Authors: Edward Marston
Tags: #Fiction, #General
The King’s Evil
Copyright © 1999 Edward Marston
The right of Edward Marston to be
identified as the Author of
the Work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents
First published in hardback in
HEADLINE BOOK PUBLISHING
First published in paperback in
HEADLINE BOOK PUBLISHING
All rights reserved. No part of
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without the prior written
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All characters in this
publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real
persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
ISBN 0 7472 6255 1
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lay that hand upon me
Caesar! and my faith is such,
shall be heal'd, if that my KING but
Evill is not yours: my sorrow sings,
is the Evill, but the cure, the KINGS.
was yesterday in many meetings of the principal
whose houses are laid in ashes, who instead of
discoursed almost of nothing, but of a
of London, and a dessein for rebuilding.
Oldenburg's letter to Robert Boyle 10 September, 1666
Louis Silverstein and
Montee of Phoenix, Arizona.
friends and bibliophiles supreme.
month of September had scarcely begun when a new disaster struck an already
beleaguered city. London had been savaged without mercy by the Great Plague,
frozen to the marrow by a cold winter then blistered in a hot, dry, unrelenting
summer which bred drought, discontent and fresh outbreaks of virulent disease.
Even the oldest inhabitants of the capital could not recall a more intense
period of suffering but they consoled themselves - between weary curses at a
malign Fate - with the thought that they had now endured misery enough and that
their situation could only improve.
came the fire.
brought Jonathan Bale awake in the middle of the night. He sat bolt upright for
a few seconds then clambered unwillingly out of bed.
ails you?' asked his wife, stirring in the dark.
Sarah,' he said.
why have you got up?'
back to sleep. I did not mean to wake you.'
you unwell, Jonathan?'
he said, putting a reassuring hand on her arm. 'I am in good health - thank God
- though it is as much your doing as the Almighty's. I am blessed in a wife who
cooks and cares for me so wondrously well. You have earned your rest, Sarah.
Take it. Sleep on.'
can I when you are so disturbed?'
am not disturbed.'
why did you wake up with such a start?'
must have had a bad dream.'
never have dreams of any kind,' she said, sitting up in bed and stifling a
yawn. 'I am the dreamer in the family. Every night is filled with them. But not
you. Your mind seems to have no fancies. Now tell me what is going on.'
that need upset you,' he soothed.
the morning, perhaps. Not now.'
trying to fob me off.'
I'll not be Sarah'd into silence,' she warned with a tired smile. 'I have not
been married to you all these years without learning your ways and your moods.
You are a man who sleeps soundly in his bed. Much too soundly at times for I
have had to rouse you more than once of a morning. Only something very unusual
could have made you wake up of a sudden like that. What was it?'
do not know,' he said with a shrug, 'and that is the truth of it, Sarah. I
simply do not know.'
Bale was a big, solid, serious man whose frame seemed to fill the small
bedchamber. Now in his late thirties, he still retained the muscles which he
had developed during his years as a shipwright and, despite the excellence of
his wife's cooking, there was not a superfluous ounce of fat on his body. The
same could not be said of Sarah. Motherhood had rounded her hips and filled out
her thighs, buttocks and breasts. A good appetite helped to complete the
transformation of a slim, attractive young woman into a plump but still comely
matron. Jonathan had marked no change in her. To his loving eye, she was still
the same Sarah Teague whom he had met and married nine years earlier.
sat on the bed and slipped a comforting arm around her.
is no point in the two of us losing sleep,' he said.
of us need lose it. Come back to bed.' 'No, Sarah. Not yet. You lie down
until you tell me what this is all about.'
have told you. I honestly do not know.'
you came awake, you let out a little yell.'
have no idea.'
it fear? Pain? Foreboding?'
wish I knew,' he sighed. 'It was almost as if someone shook me awake. There was
a sense of alarm. I felt that I was being summoned.'
are not on duty now, Jonathan.'
constable is always on duty.'
in the middle of the night?'
he is called, Sarah.'
what on earth has called you?'
is what I intend to find out.'
kissed her gently on the forehead then eased her back down on the pillow before
crossing to the window. Opening the shutters, he looked out into the unrelieved
blackness of Addle Hill. Familiar smells assaulted his nostrils and the open
sewer which ran down the lane was especially pungent on a warm night. Dogs
roamed and foraged, cats fought a distant battle over territory. Footsteps
dragged laboriously as a drunken reveller tried to stagger home. But there was
nothing to be seen beyond the vague outlines of the buildings opposite. All was
exactly as he would have expected to find it at such an hour yet Jonathan Bale
remained quietly perturbed. Instinct told him that something was amiss. It
troubled him that he could not detect what it was. He stayed at the window
until his eyes grew more accustomed to the darkness and allowed him to take a
fuller inventory of the lane. He could even pick out the inn sign of the White
Swan now and the massive bulk of Baynard's Castle emerged from the gloom like a
nothing untoward came into view. The city was peaceful.
was torn between fatigue and impatience.
he said, closing the shutters. 'I was mistaken.'
must have been a dream, after all.'
come back to bed.'
will.' He climbed in beside her and pulled the bedsheet over him. 'I am sorry
that I woke you,' he said, giving her an affectionate peck on the cheek. 'Good
into him, she was asleep within minutes but her husband remained wide awake. He
had an overwhelming sense of being needed to fight some undisclosed emergency.
It made him fretful. London, his birthplace and home, the sovereign city which
he loved so much and helped to patrol so conscientiously, was in grave danger
yet he was unable to go to its aid. His frustration steadily grew until he had
to fight to contain it. London was imperilled. While his wife surrendered once
more to the sweetness of her dreams, Jonathan Bale's fevered mind was
restlessly pacing the streets of the capital in search of the latest terror.
fire was cunning. It was no more than a dying ember in a Pudding Lane bakehouse
when Thomas Farriner, the proprietor, checked his oven and the five other hearths
on the premises before retiring to bed at midnight on that first Saturday of
the month. Having deceived the practised eye of the baker, the fire rekindled
itself with glee and crept stealthily around the ground floor of the house
until it had wrapped every stick of furniture in its hot embrace. By the time
the occupants caught their first whiff of smoke, it was far too late. Leaping
from their beds, they found their descent cut off by a burning staircase so
they were forced to escape through an upstairs window and along the gutter to a
neighbouring house. Not all of them made the rooftop journey. Frightened at
the prospect of a hazardous climb, the maidservant chose to remain in her room
and was slowly roasted to death.