Although this was supposed to be posted literally months ago, I am so happy to have another first on the site! A second chapter to an upcoming book my dear friend Chasqui is writing about Christopher Marlowe!
Chasqui has been following ATWC since its beginning and has contributed a number of times! I’m pretty sure I can say with confidence that she holds the ATWC record for most submissions!
If you’re interested in reading her other posts (and I highly suggest you do), here they are!
The Muses’ Darling
The Journey to Canterbury
For his journey to Canterbury to visit his family, Kit decided to take it at a leisurely pace. He was going to treat this week plus as a holiday and started out as he meant to go on, by having a lie-in! He set off mid-morning, with the sun shining, paid the toll and walked over the Thames via London Bridge where he passed the time of day with residents and stallholders alike. Over the centuries the bridge had turned into a small town in its own right, with houses, shops and stalls selling all manner of goods, and as he walked towards Southwark he could see the heads of traitors on poles, left there as a warning to all. It was nearing noon by the time he had stepped off the bridge on the south side of the river. He had decided to travel on horseback, instead of using one of the over-crowded and slow coaches, so made his way to a reputable inn where he knew he could hire his chosen mode of transport. He sought out the stables and, after discussion with the lad there, chose a dark brown steed and paid the money, telling him he’d be back in about an hour. He then made his way into the inn and ordered pie and ale for lunch.
Returning to the stables as planned, Kit found the horse ready and waiting for him. Tipping the lad two farthings, he set off on the 60-mile trek, taking the scenic route so he could enjoy the views of the countryside. Having saved himself at least nine pence by not using a ferry to cross the Thames, he felt he could indulge in the luxury of a night at an inn. Although he had written to tell his parents of his plans to visit them, he had not given an exact date of arrival, so he had a little more freedom. As dusk began to make its presence known he estimated he had travelled about half the distance to Canterbury and so, having stopped to ask a worker in a field for directions to Rochester, set off to find lodgings for the night in this old town.
The inn he chose proved to be good value for money with a clean room, comfortable bed and good food. Kit slept well, waking early to the sounds of traders trundling their carts along the road overlooked by the inn. After a quick breakfast he was astride the horse and heading for Rochester Castle on the east side of the Medway River. Kit had heard much about the castle’s history, including its occupation by the barons rebelling against King John in the 13th century and, more recently, Henry VIII’s decision to hold his first meeting with Anne of Cleves there, and was determined to see it for himself. He was keen to have the reunion with his family but he felt half an hour extra on the journey would be neither here nor there and history had always had an almost magnetic pull on Kit. He followed the road to the Medway, the horse behaving well and giving him a smooth ride as it trotted round the perimeter of the castle grounds. Although Rochester Castle was disused, some of the stonework having been taken to build the nearby Upnor Artillery Fort on Queen Elizabeth’s orders, it was still magnificent and Kit admired the architecture and size which made it such an imposing site dominating the Rochester skyline. Dismounting, he walked the horse into the grounds, tying him to a tree then proceeding to take a closer look at this wonder of 11th-century architecture. The area was deserted, and his investigation of the interior of the castle unimpeded while he mentally noted the size of the rooms with their remaining adornments – that knowledge might come in handy for a play one day!
As he walked back towards his horse, Kit’s senses sharpened and he wondered if he actually had been alone on his tour of the castle. The thought disturbed him slightly but, before he could consider it further, he saw a black horse galloping off in the distance, the rider spurring it on and looking behind to see if he was being watched. This put Kit’s mind into a spin – the rider obviously knew of his presence there but did he know his identity? Kit would do nothing about it for now, deciding a return visit to Rochester Castle might give some clue to this mystery but that would have to wait till after his stay with his family.
Although Kit had set off soon after breakfast, the morning was disappearing fast and he was determined to reach his parents’ house before dark. With half his journey still to cover, he decided on a direct route and made for Faversham, and its famous 14th-century inn where he was greeted warmly and got talking to the landlord, Robin Sutton, over a pre-lunch tankard of ale. Robin knew Kit’s father John from childhood days as they both hailed from the nearby village of Ospringe. This led to more conversation and by the time Kit came to pay for the meal Robin refused to take his money and even gave him a message for John that a meal and a room awaited him if he ever passed that way. Kit thanked him profusely before bidding farewell, then retrieved his rested and well-fed horse from the stables and headed due south on the final 10 miles of his journey.
Towards the end of the afternoon Kit could see the towering edifice of Canterbury Cathedral on the horizon. While delighted to see this landmark and know he was very near home, he was puzzled by the direction from which he was approaching it and assumed that somehow he had taken a wrong turning – something he would never live down with the family if he admitted to it! However, as he was only about half a mile from the city centre, he didn’t care!
As he caught sight of his parents’ home, he veered the horse towards the nearby inn, walking round to the stable area to seek bed and board for the horse, now named Tamburlaine, and found himself face to face with George Walker, a childhood friend who was now the groom there. Their delight at seeing each other was visible as they slapped each other on the back and exchanged news, with George proudly announcing that he and Alice Fisher had been married for 13 months and their first baby was due very soon. Kit congratulated him warmly, then briefly outlined his life in London and his playwriting but, as both had more pressing duties than chatting, they agreed to meet up on the Tuesday which was George’s day off. Kit then set off on foot, luggage in each hand, but before he reached the house, he met his mother returning from a flower-arranging afternoon at the church. She waited till they got inside the house before giving him a hug which took his breath away, and then busied herself getting him a drink while he stored his luggage in the familiar bedroom upstairs. His sisters, Margaret, Anne and Dorothy, were all thrilled to see him and, when his father arrived home from work, he gave Kit a very warm welcome, referring to his success in the London theatre. John himself knew little of the theatre and had initially held hopes of his eldest son joining him in the family shoemaking business. However, it had been obvious to him that, from an early age, Kit had the manual dexterity of a badger but had excelled in his school studies. Therefore, both parents had encouraged him in his academic pursuits and, though neither could have imagined their son making a living by writing for the London stage, were proud of all his achievements, with John thinking the theatre attraction would be a phase he was going through before he settled down to a more meaningful and worthwhile career.
Throughout and after the meal there was much chatting with Kit passing on Robin’s message to his father who then mentioned that earlier in the day Anthony Shorte, the current headmaster of Kit’s former school, had been into his shop to order a new pair of shoes. On hearing one of their most famous former pupils would be back in Canterbury for a few days, the headmaster had extended an invitation for Christopher to visit him at the school. Thomas, the youngest of the Marlowe children, was now at the King’s School, following in his elder brother’s footsteps, learning Latin and Greek, singing in Canterbury Cathedral choir and, by all accounts, doing well. Kit was proud of his brother for gaining a place at the school on his own merits. Thomas was 12 years younger so had been just four when Kit had left for his student life at Cambridge in 1580, and all wondered if the youngest Marlowe would also be heading for university in a few years’ time. Despite living so close to the school, the early starting hours and late finishing time for their studies had necessitated the brothers being boarders. Though Kit had initially resented this, he had to agree that he had benefited from being a full-time pupil, thus standing him in good stead for his years at Cambridge University. One aspect of his schooling had been the insistence that all boys spoke in Latin, even in the playground, and as a result Kit had become fluent in the ancient language.
Of course, all his family was keen to hear the latest news from London and if the second part of Tamburlaine had been as popular as the first. Kit had to admit that it hadn’t had the same impact and he was the least surprised of all as it had never been his intention to write a sequel and he didn’t feel it had the appeal of the first part.
Another question the family asked was when he had learned to ride a horse and Kit explained that it had become a necessity in Cambridge and he had paid to have some lessons and guided the conversation to some hilarious mishaps he had had while receiving this tuition. He didn’t elaborate on the reasons he had begun riding, those being that his activities for Her Majesty’s Government had taken him far and wide around the country and using passenger coaches, with their long and circuitous routes, would have given him less cover in any clandestine dealings and made him late on any mission. There were some secrets a man had to keep and Kit hid them well.
Sleepy after his long journey, Kit had an early night, pleased to be retiring to his old bed. And so his week back home had begun, with some surprises awaiting him.
© Chasqui Penguin