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THE KING'S ACHIEVEMENT

By Robert Hugh Benson

Author of "By What Authority?" "The Light Invisible,"
"A Book of the Love of Jesus," etc.

_Non minus principi turpia sunt multa supplicia, quam medico multa
funera._

(Sen. de clem. 1, 24, 1.)




_I must express my gratitude once more to the Rev. Dom Bede Camm,
O.S.B., as well as to the Very Rev. Mgr. Barnes, who have done me great
service in revising proofs and making suggestions; to the Rev. E.
Conybeare, who very kindly provided the coins for the cover-design of
the book; to my mother and sister, to Eustace Virgo, Esq., to Dr.
Ross-Todd, and to others, who have been extremely kind in various ways
during the writing of this book in the summer and autumn of 1904._

_I must also express my great indebtedness to the Right Rev. Abbot
Gasquet, O.S.B., both on account of his invaluable books, which I have
used freely, and for his personal kindness in answering my questions._

ROBERT HUGH BENSON

_The Catholic Rectory,
Cambridge,
July 14, 1905._





CONTENTS


BOOK I.
THE KING'S WILL.

CHAPTER

I. A DECISION
II. A FORETASTE OF PEACE
III. THE ARRIVAL AT LEWES
IV. A COMMISSION
V. MASTER MORE
VI. RALPH'S INTERCESSION
VII. A MERRY PRISONER
VIII. A HIGHER STEP
IX. LIFE AT LEWES
X. THE ARENA
XI. A CLOSING-IN
XII. A RECOVERY
XIII. PRISONER AND PRINCE
XIV. THE SACRED PURPLE
XV. THE KING'S FRIEND


BOOK II.
THE KING'S TRIUMPH.

PART I.--THE SMALLER HOUSES.

I. AN ACT OF FAITH
II. THE BEGINNING OF THE VISITATION
III. A HOUSE OF LADIES
IV. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING
V. FATHER AND SON
VI. A NUN'S DEFIANCE
VII. ST. PANCRAS PRIORY
VIII. RALPH'S RETURN
IX. RALPH'S WELCOME

PART II--THE FALL OF LEWES.

I. INTERNAL DISSENSION
II. SACERDOS IN AETERNUM
III. THE NORTHERN RISING
IV. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SEAL
V. THE SINKING SHIP
VI. THE LAST STAND
VII. AXES AND HAMMERS


BOOK III.

THE KING'S GRATITUDE.

I. A SCHEME
II. A DUEL
III. A PEACE-MAKER
IV. THE ELDER SON
V. THE MUMMERS
VI. A CATASTROPHE
VII. A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
VIII. TO CHARING
IX. A RELIEF-PARTY
X. PLACENTIA
XI. THE KING'S HIGHNESS
XII. THE TIDINGS AT THE TOWER
XIII. THE RELEASE




BENEFICO--IGNOTO
HVNC--LIBRVM
D.




THE KING'S ACHIEVEMENT

CHAPTER I

A DECISION


Overfield Court lay basking in warm June sunshine. The western side of
the great house with its new timber and plaster faced the evening sun
across the square lawns and high terrace; and the woods a couple of
hundred yards away cast long shadows over the gardens that lay beyond
the moat. The lawns, in their broad plateaux on the eastern side
descended by steps, in cool shadow to the lake that formed a
quarter-circle below the south-eastern angle of the house; and the
mirrored trees and reeds on the other side were broken, circle after
circle, by the great trout that were rising for their evening meal. The
tall front of the house on the north, formed by the hall in the centre
with the kitchen at its eastern end and the master's chamber on the
western, was faced by a square-towered gatehouse through which the
straight drive leading into the main road approached the house under a
lime-avenue; and on the south side the ground fell away again rapidly
below the chapel and the morning-room, in copse and garden and wild
meadow bright with buttercups and ox-eye daisies, down to the lake again
and the moat that ran out of it round the entire domain.

The cobbled courtyard in the centre of the house, where the tall leaded
pump stood, was full of movement. Half a dozen trunks lay there that
had just been carried in from the luggage-horses that were now being led
away with patient hanging heads towards the stables that stood outside
the gatehouse on the right, and three or four dusty men in livery were
talking to the house-servants who had come out of their quarters on the
left. From the kitchen corner came a clamour of tongues and dishes, and
smoke was rising steadily from the huge outside chimney that rose beyond
the roofs.

Presently there came clear and distinct from the direction of the
village the throb of hoofs on the hard road; and the men shouldered the
trunks, and disappeared, staggering, under the low archway on the right,
beside which the lamp extinguisher hung, grimy with smoke and grease.
The yard dog came out at the sound of the hoofs, dragging his chain
after him, from his kennel beneath the little cloister outside the
chapel, barked solemnly once or twice, and having done his duty lay down
on the cool stones, head on paws, watching with bright eyes the door
that led from the hall into the Court. A moment later the little door
from the masters chamber opened; and Sir James Torridon came out and,
giving a glance at the disappearing servants, said a word or two to the
others, and turned again through the hall to meet his sons.

The coach was coming up the drive round toward the gatehouse, as he came
out on the wide paved terrace; and he stood watching the glitter of
brasswork through the dust, the four plumed cantering horses in front,
and the bobbing heads of the men that rode behind; and there was a grave
pleased expectancy on his bearded face and in his bright grey eyes as he
looked. His two sons had met at Begham, and were coming home, Ralph from
town sites a six months' absence, and Christopher from Canterbury,
where he had been spending a week or two in company with Mr. Carleton,
the chaplain of the Court. He was the more pleased as the house had been
rather lonely in their absence, since the two daughters were both from
home, Mary with her husband, Sir Nicholas Maxwell, over at Great Keynes,
and Margaret at her convent education at Rusper: and he himself had had
for company his wife alone.

She came out presently as the carriage rolled through the archway, a
tall dignified figure of a woman, finely dressed in purple and black,
and stood by him, silently, a yard or two away, watching the carriage
out of steady black eyes. A moment later the carriage drew up at the
steps, and a couple of servants ran down to open the door.

Ralph stepped out first, a tall man like both his parents, with a face
and slow gait extraordinarily like his mother's, and dressed in the same
kind of rich splendour, with a short silver-clasped travelling cloak,
crimson hose, and plumed felt cap; and his face with its pointed black
beard had something of the same steady impassivity in it; he was
flicking the dust from his shoulder as he came up the steps on to the
terrace.

Christopher followed him, not quite so tall as the other, and a good ten
years younger, with the grey eyes of his father, and a little brown
beard beginning to sprout on his cheeks and chin.

Ralph turned at the top of the steps

"The bag," he said shortly; and then turned again to kiss his parents'
hands; as Christopher went back to the carriage, from which the priest
was just stepping out. Sir James asked his son about the journey.

"Oh, yes," he said; and then added, "Christopher was late at Begham."

"And you are well, my son?" asked his mother, as they turned to walk up
to the house.

"Oh, yes!" he said again.

Sir James waited for Christopher and Mr. Carleton, and the three
followed the others a few yards behind.

"You saw her?" said his father.

Christopher nodded.

"Yes," he said, "I must speak to you, sir, before I tell the others."

"Come to me when you are dressed, then. Supper will be in an hour from
now;" and he looked at his son with a kind of sharp expectancy.

The courtyard was empty as they passed through, but half a dozen
servants stood crowded in the little flagged passage that led from it
into the kitchen, and watched Ralph and his mother with an awed interest
as they came out from the hall. Mr. Ralph had come down from the heart
of life, as they knew; had been present at the crowning of Anne Boleyn a
week before, had mixed with great folks; and what secrets of State might
there not be in that little strapped bag that his brother carried behind
him?

When the two first had disappeared, the servants broke into talk, and
went back to the kitchen.

* * * * *

Lady Torridon, with her elder son and the chaplain, had to wait a few
minutes on the dais in the hall an hour later, before the door under the
musicians' gallery opened, and the other two came in from the master's
chamber. Sir James looked a little anxious as he came across the clean
strewed rushes, past the table at the lower end where the household sat,
but Christopher's face was bright with excitement. After a word or two
of apology they moved to their places. Mr. Carleton said grace, and as
they sat down the door behind from the kitchen opened, and the servants
came through with the pewter dishes.

Ralph was very silent at first; his mother sat by him almost as silent
as himself; the servants sprang about noiseless and eager to wait on
him; and Sir James and the chaplain did most of the conversation,
pleasant harmless talk about the estate and the tenants; but as supper
went on, and the weariness of the hot journey faded, and the talk from
the lower tables grew louder, Ralph began to talk a little more freely.

"Yes," he said, "the crowning went well enough. The people were quiet
enough. She looked very pretty in her robes; she was in purple velvet,
and her gentlemen in scarlet. We shall have news of her soon."

Sir James looked up sharply at his son. They were all listening
intently; and even a servant behind Ralph's chair paused with a silver
jug.

"Yes," said Ralph again with a tranquil air, setting down his Venetian
glass; "God has blessed the union already."

"And the King?" asked his father, from his black velvet chair in the
centre.

There fell a deeper silence yet as that name was mentioned. Henry
dominated the imagination of his subjects to an extraordinary degree, no
less in his heavy middle-age than in the magnificent strength and
capacity of his youth.

But Ralph answered carelessly enough.



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Keywords: before, chamber, purple, outside, dressed, gatehouse, rising, carleton, chaplain, watching
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