Read Bartholomew Fair Online

Authors: Ann Swinfen

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Historical, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Thrillers

Bartholomew Fair

BOOK: Bartholomew Fair
11.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub








Ann Swinfen



Shakenoak Press

Copyright © Ann Swinfen 2014


Shakenoak Press

Kindle Edition



Ann Swinfen has asserted her moral right under the

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified

as the author of this work.

All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than

that in which it is published and without a similar condition

being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.



Cover design by JD Smith






Tanya & Mark



Chapter One

London, July 1589

stood before the door of my home and stared at the unknown woman who was sweeping the steps. My dog Rikki pressed himself again my leg and whined softly as I laid my hand on the matted fur of his head.

‘Is Dr Alvarez at home?’ I asked her, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.

The woman stopped her sweeping and stared at me. Then she leaned on her broom and frowned. ‘Are you his son? We were told his son had sailed on the Portugal venture.’

‘Aye,’ I said cautiously. Something was wrong. Where was Joan? This woman did not look like a servant.

‘I am his son, Christoval Alvarez.’ I frowned in my turn, suddenly full of mistrust. There was no Inquisition here. Surely my father was safe in London. Why was he not coming out to greet me?

‘Where is he?’ I demanded harshly. ‘Where is Dr Alvarez?’

‘You had better come inside,’ she said.

She turned her back on me and I stepped after her into the kitchen. Rikki tried to follow, but she pushed him away with her broom and closed the door on him.

‘Where is Dr Alvarez?’ I repeated. Despite my attempt to keep my voice steady, I could hear that it shook a little.

‘Dr Alvarez?’ She propped her broom against the wall and faced me, her hands on her hips. There was something defiant in her face. ‘Dr Alvarez has been dead these two months and more.’

A cry of pain burst from my lips.
Damn you, Dom Antonio! Damn you, Ruy Lopez, and all your schemes! May you rot in Hell!

I swayed and clutched at the doorpost, as the world turned black. For a moment I thought I was back at the door of my grandfather’s
. Was I fated always to come too late? I knew my father had been declining fast when I left, but it was barely three months since we had sailed from London. He had seemed tired and confused, but not seriously ill. If I had not been carried off on that fatally flawed expedition by Ruy Lopez, at least I would have been here to hold my father’s hand in his last moments, to help him turn his face to the wall in the traditional way, to say over him the
, the prayers of farewell to the dead.

I am not sure how long I stood there in silence, staring down at the battered toes of my boots. I could not meet the woman’s eye, in case I gave my feelings away. But I would need to assert who I was, so that I could reclaim my property. At last I lifted my head. Her expression had softened and she was looking at me not unkindly.

‘So you are his son? You have returned from the Portugal venture?’

I nodded mutely. I must think. What was this woman doing here? Would the hospital allow me to continue in my post, if I was no longer working with my father?

‘You are . . . ?’ I asked tentatively.

‘Mistress Temperley,’ she said. ‘Come.’

She waved me further into the kitchen and I looked around. Some of our furniture remained, but my father’s fine carved chair was gone, and the hanging cupboard which held our medicines, and the press under the window where my father kept his precious books of Arabic medicine. In the far corner, near the door to the parlour, a baby was asleep in a cradle.

‘You are living here?’

‘My husband, Dr Temperley, is a physician. The governors of St Bartholomew’s have appointed him, these six weeks gone, to take your father’s place. They have given us this house and I have been setting it in order, for it was in a fine pickle when we arrived!’

I sat down on a bench by the table, uninvited.

‘Joan always kept the house sweet,’ I said defensively.

‘Was Joan your maid? She was long gone. When your father put all his money in the venture and the creditors came calling, she took another post, out at Barnes.’

‘She had been paid in advance for the whole year till next March,’ I said bitterly, ‘on Lady Day, as she has been these seven years.’

So my father had died alone and uncared for.

The woman shrugged. ‘A maid needs a mistress to keep her in order. My own girl would not dare do such a thing, or I would drag her back by her ear.’

‘Where are all our goods? The medical equipment, the books, the medicines?’

I stared about me in horror. ‘My lute? The recorders? Books of music?’

‘Seized and sold by your creditors. My husband bought some of your things. Some furniture, the retorts and alembics. He thought he would buy the books as well, until he saw they were full of heathenish magical symbols.’

‘Arabic,’ I said dully. ‘They were Arabic medical texts, the most precious and advanced in the world.’

It had taken my father nearly a lifetime to collect a library of Arabic medical books. We had lost them, along with everything else, in Coimbra, save for the four Dr Gomez had been able to salvage. Since we had come to London, he had spent little on clothes or food, but slowly and painstakingly, by searching the bookstalls in Paul’s Churchyard, he had rebuilt his collection. My Arabic was still poor, but I had been trying to work my way through them before I went away.

‘I had clothes,’ I said. ‘In my room upstairs. Three books of my own.’

She shook her head. ‘All taken.’

She might as well have spoken it aloud, the next conclusion, for it hung in the air between us: I was destitute.

‘I worked as my father’s assistant in the hospital,’ I said. ‘I must go there and ask about resuming my duties.’

The woman gave me a look which was pitying but firm.

‘My husband has his own assistant, his younger brother, who has just completed his studies in medicine at Oxford. There are no places left at the hospital.’

There was no more to say. A boy I had seen earlier in the street came clattering down the stairs, demanding that his mother help him tie his points. She turned away, forgetting me at once. I let myself out of my father’s door and stood at a loss in Duck Lane amongst the familiar Smithfield dung and rubbish. Rikki was sitting amongst the blown straw in the gutter, looking at me anxiously. A young girl, carrying a market basket filled with vegetables and meat, stepped round me and went into the house. This must be the obedient maid. The sight of food awakened my hunger again, and I thought, somewhat bitterly, that the woman might have offered me a meal before turning me out of my home to wander the streets.

It was too much to comprehend at once. I felt overwhelmed. My grief for my father was tangled up in all this catalogue of disaster. I had no home, no profession, no money, and no possessions. I did not even have a whole suit of clothes to wear. For a long time I simply stood there, not knowing what to do. Then the hunger in my belly prompted me. I would think and plan better if I had something to eat.

With a whistle to Rikki, I walked the short distance to Pie Corner and used a ha’penny of Dr Nuñez’s money to buy a hot pie from one of the shops which make them fresh from the meat corralled at Smithfield and slaughtered at the Shambles. This was no ordinary, with tables and chairs, instead I sat on the stone doorstep with the pie cupped in my hands, licking every drop of gravy that dripped on to my fingers and sharing the pie with Rikki. From the eagerness with which he gobbled down his portion I suspected that he had not eaten for a long time.

As usual, there were beggars and paupers in the street. As the saying goes, they were eating a meal of steam. Certainly the smell of the hot pies would bring the water to your mouth, but how cruel it must be when you knew that was the only taste of pie you would get. I wondered how long it would be before I joined those beggars. When one sidled up, looking for a handout, I hardened my heart and shook my head.

‘I have nothing to spare,’ I said. ‘I am just returned from the Portugal expedition, and I have nothing.’

They were words that would become familiar to everyone in England in the next weeks.

The beggar glowered at me and aimed a kick at Rikki, but when I sprang to my feet and laid my hand on my sword, he ran off.

The food gave me some strength and I knew that the first thing I must do was to find somewhere to live, or at least to lay my head for that night. My journey back from Plymouth had used all but a handful of the coin Dr Nuñez had given me, so I could not possibly afford to stay at an inn, even one of the meaner sort. It was already late afternoon. Though it was July and the days were long, I must find somewhere before nightfall, for it would not be safe on the streets.

We knew very few of our neighbours, for my father had always kept somewhat to himself here, near the hospital. His friends were all in that other part of London, near the Tower and Aldgate, where most of our community lived, apart from those secondhand clothes dealers north of Bishopsgate, and the Lopez family in Wood Street.

I thought. Surely Sara Lopez would take me in, just as she had done all those years ago when we first arrived in London and I was a motherless waif of twelve. I had already started to make my way to Wood Street, with Rikki padding quietly at my heels, in fact had reached the corner of Newgate Street and Aldersgate Street, when my feet slowed of their own accord, and stopped.

Ruy Lopez would be home by now. He had set out for London with Dom Antonio even before I left Plymouth, both of them anxious to distance themselves as quickly and as far as possible from the angry creditors who awaited them at every turn of the street there in the town. I did not want to seek shelter with Sara if Ruy was at home. And if Ruy was there, Sara would have learned how disastrous the Portuguese expedition had been for her husband, and for her father Dunstan Añes, who had also invested heavily in it. I did not suppose Ruy would be ruined. He was far too crafty for that, far too careful to protect himself. He would have money invested elsewhere, in spices piled up in warehouses, in property, probably in precious gems and coin of the realm judiciously concealed in some safe hiding place. But even if he was not financially ruined, his reputation would have plummeted. What would the Queen say to him, who had been persuaded to invest four times her original stake, on the promise of rich rewards? What would Sir Francis Walsingham say, who had been promised defeat for the Spanish and their expulsion from Portugal? What would the Privy Council say, who had backed the venture and Dom Antonio’s claim to the Portuguese throne? No, the Lopez house in Wood Street was no place for me to seek sanctuary.

Dr Nuñez? He had become almost a second father to me. No, he would still be in Plymouth. Unlike the other two, he had remained behind to try to set in motion some sort of compensation for the investors. Besides, he had looked so ill and tired before I started back to London that I could not take my troubles to him.

I stood there in the street, shaking off peddlers who tried to sell me hot codlings, spectacles, and shrimps. A man went by with his basket, calling out to maidservants to bring out any food scraps for the starving prisoners in the City’s prisons. That spurred me on to get away from Smithfield and the hospital. It might be that my father’s creditors had not been able to realise enough from our possessions to write off our debts. I might find myself taken up for debt and thrown in the Marshalsea with the debtors and Catholic priests.

The Marshalsea
, I thought.

It was natural for me to think first of the motherly Sara, and of Dr Nuñez who had been so kind to me, but Simon Hetherington would help me. Someone of my own age, on whom I need not feel so dependent. Simon and I had first met when he summoned me to care for a prisoner at the Marshalsea, but that was a long time ago now, three and a half years. I would need to look for him amongst the players at the Theatre, north of the City, beyond Bishopsgate and near Finsbury Fields.

I began to hurry along Cheapside. If I could find Simon, surely he would let me sleep on the floor of his lodgings, for a night or two, until I found somewhere of my own. I had a moment’s doubt about sharing a man’s lodging, alone, but shrugged it off. I had spent the last three months on the ship
and in the army camp, living amongst men unmolested, by keeping to my cubbyhole on board ship and sleeping beside my horse on the long overland trek. During the fearful return voyage from Portugal, I doubt whether any member of our company would have noticed or cared, had my secret been suspected, we were all too concerned with merely staying alive. Simon had known me all the three years since we first met and believed me to be a young man like himself. Sometimes we make too much of what others see when they look at us. Simon would expect to see a youth, so he would see a youth. There would be no harm in it. I could not lose my reputation, for I had none to lose.

At Bishopsgate Street I headed north out of the City. I had to choose between the Theatre to the north, in Shoreditch, and the Rose, to the south of the river, in Southwark, but I thought Simon usually played the Theatre. Last winter he had had one engagement at the Rose, but that was Philip Henslowe’s playhouse, where Simon had been on loan. Simon belonged to James Burbage’s company, formerly the Earl of Leicester’s Men, but since the Earl’s death they were under Lord Strange’s patronage. Burbage’s men played at the Theatre and the Curtain, both beyond the north wall of the City, so I chose to go north.

I stopped at the Curtain as I passed, and asked for him, but they shook their heads. They knew nothing of his whereabouts. At the Theatre the crowd was just pouring out of the playhouse. I saw by the playbills blowing about in the gutter that they had been watching a play called
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
, said to be by someone called Will Shakespeare, a name I hadn’t heard Simon mention. Here, at least, Simon was known, but I had made the wrong choice. The man sweeping out the galleried benches, and pocketing the odd coin dropped by playgoers, paused briefly.

BOOK: Bartholomew Fair
11.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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