Lady Mary composed herself on her wooden chair in her bedchamber, working on her needlework.
The heavy door opened and her husband entered. He was wearing a long tunic with a buckled belt. His boots creaked as he strode towards her.
‘My Lord,’ she said. ‘I asked for you to be called because I had need to speak to you.’
‘I am here, Madam.’
‘To speak to you alone, sir. ’
Lord Thomas stood before her, waiting for her to speak. She dismissed her maidservant, perched on a stool beside her. Without a word, the girl gathered up the elegant tapestry, the needles and thread, and left the room.
‘What was it you wished to speak to me about that was so urgent?’
‘Not urgent, Sir, but important.’
‘I see. Well be short, Madam. I have duties.’
‘Indeed,’ said Lady Mary, adjusting the black silk veil behind her head. Lord Thomas always had duties.
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘Do you desire that we should have a child?’
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘It is every husband’s wish, is it not?’
‘Then you must lie with me,’ she said. Her sudden frankness caught Lord Thomas off his guard.
‘I will,’ he said.
‘Yes, but not one day. Soon. And frequently.’
‘Not yet,’ he said, looking at at the floor.
‘And why not, pray? We are married, and have been for many months. I am your wife. I am neither with child nor nursing a child.’
‘There are impediments. In holy law.’
‘Please name them.’ She looked at him almost with defiance.
‘You know, do you not? We must not lie together at Lent, nor Advent, nor Whitsun, nor Easter.’
‘Surely, that leaves other times?’
‘Fast days and feast days are also excluded, according to the Penitentials.’
‘And then there are Sundays. Sundays are also excluded.’
‘Sundays? I understand that. The holy day should not be taken lightly. But there are other days.’
‘Not Wednesdays. Nor Fridays. Nor Saturdays.’
‘Anyone might think that you were making excuses, my Lord.’
‘Indeed I am not. I merely wish to abide by the rules of Canon Law. At other times, I am at your service.’
‘Very well, then,’ said Lady Mary. ‘It is Tuesday. We are not fasting. And there is no time like the present.’
She rang the bell on the small wooden chair beside her bed. The maidservant returned.
‘Please close the drapes,’ said Lady Mary.
‘My lady?’ asked the girl.
‘My head aches,’ said her employer. ‘I feel that sheltering from the light will ease it.’
‘Of course, Madam.’
The heavy curtains, embroidered with hunting scenes, were pulled across the narrow windows. The servant went to leave the room.
‘Mercy,’ said Lady Mary. ‘We are not to be disturbed on any account.
‘I understand, Madam,’ said Mercy, leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
Lady Mary got up and put the latch across. Then she pulled back the blankets and climbed onto the bed.
‘Well sir, let us make a child.’
‘But my lady, it is light. That would be fornication.’
Lady Mary let out a sigh. ‘Take off all your garments,’ she said.
‘No,’ he said. ‘I may not. Nakedness is a sin too.’
‘But you do want a child?’
‘Then be not afraid. Put aside your doubts. I have taken my own counsel. We may lie together. But we will do it only once. There will be no lewd kisses. There will be no fondling. And we will not enjoy it.’