“Her Grace is cross because that gem—your gem, Lady Harflete—was refused to her,” said Henry, then added in an angry growl, “’Fore God! does she dare to play off her tempers upon me, and so soon, when I am troubled about big matters? Oho! Jane Seymour is the Queen to-day, and she’d let the world know it. Well, what makes a queen? A king’s fancy and a crown of gold, which the hand that set it on can take off again, head and all, if it stick too tight. And then where’s your queen? Pest upon women and the whims that make us seek their company! Dame Harflete, you’d not treat your lord so, would you? You have never been to Court, I think, or I should have known your eyes again. Well, perhaps it is well for you, and that’s why you are gentle and loving.”
“If I am gentle, Sire, it is trouble that has gentled me, who have suffered so much, and know not even now whether after one week of marriage I am wife or widow.”
“Widow? Should that be so, come to me and I will find you another and a nobler spouse. With your face and possessions it will not be difficult. Nay, do not weep, for your sake I trust that this lucky man may live to comfort you and serve his King. At least he’ll be no Spaniard’s tool and Pope’s plotter.”
“Well will he serve your Grace if God gives him the chance, as my murdered father did.”
“We know it, Lady. Cromwell, will you never have finished with those writings? The Council waits us, and so does supper, and a word or two with her Grace ere bedtime. You, Thomas Bolle, you are no fool and can hold a sword; tell me, shall I go up north to fight the rebels, or bide here and let others do it?”
“Bide here, your Grace,” answered Thomas promptly. “’Twixt Wash and Humber is a wild land in winter and arrows fly about there like ducks at night, none knowing whence they come. Also your Grace is over-heavy for a horse on forest roads and moorland, and if aught should chance, why, they’d laugh in Spain and Rome, or nearer, and who would rule England with a girl child on its throne?” and he stared hard at Cromwell’s back.
“Truth at last, and out of the lips of a red-haired bumpkin,” muttered the King, also staring at the unconscious Cromwell, who was engaged on his writing and either feigned deafness or did not hear. “Thomas Bolle, I said that you were no fool, although some may have thought you so, is there aught you would have in payment for your counsel—save money, for that we have none?”
“Aye, Sire, freedom from my oath as a lay-brother of the Abbey of Blossholme, and leave to marry.”
“To marry whom?”
“Her, Sire,” and he pointed to Emlyn.
“What! The other handsome witch? See you not that she has a temper? Nay, woman, be silent, it is written in your face. Well, take your freedom and her with it, but, Thomas Bolle, why did you not ask otherwise when the chance came your way? I thought better of you. Like the rest of us, you are but a fool after all. Farewell to you, Fool Thomas, and to you also, my fair Lady of Blossholme.”