A Dangerous Inheritance

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir Page A

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Authors: Alison Weir
Tags: Biographical, Fiction, Historical, Sagas
learned from the Duchess Anne that her father had gone after Mass to the Tower of London for an important council meeting, about which he had remained tight-lipped. His going there filled Kate with a sense of dread; there was something about the Tower that repelled and unnerved her. She could not for the life of her say why. She only knew she had gone there one day to see the menagerie but was unable to bring herself to set foot in the vast, forbidding fortress.
    “I have received a letter from Edward’s tutor,” Anne was saying.“My little lord is doing well at his lessons, and is in good health.” She sighed. “I miss him. I ache to see him. The distance between us seems so great.” Her blue eyes held a faraway look. “If it were not for my lord, who needs me, I would go home.”
    “Oh, so would I!” cried Kate.
    “Well, after the coronation, we will think about it,” Anne said. “But we cannot miss that. And the tailor is making you a splendid gown.” He was indeed. Just thinking about it made Kate feel a little better. It was in indigo-blue damask with raised flowers of yellow and gold, and it was to be trimmed with miniver at the bodice and cuffs. The court train was longer than any she had ever worn, so long that she would have to carefully practice walking with it.
    But today she had donned a plain dove-gray gown of soft wool because she did not desire to look too conspicuous. She was planning to go again to Cheapside, which had become one of her favorite haunts in the City. A master jeweler there had a beautiful pendant displayed among his wares and, having persuaded him to set it aside for her, she had prevailed on her father to give her the money for it. Richard had ever been generous toward his children, and never stinted on their allowances, but last night he had seemed distracted as he agreed without demur to her request, even though the pendant was expensive. He had not been listening when she told him it would go with her coronation gown.
    She took her maid Mattie with her, a plump and comely Londoner with a lively nature and a spirit of adventure that chimed with her own. Despite the difference in their status, they were fast becoming friends. Kate enjoyed having a girl near her own age as a merry companion, and she had been delighted to discover that she and Mattie were kindred souls in many ways.
    Mattie was fourteen, a year her senior. Happily, just as the duke had decided his daughter was of an age to need a maid, Mattie’s father, a member of the Vintners’ Guild, which supplied the duke’s household with wine, had inquired if there might be a place for his daughter at Crosby Hall, anticipating that service in the Gloucester household might lead to an opening at court and preferment, and secure Mattie a prosperous husband one day. But Mattie was unconcerned about that: let an apprentice lad whistle at her, and she was smitten. Plain-spokenlike most Londoners, she had an earthy appreciation of the opposite sex, and did not bother to mince words about it. She was also full of the lore of the city that had nurtured her, loved pretty clothes, good food, singing, and dancing, and laughed out loud at merry or bawdy jests. She and Kate were doing very well together, and Kate was firmly of the opinion that her father could not have chosen a better maid for her.
    With Mattie at her heels, she sped along Cornhill, weaving through the London crowds who thronged the narrow thoroughfares, and so into Poultry and Cheapside, where Master Hayes had his shop. He greeted her obsequiously, for she had told him whose daughter she was to impress on him that she was not wasting his time. But there was a faint edge to his manner. It seemed that he too was infected with the prevailing hostility toward her father. She stiffened and, putting on a manner so regal it would have done the Duchess Cecily proud, asked for the jewel to be brought.
    It lay on a bed of black silk, a diamond-shaped gold pendant set with a

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