399. THOMAS CHRISTENMASS AND WILLIAM WATS.
In this perilous rage of Queen Mary's reign were two men persecuted, one called Thomas Christenmass, the other William Wats, of Tunbridge in Kent. As these travelled from place to place, not resting two nights in one place, it happened them on a time to come to Rochester in Kent, where, as they [were] entering into the town, even at the town's end, [they] met with a little damsel of eight years of age; but whither she went they knew not. It was then night, and they weary; and fain therefore would have lien in the same town, but could not tell where, they feared so the bloody catholics. At last they devised to ask the damsel, whether there were any heretics in the town, or no? and she said, Yea. They asked her, Where? She answered them, At such an inn: telling them the name, and where the inn was. Shortly after, as they were gone from her, they bethought themselves better, and God so moving their hearts, they went to the child again, and asked her how she knew that the innkeeper (of whom she spake before) was a heretic. "Marry," quoth she, "well enough, and his wife also." "How knowest thou, pretty maiden?" said they: "I pray thee tell us." "How know I?" said she; "marry, because they go to the church; and those that will not hold up their hands there, they will present them. And he himself goeth from house to house, to compel them to come to church." When these two men heard this they gave God praise, and avoided that house, taking the warning of that maid, (of good bringing-up, as it should seem,) to be God's marvellous providence towards them.
Another escape of William Wats.
The foresaid William Wats, dwelling in Queen Mary's days at Seal in Kent, the last year of her reign save one, was apprehended by his enemies, and brought by the constables before the bishop and justices of Tunbridge, where the bishop and justices would have persuaded him all they could, to turn from the truth; howbeit in vain, for they could not remove him, although they spent all the forenoon thereabout, with many flattering words; so merciful was the Lord unto him.
Now when dinner-time was come, as they should rise, they committed the prisoner to the constables again, and so rose up to go to dinner. The constables took Wats, and led him to a victualling-house, where, after they had well filled themselves, they fell asleep, supposing their prisoner to be sure enough under their hands. Wats's wife being then in the house with her husband, and very careful for his well doing, seeing the constables thus fast asleep, desired her husband to depart and go thence, forasmuch as the Lord had made such a way for him; unto which her words he would not consent, although she persuaded him all that she could.
At the last, (they replying one against another,) a stranger heard them, and asked her what the matter was, that she was so earnest with her husband. The wife told him. Then said the stranger unto Wats these words, "Father! go thy ways in God's name, and tarry no longer: the Lord hath opened the way unto thee." Whereupon the said Wats went his way, and his wife departed from him, and went home to her house at Seal, thinking her husband had gone another way. Now as she was going in at her door, telling her friends of his deliverance, immediately came the said Wats in also, and they all being amazed thereat, willed him in all haste to get him away; for they thought there would be search for him immediately.
Then Wats said, he would eat meat first, and also pray; which he did, and afterward departed thence. So soon as he was out of the doors, and had hid himself in a holly-hush, immediately came the said constables with thirty persons into the said house to search for him, where they pierced the featherbeds, broke up his chests, and made such havoc, that it was wonderful. And ever anon as they were searching, the constable cried, "I will have Wats, I will have Wats; I tell thee, I will have Wats." But (God be thanked) Wats could not be found. And when they saw it booted not to search for him, in the end they took his wife, and set her in a pair of stocks, where she remained two days; and she was very bold in the truth, and at the last delivered, through the providence of God; whose name be glorified in all his works, Amen.