Cold Winter’s Night
Mistress Magdalen Foye
Her daughter, Kat Foye
Her son, Thom
Her son Christopher, an infant.
Noblewomen 1 & 2
Scene I. The interior of a Tudor era home; not belonging to peasantry—perhaps descendents of knights’ younger sons. Snow is falling. Mistress Magdalen Foye is sitting near the fire with he infant son, Christopher. Her son Thom is setting the table. They are shabby.
Thom: Kat has been long gone.
Mistress Foye: That I know, Thom. Perhaps the physician is elsewhere. Hush ye, Christopher; poor sweet!
Thom: Will she see the queen? The doctor’s house is near where the queen is. Kat said so; she said Queen Mary’s staying at our lord’s place.
Mistress Foye: The queen will be in; ‘tis snowing. I would not have sent Kat, only I must stay with the child.
Enter Kat, snowy.
Kat: The physician will not come.
Mistress Foye: He will not?
Kat: Because we cannot pay well, and because it is said thou are a heretic. As is true!
Mistress Foye: Thou are sure he will not come?
Kat: I have no doubt.
Mistress Foye: Do thou get Thom his supper. (Aside) He refused; when my husband was on live, it would not have been so. Christopher suffers because I am a—heretic, they call it. Poor innocent! Hush ye. What can be done? What to do?
Kat: Are thou muttering spells?
Mistress Foye: Thou are worse than saucy, tonight. Thy father would have strapped thee.
Kat: My father is dead because thy apostasy broke his heart.
Mistress Foye: Hold thy tongue.
Kat: I will not! My brother is dying, and the doctor will not come, because thou think thyself above the church! We could pay him, if it were not that no one will give us work because of thee; he would not refuse if not for thy soul! If thou were not my mother I would have reported thee to the queen’s men. If I did not owe thee a duty—
Mistress Foye: Does thou truly hate me, Kat?
Thom: I’ll open it!
Mistress Foye: What?
Thom opens the door. Enter two noblewomen.
Noblewoman 1: Greeting, mistress. We are wayfarers, who went too far and were met by storm.
Mistress Foye: You are welcome, gentles, though we have little to offer. Kat, do thou help with their cloaks.
Noblewoman 2: I thank thee, child. We do not wish thy meat, only to bide a short time from the storm. Is the babe ill, mistress?
Mistress Foye: He is, alas!
Noblewoman 2 holds out her hands for him.
Noblewoman 2: He seems in need of a physician.
Mistress Foye: The physician would not come.
Noblewoman 1: Wherefore?
Mistress Foye: He—
Kat: We are right poor. And ‘tis a foul night.
Noblewoman 2 hands Christopher back to his mother.
Noblewoman 2: I know the queen’s physician: I shall fetch him.
Jane; The weather, your—Wait until the storm slackens, prithee.
Noblewoman 2: The babe is sickening.
Noblewoman 1: Permit me—
Noblewoman 2: Thou are not well yet, from that cough. It is an act of charity; do not hinder me.
Kat: Shall I go with you, my lady, to guide you back again? I am well and strong.
Scene II. A village, a snowstorm racing through it. Kat and Noblewoman 2 walking.
Kat: Do you well, my lady?
Noblewoman 2: Well enough. Tell me of thy family, child.
Kat: My father is dead. My mother and I sew and farm as we can. My brothers you saw; they are young.
Noblewoman 2: Does thou think of marriage?
Kat: No one desires me, my lady.
Noblewoman 2: Tut! I believe it not.
Kat: ‘Tis true. May I ask if you be one of the Queen’s ladies?
Noblewoman 2: In a way, aye.
Kat: What is she like, Queen Mary?
Noblewoman 2: She is tired!
Kat: I have heard tell that she is ending heresy, my lady.
Noblewoman 2: It is her duty, child. (She sighs.) So much of it, all of a time. I hear say of it in this village. A certain woman. Does thou know her?
Kat: Know whom, my lady?
Noblewoman 2: A woman, a heretic.
Kat. I know not, my lady.
Noblewoman 2: They are bold, and they will condemn many of my people. Of the English; I am English, so I call them my people.
Kat: What, my lady, would befall this heretic, were she caught?
Noblewoman 2: Repentance, I hope.
Kat: If not?
Noblewoman 2: Death; and I would pray God to save her soul. Child, if thou know this woman—
Kat: There lies the hall, my lady.
Scene III Kat waits near fire for return of Noblewoman 2.
Kat: I have perjured myself. I have betrayed my faith. Again, again, again; every time I go to confession, speaking to this lady, speaking to any. But what can I do? She is my mother. I cannot cause her burn—I am afraid to save her soul…
Enter Noblewoman 2 with Doctor.
Noblewoman 2: Are thou well, child?
Kat: I am, my lady.
Doctor: Again, I beg you to stay, yo—my lady. You are not strong.
Noblewoman2: Do not hinder charity! Let us go.
Scene IV. The Foye’s house again. The doctor is examining Christopher, while Mistress Foye and Thom watch. Kat and both noblewomen are drawn aside out of the way.
Noblewoman 2: Thou are of gentle birth, Mistress Katherine?
Kat: (Distracted by Christopher) Aye, my lady. My father’s father was Sir Oswald Foye’s son—the youngest of five.
Noblewoman 2: I should like to take thee into my service.
Kat: I thank you, my lady. But my family stands in need—(she winces as Christopher coughs.)
Noblewoman 1: Nay, but with thee in the service of the que—
Noblewoman 2: Jane!
Jane Dormer: I beg pardon—
Kat: You-Your majesty?
Mary I (Noblewoman 2): Sit, dear child. Fear not—I’m but a woman. I meant this not to come out. Does thou like the offer?
Kat: Prithee, Your majesty, may I have space to think? And my mother—
Mary: I shall ask her.
Doctor: He speweth! There. The lad shall be well now. ‘Twas but mucus.
Mistress Foye: Thank Providence! And I thank you doctor, greatly. I can offer you little—
Mary: Do not concern thyself for that. I should like to take thy daughter Katherine into my service, if it please thee and her.
Mistress Foye: Kat? Into your service, my lady?
Mary: She pleases me.
Mistress Foye: May I ask who you are, my lady?
Jane: I am Jane Dormer, the Queen’s lady, and I vouch for her. She does not wish to be named.
Mary: Nay, she ought to know. I am Mary Tudor, the queen—Doctor, she is ill.
Doctor: Faintness. There. Sit down. The room’s hot.
Thom: It’s cold!
Kat: Are thou well, mother?
Mistress Foye: Entirely. Your majesty, I beg your pardon.
Mary: Pray, do not be distressed. Thou need not be.
Thom: Mother, thou’re making her sad!
Kat: Hush, Thom!
Christopher begins crying loudly, not in pain, just because he is a baby. Kat cuddles him.
Mistress Foye: Kat, I leave this to thee. Thou are a woman.
Kat: Your majesty, mother, might I have time to think?
Mary: You may.
Mistress Foye: Aye.
Kat gives Christopher to Mistress Foye and goes away from the fire, turning her back to the group.
Kat: Do I have a choice? An I stay—I may offend the queen; she may think we’re not inclined to her. An I go, my mother lives here, a heretic, with none to farm or shield her; I know she’s less suspected for my piety. My piety! When I lie forever! I would be among those of my own faith if I went, no disputes, no hiding—but there would be hiding. Forever hiding. (She leans her head against the wall.) I wish not to go, not truly. Jesu, show me…
Mistress Foye’s voice rises.
Mistress Foye: Your majesty, they seek truth.
Mary: They seek it wrongly. It does not befit thee to speak in their favour. Almost—is there a heretic here?
Mistress Foye: Aye, more than one.
Kat sees that she must stop this conversation. She makes a hasty decision.
Kat: Your Majesty?
Mary: Thou have chosen?
Kat: I am grateful for your kindness. I accept, Your Majesty.
Mary rises, smiling, forgetting previous conversation, and takes Kat’s hands.
Mary: I am glad, Katherine. And do not fear, Mistress, she shall have leave to come see thee. And it is only right that I give great recompense for her absence.
Thom: Is recompense pudding?
Kat: I will be greatly honoured to serve the Defender of the Faith.
Mistress Foye: O Kat!
Author’s Note: I wanted to write about Mary I of England. This is what ended up happening. The book The History of Mary I., Queen of England: As Found in the Public Records, Despatches of Ambassadors, in Original Private Letters, and Other Contemporary Documents (Google eBook) by Jean Mary Stone (found here: http://books.google.com/books?id=upJKVgcx25wC&dq=mary+I&source=gbs_navlinks_s) is one I consulted. I went through a period where I was rather into the Tudors (and Mary’s my favourite; I’m sure plenty of books have influenced this, particularly the style of speech. Thank you, authors.
Copyright© 2014 by Abigail Leskey