Richard Wolfdon, is one of the wealthiest men in England, and occasional adviser to King Henry VIII, yet he finds there is no challenge in his everyday life. He is utterly bored.
Jemima’s father died at sea, now she must give up her home and money to her vile cousin. But the discovery of three mummified bodies in the attic brings Richard Wolfdon into her life. He intends to delve deeper, and discover the identity of the victims, and more especially of the murderer.
But on becoming better acquainted, Richard promptly falls in love. And soon realises that life is not tedious at all, and with murder and love both filling his mind with questions and delight, life soon proves absolutely glorious.
Nothing however, is ever quite that simple. With a treasure hunt into the south of England, attacks from bandits and pirates, kidnapping and invasions, there is far more to face and one adventure chases another. Who is dead and who alive? Who is hero and who villain? And with the squabbles of one man’s six voluptuous mistresses to manage – or ignore – Richard wonders if tedium was the easiest option after all.
This book brings Henry VIII and his second unfortunate wife Anne Boleyn into the plot, and with historical accuracy, defines the events that marked the end of Anne’s life. Surrounding these traumas is the fictional story of Richard Wolfdonn, Jemima Thripp and the convoluted adventure which brings them together with many twists and turns within the vivid excesses of Tudor England.
This book was inspired entirely by my historical interests. I have long considered Henry VIII one of England’s most reprehensible monarchs, and a man of incredibly ego-centric self-delusion, cruelty, foolish desires, stubborn beliefs and a bully with a vile temper.
He contrasts with my opinion of Richard III, who seems (if you do your research in depth and don’t just follow the traditional view) to have been a fairly decent man for his time, with a genuine desire to rule his country justly and benefit the people.
I wanted to write something which balanced my fictional plot of crime – mystery – adventure and romance, with an attempt to bring Henry VIII to life in some small way. It was therefore, in the direct sense, Henry VIII who inspired this book, even though he plays a comparatively small part in it.
Life in Tudor England was a dangerous business for many reasons, and I love entering into those ancient streets, exploring medieval London, and visiting the characters who inhabited it. I dream of the people and places, and they are not always happy dreams. This time, however, I dreamed myself directly into THE DECEPTION OF CONSEQUENCES. I do hope you enjoy it.
One quick skip forward, two steps to the left, then a sudden lurch backwards. The swish of silk and a peep of linen chemise. But nearly tripping and out of breath.
The trick feint failed. He had seen it coming and laughed at her. Her wrist was sore but she kept a tight grip on the hilt, twisted her hand, avoided the clash of blade to blade, and stepped once more with a quick turn to the right. Yet as her steel again missed its aim, it clattered instead against the legs of the table, scratching the carved surface.
“Don’t know why I bother,” Peter Hutton objected with an exaggerated sigh.
She stopped abruptly and lowered both arms, shoulders slumped in failure. Her hair was loose and dishevelled and her skirts badly creased. The sword dropped to the floor boards. “You’re not bothering enough. Don’t just play with me, Peter. Teach me to kill people.”
“My father would kill me if he saw me now.” The young man reached down, retrieving the heavy blade. “Look at you, all tangled and tousled. Go and fight your own demons, and leave me in peace.”
Jemima scowled. “Your father wouldn’t kill you. He wouldn’t care at all. He’d laugh.”
“Perhaps. But my step-brother would kill me.”
“Oh – him. Well I suppose he would from what they say. Dickon the Bastard. Is he really a bastard? Does he hate you?”
“Richard doesn’t hate people. He doesn’t like people either. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even notice that people exist. But he’s not a real bastard, of course. My mother wouldn’t ever – she was a saint. Almost.”
“I may not be the perfect pupil. Alright, I’m a girl and not respectable.” He grinned, nodded in agreement, and she blushed. “But you’ve been learning to fight and learning to joust and learning all the martial arts since you were seven. I started a week ago.”
He shook his head. “A bit late, wouldn’t you think, then?”
“Alright, I won’t learn to kill anyone after all.” She stared, “But life is vile and my cousin is vile and I have to do something – violent. It helps.” But Jemima paused, slumped again and leaned against the table. “So teach me happy things instead.” In an abrupt swirl of cerise silks and a glimmer of pearls, Jemima pointed both little blue leather toes and turned back to curtsey, then peeped up, smiling. “I’ve been learning the Pavanne. Or trying to. Until – you know what. But now – since I no longer have a dancing master – ”
“That’s typical of you, Jem. First violence then suddenly flirtation.” Peter Hutton slid his sword back into its scabbard and adjusted his baldric. He watched the young woman for a moment, and then frowned. “I don’t think I should teach you anything anymore. Not self-defence, And certainly not dancing. Too tiring and too personal. Dickon would kill me and my father would probably make me marry you.”
“No one’s here to see you except me and I wouldn’t marry you even if you were handsome and rich, which you’re not.” She twirled, one toe kicking back the swing of her skirts. “So dance with me, Peter. I’m so desperately bored. I have to do something. And dancing is supposed to be a pleasure, isn’t it? Better than fighting? Just unbuckle your scabbard and make sure your codpiece is well tied.”
“Stop flirting, Jem.”
“That was good advice, not flirting.” Jemima collapsed in a sudden heap beside her father’s sword which still lay where it had fallen. “I’m not respectable, remember!” She gazed up into his frown. “Oh, run off home, Peter. I prefer to be bored alone. You’re more boring than staring into the shadows.”
“Just because you’re peevish, and annoyed about having to leave your home and go off somewhere dull, don’t take it out on me, Jem. I came to commiserate, not to be asked to teach you stupid things and then get shouted at.”
“I didn’t shout.”
“You shouted and then you whined.”
Jemima Thripp stood up again with a scramble, and straight backed, she glared at her friend. “When your mother died, I was sympathetic. I cared. I tried to help. Now my father’s died, but you have as much understanding as wet frogspawn. And at least you still have your father. I have nothing left and my beautiful home’s being snatched away by my vile cousin.” She couldn’t hide the sniff.
“But I loved my mother. You didn’t love your father.”
“Didn’t I? Of course I did, stupid boy.” She groped for the sword. Peter put his foot on it, clamping it tight to the floorboards.
“You hardly ever saw him.”
“Go away,” Jemima yelled at him. “I loved him when I saw him and now I’m homeless. And I never want to see you again.”
It was after he had left that she started crying, and found she could not stop. Hating her own self-pity, Jemima huddled, hoping neither her page nor her maid would enter and discover her so lost and pathetic. But she cried until she felt sick.
The house would have to go, of course, and almost all the furniture too. She had a few belongings she might swear were personally her own. She might even convince her cousin that the bed was truly hers, that the huge gold candelabra had been a gift from her father, and that the money in the small coffer upstairs was promised to her as a dowry. Her cousin was unlikely to believe her, but then he’d never believed anything she said. She might insist that she had two legs beneath those long red skirts, and he wouldn’t believe that either.
It was late on a sunny September afternoon and the autumn breezes were rattling the casement window lattice, playing hide and seek outside amongst the two huge oaks beside the stable block. But Jemima ran to her bedchamber, and to the great four posted bed through the familiar shadows. There she crawled into the curtained darkness, and continued to cry.
The page had seen young Peter Hutton to the door, closed it softly behind him, and crept back up the creaking treads of the main staircase. Jemima had left her bedchamber door open. Hearing the sobs and careful of disturbance, the page hovered, unsure. He regarded his mistress and because she hadn’t noticed him, said softly, “Master Hutton has left, mistress. T’will be twilight soon enough. Shall I light the candles, mistress?”
“No.” She looked up and carefully didn’t sniff. But candles were expensive and it wasn’t dark yet. “Do we still have good wine in the cellars? Then bring me a jug. A large jug and a clean cup.”
“The claret, mistress?”
“Whatever is best. I’m leaving not a drop to that pig Cuthbert. He can have the sweet malmsey that Papa was going to throw away.”
It was the following day and a tentative sunshine slipped through the mullioned window panes. The shadows remained, creeping into the back of shelves, across rolled parchments, leather enclosed folios and pots holding quills, ink and seals. It was a chamber that minded its own business.
Peter Hutton’s father hadn’t bothered knocking, although the door had been closed. He stared down at his step-son.
“The king is furious.”
Richard looked up with some reluctance. “That’s common enough.”
“This is an uncommon fury. That cherubic little pink mouth is tight pursed as an arsehole. The palace corridors shake to their foundations.”
“The queen, then.”
“Naturally the queen.
“In which case, my interest further diminishes.” Richard leaned back in the chair, stretched his legs beneath the table, and surveyed his step-father.
Sir Walter stared back and the entering sheen of sunbeams turned his small smile brighter. “And had it simply been the king’s problem alone, without involving the queen, your interest would have been considerable?”
After a short pause, “I make it a habit,” Richard responded quietly, eyes narrowed, “never to discuss his majesty. Even in private.”
“Don’t we all share that habit, my boy,” sighed Sir Walter. “Only a fool voices his preferences aloud. And only a greater idiot listens.”
“I am known as Dickon the Bastard,” his step-son replied, one finger tapping the papers piled neatly on the table before him, “not, as far as I know, Richard the Fool.”
“But you won’t even talk to me? I work for the man. Doesn’t mean I’m his spy.”
“What you are,” Richard informed him, “is your business, sir. I have my own business to absorb me.”
“You have no business at all, my boy.”
“All the more absorbing,” Richard replied, and returned to his papers.
Sir Walter, not easily rebuked or dissuaded, dragged a small chair over from the far side of the chamber, and sat. He exhaled loudly, staring over the table at his step-son. “You’re a damned difficult creature to get close to, you know, Richard,” he said with a disapproving click of the tongue. “Even when your dear mother died you hardly mourned. Not publicly. Well, I miss her too, you know. We got on mighty well for those eighteen years married. And I’ve been as good as a proper father to you since you were nearly ten. But you still talk to me as though I was an unpleasant smell in the privy.”
“I do not permit unpleasant smells in the privies, sir. My emotions concerning my mother’s death, however, I consider personal and private.” Richard’s voice remained expressionless. “And I have, as it happens, much appreciated your patience and the years of parental presence. You may, should you wish it, claim my friendship and my favours at any time in the future, whether that time be convenient or otherwise.” His gaze narrowed. “But confessions and confidences are not my style, sir.”
“So is there anyone you confide in?” demanded Sir Walter. “Anyone you care for even a silk button’s worth?”
This time the pause was more protracted. But Richard’s voice was as quiet as ever. “My secret wife perhaps, sir? My twenty five secret offspring? The ghost who inhabits my bedchamber, and naturally his majesty our beloved and kindly monarch during our secret meetings each morning?”
“Sometimes,” Sir Walter stood, with a scrape of chair legs and a loud sigh, “I wonder why I bother to visit you at all, my boy.”
“I frequently wonder the same thing, sir,” replied his step-son.
Jemima stood facing the long window, her back to her cousin. She stared out at the shining greenery of her own garden, which was about to become her cousin’s garden, and refused to turn around or look at him.
Beyond the neat clipped hedges she could see the hint of ripples in the mild sunshine, the glimmer of reflections on water and the splash of a gull diving for fish. Jemima blinked, but refused to turn.
The house was not spacious, only three floors and a cellar barely large enough for the pantry and wine store. Her father’s grand plans for extensions and enlargements to the building had never been realised. This was the smallest house in the whole grandiose stretch of The Strand, that most magnificent road which almost linked the city to the Westminster court, But the Thripp residence remained tucked in almost invisible ignominy between the huge and beautiful palaces of the privy councillors, archbishops and nobility. The grounds were less humble and a pretty maze of hedges and pathways sloped down towards the river. There, at its soggy drop into the brackish water, a little pier had been built to dock her father’s small trading cob, its mast lowered to the deck in order to pass beneath the Bridge. But the new larger ship had been too deep keeled to sail upriver and had never managed to reach the home constructed for its predecessor.
It would all, Jemima sniffed and blinked, be lost to her.
“If you expect me to leave my beloved home this quickly, cousin,” she said but without looking at him, “then you’re mistaken, Cuthbert. The news of my father’s death is bare two weeks old. I need more time. Much more time. Do you expect me to sleep on the street?”
“Really, Jemima, don’t exaggerate,” drawled Cuthbert Thripp, slurping his wine. “You’ll do as I tell you, miss, and you’ll remember your place. But as yet I haven’t said one word about throwing you onto the street, although it’s a temptation. Since those who don’t know what a spoiled brat you actually are, might dare criticise me for cruelty to an orphaned girl and my cousin at that, I’ve no intention of gaining a horrid reputation simply because of your idiocy in becoming destitute. So we must surely come to a sensible agreement. I see no reason to delay beyond reason.”
Finally she turned. “Agreements? Since when did you ever take anyone else’s opinion into consideration, Cuthbert? But I prefer to make it plain from the beginning, that I need time. A month, I think. And I should point out,” she stared at her toes, “that a good amount of the furniture belongs to me. I shall need to organise its removal to my nurse’s residence.”
“What drama. A theatrical nonsense, Jemima.” He finished his wine, winced, spluttered, “And this is the most atrocious malmsey. So you mean to say your father drank this shit? My uncle clearly had neither refinement nor taste,” and set down the small cup on the table. When she turned pink and did not answer, he continued, “You behave like some child in a Christmas play. Grow up, cousin. You know perfectly well I won’t throw you to an alms-house or a convent.” He tapped his fingers on the table top, impatient. “I care for my reputation, as I’ve already informed you , though that’s considerably more than my appalling uncle ever did. Or he’d be alive now.”
She looked away again, her hands clenched but diplomatically hidden beneath the folds of her skirts. “You’ve the manners of a pig, Cuthbert. This is still my home, you’re a guest in it, and you’re talking about my father, whether you respected him or not. And it’s his home, his wealth and his comforts you’re about to profit from.”
“I beg to differ.” He smiled, half sneer. “Your father was an itinerant adventurer and little more than a pirate. His fortunes fluctuated. He bought this house with stolen gold, taken at sea, probably from the Spanish although he never admitted it. And then lost almost all of it through gaming, unwise shipping ventures, and extravagance. He finished by owing my family a great deal of money. This house is now mine by rights, as well as by inheritance, and I could have had you evicted the very next day after we heard your father’s ship had gone down and all aboard lost.” His smile was a little twisted. “You can keep your paltry possessions. I’ve no need of trumpery baggage and a few stained silks. But I intend taking over this house before the month is up.”
“You can’t.” She breathed deep and gulped on the exhale.
Cuthbert Thripp stepped forward, staring at her, eyes narrowed. “I can do exactly as I wish,” he said with careful menace. “And I warn you, cousin, not to try and thwart me. I do as I wish and you’ll obey without question. I intend moving my entire household in here by mid-October at the latest. Nor do I have the slightest intention of sharing the space with you. You’ll be long gone. Move in with your shabby old nurse and live in that hovel in the city. Find yourself a husband, if any man will have the daughter of a penniless and notorious pirate. I’ve no interest in your future as long as it remains well away from my boundaries.”
“You’re – vile.”
His small plump mouth pursed tighter. “I carry the family name, though I’m not proud of it since your father dragged it through the gutter shit. But this house is now mine, any coin the fool had left is mine, and I can only be grateful that the man died at sea, and there’s no occasion for an expensive funeral.”
She wanted to hit him and wondered if she dared. “A commemorative service. A memorial.”
“Find one that suits him. Stand alone by the cess pit outside, and say your own goodbyes.”
Nineteen years as daughter and confidant of Edwatd Thripp had taught Jemima curses, blasphemies and swear words that a young woman should never have known, but she bit her lip and remembered dignity.
“I shall be gone by the fifteenth day of October,” she said, eyes cold, face expressionless. “And since you have no need of my so-pathetic belongings, I shall take everything with me even if I have to knock a wall down in order to get the bed out. But,” her voice shook slightly, “if you dare show yourself here before I have left, I shall order my steward to shut the door in your face.”
He had started to answer but Jemima turned abruptly and strode from the hall without looking back. On the stairs, she called for Steward Mansett and ordered him to escort her cousin from the premises. The house might already be his, but she was still mistress of it.