Hotspur paced the hall of Warkworth, his castle in Northumberland. He was reading a letter out loud.
‘However, for my own part, my lord, I would be very happy to be there because of my respect for your house.’
He would be very happy? Why wasn’t he then? Because of his respect for our house? The letter showed that he loved his barn better than their house! He looked at the letter again.
‘What you are doing is dangerous.’ Well that was certain! It was dangerous to catch a cold, to sleep, to drink, but what he would say to the idiot was: that out of this nettle of danger they were about to snatch safety and transform it into a flower. He lifted the letter again.
‘What you are doing is dangerous; the friends you have mentioned are unreliable; the timing is bad, and your whole plot too lightweight for such substantial opposition.’ Hotspur threw his hands up. ‘Is that so?’ he exclaimed. ‘That’s your view!’ The man was a shallow cowardly deer and he was lying. What a halfwit he was. God, their plot was a good plot – as good a plot as was ever laid, and their supporters were sound and loyal, all ready and eager to go. An excellent plot, very sound friends – what a killjoy this rogue was! Indeed, the Archbishop of York himself endorsed the plot and the general plan of action. God, if he were anywhere near that rascal he would brain him with his wife’s fan! Weren’t there his father, his uncle, and himself? Lord Edmund Mortimer, the Archbishop of York, and Owen Glendower? And wasn’t there in addition, Douglas? Didn’t he have all their letters to meet him, armed, by the ninth of next month, and hadn’t some of them set out already? What a faithless rascal this was, a real infidel! Ha! Now they were going to see him running to the King out of fear and cold-heartedness and laying all their plans before him. Oh, Hotspur felt that he could divide himself in two, with the two halves fighting each other for revealing his plans to such a bowl of skim milk! Well, hang him, let him tell the King – they were ready. He would set out that very night.
Hotspur’s wife had been looking for him and now she came in.
‘How are things, Kate? he said. I have to leave you in the next couple of hours.’
She was upset. ‘Oh my dear lord,’ she said, ‘why are you alone like this? What have I done that I’ve been banished from my Harry’s bed? Tell me, my sweet lord, what has put you off your food, your pleasure and your blissful sleep? Why do you keep staring at the ground, starting so often when you’re sitting on your own? Why have you become so pale and why have you exchanged the pleasure of my body and my right to yours for sullen contemplation and bad-tempered melancholy? I have heard you, while in restless sleep, muttering about hard battles, using the language of horse handling; crying ‘Courage!’ and ‘To the field!’ And you’ve been talking about advances and retreats, of trenches, tents, pikes, front lines, parapets, of guns, of cannons, battlefield weapons, of soldiers slain, and all the appurtenances of a full blown battle. Your soul has been in such conflict, so profoundly disturbing your sleep that beads of sweat have stood on your forehead like bubbles in a recently disturbed river. And your face muscles have looked like those of someone breathing in, on the point of making an important decision… Oh what does all this mean? My lord is involved in something very serious. I have to know what it is or accept that he doesn’t love me.’
She might as well have been talking to herself because Hotspur was taking no notice. He had carried on pacing. He stopped. ‘Hey!’ he called.
One of his officers put his head round the door and, seeing that his master was talking to him, came in.
‘Has Gillams gone with the packet? said Hotspur.
‘He has’, the officer said. ‘An hour ago.’
‘Has Butler brought those horses from the sheriff?’
‘He brought one of them just a moment ago, my lord,’ the officer said.
Which one? A roan? Was it the crop-eared one?
‘It was, my lord.’
‘That roan will be my throne,’ said Hotspur. ‘Well I’ll mount him at once. O hope! Tell Butler to take him to the park.’
Lady Percy waited until the officer had left then called to her husband: But listen, my lord,’ she said.
He turned to her at last. ‘What did you say, my lady?’
‘What is it that’s carrying you away?’
He laughed then. ‘My horse, of course, my love, my horse!’
‘Stop it, you mad-headed ape!’ she said crossly. ‘Even a weasel has a sweeter temper than you. Come on now, I’m determined to know what the matter is, Harry, I am! What I fear is that my brother Mortimer is making a move on the succession and has sent to you to support his enterprise. But if you go…’
‘…so far on foot I’ll be exhausted,’ he said, finishing her sentence.
‘Come come, you parrot!’ she reprimanded. ‘Give me a straight answer.’ She grabbed his hand and twisted his finger. ‘I promise you, I’ll break your little finger if you don’t tell me the whole truth, Harry.’
He pulled her towards him and kissed her. Then he stood back and looked at her, holding her hand. ‘Off you go, you pest!’ he said, teasing. ‘My Love! I don’t love you! I don’t care for you, Kate. This isn’t the time to play with dolls and fence with lips. It’s time for bloody noses and broken heads, and that’s what we have to deal with. God bless me! Where’s my horse! What were you saying, Kate? What did you want of me?’
She pouted. ‘Don’t you love me? Do you really not love me? When he said nothing, but stood smiling at her she turned away. ‘Well don’t then. Since you don’t love me I won’t love myself.’ She turned back to him. ‘Don’t you love me?’ she pleaded. ‘Come on, tell me you’re joking.’
He took her hand. ‘Come on, are you going to see me off? Once I’m mounted I’ll swear that I’ll love you forever. But listen, Kate, I can’t have you questioning me any more as to where I go or trying to guess when I am. I have to go where I have to go and, in conclusion, I must leave you this evening, gentle Kate. I know you’re sensible, but only as sensible as Harry Percy’s wife. You’re loyal, but you’re only a woman. As for keeping secrets, no woman is more close, but my policy is that you can’t tell what you don’t know. And that’s how far I’ll trust you, gentle Kate.
‘What?’ she said. ‘Only so far?’
‘Not an inch further. But listen, Kate. Where I go you will go too. I’ll set out today, you tomorrow. Will that satisfy you, Kate?’
‘It will have to,’ she said.
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