“Some men have in readiness so many tales and stories as there is nothing they would insinuate but they can wrap it into a tale which seemeth both to keep themselves more in guard, and to make others carry it with more pleasure.”Private Devotions of James Stanley.
I am Paul Morrow, a man now held in contempt by many I once counted as my true friends.To them I will always be the man who betrayed the Stanleys.Certainly the countess never forgave me.That’s why we had to leave Lancashire and come down to London, where my wife has family.But it was not really a betrayal, I was only doing as James asked me.Besides my desire to fight had died with James, so how could I watch others suffer.I am sorry; these must seem like the ramblings of an old man.I must do as the old earl taught me and apply some method to this history.It all seems a long time ago, and we have a Stuart on the throne again.So much bloodshed, so many sacrifices.Was all of it worth it?
I entered the service of the Stanleys in the year that the first Charles came to the throne.It was a cold, damp autumn morning as I rode the final miles to Lathom House.Mist rose from the fields and seeped into my bones.I drew my cloak tightly around my shoulders.I could make out a large tower from a distance and knew from the talk of the inn keeper the night before that this was the EagleTower, planted in the middle of the house itself.
It was impossible to get a full view of the house as there was hilly, forested ground in front of me.Then I rounded the summit and there spread out before me was the most formidable castle I had ever seen.The EagleTower rose up out of the mist; a hard, square sandstone keep, proclaiming the power of the Earl of Derby.
In comparison to HoghtonTower near Preston where I had spent several years, it was larger and looked to be impregnable.Its aspect resembled the palm of a man’s hand, the castle in a hollow in the centre with ascending ground all around.There was a circular wall, as tall as three men, with crenellated battlements.In front of the wall was a wide moat, with a bridge across it leading to a gateway that had two guard towers on top.Interspersed around the wall were further towers.
I rode up to the gate where my way was blocked by a guard.He thrust his halberd towards me and shouted.‘Stop.Who are you and what is your business here?’
‘Paul Morrow,’ I replied, ‘come to serve the earl as estate clerk.’
I dismounted and walked through the gate and under the portcullis.I handed over my letter of introduction, doubting whether the fellow could read it, but knowing that he would recognise the seal of the Earl of Derby.
The guard saw the seal and took a step back, lowering his halberd.
‘John,’ he called out to a lad who was sitting on a wall eating some bread.‘Stable this gentleman’s horse and then take him up to the steward.’
I walked into the court where maids were about their morning chores, fetching water, gathering eggs from the hen coops. Stable lads were grooming horses and preparing them for a morning ride.I looked up at the house with another inner wall protecting it.John led me through a gate in the inner wall and then into the house itself.After mounting several flights of a spiral staircase, we entered a small antechamber.
Here a man was seated at a desk covered with papers.He was in the middle of eating and looked up as we approached, brushing some crumbs out of his beard.
‘This is the steward,’ whispered the boy who had brought me up from the gatehouse.
‘Sir, I’ve brought Paul Morrow to see you.He says he is the new estate clerk.’With that the boy turned and left the room.
The steward got up, looming over me as he stood up to his full height.‘Break your fast with me,’ he said indicating bread, cheese and a pitcher of beer with a wave of his arm.
‘Thank you, that is most kind.’I was hungry after the early morning ride and the food looked very appealing.
‘Where are you from?’ he enquired.
‘From Hoghton, near Preston,’ I replied, biting into a chunk of bread.
‘I’m a Wigan man myself, though I’ve lived here at Lathom for the past nine years.I’ve only been to Preston a few times. The earl does not have much business up there.’
I nodded and took a mouthful of beer.It was cold and refreshing.
‘I don’t know the name Morrow.None in the household to my knowledge.Have you come from HoghtonTower?’ he asked.
‘Yes, I was in the service of Sir Richard Hoghton.He took me into his household about five years ago when my aunt found it too difficult to keep me.’
‘You’re an orphan then?’
I looked down.‘My parents died when I was eight.’
The steward ruffled a few papers on his desk.‘The earl will explain most of your duties, but you will work for me one day a week on the household accounts.I have ledgers that need copying, and there are new ones to be written.’
Brusquely he told me what money would be mine after food and lodging had been deducted and then a servant was called to show me to my sleeping area.
The lad was about my own age of seventeen.He was lanky and walked as if he had not fully grown into his body.
‘Mornin’.My name’s Bootle.I’ll show you the ropes.Don’t worry about the
steward.Thinks he’s something special that one.Just do your work and you’ll
be right.Best person round here is Meg in the kitchen.Stay on the right side
of her and she’ll see that you’re fed proper.’
Bootle led me down through a series of rooms, initially quite large until we were away from the main chambers.Then the rooms became smaller and windowless, flames from torches providing some light.Shadows flickered behind us as we walked, and my nostrils took in the stale smells of the old castle.Eventually we stopped at a door which he opened.
‘You’ll be sharing this room with me.It’s a bit damp because of the moat, but
the bedding’s good.Put down your things and come back with me.You’ve to wait on the earl now, but it could be a long time before you see him.His actors are here again and there’s nothing he likes more than talking to them about their latest plays.’
I was nervous as we walked back up to the main chambers.I knew I came with a good reference from Sir Richard Hoghton, but I was not acquainted with anyone of such prominence.
There were shouts up ahead in the main hall and I wondered how there could be so much noise in the presence of the earl.The doors were open and I saw a group of men dressed in half armour and holding spears and swords.Surely the place could not be under attack?
‘Don’t worry,’ said Bootle smiling as he saw my unease, ‘it’s just the earl and his Derby Players.They are practising a play.Stand over there and watch.’
For a few minutes I watched the actors as they rehearsed.Behind them, on the other side of the room was a group of men.They were sat together and watching the actors.I continued to observe and then one of the men stood up and applauded, causing the players to step aside.He praised them for their efforts and they left the room.For the first time I was able to get a good look at the earl.I knew him to be in his sixties, but he looked at least ten years younger.He was dressed in the fashion of the late court, with a ruff around his neck and his breeches ended above his knees.He wore a full facial beard after the practice of the late King James, rather than the moustache, adopted by men recently returned from the Grand Tour.His hair was short and mostly grey, though there was a dark tone to it that suggested that it had once been black.
The earl approached and I took out my letter of introduction.For a man of his age his movement was quick and energetic.A seal hanging on a gold chain around his neck bobbed up and down with each step.As he came towards me I bowed low.
‘Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr. Morrow.’ The earl offered his hand.
As I shook it, he leant forward and patted me on the shoulder. ‘Did you like that?’ he asked, smiling.‘They are in good form, but not as good as when they played at Hoghton with Will Shakespeare himself leading them.How we miss him.’
‘Yes I enjoyed the short piece I saw, my lord.’
The earl fingered the seal hanging from his neck.‘They are performing tonight, so you will be able to see it all then.Now, you have a good clear hand I trust, as I write some plays myself and I prefer to dictate rather than write it all down.’
‘Yes, certainly,’ I replied.‘And I can copy manuscripts too should you require.’
‘Excellent.Well then, I expect you are tired after your journey.Tell me how is
Sir Richard?I felt very sorry for his incarceration.Hosting a king on a royal progress is always expensive, but laying a red carpet, half a mile long all the way down the hill from the gatehouse!’ said the earl, chuckling.‘No wonder he landed himself in debt!’
I did not share the earl’s amusement and thought it wise to steer the conversation in another direction.‘Sir Richard is well my lord.’I took a letter out of my pouch.‘He asked me to deliver this to you.’
I had written the letter for Sir Richard and so I knew the contents.The main purpose was to ask William for his advice about more actively enforcing the recusancy laws against Catholics, in line with the latest instructions from the king’s secretary.This caused Sir Richard some consternation, for it was well known that as part of the negotiations prior to the marriage of King Charles with Henrietta Maria of France, the French had asked for a suspension of the penal laws.
I knew from Sir Richard that the earl, although Protestant, pursued a policy of peaceful coexistence with his many Catholic neighbours.In Lancashire many people, gentry and commoners, still held to the old religion.Some said it was due to the distance from London and the remoteness of the region.However, there were areas where Protestantism was strong, places like Stockport and Bolton, where merchants and cloth makers held sway, the influence of the great landowners and the gentry being very limited in the towns.Here the church ministers and also the lecturers appointed by the town corporations, were active in preaching the Gospel of Protestantism.
The earl took the letter, broke the seal and began to read.As he did so, he ran a finger through his beard, and a concerned look came over his face.Abruptly he stopped reading, saying that he would finish it later in his chamber.He went out of the hall by another door which I presumed led to his private rooms.
I looked around the room.On the wall I noticed a tapestry depicting a battle scene, with coats of arms above the knights engaged in the fighting.It had to be Bosworth.Richard III was lying dead in the foreground.Two prominent figures were standing nearby; a Stanley offering the crown to Henry Tudor.
I took myself as dismissed, and as nobody had given me any orders I decided to explore the castle.I wondered if the guard at the gatehouse would let me onto the walls.I made my way out of the EagleTower and back across the courtyard to the gatehouse.
The guard recognized me and nodded a greeting as I approached.I was grateful to him for I knew no-one at Lathom.
‘The earl takes youths into his household and men too, but I can’t work out where you fit.How old are you?’
‘Seventeen,’ I replied.
‘Old enough for service.What is it you’re here to do?’
‘I’m to be a secretary for the earl.I’ve been tutored with Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s son, Richard and have been secretary to Sir Richard Hoghton for the last year.’
‘A scholar, ay.Well the earl will like that.See that tower over there?’ he indicated a tower to our right on the curtain wall.‘That’s the PrivateTower, where he has all his books.His library is full of them.’
I tried not to smile.What else did he think a library was for?I was about to ask if I could go into the gatehouse and up onto the walls when I saw Bootle crossing the courtyard.He waved to me and came over.
‘Do you want me to show you around?’ he said.‘How about a tour of the EagleTower or do you want to see the chapel?’
‘I would like to see the earl’s library.Is that possible?I don’t think I’ll be allowed in there on my own.’
‘If you are going to be the earl’s secretary then you’ll need to know where his library is.Come with me,’ said Bootle, starting to walk towards the tower.
I took my leave from the guard and followed Bootle.The PrivateTower was large and square with a door close to the curtain wall.We entered and Bootle immediately scurried up a spiral staircase on the right.Nobody stopped us, but then I assumed that Bootle was well known and had the run of most of the castle.After a short climb we reached the first floor.The staircase continued upwards, but Bootle opened the door in front of us.
A musty smell of old books, mingled with the aroma of scented candles greeted us.Bootle was blocking my vision, but what I could see excited me, a table in the middle of the room covered with papers and books, and at the far side of the room books piled high on shelves which seemed to reach the ceiling.Following Bootle inside, I saw that more bookcases lined all the walls.
‘The earl must have been amassing this collection all his life,’ I marvelled.
‘Oh, he’s always having new books sent from London, or Amsterdam, or Paris.You can find all sorts here.I can only read the English ones, but the earl can read French, Latin and Greek too.’
I walked over to the desk and read the titles of the books lying there.I saw a copy of ‘Lives of the Twelve Caesars’ by Suetonius.Next I picked up ‘Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies’.I did not recognize the names of the next few I looked at.Then one caught my eye, Machiavelli ‘The Prince’.I tried to recall why this was familiar to me and then I remembered.Sir Richard Hoghton had talked about it giving guidance to a ruler about how to govern.He did not possess a copy and so I had not read it.Perhaps I would be able to read it here.
My browsing was interrupted by Bootle.‘Have you seen enough?The earl keeps some of his own documents in the library and we really should have his permission to be in here alone.’
I was surprised that Bootle had not told me this before, although spotting some papers lying on the desk, I saw that it could be true.I put Machiavelli’s book down, wondering when I would be able to ask the earl if I could read it.
That evening, Bootle took me back to the Great Hall to dine.Nearly all the household was assembled by the time we arrived and we found a couple of places on one of the benches at the far end of the room.We sat and waited for the earl and his family to take their places on the high table.A few minutes later all chattering stopped as the earl entered the hall from his chambers and took his place.I assumed the elderly woman on the earl’s left was his wife, Elizabeth de Vere.I caught a glimpse of a handsome man of similar age to me, seated on the earl’s right; his son perhaps.
Once the earl had started to eat, the kitchen lads brought out our food in trays.One was set down near to me and I got a whiff of stew, causing my stomach to rumble.
Bootle laughed and pointed to the platter.‘Have you tried these?They’re potatoes.The cook mixes them in with bits of lamb and cooks it as a stew.Grab a plateful.’
I took hold of my spoon and scooped out a helping into my wooden dish.I had not eaten these before.They were floury white and seemed to have been cut into pieces.As I set them in my dish a lamb bone was revealed.
‘Good,’ I mumbled with a mouthful of the warm food in my mouth.I held the bone with my left hand and cut off the meat with my knife.
‘The Derby Players will be on after we’ve supped,’ said Bootle.‘We’ll have to stay and watch.’
‘I’d like that.’I helped myself to some beer from a large tankard.Over on the high table the earl and his family were eating a variety of game birds and slicing cuts off a hog roast.
Once we had finished eating, the platters and bowls were taken away and under the instruction of the steward, we pushed the tables back against the wall.Some sat on the benches, others on the tables as we waited for the actors to appear.
The troop made their way out into the space in the hall.They moved a few people back and picked up some bones that had been discarded onto the floor.Then they walked out of the hall.
‘That were good,’ said somebody from behind me.A few people laughed.The earl looked over and frowned.
‘Shut yoursel’ up,’ hissed the steward.‘Remember, Earl William likes his players and pays them handsomely.’The crowd settled down and we waited.
A single actor ran back into the hall.He was short and wiry.Holding a small crown in place with his hand, he made a low bow to the earl and the high table.Then he walked to the centre of the room, stood motionless for a few moments and then began to speak.
During the evening as we watched the play, I thought of its significance to the Stanleys.No doubt Earl William enjoyed seeing his forebear portrayed as a Kingmaker.It was a play that was unlikely to be performed a great deal on the public stage.The theme of deposing a king, albeit a cynical exploiter like Richard III was not popular with our new royal house.Charles, having just come to the throne did not want his subjects thinking that rebellion could be justified, no matter how evil the king.
The next day I learnt the reason for the earl’s sudden exit when I had handed him Sir Richard’s letter.I was summoned to attend on him in his private chamber.A man was seated by the fire with some papers spread out over a small table.I took him to be about eighteen.He had similar features to the earl, but wore his dark hair long and had a thin moustache rather than a full beard.Despite the coldness of the day he wore a white linen shirt, black breeches, black stockings and black shoes.The clothes though simple were well tailored and immaculate. He seemed at ease in the company of the earl.
‘Mr. Morrow, this is my son, James the Lord Strange,’ said the earl.
Lord Strange acknowledged my arrival with a nod.I bowed in front of him.
The earl looked at his son, then continued.‘We have need of your services.James will be setting out for Lord Morley’s house to seize weapons that could be used in a Catholic rising.’He paused briefly at this point and his son shifted his position on his chair.
‘This is on the orders of Conway, the King’s Secretary. He does not think us diligent enough in enforcing the penal laws in our counties.We have no doubt as to the loyalty of Lord Morley.His great grandmother was a Stanley.Still, we have to be seen to be carrying out the royal policies, even if we do not agree with them.’
As I listened, I imagined that they wanted me to accompany Lord Strange as a scribe in order to make a record of any weapons found in the search.
The earl continued, ‘Lord Morley may know you from your service at Hoghton, but so that he knows your warning to be genuine, you are to give him this and tell him one word, “aetos”.’
The earl handed me a small ring.On it was a small design of a Greek eagle, ‘aetos’, a bird I knew to be a symbol of the Stanley family.
‘You are to set off at once for HornbyCastle and tell Lord Morley that a search is to be made of his house.James will follow the next day.That will give enough time for Henry to remove any weapons from the house.So as to avoid any suspicion you are to travel on your own and come back to Lathom before James returns.’
Perspiration trickled on my brow.The earl continued, ‘If you are intercepted then you are not known to us and are acting on your own.’
With that he took a letter from the table and put it on the fire.I saw that it was my letter of introduction.I stared at the parchment as it browned at the edges and then burst into flames, burning bright.
The earl and his son were both watching me for my reaction.I groped for words.‘Err…, it will be an honour to perform this service for you.’
‘Excellent,’ exclaimed Lord Strange as he got to his feet.He came over and extended his hand for me to shake.‘Excellent, excellent,’ he repeated.‘Go to the stables now.You’ll find your horse saddled and ready for you.If anyone asks, tell them you have letters to deliver to Knowsley and will be gone for several days.’
I was stunned and stood there mute.I knew that Lord Morley lived near Lancaster, but no more than that.‘How do I get to HornbyCastle?’
‘Go up to Lancaster and then follow the Lune valley,’ the earl replied.‘After about seven miles you’ll come to a split in the river.Follow the right fork, which is the river Wenning.It’ll take you to the castle.’
My mind raced, but I understood enough to know how to get there.Fiddling with the earl’s ring in my fingers, I bowed to him and Lord Strange before leaving the room.
The request gave me a feeling of great trepidation.I recalled listening to the sermons of the minister in Lancaster.Was it not true that the Pope is the Anti-Christ?To be caught helping Catholics could be fatal.Just a few years before I was born a group had attempted to kill King James in the Gunpowder Plot.Persecutions of Catholics had followed, and I did not want to be caught up in any treason.Despite worrying about what I had been asked to do, I did not feel that I could question the earl and Lord Strange on this.
The journey would be uneventful itself, but it would take several days which gave me ample time to fret about the task.I decided to call in on my old schoolmaster at the grammar school in Lancaster and ask his advice.Arriving in the town as the watch was preparing to shut the town gates, I made my way up to the school.Ann, the housekeeper opened the door when I rapped on the knocker of the master’s house.
‘Paul, is that you?’ she asked.‘Come in here so I can take a good look at you.’
I entered the hallway, a warm fire inviting me in.Light came from candles set into sconces on the wall.
‘A man now, I see.Nout but a boy when you left us to go to Hoghton,’ she said smiling.‘What brings you here?’
‘I need to ask some advice of the master.’
‘He’ll be taking his supper soon.I’ll see if I can stretch it out to feed you too.’
‘That is very kind.I don’t want to be any trouble.’
‘You’ll be wanting a bed tonight,’ she replied.‘I’ll fix up a mattress in the school room.Now come with me; I’ll take you through.’
I followed the soberly dressed Ann to the master’s rooms, passing the chair she used to make us sit on if we felt ill.We found the master in his study.He put down the book he had been reading and came over to greet me.
‘Well, if it isn’t Mr. Morrow,’ he said, pumping my hand.‘Very pleased to see you again.Here, come and sit down.’
‘Supper will be in ten minutes,’ said Ann.‘I’ll set a plate for Paul.’
I fidgeted in the chair, waiting until Ann left the room.The master watched her close the door and then continued.‘Lovely woman, but she often makes me think I did marry!Now Paul, I sense you have something on your mind.Tell me.’
I explained how the earl had asked me to take a verbal warning to Lord Morley about the impending search of his house for weapons.‘Look, here is the ring that he gave me to convince Lord Morley.’
‘You are in a quandary, aren’t you?’ he replied, balancing the ring on his palm as he looked at it.‘If you are caught with this, then its link back to the Stanleys could be dangerous for you.How you will explain your possession of it without betraying your mission?’
‘I don’t know, and I fear that the Stanleys would denounce me as a thief to protect themselves.But if I don’t do this for them, then I have no future in their household.And I cannot go back to Hoghton as they would soon discover me there.’
‘Do you think that they want you to be caught?’
‘Well the earl seems kind enough, more interested in his books and plays than politics.I don’t think he means me any harm.I’m not so sure about Lord Strange.He seems more aloof and I’m not sure if I trust him.’
‘The earl is an experienced man.He’s been running his family affairs for nearly thirty years since his brother died.He keeps the peace with a lot of Catholic gentry, so no doubt he turns a blind eye to what they do in private.I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives them warning before any searches.’
‘So do you think it’ll be safe for me to do this?’
‘Now Paul, I can’t tell you if this will be safe.What I can say is that you probably don’t have any choice if you want to remain in their household.You could run off to London.You could join the navy.I think we will have wars enough to fight with Buckingham’s influence over the young king.However, I know you are a sensitive scholar; I can’t see you at war or on the streets of London.You could do well with the Stanleys.They always have need of intelligent servants.Just keep your eyes open and think of this as a test.’
Ann called us through to supper.While we ate she asked all sorts of questions.They flooded over me.‘Is Lord Strange going to be married soon?Is his mother ill?’I answered as best I could, but for every answer I gave she had another question.
After we finished eating I left them and went off to bed.As I unrolled my mattress on the cold schoolroom floor, memories of my schooling came back to me.One of Sophocles’ expressions sprang to mind, ‘there is a scorpion under every stone’.I had no money and little hope of being employed anywhere else.It seemed I had to go through with it.
The pungent smell of wild garlic accompanied me on the ride up the Lune valley.Having travelled about six or seven miles I reached the point where the Wenning joined the river.I dismounted to give my horse a rest and followed the tributary east towards Hornby.Kicking crisp autumn leaves out of my path, I thought about the task ahead.
After a while I remounted, thinking it would create a better impression arriving on horseback.I could see a small village nestling around the large tower of a castle.I was stopped before I even got to the village.A lone sentry was posted on the bridge.
‘Halt.What brings you here stranger?’ he said in a surly tone.No doubt his mood was affected by his solitary duty.
‘I have business with Lord Morley,’ I replied.‘I bring a message from the Earl of Derby.’
‘Follow the road up to the castle and ask to see the steward,’ he said, pointing up the road.
At the gate the guards steered me into the guardroom, but would let me go no further.I repeated that I had a message to deliver to their lord.
‘Wait here for the steward.He will decide if you can see Lord Morley.’
As I waited I turned the Stanley’s ring over and over in my fingers.What if Lord Morley did not believe my message?By the precautions he took it seemed he was a suspicious man.After what seemed an age, but in truth was probably no more than a quarter of an hour, a man entered the guardroom.He was short and strutted over like a cockerel.
‘I hear that you have a message for my lord.Hand it over and I’ll take it to him,’ he said curtly.
‘It is a verbal message,’ I replied.
He looked at me and was momentarily struck dumb.A few heartbeats later he asked, ‘What is so important that it can’t be written down?’
‘I don’t wish to offend you, but my instructions are to explain that to Lord Morley.’
‘Very well,’ he said, studying me.‘But first you are to remove your sword.’
‘As you wish,’ I replied and unbuckled my sword belt, laying it on a table.
‘This way,’ said the steward, strutting out.
I followed him out of the guardroom, past the guards and across a courtyard.We climbed a staircase and came to a second floor.We passed through a doorway into a small antechamber, then entered the lord’s chamber.It was far smaller than the chamber at Lathom.Fine tapestries of hunting scenes in rich red and green hues draped the walls.I smelt recently snuffed incense candles.At the far end of the room a man was seated in a raised chair, just as the earl sat in his presence chamber at Lathom.I hesitated, waiting for a signal from the steward.
‘Approach,’ boomed a voice from the dais.
I walked up alongside the steward, matching his pace.We stopped in front of Lord Morley.
‘This man brings a message from the Earl of Derby,’ said the steward.‘It’s not written down and he says it is for you only to hear.’
‘You may speak in front of my steward,’ replied Lord Morley.‘I have few secrets from him.’
But I bet there are some that you only share with your priest at confession, I thought, realizing that the scent of incense meant that the priest was probably close by.
‘As you wish my lord,’ I said.‘This will seem an odd message, but I have been sent to warn you that Lord Strange will arrive tomorrow with a warrant to search your house for arms and priests.It is the Earl of Derby himself who has sent me to warn you.’
The steward stole a glance at his master.
‘We have nothing to hide,’ said Lord Morley.‘We are loyal subjects of His Majesty.If I did have something to hide why would I believe you?’
‘I have no written instruction my lord as the earl did not want any risk of the
warning being traced back to him.’I brought out the ring that had been clenched in my hand and said, ‘He asked me to show you this so you would know I speak the truth.’
‘A ring, how does that show you are telling the truth?’ spat the steward.
‘William would never send me an unknown messenger with just a ring,’ said Lord Morley.‘Take this madman away.’
The steward seized my arms and began to drag me towards the door.The guard on the door started over to help him.
‘Aetos,’ I blurted, remembering what William had instructed me to say when I showed the ring.‘Aetos,’ I repeated as the second man wrenched my arm up my back, sending a stabbing pain through my body.
‘Hold.What is it you said?’ asked Lord Morley.The guard spun me round to face his lord.
‘Aetos.The earl told me to say this as I showed you the ring.’
‘And why this word then?’ asked Lord Morley.
‘It means eagle, which is a symbol of the Stanley family,’ I replied.I looked into his face and the lines around his eyes fell away.The tension began to slip from me too as my arm was released from the guard’s vice of a hold.
Turning to his steward, Lord Morley said, ‘Have our muskets moved to a safer place.’
The steward and the guard left the room, leaving me with Lord Morley.
‘Are you of the faith too?’ he asked, looking me firmly in the eye.
‘No, I am a Protestant of the Anglican Church.’
‘Well, you must find the actions of the earl strange?’
‘It’s my duty to serve him, not question him.’
‘Quite.Quite.’Lord Morley’s eyes released me from their stare.‘I must apologize for my steward.I trust you are not hurt?’
‘No, I am fine,’ I said, stretching my arm out behind me.
‘Thank you for delivering the message.You must go now.’
I took my leave from him and headed back out to the courtyard. Muskets were being loaded onto a cart.About three dozen of them were piled up and then a mound of straw was placed on top.The carter was an old man and he slowly climbed up behind the horse.Then he hurried the horse into action and set off down the track.
I followed the cart, then passed it.The driver looked up at me and grinned, revealing just a single tooth.I laughed, pleased to have carried out my task successfully, and my heart felt a lot lighter as I made my way back to Lathom House.
Lord Strange returned to Lathom a few days after me.I received a summons to see him the next morning.
‘You have done well, Paul.My father decided to test you to see how you would respond to unusual orders. Having spoken to Lord Morley, I think you carried out the task dutifully.’
‘Thank you my lord,’ I replied.
‘Our actions towards our Catholic neighbours might seem unusual.The Catholic gentry of the county are loyal to the Stanley family, and as we are loyal to the King, then by extension the Catholic gentry are also loyal to him.The King’s ministers do not appreciate this.’Here he paused and looked at me to make sure I understood what he was saying.‘Hence the instruction of Conway to actively enforce the penal laws and disarm Catholics.Conway fears that the Catholics might use the opportunity of the death of the King to rise before Charles’s authority is well established.’
‘And you do not see men like Lord Morley as a threat, my lord?’
‘No, but we have to be seen to be enforcing the laws.But I won’t prevent the Catholic gentry from protecting themselves and their estates.I am not the keeper of a man’s conscience; that it between him and God.’