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Perkyn Legh Got Married

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Petronella Legh was to be married at Michaelmas and every time she thought of it, a cold black slug of bile crawled up under her ribcage, turned thrice like a dog before sleep, and settled there for hours. Then she felt guilty because she could not in all honesty have asked for a better match.  Piers Hookton was tolerably well-off for a man his age, set fair for advancement, of generous disposition and pronounced good looks. She had known him, she supposed, all her life: he had been a week in her father’s household when she was born. But the difference in their ages was exactly of the magnitude to prevent acquaintance ever developing: when she was a newly motherless toddling scrap, of whom the older men of the household made rather a mascot, he was a boy of twelve, too young to be charmed by putting a miniature bow into the hands of the boss’s daughter.  When he had emerged from pustular self-absorption enough to be amused by the conversation of an intelligent, unconventional child who had been loved too well quite to be called neglected, she was preparing for removal to her aunt’s house and instruction in feminine arts. In the nine years since she had seen him only at a distance, conspicuous among touchy, arrogant company for the mildly lugubrious calm of a man who possesses the gift of command. But it was not really the thought of marrying Piers that set the laily worm slithering inside her, so much as the thought of losing Isabelle.

Nothing in Petronella’s upbringing had encouraged her to think weeping a worthwhile way of spending her time: the house of her birth valued strength, and that of her fosterage patience.  So when Isabelle began to sing over her work one late summer afternoon, Petronella smiled at the familiar, favourite melody and paused her needle for a moment. Her tears broke unexpectedly and messily onto for her love I make moan/more than any man.

Isabelle dropped her work and folded Petronella in her arms, kissing her eyelids and cheeks and lips. 

‘Oh, sweeting, don’t.  I’m all snotty.’  Petronella pinched her nose, turned and blew sharply into the rushes.

Isabelle giggled.  ‘The King has special cloths for blowing his nose on.’  Then she bit her lip, because the King meant the King’s service, and that meant Piers, but Petronella didn’t seem bothered. ‘Do you think the King cries?’ 

‘Of course. Don’t you know? He was distraught when Queen Anne died, and he had the place of her death all torn down and overthrown. I’m sure he wept when the Duke of Ireland died, too.’

That set her off again, for some reason, and Isabelle, more tender-hearted than her friend, found it contagious.  But tears sanctioned by mutuality wear themselves out quicker than the solitary kind, and they sniffled to a sheepish halt.

‘Perkyn—’ (the tomboyish nickname came from her mascot days, but her uncle could not be discouraged from using it, and the family had followed suit) ‘are you afraid?’ 

‘Of what?’ Petronella’s indignation outweighed her bafflement by about half a drachm, but it was a close-run thing. 

‘Well, you know.  Beddiness.’ 

‘Not really—childbed, a bit. I don’t really want to contemplate that. But I think Piers is kindly, don’t you? No, Issy, I just don’t want to have to give you up.’ 

It seemed real for the first time: Petronella would leave her bed and go to a man’s, become a wife and a mother and—it was intolerable.  Stricken beyond further tears, Isabelle cupped Petronella’s face in both hands and kissed her ferociously. They worked no more that day.

* 

‘Isabelle asked me if she might accompany Petronella to my brother’s house.  I’m inclined to refuse, but I thought I should put it to your judgement.’

‘Why on earth not? She'd be comfort for the little mite.’

‘I was thinking rather of Issy, husband.’  

William Massey frowned. 

‘I mean, among the more invidious situations one might consider for an orphaned virgin of seventeen with a pretty face and no fortune might be a household largely composed of a transient population of young fighting men of low birth and high—self-esteem.’

‘Fighting men, my arse. King’s Own Company of Pouncet-Box Sniffers, more like.’

Alys weighed this first for insult to the county of her birth and then for treason, decided it just about ducked the bar on both charges, and permitted herself a snort. ‘For shame, Bill. But it rather makes my point, doesn’t it?  We—you’d be failing in your duty of wardship. It’s not safe, all those fancy popinjays stalking around. ‘Men’s men have—an outlet, you know, but those—’ she hesitated, feeling she had strayed into an area beyond her direct experience of life, a sensation she disliked intensely, ‘—well, Piers Hookton is rather the exception than rule.’

‘Poppycock. Your Peter’ll see she comes to no harm.  And you never know, she might get herself nicely set up.’ 

* 

Piers took a draught of ale and reapplied himself to the tablet.  This was the trickiest roster, and he always got stuck with it, because he was good at rostering.  Most men who could loose a dozen arrows into the centre of the butt before you could finish saying a paternoster weren’t.  It just didn’t interest them, but for him it was an extension of combat, the same principles applied: marshalling your reserves, knowing when and how to spend them, where they’d be most effective. Of course, if he’d ever been to war properly, he might think differently about it.  It was a great honour to serve in the King’s bodyguard, of course, but he wouldn’t mind having a chance to prove himself in the field. 

The duty itself required no expertise. Youth and a handsome physique were helpful, but most Guardsmen had those: daily training with the bow from childhood made for fine musculature in shoulders and chest and a supple waist.  Knowing the King’s high standards, Peter Legh tended to recruit for men who’d look well in the blue livery with its white hart badge: both black hair and brown skin, like Piers’ own, and golden complexions not dissimilar to his Majesty’s were over-represented among them.  

It was temperament that was the problem: the men needed a robust, but not crude sense of humour, healthy self-respect but a lack of touchiness, a disinclination to be shocked by breaches of etiquette, but no overplus of enthusiasm for them either.  Few young men raised from at best hall-houses and at worst hovels into the royal service fulfilled even one of those delicate criteria.  Piers pricked the wax beside Gardner and Groom, reliables; Double, at a pinch, he could stand outside the door.  Welch—he was the new lad, he’d risk it.  That meant he’d have to go himself.  It was one of the more agreeable duties, to his mind and in its way, but not one you should get a reputation for either avoiding or arrogating to yourself.  But if not Welch, he would have to find two more men.  He scanned the tablet again—impossible. He drained his cup and went through to the guardroom.

‘Right! Gardner, Welch, Double and Groom, you’re on the bath-house with me.’  There was a universal ribald groan, some inarticulate but unambiguous honks directed at Welch, but—Piers watched the faces intently—no resentment or suspicion.  Good.  He strolled casually over to the new recruit, who looked pale, determinedly cheerful and already rather damp.   

‘Don’t pay any mind to what they tell you.  The King and his companions are gentlemen. Well, some of them are more than that, of course and—he’s—’ Aware that this was not the time to get bogged down in fine social distinctions, he began again.  ‘You needn’t worry you’ll be commanded to do anything improper.  But the atmosphere’s a bit—relaxed.  Look, I’ll stand you sentry inside the door so you can see what goes on.’

The bathhouse was a marvel. It was served by its own well and a stone furnace-house. On three of the four walls were painted bathing scenes: Susannah and the elders (bearded, but rather virile than venerable), Diana surprised by a breathtakingly lovely Actaeon (a proleptic milk-white hart in the bosky background), Bathsheba receiving David’s pandaring messengers (two youths wearing no gowns and rather abbreviated cotehardies, their backs to the viewer) while the king spied from a battlement. The fourth wall was occupied by a fireplace, upon which water to replenish the tub was heated; above it were the royal arms. The ceiling was decorated with looping foliage, golden crowns and the King’s monogram dizzyingly repeated. The oak bathtub was six feet in diameter, with room enough for four bathers to sit in comfort. It was hung with golden silk and lined with many layers of fine linen. The boards were strewn with soft rushes and sweet herbs.

‘Right,’ Piers said, ‘Himself’s entertaining the continual council this afternoon—shut up, Gardner—nothing wrong with an interest in current affairs, but take it too far and the next thing you know you’re jumping off a joint-stool for your last long estampie, savvy? You go over there beside Susannah, look—and Bathsheba for you, Groom—Jesu, you ‘eathen hostler, the one with the—the king peeping.’ 

‘Oh, the bloody bum-boys,’ Groom muttered. ‘Give me the willies, they do.’ But he copped an eyeful before turning to take up his position.

Piers turned to Welch. ‘When the King comes in, stand to attention; he’ll give me the word, and then you can stand easy. If he addresses you, keep your eyes lowered. But—um, not too lowered, if you get me. Some of those robe things are a bit sheer, and he favours pale colours—well, you can imagine—but don’t imagine—oh, you know what I mean. You call him “your Majesty” the first time and “my lord” after that. This is the coolest spot in the room, but you’ll still sweat like a hog; you just have to thole, I’m afraid. We’re allowed to take a dip in the cold water after they’re gone if we like.’

A fanfare sounded. ‘Right, lads! We’re on!’ 

*

Isabelle was finding life at Peter Legh’s house rather a trial, though she would rather have died by fire than admit it to his daughter. In Perkyn’s company she was safe, but single-handed excursions from the solar were a menagerie of wolf-whistles, cat-calls, and straying paws. She scuttled, a meek mouse, trying to make herself invisible, until about a fortnight after her arrival she was cornered like a rat up at the gable end of one of the storehouses, and fought like one.  But her assailants were accustomed to pulling bows with a draw-weight equivalent to that of her whole body for four or six hours in the day, and no instinct, however sharp, for the flesh most vulnerable to tooth and nail could long withstand that sort of strength.  The lassitude of despair overcame her—perhaps if she stayed still, she thought, it would all be over quickly—’

‘Let her go.’  It was a man’s voice, high and sweet, but crisp with authority. Isabelle’s knees turned to water and her head swam. She shut her eyes, vaguely aware of a profane, martial rebuke taking place some distance away.  Then the commanding voice was very close, and she was looking at a pair of bent knees in dark red hosen. She was, it occurred to her, in a somewhat undignified attitude.

‘Madam. They’re gone. If you’ll come with me—’

She flinched. ‘Leave me alone.' 

‘I’ll find you some female company was soon as I’m able, madam, but I don’t think you should be left alone.’  The accent was Welsh.

She looked up to see an angular, handsome face, belonging to a man about forty years of age. His hood was thrown back, revealing long, light brown, greying hair tied in a knot on the top of his head.

‘I can find it myself. Go away.’ 

‘Very well. If I were to step away to a distance of thirty paces and keep an eye on you while you go—’ 

‘Don’t condescend to me. I—I’m sorry. That was ungracious. Thank you.’ 

‘Any gentleman would have done the same, for the good order of the household. I am not a knight errant—not a knight at all, in fact.’ Her look must have contained a query, because he said, ‘You could call me an advocate.’

‘Will you—tell anyone?’

‘Not unless you wish it.’

‘I—what good would it do?’ 

‘Legh would reprimand them, I daresay. But whether the punishment would deter or aggravate—I’m afraid such things are bound to happen in an establishment full of soldiers, and so many of them raw recruits—’

Isabelle felt suddenly furious. ‘No, they’re not bound to,’ she snapped. 

‘What?’

‘I mean,’ she said, ignoring his proffered hand and scrambling to her feet, ‘if you wanted you could stop them—accosting people. You stop them doing other things. You don’t because it’s useful to you when you go to war. If the enemy is afraid for his womenfolk.’  She dusted her hands.

‘You have the mind of a general, Mistress Isabelle.’

‘How do you know my name?’ 

‘Touch of the sight, I suppose. Mine is Owain.’  He bowed. 

As he raised his face, she studied it for mischief, and found none. They turned and walked towards the hall-house. 

‘I was born during an earthquake, see, and the night sky blazed. Dame Kind opens herself to such as me, and the fiery shapes of my nativity cast light into her dark cranny.’

Despite her best efforts, Isabelle giggled at cranny. He looked down at her—he was very tall—with pursed lips. 

‘A filthy mind is never short of entertainment, but it is no ornament to a lady. Lucky I didn’t say what happened to the goats.’

She made a humorously inquiring moue, and he grinned and shook his head.

‘They just flocked uphill, actually. That happens, with an earthquake. But I suspect you don’t believe me?’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘Well, you are seventeen years of age, an orphan, unmarried, and you are in love—’

‘Good guess,’ she said insouciantly, though she was a little rattled—it was a lot of information to have garnered about such an insignificant person as she.

‘It’s not a guess, look you. And your beloved lives here, and is shortly to be married to another.’

Isabelle struggled to keep expression from her face, and clearly failed. Owain smiled, an inscrutable curl, rather like that on the new statue of Our Lady in the parish church. 

‘Well, here I think I may safely leave you, Mistress Isabelle.’ He bowed again, to which, remembering her manners this time, she returned a demure bob. By the time she looked up again, he had vanished.

*

Welch—his name wasn’t really Welch, of course, but he was getting used to it, better than hearing the Saeson slaughter Dafydd with their blunt tongues—thought the King looked like the sun.  And specifically, like the sun rising over the salt marshes between Llanfairfechan and Conwy: a brassy disc blazing through the mists below and tinting them just the yellow and pink of his diaphanous bathing-robe. 

The King’s arrival filled the bathhouse with immediate bustle, which cleared as the previous shift of Guardsmen departed, the servants settled to work and the flautist and the lutenist to their tunes, to reveal the royal person himself, tall, slender, inclining this way and that in an unpredictable manner that should by all rights have looked giddy and unsteady, but did not.

Welch, new as he was, had heard a good deal about the King’s close relationship with the continual councillors. And while what he had seen so far this afternoon had done little either to confirm or refute the rumours, he hadn’t expected the principal characters to be quite so—unprepossessing.  He thought men of the King’s make liked—well, pretty boys, ruby-lipped and wasp-waisted like the one in the painting behind him, with the huntress and the stag. The other bathers had not been boys these thirty years, and they certainly weren’t pretty.

One, short and tubby, had small features placed as if by a punctilious monastic hand in a large, yellow vellum face. His back, which was turned to Welch, was covered with a rug of thick black hair. The second was tall and lanky, with long grey moustaches, a bumpy chest and small, slack belly like a sower’s pouch of seed. The third, intermediate and unremarkable in height and girth, had hideous lumpy veins on his legs, and a face the colour of a cockscomb, spattered with blue, broken blood-vessels. But the King was as caressing and solicitous of them as if they were fresh creatures of seventeen, cream and honey. Welch thought painfully and sentimentally of his Janet, whom he should see no more.   

If you were interested in politics, like Gardner, Welch reckoned, it would probably be pretty interesting to listen; not even eavesdropping really, because the councillors were all raising their voices above the music; the King did not deign to do so—it was his subjects’ business to make sure they heard what he said. But although Welch’s English was fluent—he had learnt it in boyhood—the dialect spoken by the vellum-faced man, who did most of the talking, was nearly as incomprehensible to him as the King’s husky, Frenchified murmur. The grey man didn’t talk much at all. The red-faced councillor was the easiest to understand: he spoke in the accents of Warwickshire, but it was difficult to piece together what was going on from his sententious contributions. Welch thought they were talking about lands in Aquitaine, or perhaps in Ireland. He heard the name of the earl of Nottingham, and that of the duke of Gloucester.  He gave up and watched the gestures instead: the Warwickshire man laughing wide-chapped (as few teeth as anything that might turn up when a new grave is dug) as he applauded some shaft of wit; the rug-backed man feinting continually at the King, though never daring, of course, to touch him, until he was rewarded with long elegant fingers in the nape of his neck. The King’s other hand being occupied with a goblet of wine, the lanky man fed him kickshaws from a silver plate. Lulled by the music, plash of water,  unintelligible voices, and the hot, steamy, odiferous air, Welch began to feel woozy. He consciously straightened up and blinked. Bloody lot of good he’d be if an assassin were to threaten His Majesty’s safety—

The conversation in the tub had turned perceptibly less official. The stout eloquent man, wriggling with pleasure as the King’s hand played up and down his spine, twining and tugging at the black wires that grew there, exclaimed something about the apostle John and leaned his head in the King’s bosom; the other two flicked comfits at him. The King extended his leg—plastered with fine, copious red-gold hair—out of the water and prodded the middle-sized man in the ribs with a toe as flexible and dextrous as a thumb. The councillor turned and beckoned to Captain Hookton.

‘His Majesty would like to hear the story you tell of your grandfather, Captain.’ 

Hookton bowed.

‘Draw up that stool,’ commanded the King, ‘and take a cup with us. Perhaps your men would like—come, gather round. We shall all have wine.’ He silenced the musicians with a wave of his hand. Welch found a servant at his elbow, offering a trayful of pewter cups, stamped with white hart medallions. He took one cautiously and sipped. The wine was unwatered, which provoked the inverse condition in his eyes. He managed not to cough.

‘Now,’ said the King, settling comfortably and boyishly to narrative business, ‘we hear that Piers here is descended from Sir Percival, the Knight of the Grail—’ 

Hookton made a mute protest. 

‘Well, it’s practically true, Hookton, dear boy. As true as any pleasantry needs to be. Alors, bien, écoutez!’

It pained him to admit it, for Englishmen were not supposed to be better at this than the Britons they had supplanted and continued to supplant, but Welch thought it was just about the best story he had ever heard. There was the lance that pierced Our Lord’s side, and the humble village priest who had charge of it, and the priest’s bastard son, and the French raiders who stole the lance and murdered the man of God. And the priest’s son went as an archer to the wars in France with the King’s grandfather’s army, and there he met a Breton duchess who sniped on the English from the city walls with a crossbow— 

‘—and she became, ah—’ Hookton stammered, realising about whom he spoke, and to whom— ‘attached to the retinue of Edward, Prince of Wales—’

The King rolled his eyes to the canopy and smiled crookedly. Welch felt dizzy just seeing his sovereign’s lovely, melancholy head thrown back atop a delicate golden neck. He looked abashedly down into his cup and found it full. He wondered when it had last been empty. He put a finger into the collar of his doublet. It was sopping with sweat. He wiped his sleeve across his face, and the blue cloth darkened to midnight with damp. 

—and a poor English knight of base character but great ability and a rich French one of noble fame and equal martial prowess, and the latter’s natural daughter, and a Jewish physician, and the archer joined with the French knight to hunt the heretic who had stolen the lance, who was also his cousin, but they ended up on opposite sides at Crécy— 

Even Gardner—prone to announce that he didn’t hold with history, or romance neither; whatever you called it, it was all about rich men taking credit for poor men’s efforts—was enthralled and moved. No archer could fail to be. At the close of Hookton’s narrative the King sighed deeply and put out his hand. A well-trained servant placed a small cloth in it, with which the King wiped his face.

Jesu. How very stirring—we’ve seldom felt so positively martial, have we, gentlemen?’ he sighed. ‘We don’t awfully fancy civilian hands on us now. Hookton—your men—would they mind terribly, do you think—dressing us?’ 

‘It would be an honour of which we have never dreamed, my lord—we are common archers, and have neither learned nor practiced the office of squires—’ 

Really, Hookers, my dear—a few laces and things—how hard can it be?’ The King rose, dripping, folded his hands behind his head, closed his eyes and stretched luxuriously; the canopy was just high enough to accommodate his headcloth. His ribs heaved above the scooped concavity of his abdomen: beneath that he wore braies, but the drenched linen was more exaggeration than concealment. For a moment, every pair of eyes in the bathhouse sought the same mark. The hair there was dark compared to that on the rest of his body, Welch thought before averting his gaze, horrified—it met Groom’s in a sort of delirium of hilarity.  A servant flung a cloth into the Captain’s arms; the King strode obliviously from the bath and said lightly, 

‘No—you can deal with Sir John. This young man—’ he indicated Welch— ‘might see to us. He is new, is he not?’

Welch knew the room did not literally spin, because he would have seen each of the paintings blurring by.  But his skull seemed to fill with steam and his belly with stale bathwater: his last gulp of wine leaped back into his mouth. He swallowed it along with iron bile and took the towel being urged upon him by a desperate waiting-man. He shook it out, and the King stepped into his open arms.

He patted the King’s neck and shoulders, feeling more ineffectual than he had ever done in his life—nothing, not the first time he’d tried to draw a bow, or milk a kicking nanny goat or kiss a girl, had made him so conscious of his own clumsiness. 

‘What’s your name?’ 

He nearly told him. ‘Welch, your Majesty.’ 

‘By name, by nature, we see. How did you come to be recruited to our Cheshire Guard?’ 

‘I—never knew my father, my lord, if you know what I mean. I was sent to live with my mother’s kinsfolk across the border when she died.’ 

‘Ah.’ The King raised his arms.  Welch, minutely emboldened, since he did not seem to have done anything wrong yet, rubbed his chest and sides more vigorously. He made an awkward gesture signifying round the back? and the King nodded. The back was easier, as least until the King looked over his shoulder and asked, 

‘Are you married, Welch?’ 

‘Pardon, my lord?’ 

‘Are you—’ he said in the voice used for dogs and foreigners, ‘married?’

‘No—no, my lord.’

‘Got a girl?’

‘Not any more, my lord.’

‘Oh, poor Welch. Ghastly thing, losing one’s girl.’ There was no derision or levity in his voice, Welsh realised with astonishment, but the bleak torsion of grief. ‘Not dead, is she?’

‘No, my lord. Married, my lord.’  

‘Ah.’ 

There was nothing for it, now. He had to step around again and loosen the lace of the King’s braies, and—oh Christ. And his mother and all the angels and saints and St Joseph. He had not, he thought blearily, signed up for this. He took a deep breath, threw the towel over his left arm and looked up and around for the first time. The Captain, ever brisk, was holding out a shirt for short, fat Sir John to stick his bald head through; Gardner was fetching and carrying for the grey-haired man; Groom was looking rather a spare part while the red-faced councillor, clearly the independent sort, towelled his own dropsied, bunioned feet; the servants, arms akimbo, looked on in mixed indignation and amusement.  Hurriedly, he plucked at the cord around the King’s waist and found his hand, which was not small, stayed in the King’s still larger. It was impossibly soft: the King (for he was not an inactive man) must wear gloves to do everything that made hands hard. Welch nearly cried out. 

‘I’ll do that for myself,’ the King said absently, ‘unless you’d like to. I should like you to, but I shan’t—dear boy, don’t look so absolutely petrified. Do you see what I mean when I say I—?’ 

Welch finally understood the significance of the pronoun, and nodded frantically.  

‘Fabulous.’ He released Welch’s hand, and the braies dropped with a wet smack to the floor. 

Welch set to work with a will.

‘There’s something very beautiful,’ the King mused, ‘about disinterested physical touch: a purity, a holiness—do you know what I mean?’ 

‘Yes, my lord.’ (He didn’t.) He applied himself rigorously to the King’s right flank.

‘No, I don’t suppose you do—people touch me all the time, you know.’ The strained, thin quality entered his voice again. ‘But there’s barely anybody left who does it just because they want to—it’s either obligation, or hope of gain—it feels really rather queer: as if one’s actual body is here, and what they’re mauling is a sort of effigy—’

Welch looked up from his left thigh.

‘—not that you're mauling, no, you’re very gentle—carry on—but one can still feel it, and with every touch one’s reminded of the vanished hands—one’s mother, often—’

Welch’s mother had died when he was six. He remembered her in a mazy way half composed of conventional sentiment and half of inconsequential particularity. He began, what with the heat and the wine, to feel rather overwhelmed again.  

‘—or when one wakes from a nightmare and one’s bedfellow offers some small consolation—’

Welch would take his last breath, as a father of eight, grandfather of seventeen and great-grandfather of four, after a long stretch of active service and two happy marriages out of three, on a May morning in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King Henry, the Sixth of that name. He never knew, from this moment to that, what possessed him to say what he did, except that having one’s fingers in the tender space behind the bollocks of a king, especially that King, disturbs the balance of the mind. A sense of the King’s immense vulnerability—frailty, almost—and his duty of care rose and engulfed him: he must offer some word of comfort, he felt, or burst into tears.

Frowning earnestly, he blurted, ‘Dick, you can sleep fucking sound, mate, while you’ve us to look after you—don't you worry about a thing while we’re around, see?’ He straightened up and saw he had—the others having worked more speedily—an audience. Captain Hookton’s eyes were wide and his mouth was moving up and down and his hands from side to side.  Welch caught his superior officer’s eyes and added on a note of sublime inspiration, ‘We’ll take just as good care of you as if you’d married Peter Legh’s daughter and gone on the howling piss with every bloke in Cheshire from now to Hallowmas, look you.’

*

Peter Legh of Lyme, in the middle of dictating a letter to a frayed-looking secretary, greeted his guest with a whoop of good-fellowship. 

‘Glendower, you fucking Taff cunt! I thought you were tucked up safe in Sycharth listening to catgut minstrels tell you how big your fucking prick is—oy, Rafe—’ the scribe jumped— ‘go and count our herds, will you?’ 

‘Too bloody late, Sais. Got every damned beast in the place away before dawn. You’re the best-connected pauper in the county. Come here and say hullo to me properly.’ He enclosed the smaller man in a huge embrace.

Peter called a servant to fetch ale and dismissed Rafe, who departed in a relieved, inky scurry. ‘You’re not far off. This wedding will beggar me. Never have daughters, Owain.’ 

‘I think it’s too late for that as well.’

‘So it is. How are they? And Margaret?’

‘As fresh as a daisy and prized above pearls.’

‘So, you’ve come to see my Perkyn married?’

‘Somebody’s got to show the English how to throw a party.  And I hoped you might be able to help me with an—irritating little problem.’

‘What sort of a problem?’ 

‘Ever hear of a fellow called Reginald Grey, did you?’

*

To my welbeloved cosyn Petronilla Hoketon, be this delyvred in al haste

Ryght worshipfull cosyn, I recomaund me unto you, desyryng to here of youre welfare, and if it like you to her of my welfar, at the makyng of this letter I was in good hele, loved be God. The cause of my wrytyng to you is this, praying you to send me word of youre welfare, and how ye do, your tyme being so neer & if the medycyn do you ony good that I send you wrytyng of last.

Also I pray you that ye recomaund me to my cosyn youre husbond, prayng you to hold me exschusyd that I have wryten no oftener to you, for, in good feth, I had no leysir, for I am to be maryed this xv day of Juli to Davyd app Glyn dowr, a naturall sone of one Owain that your faidir know wele. His faider wyll graunte him a maner callid Breton upon sayd mariage that is iij mile up the countre fro yowr howse. So cosyn we schal be gosips and like unto susters alwey. For al it is sumer I fele the northerne wynde bloweth agayne and in gode feth I have grete chere of it.

No more at this tyme, but Our Layde & the Holy trinite have you in hir kepyng.

Wryten at Chestre, the xx. day of June,

By yr cosyn, 

Ysabella Massye