Child, this day the rain has fallen all the day and I have been confined even more than I am wont. We have not walked in the yards, but only in the Hall or on the stairs, though we have danced. Doctor Poisonous visited us, and Nell admitted him to the Hall where I was stepping through a galliard to Meg’s tabor beat. He lectured me on the evils of strenuous exercise, “capering and prancing” as he said in my “condition”. I would not have you born deformed, child, God knows, but I cannot believe a little dancing will hurt you. My former mistress the Princess Cecilia rode across Europe while she was full-bellied with her first babe, and he was born whole and lusty. Besides, if I do not exercise you may be born lazy! Has the doctor considered that, I wonder?
Ah, child, would that my gaolers let me out to ride. I should like to go to the stables and ride with the horses when Davies takes them to exercise. I would not go hunting, I should not wish to fall, but I am accounted a fair horse-woman. Have I not ridden, these past ten years, up and down England in the Queen’s train? And without a major upset? And did I not ride with the Princess all the way from Poland? And even before that, when I was but fourteen summers, did I not ride from Fyllingerum nigh to Stockholm?
Now I shall lay aside my indignation, my dear. Instead, as I have a little time, let me take up the story I was telling where I left off last night.
We rode from Fyllingerum in a train of pack horses and the heat of the early summer hung over us like a bronze bell. Like the bell in the tower of the church at Ringarum. I remember it so. We got underway around midday and travelled north. We were a large enough company. Taking Uncle Henrik’s council my mother had decided to move the whole family to Nornäs, her dower estate north of Stockholm. We all rode, even my little brother Jöns had his own mount, a docile donkey. With our servants and Uncle Henrik and his men our party was perhaps twenty strong with another ten pack animals.
As we travelled the white clouds in the blue skies of the morning piled high and higher and their undersides grew dark and darker. It was as if the dust of the road that we kicked up as we passed, mounted to heaven and thickened the clouds. The day grew dull and heavy and my heart that had been so high and beating so hard in the morning, fell in my breast and tugged me down. Suddenly I was sad, terribly sad, to be leaving my home, and now I thought – Perhaps forever.
But as our train plodded on and the day drew towards its close, still the storm held off. Then suddenly the sun came below the edge of the clouds and though the whole sky was black and threatening, the light of the late afternoon poured in across the landscape, lighting the road ahead, the trunks of trees and the stalks of young grain in the furrows of the fields as we passed. Bright and golden in the sunlight and shining against the dark sky. And there we saw the buildings of the village where we should spend the night. Suddenly the thunder started, dry thunder, great claps of sound that rang out across the land, and in the sound I heard the voice of God cry – Elin! Elin! Fare well! Fare well! I tell you this truly, child. I swear I heard this.
Then the rain began to fall, we saw it, a curtain behind us down the road, like smoke chasing us across the land. The men, seeing the rain coming and refuge just a short way off, urged the animals forward but the rain caught up with us. A rushing noise and then the drops falling, heavy and warm at first but quickly cooler, harder and faster. Smashing into us, drenching us, washing off the drum-tight skins stretched over the packs on the horses, draggling our cloaks and hats and the skirts of our dresses and turning the dust to mud on the road, now flicked up from the animals’ hooves.
Still we came to shelter soon enough, and what I most remember is the sudden lightening of my spirits. I was wet and cold, but no longer downhearted. The land had bidden me Fare well! The good Lord had spoken to me in the thunder, had called my name and had blessed my leaving. – Gertrude, I said, did you hear? In the thunder? Did you hear the voice? – Don’t be silly, girl, my sister snapped. Thunder has no voice. But I knew she had heard it too. She was just cross it was my name the thunder had spoken. Me the Lord had wished Good Speed.
…i erd guds vois – elin far vel – igen– i tel ye tru barn
i-troth – sen y rain it fallth licht n angning backom os
licht reek it springth upon os over yland…
“MSS A5 – notes” (excerpt)
The Gorges Tomb Manuscript, (Cathedral Library, Salisbury)
Autograph manuscript on parchment, dated l576(?)
Presumed author: Helena, Marchioness Northampton