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- THE LADY OF BLOSSHOLME - 40/52 -


weather--for it rained--the toughness of the ham, which he said was not to be compared to those they cured at Blossholme in his youth, and the likeness of the baby boy to his mother.

"Indeed, no," broke in Cicely, who felt that he was playing with them; "he is his father's self; there is no look of me in him."

"Oh!" answered Jacob; "well, I'll give my judgment when I see the father. By the way, let me read that note again which the cloaked man brought to Emlyn."

Cicely gave it to him, and he studied it carefully; then said, in an indifferent voice--

"The other day I saw a list of Christian captives said to have been recovered from the Turks by the Emperor Charles at Tunis, and among them was one 'Huflit,' described as an English señor, and his servant. I wonder now----"

Cicely sprang upon him.

"Oh! cruel wretch," she said, 'to have known this so long and not to have told me!"

"Peace, Lady," he said, retreating before her; "I only learned it at eleven of the clock last night, when you were fast asleep. Yesterday is not this same day, and therefore 'tis the other day, is it not?"

"Surely you might have woke me. But, swift, where is he now?"

"How can I know? Not here, at least. But the writing said----"

"Well, what did the writing say?"

"I am trying to think--my memory fails me at times; perhaps you will find the same thing when you have my years, should it please Heaven----"

"Oh! that it might please Heaven to make you speak! What said the writing?"

"Ah! I have it now. It said, in a note appended amidst other news, for--did I tell you this was a letter from his Grace's ambassador in Spain? and, oh! his is the vilest scrawl to read. Nay, hurry me not-- it said that this 'Sir Huflit'--the ambassador has put a query against his name--and his servant--yes, yes, I am sure it said his servant too --well, that they both of them, being angry at the treatment they had met with from the infidel Turks--no, I forgot to add there were three of them, one a priest, who did otherwise. Well, as I said, being angry, they stopped there to serve with the Spaniards against the Turks till the end of that campaign. There, that is all."

"How little is your all!" exclaimed Cicely. "Yet, 'tis something. Oh! why should a married man stop across the seas to be revenged on poor ignorant Turks?"

"Why should he not?" interrupted Emlyn, "when he deems himself a widower, as does your lord?"

"Yes, I forgot; he thinks me dead, who doubtless himself will be dead, if he is not so already, seeing that those wicked, murderous Turks will kill him," and she began to weep.

"I should have added," said Jacob hastily, "that in a second letter, of later date, the ambassador declares that the Emperor's war against the Turks is finished for this season, and that the Englishmen who were with him fought with great honour and were all escaped unharmed, though this time he gives no names."

"All escaped! If my husband were dead, who could not die meanly or without fame, how could he say that they were all escaped? Nay, nay; he lives, though who knows if he will return? Perchance he will wander off elsewhere, or stay and wed again."

"Impossible," said old Jacob, bowing to her; "having called you wife-- impossible."

"Impossible," echoed Emlyn, "having such a score to settle with yonder Maldon! A man may forget his love, especially if he deems her buried. But as he stayed foreign to fight the Turk, who wronged him, so he'll come home to fight the Abbot, who ruined him and slew his bride."

There followed a silence, which the goldsmith, who felt it somewhat painful, hastened to break, saying--

"Yes, doubtless he will come home; for aught we know he may be here already. But meanwhile we also have our score against this Abbot, a bad one, though think not for his sake that all Abbots are bad, for I have known some who might be counted angels upon earth, and, having gone to martyrdom, doubtless to-day are angels in heaven. Now, my Lady, I will tell you what I have done, hoping that it will please you better than it does me. Last night I saw the Lord Cromwell, with whom I have many dealings, at his house in Austin Friars, and told him the case, of which, as I thought, that false villain Legh had said nothing to him, purposing to pick the plums out of the pudding ere he handed on the suet to his master. He read your deeds and hunted up some petition from the Abbot, with which he compared them; then made a note of my demands and asked straight out--How much?

"I told him £1000 on loan to the King, which would not be asked for back again, the said loan to be discharged by the grant to me--that is, to you--of all the Abbey lands, in addition to your own, when the said Abbey lands are sequestered, as they will be shortly. To this he agreed, on behalf of his Grace, who needs money much, but inquired as to himself. I replied £500 for him and his jackals, including Dr. Legh, of which no account would be asked. He told me it was not enough, for after the jackals had their pickings nothing would be left for him but the bones; I, who asked so much, must offer more, and he made as though to dismiss me. At the door I turned and said I had a wonderful pink pearl that he, who loved jewels, might like to see--a pink pearl worth many abbeys. He said, 'Show it;' and, oh! he gloated over it like a maid over her first love-letter. 'If there were two of these, now!' he whispered.

"'Two, my Lord!' I answered; 'there's no fellow to that pearl in the whole world,' though it is true that as I said the words, the setting of its twin, that was pinned to my inner shirt, pricked me sorely, as if in anger. Then I took it up again, and for the second time began to bow myself out.

"'Jacob,' he said, 'you are an old friend, and I'll stretch my duty for you. Leave the pearl--his Grace needs that £1000 so sorely that I must keep it against my will,' and he put out his hand to take it, only to find that I had covered it with my own.

"'First the writing, then its price, my Lord. Here is a memorandum of it set out fair, to save you trouble, if it pleases you to sign.'

"He read it through, then, taking a pen, scored out the clause as regards acquittal of the witchcraft, which, he said, must be looked into by the King in person or by his officers, but all the rest he signed, undertaking to hand over the proper deeds under the great seal and royal hand upon payment of £1000. Being able to do no better, I said that would serve, and left him your pearl, he promising, on his part, to move his Majesty to receive you, which I doubt not he will do quickly for the sake of the £1000. Have I done well?"

"Indeed, yes," exclaimed Cicely. "Who else could have done half so well----?"

As the words left her lips there came a loud knocking at the door of the house, and Jacob ran down to open it. Presently he returned with a messenger in a splendid coat, who bowed to Cicely and asked if she were the Lady Harflete. On her replying that such was her name, he said that he bore to her the command of his Grace the King to attend upon him at three o'clock of that afternoon at his Palace of Whitehall, together with Emlyn Stower and Thomas Bolle, there to make answer to his Majesty concerning a certain charge of witchcraft that had been laid against her and them, which summons she would neglect at her peril.

"Sir, I will be there," answered Cicely; "but tell me, do I come as a prisoner?"

"Nay," replied the herald, "since Master Jacob Smith, in whom his Grace has trust, has consented to be answerable for you."

"And for the £1000," muttered Jacob, as, with many salutations, he showed the royal messenger to the door, not neglecting to thrust a gold piece into his hand that he waved behind him in farewell.

CHAPTER XV

THE DEVIL AT COURT

It was half-past two of the clock when Cicely, who carried her boy in her arms, accompanied by Emlyn, Thomas Bolle and Jacob Smith, found herself in the great courtyard of the Palace of Whitehall. The place was full of people waiting there upon one business or another, through whom messengers and armed men thrust their way continually, crying, "Way! In the King's name, way!" So great was the press, indeed, that for some time even Jacob could command no attention, till at length he caught sight of the herald who had visited his house in the morning, and beckoned to him.

"I was looking for you, Master Smith, and for the Lady Harflete," the man said, bowing to her. "You have an appointment with his Grace, have you not? but God knows if it can be kept. The ante-chambers are full of folk bringing news about the rebellion in the north, and of great lords and councillors who wait for commands or money, most of them for money. In short the King has given order that all appointments are cancelled; he can see no one to-day. The Lord Cromwell told me so himself."

Jacob took a golden angel from his pouch and began to play with it between his fingers.

"I understand, noble herald," he said. "Still, do you think that you could find me a messenger to the Lord Cromwell? If so, this trifle----"

"I'll try, Master Smith," he answered, stretching out his hand for the piece of money. "But what is the message?"

"Oh, say that Pink Pearl would learn from his Lordship where he can lay hands upon £1000 without interest."

"A strange message, to which I will hazard an answer--nowhere," said


THE LADY OF BLOSSHOLME - 40/52

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