Read We Speak No Treason Vol 1 Online

Authors: Rosemary Hawley Jarman

We Speak No Treason Vol 1 (39 page)

There are particular days in life which seem good, when the sun shines and the air sings sweet down to the well of the lungs, and on such a day I walked through York for Corpus Christi. Long before dawn the Gild Masters readied the wagons for their slow journey around the City. Five hundred actors waited on Toft Green. I followed each pageant with eagerness, from Holy Trinity Priory on Micklegate, across to All Saints, Davygate, where they lighted the beacon for wayfarers in Lantern Tower. The wagons halted before the houses of great lords, who stood at their windows to watch the rise and fall of mankind, and threw gold for their lesson.

Eve was very fair, and shamed by her nakedness when the Prince of Darkness tempted her in serpent-guise. On Lendal Bridge Noah built his ark, and who better to advise him than the gildsmen of the Shipwrights, the Fishmongers and Mariners? The actors of the Vintners’ Gild dealt with the Miracle at Cana, where Our Lord changed water into wine. The tyrant Herod was wonderfully fierce. He leaped from his chariot to buffet his head upon the stones, foaming at the mouth. He used lye soap and gunpowder for this; the Gild Master had fined him the year before for not having given enough pith to his part. As we moved towards the great new Cathedral Church, there came the soldiers of Herod who took and slew with daggers the Holy Innocents, wrenching them from their mothers’ arms. The women’s screams were like icicles. Lady Anne filled her large grey eyes with tears at the dreadful scene. My lord of Gloucester, as he watched, laid his hand upon his small son’s head.

And as was right and proper, darkness had covered the City when they nailed Christ to the Tree, so that the faces of the singing boys wavered like the candle flames they carried, and there was soft sobbing in the dusk. Very low and sweet they sang the old carol, those little boys with their innocent faces.

Lully, lulley, lully, lulley,
The faucon has borne my make away.
He bare him up, he bare him down,
He bare him into an orchard brown,
In that orchard there was an hall
That was hanged with purple and pall.
And in that hall there was a bed
It was hanged with gold so red.
And in that bed there lieth a knight
His wounds bleeding both day and night.
By that bedside kneeleth a may
And she weepeth both night and day.
And by that bedside there standeth a stone,
Corpus Christi written thereon.

I could have been a devil at Doomsday had I paid pageant-pence and volunteered, but there seemed enough cunning players to drag humanity into Hell already. The discipline was strict: I saw one of the fraternity chastising a devil who came in late on his entrance after quaffing a mazer of ale behind Hell Mouth. They fined him four pence on the spot. In his black hose embroidered with pitchforks he leaped on the platform, declaring that he had been unjustly used. God, in six skins of white leather, frowned from his pinnacled throne. And they hurled them into Hell: the men and women, the lustful and those who had shown no charity, the adulterers and the murderers, those of unkind tongue and all who had taken no pity on those who lie in prison or are otherwise persecuted. For no reason that I can name I turned and emptied my purse into the hand of a blind man who stood behind me. He dropped some of the coins, they ran tinkling away. I looked up at the other side of the stage where the silver steps led to Heaven, and saw a great progress of angels and men ascending to the bright robes of Christ, and found myself weeping.

The following day they made my lord and his lady members of the Corpus Christi Gild. With bishops and priests they walked, glimpsed by the people through a forest of mitres and chasubles, shaded by the cloth of silver banners and crosses of gold. In its jewelled shrine the Host went before them and thus, from Holy Trinity they went all the way to the Cathedral Church. The air was full of singing. And, with my eternally curious ears, I listened to the men of York chanting a faux bourdon to these solemn hymns as my lord walked through town, straight and rigid with a soldier’s step. Snips of thought were blown to my hearing like birds in a storm. ‘Gloucester settled the matter, and all was well.’ ‘Through my lord’s aid, we are friendly once more.’ ‘Because my man’s father was sick, he...’ ‘I rode beside Richard—he fought like ten!’ ‘Our gracious Lord...’ ‘He set their kilts afire!’ Laughter. ‘Our son lay in gaol and he...’ One booming voice, full of self-importance: ‘You prate of small matters—when all was feared lost, he saved this City’s charter!’

At the ale in Eden Berrys on Goodramgate it was ‘Dickon, God preserve him!’ from one roisterer who should have known better.

All the way it was Richard, Richard, Richard. From the Merchant Adventurers to the smallest craftsman. They loaded his table with the choicest food in Gildhall, they set before him the finest wines. They arrayed the aldermen in scarlet by the score and horsed them grandly for his welcome at Bootham Bar. The banners danced above him. The trumpets blared for his entrance. He wore York like a jewel in his bonnet.

Lord Percy rode a little behind him, and was deafened by the noise.

And there are days in life which start out so fair, and end up black, like the hand of God descending to chasten men for their sins, for none knows when the Day will be. Hogan and others had prophesied the world’s end in the year 1500, but I still live to speak of a day I hold in my mind clearer than many.

The sun was shining. I was a little anxious about my sparrow-hawk; she was baiting, and I took off her hood to look into her misted eye. She would not eat, not even the choicest morsels, and I did not want to spoil her for future sport with temptation, so I left her with the falconer and walked across the ward. The drawbridge was down, for a horseman had lately ridden in, flecked with spur-blood and spume. In the green meadow across the moat, I could see Edward on his pony, trotting in a circle, round and round like a leaf in the breeze. He was laughing. Little John sat on a sturdy bay in the corner of the meadow, watching Edward as a priest guards a shrine.

I walked back to the Castle. Folk were gathered at the foot of the steps and more were issuing from the great door. I raised my eyes to the battlements; they were lowering the standard that flew there in the moorland wind. At the same moment as a bell began to boom slowly, the horseman I had seen emerged and ran down the steps, unwashed, foam-spattered cloak wafting about him. He called for fresh horses. A page ran beside him, and passed close, so I caught at his sleeve. He wore Lord Hastings’s livery.

‘What news?’ I said. He looked excited and fearfully pale.

‘The King is dead,’ he said, shrugging me off in his haste.

It was like a blow, a douche of icy water. The whole ward shimmered before me into something alien and fierce. I caught at the boy as he hurried past.

‘You lie,’ I said softly.

Then I looked again towards the Castle and saw Lady Anne, Lady Lovell and a few other women. Anne Neville was descending the steps; I fell on my knees and offered her my arm, for she almost stumbled in her haste to reach the level of the yard. She leaned on me briefly—like a willow tree she was, for she wore palest green and she trembled and shivered and swayed like a willow in the wind.

‘What tidings, my lady?’ I cried. ‘Pray, go carefully,’ for her feet caught in the hem of her gown. ‘Ill tidings,’ she whispered, as people came running to strain for her words. Her voice rose from a mere breath to a sorrowful cry.

‘Our Sovereign Lord is dead!’ Then, softer: ‘O Jesu, Edward is dead! And Dick is in Scotland! He has been cold a week; our Sovereign Lord is dead!’

Over and over she cried it. We all knew it was impossible. Yet it was true.

Thus ended my time at Middleham.

The sun was brighter then.


Old French—‘joy’.

We Speak No Treason continues
Book 2
The White Rose Turned to Blood
Rosemary Hawley Jarman

The sweeping epic of England’s last Plantagenet king continues with the testimony of Richard III’s sworn man, Mark Archer, a sharp-sighted soldier, who follows his lord into an adventure-filled exile and beyond. Through the bloodiest battlefields and the devious atmosphere of a royal court where every other nobleman is a traitor, to the solitude of the cloister, this stormy, tragic tale concludes with the story of the Nut-Brown Maid who loved and lost Richard, her gruelling ordeals at the hands of unscrupulous nuns, her courage in the face of danger, and a fateful reunion as the wheel comes full circle...

Other books

The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt
The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott
Backstage Demands by Kristina King
A Pearl for Love by Mary Cummins
Mine to Take by Alexa Kaye
In a Heartbeat by Donna Richards
The Interview by Weule, Eric Copyright 2016 - 2024