Here is the photo prompt from Sue Vincent this week for her #writephoto series:
Lady Rowen carefully descended the stone stairs, carrying her shoes so no one would hear her. Her long woolen dress and the hem of her cape rustled on the steps, and the large clock at the bottom whirred and clanked: 4 AM. Today was the day. She had overheard her parents whispering about the soldiers of Henry VIII, led by the snake Cromwell, coming to take their house and lands. She knew why they were coming – she knew every Sunday when the family celebrated Mass in the hidden room behind the library. She also heard their decision to send her to the Cistercian convent of St Mary at Syningthwaite, but she knew the nunnery would not survive the Dissolution ordered by Henry. Although she was but sixteen, she had decided to leave, hoping to reach her aunt in Ireland. Why don’t my parents leave? Why are they so stubborn about their faith?
The groom had, for a piece of silver, saddled and provisioned a horse for her, and it stood ready when she entered the stables. The groom had probably already run. After one last look around, she turned the head of her horse and galloped out of the gates.
The sun rose bright and the rime on the grass sparkled in its light as she trotted down the road leading north. She had left the road and hidden behind bushes twice already to avoid riders she saw in the distance. Now she saw a cloud of dust approaching and once again left the road, this time going well into a copse to hide herself. Henry’s soldiers galloped by, and she breathed a sigh of relief to see their backs. She didn’t hear the soldier come up behind her; he whipped a rope around her neck, dragging her choking from her horse. “Filthy Catholic! Thought you would get away, did yer?” he yelled. He got down, tied her hands, and taking the reins of the horse, dragged her behind him back to her home. There her parents lay sprawled in the courtyard and soldiers carried their belongings from the house and loaded it into wagons.
The house stood empty for many years. It was not a manor any lord would covet, and others were afraid for the association with Catholics. It wasn’t until the rule of Good Queen Bess that a family was given the estate and the house. Two hundred years later, their descendants decided to reconstruct the interior, and the walls of the old library were taken down. The workers reported to the owner that they’d found a door nailed shut. Everyone gathered around as the door was opened. Inside was an altar, and slumped over the prie deux, the skeleton of a woman in a disintegrated dress, the bones of one hand clutching a rosary.