* * * * *
“Beatrice, my child.”
She turned from the window, her eyes blind with tears; and in a moment was kneeling at her aunt’s side, her face buried in her lap, and felt those kindly old hands passing over her hair. She heard a murmur over her head, but scarcely caught a word. There was but one thing she needed, and that—
Then she knelt suddenly upright listening, and the caressing hand was still.
“Beatrice, my dear, Beatrice.”
* * * * *
There were footsteps on the stairs outside, eager and urgent. The girl rose to her feet, and stood there, swaying a little with a restrained expectation.
Then the door was open, and Chris was there, flushed and radiant, with the level evening light full on his face.
“It is all well,” he cried, “my Lord will take us to the King.”
The river-front of Greenwich House was a magnificent sight as the four men came up to it one morning nearly three weeks later. The long two-storied row of brick buildings which Henry had named Placentia, with their lines of windows broken by the two clusters of slender towers, and porticos beneath, were fronted by broad platforms and a strip of turf with steps leading down to the water, and at each of these entrances there continually moved brilliant figures, sentries with the sunlight flashing on their steel caps and pike-points, servants in the royal livery, watermen in their blue and badges.
Here and there at the foot of the steps rocked gaudy barges, a mass of gilding and colour, with broad low canopies at the stern, and flags drooping at the prow; wherries moved to and fro, like water-beetles, shooting across from bank to bank with passengers, above and below the palace, or pausing with uplifted oars as the stream swept them down, for the visitors to stare and marvel at the great buildings. Behind rose up the green masses of trees against the sloping park. And over all lay the July sky, solemn flakes of cloud drifting across a field of intense blue.
There had been a delay in the fulfilment of the Archbishop’s promise; at one time he himself was away in the country on affairs, at another time the King was too much pressed, Cranmer reported, to have such a matter brought before him; and then suddenly a messenger had come across from Lambeth with a letter, bidding them present themselves at Greenwich on the following morning; for the day following that had been fixed for Cromwell’s execution, and the Archbishop hoped that the King would be ready to hear a word on behalf of the agent whose loyalty had failed to save his master.
* * * * *
The boatman suddenly backed water with his left-hand oar, took a stroke or two with his right, glancing over his shoulder; and the boat slid up to the foot of the steps.