She nodded, well pleased.
“So, Richard,” she went on, “tell me about the Wydevilles. God knows I curse the day when that woman married your brother.”
“She and her kin loathe me,” the duke said. “I am convinced theymean to utterly destroy me, my cousin Buckingham, and all the old royal blood of this realm.”
Cecily grimaced, but looked skeptical. “How can this be, my son? The woman is in sanctuary, her kinsmen imprisoned or fled.”
“She is allowed visitors. I cannot be seen to be keeping her a prisoner. She is free to leave sanctuary if she pleases. But Shore’s wife, for one, sees her frequently.”
Kate noticed a look of distaste shadow her grandmother’s face.
“She acts as an agent for her lover Hastings, plotting against me with the Queen,” Gloucester growled. “I tell you, madam, it is openly known, for they do not trouble to hide it. Oh, they think they are subtle, but certain it is they are conspiring the destruction and disinheriting of me and many others, all good men of this realm!” His voice shook with anger.
“Summon the men of the North,” his mother counseled. “The city of York is loyal to you and will send soldiers to your aid. Do not tarry on this, my son.”
Gloucester lifted her hand and kissed it.
“I will do it!” he said. “I could ever rely on your counsel.”
“Is help not nearer at hand?” Anne interrupted. “If the situation is as bad as you say …”
“If?” Richard shouted, to Anne’s evident dismay. “Of course it is as bad as I say. I am in peril of my life—and all because I have been loyal to my king. Naturally I intend to summon aid from elsewhere. Even as we speak, summons are being prepared for the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Neville, and their affinities. My councillor, Richard Ratcliffe, is waiting to depart.”
Anne was struggling to control her tears. She was unused to being silenced so severely.
“Shore’s wife should be apprehended,” the duchess warned. “The woman is a menace.”
“I will deal with her anon,” Richard muttered. “But there are more serious threats to be neutralized first. I mean the Queen’s brother, Earl Rivers, and her son, Sir Richard Grey, whom I sent as prisoners to Pontefract.”
“Surely they can do no harm to you there?” Duchess Cecily sniffed. “That castle is all but impregnable.”
“So the King’s Council tells me,” the duke muttered. “But those two will ever be a danger! What happens when the King comes of age and frees them? They have already treasonously conspired to kill me.”
“Are you now king, then?” asked his mother. “My son, it is not treason to conspire the death of the Lord Protector, heinous crime though that be.”
“It’s an arguable point,” he responded testily.
“Have they been proven guilty?” the duchess persisted. There was a silence. Kate realized they had all forgotten she was there. She felt that she wanted to curl up and die. It was bad enough that her father was being so grievously threatened by his enemies, so why was her grandmother treating him as if he were somehow in the wrong?
“I asked if they have been tried or attainted by Parliament?” Cecily said reasonably. “My son, if you do what I suspect you are planning to do, then you lay yourself open to charges of tyranny.”
“But if I have those men tried, my enemies will acquit them, and they will be free to do their worst!” protested the duke. “I am in an impossible position. Whatever I do, I cannot win. Madam, do you not see that I cannot afford to let them live?”
“The King will never forgive you if you kill his kinsmen without trial.” Anne spoke out at last. “My lord,” she went on tremulously, laying a gentle hand on his sleeve, “I fear for you, I truly do. I fear for us all.”
Kate could bear to listen no more. Excusing herself, she escaped up the stairs to her bedchamber, and there she too gave way to tears.
The next morning, she