Bring Up the Bodies

Free Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

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Authors: Hilary Mantel
says. ‘But you see I have young Thomas Avery down here fresh from the account books, poking around the stores and wanting to weigh things. Then Master Rafe, look Thurston, we have some Danes coming, what can you make for Danes? Then Master Richard crashing in, Luther has sent his messengers, what sort of cakes do Germans like?’
    He gives the dough a pinch. ‘Is this for Germans?’
    â€˜Never mind what it is. If it works, you’ll eat it.’
    â€˜Did they pick the quinces? It can’t be long before we have frost. I can feel it in my bones.’
    â€˜Listen to you,’ Thurston says. ‘You sound like your own grandam.’
    â€˜You didn’t know her. Or did you?’
    Thurston chuckles. ‘Parish drunk?’
    Probably. What sort of woman could have suckled his father Walter Cromwell, and not turned to drink? Thurston says, as if it’s just struck him, ‘Mind you, a man has two grandams. Who were your mother’s people, sir?’
    â€˜They were northerners.’
    Thurston grins. ‘Come out of a cave. You know young Francis Weston? He that waits on the king? His people are giving out that you’re a Hebrew.’ He grunts; he’s heard that one before. ‘Next time you’re at court,’ Thurston advises, ‘take your cock out and put it on the table and see what he says to that.’
    â€˜I do that anyway,’ he says. ‘If the conversation flags.’
    â€˜Mind you…’ Thurston hesitates. ‘It’s true, sir, you are a Hebrew because you lend money at interest.’
    Mounting, in Weston’s case. ‘Anyway,’ he says. He gives the dough another nip; it’s a bit solid, is it not? ‘What’s new on the streets?’
    â€˜They’re saying the old queen’s sick.’ Thurston waits. But his master has picked up a handful of currants and is eating them. ‘She’s sick at heart, I should think. They say she’s put a curse on Anne Boleyn, so she won’t have a boy. Or if she does have a boy, it won’t be Henry’s. They say Henry has other women and so Anne chases him around his chamber with a pair of shears, shouting she’ll geld him. Queen Katherine used to shut her eyes like wives do, but Anne’s not the same mettle and she swears he will suffer for it. So that would be a pretty revenge, wouldn’t it?’ Thurston cackles. ‘She cuckolds Henry to pay him back, and puts her own bastard on the throne.’
    They have busy, buzzing minds, the Londoners: minds like middens. ‘Do they guess at who the father of this bastard will be?’
    â€˜Thomas Wyatt?’ Thurston offers. ‘Because she was known to favour him before she was queen. Or else her old lover Harry Percy –’
    â€˜Percy’s in his own country, is he not?’
    Thurston rolls his eyes. ‘Distance don’t stop her. If she wants him down from Northumberland she just whistles and whips him down on the wind. Not that she stops at Harry Percy. They say she has all the gentlemen of the king’s privy chamber, one after another. She don’t like delay so they all stand in a line frigging their members, till she shouts, “Next.”’
    â€˜And in they troop,’ he says. ‘One and then another.’ He laughs. Eats the final currant from his palm.
    â€˜Welcome home,’ Thurston says. ‘London, where we believe anything.’
    â€˜After she was crowned, I remember she called her whole household together, men and maids, and she sermonised them on how they should behave, no gambling except for tokens, no loose language and no flesh on show. It’s slid a bit from there, I agree.’
    â€˜Sir,’ Thurston says, ‘you’ve got flour on your sleeve.’
    â€˜Well, I must go upstairs and sit down in council. Don’t let supper be late.’
    â€˜When is it ever?’ Thurston dusts him tenderly. ‘When is

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