The Visit – Chapter Six – 1573

This story is set in Tudor times at the Croydon Palace in Elizabethan times and follows on from Ellen’s story—————————————————————————My father may have sold me into service when I was eight but I knew that one day I would have a home of my own. I was blessed to be in the service of a good woman who showed me kindness and respect. I worked hard and became a trusted member of her household and I was glad. My life was ordered, happy and fulfilling. My thought sometimes strayed to the future. I knew that one day I would be married and my girls would always wear ribbons in their hair and know that they were loved. My boys would be sturdy and strong and look just like their father Lt. Goodridge of the Yeoman Archers.

I remember the day my father took me to the big house and left clutching a handful of coins. I never saw him again. He told me that God would punish me for my sins.

The one person I could not bear to leave with my old life was my beloved younger brother Michael. My childhood companion. I visited him whenever I was in Croydon where he worked as an apprentice to a weaver. We made plans to live near each other once I was married. He was my soulmate, the only man I would ever totally trust.

It started to go wrong when those girls discovered that I had been stealing lace to sell to Michael. ‘I don’t know why I did it, it will never happen again!’ If only they’d known it wasn’t just lace. Pennies, needles, combs, spoons – I kept them all. Didn’t the silly child ever wonder what kept happening to her letters?  I mean to have a little keepsake from her majesty before the visit is over! I’m not wicked, I just like pretty things – I’ve never had any of my own. Surely it’s not wrong?

I wasn’t so foolish as to be caught over such a trifle as a yard of lace again. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t collect the odd penny in some other way. Everyone knows I must have my harmless gossip. The palace is crammed full of storerooms and annexes where, if a girl is clever she can hide herself away to watch and listen.

That simpering child, with her airs and graces following Lady Anne through the Gallery in her finery would hang her head if she knew I’d seen her up against the wall in the stable block! Really, it made me laugh to watch them. It’s all so easy! Drop a coin in the hand of the boy left to keep watch. He won’t say anything, he needs me to keep quiet next day when it’s his turn. And what’s a penny compared to the sixpence I shall get from her?

‘Sweet child of course I do not believe the rumours to be true, but I thought you should know what everyone is saying, have no fear, your secret is safe with me. But my dear… I worry Ellen may have heard you. She might be persuaded … a few coins may buy her silence.’ Why should I feel guilty? Hush now! She can afford it – and who will ever know?

Now that silly Kate is getting above herself! She believes herself to be in love. It really is too amusing! Such an imagination, she should join a group of players. Edward may fill her head with empty words but he smiled at me and told me I was bonny yesterday. ‘You shall have the desires of your heart’ the preacher told us in the chapel – the Lord means for me to marry Edward.

17th November 1574

“For the first time in our lives it is I who am in love and Kate who is bored with my ramblings! Edward Goodridge. My Edward! Every time I see him enter a room the sun must be embarrassed for I outshine her in my joy. How we laugh and dance; and then as the sun sets each evening we walk in the meadow. We sit together every night by the firelight planning our future, it is such an unexpected blessing to feel he truly listens as I speak. Who would have thought it? Can it be that I am so desperately in love that my heart feels as though it is too big for my chest? He looks at me as though I am the most fragile, precious thing he has ever seen…”

I fear I may vomit.

I conceal her precious journal under my skirts and hide myself away in the garderobe to read. What can I do to stop this wretched child’s delusions? Shall I will gather monkshood to poison her… No! Shall I have my brother steal into her room tonight and squeeze her tiny neck in his hands… No, better still! I shall burn her in her bed as she sleeps and finish the job God started when she was a child. A fitting punishment for the witch who ensnared my poor Edward with her sorcery. But no, this is idle talk, I must stay my hand. Edward would not wish it. I must wait for him to tire of indulging the foolish child, then we can at last be together.

I leave her journal in the wooden box she keeps in their room, recalling our conversation before lunch. ‘Oh my dear, you’ve mislaid your journal again? When did you have it last? You’ve looked everywhere but the trunk under your bed? Well then I’m sure that’s where it will be little one!’ Because that is where I shall place it! She’ll miss the penny I remove, but dear old Mary will offer to buy her a cup of ale this evening. I will try for a half guinea when I tell the Archbishop that he has been overheard. The squint window in the chapel makes the perfect place to hide and listen for gossip. Within a year I should have saved enough for my wedding.

July 1575

Twenty years of service and this is your loyalty! Do your worst Lady Anne. You may throw me to the gutter, but do you think you have won? I shall go to my brother and await my opportunity. Those who have betrayed me will be sorry. I am too clever for them. One day soon they will all be sorry.

23rd August 1575

‘My dearest Ellen, could we be more blessed? All I can wish for you is the same happiness that I have found. How many evenings have I gazed upon you little sister, curled up on Edward’s lap with your head lain against his shoulder, laughing quietly together? I can hardly see where one person begins and the other ends. You are like two halves of the same soul. On the eve of your wedding I ask God’s blessing on you both, my precious sister and soon to be brother. I pray that your marriage will be fruitful; my own sweet Francine has brought me indescribable joy and we trust in God for this precious one I carry now – Always be happy little star, no woman deserves more joy.’

 

I shall do her a kindness and throw this into the cess-pit where it belongs. Poor, dear Ellen thinks that she can follow her slatternly sister to the altar. Kate may have ensnared a man, it’s hardly surprising; her charms are…obvious; but Ellen – with that scar on her face?

I shall wear the gown I wore the first time you saw me, my sweet Edward. I shall have silver ribbons entwined in my hair. I will bring you such joy, as I become your wife.

‘Is that you my love?’ At last! I see you waiting in the shadows as I descend the staircase on light feet.….

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