In the courtyard below, the watch is changing and signals midnight, while here in my prison all is tranquil and quiet as the storm begins to abate a little.
I turn onto my back and see Will, propped up on one elbow, and he smiles, his eyes bright in the glow of the candle.
‘Ive been watching you as you slept. You looked so peaceful Ned, that I did not want to wake you’.
I reach up to touch his face, ‘Don’t you have to go, or are you breaking the rules by staying with me all night?’
‘Ah’, he says, grinning, ‘the guards aren’t adverse to a little bribery. I just worked my charm on them, Ned. It works miracles with a sovereign or two thrown in’.
I laugh at his daring, and we lay in silence for some moments. Then, leaning over, Will, in a gesture so typical of him, strokes my hair back from my forehead, ‘You’re so beautiful, Ned, and I do love you’. He looks almost shy as he says it, ‘Do you regret anything we have done this night?’
For answer, I wrap my arms around his neck, pulling him down to me and kiss him, his lips warm against mine,’Love, could I be so tender if I did? But no, I do not regret for one moment what has passed between us’.
‘I’m glad, Ned, because I do not, nor will I ever’. He turns onto his side, his arm resting possessively across my chest, running my crucifix chain through his fingers.
‘Will’, I take his hand in mine, ‘undo the chain for me and remove it’. I refer to the only adornment I have ever worn. A confirmation gift from my father.
He frowns, looking surprised, ‘Why, Ned? You have worn it ever since I have known you. Have never been without it about your neck’.
‘Please,Will’, I turn so he can reach the clasp, and as he undoes it the silver chain falls and coils into my open palm. The cross of Our Lord lying uppermost and I close my hand around it.
‘I want you to have it Will’, and turning to face him, I take his hand, letting the chain pass from mine to his, ‘wear it, Will, for me, and remember how it was with us and that I gave it freely, with love’.
‘Do you speak of the chain Ned, or….?
‘I think you do understand my meaning, Will. But interpret it how ever you wish, for in both wise I mean every word’.
His eyes are bright with tears as he unfolds his hands from around the chain, and raising his arms he fumbles as he attempts, blindly to fasten it.
‘Let me do that’, I tell him. And as I fasten the clasp, I feel the weight of the chain fall around his neck.
He kisses me lightly on the lips, and smiles but sadly, ‘Thank you my love’, he says simply, ‘I do promise you,Ned that I will never remove it. For if I did and it was fastened again by any other hand, it’s meaning would be lost for me’.
The candle which lights us is nearly burnt out, and the storm has all but passed now.
‘We should sleep for a while’, he says, and lying back he pulls the blanket, which barely covers us, up around our shoulders as the night has cooled a little at last.
‘Yes, we should’. And as I too lie down he puts his arms around me drawing me in close to him so my head rests in the crook of his shoulder. And cradled and protected thus, I drift into the first blessedly deep, dreamless and restful sleep I have known for weeks.
Edwards Last Letter to Will
Will, my dearest friend and love, I recommend me to you and give you Gods blessing and mine.
I know that when you read this letter I shall no longer be with you, at least in body. But I shall, with Gods grace be with you in so many other ways and in all that you do and see which is good in this world.
With you last eve I had the greatest joy I have ever known in this life, nor as it has pleased God to shorten my days and call me from this world, will I again. But I do believe, my dearest Will that everything has a season, and the short time we were given, and able to love each to the other, was ours. And though it seems unfair and unjust, I do believe that what we did share meant more than if we had been given many years together.
I know now that I always did love you, Will. But until you told me of your love for me I tried as you did, to deny my feelings.
All I hope for now is to be received into Gods keeping and to be absolved from all my sins, and that in His good time that I shall see you again.
Love, I know that you will grieve for me, and although you will not be able to see or touch me, I do want you to remember that I will be in all things you see, hear feel and touch. Be it a blade of grass, an unfurled leaf in spring, the cry of the hawk as she hunts, a ripple on water or a solitary cloud in a clear sky.
I have your face before me as I write and God knows if it is His will, I shall carry your image and your love with me until He grants that you are with me again.
With you I lived for so brief a time, but if what we had together is but a grain of what awaits me in Heaven then what joy I shall know there.
Love, I wish you a long and peaceful life and Gods grace in all you do.
Written at the Tower this thirtieth day of August 1561, by the hand of he who was, is and always will be your dearest friend and love unto death. Edward W.
All images by Google Images