“Then good-day, Mr. Torridon. You will come and see me sometimes, even if not at Chelsea. Wherever I may be it will be as nigh heaven as Chelsea.”
Ralph went down with him, and parted from him at the door of the Commissioner’s room; and half-an-hour later a message was sent out to him by Cromwell that he need wait no longer; Mr. More had refused the oath, and had been handed over to the custody of the Abbot of Westminster.
A MERRY PRISONER
The arrest of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher and their committal to the Tower a few days later caused nothing less than consternation in England and of furious indignation on the Continent. It was evident that greatness would save no man; the best hope lay in obscurity, and men who had been loud in self-assertion now grew timorous and silent.
Ralph was now in the thick of events. Besides his connection with More, he had been present at one of the examinations of the Maid of Kent and her admirers; had formed one of the congregation at Paul’s Cross when the confession drawn up for her had been read aloud in her name by Dr. Capon, who from the pulpit opposite the platform where the penitents were set, preached a vigorous sermon against credulity and superstition. Ralph had read the confession over a couple of days before in Cromwell’s room, and had suggested a few verbal alterations; and he had been finally present, a few days after More’s arrest, at the last scene of the drama, when Elizabeth Barton, with six priests, suffered, under the provisions of an act of attainder, on Tyburn gallows.
All these events were indications of the course that things were taking in regard to greater matters. Parliament had now advanced further than ever in the direction of a breach with Rome, and had transferred the power of nomination to bishoprics from the Holy See to the Crown, and, what was as least as significant, had dealt in a similar manner with the authority over Religious houses.
On the other side, Rome had declared definitely against the annulling of Queen Katharine’s marriage, and to this the King had retorted by turning the pulpits against the Pope, and in the course of this had found himself compelled to deal sharply with the Franciscans, who were at the same time the most popular and the most papal of all preachers. In the following out of this policy, first several notable friars were imprisoned, and next a couple of subservient Religious, a Dominican and an Augustinian, were appointed grand visitors of the rebellious Order.
A cloud of terror now began to brood over the Religious houses in England, as the news of these proceedings became known, and Ralph had a piteous letter from his father, entreating him to give some explanation of the course of affairs so far as was compatible with loyalty to his master, and at least his advice as to Christopher’s profession.