When he hears the shout of 'Fire!' he turns over and swims back into his dream. He supposes the conflagration is a dream; it's the sort he has. Then he wakes to Christophe bellowing in his ear. 'Get up! The queen is on fire.' He is out of bed. The cold slices into him. Christophe yells, 'Quick, quick! She is totally incinerated.'
Moments later, when he arrives on the Queen's floor, he finds the smell of singed cloth heavy in the air, and Anne surrounded by gibbering women, but unhurt, in a chair, wrapped in black silk, with a chalice of warmed wine in her hands. The cup jiggles, spills a little, Henry is tearful, hugging her, and his heir who is inside her. 'If only I had been with you, sweetheart. If only I had spent the night. I could have put you out of danger in an instant.'
On and on he goes. Thank the Lord God who watches over us. Thank the God who protects England. If only I. With a blanket, a quilt, stifling them. I in an instant, beating out the flames.
Anne takes a gulp of her wine. 'It is over. I am not harmed. Please, my lord husband. Peace. Let me drink this.' He sees, in a flash, how Henry irritates her; his solicitude, his doting, his clinging. And in the depth of a January night she can't disguise the irritation. She looks grey, her sleep broken.
She looks to him, Cromwell, and speaks in French. 'There is a prophecy that a Queen of England will be burned. I do not think it meant in her own bed. It was an unattended candle. Or so one assumes.'
Monday, July 16, 2012
Wolf Hall, which tells of the concomitant rise of Cromwell and of Anne Boleyn at the court of Henry VIII, and Bring Up the Bodies, the just-published sequel in her Cromwell trilogy, which details the bloody aftermath (we have both, at a most excellent sale price). Cromwell as imagined by Mantel has few equals in literature, and I'm eager to dive into Book II. Here's a passage from it.