Monday, 30 November 2009
The man walked away from the hostelry on the waterfront deep in thought. He had booked passage on a ship bound for France and it might be many years before he returned home. His thoughts were regretful and angry for he had parted from his father with bitter words.
‘You take the word of others above mine, Father – you would believe a stranger above your own son.’
Justin Devere’s blue eyes had flashed with pride, making Sir John snort impatiently. ‘You were a damned fool, Justin. By God, sir! There is no excuse for what you have done. You are the great grandson of Robert Melford and a more devoted supporter of the Crown could not be found. Your grandfather was much favoured by King Henry V111 – and my own family has always been loyal. By becoming involved in this conspiracy to murder Queen Mary and replace her with the Princess Elizabeth you have let your whole family down. I am ashamed of you!’ ‘No, sir. You wrong me…’
Justin raised his head defiantly. He was a handsome devil, with pale blond hair and deep blue eyes; reckless, arrogant and dismissive of rules, he stood head and shoulders above most men, including his father. His grandfather said he was a throw back to Robert of Melford in temperament and build, though not in colouring. He was also fiercely proud and it pricked his pride to hear his father call him a fool.
‘You have spoken treason against the Queen and that cannot be tolerated.’
‘It was no such thing, sir!’ Justin declared passionately. ‘I will grant that some hotheads have talked of such a plot in my hearing but I am innocent of any conspiracy – as is the princess herself. She was gracious enough to grant me an audience for many of us wished her to know that we support her and if any attempt were made to disbar her from inheriting the throne when the Queen dies we should rise to her…’
‘Be quiet!’ John Devere thundered. ‘Do you not realise that that in itself is sufficient to have you arrested for treason?’
‘I shall not be silent, sir. I am as loyal an Englishman as any but I cannot love a Catholic queen who puts good Englishmen to the fire in the name of religion.’
‘It is not so many years since we were all Catholic and proud of it,’ Justin’s father reminded him. ‘King Hal saw fit to break with Rome and we were all forced to follow or lose our favour at court but that does not mean…’ He broke off for the anger was writ plain on Justin’s face. ‘While the Queen lives ‘tis treason to speak of her death and well you know it.’
‘We did not plot to murder her, merely to protect our own Elizabeth.’
‘Surely it is enough that talk of your conspiracy has reached Her Majesty? The Princess has herself faced questions from the Queen regarding treason and was lucky that Her Majesty was in good humour because her husband has promised to visit her soon. Had it not been for that fortunate circumstance she might have found herself in the Tower once more.’ John placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. ‘Go to France or Spain, Justin. I know that though you have done wrong your heart was good. You have my blessing. Send me word of your situation and as soon as I think the coast clear you may return.’
‘You would have me flee like a coward?’ Justin’s face reflected his disgust.
‘I would have you live, sirrah! Stay and I may have no son to inherit my estate – and you will break your mother’s heart.’
Lost in the memory of the bitter quarrel with his father, Justin did not notice the shadows behind him. Not until it was too late did he realise that he had been followed from the hostelry. Even as he turned, about to draw his sword, a crashing blow to the back of his head sent him to the ground and he lost consciousness as he was carried aboard a ship, not as the passenger he had paid to be but to serve before the mast.
Posted by Anne Herries Author at 02:43