THE VOICE IN THE FOREST
The four were back safe in their lodging in Cheapside, whither, after the deeds had been sealed, three soldiers escorted them by command.
“Have we done well, have we done well?” asked Jacob, rubbing his hands.
“It would seem so, Master Smith,” replied Cicely, “thanks to you; that is, if all the King said is really in those writings.”
“It is there sure enough,” said Jacob; “for know, that with the aid of a lawyer and three scriveners, I drafted them myself in the Lord Cromwell’s office this morning, and oh, I drew them wide. Hard, hard we worked with no time for dinner, and that was why I was ten minutes late by the clock, for which Emlyn here chided me so sharply. Still, I’ll read them through again, and if aught is left out we will have it righted, though these are the same parchments, for I set a secret mark upon them.”
“Nay, nay,” said Cicely, “leave well alone. His Grace’s mood may change, or the Queen—that matter of the pearl.”
“Ah, the pearl, it grieved me to part with that beautiful pearl. But there was no way out, it must be sold and the money handed over, our honour is on it. Had I refused, who knows? Yes, we may thank God, for if the most of your jewels are gone, the wide Abbey lands have come and other things. Nothing is forgot. Bolle is unfrocked and may wed; Cousin Stower has got a husband——”
Then Emlyn, who until now had been strangely silent, burst out in wrath——
“Am I, then, a beast that I should be given to this man like a heriot at yonder King’s bidding?” she exclaimed, pointing with her finger at Bolle, who stood in the corner. “Who gave you the right, Thomas, to demand me in marriage?”
“Well, since you ask me, Emlyn, it was you yourself; once, many years ago, down in the mead by the water, and more lately in the chapel of Blossholme Priory before I began to play the devil.”
“Play the devil! Aye, you have played the devil with me. There in the King’s presence I must stand for an hour or more while all talked and never let a word slip between my lips, and at last hear myself called by his Grace a woman of temper and you a fool for wishing to marry me. Oh, if ever we do marry, I’ll prove his words.”
“Then perhaps, Emlyn, we who have got on a long while apart, had best stay so,” answered Thomas calmly. “Yet, why you should fret because you must keep your tongue in its case for an hour, or because I asked leave to marry you in all honour, I do not know. I have worked my best for you and your mistress at some hazard, and things have not gone so ill, seeing that now we are quit of blame and in a fair way to peace and comfort. If you are not content, why then, the King was right, and I’m a fool, and so good-bye, I’ll trouble you no more in fair weather or in foul. I have leave to marry, and there are other women in the world should I need one.”