The sanctuary was no safe haven of peace or quiet comfort. That morning it was filled with tears and bitter arguments between the women who remained there. Elizabeth Woodville was still vowing revenge upon those who had ruined her life and her daughters were at their breaking point in dealing with her. The younger Elizabeth having had more than her fill of her Mother’s ranting, lost her temper. “Enough! All this talk of those who have ruined your life… What of the lives you have damaged and caused much pain to? You are so consumed with your bitterness and hate at others that you have no care or concern for us who are left.”
Their arguments continued while Cecily stood apart and looked at both of them with some contempt and disgust. She held her own resentments quiet for now… what good would it do to voice her opinions. Neither of them would listen to her. They never did, she thought bitterly. She was sick to death of all of this situation and wanted out of this Hell called sanctuary. Her thoughts for her small sisters were ones of envy. At least they had escaped this place. If truth be known, she was just as envious of her little brother Richard. He was now sailing away to parts unknown, away from here and on what she considered a great adventure with their older brother Thomas. If someone should offer her such chance or opportunity, she would surely take it over this.
Cecily stood in the corner immersed in her own thoughts. Neither her Mother or sister paid her any mind, so involved were they in their dispute. That they did not consider her or involve her in their discussion aggrevated her greatly but she was much used to it. They seldom gave her due credit or attention. Their assumption was that she was too young to be taken seriously or be involved in what they deemed adult matters. She was old enough though to be considered and much often used as nurse maid to the little ones… a chore which she resented dearly. It was not so much that she did not like the little ones, it was the fact that she was constantly told to watch them. It should not have been so harsh, she thought sullenly and sadly, had her good and loving sister Mary been still alive to share the burden and bring her light of joy. Cecily thought of her sister who had died the previous year and cried well meant tears for her. She missed her sorely, still every day… that pain did not ease in her soul. Mary had been the goodness, the kindness and brightness in Cecily’s young life as well as the rest of the family’s. It seemed to Cecily that from the moment that Mary left, the light started to fade from their lives to the darkness it was now.
It was indeed a dark time and Cecily could not find a light in it. She could not bear this darkness and cold any longer. Her Mother and sister thought she was not capable of making decisions or plans at her young age of only 14. No one gave her enough credit or due, she thought somewhat smugly as she half listened to their escalating argument.
The argument was interrupted by a knock at their door. Before they could answer, Richard let himself in. Elizabeth turned on him in a blinding rage and started to hurl her flames of insult at him. He halted her immediately with a hand out in front of him, “Cease your words Elizabeth, I have serious matters to discuss with you.” He motioned for the younger girls to leave and did not speak again until they were gone.
He spoke coldly and firmly, “Before you go on with your tirade against me, I would advise you that I have had a most long and frustrating morning. I am in no mood to listen to any outbursts from you. You will quiet yourself now and pay close attention to what I am saying to you…else you may well find yourself quite alone here in this sanctuary and could face staying here on your own until you rot.”
They stood there in mutual distaste for each other while Richard continued, “Your young daughters are quite safe and well on their way now to a better life than you would see for them. I have other grevious concerns to discuss with you that do not concern them.” He was so overtaken with all the events of this morning that he had some difficulty in controlling his temper with this woman. “It has come to my attention that you, or someone within your private household overlooked something quite precious and important to you when you left your residence to enter here…”
He shrugged at her quizzical look and her hestitated reply, “I have no knowledge of what you are speaking of. I am aware of nothing missing and as far as I know, everything of personal value to me has been well managed and accounted for.”
Richard waved off her questions, “If that is so, then you should perhaps look into the personal failings of those you trusted to manage your belongings and your affairs for you. One of those in service to you were apparently quite remiss in their duties.”
He smiled in some much evil way… after his most hellish morning, he was almost enjoying his taunting of Elizabeth. As if his meeting with Gerard earlier had not been enough, John Howard had come to him with the chest found in Elizabeth’s apartment. Howard had said nothing, merely bade him open the chest and investigate it for himself. What he had discovered looked profoundly and suspiciously of some sort of witchery. As per his agreements of earlier, he knew he could not bring forward any accusations of such… but, Elizabeth did not know this. This was something tangible that he could use over her now and in the future.
As Elizabeth stood there searching her mind for what he might have in his possession, her face grew pale and troubled. She could not think of what would have been left behind that he felt was so important to her.
Richard sighed in some disgust at her, “Madam, you seem to have lost a chest full of your children’s childhood memories… No wonder that you can not remember, as you seem to have so little care or caution for your children now. Upon searching though those small momentos, something else was discovered, something that it appears was meant to be well hidden, or not?”
He raised an eyebrow in partial question and anticipation of her reply which took some time. She looked quite bewildered and her answer was long in coming.
Elizabeth’s look of bewilderment was rather accurate. This information was confusing to her as she was quite sure that the chest of which he was referring to had been duly removed and sent off to her sister, Katherine. She was also quite positive that it contained nothing save those small trinkets and items of her children. What ever was he speaking of… she did have no idea and plainly said so very clearly and honestly, “I have no understanding of what you are going on about, Richard. Why should my babies’ momentos be of any concern or value to anyone save myself or them. I know the trunk of which you refer. It was packed with only those small memories and sent off to my sister Katherine for safekeeping.”
Richard eyed her with suspicion and doubt but something in him told him she was telling truth as she knew… “So, you would accuse your sister Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham in this matter. You would accuse her of placing such witchly items, as an ancient linen covered in symbols and odd letterings, into that chest… What you are accusing her of is, either being of witchly intent herself, or setting that chest out in such a way as to betray you and the rest of your family as witches.”
Richard studied her reaction and knew he had her where he needed her. He was reasonably sure that she would go along with what ever plans he went forth on. “I shall give you some time to think on all of this and ponder this bit of advice… Someone within your personal household or family is either a traitor to me and the throne by their implicating themselves of witchcraft, or they are a traitor to you and your family. Either way, they are guilty of some deep treason. It would benefit you to think wisely and carefully on this and find out who your traitor is before I do…” With that, he turned from her and exited the room letting the door slam loudly on his way out.
When the young girls returned, they found their Mother still shaking and trembling. She was truly frightened of what Richard might do to her, to all of them. It was not beyond his scope of actions to possibly burn them all at the stake for witchcraft and be done with the lot of them in one final fire fueled by the entire Woodville family. Elizabeth was in such a state that she could not think clearly, let alone devise a plan of survival.
The girls could not remember a time ever seeing her this way, save maybe for those first moments after their Father had died. Both girls shrieked as their Mother collapsed to the floor in a faint. Their one maid left to them came running to see what was the matter. The girl, Grace was as shocked as the sisters but managed to hide her fear and assist in getting Elizabeth put to bed. She remained in her bed for days, in a feverish and delirious condition. Those who were close to the situation, assumed that it had all finally been too much for her to bear, the loss of her younger girls…and the conditions under which they were living.
The girls, and Grace knew there was something else going on. Grace was the only servant left to them, but she was not truly a servant… she was one of Edward’s illigitimate offspring. She had been given a place in their household as a young child and was much like true family to them all. Even Elizabeth Woodville cared greatly for the girl and trusted her at times more than her own daughters. On one of the nights of Elizabeth’s illness, she called for Grace fitfully. When Grace arrived, she pulled her close and whispered into her ear, “There is a traitor among us, we are doomed to burn.” Grace was terrified but assumed that it was just more delirium from the Lady Elizabeth. She attempted to sooth the woman and hush her but Elizabeth kept on, “You should not burn with us Grace, you are an innocent in this… You must save yourself…”
Poor young Grace tried very hard to remain calm and help her Lady, be of some comfort to her but she was trembling and wanted to be away from this sick bed. Elizabeth clenched her hand so that she could not escape and looked up at her with glazed eyes. “Ohhhh Grace, you are not the one are you… for I have ever trusted you well and treated you with nothing but kindness in my heart. I should hope you have not gone forth and betrayed us all in this way.” Her hand tightened it’s grip around Grace’s and when Grace looked down at her, Elizabeth’s eyes were suddenly clearer. The girl cried in pain as well as fear and answered her Mistress, “Please my Lady, you are delirious with fever. You must rest… I would never do harm to you in words or deed.” She choked out her next words, “I love you as a Mother and I am frightfully worried for you now.”
Elizabeth was crying with Grace now and though her words were whispered, ragged breaths, they were of clearer sense than but a few moments earlier. “Shhhh Grace, you must do something for me, we are all in much greater danger and you must help me with this.” She pulled Grace closer and haltingly whispered instructions to the girl. Grace shook her head in denial, “My Lady, I can not do this task, do not ask me to do this.”
Elizabeth’s icier demeanor returned and her voice was stronger, sterner toward the girl. “Yes, you can do this and you will. You will leave here and keep yourself safe from what ever is coming upon us. Once you are out there, you will go to my sister Katherine, beg her for safety on my direction and warn her of this.” She let go of the girl’s hand and waved her to leave, “Go now, child… I need to rest in order to face this new terror.”