But it was only for a moment.
There was a group of half-a-dozen persons under the canopy of the seat-of-state of the leading boat; the splendid centre of the splendid show, brilliant in crimson and gold and jewels.
On the further side sat two men. Chris did not know their faces, but as his eyes rested on them a moment he noticed that one was burly and clean-shaven, and wore some insignia across his shoulders. At the near side were the backs of two ladies, silken clad and slashed with crimson, their white jewelled necks visible under their coiled hair and tight square cut caps. And in the centre sat a pair, a man and a woman; and on these he fixed his eyes as the boat swept up not twenty yards away, for he knew who they must be.
The man was leaning back, looking gigantic in his puffed sleeves and wide mantle; one great arm was flung along the back of the tapestried seat, and his large head, capped with purple and feathers, was bending towards the woman who sat beyond. Chris could make out a fringe of reddish hair beneath his ear and at the back of the flat head between the high collar and the cap. He caught a glimpse, too, of a sedate face beyond, set on a slender neck, with downcast eyes and red lips. And then as the boat came opposite, and the trumpeters sent out a brazen crash from the trumpets at their lips, the man turned his head and stared straight at the boat.
It was an immensely wide face, fringed with reddish hair, scanty about the lips and more full below; and it looked the wider from the narrow drooping eyes set near together and the small pursed mouth. Below, his chin swelled down fold after fold into his collar, and the cheeks were wide and heavy on either side.
It was the most powerful face that Chris had ever seen or dreamed of—the animal brooded in every line and curve of it—it would have been brutish but for the steady pale stare of the eyes and the tight little lips. It fascinated and terrified him.
The flourish ended, the roar of the rowlocks sounded out again like the beating of a furious heart; the King turned his head again and said something, and the boat swept past.
Chris found that he had started to his feet, and sat down again, breathing quickly and heavily, with a kind of indignant loathing that was new to him.
This then was the master of England, the heart of all their troubles—that gorgeous fat man with the broad pulpy face, in his crimson and jewels; and that was his concubine who sat demure beside him, with her white folded ringed hands on her lap, her beautiful eyes cast down, and her lord’s hot breath in her ear! It was these that were purifying the Church of God of such men as the Cardinal-bishop in the Tower, and the witty holy lawyer! It was by the will of such as these that the heads of the Carthusian Fathers, bound brow and chin with linen, stared up and down with dead eyes from the pikes overhead.