing...” But after awhile they grew tired of whispering.

“They say he has long since grown tired of her...”

“No son yet...no child of the marriage!”

“I have heard it whispered that she, having been the wife of his brother...”

“Hush! Do you want your head off your shoulders?”

It was interesting, every minute of it. The little girl was silent, missing nothing.

As she lay in her bed, sleeping quietly, a figure bent over her, shaking her roughly. She opened startled eyes to find Lady Elizabeth Grey bending over her.

“Wake up, Anne Boleyn! Wake up!”

Anne fought away sleep which was reluctant to leave her.

“The weather has changed,” said Lady Elizabeth, her teeth chattering with cold and excitement. “The weather has changed; we are leaving for France at once.”

It had been comforting to know her father was with her. Her grandfather was there also—her mother’s father, that was, the Duke of Norfolk—and with them sailed too her uncle, Surrey.

It was just getting light when they set off, being not quite four o’clock in the morning. The sea was calmer than Anne had seen it since her arrival at Dover. Mary was gay, fresh from the fond farewell kiss of her brother.

“I will have the little Boleyn to sit near me,” she had said. “Her quaintness amuses me.”

The boat rocked, and Anne shivered and thought, my father is sailing with us...and my uncle and my grandfather. But she was glad she was with Mary Tudor and not with any of these men, for she knew them little, and what time would such important people have to bestow on a seven-year-old girl, the least important in the entire retinue!

“How would you feel, Anne,” asked Mary, “if you were setting out to a husband you had never seen in the flesh?”

“I think I should be very frightened,” said Anne, “but I should like to be a queen.”

“Marry and you would! You are a bright little girl, are you not? You would like to be a queen! Do you think the old man will dote on me?”

“I think he will not be able to help himself.”

Mary kissed her.

“They say the French ladies are very beautiful. We shall see. Oh, Charles, Charles, if you were only King of France! But what am I, little Anne? Nothing but a clause in a treaty, a pawn in the game which His Grace, my brother, and the French King, my husband, play together....How the boat rocks!”

“The wind is rising again,” said Anne.

“My faith! You are right, and I like it not.”

Anne was frightened. Never had she known the like of this. The ship rocked and rolled as though it was out of control; the waves broke over it and crashed down on it. Anne lay below, wrapped in a cloak, fearing death and longing for it.

But when the sickness passed a little, and the sea still roared and it seemed that this inadequate craft would be overturned and all its crew and passengers sucked down to the bottom of the ocean, Anne began to cry because she now no longer wished to die. It is sad to die when one is but seven and the world is proving to be a colourful pageant in which one is destined to play a part, however insignificant. She thought longingly of the quiet of Hever, of the great avenues at Blickling, murmuring: “I shall never see them again. My poor mother will be filled with sorrow...George too; my father perhaps...if he survives, and Mary will hear of this and cry for me. Poor Simonette will weep for me and be even more unhappy than she was when she said goodbye.” Then Anne was afraid for her wickedness. “I lied to Simonette about the piece of tapestry. It did not hurt anyone that I should lie? But it was a lie, and I did not confess it. It was wrong to pull up the trap-door in the ballroom and show Margaret the dungeons, for Margaret was frightened; it was wrong to take her there and pretend to leave her....Oh, dear, if I need not die now, I will be so good. I fear I have been very wicked and shall burn in hell.”

Death was certain; she heard voices whispering that they had lost the rest of the convoy. Oh, to be so young, to be so full of sin, and to die!

But later, when the sickness had passed completely, her spirits revived, for she was by nature adventurous. It was something to have lived through this; even when the boat was run aground in Boulogne harbor, and Anne and the ladies were taken off into small waiting boats, her exhilaration persisted. The wind caught at her long black hair and flung it round her face, as though it were angry that the sea had not taken her and kept her forever; the salt spray dashed against her cheeks. She was exhausted and weary.

But a few days later, dressed in crimson velvet, she rode in the procession, on a white palfrey, towards Abbeville.

“How crimson becomes the little Boleyn!” whispered the ladies one to another; and were faintly jealous even though she were but a child.

When Anne came to the French court, it had not yet become the most scintillating and the gayest court in Europe; which reputation it was to acquire under Francois. Louis, the reigning king, was noted for his meanness; he would rather be called mean, he had said, than burden his people with taxes. He indulged in few excesses; he drank in moderation; he ate in moderation; he had a quiet and unimaginative mind; there was nothing brilliant about Louis; he was the essence of mediocrity. His motto was France first and France above all. His court still retained a good deal of that austerity, so alien to the temperament of its people, which had been forced on it during the life of his late queen; and his daughters, the little crippled Claude and young Renee were like their mother. It was small wonder that the court was all eagerness to fall under the spell of gorgeous Francois, the heir apparent. Francois traced his descent to the Duke of Orleans as did Louis, and though Francois was in the direct line of succession, he would only attain the throne if Louis had no son to follow him; and with his mother and sister, Francois impatiently and with exasperation awaited the death of the King who, in their opinion, had lived too long. Imagine their consternation at this marriage with a young girl! Their impatience turned to anger, their exasperation to fear.

Louise of Savoy, the mother of Francois, was a dark, swarthy woman, energetic in her ambition for her son—her Caesar, as she called him—passionate in her devotion to his interests. They were a strange family, this mother and her son and daughter; their devotion to each other had something of a frenzy in it; they stood together, a trinity of passionate devotion. Louise consulted the stars, seeking good omens for her son; Marguerite, Duchess of Alencon, one of the most intellectual women of her day, trembled at the threat to her brother’s accession to the throne; Francois himself, the youngest of the trio, twenty years old, swarthy of skin with his hooked nose and sensuous mouth, already a rake, taking, as it was said, his sex as he took his meals, was as devoted a member of the trinity as the other two. At fifteen years of age he had begun his amorous adventures; he was lavishly generous, of ready wit, a poet of some ability, an intellectual, and never a hypocrite. With him one love affair followed another, and he liked to see those around him indulging in similar pleasures. “Toujours l’amour!” cried Francois. “Hands off love!” Only fools were not happy, and what happiness was there to compare with the delight of satisfied love? Only the foolish did not use this gift which the kindliest gods had bestowed on mankind. Only blockheads prided themselves on their virtue. Another name for virginity was stupidity!

Louise looked on with admiration at her Caesar; Marguerite of Alencon said of her stupid husband: “Oh, why is he not like my brother!” And the court of France, tired of the niggardly Louis and the influence of the Queen whom they had called “the vestal,” awaited eagerly that day when Francois should ascend the throne.

And now the old King had married a young wife who looked as if she could bear many children; Louise of Savoy raged against the Kings of France and England. Marguerite grew pale, fearing that her beloved brother would be cheated of his inheritance. Francois said: “Oh, but how she is charming, this little Mary Tudor!” and he looked with distaste on his affianced bride, the little limping Claude.

Anne Boleyn was very sorry for Claude. How sad it was to be ill-favored, to look on while he who was to be your husband flitted from one beautiful lady to another like a gorgeous dragonfly in a garden of flowers! How important it was to be beautiful! She went on learning, by listening, her eyes wide to miss nothing.

Mary, the new French Queen, was wild as a young colt, and much more beautiful. Indiscreetly she talked to her attendants, mostly French now, for almost her entire retinue of English ladies had been sent home. The King had dismissed them; they made a fence about her, he said, and if she wanted advice, to whom should she go but to her husband? She had kept little Anne Boleyn, though. The King had turned his sallow face, on which death was already beginning to set its cold fingers, towards the little girl and shrugged his shoulders. A little girl of such tender years could not worry him. So Anne had stayed.

“He is old,” Mary murmured, “and he is all impatience for me. Oh, it can be amusing...he can scarcely wait...” And she went off into peals of laughter, reconstructing with actions her own coy reluctance and the King’s impatience.

“Look at the little Boleyn! What long ears she has! Wait till you are grown up, my child...then you will not have to learn by listening when you think you are not observed. I trow those beautiful black eyes will gain for you an opportunity to experience the strange ways of men for yourself.”

And Anne asked herself: “Will it happen so? Shall I be affianced and married?” And she was a little afraid, and then glad to be only seven, for when you are seven marriage is a long way off.

“Monsieur mon beau-fils, he is very handsome, is he not?” demanded Mary. And she laughed, with secrets in her eyes.

Yes, indeed, thought Anne, Francois was handsome. He was elegant and charming, and he quoted poetry to the ladies as he walked in the gardens of the palace. Once he met Anne herself in the gardens, and he stopped her and she was afraid; and he, besides being elegant and charming, was very clever, so that he understood her fear which, she was wise enough to see, amused him vastly. He picked her up and held her close to him, so that she could see the dark, coarse hair on his face and the bags already visible beneath his dark, flashing eyes; and she trembled for fear he should do to her that which it was whispered he would do to any who pleased him for a passing moment.

He laughed his deep and tender laugh, and as he laughed the young Queen came along the path, and Francois put Anne down that he might bow to the Queen.

“Monsieur mon beau-fils...” she said, laughing.

“Madame...la reine...”

Their eyes flashed sparks of merriment one to the other; and little Anne Boleyn, having no part in this sport that amused them so deeply, could slip away.

I am indeed fortunate to learn so much, thought Anne. She had grown a long way from that child who had played at Hever and stitched at a piece of tapestry with Simonette. She knew much; she learned to interpret the smiles of people, to understand what they meant, not so much from the words they used as from their inflection. She knew that Mary was trying to force Francois into a love affair with her, and that Francois, realizing the folly of this, was yet unable to resist it. Mary was a particularly enticing flower full of golden pollen, but around her was a great spider’s web, and he hovered, longing for her, yet fearing to be caught. Louise and her daughter watched Mary for the dreaded signs of pregnancy, which for them would mean the death of hope for Caesar.

“Ah, little Boleyn,” said Mary, “if I could but have a child! If I could come to you and say ‘I am enceinte,’ I would dance for joy; I would snap my fingers at that grim old Louise, I would laugh in the face of that clever Marguerite. But what is the good! That old man, what can he do for me! He tries though...he tries very hard...and so do I!”

She laughed at the thought of their efforts. There was always laughter round Mary Tudor. All around the court those words were whispered—“Enceinte! Is the Queen enceinte? If only...the Queen is enceinte!

Louise questioned the ladies around the Queen; she even questioned little Anne. The angry, frustrated woman buried her head in her hands and raged; she visited her astrologer; she studied her charts. “The stars have said my son will sit on the throne of France. That old man...he is too old, and too cold...”

“He behaves like a young and hot one,” said Marguerite.

“He is a dying fire...”

“A dying fire has its last flicker of warmth, my mother!”

Mary loved to tease them, feigning sickness. “I declare I cannot get up this morning. I do not know what it can be, except that I may have eaten too heartily last evening...” Her wicked eyes sparkling; her sensuous lips pouting.

“The Queen is sick this morning...she looked blooming last night. Can it be...?”

Mary threw off her clothes and pranced before her mirror.

“Anne, tell me, am I not fattening? Here...and here. Anne, I shall slap you unless you say I am!” And she would laugh hysterically and then cry a little. “Anne Boleyn, did you never see my Lord of Suffolk? How my body yearns for that man!” Ambition was strong in Mary. “I would be mother to a king of France, Anne. Ah, if only my beautiful beau-fils were King of France! Do you doubt, little Boleyn, that he would have had me with child ere this? What do I want from life? I do not know, Anne....Now, if I had never known Charles...” And she grew soft, thinking of Charles Brandon, and the King would come and see her softness, and it would amuse her maliciously to pretend the softness was for him. The poor old King was completely infatuated by the giddy creature; he would give her presents, beautiful jewels one at a time, so that she could express her gratitude for each one. The court tittered, laughing at the old man. “That one will have his money’s worth!” It was a situation to set a French court, coming faster and faster under the influence of Francois, rocking with laughter.

Wildly, Mary coquetted with the willing Francois. If she cannot get a child from the King, whispered the court, why not from Francois? She would not lose from such a bargain; only poor Francois would do that. What satisfaction could there be in seeing yourself robbed of a throne by your own offspring? Very little, for the child could not be acknowledged as his. Oh, it was very amusing, and the French were fond of those who amused them. And that it should be Mary Tudor from that gloomy island across the Channel, made it more amusing still. Ah, these English, they were unaccountable. Imagine it! An English princess to give them the best farce in history! Francois was cautious; Francois was reckless. His ardor cooled; his passion flared. There was none, he was sure, whom he could enjoy as heartily as the saucy, hot-blooded little Tudor. There were those who felt it their duty to warn him. “Do you not see the web stretched out to catch you?” Francois saw, and reluctantly gave up the chase.

On the first day of January, as Anne was coming from the Queen’s apartment, she met Louise—a distraught Louise, her black hair disordered, her eyes wild.

Anne hesitated, and was roughly thrust aside.

“Out of my way, child! Have you not heard the news? The King is dead.”

Now the excitement of the court was tuned to a lower key, though it had increased rather than abated. Louise and her daughter were overjoyed at the death of the King, but their happiness in the event was overshadowed by their fear. What of the Queen’s condition? They could scarcely wait to know; they trembled; they were suspicious. What did this one know? What had that one overheard? Intrigue...and, at the heart of it, mischievous Mary Tudor.

The period of mourning set in, and the Queen’s young body was seen to broaden with the passing of the days. Louise endured agonies; Francois lost his gaiety. Only the Queen, demure and seductive, enjoyed herself. In her apartments Louise pored over charts; more and more men, learned in the study of the stars, came to her. Is the Queen enceinte? She begged, she implored to be told this was not so, for how could she bear it if it were! During those days of suspense she brooded on the past; her brief married life, her widowhood; the birth of her clever Marguerite, and then that day at Cognac nearly twenty-one years ago when she had come straight from the agony of childbirth to find her Caesar in her arms. She thought of her husband, the profligate philanderer who had died when Francois was not quite two years old, and whom she had mourned wholeheartedly and then had given over her life to her children, superintending the education of both of them herself, delighting in their capacity for learning, their intellectual powers which surely set them apart from all others; they were both of them so worthy of greatness—a brilliant pair, her world, or at least Caesar was; and where that king of men was concerned, was not Marguerite in complete accord with her mother? He should be King of France, for he was meant to be King of France since there was never one who deserved the honor more than he, the most handsome, the most courteous, the most virile, the most learned Francois. And now this fear! This cheating of her beautiful son by a baggage from England! A Tudor! Who were the Tudors? They did not care to look far back into their history, one supposed!

“My Caesar shall be King!” determined Louise. And, unable to bear the suspense any longer, she went along to the Queen’s apartments and, making many artful enquiries as to her health, she perceived that Her Majesty was not quite as large about the middle as she had been yesterday. So she—for, after all, she was Louise of Savoy, a power in France even in the days of her old enemy and rival, Anne of Brittany—shook the naughty Queen until the padding fell from the creature’s clothes. And...oh, joy! Oh, blessed astrologers who had assured her that her son would have the throne! There was the wicked girl as straight and slender as a virgin.

So Mary left the court of France, and in Paris, secretly and in great haste, she married her Charles Brandon; and the court of France tittered indulgently until it began to laugh immoderately, for it was whispered that Brandon, not daring to tell his King of his unsanctioned marriage with the Queen of France and the sister of the King of England, had written his apologia to Wolsey, begging the great Cardinal to break the news gently to the King.

Francois triumphantly mounted the throne and married Claude, while Louise basked in the exquisite pleasure of ambition fulfilled; she was now Madame of the French court.

Little Anne stayed on to serve with Claude. The Duchesse d’Alencon had taken quite a fancy to the child, for her beauty and grace and for her intelligence; she was not yet eight years old, but she had much worldly wisdom; she knew that crippled Claude was submissive, ignored by her husband, and that it was the King’s sister who was virtually Queen of France. Anne would see brother and sister wandering in the palace grounds, their arms about each other, talking of affairs of state; for Marguerite was outstanding in a court where intellect was given the respect it deserved, and she could advise and help her brother; or Marguerite would read her latest writing to the King, and the King would show a poem he had written; he called her his pet, his darling, ma mignonne. She wanted nothing but to be his slave; she had declared she would be willing to follow her brother as his washer-woman, and for him she would cast to the wind her ashes and her bones.

The shadow of Anne of Brittany was banished from the court, and the King amused himself, and the court grew truly Gallic, and gayer than any in Europe. It was elegant; it was distinctive; its gallantry was of the highest order; its wit flowed readily. It was the most scintillating of courts, the most intellectual of courts, and Marguerite of Alencon, the passionately devoted slave and sister to the King, was queen of it.

It was in this court that Anne Boleyn cast off her childishness and came to premature womanhood, and with the passing of the years and the nourishing of that friendship which she enjoyed with the strange and fascinating Marguerite, she herself became one of the brightest of its brilliant lights.

Between the towns of Guisnes and Ardres was laid a brilliant pageant. A warm June sun showed the palace of Guisnes in all its glittering glory. A fairy-tale castle this, though a temporary one; and one on which many men had worked since February, to the great expense of the English people. It was meant to symbolize the power and riches of Henry of England. At its gates and windows had been set up sham men-at-arms, their faces made formidable enough to terrify those who looked too close; they represented the armed might of the little island across the Channel, not perhaps particularly significant in the eyes of Europe until the crafty statesman, that wily Wolsey, had got his hands on the helm of its ship of state. The hangings of cloth of gold, the gold images, the chairs decorated with pommels of gold, all the furnishings and hangings ornamented wherever possible with the crimson Tudor rose—these represented the wealth of England. The great fountain in the courtyard, from which flowed wine—claret, white wine, red wine—and over which presided the great stone Bacchus round whose head was written in Tudor gold, “Faietes bonne chere qui vouldra”—this was to signify Tudor hospitality.

The people of England, who would never see this lavish display and who had contributed quite a large amount of money towards it, might murmur; those lords who had been commanded by their King to set out on this most opulent and most expensive expedition in history might think uneasily of return to their estates, impoverished by the need to pay for their participation in it; but the King thought of none of these things. He was going to meet his rival, Francis; he was going to prove to Francis that he was the better king, which was a matter of opinion; he was going to show himself to be a better man, which some might think doubtful; he was going to show he was a richer king, which, thanks to his cautious father, was a fact; and that he was a power in Europe, of which there could no longer be a doubt. He could smile expansively at this glittering palace which he had erected as fitting to be the temporary resting place of his august self; he could smile complacently because in spite of its size it could not accommodate his entire retinue, so that all around the palace were the brightly colored tents of his less noble followers. He could congratulate himself that Francis’s lodging at Ardres was less magnificent than his; and these matters filled the King of England with a satisfaction which was immense.

In the pavilion which was the French King’s lodging, Queen Claude prepared herself for her meeting with Queen Katharine. Her ladies, too, prepared themselves; and among these was one whose beauty set her aside from all others. She was now in her fourteenth year, a lovely, slender girl who wore her dark hair in silken ringlets, and on whose head was an aureole made of plaited gauze, the color of gold. The blue of her garments was wonderfully becoming to her dark beauty; her vest was of blue velvet spattered with silver stars; her surcoat of watered silk was lined with miniver and the sleeves of the surcoat were of her own designing; they were wide and long, and hung below her hands, hiding them, for she was more sensitive about her hands than she had been at Blickling and Hever. Over this costume she wore a blue velvet cape trimmed with points, and from the end of each of these points hung little golden bells; her shoes were covered in the same blue velvet as her vest, and diamond stars twinkled on her insteps. She was one of the very fashionable ladies in the smart court of France, and even now the ladies of the court were striving to copy those long hanging sleeves, so that what had been a ruse to hide a deformity was becoming a fashion. She was the gayest of the young ladies. Who would not be gay, sought after as she was? She was quick of speech, ready of wit; in the dance she excelled all others; her voice was a delight; she played the virginals competently; she composed a little. She was worldly wise, and yet there was about her a certain youthful innocence.

Francois himself had cast covetous eyes upon her, but Anne was no fool. She laughed scornfully at those women who were content to hold the King’s attention for a day. Marguerite was her friend, and Marguerite had imbued her with a new, advanced way of thinking, the kernel of which was equality of the sexes. “We are equal with men,” Marguerite had said, “when we allow ourselves to be.” And Anne determined to allow herself to be. So cleverly and with astonishing diplomacy she held off Francois, and he, amused and without a trace of malice, gracefully accepted defeat.

Now Anne was in her element; there was nothing she enjoyed more than a round of gaiety, and here was gaiety such as even she had never encountered before. She was proud of her English birth, and eagerly she drank in the news of English splendor. “My lord Cardinal seemed as a king,” she heard, and there followed an account of his retinue, the gorgeousness of his apparel, the display of his wealth. “And he is but the servant of his master! The splendor of the King of England it would be difficult to describe.” Anne saw him now and then—the great red King; he had changed a good deal since she had last seen him, at Dover. He was more corpulent, coarser; perhaps without his dazzling garments he would not be such a handsome man. His face was ruddier, his cheeks more pouchy; his voice, though, bellowed as before. What a contrast he presented with the dark and subtle Francois! And Anne was not the only one who guessed that these two had little love for each other in spite of the gushing outward displays of affection.

During the days that followed the meeting of the Kings, Anne danced and ate and flirted with the rest. Today the French court were guests of the English; pageants, sports, jousting, a masked ball and a banquet. Tomorrow the French court would entertain the English. Everything must be lavish; the French court must outshine the English, and then again the English must be grander still. Never mind the cost to nations groaning under taxations; never mind if the two Kings, beneath the show of jovial good fellowship, are sworn enemies! Never mind! This is the most brilliant and lavish display in history; and if it is also the most vulgar, the most recklessly stupid, what of that! The Kings must amuse themselves.

Mary Boleyn had come to attend Queen Katharine at Guisnes. She was eighteen then—a pretty, plumpish voluptuous creature. It was years since she had seen her young sister, and it was therefore interesting to meet her in the pavilion at Ardres. Mary had returned to England from the Continent with her reputation in shreds; and her face, her manner, her eager little body suggested that rumour had not been without some foundation. She looked what she was—a lightly loving little animal, full of desire, sensuous, ready for adventure, helpless to avert it, saying with her eyes, “This is good; why fret about tomorrow?”

Anne read these things in her sister’s face, and was disturbed by them, for it hurt Anne’s dignity to have to acknowledge this wanton as her sister. The Boleyns were no noble family; they were not a particularly wealthy family. Anne was half French in outlook; impulsive, by nature she was also practical. The sisters were as unlike as two sisters could be. Anne set a high price upon herself; Mary, no price at all. The French court opened one’s eyes to worldly matters when one was very young; the French shrugged philosophical shoulders; l’amour was charming—indeed what was there more charming? But the French court taught one elegance and dignity too. And here was Mary, Anne’s sister, with her dress cut too low and her bosom pressed upwards provocatively; and in her open mouth and her soft doe’s eyes there was the plea of the female animal, begging to be taken. Mary was pretty; Anne was beautiful. Anne was clever, and Mary was a fool.

How she fluttered about the ladies’ apartments, examining her sister’s belongings, her little blue velvet brodiquins, her clothes! Those wonderful sleeves! Trust Anne to turn a disadvantage into an asset! I will have those sleeves on my new gown, thought Mary; they give an added grace to the figure—but is that because grace comes naturally to her? Mary could not but admire her. Simple Anne Boleyn looked elegant as a duchess, proud as a queen.

“I should not have known you!” cried Mary.

“Nor I you.”

Anne was avid for news of England.

“Tell me of the court of England.”

Mary grimaced. “The Queen...oh, the Queen is very dull. You are indeed fortunate not to be with Queen Katharine. We must sit and stitch, and there is mass eight times a day. We kneel so much, I declare my knees are worn out with it!”

“Is the King so devoted to virtue?”

“Not as the Queen, the saints be praised! He is devoted to other matters. But for the King, I would rather be home at Hever than be at court; but where the King is there is always good sport. He is heartily sick of her, and deeply enamoured of Elizabeth Blount; there was a son born to them some little while since. The King is delighted...and furious.”

“Delighted with the son and furious with the Queen because it is not hers?” inquired Anne.

“That is surely the case. One daughter has the Queen to show for all those years of marriage; and when he gets a son, it is from Elizabeth Blount. The Queen is disappointed; she turns more and more to her devotions. Pity us...who are not so devoted and must pray with her and listen to the most mournful music that was ever made. The King is such a beautiful prince, and she such a plain princess.”

Anne thought of Claude then—submissive and uncomplaining—not a young woman enjoying being alive, but just a machine for turning out children. I would not be Claude, she thought, even for the throne of France. I would not be Katharine, ugly and unwanted Katharine of the many miscarriages. No! I would be as myself...or Marguerite.

“What news of our family?” asked Anne.

“Little but what you must surely know. Life is not unpleasant for us. I heard a sorry story, though, of our uncle, Edmund Howard, who is very, very poor and is having a family very rapidly; all he has is his house at Lambeth, and in that he breeds children to go hungry with him and his lady.”

“His reward for helping to save England at Flodden!” said Anne.

“There is talk that he would wish to go on a voyage of discovery, and so doing earn a little money for his family.”

“Is it not depressing to hear such news of members of our family!”

Mary looked askance at her sister; the haughtiness had given place to compassion; anger filled the dark eyes because of the ingratitude of a king and a country towards a hero of Flodden Field.

“You hold your head like a queen,” said Mary. “Grand ideas have been put into your head since you have been living at the French court.”

“I would rather carry it like a queen than a harlot!” flashed Anne.

“Marry and you would! But who said you should carry it like a harlot?”

“No one says it. It is I who say I would prefer not to.”

“The Queen,” said Mary, “is against this pageantry. She does not love the French. She remonstrated with the King; I wonder she dared, knowing his temper.”

Mary prattled lightly; she took to examining the apartment still further, testing the material of her sister’s gown; she asked questions about the French court, but did not listen to the answers. It was late when she left her sister. She would be reprimanded perhaps; it would not be the first time Mary had been reprimanded for staying out late.

But for a sister! thought Mary, amused by her recollections.

In a corridor of the gorgeous palace at Guisnes, Mary came suddenly upon a most brilliantly clad personage, and hurrying as she was, she had almost run full tilt into him before she could pull herself up. She saw the coat of russet velvet trimmed with triangles of pearls; the buttons of the coat were diamonds. Mary’s eyes opened wide in dismay as confusedly she dropped onto her knee.

He paused to look at her. His small bright eyes peered out from the puffy red flesh around them.

“How now! How now!” he said, and then “Get up!” His voice was coarse and deep, and it was that perhaps and his brusque manner of speech which had earned him the adjective “bluff.”

The little eyes traveled hastily all over Mary Boleyn, then rested on the provocative bosom, exposed rather more than fashion demanded, on the parted lips and the soft, sweet eyes.

“I have seen you at Greenwich...Boleyn’s girl! Is that so?”

“Yes...if it please Your Grace.”

“It pleases me,” he said. The girl was trembling. He liked his subjects to tremble, and if her lips were a little dumb, her eyes paid him the homage he liked best to receive from pretty subjects in quiet corridors where, for once in a while, he found himself unattended.

“You’re a pretty wench,” he said.

“Your Majesty is gracious...”

“Ah!” he said, laughing and rumbling beneath the russet velvet. “And ready to be more gracious still when it’s a pretty wench like yourself.”

There was no delicacy about Henry; if anything he was less elegant, more coarse, during this stay in France. Was he going to ape these prancing French gallants! He thought not. He liked a girl, and a girl liked him; no finesse necessary. He put a fat hand, sparkling with rings, on her shoulder. Any reluctance Mary might have felt—but, being Mary, she would of course have felt little—melted at his touch. Her admiration for him was in her eyes; her face had the strained set look of a desire that is rising and will overwhelm all else. To her he was the perfect man, because, being the King, he possessed the strongest ingredient of sexual domination—power. He was the most powerful man in England, perhaps the most powerful in France as well. He was the most handsome prince in Christendom, or perhaps his clothes were more handsome than those worn by any others, and Mary’s lust for him, as his for her, was too potent and too obvious to be veiled.

Henry said, “Why, girl...” And his voice slurred and faded out as he kissed her, and his hands touched the soft bosom which so clearly asked to be touched. Mary’s lips clung to his flesh, and her hands clung to his russet velvet. Henry kissed her neck and her breasts, and his hands felt her thighs beneath the velvet of her gown. This attraction, instantaneous and mutual, was honey-sweet to them both. A king such as he was could take when and where he would in the ordinary course of events; but this coarse, crude man was a complex man, a man who did not fully know himself; a deeply sentimental man. He had great power, but because of this power of his which he loved to wield, he wanted constant reassurance. When a man’s head can be taken off his shoulders for a whim, and when a woman’s life can hang on one’s word, one has to accept the uncertainty that goes with this power; one is surrounded by sycophants and those who feign love because they dare show nothing else. And in the life of a king such as Henry there could only be rare moments when he might feel himself a man first, a king second; he treasured such moments. There was that in Mary Boleyn which told him she desired him—Henry the man, divested of his diamond-spattered clothes; and that man she wanted urgently. He had seen her often enough sitting with his pious Queen, her eyes downcast, stitching away at some woman’s work. He had liked her mildly; she was a pretty piece enough; he had let his eyes dwell lightly on her and thought of her, naked in bed, as he thought of them all; nothing more than that. He liked her family; Thomas was a good servant; George a bright boy; and Mary...well, Mary was just what he needed at this moment.

Yesterday the King of France had thrown him in a wrestling match, being more skilled than he in a game which demanded quickness of action rather than bullock strength such as his. He had smarted from the indignity. And again, while he had breakfasted, the King of France had walked unheralded into his apartment and sat awhile informally; they had laughed and joked together, and Francis had called him Brother, and something else besides. Even now while the sex call sounded insistently in his ears, it rankled sorely, for Francis had called him “My prisoner!” It was meant to be a term of friendship, a little joke between two good friends. And so taken aback had Henry been that he had no answer ready; the more he thought of it, the more ominous it sounded; it was no remark for one king to make to another, when they both knew that under their displays of friendship they were enemies. He needed homage after that; he always got it when he wanted it; but this which Mary Boleyn offered him was different; homage to himself, not to his crown. Francis disconcerted him and he wanted to assure himself that he was as good a man as the French King. Francis shocked him; Francis had no shame; he glorified love, worshipped it shamelessly. Henry’s affairs were never entirely blatant; he regarded them as sins to be confessed and forgiven; he was a pious man. He shied away from the thought of confession; one did not think of it before the act. And here was little Mary Boleyn ready to tell him that he was the perfect man as well as the perfect king. She was as pretty a girl as he would find in the two courts. French women! Prancing, tittering, elegant ladies! Not for him! Give him a good English bedfellow! And here was one ready enough. She was weak at the knees for him; her little hands fluttering for him, pretending to hold him off, while what they meant really was “Please...now...no waiting.”

He bit her ear, and whispered into it: “You like me then, sweetheart?”

She was pale with desire now. She was what he wanted. In an excess of pleasure, the King slapped her buttocks jovially and drew her towards his privy chamber.

This was the way, the way to wash the taste of this scented French gallantry out of his mouth! There was a couch in this chamber. Here! Now! No matter the hour, no matter the place.

She opened her eyes, stared at the couch in feigned surprise, tried to simulate fear; which made him slap his thigh with mirth. They all wanted to be forced...every one of them. Well, let them; it was a feminine trait that didn’t displease him. She murmured: “If it please Your Grace, I am late and...”

“It does please Our Grace. It pleases us mightily. Come hither to me, little Mary. I would know if the rest of you tastes as sweet as your lips.”

She was laughing and eager, no longer feigning feminine modesty when she could not be anything but natural. The King was amused and delighted; not since he had set foot on this hated soil had he been so delighted.

He laughed and was refreshed and eased of his humiliation. He’d take this girl the English way—no French fripperies for him! He would say what he meant, and she could too.

He said: “Why, Mary, you’re sweet all over. And where did you hide yourself, Mary? I’m not sure you have not earned a punishment, Mary, for keeping this from your King so long; we might say it was treason, that we might!”

He laughed, mightily pleased, as he always was, with his own pleasantries; and she was overawed and passive, then responsive and pretending to be afraid she had been over-presumptuous to have so enjoyed the King. This was what he wanted, and he was grateful enough to those of his subjects who pleased him. In an exuberance of good spirits he slapped her buttocks—no velvet to cover them now—and she laughed, and her saucy eyes promised much for other times to come.

“You please me, Mary,” he said, and in a rush of crude tenderness added: “You shall not suffer for this day.”

When he left her and when she was scrambling into her clothes, she still trembled from the violence of the experience.

In the Queen’s apartment she was scolded for her lateness; demurely, with eyes cast down, she accepted the reprimand.

Coming from Mary Boleyn, the King met the Cardinal.

Ah, thought the Cardinal, noting the flushed face of his royal master, and guessing something of what had happened, who now?

The King laid his hand on the Cardinal’s shoulder, and they walked together along the corridor, talking of the entertainment they would give the French tonight, for matters of state could not be discussed in the palace of Guisnes; these affairs must wait for Greenwich or York House; impossible to talk of important matters, surrounded by enemies.

This exuberance, thought the Cardinal, means one thing—success in sport. And as sport the Cardinal would include the gratification of the royal senses. Good! said the Cardinal to himself; this has put that disastrous matter of the wrestling from his thoughts.

The Cardinal was on the whole a contented man—as contented, that is, as a man of ambition can ever be. He was proud of his sumptuous houses, his rich possessions; it was a good deal to be, next to the King, the richest man in England. But that which he loved more than riches, he also had; and to those who have known obscurity, power is a more intoxicating draught than riches. Men might secretly call him “Butcher’s cur,” but they trembled before his might, for he was greater than the King. He led the King, and if he managed this only because the King did not know he was led, that was of little account. Very pleasant it was to reflect that his genius for statecraft, his diplomacy, had put the kingdom into the exalted position it held today. This King was a good king, because the goodness of a king depends upon his choice of ministers. There could be no doubt that Henry was a good king, for he had chosen Thomas Wolsey.

It pleased the statesman therefore to see the King happy with a woman, doubtless about to launch himself on yet another absorbing love affair, for then the fat, bejeweled hands, occupied in caressing a woman’s body, could be kept from seeking a place on the helm of the ship of state. The King must be amused; the King must be humored; when he would organize this most ridiculous pageant, this greatest farce in history, there was none that dare deny him his pleasures. Buckingham, the fool, had tried; and Buckingham should tread carefully, for, being so closely related to the King, his head was scarcely safe on his shoulders, be he the most docile of subjects. Francis was not to be trusted. He would make treaties one week, and discard them the next. But how could one snatch the helm from those podgy hands, once the King had decided they must have a place on it? How indeed! Diplomacy forever! thought the Cardinal. Keep the King amused. It was good to see the King finding pleasure in a woman, for well the Cardinal knew that Elizabeth Blount, who had served her purpose most excellently, was beginning to tire His Majesty.

They parted affectionately at the King’s apartments, both smiling, well pleased with life and with each other.

The Queen was retiring. She had dismissed her women when the King came in. Her still beautiful auburn hair hung about her shoulders; her face was pale, thin and much lined, and there were deep shadows under her eyes.

The King looked at her distastefully. With Mary Boleyn still in his thoughts, he recalled the cold submissiveness to duty of this Spanish woman through the years of their marriage. She had been a good wife, people would say; but she would have been as good a wife to his brother Arthur had he lived. Being a good wife was just another of the virtues that irritated him. And what had his marriage with her been but years of hope that never brought him his desires? The Queen is with child; prepare to sing a Te Deum. Prepare to let the bells of London ring. And then...miscarriage after miscarriage; five of them in four years. A stillborn daughter, a son who lived but two months, a stillborn son, one who died at birth and another prematurely born. And then...a daughter!

He had begun to be afraid. Rumors spread quickly through a country, and it is not always possible to prevent their reaching the kingly ear. Why cannot the King have a son? murmured his people. The King grew fearful. I am a very religious man, he thought. The fault cannot be mine. Six times I hear mass each day, and in times of pestilence or war or bad harvest, eight times a day. I confess my sins with regularity; the fault cannot be mine.

But he was superstitious. He had married his brother’s widow. It had been sworn that the marriage had never been consummated. Had it though? The fault could not be his. How could God deny the dearest wish of such a religious man as Henry VIII of England! The King looked round for a scapegoat, and because her body was shapeless with much fruitless child-bearing, and because he never had liked her pious Spanish ways for more than a week or two, because he was beginning to dislike her heartily, he blamed the Queen. Resentfully he thought of those nights when he had lain with her. When he prayed for male issue he reminded his God of this. There were women in his court who had beckoned him with their charms, who had aroused his ready desire; and for duty’s sake he had lain with the Queen, and only during her pregnancies had he gone where he would. What virtue...to go unrewarded! God was just; therefore there was some reason why he had been denied a son. There it was...in that woman on whom he had squandered his manhood without reward.

He knew, when Elizabeth Blount bore his son, that the fault could not lie with him. He had been in an ecstacy of delight when that boy had been born. His virility vindicated, the guilt of Katharine assured, his dislike had become tinged with hatred on that day.

But on this evening his dislike for the Queen was mellowed by the pleasure he had had in Mary Boleyn; he smiled that remote smile which long experience had taught the Queen was born of satisfied lust. His gorgeous clothing was just a little disarranged; the veins stood out more than usual on the great forehead.

He had thrown himself into a chair, and was sitting, his knees wide apart, the glazed smile on his face, making plans which included Mary Boleyn.

The Queen would say a special prayer for him tonight. Meanwhile she asked herself that question which had been in the Cardinal’s mind—“Who now?”

“Venus etait blonde, l’on m’a dit.

L’on voit bien qu’elle est brunette.”

So sang Francois to the lady who excited him most in his wife’s retinue of ladies. Unfortunately for Francois, she was the cleverest as well as the most desirable.

“Ah!” said Francois. “You are the wise one, Mademoiselle Bouillain. You have learned that the fruit which hangs just out of reach is the most desired.”

“Your Majesty well knows my mind,” explained Anne. “What should I be? A king’s mistress. The days of glory for such are very short; we have evidence of that all around us.”

“Might it not depend on the mistress, Mademoiselle Bouillain?”

She shrugged her shoulders in the way which was so much more charming than the gesture of the French ladies, because it was only half French.

“I do not care to take the risk,” she said.

Then he laughed and sang to her, and asked that she should sing to him. This she did gladly, for her voice was good and she was susceptible to admiration and eager to draw it to herself at every opportunity. Contact with the Duchesse d’Alencon had made her value herself highly, and though she was as fond of amorous adventures as any, she knew exactly at what moment to retire. She was enjoying every moment of her life at the court of France. There was so much to amuse her that life could never be dull. Lighthearted flirtations, listening to the scandal of the court, reading with Marguerite, and getting a glimmer of the new religion that had begun to spring up in Europe, since a German monk named Martin Luther had nailed a set of theses on a church door at Wittenberg. Yes, life was colorful and amusing, stimulating mind and body. Though the news that came from England was not so good; disaster had set in after the return from the palace of Guisnes. Poverty had swept over the country; the harvest was bad, and people were dying of the plague in the streets of London. The King was less popular than he had been before his love of vulgar show and pageantry had led him to that folly which men in England now called “The Field of the Cloth of Gold.”

There was not very exhilarating news from her family. Uncle Edmund Howard had yet another child, and that a daughter. Catherine, they called her. Anne’s ready sympathy went out to poor little Catherine Howard, born into the poverty of that rambling old house at Lambeth. Then Mary had married—hardly brilliantly—a certain William Carey. Anne would have liked to hear of a better match for her sister; but both she and George, right from Hever days, had known Mary was a fool.

And now war clouds were looming up afresh, and this time there was fear of a conflict between France and England. At the same time there was talk of a marriage for Anne which was being arranged in England to settle some dispute one branch of her family was having with another.

So Anne left France most reluctantly, and sailed for England. At home they said she was most Frenchified; she was imperious, witty, lovely to look at, and her clothes caused comment from all who beheld them.

She was just sixteen years old.

Anne’s grandfather, the old Duke of Norfolk, was not at home when Anne, in the company of her mother, visited the Norfolk’s house at Lambeth. The Duchess was a somewhat lazy, empty-headed woman who enjoyed listening to the ambitious adventures of the younger members of her family, and she had learned that her granddaughter, Anne, had returned from France a charming creature. Nothing therefore would satisfy the Duchess but that this visit should be paid, and during it she found an especial delight in sitting in the grounds of her lovely home on the river’s edge, dozing and indulging in light conversation with the girl whom she herself would now be ready to admit was the most interesting member of the family. And, thought the vain old lady, the chit has a look of me about her; moreover, I declare at her age I looked very like her. What honors, she wondered, were in store for Anne Boleyn, for the marriage with the Butlers was not being brought at any great speed to a satisfactory conclusion; and how sad if this bright child must bury herself in the wilds of that dreary, troublesome, uncivilized Ireland! But—and the Duchess sighed deeply—what were women but petty counters to be bartered by men in the settlement of their problems? Thomas Boleyn was too ambitious. Marry! An the girl were mine, to court she should go, and a plague on the Butlers.

She watched Anne feeding the peacocks; a figure of grace in scarlet and grey, she was not one whit less gorgeous than those arrogant, elegant birds. She’s Howard, mused the Duchess with pride. All Howard! Not a trace of Boleyn there.

“Come and sit beside me, my dear,” she said. “I would talk to you.”

Anne came and sat on the wooden seat which overlooked the river; she gazed along its bank at the stately gabled houses whose beautiful gardens sloped down to the water, placing their owners within comfortable distance of the quickest and least dangerous means of transport. Her gaze went quickly towards those domes and spires that seemed to pierce the blue and smokeless sky. She could see the heavy arches of London Bridge and the ramparts of the Tower of London—that great, impressive fortress whose towers, strong and formidable, stood like sentinels guarding the city.

Agnes, Duchess of Norfolk, saw the girl’s eager expression, and guessed her thoughts. She tapped her arm.

“Tell me of the court of France, my child. I’ll warrant you found much to amuse you there.”

As Anne talked, the Duchess lay back, listening, now and then stifling a yawn, for she had eaten a big dinner and, interested as she was, she was overcome by drowsiness.

“Why, bless us!” she said. “When you went away, your father was of little import; now you return to find him a gentleman of much consequence—Treasurer of the Household now, if you please!”

“It does please,” laughed Anne.

“They tell me,” said Agnes, “that the office is worth a thousand pounds a year! And what else? Steward of Tonbridge....” She began enumerating the titles on her fingers. “Master of the Hunt. Constable of the Castle. Chamberlain of Tonbridge. Receiver and Bailiff of Bradsted, and the Keeper of the Manor of Penshurst. And now it is whispered that he is to be appointed Keeper of the Parks at Thundersley, to say nothing of Essex and Westwood. Never was so much honor done a man in so short a time!”

“My father,” said Anne, “is a man of much ability.”

“And good fortune,” said Agnes slyly, eyeing the girl mischievously, thinking—Can it be that she does not know why these honors are heaped on her father, and she fresh from the wicked court of France? “And your father is lucky in his children,” commented Agnes mischievously.

The girl turned puzzled eyes on her grandmother. The old lady chuckled, thinking—She makes a pretty pose of ignorance, I’ll swear!

Anne said, her expression changing: “I would it were as well with every member of our family.” And her eyes went towards a house less than half a mile away along the river’s bank.

“Ah!” sighed the Duchess. “There is a man who served his country well, and yet...” She shrugged her shoulders. “His children are too young to be of any use to him.”

“I hear there is a new baby,” said Anne. “Do they not visit you?”

“My dear, Lord Edmund is afraid to leave his house for fear he should be arrested. He has many debts, poor man, and he’s as proud as Lucifer. Ah, yes...a new baby. Why, little Catherine is but a baby yet.”

“Grandmother, I should like to see the baby.”

The Duchess yawned. It had ever been her habit to push unpleasant thoughts aside, and the branch of her family which they were now discussing distressed her. What she enjoyed hearing was of the success of Sir Thomas and the adventures of his flighty daughter. She could nod over them, simper over them, remember her own youth and relive it as she drowsed in her pleasant seat overlooking the river. Still, she would like the Edmund Howards to see this lovely girl in her pretty clothes. The Duchess had a mischievous turn of mind. The little Howards had a distinguished soldier for a father, and they might starve; the Boleyn children had a father who might be a clever enough diplomatist, but, having descended from merchants, was no proud Howard; still, he had a most attractive daughter. There were never two men less alike than Lord Edmund Howard and Sir Thomas Boleyn. And to His Majesty, thought the Duchess, smiling into a lace handkerchief, a sword grown rusty is of less use than a lovely, willing girl.

“Run to the house and get cloaks,” she said. “We will step along to see them. A walk will do me good and mayhap throw off this flatulence which, I declare, attacks me after every meal these days.”

“You eat too heartily, Grandmother.”

“Off with you, impudent child!”

Anne ran off. It does me good to look at her, thought her grandmother. And what when the King claps eyes on her, eh, Thomas Boleyn? Though it occurs to me that she might not be to his taste. I declare were I a man I’d want to spank the haughtiness out of her before I took her to bed. And the King would not be one to brook such ways. Ah, if you go to court, Anne Boleyn, you will have to lose your French dignity—if you hope to do as well as your saucy sister. Though you’ll not go to court; you’ll go to Ireland. The Ormond title and the Ormond wealth must be kept in the family to satisfy grasping Thomas, and he was ever a man to throw his family to the wolves.

The Duchess rose, and Anne, who had come running up, put a cloak about her shoulders; they walked slowly through the gardens and along the river’s edge.

The Lambeth house of the Edmund Howards was a roomy place, cold and drafty. Lady Edmund was a delicate creature on whom too frequent child-bearing and her husband’s poverty were having a dire effect. She and her husband received their visitors in the great panelled hall, and wine was brought for them to drink. Lord Edmund’s dignity was great, and it touched Anne deeply to see his efforts to hide his poverty.

“My dear Jocosa,” said the Duchess to her daughter-in-law, “I have brought my granddaughter along to see you. She has recently returned from France, as you know. Tell your aunt and uncle all about it, child.”

“Uncle Edmund would doubtless find my adventuring tame telling,” said Anne.

“Ah!” said Lord Edmund. “I remember you well, niece. Dover Castle, eh? And the crossing! Marry, I thought I should never see your face again when your ship was missed by the rest of us. I remember saying to Surrey: ‘Why, our niece is there, and she but a baby!’”

Anne sipped her wine, chatting awhile with Lord Edmund of the court of France, of old Louis, of gay Francois, and of Mary Tudor who had longed to be Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, and had achieved both ambitions.

The old Duchess tapped her stick imperiously, not caring to be left to Jocosa and her domesticity. “Anne was interested in the children,” she said. “I trow she will be disappointed if she is not allowed to catch a glimpse of them.”

“You must come to the nursery,” said Jocosa. “Though I doubt that the older ones will be there at this hour. The babies love visitors.”

In the nursery at the top of the house, there was more evidence of the poverty of this branch of the Howard family. Little Catherine was shabbily dressed; Mary, the baby, was wrapped in a piece of darned flannel. There was an old nurse who, Anne guessed, doubtless worked without her wages for very love of the family. Her face shone with pride in the children, with affection for her mistress; but she was inclined to be resentful towards Anne and her grandmother. Had I known, thought Anne, I could have put on a simpler gown.

“Here is the new baby, Madam,” said the nurse, and put the flannel bundle into Anne’s arms. Its little face was puckered and red; a very ugly little baby, but it was amusing and affecting to see the nurse hovering over it as though it were very, very precious.

A little hand was stroking the silk of Anne’s surcoat. Anne looked down and saw a large-eyed, very pretty little girl who could not have been very much more than a year old.

“This is the next youngest,” said Jocosa.

“Little Catherine!” said the Duchess, and stooping picked her up. “Now, Catherine Howard, what have you to say to Anne Boleyn?”

Catherine could say nothing; she could only stare at the lovely lady in the gorgeous, bright clothes. The jewels at her throat and on her fingers dazzled Catherine. She wriggled in the Duchess’s arms in an effort to get closer to Anne, who, always susceptible to admiration, even from babies, handed the flannel bundle back to the nurse.

“Would you like me to hold you, cousin Catherine?” she asked, and Catherine smiled delightedly.

“She does not speak,” said the Duchess.

“I fear she is not as advanced as the others,” said Catherine’s mother.

“Indeed not!” said the Duchess severely. “I remember well this girl here as a baby. I never knew one so bright—except perhaps her brother George. Now, Mary...she was more like Catherine here.”

At the mention of Mary’s name Jocosa stiffened, but the old Duchess went on, her eyes sparkling: “Mary was a taking little creature, though she might be backward with her talk. She knew though how to ask for what she wanted, without words...and I’ll warrant she still does!”

Anne and Catherine smiled at each other.

“There!” said the Duchess. “She is wishing she had a child of her own. Confess it, Anne!”

“One such as this, yes!” laughed Anne.

Catherine tried to pluck out the beautiful eyes.

“She admires you vastly!” said Jocosa.

Anne went to a chair and sat down, holding Catherine on her lap, while her grandmother drew Jocosa into a corner and chatted with her of the proposed match for Anne, of the advancement of Sir Thomas and George Boleyn, of Mary and the King.

Catherine’s little hands explored the lovely dress, the glittering jewels; and the child laughed happily as she did so.

“They make a pretty picture,” said the Duchess. “I think I am proud of my granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. They are such pretty creatures, both of them.”

Catherine’s fingers had curled about a jeweled tablet which hung by a silken cord from Anne’s waist; it was a valuable trinket.

“Would you like to have it for your own, little Catherine?” whispered Anne, and detached it. They can doubtless sell it, she thought. It is not much, but it is something. I can see it would be useless to offer help openly to Uncle Edmund.

When they said farewell, Catherine shed tears.

“Why, look what the child has!” cried the Duchess. “It is yours, is it not, Anne? Catherine Howard, Catherine Howard, are you a little thief then?”

“It is a gift,” said Anne hastily. “She liked it, and I have another.”

It was pleasant to be back at Hever after such a long absence. How quiet were the Kentish woods, how solitary the green meadows! She had hoped to see the Wyatts, but they were not in residence at Allington Castle just now; and it was a quiet life she led, reading, sewing, playing and singing with her mother. She was content to enjoy these lazy days, for she had little desire to marry the young man whom it had been ordained she should. She accepted the marriage as a matter of course, as she had known from childhood that when she reached a certain age a match would be made for her. This was it; but how pleasant to pass these days at quiet Hever, wandering through the grounds which she would always love because of those childhood memories they held for her.

Mary paid a visit to Hever; splendidly dressed—Anne considered her over-dressed—she was very gay and lively. Her laughter rang through the castle, shattering its peace. Mary admired her sister, and was too good-natured not to admit it wholeheartedly. “You should do well at court, sister Anne,” she told her. “You would create much excitement, I trow. And those clothes! I have never seen the like; and who but you could wear them with effect!”

They lay under the old apple trees in the orchard together; Mary, lazy and plump, carefully placing a kerchief over her bosom to prevent the sun from spoiling its whiteness.

“I think now and then,” said Mary, “of my visit to you...Do you remember Ardres?”

“Yes,” said Anne, “I remember perfectly.”

“And how you disapproved of me then? Did you not? Confess it.”

“Did I show it then?”

“Indeed you did, Madam! You looked down your haughty nose at me and disapproved right heartily. You cannot say you disapprove now, I trow.”

“I think you have changed very little,” said Anne.

Mary giggled. “You may have disapproved that night, Anne, but there was one who did not!”

“The tastes of all are naturally not alike.”

“There was one who approved most heartily—and he of no small import either!”

“I perceive,” said Anne, laughing, “that you yearn to tell me of your love affairs.”

“And you are not interested?”

“Not very. I am sure you have had many, and that they are all monotonously similar.”

“Indeed! And what if I were to tell His Majesty of that!”

“Do you then pour your girlish confidences into the royal ear?”

“I do now and then, Anne, when I think they may amuse His Grace.”

“What is this?” said Anne, raising herself to look more closely at her sister.

“I was about to tell you. Did I not say that though you might disapprove of me, there was one who does not? Listen, sister. The night I left you to return to the Guisnes Palace I met him; he spoke to me, and we found we liked each other.”

Anne’s face flushed, then paled; she was understanding many things—the chatter of her grandmother, the glances of her Aunt Jocosa, the nurse’s rather self-righteous indignation. One of the heroes of Flodden may starve, but the family of Boleyn shall flourish, for the King likes well one of its daughters.

“How long?” asked Anne shortly.

“From then to now. He is eager for me still. There never was such a man! Anne, I could tell you...”

“I beg that you will not.”

Mary shrugged her shoulders and rolled over on the grass like an amorous cat.

“And William, your husband?” said Anne

“Poor William! I am very fond of him.”

“I understand. The marriage was arranged, and he was given a place at court so that you might be always there awaiting the King’s pleasure, and to place a very flimsy cover of propriety over your immorality.”

Mary was almost choked with laughter.

“Your expressions amuse me, Anne. I declare, I shall tell the King; he will be vastly amused. And you fresh from the court of France!”

“I am beginning to wish I were still there. And our father...”

“Is mightily pleased with the arrangements. A fool he would be otherwise, and none could say our father is a fool.”

“So all these honors that have been heaped upon him...”

“. . . are due to the fact that your wicked sister has pleased the King!”

“It makes me sick.”

“You have a poor stomach, sister. But you are indeed young, for all your air of worldly wisdom and for all your elegance and grace. Why, bless you, Anne, life is not all the wearing of fine clothes.”

“No? Indeed it would seem that for you it is more a matter of putting them off!”

“You have a witty tongue, Anne. I cannot compete with it. You would do well at court, would you but put aside your prudery. Prudery the King cannot endure; he has enough of that from his Queen.”

“She knows of you and...”

“It is impossible to keep secrets at court, Anne.”

“Poor lady!”

“But were it not I, ’twould be another, the King being as he is.”

“The King being a lecher!” said Anne fiercely.

“That is treason!” cried Mary in mock horror. “Ah! It is easy for you to talk. As for me, I could never say no to such a man.”

“You could never say no to any man!”

“Despise me if you will. The King does not, and our father is mightily pleased with his daughter Mary.”

Now the secret was out; now she understood the sly glances of servants, her father’s looks of approbation as his eyes rested on his elder daughter. There was no one to whom Anne could speak of her perturbation until George came home.

He was eighteen years old, a delight to the eye, very like Anne in appearance, full of exuberant animal spirits; a poet and coming diplomat, and he already had the air of both. His eyes burned with his enthusiasm for life; and Anne was happy when he took her hands, for she had been afraid that the years of separation might divide them and that she would lose forever the beloved brother of her childhood. But in a few short hours those fears were set aside; he was the same George, she the same Anne. Their friendship, she knew, could not lose from the years, only gain from them. Their minds were of similar caliber; alert, intellectual, they were quick to be amused, quick to anger, reckless of themselves. They had therefore a perfect understanding of each other, and, being troubled, it was natural that she should go to him.

She said as they walked together through the Kentish lanes, for she had felt the need to leave the castle so that she might have no fear of being overheard: “I have learned of Mary and the King.”

“That does not surprise me,” said George. “It is common knowledge.”

“It shocked me deeply, George.”

He smiled at her. “It should not.”

“But our sister! It is degrading.”

“She would degrade herself sooner or later, so why should it not be in that quarter from which the greatest advantages may accrue?”

“Our father delights in this situation, George, and our mother is complaisant.”

“My sweet sister, you are but sixteen. Ah, you look wonderfully worldly wise, but you are not yet grown up. You are very like the little girl who sat in the window seats at Blickling, and dreamed of knightly deeds. Life is not romantic, Anne, and men are not frequently honorable knights. Life is a battle or a game which each of us fights or plays with all the skill at his command. Do not condemn Mary because her way would not be yours.”

“The King will tire of her.”


“And cast her off!”

“It is Mary’s nature to be happy, Anne. Do not fear. She will find other lovers when she is ejected from the royal bed. She has poor Will Carey, and she has been in favor for the best part of three years and her family have not suffered for it yet. Know, my sweet sister, that to be mistress of the King is an honor; it is only the mistress of a poor man who degrades herself.”

His handsome face was momentarily set in melancholy lines, but almost immediately he was laughing merrily.

“George,” she said, “I cannot like it.”

“What! Not like to see your father become a power in the land! Not like to see your brother make his way at court!”

“I would rather they had done these things by their own considerable abilities.”

“Bless you!” said George. “There are more favors won this way than by the sweat of the brow. Dismiss the matter from your mind. The Boleyns’ fortunes are in the ascendant. Who knows whither the King’s favor may lead—and all due to our own plump little Mary! Who would have believed it possible!”

“I like it not,” she repeated.

Then he took her hands and kissed them lightly, wishing to soothe her troubled mind.

“Fear not, little sister.”

Now he had her smiling with him—laughing at the incongruity of this situation. Mary—the one who was not as bright as the rest—was leading the Boleyns to fame and fortune.

It seemed almost unbearably quiet after Mary and George had gone. Anne could not speak of Mary’s relationship with the King to her mother, and it irked her frank nature perpetually to have to steer the conversation away from a delicate topic. She was glad when her father returned to the court, for his obvious delight in his good fortune angered Anne. Her father thought her a sullen girl, for she was not one, feeling displeased, to care about hiding her displeasure. Mary was his favorite daughter; Mary was a sensible girl; and Anne could not help feeling that he would be relieved when the arrangements for the Butler marriage were completed. She spent the days with her mother, or wandered often alone in the lanes and gardens.

Sir Thomas returned to Hever in a frenzy of excitement. The King would be passing through Kent, and it was probable that he would spend a night at Hever. Sir Thomas very quickly roused the household to his pitch of excitement. He went to the kitchen and gave orders himself; he had flowers set in the ballroom and replaced by fresh ones twice a day; he grumbled incessantly about the inconvenience of an old castle like Hever, and wished fervently that he had a modern house in which to entertain the King.

“The house is surely of little importance,” said Anne caustically, “as long as Mary remains attractive to the King!”

“Be silent, girl!” thundered Sir Thomas. “Do you realize that this is the greatest of honors?”

“Surely not the greatest!” murmured Anne, and was silenced by a pleading look from her mother, who greatly feared discord; and, loving her mother while deploring her attitude in the case of Mary and the King, Anne desisted.

The King’s having given no date for his visit, Sir Thomas fumed and fretted for several days, scarcely leaving the castle for fear he should not be on the spot to welcome his royal master.

One afternoon Anne took a basket to the rose garden that she might cut some of the best blooms for her mother. It was a hot afternoon, and she was informally dressed in her favorite scarlet; as the day was so warm she had taken off the caul from her head and shaken out her long, silky ringlets. She had sat on a seat in the rose garden for an hour or more, half dozing, when she decided it was time she gathered the flowers and returned to the house; and as she stood by a tree of red roses she was aware of a footfall close by, and turning saw what she immediately thought of as “a Personage” coming through the gap in the conifers which was the entrance to this garden. She felt the blood rush to her face, for she knew him at once. The jewels in his clothes were caught and held by the sun, so that it seemed as if he were on fire; his face was ruddy, his beard seemed golden, and his presence seemed to fill the garden. She could not but think of Mary’s meeting with him in the palace of Guisnes, and her resentment towards him flared up within her, even as she realized it would be sheer folly to show him that resentment. She sought therefore to compose her features and, with admirable calm—for she had decided now that her safest plan was to feign ignorance of his identity—she went on snipping the roses.

Henry was close. She turned as though in surprise to find herself not alone, gave him the conventional bow of acknowledgment which she would have given to one of her father’s ordinary acquaintances, and said boldly: “Good day, sir.”

The King was taken aback. Then inwardly he chuckled, thinking—She has no notion who I am! He studied her with the utmost appreciation. Her informal dress was more becoming, he thought, than those elaborate creations worn by some ladies at a court function. Her beautiful hair was like a black silk cloak about her shoulders. He took in each detail of her appearance and thought that he had never seen one whose beauty delighted him more.

She turned her head and snipped off a rose.

“My father is expecting the King to ride this way. I presume you to be one of his gentlemen!”

Masquerade had ever greatly appealed to Henry. There was nothing he enjoyed as much as to appear disguised at some ball or banquet, and after much badinage with his subjects and at exactly the appropriate moment, to make the dramatic announcement—“I am your King!” And how could this game be more delightfully played out than in a rose garden on a summer’s afternoon with, surely, the loveliest maiden in his kingdom!

He took a step closer to her.

“Had I known,” he said, “that I should come face to face with such beauty, depend upon it, I should have whipped up my horse.”

“Would you not have had to await the King’s pleasure?”

“Aye!” He slapped his gorgeous thigh. “That I should!”

She, who knew so well how to play the coquette, now did so with a will, for in this role she could appease that resentment in herself which threatened to make her very angry as she contemplated this lover of her sister Mary. Let him come close, and she—in assumed ignorance of his rank—would freeze him with a look. She snipped off a rose and gave it to him.

“You may have it if you care to.”

He said: “I do care. I shall keep it forever.”

“Bah!” she answered him contemptuously. “Mere court gallantry!”

“You like not our court gallants?”

Her mocking eyes swept his padded, jeweled figure.

“They are somewhat clumsy when compared with those of the French court.”

“You are lately come from France?”

“I am. A match has been arranged for me with my cousin.”

“Would to God I were the cousin! Tell me...” He came yet closer, noting the smooth skin, the silky lashes, the proud tilt of the head and its graceful carriage on the tiny neck. “Was that less clumsy?”

“Nay!” she said, showing white teeth. “Not so! It was completely without subtlety; I saw it coming.”

Henry found that, somewhat disconcerting as this was, he was enjoying it. The girl had a merry wit, and he liked it; she was stimulating as a glass of champagne. And I swear I never clapped eyes on a lovelier wench! he told himself. The airs she gives herself! It would seem I were the subject—she the Queen!

She said: “The garden is pretty, is it not? To me this is one of the most pleasant spots at Hever.”

They walked around it; she showed him the flowers, picked a branch of lavender and held it to her nose; then she rolled it in her hands and smelled its pleasant fragrance there.

Henry said: “You tell me you have recently come from the court of France. How did you like it there?”

“It was indeed pleasant.”

“And you are sorry to return?”

“I think that may be, for so long have I been there that it seems as home to me.”

“I like not to hear that.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “They say I am as French as I am English.”

“The French,” he said, the red of his face suddenly tinged with purple that matched his coat, “are a perfidious set of rascals.”

“Sir!” she said reproachfully and, drawing her skirts about her, she walked from him and sat on the wooden seat near the pond. She looked at him coldly as he hurried towards her.

“How now!” he said, thinking he had had enough of the game.

He sat down beside her, pressing his thigh against hers, which caused her immediate withdrawal from him. “Perfidious!” she said slowly. “Rascals! And when I have said I am half French!”

“Ah!” he said. “I should not use such words to you. You have the face of an angel!”

She was off the seat, as though distrusting his proximity. She threw herself onto the grass near the pond and looked into still waters at her own reflection, a graceful feminine Narcissus, her hair touching the water.

“No!” she said imperiously, as he would have risen: “You stay there, and mayhap I will tarry awhile and talk to you.”

He did not understand himself. The joke should have been done with ere this. It was time to explain, to have her on her knees craving forgiveness for her forwardness. He would raise her and say: “We cannot forgive such disrespectful treatment of your sovereign. We demand a kiss in payment for your sins!” But he was unsure; there was that in her which he had never before discovered in a woman. She looked haughty enough to refuse a kiss to a king. No, no! he thought. Play this little game awhile.

She said: “The French are an interesting people. I was fortunate there. My friend was Madame la Duchesse D’Alencon, and I count myself indeed happy to have such a friend.”

“I have heard tales of her,” he said.

“Her fame travels. Tell me, have you read Boccaccio?”

The King leaned forward. Had he read Boccaccio! Indeed he had, and vastly had the fellow’s writing pleased him.

“And you?” he asked.

She nodded, and they smiled at each other in the understanding of a pleasure shared.

“We would read it together, the Duchess and I. Tell me, which of the stories did you prefer?”

Finding himself plunged deep into a discussion of the literature of his day, Henry forgot he was a king, and an amorous king at that. There was in this man, in addition to the coarse, crude, insatiable sensualist, a scholar of some attainment. Usually the sensualist was the stronger, ever ready to stifle the other, but there was about this girl sitting by the pond a purity that commanded his respect, and he found he could sit back in his seat and delight in her as he would in a beautiful picture or piece of statuary, while he could marvel at her unwomanly intellect. Literature, music and art could have held a strong position in his life, had he not in his youth been such a healthy animal. Had he but let his enthusiasm for them grow in proportion to that which he bestowed on tennis, on jousting, on the hunting of game and of women, his mind would assuredly have developed as nobly as his body. An elastic mind would have served him better than his strong muscles; but the jungle animal in him had been strong, and urgent desires tempered by a narrow religious outlook had done much to suppress the finer man, and from the mating of the animal and the zealot was born that monster of cruelty, his conscience. But that was to come; the monster was as yet in its infancy, and pleasant it was to talk of things of the mind with an enchanting companion. She was full of wit, and Marguerite of Alencon talked through her young lips. She had been allowed to peep into the Heptameron—that odd book which, under the influence of Boccaccio, Marguerite was writing.

From literature she passed to the pastimes of the French court. She told of the masques, less splendid perhaps than those he indulged in with such pleasure, but more subtle and amusing. Wit was to the French court what bright colors and sparkling jewels were to the English. She told of a play which she had helped Marguerite to write, quoting lines from it which set him laughing with appreciative merriment. He was moved to tell her of his own compositions, reciting some verses of his. She listened, her head on one side, critical.

She shook her head: “The last line is not so good. Now this would have been better...” And so would it! Momentarily he was angered, for those at court had declared there never were such verses written as those penned by his hand. From long practice he could pretend, even to himself, that his anger came from a different cause than that from which it really sprang. Now it grew—he assured himself—not from her slighting remarks on his poetry, but from the righteous indignation he must feel when he considered that this girl, though scarcely out of her childhood, had been exposed to the wickedness of the French court. Where he himself was concerned he had no sense of the ridiculous; he could, in all seriousness, put aside the knowledge that even at this moment he was planning her seduction, and burn with indignation that others—rakes and libertines with fancy French manners—might have had similar intentions. Such a girl, he told himself, smarting under the slights which she, reared in that foreign court, had been able to deliver so aptly, should never have been sent to France.

He said with dignity: “It grieves me to think of the dangers to which you have been exposed at that licentious court presided over by a monarch who...” His voice failed him, for he pictured a dark, clever face, a sly smile and lips which had referred to him as “My prisoner.”

She laughed lightly. “The King of France is truly of an amorous nature, but never would I be a king’s mistress!”

It seemed to him that this clever girl then answered a question which he had yet to ask. He felt worsted, and angry to be so.

He said severely: “There are some who would not think it an indignity to be a king’s mistress, but an honor.”

“Doubtless there are those who sell themselves cheaply.”

“Cheaply!” he all but roared. “Come! It is not kingly to be niggardly with those that please.”

“I do not mean in worldly goods. To sell one’s dignity and honor for momentary power and perhaps riches—that is to sell cheaply those things which are beyond price. Now I must go into the house.” She stood up, throwing back her hair. He stood too, feeling deflated and unkingly.

Silently he walked with her from the rose garden. Now was the time to disclose his identity, for it could not much longer be kept secret.

“You have not asked my name,” he said.

“Nor you mine.”

“You are the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, I have gathered.”

“Indeed, that was clever of you!” she mocked. “I am Anne Boleyn.”

“You still do not ask my name. Have you no curiosity to know it?”

“I shall doubtless learn in good time.”

“My name is Henry.”

“It is a good English name.”

“And have you noticed nothing yet?”

She turned innocent eyes upon him. “What is there that I should have noticed?”

“It is the same as the King’s.” He saw the mockery in her eyes now. He blurted out: “By God! You knew all the time!”

“Having once seen the King’s Grace, how could one of his subjects ever forget him?”

He was uncertain now whether to be amused or angry; in vain did he try to remember all she had said to him and he to her. “Methinks you are a saucy wench!” he said.

“I hope my sauciness has pleased my mighty King.”

He looked at her sternly, for though her words were respectful, her manner was not.

“Too much sauce,” he said, “is apt to spoil a dish.”

“And too little, to destroy it!” she said, casting down her eyes. “I had thought that Your Majesty, being a famous epicure, would have preferred a well-flavored one.”

He gave a snort of laughter and put out a hand which he would have laid on her shoulders, but without giving him a glance she moved daintily away, so that he could not know whether by accident or design.

He said: “We shall look to see you at court with your sister.”

He was unprepared for the effect of those words; her cheeks were scarlet as her dress, and her eyes lost all their merriment. Her father was coming across the lawn towards them; she bowed low and turning from him ran across the grass and into the castle.

“You have a beautiful daughter there, Thomas!” exclaimed the King. And Thomas, obsequious, smiling, humbly conducted Henry into Hever Castle.

The sight of the table in the great dining-hall brought a glister of pride into Sir Thomas’s eyes. On it were laid out in most lavish array great joints of beef, mutton and venison, hare and seasoned peacocks; there were vegetables and fruit, and great pies and pastries. Sir Thomas’s harrying of his cooks and scullions had been well worthwhile, and he felt that the great kitchens of Hever had done him justice. The King eyed this display with an approval which might have been more marked, had not his thoughts been inclined to dwell more upon Sir Thomas’s daughter than on his table.

They took their seats, the King in the place of honor at the right hand of his host, the small company he had brought with him ranged about the table. There was one face for which the King looked in vain; Sir Thomas, ever eager to anticipate the smallest wish of his sovereign, saw the King’s searching look and understood it; he called a serving-maid to him and whispered sharply to her to go at once to his daughter and bid her to the table without a second’s delay. The maid returned with the disconcerting message that Sir Thomas’s daughter suffered from a headache and would not come to the table that day. The King, watching this little by-play with the greatest interest, heard every word.

“Go back at once,” said Sir Thomas, “and tell the lady I command her presence here at once!”

“Stay!” interceded Henry, his voice startling Sir Thomas by its unusual softness. “Allow me to deal with the matter, good Thomas. Come hither, girl.”

The poor little serving-maid dropped a frightened curtsey and feared she would not be able to understand the King’s commands, so overawed was she by his notice.

“Tell the lady from us,” said Henry, “that we are indeed sorry for the headache. Tell her it doubtless comes from lingering too daringly in the rays of the sun. Tell her we excuse her and wish her good speed in her recovery.”

He did not see Anne again, for she kept to her room. Next morning he left Hever. He looked up at its windows, wondering which might be hers, telling himself that no girl, however haughty, however self-possessed, would be able to prevent herself from taking one glimpse at her King. But there was no sign of a face at any window. Disconsolate, bemused, the King rode away from Hever.

The great Cardinal, he who was Lord Chancellor of the realm, rode through the crowds. Before him and behind went his gentlemen attendants, for the great man never rode abroad but that he must impress the people with his greatness. He sat his mule with a dignity which would have become a king. What though his body were weak, his digestion poor, that he was very far from robust and suffered many ailments! His mind was the keenest, the most able, the most profound in the kingdom; and thus, first through the King’s father, and more effectively through his gracious son, had Thomas Wolsey come to his high office. His success, he knew well, lay with his understanding of the King—that fine robustious animal—and when he was but almoner to his gracious lord he had used that knowledge and so distinguished himself. There had been those counsellors who might urge the King to leave his pleasure and devote more time to affairs of state. Not so Thomas Wolsey! Let the King leave tiresome matters to his most dutiful servant. Let the King pursue his pleasures. Leave the wearisome matters to his most obedient—and what was all-important—to his most able Wolsey! How well the King loved those who did his will! This King, this immense man—in whom all emotions matched his huge body—hated fiercely and could love well. And he had loved Wolsey, in whose hands he could so safely place those matters that were important to his kingdom but so monotonously dull to his royal mind. And never was a man more content than Wolsey that this should be so. He, arrogant, imperious as his master, had had the indignity to be born the son of a poor man of Ipswich, and by his own fine brain had replaced indignity with honor. The Ipswich merchant’s son was the best loved friend of the English King, and how doubly dear were those luxuries and those extravagances with which he, who had once suffered from obscurity, now surrounded himself! If he were over-lavish, he forgave himself; he had to wash the taste of Ipswich from his mouth.

As he rode on his ceremonious way, the people watched him. To his nose he held what might appear to be an orange, and what was really a guard against disease; for all the natural matter had been taken from the orange and in its place was stuffed part of a sponge containing vinegar and such concoctions as would preserve a great man from the pestilence which floated in the London air. Perhaps the people murmured against him; there were those who gave him sullen looks. Is this a man of God? they asked each other. This Wolsey—no higher born than you or I—who surrounds himself with elegance and luxury at the expense of the hard-pressed people! This gourmet, who must get special dispensation from the Pope that he need not follow the Lenten observances! They say he never forgives a slight. They say his hands are as red as his robes. What of brave Buckingham! A marvel it is that the headless ghost of the Duke does not haunt his murderer!

If Wolsey could have spoken to them of Buckingham, he could have told them that a man, who will at any cost hold the King’s favor, must often steep his hands in blood. Buckingham had been a fool. Buckingham had insulted Wolsey, and Wolsey had brought a charge against him of treasonable sorcery. Buckingham went to the block, not for his treasonable sorcery; he died because he had committed the unforgivable sin of being too nearly related to the King. He stood too close to the throne, and the Tudors had not been in possession of it long enough to be able to regard such an offense lightly. Thus it was one kept the favor of kings; by learning their unuttered desires and anticipating their wishes; thus one remained the power behind the throne, one’s eyes alert, one’s ears trained to catch the faintest inflection of the royal voice, fearful lest the mighty puppet might become the master.

In the presence-chamber Wolsey awaited audience of the King. He came, fresh from his Kentish journey, flushed with health, his eyes beaming with pleasure as they rested on his best-loved statesman.

“I would speak with Your Majesty on one or two matters,” said the Chancellor-Cardinal when he had congratulated the King on his healthy appearance.

“Matters of state! Matters of state, eh? Let us look into these matters, good Thomas.”

Wolsey spread papers on the table, and the royal signature was appended to them. The King listened, though his manner was a little absent.

“You are a good man, Thomas,” he said, “and we love you well.”

“Your Majesty’s regard is my most treasured possession.”

The King laughed heartily, but his voice was a trifle acid when he spoke. “Then the King is pleased, for to be the most treasured of all your possessions, my rich friend, is indeed to be of great price!”

Wolsey felt the faintest twinge of uneasiness, until he saw in his sovereign’s face a look he knew well. There was a glaze over the bright little eyes, the cruel mouth had softened, and when the King spoke, his voice was gentle.

“Wolsey, I have been discoursing with a young lady who has the wit of an angel, and is worthy to wear a crown.”

Wolsey, alert, suppressed his smile with the desire to rub his hands together in his glee.

“It is sufficient if Your Majesty finds her worthy of your love,” he whispered.

The King pulled at his beard.

“Nay, Thomas, I fear she would never condescend that way.”

“Sire, great princes, if they choose to play the lover, have that in their power to mollify a heart of steel.”

The King shook his great head in melancholy fashion, seeing her bending over the pond, seeing her proud young head on the small neck, hearing her sweet voice: “I would never be a king’s mistress!”

“Your Majesty has been saddened by this lady,” said Wolsey solicitously.

“I fear so, Wolsey.”

“This must not be!” Wolsey’s heart was merry. There was nothing he desired so much at this time as to see his master immersed in a passionate love affair. It was necessary at this moment to keep the fat, jeweled finger out of the French pie.

“Nay, my master, my dear lord, your chancellor forbids such sadness.” He put his head closer to the flushed face. “Could we not bring the lady to court, and find a place for her among the Queen’s ladies?”

The King placed an affectionate arm about Wolsey’s shoulders.

“If Your Majesty will but whisper the name of the lady...”

“It is Boleyn’s daughter...Anne.”

Now Wolsey had great difficulty in restraining his mirth. Boleyn’s daughter! Anne! Off with the elder daughter! On with the younger!

“My lord King, she shall come to the court. I shall give a banquet at Hampton Court—a masque it shall be! I shall ask my Gracious Liege to honor me with his mighty presence. The lady shall be there!”

The King smiled, well pleased. A prince, had said this wise man, has that power to mollify a heart of steel. Good Wolsey! Dear Thomas! Dear friend and most able statesman!

“Methinks, Thomas,” said the King with tears in his eyes, “that I love thee well.”

Wolsey fell on his knees and kissed the ruby on the forefinger of the fat hand. And I do love this man, thought the King; for he was one to whom it was not necessary to state crude facts. The lady would be brought to court, and it would appear that she came not through the King’s wish. That was what he wanted, and not a word had he said of it; yet Wolsey had known. And well knew the King that Wolsey would arrange this matter with expedience and tact.

Life at the English court offered amusement in plenty, and the coming of one as vivacious and striking as Anne Boleyn could not pass unnoticed. The ladies received her with some interest and much envy, the gentlemen with marked appreciation. There were two ways of life at court; on the one hand there was the gay merry-making of the King’s faction, on the other the piety of the Queen. As Queen’s attendant, Anne’s actions were restricted; but at the jousts and balls, where the Queen’s side must mingle with the King’s, she attracted a good deal of attention for none excelled her at the dance, and whether it was harpsichord, virginals or flute she played there were always those to crowd about her; when she sang, men grew sentimental, for there was that in her rich young voice to move men to tears.

The King was acutely aware of her while feigning not to notice her. He would have her believe that he had been not entirely pleased by her disrespectful manners at Hever, and that he still remembered the levity of her conversation with pained displeasure.

Anne laughed to herself, thinking—Well he likes a masquerade, when he arranges it; well he likes a joke against others! Is he angry at my appointment to attend the Queen? How I hope he does not banish me to Hever!

Life had become so interesting. As lady-in-waiting to the Queen, she was allowed a woman attendant and a spaniel of her own; she was pleased with the woman and delighted with the spaniel. The three of them shared a breakfast of beef and bread, which they washed down with a gallon of ale between them. Other meals were taken with the rest of the ladies in the great chamber, and at all these meals ale and wine were served in plenty; meat was usually the fare—beef, mutton, poultry, rabbits, peacocks, hares, pigeons—except on fast days when, in place of the meats, there would be a goodly supply of salmon or flounders, salted eels, whiting, or plaice and gurnet. But it was not the abundance of food that delighted Anne; it was the gaiety of the company. And if she had feared to be dismissed from the court in those first days, no sooner had she set eyes on Henry, Lord Percy, eldest son of the Earl of Northumberland, than she was terrified of that happening.

These two young people met about the court, though not as often as they could have wished, for whilst Anne, as maid of honor to Queen Katharine, was attached to the court, Percy was a protg of the Cardinal. It pleased Wolsey to have in his retinue of attendants various high-born young men, and so great was his place in the kingdom that this honor was sought by the noblest families in the realm. Young Percy must therefore attend the Cardinal daily, accompany him to court, and consider himself greatly honored by the patronage of this low-born man.

Lord Percy was a handsome young man of delicate features and of courteous manners; and as soon as he saw the Queen’s newest lady-in-waiting he was captivated by her personal charms. And Anne, seeing this handsome boy, was filled with such a tenderness towards him, which she had experienced for none hitherto, that whenever she knew the Cardinal to be in audience with the King she would look for the young nobleman. Whenever he came to the palace he was alert for a glimpse of her. They were both young; he was very shy; and so, oddly enough, was she, where he was concerned.

One day she was sitting at a window overlooking a courtyard when into this courtyard there came my lord Cardinal and his attendants; and among these latter was Henry, Lord Percy. His eyes flew to the window, saw Anne, and emboldened by the distance which separated them, flashed her a message which she construed as “Wait there, and while the Cardinal is closeted with the King I will return. I have so long yearned to hold speech with you!”

She waited, her heart beating fast as she pretended to stitch a piece of tapestry; waiting, waiting, feeling a sick fear within her lest the King might not wish to see the Cardinal, and the young man might thus be unable to escape.

He came running across the courtyard, and she knew by his haste and his enraptured expression that his fear had been as hers.

“I feared to find you gone!” he said breathlessly.

“I feared you would not come,” she answered.

“I look for you always.”

“I for you.”

They smiled, beautiful both of them in the joyful discovery of loving and being loved.

Anne was thinking that were he to ask her, she, who had laughed at Mary for marrying Will Carey, would gladly marry him though he might be nothing more than the Cardinal’s Fool.

“I know not your name,” said Percy, “but your face is the fairest I ever saw.”

“It is Anne Boleyn.”

“You are daughter to Sir Thomas?”

She nodded, blushing, thinking Mary would be in his mind, and a fear came to her that her sister’s disgrace might discredit herself in his eyes. But he was too far gone in love to find her anything but perfect.

“I am recently come to court,” she said.

“That I know! You could not have been here a day but that I should have found you.”

She said: “What would your master say an he found you lingering beneath this window?”

“I know not, nor care I!”

“Were you caught, might there not be those who would prevent you from coming again? Already you may have been missed.”

He was alarmed. To be prevented from enjoying the further bliss of such meetings was intolerable.

“I go now,” he said. “Tomorrow...you will be here at this hour?”

“You will find me here.”

“Tomorrow,” he said, and they smiled at each other.

Next day she saw him, and the next. There were many meetings, and for each of those two young lovers the day was good when they met, and bad when they did not. She learned of his exalted rank, and she could say with honesty that this mattered to her not at all, except of course that her ambitious father could raise no objection to a match with the house of Northumberland.

One day her lover came to her and pleasure was written large on his face.

“The Cardinal is to give a ball at this house at Hampton. All the ladies of the court will be invited!”

“You will be there?”

“You too!” he replied.

“We shall be masked.”

“I shall find you.”

“And then...?” she said.

His eyes held the answer to that question.

Anne had dreamed of such happiness, though of late her observation of those about her had led her to conclude that it was rarely known. But to her it had come; she would treasure it, preserve it, keep it forever. She could scarcely wait for that day when Thomas Wolsey would entertain the court at his great house at Hampton on the Thames.

The King was uneasy. The Cardinal had thought to help him when he had had Anne appointed a maid of honor to the Queen; but had he? Never, for the sake of a woman, had the King been so perplexed. He must see her every day, for how could he deny his eyes a sight of the most charming creature they had ever rested on! Yet he dared not speak with her. And why? For this reason; no sooner had the girl set foot in the Queen’s apartments than that old enemy, his conscience, must rear its ugly head to leer at him.

“Henry,” said the conscience, “this girl’s sister, Mary Boleyn, has shared your bed full many a night, and well you know the edict of the Pope. Well you know that association with one sister gives you an affinity with the other. Therein lies sin!”

“That I know well,” answered Henry the King. “But as there was no marriage....”

Such reasoning could not satisfy the conscience; it was the same—marriage ceremony or no marriage ceremony—and well he knew it.

“But there was never one like this girl; never was I so drawn to a woman; never before have I felt myself weak as I would be with her. Were she my mistress, I verily believe I should be willing to dispense with all others, and would not that be a good thing, for in the eyes of the Holy Church, is it not better for a man to have one mistress than many? Then, would not the Queen be happier? One mistress is forgivable; her distress comes from there being so many.”

He was a man of many superstitions, of deep religious convictions. The God of his belief was a king like himself, though a more powerful being since, in place of the axe, he was able to wield a more terrifying weapon whose blade was supernatural phenomena. Vindictive was the King’s god, susceptible to flattery, violent in love, more violent in hate—a jealous god, a god who spied, who recorded slights and insults, and whose mind worked in the same simple way as that of Henry of England. Before this god Henry trembled as men trembled before Henry. Hence the conscience, the uneasiness, his jealous watchfulness of Anne Boleyn, and his reluctance to make his preference known.

In vain he tried to soothe his senses. All women are much alike in darkness. Mary is very like her sister. Mary is sweet and willing; and there are others as willing.

He tried to placate his conscience. “I shall not look at the girl; I will remember there is an affinity between us.”

So those days, which were a blissful heaven to Anne and another Henry, were purgatory to Henry the King, racked alternately by conscience and desire.

She was clad in scarlet, and her vest was cloth of gold. She wore what had become known at court as the Boleyn sleeves, but they did not divulge her identity, for many wore the Boleyn sleeves since she had shown the charm of this particular fashion. Her hair was hidden by her gold cap, and only the beautiful eyes showing through her mask might proclaim her as Anne Boleyn.

He found her effortlessly, because she had described to him in detail the costume she would wear.

“I should have known you though you had not told me. I should always know you.”

“Then, sir,” she answered pertly, “I would I had put you to the test!”

“I heard the music on the barges as they came along the river,” he said, “and I do not think I have ever been so happy in my life.”

He was a slender figure in a coat of purple velvet embroidered in gold thread and pearls. Anne thought there was no one more handsome in this great ballroom, though the King, in his scarlet coat on which emeralds flashed, and in his bonnet dazzling rich with rubies and diamonds, was a truly magnificent sight.

The lovers clasped hands, and from a recess watched the gay company.

“There goes the King!”

“Who thinks,” said Anne, laughing, “to disguise himself with a mask!”

“None dare disillusion him, or ’twould spoil the fun. It seems as though he searches for someone.”

“His latest sweetheart, doubtless!” said Anne scornfully.

Percy laid his hand on her lips.

“You speak too freely, Anne.”

“That was ever a fault of mine. But do you doubt that is the case?”

“I doubt it not—and you have no faults! Let us steal away from these crowds. I know a room where we can be alone. There is much I would say to you.”

“Take me there then. Though I should be most severely reprimanded if the Queen should hear that one of her ladies hides herself in lonely apartments in the house.”

“You can trust me. I would die rather than allow any hurt to come to you.”

“That I know well. I like not these crowds, and would hear what it is that you have to say to me.”

They went up a staircase and along a corridor. There were three small steps leading into a little antechamber; its one window showed the river glistening in moonlight.

Anne went to that window and looked across the gardens to the water.

“There was surely never such a perfect night!” she exclaimed.

He put his arms about her, and they looked at each other, marveling at what they saw.

“Anne! Make it the most perfect night there ever was, by promising to marry me.”

“If it takes that to make this night perfect,” she answered softly, “then now it is so.”

He took her hands and kissed them, too young and mild of nature to trust entirely the violence of his emotion.

“You are the most beautiful of all the court ladies, Anne.”

“You think that because you love me.”

“I think it because it is so.”

“Then I am happy to be so for you.”

“Did you ever dream of such happiness, Anne?”

“Yes, often...but scarce dared hope it would be mine.”

“Think of those people below us, Anne. How one pities them! For what can they know of happiness like this!”

She laughed suddenly, thinking of the King, pacing the floor, trying to disguise the fact that he was the King, looking about him for his newest sweetheart. Her thoughts went swiftly to Mary.

“My sister...” she began.

“What of your sister! Of what moment could she be to us!”

“None!” she cried, and taking his hand, kissed it. “None, do we but refuse to let her.”

“Then we refuse, Anne.”

“How I love you!” she told him. “And to think I might have let them marry me to my cousin of Ormond!”

“They would marry me to Shrewsbury’s daughter!”

A faint fear stirred her then. She remembered that he was the heir of the Earl of Northumberland; it was meet that he should marry into the Shrewsbury family, not humble Anne Boleyn.

“Oh, Henry,” she said, “what if they should try to marry you to the Lady Mary?”

“They shall marry me to none but Anne Boleyn!”

It was not difficult, up here in the little moonlight chamber, to defy the world; but they dare not tarry too long. All the company must be present when the masks were removed, or absent themselves on pain of the King’s displeasure.

In the ballroom the festive air was tinged with melancholy. The Cardinal was perturbed, for the King clearly showed his annoyance. A masked ball was not such a good idea as it had at first seemed, for the King had been unable to find her whom he sought.

The masks were removed; the ball over, and the royal party lodged in the two hundred and forty gorgeous bedrooms which it was the Cardinal’s delight to keep ready for his guests.

The news might seem a rumor just at first, but before many days had passed the fact was established that Henry, Lord Percy, eldest son and heir to the noble Earl of Northumberland, was so far gone in love with sparkling Anne Boleyn that he had determined to marry her.

And so the news came to the ear of the King.

The King was purple with fury. He sent for him to whom he always turned in time of trouble. The Cardinal came hastily, knowing that to rely on the favor of a king is to build one’s hopes on a quiet but not extinct volcano. Over the Cardinal flowed the molten lava of Henry’s anger.

“By Christ!” cried the King. “Here is a merry state of affairs! I would take the fool and burn him at the stake, were he not such a young fool. How dare he think to contract himself without our consent!”

“Your Majesty, I fear I am in ignorance...”

“Young Percy!” roared His Majesty. “Fool! Dolt that he is! He has, an it please you, decided he will marry Anne Boleyn!”

Inwardly the Cardinal could smile. This was a mere outbreak of royal jealousy. I will deal with this, thought the Cardinal, and deplored that his wit, his diplomacy must be squandered to mend a lover’s troubles.

“Impertinent young fool!” soothed the Cardinal. “As he is one of my young men, Your Majesty must allow me to deal with him. I will castigate him. I will make him aware of his youthful...nay, criminal folly, since he has offended Your Majesty. He is indeed a dolt to think Northumberland can mate with the daughter of a knight!”

Through the King’s anger beamed his gratitude to Wolsey. Dear Thomas, who made the way easy! That was the reason, he told his conscience—Northumberland cannot mate with a mere knight’s daughter!

“’Twere an affront to us!” growled mollified Henry. “We gave our consent to the match with Shrewsbury’s girl.”

“And a fitting match indeed!” murmured the Cardinal.

“A deal more fitting than that he should marry Boleyn’s girl. My dear Wolsey, I should hold myself responsible to Shrewsbury and his poor child if anything went amiss....”

“Your Grace was ever full of conscience. You must not blame your royal self for the follies of your subjects.”

“I do, Thomas...I do! After all, ’twas I who brought the wench to court.”

Wolsey murmured: “Your Majesty...? Why, I thought ’twas I who talked to Boleyn of his younger daughter....”

“No matter!” said the King, his eyes beaming with affection. “I thought I mentioned the girl to you. No matter!”

“I spoke to Boleyn, Your Grace, I remember well.”

The King’s hand patted the red-clad shoulder.

“I know this matter can be trusted to you.”

“Your Majesty knows well that I shall settle it most expeditiously.”

“They shall both be banished from the court. I will not be flouted by these young people!”

Wolsey bowed.

“The Shrewsbury marriage can be hastened,” said the King.

Greatly daring, Wolsey asked: “And the girl, Your Majesty? There was talk of a marriage...the Ormond estates were the issue...Perhaps Your Majesty does not remember.”

The brows contracted; the little eyes seemed swallowed up in puffy flesh. The King’s voice cracked out impatiently: “That matter is not settled. I like not these Irish. Suffice it that we banish the girl.”

“Your Majesty may trust me to deal with the matter in accordance with your royal wishes.”

“And, Thomas...let the rebuke come from you. I would not have these young people know that I have their welfare so much at heart; methinks they already have too high a conceit of themselves.”

After Wolsey retired, the King continued to pace up and down. Let her return to Hever. She should be punished for daring to fall in love with that paltry boy. How was she in love? Tender? It was difficult to imagine that. Eager? Ah! Eager with a wretched boy! Haughty enough she had been with her lord the King! To test that eagerness he would have given the brightest jewel in his crown, but she would refuse her favors like a queen. And in a brief acquaintance, she had twice offended him; let her see that even she could not do that with impunity!

So she should be exiled to Hever, whither he would ride one day. She should be humble; he would be stern...just at first.

He threw himself into a chair, legs apart, hands on knees, thinking of a reconciliation in the rose garden at Hever.

His anger had passed away.

Immediately on his return to his house at Westminster, Wolsey sent for Lord Percy.

The young man came promptly, and there in the presence of several of his higher servants Wolsey began to upbraid him, marveling, he said, at his folly in thinking he might enter into an engagement with a foolish girl at the court. Did the young fool not realize that on his father’s death he would inherit and enjoy one of the noblest earldoms in the kingdom? How then could he marry without the consent of his father? Did Percy think, he thundered, that either his father or the King would consent to his matching himself with such a one? Moreover, continued the Cardinal, working himself up to a fine frenzy of indignation such as struck terror into the heart of the boy, he would have Percy know that the King had at great trouble prepared a suitable match for Anne Boleyn. Would he flout the King’s pleasure!

Lord Percy was no more timid than most, but he knew the ways of the court well enough to quail before the meaning he read into Wolsey’s words. Men had been committed to the Tower for refusing to obey the King’s command, and Wolsey clearly had the King behind him in this matter. Committed to the Tower! Though the dread Cardinal did not speak the words, Percy knew they were there ready to be pronounced at any moment. Men went to the Tower and were heard of no more. Dread happenings there were in the underground chambers of the Tower of London. Men were incarcerated, and never heard of again. And Percy had offended the King!

“Sir,” he said, trembling, “I knew not the King’s pleasure, and am sorry for it. I consider I am of good years, and thought myself able to provide me a convenient wife as my fancy should please me, not doubting that my lord and father would have been well content. Though she be but a simple maid and her father a knight, yet she is descended of noble parentage, for her mother is of high Norfolk blood and her father descended from the Earl of Ormond. I most humbly beseech Your Grace’s favor therein, and also to entreat the King’s Majesty on my behalf for his princely favor in this matter which I cannot forsake.”

The Cardinal turned to his servants, appealing to them to observe the willful folly of this boy. Sadly he reproached Percy for knowing the King’s pleasure and not readily submitting to it.

“I have gone too far in this matter,” said Percy.

“Dost think,” cried Wolsey, “that the King and I know not what we have to do in weighty matters such as this!”

He left the boy, remarking as he went that he should not seek out the girl, or he would have to face the wrath of the King.

The Earl arrived, coming in haste from the north since the command was the King’s, and hastened to Wolsey’s house. A cold man with an eye to his own advantage, the Earl listened gravely, touched his neck uneasily as though he felt the sharp blade of an axe there—for heads had been severed for less than this—hardened his face, and said that he would set the matter to rights.

He went to his son and railed at him, cursing his pride, his licentiousness, but chiefly the fact that he had incurred the King’s displeasure. So he would bring his father to the block and forfeit the family estate, would he! He was a waster, useless, idle....He would return to his home immediately and proceed with the marriage to the Lady Mary Talbot, to which he was committed.

Percy, threatened by his father, dreading the wrath of the King, greatly fearing the mighty Cardinal, and not being possessed of the same reckless courage as his partner in romance, was overpowered by this storm he and Anne had aroused. He could not stand out against them. Wretchedly, brokenheartedly he gave in, and left the court with his father.

He was, however, able to leave a message for Anne with a kinsman of hers, in which he begged that she would remember her promise from which none but God could loose her.

And the Cardinal, passing through the palace courtyard with his retinue, saw a dark-eyed girl with a pale, tragic face at one of the windows.

Ah! thought the Cardinal, turning his mind from matters of state. The cause of all the trouble!

The black eyes blazed into sudden hatred as they rested on him, for there had been those who had overheard Wolsey’s slighting remarks about herself and hastened to inform her. Wolsey she blamed, and Wolsey only, for the ruin of her life.

Insolently she stared at him, her lips moving as though she cursed him.

The Cardinal smiled. Does she think to frighten me? A foolish girl! And I the first man in the kingdom! I would reprove her, but for the indignity of noting one so lacking in significance!

The next time he passed through the courtyard, he did not see Anne Boleyn. She had been banished to Hever.

At home in Hever Castle, a fierce anger took possession of her. She had waited for a further message from her lover. There was no message. He will come, she had told herself. They would ride away together, mayhap disguised as country folk, and they would care nothing for the anger of the Cardinal.

She would awake in the night, thinking she heard a tap on her window; walking in the grounds, she would feel her heart hammering at the sound of crackling bracken. She longed for him, thinking constantly of that night in the little chamber at Hampton Court, which they had said should be a perfect night and which by promising each other marriage they had made so; she thought of how sorry they had been for those who were dancing below, knowing nothing of the enchantment they were experiencing.

She would be ready when he came for her. Where would they go? Anywhere! For what did place matter! Life should be a glorious adventure. Taking her own courage for granted, why should she doubt his?

He did not come, and she brooded. She grew bitter, wondering why he did not come. She thought angrily of the wicked Cardinal whose spite had ruined her chances of happiness. Fiercely she hated him. “This foolish girl...” he had said. “This Anne Boleyn, who is but the daughter of a knight, to wed with one of the noblest families in the kingdom!”

She would show my lord Cardinal whether she was a foolish girl or not! Oh, the hypocrite! The man of God! He who kept house as a king and was vindictive as a devil and hated by the people!

When she and Percy went off together, the Cardinal should see whether she was a foolish girl!

And still her lover did not come.

“I cannot bear this long separation!” cried the passionate girl. “Perhaps he thinks to wait awhile until his father is dead, for they say he is a sick man. But I do not wish to wait!”

She was melancholy, for the summer was passing and it was sad to see the leaves fluttering down.

The King rode out to Hever. In her room she heard the bustle his presence in the castle must inevitably cause. She locked her door and refused to go down. If Wolsey had ruined her happiness, the King—doubtless at the wicked man’s instigation—had humiliated her by banishing her from the court. Unhappy as she was, she cared for nothing—neither her father’s anger nor the King’s.

Her mother came and stood outside the door to plead with her.

“The King has asked for you, Anne. You must come...quickly.”

“I will not! I will not!” cried Anne. “I was banished, was I not? Had he wished to see me, he should not have sent me from the court.”

“I dare not go back and say you refuse to come.”

“I care not!” sobbed Anne, throwing herself on her bed and laughing and weeping simultaneously, for she was beside herself with a grief that she found herself unable to control.

Her father came to her door, but his threats were as vain as her mother’s pleas.

“Would you bring disgrace on us!” stormed Sir Thomas. “Have you not done enough!”

“Disgrace!” she cried furiously. “Yes, if it is a disgrace to love and wish to marry, I have disgraced you. It is an honor to be mistress of the King. Mary has brought you honor! An I would not come for my mother, assuredly I will not come for you!”

“The King commands your presence!”

“You may do what you will,” she said stubbornly. “He may do what he will. I care for nothing...now.” And she burst into fresh weeping.

Sir Thomas—diplomatic over a family crisis as on a foreign mission—explained that his daughter was sadly indisposed; and the King, marveling at his feelings for this willful girl, replied, “Disturb her not then.”

The King left Hever, and Anne returned to that life which had no meaning—waiting, longing, hoping, fearing.

One cold day, when the first touch of winter was in the air and a fresh wind was bringing down the last of the leaves from the trees in the park, Sir Thomas brought home the news.

He looked at Anne expressionlessly and said: “Lord Percy has married the Lady Mary Talbot. This is an end of your affair.”

She went to her room and stayed there all that day. She did not eat; she did not sleep; she spoke to none; and on the second day she fell into a fit of weeping, upbraiding the Cardinal, and with him her lover. “They could have done what they would with me,” she told herself bitterly. “I would never have given in!”

Drearily the days passed. She grew pale and listless, so that her mother feared for her life and communicated her fears to her husband.

Sir Thomas hinted that if she would return to court, such action would not be frowned on.

“That assuredly I will not do!” she said, and so ill was she that none dared reason with her.

She called to mind then the happiness of her life in France, and it seemed to her that her only hope of tearing her misery from her heart lay in getting away from England. She thought of one whom she would ever admire—the witty, sparkling, Duchess of Alencon; was there some hope, with that spritely lady, of renewing her interest in life?

Love she had experienced, and found it bitter; she wanted no more such experience.

“With Marguerite I could forget,” she said; and, fearing for her health, Sir Thomas decided to humor her wishes; so once more Anne left Hever for the court of France.

The King’s Secret Matter

THE HOUSE AT LAMBETH was wrapped in deepest gloom. In the great bed which Jocosa had shared with Lord Edmund Howard since the night of her marriage, she now lay dying. She was very tired, poor lady, for her married life had been a wearying business. It seemed that no sooner had one small Howard left her womb than another was growing there; and poverty, in such circumstances, had been humiliating.

Death softened bitter feelings. What did it matter now, that her distinguished husband had been so neglected! Why, she wondered vaguely, were people afraid of death? It was so easy to die, so difficult to live.

“Hush! Hush!” said a voice. “You must not disturb your mother now. Do you not see she is sleeping peacefully?”

Then came to Jocosa’s ears the sound of a little girl’s sobbing. Jocosa tried to move the coverlet to attract attention. That was little Catherine crying, because, young as she was, she was old enough to understand the meaning of hushed voices, the air of gloom, old enough to smell the odor of death.

Jocosa knew suddenly why people were afraid of death. The fear was for those they left behind.

“My children...” she murmured, and tried to start up from her bed.

“Hush, my lady,” said a voice. “You must rest, my dear.”

“My children,” she breathed, but her lips were parched, too stiff for the words to come through.

She thought of Catherine, the prettiest of her daughters, yet somehow the most helpless. Gentle, loving little Catherine, so eager to please that she let others override her. Some extra sense told the mother that her daughter Catherine would sorely miss a mother’s care.

With a mighty effort she spoke. “Catherine....Daughter...”

“She said my name!” cried Catherine. “She is asking for me.”


“I am here,” said Catherine.

Jocosa lifted the baby fingers to her parched lips. Perhaps, she thought, she will acquire a stepmother. Stepmothers are not always kind; they have their own children whom they would advance beyond those of the woman they have replaced, and a living wife has power a dead one lacks. Perhaps her Aunt Norfolk would take this little Catherine; perhaps her Grandmother Norfolk. No, not the Norfolks, a hard race! Catherine, who was soft and young and tender, should not go to them. Jocosa thought of her own childhood at Hollingbourne, in the lovely old house of her father, Sir Richard Culpepper. Now her brother John was installed there; he had a son of his own who would be playing in her nursery. She remembered happy days spent there, and in her death-drugged thoughts it was Catherine who seemed to be there, not herself. It was soothing to the dying mother to see her daughter Catherine in her own nursery, but the pleasure passed and she was again conscious of the big, bare room at Lambeth:

“Edmund...” she said.

Catherine turned her tearful eyes to the nurse.

“She speaks my father’s name.”

“Yes, my lady?” asked the nurse, bending over the bed.


“Go to your father and tell him your mother would speak to him.”

He stood by the bedside—poor, kind, bitter Edmund, whose life with her had been blighted by that pest, poverty. Now he was sorry for the sharp words he had spoken to her, for poverty had ever haunted him, waylaid him, leered at him, goaded him, warping his natural kindness, wrecking that peace he longed to share with his family.

“Jocosa...” There was such tenderness in his voice when he said her name that she thought momentarily that this was their wedding night, and he her lover; but she heard then the rattle in her throat and was conscious of her body’s burning heat, and thus remembered that this was not the prologue but the epilogue to her life with Edmund, and that Catherine—gentlest of her children—was in some danger, which she sensed but did not comprehend.


He lifted the child in his arms and held her nearer the bed.

“Jocosa, here is Catherine.”

“My lord...let her go...let Catherine go...”

His head bent closer, and with a great effort the words came out.

“My brother John...at Hollingbourne...in Kent. Let Catherine...go to my brother John.”

Lord Edmund said: “Rest peacefully, Jocosa. It shall be as you wish.”

She sank back, smiling, for it was to be, since none dared disregard a promise made to a dying woman.

The effort had tired her; she knew not where she lay, but she believed it must be at Hollingbourne in Kent, so peaceful was she. The weary beating of her heart was slowing down. “Catherine is safe,” it said. “Catherine is...safe.”

At Hollingbourne, whither Catherine had been brought at her father’s command, life was different from that lived in the house at Lambeth. The first thing that struck Catherine was the plenteous supply of good plain country fare. There was a simplicity at Hollingbourne which had been entirely lacking at Lambeth; and Sir John, in his country retreat, was lord of the neighborhood, whereas Lord Edmund, living his impecunious life among those of equally noble birth, had seemed of little importance. Catherine looked upon her big Uncle John as something like a god.

The nurseries were composed of several airy rooms at the top of the house, and from these it was possible to look over the pleasant Kentish country undisturbed by the somber grandeur of the great city on whose outskirts the Lambeth house had sat. Catherine had often looked at the forts of the great Tower of London, and there was that in them to frighten the little girl. Servants were not over-careful; and though there were some who had nothing but adulation to give to Lord Edmund and his wife, poverty proved to be a leveler, and there were others who had but little respect for one who feared to be arrested at any moment for debt, even though he be a noble lord; and these servants were careless of what was said before the little Howards. There was a certain Doll Tappit who had for lover one who was a warder at the Tower, and fine stories he could tell her of the bloodcurdling shrieks which came from the torture chambers, of the noble gentlemen who had displeased the King and who were left to starve in the rat-infested dungeons. Therefore Catherine was glad to see green and pleasant hills against the skyline, and leafy woods in place of the great stone towers.

There was comfort at Hollingbourne, such as there had never been at Lambeth.

She was taken to the nurseries, and there put into the charge of an old nurse who had known her mother; and there she was introduced to her cousin Thomas and his tutor.

Shyly she studied Thomas. He, with his charming face in which his bold and lively eyes flashed and danced with merriment, was her senior by a year or so, and she was much in awe of him; but, finding the cousin who was to share his nursery to be but a girl—and such a little girl—he was inclined to be contemptuous.

She was lonely that first day. It was true she was given food; and the nurse went through her scanty wardrobe, clicking her tongue over this worn garment and that one, which should have been handed to a servant long ago.

“Tut-tut!” exclaimed the nurse. “And how have you been brought up, I should wonder!” Blaming little Catherine Howard for her father’s poverty; wondering what the world was coming to, when such beggars must be received in the noble house of Culpepper.

Catherine was by nature easygoing, gay and optimistic; never saying—This is bad; always—This might be worse. She had lost her mother whom she had loved beyond all else in the world, and she was heartbroken; but she could not but enjoy the milk that was given her to drink; she could not but be glad that she was removed from Lambeth. Her sisters and brothers she missed, but being one of the younger ones, in games always the unimportant and unpleasant roles were given to her; and if there were not enough parts to go round, it was Catherine who was left out. The afternoon of her first day at Hollingbourne was spent with the nurse who, tutting and clicking her tongue, cut up garments discarded by my lady, to make clothes for Catherine Howard. She stood still and was fitted; was pushed and made to turn about; and she thought the clothes that would soon be hers were splendid indeed.

Through the window she saw Thomas ride by on his chestnut mare, and she ran to the window and knelt on the window seat to watch him; and he, looking up, for he suspected she might be there, waved to her graciously, which filled Catherine with delight, for she had decided, as soon as he had looked down his haughty nose at her, that he was the most handsome person she had ever seen.

She had a bedroom to herself—a little paneled room with latticed windows which adjoined the main nursery. At Lambeth she had shared her room with several members of her family.

Even on that first day she loved Hollingbourne, but at that time it was chiefly because her mother had talked to her of it so affectionately.

But on the first night, when she lay in the little room all by herself, with the moon shining through the window and throwing ghostly shadows, she began to sense the solitude all about her and her quick love for Hollingbourne was replaced by fear. There was no sound from barges going down the river to Greenwich or up it to Richmond and Hampton Court; there was only silence broken now and then by the weird hooting of an owl. The strange room seemed menacing in this half-light, and suddenly she longed for the room at Lambeth with the noisy brothers and sisters; she thought of her mother, for Catherine Howard had had that sweet companionship which so many in her station might never know, since there was no court life to take Jocosa from her family, and her preoccupations were not with the cut of a pair of sleeves but with her children; that, poverty had given Catherine, but cruel life had let it be appreciated only to snatch it away. So in her quiet room at Hollingbourne, Catherine shed bitter tears into her pillow, longing for her mother’s soft caress and the sound of her gentle voice.

“You have no mother now,” they had said, “so you must be a brave girl.”

But I’m not brave, thought Catherine, and immediately remembered how her eldest brother had jeered at her because she, who was so afraid of ghosts, would listen to and even encourage Doll Tappit to tell tales of them.

Doll Tappit’s lover, Walter the warder, had once seen a ghost. Doll Tappit told the story to Nurse as she sat feeding the baby; Catherine had sat, round-eyed, listening.

“Now you know well how ’tis Walter’s task to walk the Tower twice a night. Now Walter, as you know, is nigh on six foot tall, near as tall as His Majesty the King, and not a man to be easily affrighted. It was a moonlit night. Walter said the clouds kept hurrying across the moon as though there was terrible sights they wanted to hide from her. There is terrible sights, Nurse, in the Tower of London! Walter, he’s heard some terrible groaning there, he’s heard chains clanking, he’s heard scream and shrieking. But afore this night he never see anything...And there he was on the green, right there by the scaffold, when...clear as I see you now, Nurse...the Duke stood before him; his head was lying in a pool of blood on the ground beside him, and the blood ran down all over his Grace’s fine clothes!”

“What then?” asked Nurse, inclined to be skeptical. “What would my lord Duke of Buckingham have to say to Walter the warder?”

“He said nothing. He was just there...just for a minute he was there. Then he was gone.”

“They say,” said Nurse, “that the pantler there is very hospitable with a glass of metheglin...”

“Walter never takes it!”

“I’ll warrant he did that night.”

“And when the ghost had gone, Walter stooped down where it was...”

“Where what was?”

“The head...all dripping blood. And though the head was gone, the blood was still there. Walter touched it; he showed me the stain on his coat.”

Nurse might snort her contempt, but Catherine shivered; and there were occasions when she would dream of the headless duke, coming towards her, and his head making stains on the nursery floor.

And here at Hollingbourne there were no brothers and sisters to help her disbelief in ghosts. Ghosts came when people were alone, for all the stories Catherine had ever heard of ghosts were of people who were alone when they saw them. Ghosts had an aversion to crowds of human beings, so that, all through her life, being surrounded by brothers and sisters, Catherine had felt safe; but not since she had come to Hollingbourne.

As these thoughts set Catherine shivering, outside her window she heard a faint noise, a gentle rustling of the creeper; it was as though hands pulled at it. She listened fearfully, and then it came again.

She was sitting up in bed, staring at the window. Again there came that rustle; and with it she could hear the deep gasps of one who struggles for breath.

She shut her eyes; she covered her head with the clothes; then, peeping out and seeing a face at her window, she screamed. A voice said: “Hush!” very sternly, and Catherine thought she would die from relief, for the voice was the voice of her handsome young cousin, Thomas Culpepper.

He scrambled through the window.

“Why, ’tis Catherine Howard! I trust I did not startle you, Cousin?”

“I...thought you...to be a...ghost!”

That made him rock with merriment.

“I had forgotten this was your room, Cousin,” he lied, for well he had known it and had climbed in this way in order to impress her with his daring. “I have been out on wild adventures.” He grimaced at a jagged tear in his breeches.

“Wild adventures. . . !”

“I do bold things by night, Cousin.”

Her big eyes were round with wonder, admiring him, and Thomas Culpepper, basking in such admiration that he could find nowhere but in this simple girl cousin, felt mightily pleased that Catherine Howard had come to Hollingbourne.

“Tell me of them,” she said.

He put his fingers to his lips.

“It is better not to speak so loudly, Cousin. In this house they believe me to be but a boy. When I am out, I am a man.”

“Is it witchcraft?” asked Catherine eagerly, for often had she heard Doll Tappit speak of witchcraft.

He was silent on that point, silent and mysterious; but before he would talk to her, he would have her get off her bed to see the height of the wall which he had climbed with naught to help him but the creeper.

She got out, and naked tiptoed to the window. She was greatly impressed.

“It was a wonderful thing to do, Cousin Thomas,” she said.

He smiled, well pleased, thinking her prettier in her very white skin than in the ugly clothes she had worn on her arrival.

“I do many wonderful things,” he told her. “You will be cold, naked thus,” he said. “Get back into your bed.”

“Yes,” she said, shivering, half with cold and half with excitement. “I am cold.”

She leapt gracefully into bed, and pulled the clothes up to her chin. He sat on the bed, admiring the mud on his shoes and the unkempt appearance of his clothes.

“Do tell me,” she said, her knees at her chin, her eyes sparkling.

“I fear it is not for little girls’ ears.”

“I am not such a little girl. It is only because you are big that it seems so.”

“Ah!” he mused, well pleased to consider it in that way. “That may well be so; perhaps you are not so small. I have been having adventures, Cousin; I have been out trapping hares and shooting game!”

Her mouth was a round O of wonder.

“Did you catch many?”

“Hundreds, Cousin! More than a little girl like you could count.”

“I could count hundreds!” she protested.

“It would have taken you days to count these. Do you know that, had I been caught, I could have been hanged at Tyburn?”

“Yes,” said Catherine, who could have told him more gruesome stories of Tyburn than he could tell her, for he had never known Doll Tappit.

“But,” said Thomas, “I expect Sir John, my father, would not have allowed that to happen. And then again ’twas scarcely poaching, as it happened on my father’s land which will be one day mine, so now, Cousin Catherine, you see what adventures I have!”

“You are very brave,” said Catherine.

“Perhaps a little. I have been helping a man whose acquaintance I made. He is a very interesting man, Cousin; a poacher. So I for fun, and he for profit, poach on my father’s land.”

“Were he caught, he would hang by the neck.”

“I should intercede for him with my father.”

“I would that I were brave as you are!”

“Bah! You are just a girl...and frightened that you might see a ghost.”

“I am not now. It is only when I am alone.”

“Will you be afraid when I have gone?”

“Very much afraid,” she said.

He surveyed her in kingly fashion. She was such a little girl, and she paid such pleasant tribute to his masculine superiority. Yes, assuredly he was glad his cousin had come to Hollingbourne.

“I shall be here to protect you,” he said.

“Oh, will you? Cousin Thomas, I know not how to thank you.”

“You surely do not think I could be afraid of a ghost!”

“I know it to be impossible.”

“Then you are safe, Catherine.”

“But if, when I am alone...”

“Listen!” He put his head close to hers conspiratorially. “There”—he pointed over his shoulder—“is my room. Only one wall dividing me from you, little Cousin. I am ever alert for danger, and very lightly do I sleep. Now listen very attentively, Catherine. Should a ghost come, all you must do is tap on this wall, and depend upon it you will have me here before you can bat an eyelid. I shall sleep with my sword close at hand.”

“Oh, Thomas! You have a sword too?”

“It is my father’s, but as good as mine because one day it will be so.”

“Oh, Thomas!” Sweet was her adulation to the little braggart.

“None dare harm you when I am by,” he assured her. “Dead or living will have to deal with me.”

“You would make yourself my knight then, Thomas,” she said softly.

“You could not have a braver...”

“Oh, I know it. I do not think I shall cry very much now.”

“Why should you cry?”

“For my mother, who is dead.”

“No, Catherine, you need not cry; for in place of your mother you have your brave cousin, Thomas Culpepper.”

“Shall I then tap on the wall if...?”

He wrinkled his brows. “For tonight, yes. Tomorrow we shall find a stick for you...a good, stout stick I think; that will make a good banging on the wall, and you could, in an emergency, hit the ghost should it be necessary before I arrive.”

“Oh, no, I could not! I should die of fear. Besides, might a ghost not do terrible things to one who made so bold as to hit it?”

“That may be so. The safest plan, my cousin, is to wait for me.”

“I do not know how to thank you.”

“Thank me by putting your trust in me.”

He stood back from the bed, bowing deeply.

“Good night, Cousin.”

“Good night, dear, brave Thomas.”

He went, and she hugged her pillow in an ecstasy of delight. Never had one of her own age been so kind to her; never had she felt of such consequence.

As for ghosts, what of them! What harm could they do to Catherine Howard, with Thomas Culpepper only the other side of her bedroom wall, ready to fly to her rescue!

There was delight in the hours spent at Hollingbourne. Far away in a hazy and unhappy past were the Lambeth days; and the sweetest thing she had known was the ripening of her friendship with her cousin Thomas. Catherine, whose nature was an excessively affectionate one, asked nothing more than that she should be allowed to love him. Her affection he most graciously accepted, and returned it in some smaller measure. It was a happy friendship, and he grew more fond of her than his dignity would allow him to make known; she, so sweet already, though so young, so clingingly feminine, touched something in his manhood. He found great pleasure in protecting her, and thus love grew between them. He taught her to ride, to climb trees, to share his adventures, though he never took her out at night; nor did he himself adventure much this way after her coming, wishing to be at hand lest in the lonely hours of evening she might need his help.

Her education was neglected. Sir John did not believe overmuch in the education of girls; and who was she but a dependant, though the child of his sister! She was a girl, and doubtless a match would be made for her; and bearing such a name as Howard, that match could be made without the unnecessary adornment of a good education. Consider the case of his kinsman, Thomas Boleyn. He had been, so Sir John had heard, at great pains to educate his two younger children who, in the family, had acquired the reputation of possessing some brilliance. Even the girl had been educated, and what had education done for her? There was some talk of a disaster at court; the girl had aspired to marry herself to a very highly born nobleman—doubtless due to her education. And had her education helped her? Not at all! Banishment and disgrace had been her lot. Let girls remain docile; let them cultivate charming manners; let them learn how to dress themselves prettily and submit to their husbands. That was all a girl needed from life. And did she want to construe Latin verse to do these things; did she want to give voice to her frivolous thoughts in six different languages! No, the education of young Catherine Howard was well taken care of.

Thomas tried to teach his cousin a little, but he quickly gave up the idea. She had no aptitude for it; rather she preferred to listen to the tales of his imaginary adventures, to sing and dance and play musical instruments. She was a frivolous little creature, and having been born into poverty, well pleased to have stepped out of it, happy to have for her friend surely the most handsome and the dearest cousin in the world. What more could she want?

And so the days passed pleasantly—riding with Thomas, listening to Thomas’s stories, admiring him, playing games in which he took the glorious part of knight and rescuer, she the role of helpless lady and rescued; now and then taking a lesson at the virginals, which was not like a lesson at all because she had been born with a love of music; she had singing lessons too which she loved, for her voice was pretty and promised to be good. But life could not go on in this even tenor for ever. A young man such as Thomas Culpepper could not be left to the care of a private tutor indefinitely.

He came to the music room one day while Catherine sat over the virginals with her teacher, and threw himself into a window seat and watched her as she played. Her auburn hair fell about her flushed face; she was very young, but there was always in Catherine Howard, even when a baby, a certain womanliness. Now she was aware of Thomas there, she was playing with especial pains to please him. That, thought Thomas, was so typical of her; she would always care deeply about pleasing those she loved. He was going to miss her very much; he found that watching her brought a foolish lump into his throat, and he contemplated running from the room for fear his sentimental tears should betray him. It was really but a short time ago that she had come to Hollingbourne, and yet she had made a marked difference to his life. Strange it was that that should be so; she was meek and self-effacing, and yet her very wish to please made her important to him; and he, who had longed for this childish stage of his education to be completed, was now sorry that it was over.

The teacher had stood up; the lesson was ended.

Catherine turned a flushed face to her cousin.

“Thomas, do you think I have improved?”

“Indeed yes,” he said, realizing that he had hardly heard what she had played. “Catherine,” he said quickly, “let us ride together. There is something I would say to you.”

They galloped round the paddock, he leading, she trying to catch up but never succeeding—which made her so enchanting. She was the perfect female, forever stressing her subservience to the male, soft and helpless, meek, her eyes ever ready to fill with tears at a rebuke.

He pulled up his horse, but did not dismount; he dared not, because he felt so ridiculously near tears himself. He must therefore be ready to whip up his horse if this inclination became a real danger.

“Catherine,” he said, his voice hardly steady, “I have bad news....”

He glanced at her face, at the hazel eyes wide now with fear, at the little round mouth which quivered.

“Oh, sweet little Cousin,” he said, “it is not so bad. I shall come back; I shall come back very soon.”

“You are going away then, Thomas?”

The world was suddenly dark; tears came to her eyes and brimmed over. He looked away, and sought refuge in hardening his voice.

“Come, Catherine, do not be so foolish. You surely did not imagine that my father’s son could spend all his days tucked away here in the country!”


“Well then! Dry your eyes. No handkerchief? How like you, Catherine!” He threw her his. “You may keep that,” he said, “and think of me when I am gone.”

She took the handkerchief as though already it were a sacred thing.

He went on, his voice shaking: “And you must give me one of yours, Catherine, that I may keep it.”

She wiped her eyes.

He said tenderly: “It is only for a little while, Catherine.”

Now she was smiling.

“I should have known,” she said. “Of course you will go away.”

“When I return we shall have very many pleasant days together, Catherine.”

“Yes, Thomas.” Being Catherine, she could think of the reunion rather than the parting, even now.

He slipped off his horse, and she immediately did likewise; he held out his hands, and she put hers into them.

“Catherine, do you ever think of when we are grown up...really grown up, not just pretending to be?”

“I do not know, Thomas. I think perhaps I may have.”

“When we are grown up, Catherine, we shall marry...both of us. Catherine. I may marry you when I am of age.”

“Thomas! Would you?”

“I might,” he said.

She was pretty, with the smile breaking through her tears.

“Yes,” he said, “I think mayhap I will. And now, Catherine, you will not mind so much that I must go away, for you must know, we are both young in actual fact. Were we not, I would marry you now and take you with me.”

They were still holding hands, smiling at each other; he, flushed with pleasure at his beneficence in offering her such a glorious prospect as marriage with him; she, overwhelmed by the honor he did her.

He said: “When people are affianced, Catherine, they kiss. I am going to kiss you now.”

He kissed her on either cheek and then her soft baby mouth. Catherine wished he would go on kissing her, but he did not, not over-much liking the operation and considering it a necessary but rather humiliating formality; besides, he feared that there might be those to witness this and do what he dreaded most that people would do, laugh at him.

“That,” he said, “is settled. Let us ride.”

Catherine had been so long at Hollingbourne that she came to regard it as her home. Thomas came home occasionally, and there was nothing he liked better than to talk of the wild adventures he had had; and never had he known a better audience than his young cousin. She was so credulous, so ready to admire. They both looked forward to these reunions, and although they spoke not of their marriage which they had long ago in the paddock decided should one day take place, they neither of them forgot nor wished to repudiate the promises. Thomas was not the type of boy to think over-much of girls except when they could be fitted into an adventure where, by their very helplessness and physical inferiority, they could help to glorify the resourcefulness and strength of the male. Thomas was a normal, healthy boy whose thoughts had turned but fleetingly to sex; Catherine, though younger, was conscious of sex, and had been since she was a baby; she enjoyed Thomas’s company most when he held her hand or lifted her over a brook or rescued her from some imaginary evil fate. When the game was a pretense of stealing jewels, and she must pretend to be a man, the adventure lost its complete joy for her. She remembered still the quick, shamefaced kisses he had given her in the paddock, and she would have loved to have made plans for their marriage, to kiss now and then. She dared not tell Thomas this, and little did he guess that she was all but a woman while he was yet a child.

So passed the pleasant days until that sad afternoon when a serving-maid came to her, as she sat in the wide window seat of the main nursery, to tell her that her uncle and aunt would have speech with her, and she was to go at once to her uncle’s chamber.

As soon as Catherine reached that room she knew that something was amiss, for both her uncle and her aunt looked very grave.

“My dear niece,” said Sir John, who frequently spoke for both, “come hither to me. I have news for you.”

Catherine went to him and stood before him, her knees trembling, while she prayed: “Please, God, let Thomas be safe and well.”

“Now that your grandfather, Lord Thomas the Duke, is no more,” said Sir John in the solemn voice he used when speaking of the dead, “your grandmother feels that she would like much to have you with her. You know your father has married again....” His face stiffened. He was a righteous man; there was nothing soft in his nature; it seemed to him perfectly reasonable that, his sister’s husband having married a new wife, his own responsibility for his sister’s child should automatically cease.

“Go...from here...?” stammered Catherine.

“To your grandmother in Norfolk.”

“Oh...but I...do not wish...Here, I have been...so happy....”

Her aunt put an arm about her shoulders and kissed her cheek.

“You must understand, Catherine, your staying here is not in our hands. Your father has married again...he wishes that you should go to your grandmother.”

Catherine looked from one to the other, her eyes bright with tears which overflowed, for she could never control her emotion.

Her aunt and uncle waited for her to dry her eyes and listen to them.

Then Sir John said: “You must prepare yourself for a long journey, so that you will be ready when your grandmother sends for you. Now you may go.”

Catherine stumbled from the room, thinking, When he comes next time, I shall not be here! And how shall I ever see him...he in Kent and I in Norfolk?

In the nursery the news was received with great interest.

“Well may you cry!” she was told. “Why, when you are at your grandmother’s house you will feel very haughty towards us poor folk. I have heard from one who served the Duchess that she keeps great state both at Horsham and Lambeth. The next we shall hear of you is that you are going to court!”

“I do not care to go to court!” cried Catherine.

“Ah!” she was told. “All you care for is your cousin Thomas!”

Then Catherine thought, is it so far from here to Norfolk? Not so far but that he could come to me. He will come; and then in a few years we shall be married. The time will pass quickly....

She remembered her grandmother—plumpish, inclined to poke her with a stick, lazy Grandmother who sat about and laughed to herself and made remarks which set her wheezing and chuckling, such as “You have pretty eyes, Catherine Howard. Keep them; they will serve you well!” Grandmother, with sly eyes and chins that wobbled, and an inside that gurgled since she took such delight in the table.

Catherine waited for the arrival of those who would take her to her grandmother, and with the passage of the days her fears diminished; she lived in a pleasant dream in which Thomas came to Horsham and spent his holidays there instead of at Hollingbourne; and Catherine, being the granddaughter of such a fine lady as the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, wore beautiful clothes and jewels in her hair. Thomas said: “You are more beautiful in Norfolk than you were in Kent!” And he kissed her, and Catherine kissed him; there was much kissing and embracing at Horsham. “Let us elope,” said Thomas. Thus pleasantly passed the last days at Hollingbourne, and when the time came for her departure to Norfolk, she did not greatly mind, for she had planned such a happy future for herself and Thomas.

The house at Horsham was indeed grand. It was built round the great hall; it had its ballroom, its many bedrooms, numerous small chambers and unpredictable corridors; from its mullioned windows there were views of gracious parklands; there was comfort in its padded window seats; there was luxury in its elegant furniture. One could lose oneself with ease in this house, and so many servants and attendants waited on her grandmother that in the first weeks she spent there, Catherine was constantly meeting strangers.

On her arrival she was taken to her grandmother, whom she found in her bed, not yet having risen though the afternoon was advancing.

“Ah!” said the Dowager Duchess. “So here you are, little Catherine Howard! Let me look at you. Have you fulfilled the promise of your babyhood that you would be a very pretty girl?”

Catherine must climb onto the bed and kiss one of the plump hands, and be inspected.

“Marry!” said the Duchess. “You are a big girl for your years! Well, well, there is time yet before we must find a husband for you.” Catherine would have told her of her contract with Thomas Culpepper, but the Duchess was not listening. “How neat you look! That is my Lady Culpepper, I’ll swear. Catherine Howard and such neatness appear to me as though they do not belong one to the other. Give me a kiss, child, and you must go away. Jenny!” she called, and a maid appeared suddenly from a closet. “Call Mistress Isabel to me. I would talk with her of my granddaughter.” She turned to Catherine. “Now, Granddaughter, tell me, what did you learn at Hollingbourne?”

“I learned to play the virginals and to sing.”

“Ah! That is well. We must look to your education. I will not have you forget that, though your father is a poor man, you are a Howard. Ah! Here is Mistress Isabel.”

A tall, pale young woman came into the room. She had small eyes and a thin mouth; her eyes darted at once to Catherine Howard, sitting on the bed.

“This is my little granddaughter, Isabel. You knew of her coming.”

“Your Grace mentioned it to me.”

“Well, the child has arrived. Take her, Isabel...and see that she lacks nothing.”

Isabel curtseyed, and the Duchess gave Catherine a little push to indicate that she was to get off the bed and follow Isabel. Together they left the Duchess’s apartment.

Isabel led the way upstairs and along corridors, occasionally turning, as though to make sure that Catherine followed. Catherine began to feel afraid, for this old house was full of shadows, and in unexpected places were doors and sudden passages; all her old fear of ghosts came back to her, and her longing for Thomas brought tears to her eyes. What if they should put her in a bedroom by herself, remote from other rooms! If Hollingbourne might have contained a ghost, this house assuredly would! Isabel, looking over her shoulder at her, alone stopped her from bursting into tears, for there was something about Isabel which frightened Catherine more than she cared to admit to herself.

Isabel had thrown open a door, and they were in a large room which contained many beds; this dormitory was richly furnished, as was every room in this house, but it was an untidy room; across its chairs and beds were flung various garments; shoes and hose littered the floor. There was perfume in the air.

“This room,” said Isabel, “is where Her Grace’s ladies sleep; she has told me that temporarily you are to share it with us.”

Relief flooded Catherine’s heart; there was now nothing to fear; her pale face became animated, flushed with pleasure.

“That pleases you?” asked Isabel.

Catherine said it did, adding: “I like not solitude.”

Another girl had come into the room, big bosomed, wide hipped and saucy of eye.


Isabel held up a warning hand.

“Her Grace’s granddaughter has arrived.”

“Oh...the little girl?”

The girl came forward, saw Catherine, and bowed.

“Her Grace has said,” began Isabel, “that she is to share our room.”

The girl sat down upon a bed, drew her skirts up to her knees, and lifted her eyes to the ornate ceiling.

“It delights her, does it not...Catherine?”

“Yes,” said Catherine.

The girl, whose name it seemed was Nan, threw a troubled glance at Isabel, which Catherine intercepted but did not understand.

Nan said: “You are very pretty, Catherine.”

Catherine smiled.

“But very young,” said Isabel.

“Marry!” said Nan, crossing shapely legs and looking down at them in an excess of admiration. “We must all be young at some time, must we not?”

Catherine smiled again, liking Nan’s friendly ways better than the quiet ones of Isabel.

“And you will soon grow up,” said Nan.

“I hope to,” said Catherine.

“Indeed you do!” Nan giggled, and rose from the bed. From a cabinet she took a box of sweetmeats, ate one herself and gave one to Isabel and one to Catherine.

Isabel examined Catherine’s clothes, lifting her skirts and feeling the material between thumb and finger.

“She has lately come from her uncle, Sir John Culpepper of Hollingbourne in Kent.”

“Did they keep grand style in Kent?” asked Nan, munching.

“Not such as in this house.”

“Then you are right glad to be here where you will find life amusing?”

“Life was very good at Hollingbourne.”

“Isabel,” laughed Nan, “the child looks full of knowledge....I believe you had a lover there, Catherine Howard!”

Catherine blushed scarlet.

“She did! She did! I swear she did!”

Isabel dropped Catherine’s skirt, and exchanged a glance with Nan. Questions trembled on their lips, but these questions went unasked, for at that moment the door opened and a young man put his head round the door.

“Nan!” he said.

Nan waved her hand to dismiss him, but he ignored the signal, and came into the room.

Catherine considered this a peculiar state of affairs, for at Hollingbourne gentlemen did not enter the private apartments of ladies thus unceremoniously.

“A new arrival!” said the young man.

“Get you gone!” said Isabel. “She is not for you. She is Catherine Howard, Her Grace’s own granddaughter.”

The young man was handsomely dressed. He bowed low to Catherine, and would have taken her hand to kiss it, had not Isabel snatched her up and put her from him. Nan pouted on the bed, and the young man said: “How is my fair Nan this day?” But Nan turned her face to the wall and would not speak to him; then the young man sat on the bed and put his arms round Nan, so that his left hand was on her right breast, and his right hand on her left breast; and he kissed her neck hard, so that there was a red mark there. Then she arose and slapped him lightly on the face, laughing the while, and she leaped across the bed, he after her and so gave chase, till Isabel shooed him from the room.

Catherine witnessed this scene with much astonishment, thinking Isabel to be very angry indeed, expecting her to castigate the laughing Nan; but she did nothing but smile, when, after the young man had left, Nan threw herself onto the bed laughing.

Nan sat up suddenly and, now that the youth was no longer there to claim her interest, once more bestowed it on Catherine Howard.

“You had a lover at Hollingbourne, Catherine Howard! Did you not see how her cheeks were on fire, Isabel, and still are, I’ll warrant! I believe you to be a sly wench, Catherine Howard.”

Isabel put her hands on Catherine’s shoulders.

“Tell us about him, Catherine.”

Catherine said: “It was my cousin, Thomas Culpepper.”

“He who is son of Sir John?”

Catherine nodded. “We shall marry when that is possible.”

“Tell us of Thomas Culpepper, Catherine. Is he tall? Is he handsome?”

“He is both tall and handsome.”

“Tell me, did he kiss you well and heartily?”

“But once,” said Catherine. “And that in the paddock when he talked of marriage.”

“And he kissed you,” said Nan. “What else?”

“Hush!” said Isabel. “What if she should tell Her Grace of the way you have talked!”

“Her Grace is too lazy to care what her ladies may say or do.”

“You will be dismissed the house one day,” said Isabel. “Caution!”

“So your cousin kissed you, Catherine, and promised he would marry you. Dost not know that when a man talks of marriage it is the time to be wary?”

Catherine did not understand; she was aware of a certain fear, and yet a vivid interest in this unusual conversation.

“Enough of this,” said Isabel, and Nan went to her bed and lay down, reaching for the sweetmeats.

“Your bed,” said Isabel, “shall be this one. Are you a good sleeper?”

“Yes,” said Catherine; for indeed the only occasions when she could not sleep were those when she was afraid of ghosts, and if she were to sleep in a room so full of beds, each of which would contain a young lady, she need have no fear of gruesome company, and she could say with truth that she would sleep well.

Isabel looked at her clothes, asked many questions about Lambeth and Hollingbourne; and while Catherine was answering her, several ladies came in, and some gave her sweetmeats, some kissed her. Catherine thought them all pretty young ladies; their clothes were bright, and they wore gay ribands in their hair; and many times during that afternoon and evening a young man would put his head round the door and be waved away with the words “The Duchess’s granddaughter, Catherine Howard, is come to share our apartment.” The young men bowed and were as kind to Catherine as the ladies were; and often one of the ladies would go outside and speak with them, and Catherine would hear muffled laughter. It was very gay and pleasant, and even Isabel, who at first had appeared to be a little stern, seemed to change and laugh with the rest.

Catherine had food and drink with the ladies and their kindness persisted through the evening. At length she went to bed, Isabel escorting her and drawing the curtains around her bed. She was very soon asleep for the excitement of the day had tired her.

She awoke startled and wondered where she was. She remembered and was immediately aware of whispering voices. She lay listening for some time, thinking the ladies must just be retiring, but the voices went on and Catherine, in astonishment, recognized some of them as belonging to men. She stood up and peeped through the curtains. There was no light in the room but sufficient moonlight to show her the most unexpected sight.

The room seemed to be full of young men and women; some sitting on the beds, some reclining on them, but all of them in affectionate poses. They were eating and drinking, and stroking and kissing each other. They smacked their lips over the dainties, and now and then one of the girls would make an exclamation of surprise and feigned indignation, or another would laugh softly; they spoke in whispers. The clouds, hurrying across the face of the moon which looked in at the windows, made the scene alternately light and darker; and the wind which was driving the clouds whined now and then, mingling its voice with those of the girls and young men.

Catherine watched, wide-eyed and sleepless for some time. She saw the youth who had aroused Nan’s displeasure now kissing her bare shoulders, taking down the straps of her dress and burying his face in her bosom. Catherine watched and wondered until her eyes grew weary and her lids pressed down on them. She lay down and slept.

She awakened to find it was daylight and Isabel was drawing her bed curtains. The room was now occupied by girls only, who ran about naked and chattering, looking for their clothes which seemed to be scattered about the floor.

Isabel was looking down at Catherine slyly.

“I trust you slept well?” she asked.

Catherine said she had.

“But not through the entire night?”

Catherine could not meet Isabel’s piercing eyes, for she was afraid that the girl should know she had looked on that scene, since something told her it was not meant that she should.

Isabel sat down heavily on the bed, and caught Catherine’s shoulder.

“You were awake part of last night,” she said. “Dost think I did not see thee, spying through the curtains, listening, taking all in?”

“I did not mean to spy,” said Catherine. “I was awakened, and the moon showed me things.”

“What things, Catherine Howard?”

“Young gentlemen, sitting about the room with the ladies.”

“What else?”

Isabel looked wicked now. Catherine began to shiver, thinking perhaps it would have been better had she spent the night in a lonely chamber. For it was daylight now, and it was only at night that Catherine had great fear of ghosts.

“What else?” repeated Isabel. “What else, Catherine Howard?”

“I saw that they did eat...”

The grip on Catherine’s shoulder increased.

“What else?”

“Well...I know, not what else, but that they did kiss and seem affectionate.”

“What shall you do, Catherine Howard?”

“What shall I do? But I know not what you mean, Mistress Isabel. What would you desire me to do?”

“Shall you then tell aught of what you have seen...to Her Grace, your grandmother?”

Catherine’s teeth chattered, for what they did must surely be wrong since it was done at her grandmother’s displeasure.

Isabel released Catherine’s shoulder and called to the others. There was silence while she spoke.

“Catherine Howard,” she said spitefully, “while feigning sleep last night, was wide awake, watching what was done in this chamber. She will go to Her Grace the Duchess and tell her of our little entertainment.”

There was a crowd of girls round the bed, who looked down on Catherine, while fear and anger were displayed in every face.

“There was naught I did that was wrong,” said one girl, almost in tears.

“Be silent!” commanded Isabel. “Should what happens here of nights get to Her Grace’s ears, you will all be sent home in dire disgrace.”

Nan knelt down by the bed, her pretty face pleading. “Thou dost not look like a teller of tales.”

“Indeed I am not!” cried Catherine. “I but awakened, and being awake what could I do but see...”

“She will, I am sure, hold her counsel. Wilt thou not, little Catherine?” whispered Nan.

“If she does not,” said Isabel, “it will be the worse for her. What if we should tell Her Grace of what you did, Catherine Howard, in the paddock with your cousin, Thomas Culpepper!”

“What...I...did!” gasped Catherine. “But I did nothing wrong. Thomas would not. He is noble...he would do no wrong.”

“He kissed her and he promised her marriage,” said Isabel.

All the ladies put their mouths into round O’s, and looked terribly shocked.

“She calls that naught! The little wanton!”

Catherine thought: Did we sin then? Was that why Thomas was ashamed and never kissed me again?

Isabel jerked off the clothes, so that she lay naked before them; she stooped and slapped Catherine’s thigh.

“Thou darest not talk!” said Nan, laughing. “Why ’twould go harder with thee than with us. A Howard! Her Grace’s own granddaughter! Doubtless he would be hanged, drawn and quartered for what he did to you!”

“Oh, no!” cried Catherine, sitting up. “We did no wrong.”

The girls were all laughing and chattering like magpies.

Isabel put her face close to Catherine’s: “You have heard! Say nothing of what you have seen or may see in this chamber, and your lover will be safe.”

Nan said: “’Tis simple, darling. Say naught of our sins, and we say naught of thine!”

Catherine was weeping with relief.

“I swear I shall say nothing.”

“Then that is well,” said Isabel.

Nan brought a sweetmeat to her, and popped it into her mouth.

“There! Is not that good? They were given to me last night by a very charming gentleman. Mayhap one day some fine gentleman will bring sweetmeats to you, Catherine Howard!”

Nan put her arms about the little girl, and gave her two hearty kisses, and Catherine, munching, wondered why she had been so frightened. There was nothing to fear; all that was necessary was to say nothing.

The days passed as speedily as they had at Hollingbourne, and a good deal more excitingly. There were no lessons at Horsham. There was nothing to do during the long, lazy days but enjoy them. Catherine would carry notes from ladies to gentlemen; she was popular with them all, but especially with the young gentlemen. Once one said to her: “I have awaited this, and ’tis double sweet to me when brought by pretty Catherine!” They gave her sweetmeats too and other dainties. She played a little, played the flute and the virginals; she sang; they liked well to hear her sing, for her voice was indeed pretty. Occasionally the old Duchess would send for her to have a talk with her, and would murmur: “What a little tomboy you are, Catherine Howard! I declare you are an untidy chit; I would you had the grace of your cousin, Anne Boleyn....Though much good her grace did her!”

Catherine loved to hear of her cousin, for she remembered seeing her now and then at Lambeth before she went to Hollingbourne. When she heard her name she thought of beauty and color, and sparkling jewels and sweet smiles; she hoped that one day she would meet her cousin again. The Duchess often talked of her, and Catherine knew by the softening of her voice that she liked her well, even though, when she spoke of her disgrace and banishment from court, her eyes would glint slyly as though she enjoyed contemplating her granddaughter’s downfall.

“A Boleyn not good enough for a Percy, eh! Marry, and there’s something in that! But Anne is part Howard, and a Howard is a match for a Percy at any hour of the day or night! And I would be the first to tell Northumberland so, were I to come face to face with him. As for the young man, a plague on him! They tell me his Lady Mary hates him and he hates her; so much good that marriage did to either of them! Aye! I’ll warrant he does not find it so easy to forget my granddaughter. Ah, Catherine Howard, there was a girl. I vow I never saw such beauty...such grace. And what did it do for her? There she goes...To France! And what has become of the Ormond marriage? She will be growing on into her teens now...I hope she will come back soon. Catherine Howard, Catherine Howard, your hair is in need of attention. And your dress, my child! I tell you, you will never have the grace of Anne Boleyn.”

It was not possible to tell the Duchess that one could not hope to have the grace of one’s cousin who had been educated most carefully and had learned the ways of life at the French court; who had been plenteously supplied with the clothes she might need in order that Sir Thomas Boleyn’s daughter might do her father credit in whatever circles she moved. One could not explain that the brilliant Anne had a natural gift for choosing the most becoming clothes, and knew how to wear them. The Duchess should have known these things.

But she rocked in her chair and dozed, and was hardly aware of Catherine’s standing there before her. “Marry! And the dangers that girl was exposed to! The French court! There were adventures for her, I’ll warrant, but she keeps her secrets well. Ah! How fortunate it is, Catherine, that I have taken you under my wing!”

And while the Duchess snored in her bedroom, her ladies held many midnight feasts in their apartments. Catherine was one of them now, they assured themselves. Catherine could be trusted. It was no matter whether she slept or not; she was little but a baby and there were those times when she would fall asleep suddenly. She was popular; they would throw sweetmeats onto her bed. Sometimes she was kissed and fondled.

“Is she not a pretty little girl!”

“She is indeed, and you will keep your eyes off her, young sir, or I shall be most dismayed.”

Laughter, slapping, teasing....It was fun, they said; and with them Catherine said: “It is fun!”

Sometimes they lay on the tops of the beds with their arms about each other; sometimes they lay under the clothes, with the curtains drawn.

Catherine was accustomed to this strange behavior by now, and hardly noticed it. They were all very kind to her, even Isabel. She was happier with them than she was when attending her grandmother, sitting at her feet or rubbing her back where it itched. Sometimes she must massage the old lady’s legs, for she had strange pains in them and massage helped to soothe the pain. The old lady would wheeze and rattle, and say something must be done about Catherine’s education, since her granddaughter, a Howard, could not be allowed to run wild all the day through. The Duchess would talk of members of her family; her stepsons and her numerous stepdaughters who had married wealthy knights because the Howard fortunes needed bolstering up. “So Howards married with Wyatts and Bryans and Boleyns,” mused the Duchess. “And mark you, Catherine Howard, the children of these marriages are goodly and wise. Tom Wyatt is a lovely boy...” The Duchess smiled kindly, having a special liking for lovely boys. “And so is George Boleyn...and Mary and Anne are pleasant creatures....”

“Ah!” said the Duchess one day. “I hear your cousin, Anne, is back in England and at court.”

“I should like well to see her,” said Catherine.

“Rub harder, child! There! Clumsy chit! You scratched me. Ah! Back at court, and a beauty more lovely than when she went away...” The Duchess wheezed, and was so overcome with laughter that Catherine feared she would choke. “They say the King is deeply affected by her,” said the Duchess happily. “They say too that she is leading him a merry dance!”

When the Duchess had said that the King was deeply affected by Anne Boleyn, she had spoken the truth. Anne had left the court of France and returned to that of England, and no sooner had she made her spectacular appearance than once more she caught the King’s eye. The few years that had elapsed had made a great change in Anne; she was not one whit less beautiful than she had been when Henry had seen her in the garden at Hever; indeed she was more so; she had developed a poise which before would have sat oddly on one so young. If she had been bright then, now she was brilliant; her beauty had matured and gained in maturity; the black eyes still sparkled and flashed; her tongue was more ready with its wit, she herself more accomplished. She had been engaged in helping Marguerite to fete Francois, so recently released from captivity, a Francois who had left his youth behind in a Madrid prison in which he had nearly died and would have done so but for his sister’s loving haste across France and into Spain to nurse him. But Francois had made his peace treaty with his old enemy, Charles V, although he did repudiate it immediately, and it was the loving delight of his sister and his mother to compensate him for the months of hardship. Anne Boleyn had been a useful addition to the court; she could sing and dance, write lyrics, poetry, music; could always be relied upon to entertain and amuse. But her father, on the Continent with an embassy, had occasion to return to England, and doubtless feeling that a girl of nineteen must not fritter away her years indefinitely, had brought her back to the court of her native land. So Anne had returned to find the entire family settled at the palace. George, now Viscount Rochford, was married, and his wife, who had been Jane Parker and granddaughter to Lord Morley and Monteagle, was still one of the Queen’s ladies. Meeting George’s wife had been one of the less pleasant surprises on Anne’s return, since she saw that George was not very happy in this marriage with a wife who was frivolous and stupid and was not accepted into the brilliant set of poets and intellectuals—most of them cousins of the Boleyns—in which George naturally took a prominent place. This was depressing. Anne, still smarting from the Percy affair—though none might guess it—would have wished for her brother that married happiness which she herself had missed. Mary, strangely enough, seemed happy with William Carey; they had one boy—who, it was whispered, was the King’s—and none would guess that their union was not everything that might be desired. Anne wondered then if she and George asked too much of life.

There was no sign of melancholy about Anne. She could not but feel a certain glee—though she reproached herself for this—when she heard that Percy and his Mary were the most wretched couple in the country. She blamed Percy for his weakness; it was whispered that the Lady Mary was a shrew, who never forgave him, being contracted to her, for daring to fall in love with Anne Boleyn and make a scandal of the affair. Very well, thought Anne, let Percy suffer as she had! How many times during the last years had she in her thoughts reproached him for his infidelity! Perhaps he realized now that the easy way is not always the best way. She held her head higher, calling her lost lover weak, wishing fervently that he had been more like Thomas Wyatt who had pursued her ever since her return to court, wondering if she were not a little in love—or ready to fall in love—with her cousin Thomas, surely the most handsome, the most reckless, the most passionate man about the court. There was no doubt as to his feelings for her; it was both in his eyes and in his verses; and he was reckless enough not to care who knew it.

There was one other who watched her as she went about the court; Anne knew this, though others might not, for though he was by no means a subtle man, he had managed so far to keep this passion, which he felt for one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting, very secret.

Anne did not care to think too much of this man. She did not care to feel those little eyes upon her. His manner was correct enough, yet now there were those who were beginning to notice something. She had seen people whispering together, smiling slyly. Now the King is done with the elder sister, is it to be the younger? What is it about these Boleyns? Thomas is advanced as rapidly as my lord Cardinal ever was; George has posts that should have gone to a grey-haired man; Mary...of course we understand how it was with Mary; and now, is it to be the same story with Anne?

No! Anne told herself fiercely. Never!

If Thomas Wyatt had not a wife already, she thought, how pleasant it would be to listen to his excellent verses, which were chiefly about herself. She could picture the great hall at Allington Castle decked out for the Christmas festivities, herself and Thomas taking chief parts in some entertainment they had written for the amusement of their friends. But that could not be.

Her position at court had become complicated. She was thinking of a conversation she had had with the King, when he, who doubtless had seen her walking in the palace grounds, had come down to her unattended and had said, his eyes burning in his heated face, that he would have speech with her.

He had asked her to walk with him to a little summer-house he knew of where they could be secret. She had felt limp with terror, had steeled herself, had realized full well that in the coming interview she would have need of all her wits; she must flatter him and refuse him; she must soothe him, pacify him, and pray that he might turn his desirous eyes upon someone more willing.

She had entered the summer-house, feeling the color in her cheeks, but her fear made her hold her head the higher; her very determination helped to calm her. He had stood looking at her as he leaned against the doors, a mighty man, his padded clothes, glittering and colorful, adding to his great stature. He would have her accept a costly gift of jewels; he told her that he had favored her from the moment he had seen her in her father’s garden, that never had he set eyes on one who pleased him more; in truth he loved her. He spoke with confidence, for at that time he had believed it was but necessary to explain his feelings towards her to effect her most willing surrender. Thus it had been on other occasions; why should this be different?

She had knelt before him, and he would have raised her, saying lightly and gallantly: No, she must not kneel; it was he who should kneel to her, for by God, he was never more sure of his feelings towards any in his life before.

She had replied: “I think, most noble and worthy King, that Your Majesty speaks these words in mirth to prove me, without intent of degrading your noble self. Therefore, to ease you of the labor of asking me any such question hereafter, I beseech Your Highness most earnestly to desist and take this my answer, which I speak from the depth of my soul, in good part. Most noble King! I will rather lose my life than my virtue, which will be the greatest and best part of the dowry I shall bring my husband.”

It was bold; it was clever; it was characteristic of Anne. She had known full well that something of this nature would happen, and she had therefore prepared herself with what she would say when it did. She was no Percy to be browbeaten, she was a subject and Henry was King, well she knew that; but this matter of love was not a matter for a king and subject—it was for a man and woman; and Anne was not one to forget her rights as a woman, tactful and cautious as the subject in her might feel it necessary to be.

The King was taken aback, but not seriously; she was so beautiful, kneeling before him, that he was ready to forgive her for putting off her surrender. She wanted to hold him off; very well, he was ever a hunter who liked a run before the kill. He bade her cease to kneel, and said, his eyes devouring her since already in his mind he was possessing her, that he would continue to hope.

But her head shot up at that, the color flaming in her cheeks.

“I understand not, most mighty King, how you should retain such hope,” she said. “Your wife I cannot be, both in respect of mine own unworthiness and also because you have a Queen already.” And then there came the most disturbing sentence of all: “Your mistress I will not be!”

Henry left her; he paced his room. He had desired her deeply when she had been a girl of sixteen, but his conscience had got between him and desire; he had made no protest when she had wrenched open the cage door and flown away. Now here she was back again, more desirable, a lovely woman where there had been a delightful girl. This time, he had thought, she shall not escape. He believed he had but to say so and it would be so. He had stifled the warnings of his conscience and now he had to face the refusal of the woman. It could not be; in a long and amorous life it had never been so. He was the King; she the humblest of his Queen’s ladies. No, no! This was coquetry; she wished to keep him waiting, that he might burn the fiercer. If he could believe that was all, how happy he would be!

For his desire for Anne Boleyn astonished him. Desire he knew well; how speedily it came, how quickly it could be gratified. One’s passion flamed for one particular person; there was a sweet interlude when passion was slaked and still asked to be slaked; then...the end. It was the inevitable pattern. And here was one who said with a ring of determination in her voice: “Your mistress I will not be!” He was angry with her; had she forgotten he was the King? She had spoken to him as though he were a gentleman of the court...any gentleman. Thus had she spoken to him in her father’s garden at Hever. The King grew purple with fury against her; then he softened, for it was useless to rail against that which enslaved him; it was her pride, it was her dignity which would make the surrender more sweet.

The King saw himself in his mirror. A fine figure of a man...if the size of him was considered. The suit he was wearing had cost three thousand pounds, and that not counting all the jewels that adorned it. But she was not the one to say yes to a suit of clothes; it would be the man inside it. He would smile at himself; he could slap his thigh; he was sure enough of eventual success with her.

He too had changed since those days when he allowed his conscience to come between him and this Anne Boleyn. The change was subtle, but definite enough. The conscience was still the dominating feature in his life. There it was, more than life size. The change was this: The conscience no longer ruled him; he ruled the conscience. He soothed it and placated it, and put his own construction on events before he let the conscience get at them. There was Mary Boleyn; he had done with Mary; he had decided that when Anne returned. He would cease to think of Mary. Oh, yes, yes, he knew there were those who might say there was an affinity between him and Anne, but in the course of many years of amorous adventures had this never happened before? Was there no man at court who had loved two sisters, perhaps unwittingly? Mayhap he himself had! For—and on this point Henry could be very stern—court morals being as they were, who could be sure who was closely related to whom? Suppose these sisters had had a different father! There! Was not the affinity reduced by one half? One could never know the secret of families. What if even the one mother did not give birth to the two daughters! One could never be sure; there had been strange stories of changeling children. This matter was not really worth wasting another moment’s thought on. What if he were to eschew Anne on account of this edict, and make a match for her, only to discover then that she was not Mary’s sister after all! Would it not be more sinful to take another man’s wife? And this desire of his for this unusual girl could but be slaked one way, well he knew. Better to take her on chance that she might be Mary Boleyn’s sister. He would forget such folly!

There was another matter too, about which his conscience perturbed him deeply and had done so for some time, in effect ever since he had heard that Katharine could bear no more children. Very deeply was he perturbed on this matter; so deeply that he had spoken of it to his most trusted friends. For all the years he had been married to Katharine there was but one daughter of the union. What could this mean? Why was it that Katharine’s sons died one after the other? Why was it that only one of their offspring—and this a girl—had been allowed to live? There was some deep meaning in this, and Henry thought he had found it. There was assuredly some blight upon his union with Katharine, and what had he done, in the eyes of a righteous God, to deserve this? He knew not...except it be by marrying his brother’s wife. Was it not written in the book of Leviticus that should a man marry his brother’s wife their union should be childless? He had broken off all marital relations with Katharine when the doctors had told him she would never have any more children. Ah! Well he remembered that day; pacing up and down his room in a cold fury. No son for Henry Tudor! A daughter! And why? Why? Then his mind had worked fast and furiously on this matter of a divorce. Exciting possibility it had seemed. Divorces—forbidden by Holy Church on principle—could be obtained for political reasons from the Pope, who was ever ready to please those in high places. I must have an heir! Henry told his conscience. What would happen, should I die and not leave an heir? There is mine and Katharine’s daughter, Mary; but a woman on the throne of England! No! I must have a male heir! Women are not made to rule great countries; posterity will reproach me, an I leave not an heir.

There in his mirror looked back the great man. He saw the huge head, the powerful, glittering shoulders; and this man could not produce a son for England! A short while ago he had had his son by Elizabeth Blount brought to him, and had created him Duke of Richmond, a title which he himself had carried in his youth; that he had done in order to discomfort Katharine. I could have a son, he implied. See! Here is my son. It is you who have failed! And all the tears she shed in secret, and all her prayers, availed her little. She had nothing to give him but a daughter, for—and when he thought of this, the purple veins stood out on Henry’s forehead—she had lied; she had sworn that her marriage with Arthur had never been consummated; she had tricked him, deceived him; this pale, passionless Spanish woman had tricked him into marriage, had placed in jeopardy the Tudor dynasty. Henry was filled with self-righteous anger, for he wanted a divorce and he wanted it for the noblest of reasons...not for himself, but for the house of Tudor; not to establish his manhood and virility in the eyes of his people, not to banish an aging, unattractive wife...not for these things, but because he, who had previously not hesitated to plunge his people into useless war, feared civil war for them; because he lived in sin with one who had never been his wife, having already lived with his brother. This, his conscience—now so beautifully controlled—told Henry. And all these noble thoughts were tinged rose-color by a beautiful girl who was obstinately haughty, whose cruel lips, said, “I will never be your mistress!” But it was not necessary for his conscience to dwell upon that matter as yet, for a king does not raise a humble lady-in-waiting to be his queen, however desirable she may be. No, no! No thought of that had entered his head...not seriously, of course. The girl was there, and it pleased him to think of her in his arms, for such reflections were but natural and manly; and how she was to be got into that position was of small consequence, being a purely personal matter, whereas this great question of divorce was surely an affair of state.

So was his mind active in these matters, and so did he view the reluctance of her whom he desired above all others with a kindly tolerance, like a good hunter contented to stalk awhile, and though the stalking might be arduous, that would be of little account when the great achievement would be his.

Thus was there some truth in the remarks of the Duchess of Norfolk when she had said to her granddaughter, Catherine Howard, that Anne Boleyn was leading the King a merry dance.

In their apartments at the palace Jane Boleyn was quarreling with her husband. He sat there in the window seat, handsome enough to plague her, indifferent enough to infuriate her. He was writing on a scrap of paper, and he was smiling as he composed the lyrics that doubtless his clever sister would set to music, that they might be sung before the King.

“Be silent, Jane,” he said lightly, and it was his very lightness that maddened her, for well she knew that he did not care sufficiently for her even to lose his temper. He was tapping with his foot, smiling, well pleased with his work.

“What matters it,” she demanded bitterly, “whether I speak or am silent? You do not heed which I do.”

“As ever,” said George, “you speak without thought. Were that so, why should I beg you for silence?”

She shrugged her shoulders impatiently.

“Words! Words! You would always have them at your disposal. I hate you. I wish I had never married you!”

“Sentiments, my dear Jane, which it may interest you to know are reciprocated by your most unwilling husband.”

She went over to him, and sat on the window seat.

“George...” she began tearfully.

He sighed. “Since your feelings towards me are so violent, my dear, would it not be wiser if you removed yourself from this seat, or better still from this room? Should you prefer it, of course, I will be the one to go. But you know full well that you followed me hither.”

As he spoke his voice became weary; the pen in his hand moved as though it were bidding him stop this stupid bickering and get on with what was of real moment to him. His foot began to tap.

Angrily she took the quill from him and threw it to the floor.

He sat very still, looking at it, not at her. If she could have roused him to anger, she would have been less angry with him; it was his indifference—it always had been—that galled her.

“I hate you!” she said again.

“Repetition detracts from, rather than adds to vehemence,” he said in his most lightsome tone. “Venom is best expressed briefly; over-statement was ever suspect, dear Jane.”

Dear Jane!” she panted. “When have I ever been dear to you?”

“There you ask a question which gallantry might bid me answer one way, truth another.”

He was cruel, and he meant to be cruel; he knew how to hurt her most; he had discovered her to be jealous, possessive and vindictive, and having no love for her he cared nothing for the jealousy, while the possessiveness irked him, and her vindictiveness left him cold; he was careless of himself and reckless as to what harm might come to him.

Her parents had thought it advantageous to link their daughter’s fortunes with those of the Boleyns, which were rising rapidly under the warming rays of royal favor; so she had married, and once married had fallen victim to the Boleyn charm, to that ease of manner, to that dignity, to that cleverness. But what hope had Jane of gaining George’s love? What did she know of the things for which he cared so deeply? He thought her stupid, colorless, illiterate. Why, she wondered, could he not be content to make merry, to laugh at the frivolous matters which pleased her; why could he not enjoy a happy married life with her, have children? But he did not want her, and foolishly she thought that by quarreling, by forcing him to notice her, she might attract him; instead of which she alienated him, wearied him, bored him. They were strange people, thought Jane, these two younger Boleyns; amazingly alike, both possessing in a large degree the power of attracting not only those who were of the same genre as themselves, but those who were completely opposite. Jane believed them both to be cold people; she hated Anne; indeed she had never been so wretched in her life until the return of her sister-in-law; she hated her, not because Anne had been unpleasant to her, for indeed Jane must admit that Anne had in the first instance made efforts to be most sisterly; but she hated Anne because of the influence she had over her brother, because he could give her who was merely his young sister much affection and admiration, while for Jane, his wife who adored him, he had nothing but contempt.

So now she tried to goad him, longed for him to take her by the shoulders and shake her, that he might lay hands on her if only in anger. Perhaps he knew this, for he was diabolically clever and understood most uncomfortably the workings of minds less clever than his own. Therefore he sat, arms folded; looking at the pen stuck in the polished floor, bored by Jane, weary of the many scenes she created, and heartlessly careless of her feelings.


He raised weary eyebrows in acknowledgment.

“I...I am so unhappy!”

He said, with the faintest hint of softness in his voice: “I am sorry for that.”

She moved closer; he remained impassive.

“George, what are you writing?”

“Just an airy trifle,” he said.

“Are you very annoyed that I interrupted?”

“I am not annoyed,” he replied.

“That pleases me, George. I do not mean to interrupt. Shall I get your pen?”

He laughed and, getting up, fetched it himself with a smile at her. Any sign of quiet reason on her part always pleased him; she struggled with her tears, trying to keep the momentary approval she had won.

“I am sorry, George.”

“It is of no matter,” he said. “I’ll warrant also that I should be the one to be sorry.”

“No, George, it is I who am unreasonable. Tell me, is that for the King’s masque?”

“It is,” he said, and turned to her, wanting to explain what he, with Wyatt, Surrey and Anne, was doing. But he knew that to be useless; she would pretend to be interested; she would try very hard to concentrate, then she would say something that was maddeningly stupid, and he would realize that she had not been considering what he was saying, and was merely trying to lure him to an amorous interlude. He had little amorous inclination towards her; he found her singularly unattractive and never more so than when she tried to attract him.

She came closer still, leaning her head forward to look at the paper. She began to read.

“It is very clever, George.”

“Nonsense!” said George. “It is very bad and needs a deal of polishing.”

“Will it be sung?”

“Yes, Anne will write the music.”

Anne! The very mention of that name destroyed her good resolutions.

“Anne, of course!” she said with a sneer.

She saw his eyes flash; she wanted to control herself, but she had heard the tender inflection of his voice when he said his sister’s name.

“Why not Anne?” he asked.

“Why not Anne?” she mimicked. “I’ll warrant the greatest musician in the kingdom would never write music such as Anne’s...in your eyes!”

He did not answer that.

“The King’s own music,” she said, “you would doubtless consider inferior to Anne’s!”

That made him laugh.

“Jane, you little fool, one would indeed be a poor musician if one was not more talented in that direction than His Majesty!”

“Such things as you say, George Boleyn, were enough to take a man’s head off his shoulders.”

“Reported in the right quarter, doubtless. What do you propose, sweet wife? To report in the appropriate quarter?”

“I swear I will one day!”

He laughed again. “That would not surprise me, Jane. You are a little fool, and I think out of your vindictive jealousy might conceivably send your husband to the scaffold.”

“And he would richly deserve it!”

“Doubtless! Doubtless! Do not all men who go to the scaffold deserve their fate? They have spoken their minds, expressed an opinion, or have been too nearly related to the King...all treasonable matters, my dear Jane.”

For this recklessness she loved him. How she would have liked to be as he was, to have snapped her fingers at life and enjoyed it as he did!

“You are a fool, George. It is well for you that you have a wife such as I!”

“Well indeed, Jane!”

“Mayhap,” she cried, “you would rather I looked like your sister Anne, dressed like your sister Anne, wrote as she wrote....Then I might find approval in your sight!”

“You never could look like Anne.”

She flashed back: “It is not given to all of us to be perfect!”

“Anne is far from that.”

“What! Sacrilege! In your eyes she is perfect, if ever any woman was in man’s eyes.”

“My dear Jane, Anne is charming, rather because of her imperfections than because of her good qualities.”

“I’ll warrant you rage against Fate that you could not marry your sister!”

“I never was engaged in such a foolish discussion in all my life.”

She began to cry.

“Jane,” he said, and put a hand on her shoulder. She threw herself against him, forcing the tears into her eyes, for they alone seemed to have the power to move him. And as they sat thus, there was the sound of footsteps in the corridor, and these footsteps were followed by a knock on the door.

George sat up, putting Jane from him.

“Enter!” he called.

They trooped in, laughing and noisy.

Handsome Thomas Wyatt was a little ahead of the others, singing a ballad. Jane disliked Thomas Wyatt; indeed she loathed them all. They were all of the same caliber, the most important set at court these days, favorites of the King every one of them, and all connected by the skein of kinship. Brilliant of course they were; the songsters of the court. One-eyed Francis Bryan, Thomas Wyatt, George Boleyn, all of them recently returned from France and Italy, and eager now to transform the somewhat heavy atmosphere of the English court into a more brilliant copy of other courts they had known. These gay young men were anxious to oust the duller element, the old set. No soldiers nor grim counselors to the King these; they were the poets of their generation; they wished to entertain the King, to make him laugh, to give him pleasure. There was nothing the King asked more; and as this gay crowd circulated round none other than the lady who interested him so deeply, they were greatly favored by His Majesty.

Jane’s scowl deepened, for with these young men was Anne herself.

Anne threw a careless smile at Jane, and went to her brother.

“Let us see what thou hast done,” she said, and snatched the paper from him and began reading aloud; and then suddenly she stopped reading and set a tune to the words, singing them, while the others stood round her. Her feet tapped, as her brother’s had done, and Wyatt, who was bold as well as handsome, sat down between her and George on the window seat, and his eyes stayed on Anne’s face as though they could not tear themselves away.

Jane moved away from them, but that was of no account for they had all forgotten Jane’s presence. She was outside the magic circle; she was not one of them. Angrily she watched them, but chiefly she watched Anne. Anne, with the hanging sleeves to hide the sixth nail; Anne, with a special ornament at her throat to hide what she considered to be an unbecoming mole on her neck. And now all the ladies at the court were wearing such ornaments. Jane put her hand to her throat and touched her own. Why, why was life made easy for Anne? Why did everyone applaud what she did? Why did George love her better than he loved his wife? Why was clever, brilliant and handsome Thomas Wyatt in love with her?

Jane went on asking herself these questions as she had done over and over again; bitter jealousy ate deeper and deeper into her heart.

Wyatt saw her sitting by the pond in the enclosed garden, a piece of embroidery in her hands. He went to her swiftly. He was deeply and passionately in love.

She lifted her face to smile at him, liking well his handsome face, his quick wit.

“Why, Thomas...”

“Why, Anne...”

He threw himself down beside her.

“Anne, do you not find it good to escape from the weary ceremony of the court now and then?”

“Indeed I do.”

Her eyes were wistful, catching his mood. They were both thinking of Hever and Allington in quiet Kent.

“I would I were there,” he said, for such was the accord between them that they sometimes read the other’s thoughts.

“The gardens at Hever will be beautiful now.”

“And at Allington, Anne.”

“Yes,” she said, “at Allington also.”

He moved closer.

“Anne, what if we were to leave the court...together? What if we were to go to Allington and stay there...?”

“You to talk thus,” she said, “and you married to a wife!”

“Ah!” His voice was melancholy. “Anne, dost remember childhood days at Hever?”

“Well,” she answered. “You locked me in the dungeons once, and I declare I all but died of fright. A cruel boy you were, Thomas.”

“I! Cruel...and to you! Never! I swear I was ever tender. Anne, why did we not know then that happiness for you and me lay in the one place?”

“I suppose, Thomas, that when we are young we are so unwise. It is experience that teaches us the great lessons of life. How sad that, in gaining experience, we so often lose what we would most cherish!”

He would have taken her hand, but she held him off.

“Methinks, we should return,” she said.

“Now...when we are beginning to understand each other!”

“You, having married a wife...” she began.

“And therein being most unhappy,” he interrupted; but she would have none of his interruptions.

“You are in no position to speak in this wise, Thomas.”

“Anne, must we then say a long farewell to happiness?”

“If happiness would lie in marriage between us two, then we must.”

“You would condemn me to a life of melancholy.”

“You condemned yourself to that, not I!”

“I was very young.”

“You were, I mind well, a most precocious boy.”

He smiled back sadly over his youth. A boy of great precocity, they had sent him to Cambridge when he was twelve, and at seventeen had married him to Elizabeth Brooke, who was considered a good match for him, being daughter of Lord Cobham.

“Why,” he said, “do our parents, thinking to do well for us, marry us to their choice which may well not be our own? Why is the right sort of marriage so often the unhappy one?”

Anne said: “You are spineless, all of you!” And her eyes flashed as her thoughts went to Percy. Percy she had loved and lost, for Percy was but a leaf wafted by the winds. The wicked Cardinal whom she hated now as she had ever done, had said, “It shall not be!” And meekly Percy had acquiesced. Now he would complain that life had denied him happiness, forgetting he had not made any great effort to attain it. And Wyatt, whom she could so easily love, complained in much the same manner. They obeyed their parents; they married, not where they listed, but entered into any match that was found for them; then they bitterly complained!

“I would never be forced!” she said. “I would choose my way, and, God help me, whatever I might encounter I would not complain.”

“Ah! Why did I not know then that my happiness was with Anne Boleyn!”

She softened. “But how should you know it...and you but seventeen, and I even less?”

“And,” he said, “most willing to engage yourself to Percy!”

“That!” She flushed, remembering afresh the insults of the Cardinal. “That...Ah! That failed just as your marriage has failed, Thomas, though differently. Perchance I am glad it failed, for I never could abide a chicken-livered man!”

Now he was suddenly gay, throwing aside his melancholy; he would read to her some verses he had written, for they were of her and for her, and it was meet that she should hear them first.

So she closed her eyes and listened and thrilled to his poetry, and was sad thinking of how she might have loved him. And there in the pond garden it occurred to her that life had shown her little kindness in her love for men. Percy she had lost after a brief glimpse into a happy future they were to have shared; Wyatt she had lost before ever she could hope to have him.

What did the future hold for her? she wondered. Was she going on in this melancholy way, loving but living alone? It was unsatisfactory.

Thomas finished reading and put the poem into his pocket, his face flushed with appreciation for his work. He has his poetry, she mused, and what have I? Yes, the rest of us write a little; it is to us a pleasant recreation, it means not to us what it does to Wyatt. He has that, and it is much. But what have I?

Wyatt leaned forward; he said earnestly: “I shall remember this day forever, for in it you all but said you loved me!”

“There are times,” she said, “when I fear that love is not for me.”

“Ah, Anne! You are gloomy today. Whom should love be for, if not for those who are most worthy to receive it! Be of good cheer, Anne! Life is not all sadness. Who knows but that one day you and I may be together!”

She shook her head. “I have a melancholy feeling, Thomas.”

“Bah! You and melancholy mate not well together.” He leaped to his feet and held out his hands to her; she put hers in his, and he helped her to rise. He refused to release her hands; his lips were close to hers. She felt herself drawn towards him, but it seemed to her that her sister was between them...Mary, lightsome, wanton, laughing, leering. She drew away coldly. He released her hands at once, and they fell to her side; but his had touched a jeweled tablet she wore and which hung from her pocket on a golden chain. He took it and held it up, laughing. “A memento, Anne, of this afternoon when you all but said you loved me!”

“Give it back!” she demanded.

“Not I! I shall keep it forever, and when I feel most melancholy I shall take it out and look at it, and remember that on the afternoon I stole it you all but said you loved me.”

“This is foolishness,” she said. “I do not wish to lose that tablet.”

“Alas then, Anne! For lost it you have. It is a pleasing trinket—it fills me with hope. When I feel most sad I shall look at it, for then I shall tell myself I have something to live for.”

“Thomas, I beg of you...”

She would have snatched it, but he had stepped backwards and now was laughing.

“Never will I give it up, Anne. You would have to steal it back.”

She moved towards him. He ran, she after him; and running across the enclosed pond garden, trying to retrieve that which he had stolen, was poignantly reminiscent of happy childhood days at Allington and Hever.

The Cardinal rode through the crowds, passing ceremoniously over London Bridge and out of the capital on his way to France, whither he had been bidden to go by the King. Great numbers of his attendants went before him and followed after him; there were gentlemen in black velvet with gold chains about their necks, and with them their servants in their tawny livery. The Cardinal himself rode on a mule whose trappings were of crimson velvet, and his stirrups were of copper and gold. Before him were borne his two crosses of silver, two pillars of silver, the Great Seal of England, his Cardinal’s hat.

The people regarded him sullenly, for it was now whispered, even beyond the court, of that which had come to be known as the King’s Secret Matter; and the people blamed the Cardinal, whispering that he had put these ideas into the King’s head. Whither went he now, but to France? Mayhap he would find a new wife to replace the King’s lawful one, their own beloved Queen Katharine. They found new loyalty towards their quiet Queen, for they pictured her as a poor, wronged woman, and the London crowd was a sentimental crowd ever ready to support the wronged.

In the crowd was whispered the little ditty which malicious Skelton had written, and which the public had taken up, liking its simple implication, liking its cutting allusions to a Cardinal who kept state like a king.

“Why come ye not to court?

To which court?

To the King’s court

Or to Hampton Court!”

He was well hated, as only the successful man can be hated by the unsuccessful. That he had risen from humble circumstances made the hatred stronger. “We are as good as this man!” “With his luck, there might I have gone!” So whispered the people, and the Cardinal knew of their whisperings and was grieved; for indeed many things grieved this man as he passed through London on his way to Sir Richard Wiltshire’s house in Dartford wherein he would spend the first night of his journey to the coast.

The Cardinal was brooding on the secret matter of the King’s. It was for him to smooth the way for his master, to get him what he desired at the earliest possible moment; and he who had piloted his state ship past many dangerous rocks was now dismayed. Well he could agree with His Majesty that the marriages of kings and queens depend for their success on the male issue, and what had his King and Queen to show for years of marriage but one daughter! The Cardinal’s true religion was statecraft; thus most frequently he chose to forget that as Cardinal he owed allegiance to the Church. When he had first been aware of the King’s passion for Mistress Anne Boleyn, many fetes had he given at his great houses, that the King and this lady might meet. Adultery was a sin in the eyes of Holy Church; not so in the liberal mind of Thomas Wolsey. The adultery of the King was as necessary as the jousts and tourneys he himself arranged for His Majesty’s diversion. And though he was ever ready to give the King opportunities for meeting this lady, he gave but slight thought to the amorous adventures of His Majesty. This affair seemed to him but one of many; to absorb, to offer satiety; that was inevitable. And then...the next. So when this idea of divorce had been passed to him by the King, glorious possibilities of advancing England’s interests through an advantageous marriage began to take hold of the Cardinal’s mind.

Should England decide to ally herself with France against the Emperor Charles, what better foundation for such an alliance could there be than marriage! Already he had put out feelers for Francis’s widowed sister, Marguerite of Alencon, but her brother, uncertain of Henry who still had an undivorced wife—and she none other than the aunt of the Emperor Charles himself—had dallied over negotiations, and married his sister to the King of Navarre. There was, however, Renee of France, sister to the late Queen Claude, and Wolsey’s heart glowed at the prospect of such a marriage. Had not Claude borne Francis many children? Why, therefore, should Renee not bear Henry many sons? And to make the bargain complete, why not contract the King’s daughter Mary to Francis’s son, the Duke of Orleans? Of these matters had Wolsey spoken to the King, and craftily the King appeared to consider them, and whilst considering them he was thinking of none but Anne Boleyn, so did he yearn towards her; and so had her reluctance inflamed his passion that already he was toying with the idea of throwing away Wolsey’s plans for a marriage which would be good for England; he was planning to defy his subjects’ disapproval, to throw tradition to the wind, to satisfy his desires only and marry Anne Boleyn. He knew his Chancellor; wily, crafty, diplomatic; let Wolsey consider this divorce to be a state affair, and all his genius for statecraft would go into bringing it about; let him think it was but to satisfy his master’s overwhelming desire for a humble gentlewoman of his court—who persistently and obstinately refused to become his mistress—and could Wolsey’s genius then be counted on to work as well? The King thought not; so he listened to Wolsey’s plans with feigned interest and approval, but unknown to the Cardinal, he dispatched his own secretary as messenger to the Pope, for he wished to appease his conscience regarding a certain matter which worried him a little. This was his love affair with Mary Boleyn, which he feared must create an affinity between himself and Anne, though he had determined it should be of small consequence should his secretary fail to obtain the Pope’s consent to remove the impediment.

Riding on to Dartford, the Cardinal was busily thinking. There was within him a deep apprehension, for he was aware that this matter of the divorce was to be a delicate one and one less suited to his genius, which loved best to involve itself in the intricacies of diplomacy and was perhaps less qualified to deal with petty domesticities. Of Anne Boleyn he thought little. To him the King’s affair with this foolish girl was a matter quite separate from the divorce, and unworthy of much thought. It appeared to him that Anne was a light o’ love, a younger version of her sister Mary, a comely creature much prone to giving herself airs. He smiled on her, for, while not attaching over-much importance to the King’s favorites whose influence had ever been transient, it was well not to anger them. Vaguely he remembered some affair with Percy; the Cardinal smiled faintly at that. Could it be then that the King had remained faithful so long?

He fixed his eyes on his Cardinal’s hat being borne before him, and that symbol of his power, the Great Seal of England; and his mind was busy and much disturbed, recent events having complicated the matter of divorce. He thought of the three men of consequence in Europe—Henry, Charles and Francis. Francis—even enfeebled as he was just now—had the enviable role of looker-on, sly and secret, waiting to see advantage and leap on it; Henry and Charles must take more active parts in the drama, for Henry’s wife was Charles’s aunt, and it was unlikely that Charles would stand calmly by to see Henry humiliate Spain through such a near relation. Between these two the Pope, a vacillating man, was most sorely perplexed; he dared not offend Henry; he dared not offend Charles. He had granted a divorce to Henry’s sister Margaret on the flimsiest of grounds, but that had proved simple; there was no mighty potentate to be offended by such a divorce. Henry, ranting, fuming, urgently wanting what, it seemed to him, others conspired to keep from him, was a dangerous man; and to whom should he look to gratify his whims but Wolsey? And on whom would he vent his wrath, were his desires frustrated?

This sorry situation had been vastly aggravated by a recent event in Europe; the most unexpected, horrible and sacriligious event the Cardinal could conceive, and the most disastrous to the divorce. This was the sack of Rome by the Duke of Bourbon’s forces in the name of the Empire.

Over the last few years Wolsey had juggled dexterously in Europe; and now, riding on to Dartford, he must wonder whether out of his cunning had not grown this most difficult situation. For long Wolsey had known of the discord which existed between Francis and one of the most powerful nobles of France, the mighty Duke of Bourbon. This nobleman, to safeguard his life, had fled his country, and being a very proud and high-spirited gentleman was little inclined to rest in exile all his life; indeed for years before his flight he had been in treasonable communication with the Emperor Charles, France’s hereditary enemy, and when he left his country he went to Charles with plans for making war on the French King.

Now it had occurred to Wolsey that if the Duke could be supplied secretly with money he could raise an army from his numerous supporters and thus be, as it were, a general under the King of England while none need know that the King of England had a hand in this war. Therefore would England be in secret alliance with Spain against France. Henry had felt the conception of such an idea to be sheer genius, for the weakening of France and the reconquering of that country had ever been a dream of his. A secret ambassador had been sent to Emperor Charles, and the King and Wolsey with their council laughed complacently at their own astuteness. Francis, however, discovered this and sent a secret messenger to make terms with England, with the result that Bourbon’s small army—desperate and exhausted—awaited in vain the promised help from England. Wolsey had calculated without the daring of the Duke and the laxity of the French forces, without Francis’s poor generalship which alternately hesitated and then was overbold. At Pavia the French King’s forces were beaten, and the King taken prisoner; and among his documents was found the secret treaty under the Great Seal of England. Thus was Francis a prisoner in the hands of the Emperor, and thus was English double-dealing exposed. Francis was to languish and come near to death in a Madrid prison; and Charles would not be overeager to link himself with England again. So that the master-stroke which was to have put England in the enviable position of being on the winning side—whichever it was to be—had failed.

That had happened two years ago; yet it was still unpleasant to contemplate, as was Wolsey’s failure, in spite of bribery, to be elected Pope. And now had come the greatest blow; Bourbon had turned his attentions to the city of Rome itself. True, this had cost the hasty Duke his life, but his men went on with his devilish scheme, and the city was ransacked, laid waste by fire and pillage, its priests desecrated, its virgins raped; and the sacred city was the scene of one of the most terrible massacres in history. But most shocking of all was, the fact that the Pope, who was to grant Henry’s divorce, was a prisoner at Castle Angell—prisoner of the Emperor Charles, the nephew of that lady who was to be most deeply wronged by the divorce.

Small wonder that the Cardinal’s head ached, but even as it ached it buzzed with plans, for it had ever been this man’s genius to turn every position in which he found himself to his own advantage; and now an idea had come to him that should make him more famous, make his master love him more. A short while ago it had seemed to him that a vast cloud was beginning to veil the sun of his glory, as yet so vaporish that the sun was but slightly obscured and blazed hotly through. He trusted in the sun’s fierce rays to disperse that cloud; and so it should be. The Pope was a prisoner; why not set up a Deputy-Pope while he was thus imprisoned? And who more fitted for the office than Cardinal Wolsey? And would not such a deputy feel kindly disposed towards his master’s plea for a divorce?

On rode the Cardinal, renewed and refreshed, until he came to Canterbury; and there he was the leader of a mighty procession that went into the Abbey; and, gorgeously attired, wearing his Cardinal’s hat, he prayed for the captive Pope and wept for him, while his mind was busy with the plans for reigning in Clement’s stead, granting the divorce, and marrying his master to a French princess.

And so passed the Cardinal on to France where he was received royally by the Regent, Louise of Savoy—who reigned during the absence of her son Francois—and by the King’s gifted sister, Marguerite of Navarre. He assured them of his master’s friendship with their country; he arranged the marriage of the King’s daughter to the Duke of Orleans; and he hinted at the King’s divorce and his marriage with Renee. He was entertained lavishly, well assured of French friendship.

But among the people of France the Cardinal was no more popular than he was in England; and although he came with offers of friendship, and though he brought English gold with him, the humble people of France did not trust him and made his journey through their land an uncomfortable one. He was robbed in many places where he rested, and one morning when he arose from his bed, he went to his window and there saw that on the leaning stone some mischievous person had engraved a Cardinal’s hat, and over it a gallows.

The whole court whispered of nothing else but the King’s Secret Matter. Anne heard it; Katharine heard it. The Queen was afraid. Great pains she took with her toilet, hoping thereby to please the King, that there might yet be a hope of defying the doctors and producing an heir. Katharine was melancholy; she prayed more fervently; she fretted.

Anne heard it and was sorry for the Queen, for though she was as different from Anne as one woman could be from another, a gloomy woman, rarely heard to laugh, yet had Anne a deep respect for such piety as her mistress’s while feeling herself unable to emulate it.

But Anne was busy with thoughts of her own affairs. Wyatt was plaguing her, making wild and impossible suggestions; and she feared she thought too much and too often of Wyatt. There came to her little scraps of paper with his handwriting, and in the poems inscribed on these he expressed his passion for her, the unhappiness of his marriage, the hope he might have, would she but give it, of the future. There had been those who had said that Anne was half French; in character this was so. She was frivolous, sentimental, excessively fond of admiration; but mingling with these attributes was something essentially practical. Had Wyatt been unmarried, ready would she have been to listen to him; and now, admitting this to herself—at the same time giving him no hope that his plans would ever reach fruition—she found it impossible to refuse his attentions entirely. She looked for him; she was ever ready to dally with him. With her cousin, Surrey, and her brother to ensure the proprieties, she was often to be found with Wyatt. They were the gayest and most brilliant quartet at the court; their cousinship was a bond between them. Life was pleasant for Anne with such friends as these, and she was enjoying it as a butterfly flutters in the sunshine even when the first cool of evening is setting in.

Preparing herself for the banquet which was to be given at the palace of Greenwich in honor of the departing French ambassadors, Anne thought of Wyatt. This banquet was to be the most gorgeous of its kind as a gesture of friendship towards the new allies. At Hampton these gentlemen had been entertained most lavishly by my lord Cardinal, who had recently returned from France, and so magnificent a feast had the Cardinal prepared for them that the King, jealous that one of his subjects could provide such a feast fit only for a king’s palace, would have Wolsey’s hospitality paled to insignificance by his own.

George, Anne, Surrey, Bryan and Wyatt had organized a most lavish carnival for the entertainment of these French gentlemen. They were delighted with their work, sure of the King’s pleasure. Such events were ever a delight to Anne; she reveled in them, for she knew that, with her own special gifts she excelled every other woman present, and this was intoxicating to Anne, dispersing that melancholy which she had experienced periodically since she had lost Percy and which was returning more frequently, perhaps on account of Wyatt.

Anne’s dress was of scarlet and cloth of gold; there were diamonds at her throat and on her vest. She discarded her head-dress, deciding it made her look too much like the others; she would wear her beautiful hair flowing and informal.

She was, as she had grown accustomed to be, the shining light of the court. Men’s eyes turned to watch her; there was Henry Norris, the groom of the stole, Thomas Wyatt, smouldering and passionate, the King, his eyes glittering. To Norris she was indifferent; of Thomas Wyatt she was deeply aware; the King she feared a little; but admiration, no matter whence it came, was sweet. George smiled at her with approval; Jane watched her with envy, but there was little to disturb in that, as all the women were envious; though perhaps with Jane the envy was tinged with hatred. But what did Anne care for her brother’s foolish wife! Poor George! she thought. Better to be alone than linked with such a one. It could be good to be alone, to feel so many eyes upon her, watching, admiring, desiring; to feel that power over these watching men which their need of her must give her.

About her, at the banquet, the laughter was louder, the fun more riotous. The King would join the group which surrounded her, because he liked to be with gay young people; and all the time his eyes burned to contemplate her who was the center of this laughing group.

The Queen sat, pale and almost ugly. She was a sad and frightened woman who could not help thinking continually of the suggested divorce; and this feast in itself was a humiliation to her, since she, a Spaniard, could find little joy in friendship with the French!

The King’s distaste for his Queen was apparent; and those courtiers who were young and loved gaiety, scarcely paid her the homage due to her; they preferred to gather round Anne Boleyn, because to be there was to be near the King, joining in his fun and laughter.

Now, from his place at the head of the table, the King was watching Wyatt. Wine had made the poet over-bold and he would not move from Anne’s side though he was fully aware of Henry’s watching eyes. There was hardly anyone at the table who was ignorant of the King’s passion, and there was an atmosphere of tension in the hall, while everyone waited for the King to act.

Then the King spoke. There was a song he wished the company to hear. It was of his own composing. All assumed great eagerness to hear the song.

The musicians were called. With them came one of the finest singers in the court. There was a moment’s complete silence, for no one dared move while the King’s song was about to be sung. The King sat forward and his eyes never left Anne’s face until the song was finished and the applause broke out.

“The eagle’s force subdues each bird that flies:

What metal can resist the flaming fire?

Doth not the sun dazzle the clearest eyes

And melt the ice, and make the frost retire?

The hardest stones are pierced through with tools,

The wisest are with princes made but fools.”

There could be no doubt of the meaning of these arrogant words; there could be no doubt for whom they were written. Anne was freshly aware of the splendor of this palace of Greenwich, of the power it represented. The words kept ringing in her ears. He was telling her that he was weary of waiting; princes, such as he was, did not wait over-long.

This evening had lost its joy for her now; she was afraid. Wyatt had heard those words and realized their implication; George had heard them, and his eyes smiled into hers reassuringly. She wanted to run to her brother, she wanted to say: “Let us go home; let us go back to being children. I am afraid of the glitter of this court. His eyes watch me now. Brother, help me! Take me home!” George knew her thoughts. She saw the reckless tilt of his head, and imitated it, feeling better, returning his smile. George was reassuring. “Never fear, Anne!” he seemed to convey. “We are the Boleyns!”

The company was applauding. Great poetry, was the verdict. Anne looked to him who, some said, was the literary genius of the court, Sir Thomas More; his Utopia she had just read with much pleasure. Sir Thomas was gazing at his large and rather ugly hands; he did not, she noticed, join in the effusive praise of the others. Was it the poetry or the sentiments, of which Sir Thomas did not approve?

The King’s song was the prelude of the evening’s entertainment, and Anne with her friends would have a big part in this. She thrust aside her fears; she played that night with a fervor she had rarely expressed before in any of these masquerades and plays which the quartet contrived. Into her fear of the King there crept an element which she could not have defined. What was it? The desire to make him admire her more? The company were over-courteous to her; even her old enemy, Wolsey, whom she had never ceased to hate, had a very friendly smile! The King’s favorites were to be favored by all, and when you had known yourself to be slighted on account of your humble birth...when such a man as Wolsey had humiliated you...yes, there was pleasure mingling with the fear of this night.

She was like a brilliant flame in her scarlet and gold. All eyes were upon her. For months to come they would talk of this night, on which Anne had been the moon to all these pale stars.

The evening was to end with a dance, and in this each gentleman would choose his partner. The King should take the Queen’s hand and lead the dance, whilst the others fell in behind them. The Queen sat heavy in her chair, brooding and disconsolate. The King did not give her a look. There was a moment of breathless silence while he strode over to Anne Boleyn, and thus, choosing her, made public his preference.

His hand held hers firmly; his was warm and strong; she felt he would crush her fingers.

They danced. His eyes burned bright as the jewels on his clothes. Different this from the passion of Wyatt; fiercer, prouder, not sad but angry passion.

He would have speech with her away from these people, he said. She replied that she feared the Queen’s disapproval should she leave the ballroom.

He said: “Do you not fear mine if you stay!”

“Sir,” she said, “the Queen is my mistress.”

“And a hard one, eh?”

“A very kind one, Sir, and one whose displeasure I should not care to incur.”

He said angrily: “Mistress, you try our patience sorely. Did you like our song?”

“It rhymed well,” she said, for now she sat with him she could see that his anger was not to be feared; he would not hurt her, since mingling with his passion there was a tenderness, and this tenderness, which she observed, while it subdued her fear, filled her with a strange and exalted feeling.

“What mean you?” he cried, and he leaned closer, and though he would know himself to be observed he could not keep away.

“Your Majesty’s rhyme I liked well; the sentiments expressed, not so well.”

“Enough of this folly!” he said. “You know I love you well.”

“I beg your Majesty...”

“You may beg anything you wish an you say you love me.”

She repeated the old argument. “Your Majesty, there can be no question of love between us...I would never be your mistress.”

“Anne,” he said earnestly, pleadingly, “should you but give yourself to me body and soul there should be no other in my heart I swear. I would cast off all others that are in competition with you, for there is none that ever have delighted me as you do.”

She stood up, trembling; she could see he would refuse to go on taking no for an answer, and she was afraid.

She said: “The Queen watches us, Your Majesty. I fear her anger.”

He arose, and they joined the dancers.

“Think not,” he said, “that this matter can rest here.”

“I crave Your Majesty’s indulgences. I see no way that it can end that will satisfy us both.”

“Tell me,” he said, “do you like me?”

“I hope I am a loving subject to Your Majesty...”

“I doubt not that you could be a very loving one, Anne, if you gave your mind to it; and I pray you will give your mind to it. For long have I loved you, and for long have I had little satisfaction in others for my thoughts of you.”

“I am unworthy of Your Majesty’s regard.”

She thought: Words! These tiresome words! I am frightened. Oh, Percy, why did you leave me! Thomas, if you loved me when you were a child, why did you let them marry you to a wife!

The King towered over her, massive and glittering in his power. He breathed heavily; his face was scarlet; desire in his eyes, desire in his mouth.

She thought: Tomorrow I shall return secretly to Hever.

The Queen was sulky. She dismissed her maids and went into that chamber wherein was the huge royal bed which she still shared with Henry, but the sharing of which was a mere formality. She lay at one extreme edge; he at the other.

She said: “It is useless to pretend you sleep.”

He said: “I had no intention of pretending, Madam.”

“It would seem to be your greatest pleasure to humiliate me.”

“How so?” he said.

“It is invariably someone; tonight it was the girl Boleyn. It was your kingly duty to have chosen me.”

“Chosen you, Madam!” he snorted. “That would I never have done; not now, nor years ago, an the choice were mine!”

She began to weep and to murmur prayers; she prayed for self-control for herself and for him. She prayed that he might soften towards her, and that she might defy the doctors who had prophesied that he would never get a male heir from her.

He lay listening to her but paying little attention, being much accustomed to her prayers, thinking of a girl’s slender body in scarlet and gold, a girl with flowing hair and a clever, pointed face, and the loveliest dark eyes in the court. Anne, he thought, you witch! I vow you hold off to provoke me....Pleasant thoughts. She was holding off to plague him. But enough, girl. How many years since I saw you in your father’s garden, and wanted you then! What do you want, girl? Ask for it; you shall have it, but love me, love me, for indeed I love you truly.

The Queen had stopped praying.

“They give themselves such airs, these women you elevate with your desires.”

“Come,” he said, gratified, for did not she give herself airs, and was it then because of his preference for her? “It is natural, is it not, that those noticed by the King should give themselves airs?”

“There are so many,” she said faintly.

Ah! he thought, there would be but one, Anne, and you that one!

The Queen repeated: “I would fain Your Majesty controlled himself.”

Oh, her incessant chatter wearied him. He wished to be left alone with his dream of her whose presence enchanted him.

He said cruelly: “Madam, you yourself are little inducement to a man to forsake his mistresses.”

She quivered; he felt that, though the width of the vast bed separated them.

“I am no longer young,” she said. “Am I to blame because our children died?” He was silent; she was trembling violently now. “I have heard the whispering that goes on in the court. I have heard of this they call The King’s Secret Matter.”

Now she had dragged his mind from the sensuous dream which soothed his body. So the whispering had reached her ears, had it! Well, assuredly it must reach them some time; but he would rather the matter had been put before her in a more dignified manner.

She said appealingly: “Henry, you do not deny it?”

He heaved his great body up in the bed. “Katharine,” he said, “you know well that for myself I would not replace you; but a king’s life does not belong to him but to his kingdom. And Katharine, serious doubts have arisen in my mind, not lately but for some time past; and well would I have suppressed them had my conscience let me. I would have you know, Katharine, that when our daughter’s marriage with the Duke of Orleans was proposed, the French ambassador raised the question of her legitimacy.”

“Legitimacy!” cried Katharine, raising herself. “What meant he? My lord, I hope you reproved him most sternly!”

“Ah! That I did! And sorely grieved was I.” The King felt happier now; he was no longer the erring husband being reproved by his too faithful wife; he was the King, who put his country first, before all personal claims; and in this matter, he could tell himself, the man must take second place to the King. He could, lying in this bed with a woman whose pious ways, whose shapeless body had long since ceased to move him except with repugnance, assure himself that the need to remain married to her was removed.

He had married Katharine because there had been England’s need to form a deep friendship with Spain, because England had then been weak, and across a narrow strip of channel lay mighty France, a perennial enemy. In those days of early marriage it had been a hope of Henry’s to conquer France once more; with Calais still in English hands, this had not seemed an impossibility; he had hoped that with the Emperor’s help this might be effected, but since the undignified affair at Pavia, Charles was hardly likely to link himself with English allies; thus was the need for friendship with Spain removed; Wolsey’s schemes had been called to a halt; the new allies were the French. Therefore, what could be better for England than to dissolve the Spanish marriage! And in its place...But no matter, dissolve the Spanish marriage since it could no longer help England.

These were minor matters compared with the great issue which disturbed his conscience. God bless the Bishop of Tarbes, that ambassador who had the tact at this moment to question the legitimacy of the Princess Mary.

“’Twere a matter to make a war with France,” said Katharine hotly. “My daughter a bastard! Your daughter...”

“These matters are not for women’s wits,” said the King. “Wars are not made on such flimsy pretexts.”

“Flimsy!” she cried, her voice sharp with fear. Katharine was no fool; to the suppers given in her apartments there came the most learned of men, the more serious courtiers, men such as Sir Thomas More; she was more fastidious than the English ladies, and she had never tried to learn the English ways. She did not enjoy the blood sports so beloved by her husband. At first he had protested when she had told him that Spanish ladies did not follow the hawk and hound. But that was years ago; he thought it well now that she did not attend sporting displays, since he had no wish for her company. But there was that in her which must make him respect her, her calm dignity, her religious faith; and even now, when this great catastrophe threatened her, she had not shown publicly—apart from her melancholy, which was natural to her—that she knew what was afoot. But she was tenacious; she would fight, he knew, if not for herself for her daughter. Her piety would tell her that she fought for Henry as well as for herself, that divorce was wrong in the eyes of the Church, and she would fight with all her quiet persistence against it.

“Katharine,” said the King, “dost thou remember thy Bible?” He began to quote a passage from Leviticus wherein it was said that for a man to take his brother’s wife was an unclean thing, for thus had he uncovered his brother’s nakedness, they should therefore be childless. He repeated the last sentence.

“Thou knowest I was never truly thy brother’s wife.”

“It is a matter which perplexes me greatly.”

“You would say you believe me not?”

“I know not what to say. Your hopes of an heir have been blighted; it looks like Providence. Is it natural that our sons should die one after the other? Is it natural that our efforts should be frustrated?”

“Not all,” she said plaintively.

“A daughter!” he retorted contemptuously.

“She is a worthy girl....”

“Bah! A girl! What good are women on the throne of England! She is no answer to our prayers, Katharine. Sons have been denied to us. The fault does not lie in me...”

Tears were in the Queen’s eyes. She would hate this man if most of her natural instincts had not been suppressed by piety; she knew not now whether she hated or loved; she only knew she must do what was right according to her religion. She must not hate the King; she must not hate her husband; for therein was mortal sin. So all through the years when he had slighted her, humiliated her, shown utter carelessness of the hurt his lack of faith might cause her, she had assured herself that she loved him. Small wonder that he found her colorless; small wonder that now he compared this woman of forty-one with a laughing, willful girl of nineteen years! He was thirty-five; surely a good age for a man—his prime. But he must be watchful of the years, being a king who had so far failed to give his kingdom an heir.

A short while ago he had brought his illegitimate son to court, and heaped honors upon him to the deep humiliation of the Queen, whose fears were then chiefly for her daughter. This huge man cared nothing for her, little for her daughter; he only cared that he should get what he wanted, and that the world should think that in procuring his own needs he did it not for his own, but for duty’s sake.

When he said that the fault was not with him, he meant she had lied when she declared herself a virgin; he meant that she had lived with his brother as his wife. She began to weep as she prayed for strength to fight this powerful man and his evil intentions to displace her daughter from the throne with a bastard he might beget through one whom he would call his wife.

“Search your soul!” he said now, his voice trembling with righteousness. “Search your soul, Katharine, for the truth. Does the blame for this disaster to our kingdom lie with you or with me? I have a clear conscience. Ah, Katharine, can you say you have the same?”

“That I can,” she said, “and will!”

He could have struck her, but he calmed himself and said in melancholy fashion: “Nothing would have made me take this step, but that my conscience troubled me.”

She lay down and was silent; he lay down too; and in a very short while he had forgotten Katharine and was thinking of her who, he had determined, should be his.

Anne arrived at Hever with the words of the King’s song still in her thoughts. She found it difficult to analyze her feelings, for to be the object of so much attention from one as powerful as the King was to reflect that power; and to Anne, bold and eager for life, power, though perhaps not the most cherished gift life could bestow, was not to be despised.

She wondered what he would say when the news of her departure reached him. Would he be angry? Would he decide that it was beneath his dignity to pursue such an unappreciative female? Would he banish her from court? She fervently hoped not that, for she needed gaiety as she never had before. She could suppress her melancholy in feverish plans for the joust, and moreover her friends were at court—George and Thomas, Surrey and Francis Bryan; with them she could laugh and frivol; and indeed talk most seriously too, for they were all—perhaps with the exception of Surrey—interested in the new religion of which she had learned a good deal from Marguerite, now the Queen of Navarre. They leaned towards that religion, all of them, perhaps because they were young and eager to try anything that was different from the old way, liking it by virtue of its very novelty.

She had not been at Hever more than a day, when the King arrived. If she had any doubt of his intense feeling for her, she need have no doubt any longer. He was inclined to be angry, but at the sight of her his anger melted; he was humble, which was somehow touching in one in whom humility was such a rare virtue; he was eager and passionate, anxious that she should have no doubt of the nature of his feelings for her.

They walked in that garden which had been the scene of their first encounter; and that was at his wish, for he was a sentimental man when it pleased him to be so.

“I have seriously thought of this matter of love between us,” he told her. “I would have you know that I understand your feelings. I must know—so stricken am I in my love for you—what your feelings to me are, and what they would be if I no longer had a wife.”

She was startled. Dazzling possibilities had presented themselves. Herself a Queen! The intoxicating glory of power! The joy of snapping her fingers at the Cardinal! Queen of England...!

“My lord...” she stammered. “I fear I am stupid. I understand not...”

He put a hand on her arm, and she felt his fingers burning there; they crept up to her forearm, and she faced him, saw the intensity of his desire for her, and thrilled to it because, though he might not be a man she loved, he was King of England, and she felt his power, and she felt his need of her, and while he was in such urgent need it was she who held the power, for the King of England would be soft in her hands.

She cast down her eyes, fearful lest he should read her thoughts. He said she was fairer than any lady he had ever seen, and that he yearned to possess her, body and soul.

“Body and soul!” he repeated, his voice soft and humble, his eyes on her small neck, her slender body; and his voice slurred suddenly with desire as, in his mind, he took her, just as he had when he had lain beside the Queen and conjured up pictures of her so vividly that it had seemed she was there with him.

She was thinking of Percy and of Wyatt, and it seemed to her that these two mingled together and were one, representing love; and before her beckoned this strong, powerful, bejeweled man who represented ambition.

He was kissing her hand with swift, devouring kisses; there was a ring on her forefinger which she wore always; he kissed this ring, and asked that he might have it as a token, but she clenched her hands and shook her head. There was a large diamond on his finger that he would give to her, he said; and these two rings would be symbols of the love between them.

“For now I shall soon be free,” he said, “to take a wife.”

She lifted her eyes incredulously to his face. “Your Majesty cannot mean he would take me!”

He said passionately: “I will take none other!”

Then it was true; he was offering her marriage. He would lift her up to that lofty eminence on which now sat Queen Katharine, the daughter of a King and Queen. She, humble Anne Boleyn, was to be placed there...and higher, for Katharine might be Queen, but she had never had the King’s regard. It was too brilliant to be contemplated. It dazzled. It gave her a headache. She could not think clearly, and it seemed as though she saw Wyatt smiling at her, now mocking, now melancholy. It was too big a problem for a girl who was but nineteen and who, longing to be loved, had been grievously disappointed in her lovers.

“Come, Anne!” he said. “I swear you like me.”

“It is too much for me to contemplate....I need...”

“You need me to make up your mind for you!” he said, and there and then he had her in his arms, his lips hard and hot against her own. She felt his impatience, and sought to keep her wits. Already she knew something of this man; a man of deep needs ever impatient of their immediate gratification; now he was saying to her: “I’ve promised marriage. Why wait longer? Here! Now! Show your gratitude to your King and your trust in him, and believe that he will keep his promise!”

The Secret Matter...would it be granted? And if so...what would her old enemy, Wolsey, have to say of such a marriage? There would be powerful people at court who would exert all their might to prevent it. No, she might be falling in love with the thought of herself as Queen, but she was not in love with the King.

She said, with that haughty dignity which while it exasperated him never failed to subdue him: “Sire, the honor you do me is so great that I would fain...”

With a rough edge to his voice he interrupted: “Enough of such talk, sweetheart! Let us not talk as King and subject, but as man and woman.” One hand was at her throat. She felt his body hot against her own. With both hands she held him off.

“As yet,” she said coldly, “I am unsure.”

The veins stood out on his forehead.

“Unsure!” he roared. “Your King has said he loves you...aye, and will marry you, and you are unsure!”

“Your Majesty suggested we should talk as man and woman, not as King and subject.”

She had freed herself and was running towards the hedge of fir trees which enclosed this garden; he ran after her, and she allowed herself to be caught at the hedge. He held both her hands tightly in his.

“Anne!” he said. “Anne! Dost seek to plague me?”

She answered earnestly: “I never felt less like plaguing anyone, and why should I plague Your Majesty who has done me this great honor! You have offered me your love, which is to me the greatest honor, you being my King and I but a humble girl; but it was Your Majesty’s command that I should cease to think of you as King...”

He interrupted: “You twist my words, Anne. You clever little minx, you do!” And, forcing her against the hedge, he put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her lips; then those hands sought to pull apart her dress.

She wriggled free.

He said sternly: “I would have you regard me now as your King. I would have you be my obedient, loving little subject.”

She was breathless with fear. She said, greatly daring: “You could never win my love that way! I beg of you, release me.”

He did so, and she stood apart from him, her eyes flashing, her heart beating madly; for she greatly feared that he would force on her that which till now she had so cleverly avoided. But suddenly she saw her advantage, for there he stood before her, not an angry King but a humble man who, besides desiring her, loved her; and thus she knew that it was not for him to say what should be, but for herself to decide. Such knowledge was sweet; it calmed her sorely troubled mind, and calm she was indeed mistress of the situation. Here he was, this great bull of a man, for the first time in his life in love, and therefore inexperienced in this great emotion which swept over him, governing his actions, forcing him to take orders instead of giving them; forcing him to supplicate instead of demanding.

“Sweetheart...” he began hoarsely; but she lifted a hand.

“Your rough treatment has grieved me.”

“But my love for you...”

She looked at the red marks his hands had made on her shoulder, where he had torn the neck of her gown.

“It frightens me,” she said, looking not the least frightened, but mistress of herself and of him. “It makes me uncertain....”

“Have no uncertainty of me, darling! When I first met you I went back and said to Wolsey: ‘I have been discoursing with one who is worthy to wear a crown!’”

“And what said my lord Cardinal? He laughed in your face I dare swear!”

“Dost think he would dare!”

“There are many things my lord Cardinal might dare that others would not. He is an arrogant, ill-bred creature!”

“You wrong him, sweetheart...nor do we wish to speak of him. I beg of you, consider this matter in all seriousness, for I swear there is none that can make me happy but yourself.”

“But Your Majesty could not make me your Queen! I have said your mistress I would never be.”

Now he was eager, for his mind, which had weighed this point since she began to torment him, was now firmly made up.

“I swear,” he said, “I would never take another queen but that she was Anne Boleyn. Give me the ring, sweetheart, and take you this so that I may have peace in my mind.”

These were sweet words to her, but still she wavered. Love first; power second. Ah, she thought, could I but love this man!

“Your Grace must understand my need to think this matter over well.”

“Think it over, Anne? I ask you to be my Queen!”

“We do not discuss kings and queens,” she reproved him, and the reproof enchanted him. “This is a matter between a man and a woman. Would you then wish me to be your Queen and not to be wholly sure that I loved you more than a subject loves a king?”

This was disarming. Where was there a woman who could hesitate over such a matter! Where was one like her! In wit, in beauty, he had known she had no equal; but in virtue too she stood alone. She was priceless, for nothing he could give would buy her. He must win her love.

He was enchanted. This was delightful—for how could he doubt that she would love him! There was none who excelled as he did at the jousts; always he won—or almost always. His songs were admired more than Wyatt’s or Surrey’s even; and had he not earned the title of Defender of the Faith by his book against Luther! Could More have written such a book? No! He was a king among men in all senses of the words. Take away the throne tomorrow and he would still be king. In love...ah! He had but to look at a woman and she was ripe for him. So it had always been...except with Anne Boleyn. But she stood apart from others; she was different; that was why she should be his Queen.

“I would have time to think on this matter,” she said, and her words rang with sincerity, for this man’s kisses had aroused in her a desire for those of another man, and she was torn between love and ambition. If Wyatt had not had a wife, if it was a dignified love he could have given her, she would not have hesitated; but it was the King who offered dignity, and he offered power and state; nor was Wyatt such a humble lover as this man, for all his power, could be; and, lacking humility herself, she liked it in others.

“I stay here till I have your answer,” said the King. “I swear I will not leave Hever till I wear your ring on my finger and you mine on yours.”

“Give me till tomorrow morning,” she said.

“Thus shall it be, sweetheart. Deal kindly with me in your thoughts.”

“How could I do aught else, when from you I and mine have had naught but kindness!”

He was pleased at that. What had he not done for these Boleyns! Aye, and would do more still. He would make old Thomas’s daughter a queen. Then he wondered, did she mean to refer to Mary? Quick of speech was his love; sharp of wits; was she perhaps a little jealous of her sister Mary?

He said soberly: “There shall be none in competition with you, sweetheart.”

And she answered disconcertingly: “There would need to be none, for I could not believe in the love of a man who amused himself with mistresses.” Then she was all smiles and sweetness. “Sire, forgive my forwardness. Since you tell me you are a man who loves me, I forget you are the King.”

He was enraptured; she would come to him not for what the coming would mean to her in honor; she would come to him as the man.

That evening was a pleasant one. After the meal in the great dining hall she played to him and sang a little.

He kissed her hands fervently on retiring.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “I must have that ring.”

“Tomorrow,” she answered, “you shall know whether or not you shall have it.”

He said, his eyes on her lips: “Dost think of me under this roof knowing you so near and refusing me?”

“Perhaps it will not always be so,” she said.

“I will dream you are already Queen of England. I will dream that you are in my arms.”

She was afraid of such talk; she bade him a hasty good night, repeating her promise that he should hear her decision in the morning. She went to her chamber and locked her door.

Anne passed a night that was tortured with doubts. To be Queen of England! The thought haunted her, dominated her. Love, she had lost—the love she had dreamed of. Ambition beckoned. Surely she was meant to be a queen, she on whom the Fates had bestowed great gifts. She saw her ladies about her, robing her in the garments of state; she saw herself stately and gracious, imperious. Ah! she thought, there are so many people I can help. And her thoughts went to a house in Lambeth and a little girl tugging at her skirts. That would be indeed gratifying, to lift her poor friends and members of her family out of poverty; to know that they spoke of her lovingly and with respect....We owe this to the Queen—the Queen, but a humble girl whose most unusual gifts, whose wit and beauty so enslaved the King that he would make her his Queen. And then...there were some who had laughed at her, her enemies who had said: “Ah! There goes Anne Boleyn; there she goes, the way of her sister!” How pleasant to snap the fingers at them, to make them bow to her!

Her eyes glittered with excitement. The soft girl who had loved Percy, who was inclined to love Wyatt, had disappeared, and in her place was a calculating woman. Ambition was wrestling desperately with love; and ambition was winning.

I do not dislike the King, she thought—for how could one dislike a man who had the good taste to admire one so wholeheartedly.

And the Queen? Ah! Something else to join the fight against ambition. The poor Queen, who was gentle enough, though melancholy, she a queen to be wronged. Oh, but the glitter of queenship! And Anne Boleyn was more fit to occupy a throne than Katharine of Aragon, for queenship is innate; it is not to be bestowed on those who have nothing but their relationship to other kings and queens.

Thomas, Thomas! Why are you not a king, to arrange a divorce, to take a new queen!

Would you be faithful, Thomas? Are any men? And if not, is love the great possession to be prized above all else? Thomas and his wife! George and Jane! The King and the Queen! Look around the court; where has love lasted? Is it not overrated? And ambition...Wolsey! How high he had come! From a butcher’s shop, some said, to Westminster Hall. From tutor’s cold attic to Hampton Court! Ambition beckoned. Cardinals may be knocked down from their proud perches, but it would need a queen to knock them down; and who could displace a queen of the King’s choice!

A queen! A queen! Queen Anne!

While Henry, restless, dreamed of her taking off those elegant clothes, of caressing the shapely limbs, she, wakeful, pictured herself riding in a litter of cloth of gold, while on either side crowds of people bared their heads to the Queen of England.

The next day Henry, after extracting a promise from her that she would return to court at once, rode away from Hever wearing her ring on his finger.

The Cardinal wept; the Cardinal implored; all his rare gifts were used in order to dissuade the King. But Henry was more determined on this than he had ever been on any matter. As wax in the hands of the crafty Wolsey he had been malleable indeed; but Wolsey had to learn that he had been so because, being clever enough to recognize the powers of Wolsey, he had been pleased to let him have his way. Now he desired the divorce, he desired marriage with Anne Boleyn as he had never desired anything except the throne, and he would fight for these with all the tenacity of the obstinate man he was; and being able to assure himself that he was in the right he could do so with unbounded energy. The divorce was right, for dynastic reasons; Anne was right for him, for she was young and healthy and would bear him many sons. An English Queen for the English throne! That was all he asked.

In vain did Wolsey point out what the reaction in France must surely be. Had he not almost affianced Henry to Renee? And the people of England? Had His Grace, the King, considered their feelings in the matter? There was murmuring against the divorce throughout the capital. Henry did what he ever did when crossed; he lost his temper, and in his mind were sown the first seeds of suspicion towards his old friend and counselor. Wolsey had no illusions; well he knew his royal master. He must now work with all his zest and genius for the divorce; he must use all his energies to put on the throne one whom he knew to be his enemy, whom he had discovered to be more than a feckless woman seeking admiration and gaiety, whom he knew to be interested in the new religion, to be involved in a powerful party comprising her uncle of Norfolk, her father, her brother, Wyatt and the rest; this he must do, or displease the King. He could see no reward for himself in this. To please the King he must put Anne Boleyn on the throne, and to put Anne Boleyn on the throne was to advance one who would assuredly have the King under her influence, and who was undoubtedly—if not eager to destroy him—eager to remove him from that high place to which years of work had brought him.

But he was Wolsey the diplomat, so he wrote to the Pope extolling the virtues of Anne Boleyn.

Anne herself had returned to court a changed person. Now she must accept the adulation of all; there were those who, disliking her hitherto, now eagerly sought her favor; she was made to feel that she was the most important person at court, for even the King treated her with deference.

She was nineteen—a girl, in spite of an aura of sophistication. Power was sweet, and if she was a little imperious it was because of remembered slights when she had been considered not good enough for Percy—she who was to be Queen of England. If she was a little hard, it was because life had been unkind to her, first with Percy, then with Wyatt. If she were inclined to be overfond of admiration and seek it where it was unwise to do so, was not her great beauty responsible? She was accomplished and talented, and it was but human that she should wish to use these gifts. Very noble it might seem for Queen Katharine to dress herself in sober attire; she was aging and shapeless, and never, even in her youth, had she been beautiful. Anne’s body was perfectly proportioned, her face animated and charming; it was as natural for her to adorn herself as it was for Wyatt to write verses, or for the King in his youth to tire out many horses in one day at the hunt. People care about doing things which they do well, and had Katharine possessed the face and figure of Anne, doubtless she would have spent more time at her mirror and a little less with her chaplain. And if Anne offended some a little at this point, she was but nineteen, which is not very old; and she was gay by nature and eager to live an exciting, exhilarating and stimulating life.

Her pity for the Queen was diminished when that lady, professing friendship for her, would have her play cards every evening to keep her from the King, and that playing she might show that slight deformity on her left hand. Ah! These pious ones! thought Anne. Are they as good as they would seem? How often do they use their piety to hurt a sinner like myself!

She was over-generous perhaps, eager to share her good fortune with others, and one of the keenest joys she derived from her newly won power was the delight of being able to help the needy. Nor did she forget her uncle, Edmund Howard, but besought the King that something might be done for him. The King, becoming more devoted with each day and caring not who should know it, promised to give the Comptrollership of Calais to her uncle. This was pleasant news to her; and she enjoyed many similar pleasures.

But she, seeming over-gay, not for one moment relaxed in the cautious game she must continue to play with the King; for the divorce was long in coming, and the King’s desire was hard to check; forever must she be on her guard with him, since it was a difficult game with a dangerous opponent.

Nor did she forget it, for with her quickness of mind very speedily did she come to know her royal lover; and there were times in this gay and outwardly butterfly existence when fears beset her.

Wyatt, reckless and bold, hovered about her, and though she knew it was unwise to allow his constant attendance, she was very loth to dismiss him from her companionship. Well she had kept her secret, and Wyatt did not yet know of the talk of marriage which had taken place between her and the King. Wyatt himself was similar to Anne in character, so that the relationship between them often seemed closer than that of first cousin. He was reckoned the handsomest man at court; he was certainly the most charming. Impulsive as Anne herself, he would slip unthinking into a dangerous situation.

There was such an occasion when he was playing bowls with the King. The Duke of Suffolk and Sir Francis Bryan completed the quartet. There was a dispute over the game, which any but Wyatt would have let pass; not so Wyatt; he played to win, as did the King, and he would not allow even Henry to take what was not his. Henry was sure he had beaten Wyatt in casting the bowl. Wyatt immediately replied: “Sire, by your leave, it is not so.”

The King turned his gaze upon this young man whom he could not help but like for his charm, his gaiety and his wit; his little eyes traveled over Wyatt’s slim body, and he remembered that he had seen him but that morning hovering about Anne. Wyatt was handsome, there was no denying that. Wyatt wrote excellent verses. The King also wrote verses. He was a little piqued by Wyatt’s fluency. And Anne? He had heard it whispered, before it was known that such whispers would madden him, that Wyatt was in love with Anne.

He was suddenly angry with Wyatt. He had dared to raise a dispute over a game. He had dared write better verses than Henry. He had dared to cast his eyes on Anne Boleyn, and was young enough, handsome enough, plausible enough to turn any girl’s head.

Significantly, and speaking in the parables he so loved to use, Henry made a great show of pointing with his little finger on which was the ring Anne had given him. Wyatt saw the ring, recognized it and was nonplussed; and that again added fuel to Henry’s anger. How dared Wyatt know so well a ring which had been Anne’s! How often, wondered Henry, had he lifted her hand to his lips!

“Wyatt!” said the King; and smiling complacently and significantly: “I tell thee it is mine!”

Wyatt, debonair, careless of consequences, looked for a moment at the ring and with a nonchalant air brought from his pocket the chain on which hung the tablet he had taken from Anne. He said with equal significance to that used by the King: “And if it may please Your Majesty to give me leave to measure the cast with this, I have good hopes yet it will be mine!”

Gracefully he stooped to measure, while Henry, bursting with jealous fury, stood by.

“Ah!” cried Wyatt boldly. “Your Majesty will see that I am right. The game is mine!”

Henry, his face purple with fury, shouted at Wyatt: “It may be so, but then I am deceived!” He left the players staring after him.

“Wyatt,” said Bryan, “you were ever a reckless fool! Why did you make such a pother about a paltry game?”

But Wyatt’s eyes had lost their look of triumph; he shrugged his shoulders. He knew that he had lost, and guessed the ring Anne had given the King to be a symbol.

Henry stormed into the room where Anne was sitting with some of the ladies. The ladies rose at his entrance, curtseyed timidly, and were quick to obey the signal he gave for their departure.

“Your Majesty is angry,” said Anne, alarmed.

“Mistress Anne Boleyn,” said the King, “I would know what there is betwixt thee and Wyatt.”

“I understand not,” she said haughtily. “What should there be?”

“That to make him boast of his success with you.”

“Then he boasts emptily.”

He said: “I would have proof of that.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “You mean that you doubt my words.”

She was as quick to anger as he was, and she had great power over him because, though he was deeply in love with her, she was but in love with the power he could give her, and she was as yet uncertain that this honor was what she asked of life. That was the secret of her power over him. She wavered, swaying away from him, and he, bewitched and enflamed with the strong sexual passion which colored his whole existence, was completely at her mercy.

He said: “Anne, I know well that you would speak the truth. But tell me now with good speed, sweetheart, that there is naught between you and Wyatt.”

“You would blame me,” she said haughtily, “since he writes his verse to me?”

“Nay, sweetheart. I would blame you for nothing. Tell me now that I have naught to fear from this man, and restore my happiness.”

“You have naught to fear from him.”

“He had a jeweled tablet of yours.”

“I remember it. He took it one day; he would not return it, and I, valuing it but little, did not press the matter.”

He sat heavily beside her on the window seat, and put an arm about her.

“You have greatly pleased me, sweetheart. You must excuse my jealousy.”

“I do excuse it,” she said.

“Then all is well.” He kissed her hand hungrily, his eyes asking for much that his lips dared not. He had angered her; he could not risk doing so again, for he sensed the uncertainty in her. Thus he marveled at his infatuation for this girl; as did the court. He had never loved like this; nay, he had never loved before. He was thirty-six, an old thirty-six in some ways, for he lived heartily; this was the last flare-up of youth, and the glow lighted everything about him in fantastic colors. He was the middle-aged man in love with youth; he felt inexpressibly tender towards her; he was obsessed by her; he chafed against the delay of the divorce.

After this affair of the bowls, Anne knew she was committed. Wyatt’s glance was sardonic now; Wyatt was resigned. She had chosen the power and the glory; his rival had tempted her with the bait of marriage.

“And wilt thou leave me thus

That hath loved thee so long

In wealth and woe among:

And is thy heart so strong

As for to leave me thus?”

Her heart must be strong; she must cultivate ambition; she must tread warily, since in that court of glittering men and women she now began to find her enemies, and if their malice was cloaked in soft words, they were nonetheless against her. The Cardinal, watchful and wary; the Duke of Suffolk and his wife—that Mary with whom she had gone to France—who now saw her throwing a shadow over the prospects of their descendants’ claim to the throne; Chapuys, the Spaniard who was more of a spy for his master, the Emperor Charles, than his ambassador; Katharine, the Queen whom she would displace; Mary, the princess who would be branded as illegitimate. All these there were in high places to fight against her. There was a more dangerous enemy still—the people of London. Discontent was rampant in the city; the harvest had been a poor one, and the sober merchants felt that an alliance with France was folly, since it merely changed old friends for new ones who had previously shown they were not to be trusted. There was famine throughout the country, and though the King might lend to the city corn from his own granaries, still the people murmured. The cloth merchants fretted, for the trouble with Spain meant losing the great Flanders market. The County of Kent petitioned the King, in view of their poverty, to repay a loan made to him two years before. The Archbishop of Canterbury did what he could to soothe these people, but they remained restive.

For these troubles did the people of England blame Wolsey. During the prosperous years the King received the homage of his subjects; he had been taken to their hearts during the period of his coronation when he, a magnificent figure of an Englishman, fair and tall and skilled in sport, had ridden among them—such a contrast to his ugly, mean old father. During the dark years, however, they blamed Wolsey; for Wolsey had committed the sin of being of the people and rising above them. The whispers went round: “Which court? Hampton Court or the King’s court?” This was the twilight hour of Wolsey’s brilliant day. And the starving and wretched gazed at a bright and beautiful girl, reclining in her barge or riding out with friends from court; more gaily dressed than the other ladies, she sparkled with rich jewels, presents from the King—a sight to raise the wrath of a starving people. “We’ll have none of Nan Bullen!” they murmured together. “The King’s whore shall not be our Queen. Queen Katharine forever!”

From the choked gutters there arose evil smells; decaying matter lay about for weeks; rats, tame as cats, walked the cobbles; overhanging gables, almost touching across narrow streets, shut out the sun and air, held in the vileness. And in those filthy streets men and women were taken suddenly sick; many died in the streets, the sweat pouring from their bodies; and all men knew that the dreaded sweating sickness had returned to England. Thus did the most sorely afflicted people of London wonder at this evil which had fallen upon them; thus did they murmur against her who by her witch’s fascination had turned the King from his pious ways. The sick and suffering of London whispered her name; the rebellious people of Kent talked of her; in the weaving counties her name was spoken with distaste. Everywhere there was murmuring against the devil’s instrument, Wolsey, and her who had led the King into evil ways and brought down the justice of heaven upon their country. Even at Horsham, where the news of the sweating sickness had not yet reached, they talked of Anne Boleyn. The old Duchess chuckled in great enjoyment of the matter.

“Come here, Catherine Howard. Rub my back. I declare I must be full of lice or suffering from the itch! Rub harder, child. Ah! Fine doings at the court, I hear. The King is bewitched, it seems, by your cousin, Anne Boleyn, and I am not greatly surprised to hear it. I said, when she came visiting me at Lambeth: ‘Ah! There is a girl the King would like!’ though I will say I added that he might feel inclined to spank the haughtiness out of her before carrying her off to bed. Don’t scratch, child! Gently...gently. Now I wonder if...” The Duchess giggled. “You must not look so interested, child, and I should not talk to you of such matters. Why, of course...As if he would not...From what I know of His Majesty...Though there are those that say...It is never wise to give in...and yet what can a poor girl do...and look how Mary kept him dancing attendance all those years! There is something about the Boleyns, and of course it comes from the Howards...though I swear I see little of it in you, child. Why, look at your gown! Is that a rent? You should make Isabel look after you better. And what do you do of nights when you should be sleeping? I declare I heard such a noise from your apartment that I was of good mind to come and lay about the lot of you...”

It was merely the Duchess’s talk; she would never stir from her bed. But Catherine decided she must tell the others.

“And your cousin, I hear, is to do something for your father, Catherine Howard. Oh, what it is to have friends at court! Why, you are dreaming there...Rub harder! Or leave that...you may do my legs now.”

Catherine was dreaming of the beautiful cousin who had come to the house at Lambeth. She knew what it meant to be a king’s favorite, for Catherine had a mixed knowledge; she knew of the attraction between men and women, and the methods in which such attraction was shown; of books she knew little, as the Duchess, always meaning to have her taught, was somehow ever forgetful of this necessity. The cousin had given her a jewelled tablet, and she had it still; she treasured it.

“One day,” said the Duchess, “I shall go to Lambeth that I may be near my granddaughter who is almost a queen.”

“She is not really your granddaughter,” said Catherine. “You were her grandfather’s second wife.”

The Duchess cuffed the girl’s ears for that. “What! And you would deny my relationship to the queen-to-be! She who is all but Queen has never shown me such disrespect. Now do my legs, child, and no more impertinence!”

Catherine thought—Nor are you my real grandmother either! And she was glad, for it seemed sacrilege that this somewhat frowsy old woman—Duchess of Norfolk though she might be—should be too closely connected with glorious Anne.

When Catherine was in the room which she still shared with the ladies-in-waiting, she took out the jeweled tablet and looked at it. It was impossible in the dormitory to have secrets, and several of them wanted to know what she had.

“It is nothing,” said Catherine.

“Ah!” said Nan. “I know! It is a gift from your lover.”

“It is not!” declared Catherine. “And I have no lover.”

“You should say so with shame! A fine big girl like you!” said a tall, lewd-looking girl, even bolder than the rest.

“I’ll swear it is from her lover,” said Nan. “Why, look! It has an initial on it—A. Now who is A? Think hard, all of you.”

Catherine could not bear their guessings, and she blurted out: “I will tell you then. I have had it since I was a very little baby. It was given to me by my cousin, Anne Boleyn.”

“Anne Boleyn!” screamed Nan. “Why, of course, our Catherine is first cousin to the King’s mistress!” Nan leaped off the bed and made a mock bow to Catherine. The others followed her example, and Catherine thrust away the tablet, wishing she had not shown it.

Now they were all talking of the King and her cousin Anne, and what they said made Catherine’s cheeks flush scarlet. She could not bear that they should talk of her cousin in this way, as though she were one of them.

The incorrigible Nan and the lewd-faced girl were shouting at each other.

“We will stage a little play...for tonight...You may take the part of the King. I shall be Anne Boleyn!”

They were rocking with laughter. “I shall do this. You shall do that...I’ll warrant we’ll bring Her Grace up with our laughter...”

“We must be careful...”

“If she discovered...”

“Bah! What would she do?”

“She would send us home in disgrace.”

“She is too lazy...”

“What else? What else?”

“Little Catherine Howard shall be lady of the bed-chamber!”

“Ha! That is good. She being first cousin to the lady...Well, Catherine Howard, we have brought you up in the right way, have we not? We have trained you to wait on your lady cousin, even in the most delicate circumstances, with understanding and...”

“Tact!” screamed Nan. “And discretion!”

“She’ll probably get a place at court!”

“And Catherine Howard, unless you take us with you, we shall tell all we know about you and...”

“I have done nothing!” said Catherine hastily. “There is nothing you could say against me.”

“Ah! Have you forgotten Thomas Culpepper so soon then?”

“I tell you there was nothing...”

“Catherine Howard! Have you forgotten the paddock and what he did there...”

“It was nothing...nothing!”

Nan said firmly: “Those who excuse themselves, accuse themselves. Did you know that, Catherine?”

“I swear...” cried Catherine. And then, in an excess of boldness: “If you do not stop saying these things about Thomas, I will go and tell my grandmother what happens in this room at night.”

Isabel, who had been silent amidst the noise of the others, caught her by her wrist.

“You would not dare...”

“Don’t forget,” cried Nan, “we should have something to say of you!”

“There is nothing you could say. I have done nothing but look on...”

“And enjoyed looking on! Now, Catherine Howard, I saw a young gentleman kiss you last evening.”

“It was not my wish, and that I told him.”

“Oh, well,” said Nan, “it was not my wish that such and such happened to me, and I told him; but it happened all the same.”

Catherine moved to the door. Isabel was beside her.

“Catherine, take no heed of these foolish girls.”

There were tears in Catherine’s eyes.

“I will not hear them say such things of my cousin.”

“Heed them not, the foolish ones! They mean it not.”

“I will not endure it.”

“And you think to stop it by telling your grandmother?”

“Yes,” said Catherine, “for if she knew what happened here, she would dismiss them all.”

“I should not tell, Catherine. You have been here many nights yourself; she might not hold you guiltless. Catherine, listen to me. They shall say nothing of your cousin again; I will stop them. But first you must promise me that you will not let a word of what happens here get to your grandmother’s ears through you.”

“It is wrong of them to taunt me.”

“Indeed it is wrong,” said Isabel, “and it must not be. Trust me to deal with them. They are foolish girls. Now promise you will not tell your grandmother.”

“I will not tell unless they taunt me to it.”

“Then rest assured they shall not.”

Catherine ran from the room, and Isabel turned to the girls who had listened open-eyed to this dialogue.

“You fools!” said Isabel. “You ask for trouble. It is well enough to be reckless when there is amusement to be had, but just to taunt a baby...What do you achieve but the fear of discovery?”

“She would not dare to tell,” said Nan.

“Would she not! She has been turning over in her baby mind whether she ought not to tell ever since she came here. Doubtless the saintly Thomas warned her it was wrong to tell tales.”

“She dared not tell,” insisted another girl.

“Why not, you fool? She is innocent. What has she done but be a looker-on? We should be ruined, all of us, were this known to Her Grace.”

“Her Grace cares nothing but for eating, sleeping, drinking, scratching and gossip!”

“There are others who would care. And while she is innocent, there is danger of her telling. Now if she were involved...”

“We shall have to find a lover for her,” said Nan.

“A fine big girl such as she is!” said the lewd-faced girl who had promised to take the part of Henry.

The girls screamed together lightheartedly. Only Isabel, aloof from their foolish chatter, considered this.

The King sat alone and disconsolate in his private apartments. He was filled with apprehension. Through the southeastern corner of England raged that dread disease, the sweating sickness. In the streets of London men took it whilst walking; many died within a few hours. People looked suspiciously one at the other. Why does this come upon us to add to our miseries! Poverty we have; famine; and now the sweat! Eyes were turned to the palaces, threatening eyes; voices murmured: “Our King has turned his lawful wife from his bed, that he might put there a witch. Our King has quarreled with the holy Pope....”

Wolsey had warned him, as had others of his council: “It would be well to send Mistress Anne Boleyn back to her father’s castle until the sickness passes, for the people are murmuring against her. It might be well if Your Majesty appeared in public with the Queen.”

Angry as the King had been, he realized there was wisdom in their words.

“Sweetheart,” he said, “the people are murmuring against us. This matter of divorce, which they cannot understand, is at the heart of it. You must go to Hever for awhile.”

She, with the recklessness of youth, would have snapped her fingers at the people. “Ridiculous,” she said, “to associate this sickness with the divorce! I do not want to leave the court. It is humiliating to be sent away in this discourteous manner.”

Was ever a man so plagued, and he a king! To his face she had laughed at his fears, despising his weakness in bowing to his ministers and his conscience. She would have defied the devil, he knew. He had forced himself to be firm, begging her to see that it was because he longed for her so desperately that he wished this matter of the divorce concluded with the minimum of trouble. Ever since she had gone he had been writing letters to her, passionate letters in which he bared his soul, in which he clearly told her more than it was wise to tell her. “Oh,” he wrote, “Oh, that you were in my arms!” He was not subtle with the pen; he wrote from the heart. He loved her; he wanted her with him. He told her these things, and so did he, the King of England, place himself at the mercy of a girl of nineteen.

He believed, with his people, that the sweat was a visitation from Heaven. It had come on other occasions; there had been one epidemic just before his accession to the throne. Ominous this! Was God saying he was not pleased that the Tudors should be the heirs of England? Again it had come in 1517, at about the time when Martin Luther was denouncing Rome. Was it God’s intention to support the German, and did He thus show disapproval of those who followed Rome? He had heard his father’s speaking of its breaking out after Bosworth...and now, here it was again when Henry was thinking of divorce. Assuredly it was alarming to contemplate these things!

So he prayed a good deal; he heard mass many times a day. He prayed aloud and in his thoughts. “Thou knowest it was not for my carnal desires that I would make Anne my wife. There is none I would have for wife but Katharine, were I sure that she was my wife, that I was not sinning in continuing to let her share my bed. Thou knowest that!” he pleaded. “Thou hast taken William Carey, O Lord. Ah! He was a complaisant husband to Mary, and mayhap this is his punishment. For myself, I have sinned in this matter and in others, as Thou knowest, but always I have confessed. I have repented...And if I took William’s wife, I gave him a place at court beyond his deserts, for, as Thou knowest, he was a man of small ability.”

All his prayers and all his thoughts were tinged with his desire for Anne. “There is a woman who will give sons to me and to England! That is why I would elevate her to the throne.” It was reassuring to be able to say “England needs my sons!” rather than “I want Anne.”

Henry was working on his treatise, in which he was pointing out the illegality of his marriage, and which he would dispatch to the Pope. He was proud of it; for its profound and wise arguments; its clarity; its plausibility; its literary worth. He had shown what he had done to Sir Thomas More; had eagerly awaited the man’s compliments; but More had merely said that he could not judge it since he knew so little of such matters. Ah! thought Henry. Professional jealousy, eh! And he had scowled at More, feeling suddenly a ridiculous envy of the man, for there was in More an agreeable humor, deep learning, wit, charm and a serenity of mind which showed in his countenance. Henry had been entertained at More’s riverside house; had walked in the pleasant garden and watched More’s children feed his peacocks; had seen this man in the heart of his family, deeply loved and reverenced by them; he had watched his friendship with men like the learned Erasmus, the impecunious Hans Holbein who, poor as he might be, knew well how to wield a brush. And being there, he the King—though he could not complain that they gave him not his rightful homage—had been outside that magic family circle, though Erasmus and Holbein had obviously been welcomed into it.

A wild jealousy had filled his heart for this man More who was known for his boldness in stating his opinions, for his readiness to crack a joke, for his love of literature and art, and for his practical virtue. Henry could have hated this man, had the man allowed him to, but ever susceptible to charm in men as well as women, he had fallen a victim to the charm of Sir Thomas More; and so he found, struggling in his breast, a love for this man, and even when More refused to praise his treatise, and even though he knew More was amongst those who did not approve of the divorce, he must continue to respect the man and seek his friendship. How many of his people, like More, did not approve of the divorce! Henry grew hot with righteous indigation and the desire to make them see this matter in the true light.

He had written a moralizing letter to his sister Margaret of Scotland, accusing her of immorality in divorcing her husband on the plea that her marriage had not been legal, thus making her daughter illegitimate. He burned with indignation at his niece’s plight while he—at that very time—was planning to place his daughter Mary in a similar position. He did this in all seriousness, for his thoughts were governed by his muddled moral principles. He saw himself as noble, the perfect king; when the people murmured against Anne, it was because they did not understand! He was ready to sacrifice himself to his country. He did not see himself as he was, but as he wished himself to be; and, surrounded by those who continually sought his favor, he could not know that others did not see him as he wished to be seen.

One night during this most unsatisfactory state of affairs occasioned by Anne’s absence, an express messenger brought disquieting news.

“From Hever!” roared the King. “What from Hever?”

And he hoped for a letter, for she had not answered his in spite of his entreaties, a letter in which she was more humble, in which she expressed a more submissive mood of sweet reasonableness. It was not however a letter, but the alarming news that Anne and her father had taken the sickness, though mildly. The King was filled with panic. The most precious body in his kingdom was in danger. Carey had died. Not Anne! he prayed. Not Anne!

He grew practical; grieving that his first physician was not at hand, he immediately dispatched his second, Doctor Butts, to Hever. Desperately anxious, he awaited news.

He paced his room, forgetting his superstitious fears, forgetting to remind God that it was just because she was healthy and could give England sons that he proposed marrying her; he thought only of the empty life without her.

He sat down, and poured out his heart to her in his direct and simple manner.

“The most displeasing news that could occur came to me suddenly at night. On three accounts I must lament it. One, to hear of the illness of my mistress whom I esteem more than all the world, and whose health I desire as I do mine own; I would willingly bear half of what you suffer to cure you. The second, from the fear that I shall have to endure thy wearisome absence much longer, which has hitherto given me all the vexation that was possible. The third, because my physician (in whom I have most confidence) is absent at the very time when he could have given me the greatest pleasure. But I hope, by him and his means, to obtain one of my chief joys on earth; that is the cure of my mistress. Yet from the want of him I send you my second (Doctor Butts) and hope he will soon make you well. I shall then love him more than ever. I beseech you to be guided by his advice in your illness. By your doing this, I hope soon to see you again. Which will be to me a greater comfort than all the precious jewels in the world.

“Written by the hand of that secretary who is, and forever will be, your loyal and most assured servant. H.R.”

And having written and dispatched this, he must pace his apartment in such anxiety as he had never known, and marvel that there could be such a thing as love, all joy and sorrow, to assail even the hearts of princes.

The Queen was jubilant. Was this God’s way of answering her prayers? She rejoiced with her daughter, because Anne Boleyn lay ill of the sweating sickness at Hever.

“Oh,” cried the Queen to her young daughter, “this is the vengeance of the Lord. This is a judgment on the girl’s wickedness.”

Twelve-year-old Mary listened wide-eyed, thinking her mother a saint.

“My father...” said the girl, “loves he this woman?”

Her mother stroked her hair. Loving her dearly, she had until now superintended her education, kept her with her, imbued her with her own ideas of life.

“He thinks to do so, daughter. He is a lusty man, and thus it is with men. It is no true fault of his; she is to blame.”

“I have seen her about the court,” said Mary, her eyes narrowed, picturing Anne as she had seen her. That was how witches looked, thought Mary; they had flowing hair and huge dark eyes, and willowy bodies which they loved to swath in scarlet; witches looked like Anne Boleyn!

“She should be burned at the stake, Mother!” said Mary.

“Hush!” said her mother. “It is not meet to talk thus. Pray for her, Mary. Pity her, for mayhap at this moment she burns in hell.”

Mary’s eyes were glistening; she hoped so. She had a vivid picture of flames the color of the witch’s gown licking her white limbs; in her imagination she could hear the most melodious voice at court, imploring in vain to be freed from hideous torment.

Mary understood much. This woman would marry her father; through her it would be said that Mary’s mother was no wife, and that she, Mary, was a bastard. Mary knew the meaning of that; she would no longer be the Princess Mary; she would no longer receive the homage of her father’s subjects; she would never be Queen of England.

Mary prayed each night that her father would tire of Anne, that he would banish her from the court, that he would grow to hate her, commit her to the Tower where she would be put in a dark dungeon to be starved and eaten by rats, that she might be put in chains, that her body might be grievously racked for every tear she had caused to fall from the eyes of Mary’s saintly mother.

Mary had something of her father in her as well as of her mother; her mother’s fanaticism perhaps, but her father’s cruelty and determination.

Once her mother had said: “Mary, what if your father should make her his Queen?”

Mary had answered proudly: “There could be but one Queen of England, Mother.”

Katharine’s heart had rejoiced, for deeply, tenderly, she loved her daughter. While they were together there could not be complete despair. But all their wishes, all their prayers, were without effect.

When the news came to Henry that Anne had recovered, he embraced the messenger, called for wine to refresh him, fell on his knees and thanked God.

“Ha!” said he to Wolsey. “This is a sign! I am right to marry the lady; she will give me many lusty sons.”

Poor Katharine! She could but weep silently; and then her bitterness was lost in fear, for her daughter had taken the sickness.

Anne convalesced at Hever. At court she was spoken of continually. Du Bellay, the witty French ambassador, joked in his light way. He wagered the sickness of the lady had spoiled her beauty in some measure; he was certain that during her absence some other one would find a way to the King’s susceptible heart. Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, laughed with him, and gleefully wrote to his master of the “concubine’s” sickness. Blithely he prophesied an end of this—in Spain’s eyes—monstrous matter of the divorce.

But Henry did not wait for her convalescence to end. How could he wait much longer! He had waited enough already. Privately he would ride from Greenwich or from Eltham to Hever Castle, and Anne, from the castle grounds, hearing his bugle call on a nearby hill, would go out to meet him. They would walk the gallery together, or sit in the oak-paneled chamber while he told her how the matter of the divorce progressed; he would talk of his love, would demand in fierce anger—or meek supplication—why now she could not make him the happiest of men.

And when the pestilence had passed over and she returned to court, Du Bellay reported to his government: “I believe the King to be so infatuated with her that God alone can abate his madness.”

Thomas Wolsey, knowing sickness of heart, feigned sickness of body. He knew his master; sentimental as a girl, and soft as wax in the fiery hands of Anne Boleyn.

Wolsey saw his decline, now, as clearly as he had so often seen the sun set; for him, though, there would be no rising again after the coming of night.

He did not complain; he was too wise for that. Well he knew that he had made his mistake, and where. He had humiliated her who had now the King’s ear. And she was no soft, weak woman; she was strong and fierce, a good friend and a bad enemy. Oh! he thought, there is a night crow that possesses the royal ear and misrepresents all my actions.

He must not complain. He remembered the days of his own youth. He could look back to the humble life when he was tutor to the sons of Lord Marquess Dorset. Then there had been a certain knight, one Sir Amyas Pawlet, who had dared to humiliate young Wolsey; and had young Wolsey forgotten? He had not! Sir Amyas Pawlet grew to wish he had considered awhile before heaping indignities upon a humble tutor. So it was with Mistress Anne Boleyn and Thomas Wolsey. He could go to her; he could say: “I would explain to you. It was not I who wished to hurt you. It was not I who would have prevented your marriage with Percy. It was my lord King. I was but his servant in this matter.” It might well be that she, who was noted for her generous impulses, would forgive him; it might be that she would not continue to plan against him. It might be...but she was not his only enemy. Her uncle, Norfolk, was with her in this matter; the Duke of Suffolk, also; and that Percy of Northumberland who had loved her and still brooded on his loss. These powerful men had had enough of Wolsey’s rule.

He was very weary; defeated by this divorce, feigning sickness that he might appeal to the sentiment of the King, that he might make him sorry for his old friend; hiding himself away until Campeggio whom the Pope was sending from Rome was due to arrive. This was Wolsey in decline.

Foolishly he had acted over this matter of Eleanor Carey. He was in disgrace with the King over that matter, and he had received such a rebuke as he had never had before, and one which told him clearly that the King was no longer his to command. The night crow and her band of vultures watched him, waiting for his death. Yet stupidly and proudly he had acted over the Eleanor Carey affair; she was the sister-in-law of Anne, and with characteristic generosity, when the woman had asked Anne to make her Abbess of Wilton—which place had fallen vacant—Anne had promised she should have her wish. And he, Wolsey, had arrogantly refused Eleanor Carey and given the place to another. Thus was Mistress Anne’s anger once more raised against him; how bitterly had she complained of his action to the King! Wolsey had explained that Eleanor was unfit for the post, having had two illegitimate children by a priest. Knowing that, Henry, whose attitude towards others was rigorously moral, must see the point of this refusal. Gently and with many apologies for the humiliation she had suffered in the matter, the King explained this to Anne. “I would not,” wrote Henry to his sweetheart, “for all the gold in the world clog your conscience and mine to make her a ruler of a house...”

Anne, who was by nature honest, had no great respect for her lover’s conscience; she was impatient, and showed it; she insisted that Wolsey’s arrogance should not be allowed to pass. And Henry, fearing to lose her, ready to give her anything she wished, wrote sternly to Wolsey; and that letter showed Wolsey more clearly than anything that had gone before that he was slipping dangerously, and he knew no way of gaining a more steady foothold on the road of royal favor.

Now at last he understood that she who had the King’s ear was indeed a rival to be feared. And he was caught between Rome and Henry; he had no plans; he could see only disaster coming out of this affair. So he feigned sickness to give himself time to prepare a plan, and sick at heart, he felt defeat closing in on him.

The legate had arrived from Rome, and old gouty Campeggio was ready to try the case of the King and Queen. Crowds collected in the streets; when Queen Katharine rode out, she was loudly cheered, and so likewise was her daughter Mary. Katharine, pale and wan from worry, Mary, pale from her illness, were martyrs in the eyes of the people of London; and the King begged Anne not to go abroad for fear the mob might do her some injury.

Anne was wretched, longing now to turn from this thorny road of ambition; not a moment’s real peace had she known since she had started to tread it. The King was continually trying to force her surrender, and she was weary with the fight she must put up against him. And when Henry told her she must once more go back to Hever, as the trial was about to begin, she was filled with anger.

Henry said humbly: “Sweetheart, your absence will be hard to bear, but my one thought is to win our case. With you here...”

Her lips curled scornfully, for did she not know that he would plead his lack of interest in a woman other than his wife? Did she not know that he would tell the Cardinals of his most scrupulous conscience?

She was willful and cared not; she was foolish, she knew, for did she not want the divorce? She was hysterical with fear sometimes, wishing fervently that she was to marry someone who was more agreeable to her, seeing pitfalls yawning at the feet of a queen.

“An I go back,” she said unreasonably, “I shall not return. I will not be sent back and forth like a shuttlecock!”

He pleaded with her. “Darling, be reasonable! Dost not wish this business done with? Only when the divorce is complete can I make you my Queen.”

She went back to Hever, having grown suddenly sick of the palace, since from her window she saw the angry knots of people and heard their sullen murmurs. “Nan Bullen! The King’s whore...We want no Nan Bullen!”

Oh, it was shameful, shameful! “Oh, Percy!” she cried. “Why did you let them do this to us?” And she hated the Cardinal afresh, having convinced herself that it was he who, in his subtle, clever way, had turned the people against her. At Hever her father treated her with great respect—more respect than he had shown to Mary; Anne was not to be the King’s mistress, but his wife, his Queen. Lord Rochford could not believe in all that good fortune; he would advise her, but scornfully she rejected his advice.

Two months passed, during which letters came from the King reproaching her for not writing to him, assuring her that she was his entirely beloved; and at length telling her it would now be safe for her to return to court.

The King entreated her; she repeated her refusals to all the King’s entreaties.

Her father came to her. “Your folly is beyond my understanding!” said Lord Rochford. “The King asks that you will return to court! And you will not!”

“I have said I will not be rushed back and forth in this uncourtly way.”

“You talk like a fool, girl! Dost not realize what issues are at stake?”

“I am tired of it all. When I consented to marry the King, I thought ’twould be but a simple matter.”

“When you consented...!” Lord Rochford could scarcely believe his ears. She spoke as though she were conferring a favor on His Majesty. Lord Rochford was perturbed. What if the King should grow weary at this arrogance of his foolish daughter!

“I command you to go!” he roared; which made her laugh at him. Oh, how much simpler to manage had been his daughter Mary! He would have sent Anne to her room, would have said she was to be locked in there, but how could one behave so to the future Queen of England!

Lord Rochford knew a little of this daughter. Willful and unpredictable, stubborn, reckless of punishment, she had been from babyhood; he knew she wavered even yet. Ere long she would be telling the King she no longer wished to marry him.

“I command you go!” he cried.

“You may command all you care to!” And at random she added, “I shall not go until a very fine lodging is found for me.”

Lord Rochford told the King, and Henry, with that pertinacity of purpose which he ever displayed when he wanted something urgently, called in Wolsey; and Wolsey, seeking to reinstate himself, suggested Suffolk House in place of Durham House, which the King had previously placed at her disposal.

“For, my lord King, my own York House is next to Suffolk House, and would it not be a matter of great convenience to you, if, while the lady is at Suffolk House, Your Highness lived at York House?”

“Thomas, it is a plan worthy of you!” The fat hand rested on the red-clad shoulder. The small eyes smiled into those of his Cardinal; the King was remembering that he had ever loved this man.

Anne came to Suffolk House. Its grandeur overawed even her, for it was the setting for a queen. There would be her ladies-in-waiting, her trainbearer, her chaplain; she would hold levees, and dispense patronage to church and state.

“It is as if I were a queen!” she told Henry, who was there to greet her.

“You are a queen,” he answered passionately.

Now she understood. The fight was over. He who had waited so long had decided to wait no longer.

They would eat together informally at Suffolk House, he told her. Dear old Wolsey had lent him York House, next door, that he might be close and could visit her unceremoniously. Did she not think she had judged the poor old fellow too harshly?

There was about the King an air of excitement this day. She understood it, and he knew she understood it.

“Mayhap we judge him too hardly,” she agreed.

“Darling, I would have you know that you must lack nothing. Everything that you would have as my Queen—which I trust soon to make you—shall be yours.” He put burning hands on her shoulders. “You have but to ask for what you desire, sweetheart.”

“That I know,” she said.

Alone in her room, she looked at herself in her mirror. Her heart was beating fast. “And what have you to fear, Anne Boleyn?” she whispered to her reflection. “Is it because after tonight there can be no turnback, that you tremble? Why should you fear? You are beautiful. There may be ladies at court with more perfect features, but there is none so intoxicatingly lovely, so ravishingly attractive as Anne Boleyn! What have you to fear from this? Nothing! What have you to gain? You have made up your mind that you will be Queen of England. There is nothing to fear.”

Her eyes burned in her pale face; her beautiful lips were firm. She put on a gown of black velvet, and her flesh glowed as lustrous as the pearls that decorated it.

She went out to him, and he received her with breathless wonder. She was animated now, warmed by his admiration, his passionate devotion.

He led her to a table where they were waited upon discreetly; and this tte--tte meal, which he had planned with much thought, was to him complete happiness. Gone was her willfulness now; she was softer; he was sure of her surrender; he had waited so long, he had lived through this so often in his dreams; but nothing he had imagined, he was sure, could be as wonderful as the reality.

He tried to explain his feelings for her, tried to tell her of how she had changed him, how he longed for her, how she was different from any other woman, how thoughts of her colored his life; how, until she came, he had never known love. Nor had he, and Henry in love was an attractive person; humility was an ill-fitting garment that sat oddly on those great shoulders, but not less charming because it did not fit. He was tender instead of coarse, modest instead of arrogant; and she warmed towards him. She drank more freely than was her custom: she had confidence in herself and the future.

Henry said, when they rose from the table: “Tonight I think I am to be the happiest man on Earth!” Apprehensively he waited for her answer, but she gave no answer, and when he would have spoken again he found his voice was lost to him; he had no voice, he had no pride; he had nothing but his great need of her.

She lay naked in her bed, and seeing her thus he was speechless, nerveless, fearful of his own emotion; until his passion rushed forth and he kissed her white body in something approaching a frenzy.

She thought: I have nothing to fear. If he was eager before, he will be doubly eager now. And, as she lay crushed by his great weight, feeling his joy, his ecstasy, she laughed inwardly and gladly, because now she knew there was to be no more wavering and she, being herself, would pursue this thing to the end.

His words were incoherent, but they were of love, of great love and desire and passion and pleasure.

“There was never one such as thee, my Anne! Never, never I swear...Anne Queen Anne...My Queen...”

He lay beside her, this great man, his face serene and completely happy, so she knew how he must have looked when a very small boy; his face was purged of all that coarseness against which her fastidiousness had turned in disgust; and she felt she must begin to love him, that she almost did love him, so that on impulse she leaned over to him and kissed him. He seized her then, laughing, and told her again that she was beautiful, that she excelled his thoughts of her.

“And many times have I taken you, my Queen, in my thoughts. Dost remember the garden at Hever? Dost remember thy haughtiness? Why, Anne! Why I did not take thee there and then I do not know. Never have I wanted any as I wanted thee, Anne, my Queen, my little white Queen!”

She could laugh, thinking—Soon he will be free, and I shall be truly Queen...and after this he will never be able to do without me.

“Aye, and I wonder I was so soft with you, my entirely beloved, save that I loved you, save that I could not hurt you. Now you love me truly not as your King, you said, but as a man....You love me as I love you, and you find pleasure in this, as I do....”

And so he would work himself to a fresh frenzy of passion; so he would stroke and caress her, lips on her body, his hands at her hair and her throat and her breasts.

“There was never love like this!” said Henry of England to Anne Boleyn.

Happiest of Women

AT HORSHAM there was preparation for the Christmas festivities; excitement was high in the ladies’ dormitory. There should be a special Yuletide feast, they said, a good deal more exciting than that one which would be held in the great hall to be enjoyed by all; the ladies were busy getting together gifts for their lovers, speculating as to what they would receive.

“Poor little Catherine Howard!” they said, laughing. “She has no lover!”

“What of the gallant Thomas? Alas, Catherine! He soon forgot thee.”

Catherine thought guiltily that, though she would never forget him, she had thought of him less during the last months; she wondered if he ever thought of her; if he did, he evidently did not think it necessary to let her know.

“It is unwise,” said Isabel, “to think of those who think not of us.”

In the Duchess’s rooms, where Catherine often sat with her grandmother, the old lady fretted about the monotony of life in the country.

“I would we were at Lambeth. Fine doings I hear there are at court.”

“Yes,” answered Catherine, rubbing her grandmother’s back. “My cousin is a most important lady now.”

“That I swear she is! Ah! I wonder what Lord Henry Algernon Percy . . . I beg his pardon, the Earl of Northumberland . . . has to say now! He was too high and mighty to marry her, was he? ‘Very well,’ says Anne, ‘I’ll take the King instead.’ Ha! Ha! And I declare nothing delights me more than to hear the haughty young man is being made wretched by his wife; for so does anyone deserve who thinks himself too fine for my granddaughter.”

“The granddaughter of your husband,” Catherine reminded her once more; and, was cuffed for her words.

“How I should like to see her at Suffolk House! I hear that she holds daily levees, as though she is already Queen. She dispenses charity, which is the Queen’s task. There are those who storm against her, for, Catherine, my child, there will always be the jealous ones. Ah! How I should love to see my granddaughter reigning, at Greenwich! I hear the Queen was most discomfited, and that last Christmas Anne held her revels apart from those of Katharine—which either shocked or delighted all. Imagine her revels! Imagine poor Katharine’s! Herself, my granddaughter, the center of attraction, with George and Wyatt and Surrey and Bryan with her; and who could stand up against them, eh? And the King so far gone in love, dear man, that everything she asks must be hers. Ah! How I should love to be there to see it! And Wolsey, that old schemer, trembling in his shoes, I dare swear. And so he should . . . trying to keep our sovereign lord from marrying her who should be his Queen—for if ever woman was born to be a queen, that woman was my granddaughter Anne!”

“I should love to see her too,” said Catherine wistfully. “Grandmother, when will you go to court?”

“Very soon. I make my plans now. Why, I have only to let her know my desires, and she would send for me. She was ever my favorite granddaughter, and it has always seemed to me that I was a favorite of hers. Bless her! God bless Queen Anne Boleyn!”

“God bless her!” said Catherine.

Her grandmother regarded the girl through narrowed eyes.

“I declare I never saw one so lacking in dignity. I would hear you play to me awhile, Catherine. Music is the only thing for which you seem to have the least aptitude. Go over and play me a tune.”

Catherine eagerly went to the virginals; she hated the ministrations to her grandmother, and regretted that they must be an accompaniment to her racy conversation, which she always enjoyed.

The Duchess, her foot tapping, was only half listening, for her thoughts were far away, at Greenwich, at Eltham, at Windsor, at Suffolk House, at York House. She saw her beautiful granddaughter, queening it in all these places; she saw the King, humble in his love; the color, the music, the gorgeous clothes, the masques; the terror of that man Wolsey whom she had ever hated; and Anne, the loveliest woman in the kingdom, queen of the court.

To be there! To be favored of her who was most favored of the King! “My granddaughter, the Queen.” To see her now and then, lovely, vital; to think of her, loved passionately by the King; mayhap to be on the best of terms oneself with His Majesty, for he would be kind to those beloved of his beloved; and Anne had always had a regard for her scandal-loving, lazy old grandmother—even if she were only the wife of her grandfather!

“I shall go to Lambeth!” said the Duchess. And little Catherine there should have a place at court, she thought . . . Attendant to her cousin, the Queen? Why not? As soon as this wearisome divorce was done with, she would go to Lambeth. And surely it would not be long now; it had been dragging on for more than two years; and now that the King’s eyes were being opened to that Wolsey’s wickedness, surely it could not be long.

Yes, little Catherine should have a place at court. But how very unfitted she was for that high honor! Anne, my child, you were at the French court at her age, a little lady delighting all who beheld you, I swear, with your grace and your charm and your delicious clothes and the way you wore them. Ah, Catherine Howard! You will never be an Anne Boleyn; one could not hope for that. Look at the child! Sitting humped over the virginals.

And yet she was not unattractive; she already had the air of a woman; her little body had that budding look which meant that Catherine might well flower early. But she had about her a neglected look, and it was that which made the Duchess angry. What right had Catherine Howard to look neglected! She lived in the great establishment of the Duchess; she was in the charge of the Duchess’s ladies. Something should be done about the child, thought the Duchess, and knowing herself to blame—had she not often taken herself to task about the girl’s education, promised herself that it should be attended to and then forgotten all about it?—she felt suddenly angry with Catherine, and rising from her chair, went over and slapped the girl at the side of her head.

Catherine stopped playing and looked up in surprise; she was not greatly disturbed by the blow, as the Duchess often cuffed her and there was no great strength in her flabby muscles.

“Disgraceful!” stormed the old lady.

Catherine did not understand. Playing musical instruments was one of the few things she did really well; she did not know that the Duchess, her thoughts far away at Suffolk House where another granddaughter was a queen in all but name, had not heard what she played; she thought that her playing was at fault, for how should she realize that the Duchess was comparing her with Anne and wondering how this child could possibly go to court uneducated as she was.

“Catherine Howard,” said the Duchess, trying to convince herself that she was in no way to blame for the years of neglect, “you are a disgrace to this house! What do you think Queen Anne would say if I asked for a place at court for you—which she of course would find, since I asked it—and then I presented you to her . . . her cousin? Look at your hair! You are bursting forth from your clothes, and your manners are a disgrace! I declare I will give you such a beating as you never had, you untidy, ignorant little chit! And worse, it seems to me that were you less lazy, you might be quite a pretty girl. Now we shall begin your education in earnest; we are done with this dreaming away of the days. You will work, Catherine Howard, and if you do not, you shall answer to me. Did you hear that?”

“I did hear, Grandmother.”

The Duchess rang a bell, and a serving maid appeared.

“Go bring to me at once young Henry Manox.”

The maid complied, and in a very short time a young man with hair growing low upon his brow but a certain handsome swagger in his walk and an elegance about his person, combined with a pair of very bold black eyes to make him an attractive creature, appeared and bowed low before the Duchess.

“Manox, here is my granddaughter. I fear she needs much tuition. Now I would you sat down at the virginals and played awhile.”

He flashed a smile at Catherine which seemed to suggest that they were going to be friends. Catherine, ever ready to respond to friendship, returned the smile, and he sat down and played most excellently, so that Catherine, loving music as she did, was delighted and clapped her hands when he ended.

“There, child!” said the Duchess. “That is how I would have you play. Manox, you shall teach my granddaughter. You may give her a lesson now.”

Manox stood up and bowed. He came to Catherine, bowed again, took her hand and led her to the virginals.

The Duchess watched them; she liked to watch young people; there was something, she decided, so delightful about them; their movements were graceful. Particularly she liked young men, having always had a fondness for them from the cradle. She remembered her own youth; there had been a delightful music master. Nothing wrong about that of course; she had been aware of her dignity at a very early age. Still it had been pleasant to be taught by one who had charm; and he had grown quite fond of her, although always she had kept him at a distance.

There they sat, those two children—for after all he was little more than a child compared with her old age—and they seemed more attractive than they had separately. If Catherine were not so young, thought the Duchess, I should have to watch Manox; I believe he has quite a naughty reputation and is fond of adventuring with the young ladies.

Watching her granddaughter take a lesson, the Duchess thought—From now on I shall superintend the child’s education myself. After all, to be cousin to the Queen means a good deal. When her opportunity comes, she must be ready to take it.

Then, feeling virtuous, grandmotherly devotion rising within her, she told herself that even though Catherine was such a child, she would not allow her to be alone with one of Manox’s reputation; the lessons should always take place in this room and she herself would be there.

For the thousandth time the Duchess assured herself that it was fortunate indeed that little Catherine Howard should have come under her care; after all, the cousin of a Queen needs to be very tenderly nurtured, for who can say what honors may await her?

Anne was being dressed for the banquet. Her ladies fluttered about her, flattering her. Was she happy? she asked herself, as her thoughts went back over the past year which had seen her rise to the height of glory, and which yet had been full of misgivings and apprehensions, even fears.

She had changed; none knew this better than herself; she had grown hard, calculating; she was not the same girl who had loved Percy so deeply and defiantly; she was less ready with sympathy, finding hatreds springing up in her, and with them a new, surprising quality which had not been there before—vindictiveness.

She laughed when she saw Percy. He was changed from that rather delicate, beautiful young man whom she had loved; he was still delicate, suffering from some undefined disease; and such unhappiness was apparent in his face that should have made her weep for him. But she did not weep; instead she was filled with bitter laughter, thinking: You fool! You brought this on yourself. You spoiled your life—and mine with it—and now you must suffer for your folly, and I shall benefit from it!

But did she benefit? She was beginning to understand her royal lover well; she could command him; her beauty and her wit, being unsurpassed in his court, must make him their slave. But how long does a man, who is more polygamous than most, remain faithful? That was a question that would perplex her now and then. Already there was a change in his attitude towards her. Oh, he was deeply in love, eager to please, anxious that every little wish she expressed should be granted. But who was it now who must curse the delay, Anne or Henry? Henry desired the divorce; he wanted very much to remove Katharine from the throne and put Anne on it, but he was less eager than Anne. Anne was his mistress; he could wait to make her his wife. It was Anne who must rail against delay, who must fret, who must deplore her lost virtue, who must ask herself, Will the Pope ever agree to the divorce?

Sometimes her thoughts would make her frantic. She had yielded in spite of her protestations that she would never yield. She had yielded on the King’s promise to make her Queen; her sister Mary had exacted no promise. Where was the difference between Anne and Mary, since Mary had yielded for lust, and Anne for a crown! Anne had a picture of herself returning home to Hever defeated, or perhaps married to one as ineffectual as the late William Carey.

Henry had given Thomas Wyatt the post of High Marshal of Calais, which would take him out of England a good deal. Anne liked to dwell on that facet of Henry’s character; he loved some of his friends, and Wyatt was one of them. He did not commit Wyatt to the Tower—which would have been easy enough—but sent him away . . . Oh, yes, Henry could feel sentimental where one he had really loved was concerned, and Henry did love Thomas. Who could help loving Thomas? asked Anne, and wept a little.

Anne tried now to think clearly and honestly of that last year. Had it been a good year? It had—of course it had! How could she say that she had not enjoyed it—she had enjoyed it vastly! Proud, haughty, as she was, how pleasant it must be to have such deference shown to her. Aware of her beauty, how could she help but wish to adorn it! Such as Queen Katharine might call that vanity; is pride in a most unusual possession, then, vanity? Must she not enjoy the revels when she herself was acclaimed the shining light, the star, the most beautiful, the most accomplished of women, greatly loved by the King?

She had her enemies, the Cardinal the chief among them. Her Uncle Norfolk was outwardly her friend, but she could never like and trust him, and she believed him now to be annoyed because the King had not chosen to favor his daughter, the Lady Mary Howard, who was of so much nobler birth than Anne Boleyn. Suffolk! There was another enemy, and Suffolk was a dangerous, cruel man. Her thoughts went back to windy days and nights in Dover Castle, when Mary Tudor talked of the magnificence of a certain Charles Brandon. And this was he, this florid, cruel-eyed, relentless and ambitious man! An astute man, he had married the King’s sister and placed himself very near the throne, and because a strange fate had placed Anne even nearer, he had become her enemy. These thoughts were frightening.

How happy she had been, dancing with the King at Greenwich last Christmas, laughing in the faces of those who would criticize her for holding her revels at Greenwich in defiance of the Queen; hating the Queen, who so obstinately refused to go into a nunnery and to admit she had consummated her marriage with Arthur! She had danced wildly, had made brilliantly witty remarks about the Queen and the Princess, had flaunted her supremacy over them—and afterwards hated herself for this, though admitting the hatred to none but the bright-eyed reflection which looked back at her so reproachfully from the mirror.

The Princess hated her and took no pains to hide the fact; and had not hesitated to whisper to those who had been ready to carry such talk to the ears of Anne, of what she would do to Anne Boleyn, were she Queen.

“I would commit her to the Tower, where I would torture her; we should see if she would be so beautiful after the tormentors had done with her! I should turn the rack myself. We should see if she could make such witty remarks to the rats who came to The Pit to gnaw her bones and bite her to death. But I would not leave her to die that way; I would burn her alive. She is all but a witch, and I hear that she has those about her who are of the new faith. Aye! I would pile the faggots at her feet and watch her burn, and before she had burnt, I would remove her that she might burn and burn again, tasting on Earth that which she will assuredly meet in hell.”

The eyes of the Princess, already burning with fanatical fervor, rested on Anne with loathing, and Anne laughed in the face of the foolish girl and feigned indifference to her, but those eyes haunted her when she was awake and when she slept. But even as she professed scorn and hatred for the girl, Anne well understood what her coming must have meant to Mary, who had enjoyed the privileges of being her father’s daughter, Princess Mary and heiress of England. Now the King sought to make her but a bastard, of less importance than the Duke of Richmond, who was at least a boy.

As she lay in the King’s arms, Anne would talk of the Princess.

“I will not be treated thus by her! I swear it. There is not room for both of us at court.”

Henry soothed her while he put up a fight for Mary. His sentimental streak was evident when he thought of his daughter; he was not without affection for her and, while longing for a son, he had become—before the prospect of displacing Katharine had come to him, and Anne declared she would never be his mistress—reconciled to her.

Anne said: “I shall go back to Hever. I will not stay to be insulted thus.”

“I shall not allow you to go to Hever, sweetheart. Your place is here with me.”

“Nevertheless,” said Anne coldly, “to Hever I shall go!”

The fear that she would leave him was a constant threat to Henry, and he could not bear that she should be out of his sight; she could command him by threatening to leave him.

When Mary fell into disgrace with her father, there were those who, sorry for the young girl, accused Anne of acute vindictiveness. It was the same with Wolsey. It was true that she did not forget the slights she had received from him, and that she pursued him relentlessly, determined that he should fall from that high place on which he had lodged himself. Perhaps it was forgotten by those who accused her that Anne was fighting a desperate battle. Behind all the riches and power, all the admiration and kingly affection which was showered upon her, Anne was aware of that low murmur of the people, of the malicious schemes of her enemies who even now were seeking to ruin her. Prominent among these enemies were Wolsey and Princess Mary. What therefore could Anne do but fight these people, and if she at this time held the most effective weapons, she merely used them as both Wolsey and Mary would have done, had they the luck to hold them.

But her triumphs were bitter to her. She loved admiration; she loved approval, and she wanted no enemies. Wolsey and she, though they flattered each other and feigned friendship, knew that both could not hold the high positions they aspired to; one must go. Anne fought as tenaciously as Wolsey had ever fought, and because Wolsey’s star was setting and Anne’s was rising, she was winning. There were many little pointers to indicate this strife between them, and perhaps one of the most significant—Anne was thinking—was the confiscation of a book of hers which had found its way into the possession of her equerry, young George Zouch. Anne, it was beginning to be known—and this knowledge could not please the Cardinal—was interested in the new religion which was becoming a matter of some importance on the Continent, and one of the reformers had presented her with Tindal’s translation of the holy scriptures.

Anne had read it, discussed it with her brother and some of her friends, found it of great interest and passed it on to one of the favorite ladies of her retinue, for Mistress Gaynsford was an intelligent girl, and Anne thought the book might be of interest to her. However, Mistress Gaynsford was loved by George Zouch who, one day when he had come upon her quietly reading, to tease her snatched the book and refused to return it; instead he took it with him, to the King’s chapel, where, during the service, he opened the book and becoming absorbed in its contents attracted the attention of the dean who, demanding to see it and finding it to be a prohibited one, lost no time in conveying it to Cardinal Wolsey. Mistress Gaynsford was terrified at the course of events, and went trembling to Anne, who, ever ready to complain against the Cardinal, told the King that he had confiscated her book and demanded its immediate return. The book was brought back to Anne at once.

“What book is this that causes so much pother?” Henry wanted to know.

“You must read it,” Anne answered and added: “I insist!”

Henry promised and did; the Cardinal was disconcerted to learn that His Majesty was as interested as young George Zouch had been. This was a deeply significant defeat for Wolsey.

This year, reflected Anne as the coif was fixed upon her hair and her reflection looked back at her, had been a sorry one for the Cardinal. The trial had gone wrong. Shall we ever get this divorce, wondered Anne. The Pope was adamant; the people murmured: “Nan Bullen shall not be our Queen!”

Henry would say little of what had happened at Blackfriars Hall, but Anne knew something of that fiasco; of Katharine’s coming into the court and kneeling at the feet of the King, asking for justice. Anne could picture it—the solemn state, the May sunshine filtering through the windows, the King impatient with the whole proceedings, gray-faced Wolsey praying that the King might turn from the folly of his desire to marry Anne Boleyn, gouty old Campeggio procrastinating, having no intention of giving a verdict. The King had made a long speech about his scrupulous conscience and how—Anne’s lips curled with scorn—he did not ask for the divorce out of his carnal desires, how the Queen pleased him as much as any woman, but his conscience . . . his conscience . . . his most scrupulous conscience . . .

And the trial had dragged on through the summer months, until Henry, urged on by herself, demanded a decision. Then had Campeggio been forced to make a statement, then had he been forced to show his intention—which was, of course, not to grant the divorce at all. He must, he had said—to Henry’s extreme wrath—consult with his master, the Pope. Then had Suffolk decided to declare open war on the Cardinal, for he had stood up and shouted: “It was never merry in England whilst we had cardinals among us!” And the King strode forth from the court in an access of rage, cursing the Pope, cursing the delay, cursing Campeggio and with him Wolsey, whom he was almost ready to regard as Campeggio’s confederate. Anne’s thoughts went to two men who, though obscure before, had this year leaped into prominence—the two Thomases, Cromwell and Cranmer. Anne thought warmly of them both, for from these two did she and Henry hope for much. Cranmer had distinguished himself because of his novel views, particularly on this subject of the divorce. He was tactful and discreet, clever and intellectual. As don, tutor, priest and Cambridge man, he was interested in Lutherism. He had suggested that Henry should appeal to the English ecclesiastical courts instead of to Rome on this matter of the divorce; he voiced this opinion constantly, until it had been brought to Henry’s notice.

Henry, eager to escape from the meshes of Rome, was ready to welcome anyone who could wield a knife to cut him free. He liked what he heard of Cranmer. “By God!” he cried. “That man hath the right sow by the ear!”

Cranmer was sent for. Henry was crafty, clever enough when he gave his mind to a matter; and never had he given as much thought to anything as he had to this matter of the divorce. Wolsey, he knew, was attached to Rome, for Rome had its sticky threads about the Cardinal as a spider has about the fly in its web. The King was crying out for new men to take the place of Wolsey. There could never be another Wolsey; of that he was sure; but might there not be many who together could carry the great burdens which Wolsey had carried alone? When Cranmer had talked with Henry a few times, Henry saw great possibilities in the man. He was obedient, he was docile, he was a loyal; he was going to be of inestimable value to a Henry who had lost his Wolsey to the Roman web.

Anne’s thoughts went to that other Thomas—Cromwell. Cromwell was of the people, just as Wolsey had been, but with a difference. Cromwell bore the marks of his origins and could not escape from them; Wolsey, the intellectual, had escaped, though there were those who said that he showed the marks of his upbringing in his great love of splendor, in his vulgar displays of wealth. (But, thought Anne, laughing to herself, had not the King even greater delight in flamboyant display!) Cromwell, however—thick-set, impervious to insult, with his fish-like eyes and his ugly hands—could not hide his origins and made but little attempt to do so. He was serving Wolsey well, deploring the lack of fight he was showing. Cromwell was not over-nice; Henry knew this and, while seeing in him enormous possibilities, had never taken to him. “I love not that man!” said Henry to Anne. “By God! He has a touch of the sewer about him. He sickens me! He is a knave!”

There was a peculiar side to Henry’s nature which grew out of an almost childish love and admiration for certain people, which made him seek to defend them even while he planned their destruction. He had had that affection for Wolsey, Wolsey the wit, in his gorgeous homes, in his fine clothes; he had liked Wolsey as a man. This man Cromwell he could never like, useful as he was; more useful as he promised to be. Cromwell was blind to humiliation; he worked hard and took insults; he was clever; he helped Wolsey, advised him to favor Anne’s friends, placated Norfolk, and so secured a seat in parliament. Would there always be those to spring up and replace others when the King needed them? What if she herself lost the King’s favor! It was simpler to replace a mistress than a Wolsey . . .

Pretty Anne Saville, Anne’s favorite attendant, whispered that she was preoccupied tonight. Anne answered that indeed she was, and had been thinking back over the past year.

Anne Saville patted Anne’s beautiful hair lovingly.

“It has been a great and glorious year for your ladyship.”

“Has it?” said Anne, her face so serious that the other Anne looked at her in sudden alarm.

“Assuredly,” said the girl. “Many honors have come your ladyship’s way, and the King grows more in love with you with the passing of each day.”

Anne took her namesake’s hand and pressed it for awhile, for she was very fond of this girl.

“And you grow more beautiful with each day,” said Anne Saville earnestly. “There is no lady in the court who would not give ten years of her life to change places with you.”

In the mirror the coif glittered like a golden crown. Anne trembled a little; in the great hall she would be gayer than any, but up here away from the throng she often trembled, contemplating the night before her, and afraid to think further than that.

Anne was ready; she would go down. She would take one last look at herself—The Lady Anne Rochford now, for recently her father had been made Earl of Wiltshire, George became Lord Rochford, and she herself was no longer plain Anne Boleyn. The Boleyns had come far, she thought, and was reminded of George, laughing-eyed and only sad when one caught him in repose.

When she thought of George she would feel recklessness stealing over her, and the determination to live dangerously rather than live without adventure.

Thoughts of George were pleasant. She realized with a pang that of all her friends who now, with the King at their head, swore they would die for her, there was only one she could really trust. There was her father, her Uncle Norfolk, the man who would be her husband . . . but on those occasions when Fear came and stood menacingly before her, it was of her brother she must think. “There is really none but George!”

“Thank God for George!” she said to herself, and dismissed gloomy thoughts.

In the great hall the King was waiting to greet her. He was magnificent in his favorite russet, padded and sparkling, larger than any man there, ruddy from the day’s hunting, flushed already and flushing more as his eyes rested on Anne.

He said: “It seems long since I kissed you!”

“’Tis several hours, I’ll swear!” she answered.

“There is none like you, Anne.”

He would show his great love for her tonight, for of late she had complained bitterly of the lack of courtesy shown her by the Queen and Princess.

He had said: “By God! I’ll put an end to their obstinacy. They shall bow the knee to you, sweetheart, or learn our displeasure!” The Princess should be separated from her mother, and they should both be banished from court; he had said last night that he was weary of them both; weary of the pious obstinacy of the Queen, who stuck to her lies and refused to make matters easy by going into a nunnery; weary of the rebellious daughter who refused to behave herself and think herself fortunate—she, who was no more than a bastard, though a royal one—in receiving her father’s affection. “I tell thee, Anne,” he had said, his lips on her hair, “I am weary of these women.”

She had answered: “Need I say I am too?” And she had thought, they would see me burn in hell; nor do I blame them for that, for what good have I done them! But what I cannot endure is their attitude of righteousness. They burn with desire for revenge, and they pray that justice shall be dealt me; they pray to God to put me in torment. Hearty sinful vengeance I can forgive; but when it is hidden under a cloak of piety and called justice . . . never! Never! And so will I fight against these two, and will not do a thing to make their lot easier. I am a sinner; and so are they; nor do sins become whiter when cloaked in piety.

But this she did not tell her lover, for was he not inclined to use that very cloak of piety to cover his sins? When he confessed what he had done this night, last night, would he not say: “It is for England; I must have a son!” Little eyes, greedy with lust; hot straying hands; the urgent desire to possess her again and again. And this, not that she might give the King pleasure, but that she should give England a son!

Was it surprising that sometimes in the early hours of the morning, when he lay beside her breathing heavily in sleep, his hand laid lightly on her body smiling as he slept the smile of remembrance, murmuring her name in his sleep—was it surprising that then she would think of her brother’s handsome face, and murmur to herself: “Oh, George, take me home! Take me to Blickling, not to Hever, for at Hever I should see the rose garden and think of him. But take me to Blickling where we were together when we were very young . . . and where I never dreamed of being Queen of England.”

But she could not go back now. She must go, on and on. I want to go on! I want to go on! What is love? It is ethereal, so that you cannot hold it; it is transient, so that you cannot keep it. But a queen is always a queen. Her sons are kings. I want to be a queen; of course I want to be a queen! It is only in moments of deepest depression that I am afraid.

Nor was she afraid this night as he, regardless of all these watching ladies and gentlemen, pressed his great body close to hers and showed that he was impatient for the night.

Tonight he wished to show her how greatly he loved her; that he wished all these people to pay homage to his beautiful girl who had pleased him, who continued to please him, and whom, because of an evil Fate in the shape of a weak Pope, an obstinate Queen, and a pair of scheming Cardinals, he could not yet make his Queen.

He would have her take precedence over the two most noble ladies present, the Duchess of Norfolk and his own sister of Suffolk.

These ladies resented this, Anne knew, and suddenly a mood of recklessness came over her. What did she care! What mattered it, indeed. She had the King’s love and none of her enemies dared oppose her openly.

The King’s sister? She was aging now; different indeed from the giddy girl who had led poor Louis such a dance, who had alternated between her desire to bear a king of France and marry Brandon; there was nothing left to her but ambition; and ambition for what? Her daughter Frances Brandon? Mary of Suffolk wanted her daughter on the throne. And now here was Anne Boleyn, young and full of life, only waiting for the divorce to bear the King many sons and so set a greater distance between Frances Brandon and the throne of England.

And the Duchess of Norfolk? She was jealous, as was her husband, on account of the King’s having chosen Anne instead of their daughter the Lady Mary Howard. She was angry because of Anne’s friendship with the old Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

What do I care? What have I to fear!

Nothing! For the King was looking at her with deep longing; nor could he bear that she should not be with him. She only had to threaten to leave him, and she could have both of these arrogant ladies banished from court.

So she was bold and defiant, and flaunted her supremacy in the faces of all those who resented her. Lady Anne Rochford, beloved of the King, leader of the revels, now taking precedence over the highest in the land as though she were already Queen.

She had seen the Countess Chateau-briant and the Duchess D’Estampes treated as princesses by poor little Claude at the court of Francis. So should she be treated by these haughty Duchesses of Norfolk and Suffolk; yes, and by Katharine of Aragon and her daughter Mary!

But of course there was a great difference between the French ladies and the Lady Anne Rochford. They were merely the mistresses of the King of France; the Lady Anne Rochford was to be Queen of England!

In her chair the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk dozed; her foot tapped automatically, but she was not watching the pair at the virginals. She was thinking of the court and the King’s passion for that gorgeous lady, her dear granddaughter. Ah! And scheming Thomas now has his Earldom and all that goes with it; and well pleased he is, I’ll swear, for money means more to Thomas than aught else. And she is the Lady Anne Rochford, if you please, and George on very pleasant terms with the King . . . though not with his own sly little wife! Poor George! A pity there can’t be a divorce. Why not a princess wife for your brother, eh, Queen Anne? Eh? Of course you are Queen! But she’ll look after George . . . those two would stick together no matter what befell. Ah, how I wish she would send for me! I trow she would if she knew how eager I am to be gone . . . What if I sent a messenger . . . Ah! The court, the masques . . . though indeed I am a little old for such pleasures. Charming, if she came to visit me at Lambeth . . . We would sit in the gardens, and I would make her talk to me of the King . . . My granddaughter, the Queen of England! My granddaughter . . . Queen Anne . . .

She was asleep, and Henry Manox, sensing this, threw a sly glance over his shoulder at her.

“There!” said Catherine. “Was that better?”

He said, moving nearer to Catherine: “That was perfect!”

She flushed with pleasure, and he noticed the delicate skin and the long, fair lashes, and the charming strand of auburn hair that fell across her brow. Her youth was very appealing; he had never made love to one so young before; and yet, in spite of her youth, already she showed signs of an early ripening.

“Never,” he whispered, “have I enjoyed teaching anyone as I have enjoyed our lessons!”

The Duchess snored softly.

Catherine laughed, and he joined in the laugh; he leaned forward suddenly and kissed the tip of her nose. Catherine felt a pleasurable thrill; it was exciting because it had to be done while the Duchess slept; and he was handsome, she thought, with his dark, bold eyes; and it was flattering to be admired by one so much older than herself; it was gratifying to be treated as though one were charming, after the reproaches her grandmother had showered upon her.

“I am glad I am a good pupil.”

“You are a very good pupil!” he said. “Right glad I am that it is my happy lot to teach you.”

“Her Grace, my grandmother, thinks me very stupid.”

“Then it is Her Grace, your grandmother, who is stupid!”

Catherine hunched her shoulders, laughing.

“I take it, sir, that you do not then think me stupid.”

“Indeed not; but young, very young, and there is much you have to learn yet.”

The Duchess awoke with a start, and Catherine began to play.

“That was better,” said the Duchess, “was it not, Manox?”

“Indeed, Your Grace, it was!”

“And you think your pupil is improving?”

“Vastly, Madam!”

“So thought I. Now you may go, Catherine. Manox, you may stay awhile and talk with me.”

Catherine went, and he stayed and talked awhile; they talked of music, for they had nothing in common but music. But the Duchess did not mind of what her young men talked as long as they talked and entertained her. It was their youth she liked it was their flattery. And as Manox talked to her, she drifted back to the days of her own youth, and then forward again to the court as it was today, ruled by her loveliest of granddaughters.

“Methinks I shall go to Lambeth,” she announced, and dismissed Manox.

Catherine went to the apartment, where she found Isabel.

“How went the lesson?” asked Isabel.

“Very well.”

“How you love your music!” said Isabel. “You look as if you had just left a lover, not a lesson.”

Their talk was continually of lovers; Catherine did not notice this, as it seemed natural enough to her. To have lovers was not only natural but the most exciting possibility; it was all part of the glorious business of growing up, and now Catherine longed to be grownup.

She still thought of Thomas Culpepper, but she could only with difficulty remember what he looked like. She still dreamed that he rode out to Horsham and told her they were to elope together, but his face, which for so long had been blurred in her mind, now began to take on the shape of Henry Manox. She looked forward to her lessons; the most exciting moment of her days was when she went down to the Duchess’s room and found him there; she was always terrified that he would not be there, that her grandmother had decided to find her a new teacher; she looked forward with gleeful anticipation to those spasmodic snores of the Duchess which set both her and Manox giggling, and made his eyes become more bold.

As he sat very close to her, his long musician’s fingers would come to rest on her knee, tapping tightly that she might keep in time. The Duchess nodded; her head shook; then she would awake startled and look round her defiantly, as though to deny the obvious fact that she had dozed.

There was one day, some weeks after the first lesson, which was a perfect day, with spring in the sunshine filtering through the window, in the songs of the birds in the trees outside it, in Catherine’s heart and in Manox’s eyes.

He whispered: “Catherine! I think of you constantly.”

“Have I improved so much then?”

“Not of your music, but of you, Catherine . . . of you.”

“I wonder why you should think constantly of me.”

“Because you are very sweet.”

“Am I?” said Catherine.

“And not such a child as you would seem!”

“No,” said Catherine. “Sometimes I think I am very grown-up.”

He laid his delicate hands on the faint outline of her breasts.

“Yes, Catherine, I think so too. It is very sweet to be grown-up, Catherine. When you are a woman you will wonder how you could ever have borne your childhood.”

“Yes,” said Catherine, “I believe that. I have had some unhappy times in my childhood; my mother died, and then I went to Hollingbourne, and just when I was beginning to love my life there, that was over.”

“Do not look so sad, sweet Catherine! Tell me, you are not sad, are you?”

“Not now,” she said.

He kissed her cheek.

He said: “I would like to kiss your lips.”

He did this, and she was astonished by the kiss, which was different from those Thomas had given her. Catherine was stirred; she kissed him.

“I have never been so happy!” he said.

They were both too absorbed in each other to listen for the Duchess’s snores and heavy breathing; she awoke suddenly, and hearing no music, looked towards them.

“Chatter, chatter, chatter!” she said. “I declare! Is this a music lesson!”

Catherine began to play, stumbling badly.

The Duchess yawned; her foot began to tap; in five minutes she was asleep again.

“Do you think she saw us kiss?” whispered Catherine.

“Indeed I do not!” said Manox, and he meant that, for he well knew that if she had he would have been immediately turned out, possibly dismissed from the house; and Mistress Catherine would have received a sound beating.

Catherine shivered ecstatically.

“I am terrified that she might, and will stop the lessons.”

“You would care greatly about that?”

Catherine turned candid eyes upon him. “I should care very much!” she said. She was vulnerable because her mind was that of a child, though her body was becoming that of a woman; and the one being so advanced, the other somewhat backward, it was her body which was in command of Catherine. She liked the proximity of this man; she liked his kisses. She told him so in many ways; and he, being without scruples, found the situation too novel and too exciting not to be exploited.

He was rash in his excitement, taking her in his arms before the sleeping Duchess and kissing her lips. Catherine lifted her face eagerly, as a flower will turn towards the sun.

The Duchess was sleeping, when there was a faint tap on the door and Isabel entered. The lesson had extended beyond its appointed time, and she, eager to see the teacher and pupil together, had an excuse ready for intruding. Isabel stood on the threshold, taking in the scene—the sleeping Duchess, the young man, his face very pale, his eyes very bright; Catherine, hair in some disorder, her eyes wide, her lips parted, and with a red mark on her chin. Where he has kissed her, the knave! thought Isabel.

The Duchess awoke with a start.

“Come in! Come in!” she called, seeing Isabel at the door.

Isabel approached and spoke to the Duchess. Catherine rose, and so did Manox.

“You may go, Catherine,” said the Duchess. “Manox! Stay awhile. I would speak to you.”

Catherine went, eager to be alone, to remember everything he had said, how he had looked; to wonder how she was going to live through the hours until the next lesson on the morrow.

When Isabel was dismissed, she waited for Manox to come out.

He bowed low, smiling when he saw her, thinking that he had made an impression on her, for his surface charm and his reputation had made him irresistible to quite a number of ladies. He smiled at Isabel’s pale face and compared it with Catherine’s round childish one. He was more excited by Catherine than he had been since his first affair; for this adventuring with the little girl was a new experience, and though it was bound to be slow, and needed tact and patience, he found it more intriguing than any normal affair could be.

Isabel said: “I have never seen you at our entertainments.”

He smiled and said that he had heard of the young ladies’ revels, and it was a matter of great regret that he had never attended one.

She said: “You must come . . . I will tell you when. You know it is a secret!”

“Never fear that I should drop a hint to Her Grace.”

“It is innocent entertainment,” said Isabel anxiously.

“I could not doubt it!”

“We frolic a little; we feast; there is nothing wrong. It is just amusing.”

“That I have heard.”

“I will let you know then.”

“You are the kindest of ladies.”

He bowed courteously, and went on his way, thinking of Catherine.

Through the gardens at Hampton Court Anne walked with Henry. He was excited, his head teeming with plans, for the Cardinal’s palace was now his. He had demanded of a humiliated Wolsey wherefore a subject should have such a palace; and with a return of that wit which had been the very planks on which he had built his mighty career, the Cardinal, knowing himself lost and hoping by gifts to reinstate himself a little in the heart of the King, replied that a subject might build such a palace only to show what a noble gift a subject might make to his King.

Henry had been delighted by that reply; he had all but embraced his old friend, and his eyes had glistened to think of Hampton Court. Henry had inherited his father’s acquisitive nature, and the thought of riches must ever make him lick his lips with pleasure.

“Darling,” he said to Anne, “we must to Hampton Court, for there are many alterations I would make. I will make a palace of Hampton Court, and you shall help in this.”

The royal barge had carried them up the river; there was no ceremony on this occasion. Perhaps the King was not eager for it; perhaps he felt a little shame in accepting this magnificent gift from his old friend. All the way up the river he laughed with Anne at the incongruity of a subject’s daring to possess such a place.

“He was another king . . . or would be!” said Anne. “You were most lenient with him.”

“’Twas ever a fault of mine, sweetheart, to be over-lenient with those I love.”

She raised her beautifully arched eyebrows, and surveyed him mockingly.

“I fancy it is so with myself.”

He slapped his thigh—a habit of his—and laughed at her; she delighted him now as ever. He grew sentimental, contemplating her. He had loved her long, nor did his passion for her abate. To be in love was a pleasant thing; he glowed with self-sacrifice, thinking: She shall have the grandest apartments that can be built! I myself will plan them.

He told her of his ideas for the alterations.

“Work shall be started for my Queen’s apartments before aught else. The hangings shall be of tissue of gold, sweetheart. I myself will design the walls.” He thought of great lovers’ knots with the initials H and A entwined. He told her of this; sentimental and soft, his voice was slurred with affection. “Entwined, darling! As our lives shall be and have been ever since we met. For I would have the world know that naught shall come between us two.”

Unceremoniously they left the barge. The gardens were beautiful—but a cardinal’s gardens, said Henry, not a king’s!

“Dost know I have a special fondness for gardens?” he asked. “And dost know why?”

She thought it strange and oddly perturbing that he could remind her of his faithfulness to her here in this domain which he had taken—for the gift was enforced—from one to whom he owed greater loyalty. But how like Henry! Here in the shadow of Wolsey’s cherished Hampton Court, he must tell himself that he was a loyal friend, because he had been disloyal to its owner.

“Red and white roses,” said the King, and be touched her cheek. “We will have this like your father’s garden at Hever, eh? We will have a pond, and you shall sit on its edge and talk to me, and watch your own reflection. I’ll warrant you will be somewhat kinder to me than you were at Hever, eh?”

“It would not surprise me,” she laughed.

He talked with enthusiasm of his plans. He visualized beds of roses—red and white to symbolize the union of the houses of York and Lancaster, to remind all who beheld them that the Tudors represented peace; he would enclose those beds with wooden railings painted in his livery colors of white and green; he would set up posts and pillars which should be decorated with heraldic designs. There would be about the place a constant reminder to all, including himself, that he was a faithful man; that when he loved, he loved deeply and long. H and A! Those initials should be displayed in every possible spot.

“Come along in, sweetheart,” he said. “I would choose your apartments. They shall be the most lavish that were ever seen.”

They went up the staircase, across a large room. It was Anne who turned to the right and descended a few steps into the paneled rooms which had been Wolsey’s own. Henry had not wished to go into those rooms, but when he saw their splendid furnishings, their rich hangings, the magnificent plate, the window seats padded with red window carpets, the twisted gold work on the ceilings, he was loath to leave them. He had seen this splendor many times before; but then it had been Wolsey’s, now it was his.

Anne pointed to the damask carpets which lay about the floors, and reminded the King of how, it was whispered, Wolsey had come by these.

Henry was less ready to defend his old favorite than usual. He recounted the story of the Venetian bribe, and his mouth was a thin line, though previously he had laughed at it, condoned it.

They went through the lavishly furnished bedrooms, admired the counterpanes of satin and damask, the cushions of velvet and satin and cloth of gold.

“Good sweetheart,” said Henry, “I think your apartment shall be here, for I declare it to be the finest part of Hampton Court. The rooms shall be enlarged; I will have new ceilings; everything here shall be of the best. It shall be accomplished as soon as possible.”

“It will take many years,” said Anne, and added: “So therefore it is just possible that the divorce may be done with by then, if it ever is!”

He put an arm about her shoulders.

“How now, darling! We have waited long, and are impatient, but methinks we shall not wait much longer. Cranmer is a man of ideas . . . and that knave, Cromwell, too! My plans for your apartments may take a year or two completely to carry out, but never fear, long ere their accomplishment you shall be Queen of England!”

They sat awhile on the window seat, for the day was warm. He talked enthusiastically of the changes he would make. She listened but listlessly; Hampton Court held memories of a certain moonlit night, when she and Percy had looked from one of those windows and talked of the happiness they would make for each other.

She wondered if she would ever occupy these rooms which he planned for her. Wolsey had once made plans in this house.

“Our initials entwined, sweetheart,” said the King. “Come! You shiver. Let us on.”

In his house at Westminster, Wolsey awaited the arrival of Norfolk and Suffolk. His day was over, and Wolsey knew it; this was the end of his brightness; he would live the rest of his life in the darkness of obscurity, if he were lucky; but was it not a proven fact that when great men fell from favor their heads were not long in coming to the block? Those who lived gloriously must often die violently. Wolsey was sick, of mind and body; there was a pain in his solar plexus, a pain in his throat; and this was what men called heartbreak. And the most heartbreaking moment of his career was when he had arrived at Grafton with Campeggio, to find that there was no place for him at the court. For his fellow cardinal there were lodgings prepared in accordance with his state, but for Thomas Wolsey, once beloved of the King, there was no bed on which to rest his weary body. Then did he know to what depths of disfavor he had sunk. But for young Henry Norris, he knew not what he would have done; already had he suffered enough humiliation to break the heart of a proud man.

Norris, groom of the stole, a young handsome person with compassion in his pleasant eyes, had offered his own apartment to the travel-stained old man; such moments were pleasant in a wretched day. And yet, next day when he and Campeggio had had audience with the King, had not His Majesty softened to him, his little eyes troubled, his little mouth pursed with remembrance? Henry would never hate his old friend when he stood face to face with him; there were too many memories they shared; between them they had given birth to too many successful schemes for all to be forgotten. It is the careless, watching, speculating eyes which hurt a fallen man. He knew those callous courtiers laid wagers on the King’s conduct towards his old favorite. Wolsey had seen the disappointment in their faces when Henry let his old affection triumph; and Lady Anne’s dark eyes had glittered angrily, for she believed that the resuscitation of Wolsey’s dying influence meant the strangulation of her own. Her beautiful face had hardened, though she had smiled graciously enough on the Cardinal; and Wolsey, returning her smile, had felt fear grip his heart once more, for what hope had he with such an enemy!

It had come to his ears, by way of those who had waited on her and the King when they dined, that she had been deeply offended by Henry’s show of affection for the Cardinal; and she, bold and confident in her power over the King, did not hesitate to reprove him. “Is it not a marvelous thing,” so he had heard she said, “to consider what debt and danger the Cardinal hath brought you in with your subjects?” The King was puzzled. “How so, sweetheart?” Then she referred to that loan which the Cardinal had raised from his subjects for the King’s use. And she laughed and added: “If my lord Norfolk, my lord Suffolk, my lord my father, or any other noble person within your realm had done much less than he, they should have lost their heads ere this.” To which the King answered: “I perceive ye are not the Cardinal’s friend.” “I have no cause!” she retorted. “Nor more any other that love Your Grace, if ye consider well his doings!”

No more had been heard at the table, but Wolsey knew full well how gratifying it would be for the King to imagine her hatred for the Cardinal had grown out of her love for the King. She was an adversary to beware of. He had no chance of seeing the King again, for the Lady Anne had gone off riding with him next morning, and had so contrived it that His Majesty did not return until the cardinals had left. What poison did this woman pour into his master’s ears by day and night? But being Wolsey he must know it was himself whom he must blame; he it was who had taken that false step. He was too astute not to realize that had he been in Lady Anne’s place he would have acted as she did now. Imagination had helped to lift him, therefore it was easy to see himself in her position. He could even pity her, for her road was a more dangerous one than his, and those who depend for prosperity upon a prince’s favor—and such a prince—must consider each step before they take it, if they wish to survive. He had failed with the divorce, and looking back, that seemed inevitable, for as Cardinal he owed allegiance to Rome, and the King was straining to break those chains which bound him to the Holy See. He, who was shrewd, diplomatic, had failed. She was haughty, imperious, impulsive; what fate awaited her? Where she was concerned he had been foolish; he had lacked imagination. A man does not blame himself when enemies are made by his greatness; it is only when they are made by his folly that he does this. Perhaps humiliation was easier to bear, knowing he had brought it on himself.

His usher, Cavendish, came in to tell him that the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk had arrived. The Cardinal received them ceremoniously—the cold-eyed Norfolk, the cruel-eyed Suffolk, both rejoicing in his downfall.

“It is the King’s pleasure,” said Suffolk, “that you should hand over the Great Seal into our hands, and that you depart simply unto Esher.”

Esher! To a house near splendid Hampton Court which was his through the Bishopric of Winchester. He summoned all his dignity.

“And what commission have you, my lords, to give me such commandment?”

They said they came from the King, that they had received the commission from his royal mouth.

“Then that is not sufficient,” said Wolsey, “for the Great Seal of England was delivered me by the King’s own person, to enjoy during my life. I have the King’s letters to show it.”

The Dukes were angered by this reply, but seeing the King’s letters, all they could do was return to Henry.

Wolsey knew he but put off the evil day. The Great Seal, the symbol of his greatness, remained in his hands for but one more day; on the morrow the Dukes returned from Windsor with letters from the King, and there was nothing more that Wolsey could do but deliver up the seal.

The ex-chancellor was filled with deep foreboding and set his servants to make inventories of all the rich possessions in his house; these goods he would give to the King, for if his master could not be touched by affection it might well be that he could by rich gifts; many times had Wolsey noted that the little eyes glinted with envy when they rested on these things. When a man is in danger of drowning, thought Wolsey, he throws off all his fine apparel that he may swim more easily. What are possessions, compared with life itself!

He took his barge at his privy stairs, having ordered horses to be awaiting him at Putney; and the river, he saw, was crowded with craft, for news had traveled quickly and there were those who find the spectacle of a fallen man pleasurable indeed. He saw their grins; he heard their jeers; he sensed the speculation, the disappointment that he was not going straightway to the Tower.

Riding through Putney town, he saw Norris coming towards him, and his heart was lightened, since he had come to look upon Norris as a friend. And so it proved, for the King’s peace of mind had been profoundly disturbed by the story which Norfolk and Suffolk had told him of the giving up of the seal. The King could not forget that he had once loved Wolsey; he was haunted by a pale, sick face under a cardinal’s hat; and he remembered how this man had been his friend and counsellor; and though he knew that he had done with Wolsey, he wanted to reassure his conscience that it was not he who had destroyed his old friend, but others. Therefore, to appease that conscience, he sent Norris to Putney with a gold ring which Wolsey would recognize by the rich stone it contained, as they had previously used this ring for a token. He was to be of good cheer, Norris told him, for he stood as high as ever in the King’s favor.

Wolsey’s spirits soared; his body gained strength; the old fighting spirit came back to him. He was not defeated. He embraced Norris, feeling great affection for this young man, and took a little chain of gold from his neck to give to him; on this chain there hung a tiny cross. “I desire you to take this small reward from my hand,” he said, and Norris was deeply moved.

Then did the Cardinal look about his retinue; and saw one who had been close to him, and in whom he delighted, for the man’s wit and humor were of the subtlest, and many times had he brought mirth into the Cardinal’s heaviest hours.

“Take my Fool, Norris,” he said. “Take him to my lord the King, for well I know His Majesty will like well the gift. Fool!” he called. “Here, Fool!”

The man came, his eyes wide with fear and with love for his master; and seeing this, the Cardinal leaned forward and said almost tenderly: “Thou shalt have a place at court, Fool.”

But the Fool knelt down in the mire and wept bitterly. Wolsey was much moved that his servant should show such love, since to be Fool to the King, instead of to a man who is sinking in disgrace, was surely a great step forward.

“Thou art indeed a fool!” said Wolsey. “Dost not know what I am offering thee?”

All foolery was gone from those droll features; only tears were in the humorous eyes now.

“I will not leave you, master.”

“Didst not hear I have given thee to His Majesty?”

“I will not serve His Majesty. My lord, I have but one master.”

With tears in his eyes the Cardinal called six yeomen to remove the man; and struggling, full of rage and sorrow, went the Fool. Then on rode Wolsey, and when he reached his destination to find himself in that barren house in which there were not even beds nor dishes, plates nor cups, his heart was warmed that in this world there were those to love a man who is fallen from his greatness.

Lady Anne Rochford sat in her apartment, turning the leaves of a book. She had found this book in her chamber, and even as she picked it up she knew that someone had put it there that she might find it. As she looked at this book, the color rose from her neck to her forehead, and she was filled with anger. She sat for a long time, staring at the open page, wondering who had put it there, how many of her attendants had seen it.

The book was a book of prophecies; there were many in the country, she knew, who would regard such prophecies as miraculous; it was alarming therefore to find herself appearing very prominently in them.

She called Anne Saville to her, adopting a haughty mien, which was never difficult with her.

“Nan!” she called. “Come here! Come here at once!”

Anne Saville came and, seeing the book in her mistress’s hand, grew immediately pale.

“You have seen this book?” asked Anne.

“I should have removed it ere your ladyship set eyes on it.”

Anne laughed.

“You should have done no such thing, for this book makes me laugh so much that it cannot fail to give me pleasure.”

She turned the pages, smiling, her fingers steady.

“Look, Nan! This figure represents me . . . and here is the King. And here is Katharine. This must be so, since our initials are on them. Nan, tell me, I do not look like that! Look, Nan, do not turn away. Here I am with my head cut off!”

Anne Saville was seized with violent trembling.

“If I thought that true, I would not have him were he an emperor!” she said.

Anne snapped her fingers scornfully, “I am resolved to have him, Nan.”

Anne Saville could not take her eyes from the headless figure on the page.

“The book is a foolish book, a bauble. I am resolved that my issue shall be royal, Nan . . .” She added: “. . . whatever may become of me!”

“Then your ladyship is very brave.”

“Nan! Nan! What a little fool you are! To believe a foolish book!”

If Anne Saville was very quiet all that day as though her thoughts troubled her, Lady Anne Rochford was especially gay, though she did not regard the book as lightly as she would have those about her suppose. She did not wish to give her enemies the satisfaction of knowing that she was disturbed. For one thing was certain in her mind—she was surrounded by her enemies who would undermine her security in every possible way; and this little matter of the book was but one of those ways. An enemy had put the book where she might see it, hoping thereby to sow fear in her mind. What a hideous idea! To cut off her head!

She was nervous; her dreams were disturbed by that picture in the book. She watched those about her suspiciously, seeking her enemies. The Queen, the Princess, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, the Cardinal . . . all of the most important in the land. Who else? Who had brought the book into her chamber?

Those about her would be watching everything she did; listening to everything she said. She felt very frightened. Once she awoke trembling in a cold sweat; she had dreamed that Wolsey was standing before her, holding an axe, and the blade was turned towards her. The King lay beside her, and terrified, she awoke him.

“I had an evil dream . . .”

“Dreams are nothing, sweetheart.”

She would not let him dismiss her dream so. She would insist that he put his arms about her, assure her of his undying love for her.

“For without your love, I should die,” she told him. He kissed her tenderly and soothed her.

“As I should, without yours.”

“Nothing could hurt you,” she said.

“Nothing could hurt you, sweetheart, since I am here to take care of you.”

“There are many who are jealous of your love for me, who seek to destroy me.” She blurted out the story of her finding the book.

“The knave who printed it shall hang, darling. We’ll have his head on London Bridge. Thus shall people see what happens to those who would frighten my sweetheart.”

“This you say, but will you do it, when you suffer those who hate me, to enjoy your favor?”

“Never should any who hated you receive my favor!”

“I know of one.”

“Oh, darling, he is an old, sick man. He wishes you no ill. . . .”

“No!” she cried fiercely. “Has he not fought against us consistently! Has he not spoken against us to the Pope! I know of those who will confirm this.”

She was trembling in his arms, for she felt his reluctance to discuss the Cardinal.

“I fear for us both,” she said. “How can I help but fear for you too, when I love you! I have heard much of his wickedness. There is his Venetian physician, who has been to me. . . .”

“What!” cried the King.

“But no more! You think so highly of him that you will see him my enemy, and leave him to go unpunished. He is in York, you say. Let him rest there! He is banished from Westminster; that is enough. So in York he may pursue his wickedness and set the people against me, since he is of more importance to you than I am.”

“Anne, Anne, thou talkest wildly. Who could be of more importance to me than thou?”

“Your late chancellor, my lord Cardinal Wolsey!” she retorted. She was seized with a wild frenzy, and drew his face close to hers and kissed him, and spoke to him incoherently of her love and devotion, which touched him deeply; and out of his tenderness for her grew passion such as he had rarely experienced before, and he longed to give her all that she asked, to prove his love for her and to keep her loving him thus.

He said: “Sweetheart, you talk with wildness!”

“Yes,” she said, “I talk with wildness; it is only your beloved Cardinal who talks with good sense. I can see that I must not stay here. I will go away. I have lost those assets which were dearer to me than aught else—my virtue, my honor. I shall leave you. This is the last night I shall lie in your arms, for I see that I am ruined, that you cannot love me.”

Henry could always be moved to terror when she talked of leaving him; before he had given her Suffolk House, she had so often gone back and forth to Hever. The thought of losing her was more than he could endure; he was ready to offer her Wolsey if that was the price she asked.

He said: “Dost think I should allow thee to leave me, Anne?”

She laughed softly. “You might force me to stay; you could force me to share your bed!” Again she laughed. “You are big and strong, and I am but weak. You are a king and I am a poor woman who from love of you has given you her honor and her virtue. . . . Yes, doubtless you could force me to stay, but though you should do this, you would but keep my body; my love, though it has destroyed me, would be lost to you.”

“You shall not talk thus! I have never known happiness such as I have enjoyed with you. Your virtue . . . your honor! My God, you talk foolishly, darling! Shall you not be my Queen?”

“You have said so these many years. I grow weary of waiting. You surround yourself with those who hinder you rather than help. I have proof that the Cardinal is one of these. “

“What proof?” he demanded.

“Did I not tell you of the physician? He knows that Wolsey wrote to the Pope, asking him to excommunicate you, an you did not dismiss me and take back Katharine.”

“By God! And I will not believe it.”

She put her arms about his neck, and with one hand stroked his hair.

“Darling, see the physician, discover for yourself . . .”

“That will I do!” he assured her.

Then she slept more peacefully, but in the morning her fears were as strong as ever. When the physician confirmed Wolsey’s perfidy, when her cousin, Francis Bryan, brought her papers which proved that Wolsey had been in communication with the Pope, had asked for the divorce to be delayed; when she took these in triumph to the King and saw the veins stand out on his forehead with anger against the Cardinal, still she found peace of mind elusive. She remembered the softness of the King towards this man; she remembered how, when he had lain ill at Esher, he had sent Butts, his physician—the man he had sent to her at Hever—to attend his old friend. She remembered how he had summoned Butts, recently returned from Esher, and had asked after Wolsey’s health; and when Butts had said he feared the old man would die unless he received some token of the King’s regard, then had the King sent him a ruby ring, and—greater humiliation—he had turned to her and bidden her send a token too. Such was the King’s regard for this man; such was his reluctance to destroy him.

But she would not let her enemy live; and in this she had behind her many noblemen, at whose head were the powerful Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, men such as would let the grass grow under their feet in the matter. George had talked with her of Wolsey. “There will be no peace for us, Anne, while that man lives. For, if ever you had an enemy, that man is he!” She trusted George completely. He had said: “You can do this, Anne. You have but to command the King. Hesitate not, for well you know that had Wolsey the power to destroy you, he would not hesitate.”

“That I do know,” she answered, and was suddenly sad. “George,” she went on, “would it not be wonderful if we could go home and live quietly, hated by none!”

“I would not wish to live quietly, sister,” said George. “Nor would you. Come! Could you turn back now, would you?” She searched her mind and knew that he was right. “You were meant to be Queen of England, Anne. You have all the attributes.”

“I feel that, but I could wish there were not so much hating to be done!”

But she went on hating furiously; this was a battle between herself and Wolsey, and it was one she was determined to win. Norfolk watched; Suffolk watched; they were waiting for their opportunity.

There was a new charge against the Cardinal. He had been guilty of asserting and maintaining papal jurisdiction in England. Henry must accept the evidence; he must appease Anne; he must satisfy his ministers. Wolsey was to be arrested at Cawood Castle in York, whither he had retired these last months.

“The Earl of Northumberland should be sent to arrest him,” said Anne, her eyes gleaming, This was to be. She went to her apartment, dismissed her ladies, and flung herself upon her bed overcome by paroxysms of laughter and tears. She felt herself to be, not the woman who aspired to the throne of England, but a girl in love who through this man had lost her lover.

Now he would see! Now he should know! “That foolish girl!” he had said. “Her father but a knight, and yours one of the noblest houses in the land . . .”

Her father was an earl now; and she all but Queen of England.

Oh, you wise Cardinal! How I should love to see your face when Percy comes for you! You will know then that you were not so wise in seeking to destroy Anne Boleyn.

As the Cardinal sat at dinner in the dining-hall at Cawood Castle, his gentleman usher came to him and said: “My lord, His Grace, the Earl of Northumberland is in the castle!”

Wolsey was astounded.

“This cannot be. Were I to have the honor of a visit from such a nobleman, he would surely have warned me. Show him in to me that I may greet him.”

The Earl was brought into the dining-hall. He had changed a good deal since Wolsey had last seen him, and Wolsey scarcely recognized him as the delicate, handsome boy whom he had had occasion to reprimand at the King’s command because he had dared to fall in love with the King’s favorite.

Wolsey reproached Northumberland: “My lord Earl, you should have let me know, that I might have done you the honor due to you!”

Northumberland was quiet; he had come to receive no honor, he said. His eyes burned oddly in his pallid face. Wolsey remembered stories he had heard of his unhappy marriage with Shrewsbury’s daughter. A man should not allow a marriage to affect him so strongly; there were other things in life. A man in Northumberland’s position had much; was he not reigning lord of one of the noblest houses in the land! Bah! thought Wolsey enviously, an I were earl . . .

He had an affection for this young man, remembering him well when he had served under him. A docile boy, a charming boy. He had been grieved when he had to send him away.

“It is well to meet again,” said Wolsey. “For old times’ sake.”

“For old times’ sake!” said Northumberland, and he spoke as a man speaks in his sleep.

“I mind thee well,” said Wolsey. “Thou wert a bright, impetuous boy.”

“I mind thee well,” said Northumberland.

With malice in his heart, he surveyed the broken old man. So were the mighty fallen from their high places! This man had done that for which he would never forgive him, for he had taken from him Anne Boleyn whom in six long years of wretched marriage he had never forgotten; nor had he any intention of forgiving Wolsey. Anne should have been his, and he Anne’s. They had loved; they had made vows; and this man, who dared now to remind him of the old times, had been the cause of all his misery. And now that he was old and broken, now that his ambition had destroyed him, Wolsey would be kind and full of tender reminiscence. But Percy also remembered!

“I have often thought of you,” he said, and that was true. When he had quarreled with Mary, his wife, whom he hated and who hated him, he thought of the Cardinal’s face and the stern words that he had used. “Thou foolish boy . . .” Would he never forget the bitter humiliation? No, he never would; and because he would never cease to reproach himself for his own misery, knowing full well that had he shown sufficient courage he might have made a fight for his happiness, he hated this man with a violent hatred. He stood before him, trembling with rage, for well he knew that she had contrived this, and that she would expect him to show now that courage he had failed to show seven years ago.

Northumberland laid his hand on Wolsey’s arm. “My lord, I arrest you of High Treason!”

The Earl was smiling courteously, but with malice; the Cardinal began to tremble.

Revenge was a satisfying emotion, thought the Earl. He who had made others to suffer, must now himself suffer.

“We shall travel towards London at the earliest possible moment,” he said.

This they did; and, trembling with his desire for vengeance, the Earl caused the Cardinal’s legs to be bound to the stirrups of his mule; thus did he proclaim to the world: “This man, who was once great, is now naught but a common malefactor!”

About Cawood the people saw the Cardinal go; they wept; they called curses on his enemies. He left Cawood with their cries ringing in his ears. “God save Your Grace! The foul evil take them that have taken you from us! We pray God that a very vengeance may light upon them!”