But as you say, most have been closed.
Which is why I am going to canvass for a hospital funded by the Inns of Court. With an initial subscription, then a fund for bequests and donations from the lawyers.
Have you spoken to the Treasurer?
Not yet. Roger smiled again. I am honing my arguments on these fellows. He nodded towards the plump form of Loder. Ambrose there said the poor offend every passer-by with their dangerous stinks and vapours; he might pay money to have the streets cleared. Others complain of importunate beggars calling everywhere for Gods penny. I promise them a quiet life. There are arguments to persuade those who lack charity. He smiled, then looked at me seriously. Will you help?
I considered a moment. Even if you succeed, what can one hospital do in the face of the misery all around?
Relieve a few poor souls.
I will help you if I can. If anyone could accomplish this task it was Roger. His energy and quick wits would count for much. I will subscribe to your hospital, and help you raise subscriptions if you like.
Roger squeezed my arm. I knew you would help me. Soon I will organize a committee
Another committee? Dorothy had returned, red-faced from the heat of the kitchen. She looked quizzically at her husband. Roger put his arm round his wifes waist.
For the hospital, sweetheart.
People will be hard to persuade. Their purses smart from all the Kings taxes.
And may suffer more, I said. They say this new Parliament will be asked to grant yet more money for the King to go to war with France.
The waste, Roger said bitterly. When one thinks of how the money could be used. But yes, he will see this as the right time for such an enterprise. With the Scotch King dead and this baby girl on their throne, they cannot intervene on the French side.
I nodded agreement. The King has sent the Scotch lords captured after Solway Moss back home; it is said they have sworn oaths to bring a marriage between Prince Edward and the baby Mary.
You are well informed as ever, Matthew, Dorothy said. Does your man Barak still bring gossip from his friends among the court servants?
I have heard that the King is after a new wife.
They have been saying that since Catherine Howard was executed, Roger said. Who is it now?
Lady Latimer, Dorothy replied. Her husband died last week. There is to be a great funeral the day after tomorrow. Tis said the King has had a fancy for her for some years, and that he will move now.
I had not heard that rumour. Poor woman, I said. I lowered my voice. She needs fear for her head.
Yes. Dorothy nodded, then raised her voice and clapped her hands. Dinner is ready, my friends.
We all walked through to the dining room. The old long oaken dining table was set with plates of silver, and servants were laying out dishes of food under Elias supervision. Pride of place went to four large chickens; as it was still Lent the law would normally have allowed only fish to be eaten at this time, but the freezing of the river that winter had made fish prohibitively expensive and the King had given permission for people to eat white meat.
We took our places. I sat between Loder, with whom Roger had been arguing earlier, and James Ryprose, an elderly barrister with bristly whiskers framing a face as wrinkled as an old apple-john. Opposite us sat Dorothy and Roger and Mrs Loder, who was as plump and contented-looking as her husband. She smiled at me, showing a full set of white teeth, and then to my surprise reached into her mouth and pulled out both rows. I saw the teeth were fixed into two dentures of wood, cut to fit over the few grey stumps that were all that was left of her own teeth.
Excerpted from Revelation by C.J. Samson Copyright © 2008. by C.J. Samson. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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