As I stood there, at a loss for words and sensing that I had
somehow done a Bad Thing, the groom turned and stood, making
me gasp. He was tallâ€”well over six feetâ€”and dazzlingly
handsome, with hair of a rich brown. Small, sallow, and of
middling appearance, I was none of those things, and I
averted my eyes as if caught gazing into the sun. â€śWell,
now. Who is this young lady?â€ť
â€śKatherine, sir,â€ť I managed.
â€śKate,â€ť the groom said as I thrilled from my head to my
toes. How did this man know that I loved to be called
â€śKate,â€ť only Mother insisted on the more dignified
â€śKatherineâ€ť? He turned to my sister. â€śIâ€™ve changed my mind,
Iâ€™m afraid. This
will be my new bride.â€ť
â€śSheâ€™s a trifle young for you,â€ť said my sister a little tensely.
â€śOh, maybe a bit,â€ť the man conceded. He smiled. â€śSome other
lucky man will have little Kate, then. Lady Kate? Can you
keep a great secret?â€ť
â€śYou had better,â€ť my mother warned.
â€śI know Kate will,â€ť the man said reassuringly. He looked
downâ€”a long way down--straight into my eyes. â€śKate, I am
getting ready to marry your sister. But it is a great
secret. No one can know until I announce it personally.â€ť
â€śYour family would not approve?â€ť I ventured, as he was being
â€śThat is a pity.â€ť
â€śBut they will come to understand in time.â€ť He cleared his
throat and looked thoughtful for a moment, then appeared to
make up his mind. â€śBut there are other reasons why there are
difficulties just now. I suppose you have not seen our King
Edward yet, Kate?â€ť
â€śHave you heard much of him?â€ť
I was delighted by his question, for it gave me the
opportunity to demonstrate what a good Yorkist I was, a
great necessity in our family, since it was not so terribly
long ago that Papa and my brothers Anthony and Richard had
fought for the house of Lancaster. Having gone over to what
now all agreed heartily to be the right side, Papa had
sternly informed us children that we should always speak
well of the House of York. As with all of my fatherâ€™s
advice, I had heeded it dutifully, but I seldom had the
chance to put it into practice, for all of my brothers and
sisters, being older and much wiser, were naturally much
better Yorkists as well, and never made a mistake I could
correct. â€śNo,â€ť I admitted. â€śBut I hear he is very brave. And
The second man laughed, a sound that made the chapel echo.
He was well over a decade older than the groom and less
handsome, though his ruddy face was a good-humored one.
â€śNed, thereâ€™s a fine courtier for you! Shall I?â€ť
The younger man nodded, and the older man reached in a purse
and drew out a fine gold chain, then handed it to me.
(Later, I was to learn that he always kept one or two on his
person, in case of emergencies.) â€śThereâ€™s a reward for your
loyalty, Lady Kate.â€ť
â€śThank you,â€ť I said vacantly, staring at the chain. It was
lovely, and even to my inexpert eyes looked frightfully
expensive. Was my sister marrying a highwayman?
The younger man laughed at my expression. â€śYou see, Kate,
I am the king. And
I have come here to marry your sister.â€ť
There were any number of dignified and proper responses I
could have made to this announcement. I, of course, made
none of them. My mouth gaped open, most unattractively I
fear. â€śYou?â€ť I
â€śMe. Her.â€ť The king nodded. â€śShe will make a lovely queen,
donâ€™t you think?â€ť
â€śYes,â€ť I admitted feebly. Elizabeth was indeed lovely;
indeed, I sometimes thought that she and my brother Anthony
had taken so much beauty for themselves that was not enough
left for the other ten of us children, especially me.
â€śBut you must keep this a secret, Kate, as I have said. You
â€śOn my life!â€ť
â€śGood girl,â€ť the king said. He grinned. â€śOr I would be
obliged to put you in my Tower as a lesson, you know.â€ť
My previous promise was empty compared to the one I made
now. â€śI swear and hope to die if I break my promise,â€ť I
vowed, kneeling and making the sign of the cross for good
measure. I might have gone further and prostrated myself had
Elizabeth not interrupted.
â€śTime passes. Ned, I know the child will not tell. Can we
please resume the ceremony?"