Читать онлайн "To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn"
Автор Sandra Byrd
Copyright © 2011 by Sandra Byrd
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First Howard Books trade paperback edition August 2011
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All Old Testament Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version. Public domain. All New Testament Scripture quotations are taken from
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
To die for: a novel/Sandra Byrd.
ISBN: 978-1439183137 (ebook)
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Reading Group Guide
The Thames lapped against our boat as it stopped to allow for the entry gate to be raised. The metal teeth lifted high enough for the oarsmen to row us into the Tower’s maw, called Traitor’s Gate. This beast never ate its fill and, like all beasts of prey, ate only flesh. It brought to mind the words of King David.
I glanced up as Lady Zouche caught a sob in her handkerchief. I then looked to my older sister, Alice, for comfort. She held my gaze with a somber shake of her head. Our falsely accused brother was even now waiting, being digested in the belly within. For the first time Alice had no comfort to offer me, no tonic of hope.
Momentarily we bumped up against the stone stairways leading out of the water and were commanded to quickly disembark.
Come with me,” I whispered to Anne. She turned to look at her older sister, Mary, busy flirting with our tutors—forbidden, and therefore enticing, conquests. After assessing the safety of our escape Anne turned back to me and nodded. She was up for an adventure, as I knew she would be. Rose Ogilvy sat in the corner, carefully plying her needle in and out of a stretch of muslin. She was seventeen years old, same as Anne and I, but I knew she would shy away from this particular exploit, any particular exploit, in fact. To save her embarrassment I didn’t ask her along.
We slipped out the door, gathered the layers of skirts in our hands, and then raced down the long stone hallway. Recently painted portraits of my Wyatt ancestors were awkwardly affixed to the walls. When he bought the castle, my father, Henry Wyatt, had placed them there to make our family seem more ancient and noble than it was. We were not exactly pretenders but not exactly of Norman blood, either. They stared down at me, ill at ease, smiths and butchers and small-time landowners now forced into velvets and ruffs within a span of time no broader than the width of my hand. And yet we were gentry now. My father expected me to act like the lady he’d suffered to make me be.
We slid out the main entrance, one or two servants catching my eye and warning me back inside with a stern look. “No, Mistress Meg,” one urged me. I disregarded them. They knew what might lie ahead for me—they’d borne the same fate, maybe worse. But I refused to be intimidated.
Anne and I linked arms and strolled toward the rows of unattended garden. Just beyond, on the neatly clipped field, our brothers play-jousted with long branches though all were training for real jousts as well. As we strolled by, my brother Thomas stopped, dipped into a bow, and flourished his hat in our direction. “What a polite young man,” Anne said. “Mayhap you’ll notice,
I grinned. “My brother isn’t tipping his hat toward me, either. He’d as soon ignore me as do me good. It’s you he’s trying to impress, as well you know.” A light flush of pleasure spread up Anne’s long neck and a little catlike mewl escaped her lips. She fully realized the effect she’d begun to have on men. Whilst she didn’t court their praise, false modesty was not her besetting sin, either.
“I see another bow and this one is particularly in
A year older than I, Will had brown hair that was long and tousled, his face slightly reddened from the joust. I couldn’t help but notice that his arms and chest had thickened over the summer as he grew from a gangly boy into an assured young man. Even from this distance I could see his eyes had the same merry twinkle for me they always had. I nodded primly in his direction—after all, I was a lady, and we were in mixed company. He winked at me.
A wink! The audacity. Who else had seen it?
“Mayhap Lord Ogilvy’s son should come out of the field. He seems to have dust in his eye,” Anne teased. I turned toward her and grinned, thankful for her faithful friendship. She never trained her charm on Will. She knew I planned to have him for myself.
Rewardingly, he seemed completely uninterested in Anne.
We sat in the gardens, enveloped in the haze of the exotic scent of my mother’s jasmine plants, gossiping about overheard conversations between Anne’s ambassador father and high-born mother; they had sent Anne and her sister, Mary, to apprentice at the French court when Princess Mary married some years back and they were to return shortly, after this visit home with their father. We talked about my sister, Alice, who had borne yet another child. I would soon go to stay with her for a few months, if my father allowed it. But as Alice was an obedient girl, marrying young and bearing quickly, my father favored nearly every request she made. Alas, the same could not be said for me.
“We’ve got new horses.” I finally got the conversation around to its planned target. “My father’s horsemaster brought them round last week.”
“Ooh,” Anne said. “Are they fast?”
“I don’t know…,” I answered. We’d prided ourselves—unseemly, I suppose—on riding as fast and as well as any boy in our group.
“Should we see?” she asked me, as I knew she would. For me to suggest the idea would be disobedient, but for me to accommodate a friend would be hospitality indeed.
We ran to the stables and after petting old favorites we walked to the stalls where the new horses were housed. Our vanity guided our choices. Anne picked out her favorite, a raven mare, barely three years old with deep black eyes, like her own. I showed her the one I loved best, a tamed stallion with a thick auburn mane like my own. He glanced nervously about his stall till I gentled him with quiet words and touches.
“Should you have them saddled?”
“My father shouldn’t be home from court till tomorrow morning.” Then I called over a stable boy. “Saddle these two for us, please.”
“If ’n you say so, miss,” he said, unable to disobey me but n ...