Hales supported him, but his voice was drowned in the sudden uproar. In the end it was a downright mutiny.
‘Mister L’Estrange, I must ask you to leave this council,’ Peyton ordered. ‘You are not a Kent man, and this has nothing to do with you!’
‘Nothing to do with me?’ Roger repeated blankly. Mister L’Estrange? What had happened to Colonel L’Estrange? After all he had done for them! If it had not been for his guidance and intervention, the petition would have expired for lack of support. He had breathed life into it, shown them how to promote it. Now they did not want him. ‘I am a King’s man!’ he announced hotly. ‘Since this thing began I have fought for the King. I was at Edgehill and Newark. I was sentenced to death for my part in . . .’
‘Mister L’Estrange! Please leave.’
Roger thumped the table in front of him. ‘Surely you must see that this will not succeed. You. Will. All. Be. Killed!’ He had to bellow the last bit, for their voices joined in protest against him.
The mayor ordered the guards. ‘Leave us, sir!’
His patience at an end, Roger stood up, hurt and angry. Without another word, he walked out. Let them get on with it then. They will find out.
When the council broke up, Hales came to him in the taproom. Staring moodily into his ale, Roger had been considering his next move. By no means ready to accept defeat, even if the petition should fail, he thought about joining the royalists in Essex. There just had to be some way of saving the King from prison.
‘Ah, there you are, Roger.’
Seeing the expression on Hales’ face, Roger’s insides contracted. ‘Tell me.’
Hales sat down with him and rested his forearm on the table, absently drawing his thumbnail along the cracked grain of the table.
Roger waited patiently, for clearly Hales had something to say, and he did not want to say it. But at last he prompted: ‘Ned?’
Hales took a steadying breath and then glanced at Roger, before looking away again, like he could not meet his eyes. ‘They are saying—they are saying that L’Estrange is a traitor and should be excluded from the council.’
Roger stared at Hales in hurt silence. How many times had he been called a traitor during this business? He ought to be used to it by now.
Hales said: ‘I defended you.’ Roger put his hand on Hales’ forearm. ‘Didn’t make any difference, though.’
‘There is no remedy but patience, my friend,’ Roger told him.
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