Chapter I – Installment 2 of “The Recusant: A Life of St. Margaret of York”, by Rev. Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese

In another part of York, at Davygate, at the tavern soon to be owned by Henry May, her stepfather, a riotous celebration was still in its heat. Henry, Mayor of York led a beautiful young woman to a dark and secluded corner of the tavern and whispered, with a breath full of stale ale, a single word: “Upstairs”. She obeyed him immediately. Moments later he made his way through the narrow corridor of rooms upstairs. He kept thinking of his stepdaughter, the purest, most chaste woman he had ever known. Also the bravest.

He kept whispering “Margaret, Margaret!”

Margaret stood under the light of the moon and swayed back and forth to the silent music. Like the mad she floated on the unreasonable, liquid currents of the imagined and the remembered.

In the theater of her mind, she was a child again.

“Now hold my hand tightly. It seems all of York is drunk with religion!” She felt her father’s hand tighten around hers as it perspired. Flames and bonfires seemed to be everywhere. The lurid and changeable lights against York Minster made the huge cathedral come alive with a panic glare and shadow. She thought she could see the stately stone figures hide within as fierce gargoyles reveled to the devil’s time.

A mob had gathered in front of the Cathedral. It reeled and rocked out of control. People were shouting. Fights broke out between people that she knew to be kind and forbearing. Her father was usually a calm man but even he was wide eyed and frightened. More than a few times he had to protect her from a jab or a kick which inadvertently came her way. He finally hoisted her into his arms and onto his shoulders, thinking that would best protect her. A man with a torch was screaming something. Men around him were throwing statues and vestments into the fires. Others were trying to fish them out, often careening in pain as their hands or clothes were singed or set ablaze by the wild flames.

Her father moaned under his breath “No, not the windows!” She looked in the same direction her father was staring. Soldiers were climbing the sides of the Cathedral and smashing any stained glass that they could reach. Later it was learned that some old women, praying in the Minster, were badly cut by the raining shards of glass. Archers aimed their arrows as high as they could. They were effective on the lower glasses but the higher windows retained their haughty grandeur, the arrows losing their power with
the increasing force of gravity.

Like a drunken man, bereft of reason, tottering and swaying, destructive, obscene, so was all of York, so was all of England.

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