The insistent man at the rectory door turned out to be George Andrews, Magistrate, so Bartholomew set aside his complaints about the late hour, lit a candle, and opened the door.
"Good evening, Bartholomew."
"And good evening to you as well, George. What brings you about at such a late hour. Something official?"
"Not at the moment, Reverend. Officially, I'm not here at all until morning. Late morning, I should guess."
That was a rather strange statement for George, who was usually quite straightforward. "I see. And upon what business will you be calling, if I may ask?"
"It would seem that I am to take you into custody for transfer to the Old Bailey in London."
Stranger and stranger. "Old Bailey? London? That seems a bit of a bother for a minor Non-Conformist like myself. By whose order?"
"By order of the king himself, it would appear. A messenger arrived with the papers just before nightfall. And a nice set of documents they are, too. Wax seals. Quality paper. The best handwriting. Bound in red tape. All very proper looking."
Bartholomew was taken aback . . . to say the very least. "Well, I do seem to have come up in the world a bit."
"More than you know. It would seem that His Majesty has a notion that you plot schism."
"Schism? That is preposterous, and you know it, George! Or should."
"Oh, I've little doubt of it, Reverend, but tell it to that messenger. The fellow became quite chatty after his fourth or fifth pint. It would seem there's a larger roundup in progress. Can't say as I have heard some of the names he mentioned, though I do seem to recall the Cromwell fellow in connection with that business about the fens a while back. The messenger seemed to think that some of them were bound for the tower. Alas, I am afraid it's the Old Bailey for you, though. I should not expect us too early, however. The messenger insists on being present himself. The man can certainly put it away, when drinking on someone else's coin. I left him in the care of Old Hollow-Legged Harry, at the inn. That should keep him busy."
"What should I pack for the Bailey?" said Bartholomew's ever-practical wife.
"I would rather your husband were not here at all when we arrive, Anne. Given the messenger's demeanor, I shouldn't be surprised if Bartholomew arrived at London in less than pristine condition. Oh, and the man may be rather disappointed at not being able to take your son John into custody with you."
"What son John? I've no children."
"True, but he insists we take John as well. He was quite adamant on that point. John is named in the papers quite clearly."
Bartholomew considered that for a moment, before realizing that . . . "Oh, how preposterous. Is this about that Thuringian business? What was the name of that place? Grantburg? Grant town? Something like that. Simply preposterous."
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff