A bit further on, on the right-hand side, is the Traitors' Gate. Above the gate, St. Thomas's Tower rises. The name Traitors' Gate alone evokes dread. Going back centuries, some thousands of transgressors were brought by boat under guard to this gate, there to join the living dead of the Tower. The moment they disembarked from the boat and passed through this gate was the last moment the sunlight of this world would fall on their shoulders. To them, the River Thames was the River Styx, and this gate the entrance to Hell. Rocked on waves of tears, they were rowed beneath the dim, grotto-like arch. On arrival at this spot, where the jaws of the whale gaped wide to draw in sardines, a thick oaken door swung on creaky hinges to separate them, for eternity, from the light of this world. Thus they fell prey to the demon of fate. The hour of their demise was known but to the demon. It might be the next day, or the day after, or ten years hence. What went through the minds of these transgressors as they sat in the boat that docked at this gate? Did they see in each bending of the oars, in each drop of water hitting the gunwale, in each motion of the oarsman's hands, their lives ticking down?
A man with a long white beard, loosely adorned in black vestment, climbs from a boat on unsteady legs. This is Archbishop Cranmer. The splendid man with a blue hood low over his eyes and wearing chain-mail under sky-blue silk must be Wyatt. Without reserve he springs from the side of the boat. Is that Raleigh there, with the brilliant feather in his cap, his left hand on the gilded hilt of a longsword, moving lightly over the stone steps in silver-buckled shoes?
I peer beneath the dim arch, stretching my neck in hopes of viewing the glimmer of waves on the stone steps of the opposite side. There's no water. Since construction of the embankment, the Traitors' Gate and River Thames commune no more. After swallowing so many transgressors and spitting back as many empty boats, this Traitors' Gate has lost now the sound of those ripples that lapped at its hems. All that remains is a great iron ring, hanging off the far wall of the Bloody Tower. This, they say, is where the boats' mooring lines were fastened.