Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
1. ENGLAND (1577-1583)
IV. THE EARL OF OXFORDS PAVAN
not, O Lord, thy face from me,
Although a wretched wight,
But let me joy
in Thee all day,
Rejoice in Thee all night."
-- Francis Tregian
his Most Christian Majesty, Henri, the
third of that name, king of France,
etc., etc., give these.
your majesty, after my hearty commendations. My letters of the 28 and 30 ultimo
have informed your majesty of my talk past with this queens officers for
the seas. Since then, we have spoken thrice more, and I do verily think that the
English captains are as careful to drive their pirates from those havens as we
are to have them dispersed. I dare assure your majesty that by All Saints
Day next we shall have the relief we have looked for.
news have I none, but for one matter of some moment. Not long since I received
a visit from a young nobleman of this realm who would seem to offer great service
to your majesty. He is the earl of Oxford, who is a very brilliant youth, of a
very noble house, and much beloved of the queen herself for his manifold charms.
The earl told me upon his first entering my chamber that he is a Catholic, and
that he has been sent to me by all the great Catholics of this country, who, he
said, are almost all the nobility except this queens own special favorites.
When I asked whom he meant particularly, he named an exceedingly large number
of great persons, some of whom I know to be Catholics indeed, others I think who
might be very surprised to find their names upon his list. I asked him politely,
as if idly curious, who in particular had sent him, to which he replied that the
brother of the late duke of Norfolk, who died in the cause of your majestys
honorable cousin the Scottish queen, was one, and that there were many others
he could name at a need.
some complaints of the hard fate of Catholics in this realm, and many lamentations
therefor, the earl fell into inveighing against some of the queens special
counsellors, to whom he lays the blame for their present misfortunes. And then,
without looking upon me directly, he said it was thought your majesty might do
much to help them if you would. I replied that your majesty was always careful
to relieve the unfortunate godly where lawfully it might be done. He then professed
to be devoted to your majestys service, and said he thought that he and
his friends, with your majestys aid forthcoming, might do much for the aid
of the Scottish queen their mistress in her durance, whose only good they desire
more than anything else.
told the earl that many men do profess great love for kings and queens who only
wish advantage to themselves, and that it was your majestys wont to require
some signal piece of service in earnest of good faith before proceeding further
with any man. To which he replied that it may be he could do such service. He
said it was the common bruit in England that your majestys rebel the prince
of Condé was on the very point of fleeing into England for his safety, and said
that he knew a captain who might undertake an enterprise against the said prince
at his coming over. I told him that the peace was nearly concluded and the prince
would not need to seek refuge anywhere, but that were this peace to hold no better
than the last and the prince should then be driven to this shore, your majesty
might have no objection to the idea.
he said that he had not known of a new peace and had meant further to have raised
a squadron of five ships for service against the Huguenots at sea, and that he
would do so if the peace were not to hold. I thanked him very earnestly and asked
him what your majesty might do for him by way of recompense. He thought for a
moment, looking like a man who has to go from one great rock to another and cannot
bring himself to leap. Finally he said that he must consult with his friends,
but that in the meantime I must consider him wholly at your majestys commandment.
I thanked him for his love and gave him a small jewel as a token of your majestys
esteem, and then he departed.
morning the earl of Oxford has returned. He seemed very agitated and hastened
to enter into his matter without any of the kind of idle speeches which commonly
pass first between gentlemen. He told me he was ready to lead a rebellion of the
Catholic part in England if he were assured of your majestys support. I
told him that rebellions are very serious affairs ordinarily, that there are many
ways to enter into them, but the way is very narrow to come honorably out thereof,
and they are dangerous for the soul and body. Still he persisted by saying that
all this kingdom is awaiting the proper direction to rise up against the favorites
of the queen and their Protestant minions, and would do so if given good hope
of success. The queens favorites, he insisted, would flee with no more ado
than a few shots fired and a few bills broken.
said he seemed assured of good success, but I did wonder what part your majesty
might have in such an affair. I told him that as long as this queen did not support
rebellions in your dominions, you might not lawfully do so in hers. The young
earl replied that all the world did know that the English queen has many times
aided your majestys unruly subjects of the other religion, and that in any
case your majesty was freed of that restraint by the holy bull of excommunication
by which this queen is no queen in the eyes of God but a usurper. I pointed out
to him that the term of that deposition was expired two years past, to which he
answered most cannily that a new bull might easily be procured, since she was
the same queen still. But then, very ill at ease, he went on to say, with some
default of logic, that he meant only to remove the counsellors who were leading
their queen astray, and to name the Scottish queen her heir, not to attempt anything
against Elizabeth herself, which he said would be less grateful amongst the gentlemen
Seigneur de Mauvissière de Castlenau, French ambassador to the English Court
Whereupon I asked again
what role your majesty might have in such an adventure. The young earl fumbled
again, but finally said you might dispatch ten thousand men to land upon the southern
coast and thence proceed to the capital, whose presence there would assure a victory
for the religion with the loss of no mans life, upon which they might return
unto your majesty more glorious in the sight of God for their holy succor given.
I professed to weigh seriously his proposal, telling him I would consult your
majesty in the matter and let him know your will. In the meantime, I said, we
would be grateful for any bit of news from the court that the earl or his friends
might pass to us, only for the good of religion, and I think in this we will profit
greatly from his aid, for his father-in-law is the great Lord Treasurer and other
his friends do sit in very high places in this realm. In earnest whereof I gave
him a small jewel to signify your majestys great good will towards him.
So, wishing me God speed, he departed.
my judgment, your majesty would do well to humor the young earl and other his
discontented friends, for we may gain much by their friendship. On the other side,
however, your majesty must not take seriously his schemes, which in my opinion
are chimerical, as also is his estimate of the might of the Catholic forces within
this realm. I will do in this business as your majesty instructs me, as indeed
in all other. With all loyalty professed, etc., I close, remaining your majestys
humble servant at his post, in his house in London this fifteenth of June, the
year of our Lord 1577.
Phelippes, although a very young man, was Secretary Walsinghams chief documents
handler. Already an expert linguist and decoder, his main task was to see to the
translation of the letters in ciphers and foreign languages that were brought
in by the Secretarys friends and agents from wherever they could be intercepted,
found, bought, or stolen.
completed his translations of the copies of various correspondences sent over
by their man in the French embassy, setting most of them aside in a small pile
for the Secretarys perusal at his convenience. The last one he had handled,
however, seemed important enough to be treated separately. Papers in hand, he
hurried off through the corridors of the court to find his master.
in June, Charles Arundell was away from town, at Golden Manor on the river Fal
in Cornwall, two miles above Tregony. After some years in the queens bodyguard,
Arundell, while still a young man, had risen into modest favor by his service,
and had been granted in return a few suits which made his living. In 1572 he had
been appointed lieutenant of the Isle of Portland and captain of the castle, in
county Dorset, with the power to maintain a master gunner, five other gunners,
five soldiers, and two porters to man the installation. Having acquitted himself
well in the post, in October 1574 he was made receiver of crown lands in several
western counties, in which position he received one hundred pounds by the year,
with commissions of a hundredth part of all moneys he collected for the queen.
This, with the revenues of his little lands, made him a comfortable if unostentatious
He had ridden out by
the Oxford road to the city of Gloucester, and thence to Bristol, where he conferred
with his deputies, went over their books, and oversaw the progress of the work.
He meant afterward to travel to Portland Castle for a few days sojourn there;
then to Pulham in Dorset where he held some land; finally to Salisbury and Southampton,
where also he was receiver, and so to Greenwich where the court should be. In
the meantime, he had turned aside from Bristol. Accompanied by his nephew, Sir
Matthew Arundells son Tom, he had ridden west into Devonshire and Cornwall,
where his familys origins lay.
Lanherne he met his cousin Sir John Arundell, one of the magnates in the district.
Then, for the feast of Corpus Christi on the sixth of June, Charles and Tom made
their way across to Golden Manor, where they reposed on holiday for several days
more. Here was the home of Francis Tregian, Sir John Arundells nephew, which
had become, after Lanherne and Sir Matthews family seat at Wardour Castle,
one of the chief Catholic centers in the far west. Golden House was a pleasant,
commodious establishment. Clustered behind on one side were the kitchens and ancillary
huts, on the other side the beginning of the gardens that extended down to the
river Fal at Golden Mill.
Manor (from Boyan & Lamb, Francis Tregian, Cornish Recusant, 1955)
Tregian himself was a small
man of fewer than thirty years who had gone abroad for his conscience while still
a youth. He had then reconsidered his scruples when the statute of 1571 had made
him liable, if he remained out of the realm without license, to forfeiture of
all his lands. Thereafter, following a brief career as a courtier, he had resided
circumspectly in the country, as far as possible from a world increasingly disagreeable
for adherents of the old faith. His wife Mary was if possible more devout than
he was, and perhaps, with her brother Lord Stourton still in prison for religion,
just as embittered.
sat in the gardens between his host and a man dressed in the attire of a steward.
Nephew Tom had gone riding with a young servingman of his own age, and the women
were within. The sun shone brightly upon the rough terrain, making objects a mile
distant upon the hill stand out with astonishing clarity. Arundell was scarcely
a country man himself; he had been too many years in town and in residence with
the court. But he was glad now to retreat from his duties in the palaces, with
their press of people and accelerated pace, and pass some days with his friends.
The sunshine felt warm. In the afternoon, perhaps, they would fly hawks, and play
at cards in the evening; last night it had been chess among the gentlemen and
triumph among the ladies.
the gardens by the nursery wall, a band of children from the neighborhood were
playing noisily, their thin, high laughter seeming to enhance rather than disturb
the effect of stillness. They were playing at Castle-Come-Down. Earnestly the
strongest children set themselves upon hands and knees in the grass; the second
rank climbed upon them and settled themselves in place, and the third rank scrambled
up, to much shouting and swaying of the line, two small boys who in their bare
feet stepped from back to back and with serious expressions readied themselves
for the final assault.
last boy, a small lad who looked thoroughly overwhelmed by the great role pricked
out for him, swallowed hard and began his ascent. The line swayed under him; those
upon whom he stepped called out childish oaths to him, others shouted encouragement
and playful threats; his face grew red as he struggled up from layer to layer
towards the bright sky. And finally, against his expectations, he made it to the
top, where for the briefest second he relished his victory and spread his arms
wide in triumph--when his cousin in the second layer buckled and nine boys beneath
him dropped away and left him alone in the air; where he did not long remain,
but plummeted to ruin amid a tangle of laughing and shouting and kicking youth.
From the middle of the crowd of squirming bodies the top boys face shone
out, with a smile that said, despite all this, it had been worth it to sit upon
the top, however briefly.
and Tregian were in undress, shirts thrown open and heads bare. The steward was
more correctly made, with a light jacket buttoned closely under his smooth chin.
He was a small man of not much more than thirty, rather coarse in build but refined
in his demeanor. One of his eyes was turned outward, gazing always to the right
of anyone with whom he spoke, as if something more interesting were going on elsewhere.
His name was Cuthbert Mayne, and he was not a steward but a priest. Born in the
west country, he had been the chaplain of St. Johns College, Oxford, until
at the age of twenty-nine he could carry on no longer in a Protestant post and
retired to Douai to train for the priesthood. Two years later, in 1575, he had
been ordained. In April 1576, he had entered London in disguise. Having successfully
found his way to Sir John Arundells house in Clerkenwell, he was soon on
his way back into the west, where thereafter he remained, serving all of the surrounding
Catholic houses from his base at Golden Manor.
the hillside to the west, towards Probus, a plume of dust appeared in the still
air. The three men watched it idly as it entered the valley. Soon the sounds of
many hoofbeats approached from far down the road, and came closer, and ceased
in front of Golden Manor.
servant appeared at the terrace door and called.
excused himself and hurried into the house. The great door was open and through
it he could see a crowd of horsemen milling about in the bright courtyard. In
the door of the ladies parlor, his wife and her friend Mrs. Truro stood
peering out in alarm.
stepped halfway out into the light. Before him, astride an enormous black mare,
sat Sir Richard Grenville, his ferocious buccaneers features bedecked with
a full gray beard, his hand resting upon the hilt of his sword.
Tregian, come forth of your house," Grenville shouted.
stepped down and gazed round at the courtyard filled with armed men. His face
was ashen, and he failed at first to find his voice.
pursue a fugitive, Mr. Tregian, and we must search your house for him."
fugitive?" asked the master of the house. "We keep no fugitives here."
"One Bourne, who has
escaped from St. Austell jail. Come, sir, we must search your house for him."
have no Bourne here, Sir Richard, and you will not search this house." Tregian
was finding a courage to dispute the man that many Spanish seamen lacked.
Richard motioned to his party and dismounted. As he approached the steps, his
rough face drawn in contempt for the man who barred his way, Tregian shrank back
but stood his ground in the door.
do forget yourself, Sir Richard. I must see your warrant ere you will search this
house," he said.
Grenville bellowed. "I am the sheriff, man, I need no warrant."
must excuse me, sir, sheriff or no I must see your warrant before you enter this
house which is mine. So says the law, and so I say, too."
aside, Tregian," Sir Richard snarled, picking the man up and setting him
out on the steps. He strode into the hall. Mary Tregian and Mrs. Truro ducked
into their parlor and shut the door, the servants fled to the kitchens. Grenvilles
men trooped into the house after him, their boots thundering upon the boards.
"Search," he commanded
them, and they fanned out to the wings, peeking into every doorway, some ascending
to the floors above, banging on the panelling in hopes of finding a hiding place
behind the walls.
the garden the commotion was easily heard. The priest stood up in some alarm and
started towards the house, but Arundell detained him with a hand.
Cuthbert," he said. "Something is amiss. Let us walk rather to the river."
Charles, I may be needed. Let me go and see," the priest replied. He struck
off trotting towards the terrace.
called after him, "Father! If you are discovered it shall go hard with all
The priest turned
around to face him. "Dear Charles," he said; "when the wolf enters
the fold, then of all times must the shepherd be with his flock." He resumed
hurrying towards the house.
stared wide-eyed after him. Quickly, then, he stepped back among the shrubberies.
As Cuthbert Mayne ascended
to the flagstones, three men approached him through the terrace windows. One,
bearing a sword, commanded him to stop and called in to Sheriff Grenville.
Richard and several others burst out of the house, followed by its master at a
"And what art
thou?" the sheriff shouted.
across the yard Arundell could barely hear the priests reply, something
to the effect that his attire might be thought a sufficient answer. The simple
man refused to lie even to a scoundrel and pirate like Grenville.
sheriff was not to be put off. Roughly he grabbed the mans jacket and tore
it open at the breast. Then in triumph he ripped something from Cuthberts
chest, a cross perhaps, and held it aloft for his men to see.
gestured towards the priest and two men seized the fellows arms. Others
seized Tregian, as the sheriff strode violently back into the house.
everywhere!" he roared. "Find everything!"
waited to hear no more. Bent low, he scrambled round the shrubbery to a low hedge
nearby and ran behind it towards the river. After thirty meters he came to an
open space between him and the next hedge leading to the rear of the gardens.
Arundell peered round at the house. Five or six men had spread out into the gardens,
and two of them were approaching him at thirty meters distance.
of his belt behind him he drew his dirk and tossed it back into the bushes along
the path he had just traversed. The men swung at the sound and darted to the place.
Arundell rose and bolted across
the open ground. Though no longer a young man, he was agile and very quick, and
he threw himself headlong over the hedge. On the other side, he rolled smoothly
to his feet and sprinted behind the line of low bush. But he had been seen. From
the terrace came a cry from Sir Richard Grenville himself.
sheriffs men ran to the center of the yard. Following Grenvilles upraised
arm, they started through the hedge and caught a glimpse of Arundell as he gained
the line of trees by the waters edge.
dashed after him with swords drawn. He found the riverbank and ran along it to
a point that jutted forth into the stream. Here he leapt to the overhanging rocks
at a full run and threw himself out into the water, which closed over him with
a cold shock. The men behind him drew closer as his breaststroke brought him slowly
to the center of the river, but thereafter as the current carried him down he
moved away from their pursuit.
distance down the stream, Arundell drew himself out of the water and lay exhausted
in the bushes a few meters up the bank. The sheriffs men were ranging out
along the other side of the river just above, evidently waiting for Sir Richard
to arrive with the horses. As stealthily as possible, he passed out of the long
grass into the line of trees, then jogged at a good pace a half mile further down.
There he found another stand of trees that led him up a hill away from the river.
The business of climbing left him panting painfully. From the ridge along the
top, he could see Sir Richard and his men crossing at a ford about a mile off,
branching out in pairs in all directions as they reached the nearer bank.
passed over the brow of the hill and surveyed the countryside before him. There,
far below in the bottom of the next valley, he saw a pair of horsemen riding leisurely
along towards the north.
he tore off his shirt and began waving it, running towards the riders at the best
speed he could make. Soon they saw him and veered in his direction, pricking their
horses to a gallop as they recognized his distress.
he ran, his stertorous breathing making him begin to feel faint, expecting at
any moment to hear the sheriffs men behind him. Young Tom Arundell and the
Tregian servant, Jamie Sharrock, met him halfway down the broad hill, pulled up
and wheeled round him.
nuncle," shouted Tom. "Whither running?"
grabbed Toms arm and swung up behind him on the horse, very nearly tumbling
off on the other side. Sharrock leant far over and held him up.
he cried. "Ride on, and spare not!"
horses leapt away down the meadow towards the valley bottom. Moments later, as
they started up the next hill, the three men looked back at the way they had come.
At the top of the slope, watching them from too far off, sat the horsemen they
Two days later,
after they had returned eastward, Sir John Arundell was arrested at Lanherne,
upon information wrung from Francis Tregian, and transported to London with several
other harborers of the priest. Tregian himself, after brief habitations in several
prisons, fetched up finally in the London Fleet. In November 1577, Cuthbert Mayne,
in whose room Sir Richard had found some matter of treason, as it was thought,
was hanged, cut down, beheaded, and hewn into four parts outside the Launceston
Charles Arundell had
not been recognized in fleeing, and no one had mentioned his name thereafter.
Narrative of Secretary du Foy)
was watching forth of the windows in the first floor front.
from behind the hangings, I surveyed the street towards the Fleet Bridge. Across
the road, hard by the bridge, stood two youths, apprentices they should seem to
be, holding conversation.
directly across from us, half hidden by the conduit, an aged vagabond lay propped
against the wall with his heels in the mud.
of them had moved in three hours time. Yesterday, the prentices had been
talking near the conduit, and the old one had been propped against Fleet Bridge.
Sometimes, behind us, in the gate of Sackville House, sat another, whose prospect
comprised the rear of our house from St. Brides to the Hanging Sword. Are
we dim noddies to be gulled by this?
as I watched, a row of mercers men filed out from the city pushing barrows
laden with our stores for the fortnight. Idly, the prentices glanced towards them,
then took up their discourses once again. Beneath me, the bearers turned into
Salisbury Courtyard and passed round to the back of the house. I went down to
When I reached
the kitchens, the girl had already opened the door, and the men were offloading
their barrows and carrying in the sacks and casks. I pointed out for them the
places they should be set. To each man as he left I gave a small coin of their
English money; the last one, however, touched his cap several times and backed
towards the door very slowly, until the others had gone out. Then he swung round
quickly and closed the door.
must speak to milord ambassador," says he.
you?" said I. "Why then, you may speak first to me." "It is
a matter of urgency," he replied.
you must tell me who you are, my man," I said, "and likewise what your
name is Evans," he said freely; but went on, "my masters name
is for my lord to hear."
for my lord to hear, saving your honor," he replied.
confess I was somewhat ruffled. I am the ambassadors chief secretary, and
it is both my business and my right to bring visitors into my masters confidence.
Nonetheless, I understood the fellows plight, for I could guess at his matter
right enough, and we knew ourselves that not every man in our house was altogether
to be trusted. For everything he could know, I myself might be the Judas Iscariot
I motioned the man
to wait and ascended to the ambassadors rooms on the next floor. He called
me in as I tapped on his chamber door. He sat half in recline upon the settle
with his writing table tilted across his lap. He looked tired, and his hair and
beard were still uncombed. His shirt was open down to the rug he had spread across
"Someone to see
you, milord," I told him. "A servingman, as he should seem, to one of
the Catholic gentlemen, though he will tell neither his master nor his matter."
Mauvissières face fell at my words, which I would have spared him if I could;
and he sighed and looked cross.
he said, "thank God they did not come themselves, du Foy."
milord," I said.
down at the page before him and sat silently for a moment.
me five minutes, du Foy, and then show him up, if you please."
returned to the kitchens to find the man Evans speaking amorously with our girl.
All of our girls are more friendly with the ugliest carriers and servants of their
fellow English than ever they are with me, who in France am reckoned as a gay
knight among the ladies. But that is neither here nor there.
I showed the man up to Seigneurs chambers, my lord was seated gravely behind
his desk. He motioned the man to a stool across from him, and then signed for
me to take another.
Mauvissière inquired politely of the fellows business and listened as the
story bubbled forth. The mans name was John Evans, he said again, servant
of Mr. Charles Arundell. My lord asked whether this was a kinsman of the earl
of Arundel who is a member of the queens Council. Evans replied that his
master was a Queens Servant and a member of the house of Howard, but distantly
related to the old earl, as well as to the queen herself. My lord asked what service
he required, whereupon the man said that my lord was acquainted with the earl
of Oxford. Seigneur replied that he had the honor of meeting the earl from time
to time at court. His face wore no expression.
Mr. Arundell was a friend of the earl of Oxford, Evans said. Was he indeed? replied
my lord. He was, said Evans, and now he and other the earls friends instantly
required a favor of my lord. Seigneur smiled very graciously and inquired what
it might be. To remove a priest abroad, said this Evans, for he was in peril of
My lord, still smiling
pleasantly, looked over to me, and I shook my head. I said in French that we must
be wary of a trap of some description. You never know. My lord raised his hands
and said, "My friend Evans, you must forgive me, but without further knowledge
. . ."
Evans drew from
his pocket a folded bit of paper and passed it to my lord. My lord glanced at
it and smiled, then handed it to me. Upon it was written, in a strong, but careless
and rapid hand, of the style they call "secretary," the words in English,
"Please credit my man Evans as you would myself. Mr. J. Charles." Beneath
that was written, in a tiny, beautiful italic, "We beg your aid and will
requite it. Mr. J. Henry." This was sufficient warrant for my lord. Messrs.
Charles and Henry had been recommended to us by the queen of Scots for the passage
of her correspondence. For some months her letters, covertly removed by her servants,
had been got to us through these two men and a few others, for inclusion in our
diplomatic bags to her friends on the continent.
said the ambassador. "We know now who Master Charles is. Who, pray, is Mr.
replied the man, looking down at his boots.
understand," the seigneur said. "But you may tell me who my passenger
is to be."
is Richard Stephens, my lord."
Mauvissière arose from his chair and gazed out of the windows into the courtyard
below. Across the way a man appeared to be sleeping before the gate of Sackville
House. After a few moments of thought, my lord returned to his desk and solemnly
addressed the man named Evans.
Mr. Charles that he must take a room for his priest in the Hanging Sword in the
next house. Let that be done tonight. Tomorrow early we will meet him there in
my master for his courtesy. Then he told my lord that Messrs. Charles and Henry
had bid him say that they understood the earl of Oxford had passed words of some
importance with my lord, some of them in their names, as they guessed. They wished
my lord to understand that the earl would not be troubling him further, and that
it would be as well if now his speeches were forgotten and buried in the ocean.
My lord thanked him for his message and said that he understood.
then followed me down to the kitchens. There he hoisted a grocers basket
to his shoulder and departed by the rear door, striding quickly across the yard
towards Bridewell prison with the basket obscuring his face from the man in Sackville
gates. The sentinel glanced up at him, then went back to sleep.
afternoon, Seigneur sent me by barge down to the Pool below the bridge, where
I found a French ship moored that had been bespoken to carry me across with our
pouches two or three days hence. I informed the master of the vessel that my lord
wished him to depart on the morrow. Seigneur spent the afternoon at the court,
where he had audience with the queen and afterward dined, returning late from
That evening the
guard without the house changed right as clockworks. I watched from the window,
but marked no one entering the Hanging Sword whom I thought might have been a
Early the following
morning, we met in the front hall below. I donned my travelling clothes and swung
the diplomatic pouches over my shoulder. Paul Bec, wearing a great cloak and a
low-brimmed hat, lifted my light-trunk and opened the door. Jean, my valet, who
wears a beard that is a prodigy, flowing out over the breast of his cloak, likewise
topped by a slouched hat, took up my bags and followed us into the street. The
three of us, laughing loudly at imaginary jests, strolled to the Hanging Sword
and entered, sitting ourselves upon the benches in the rear with our burdens at
our feet. One of the prentices from across the road entered behind us and took
up a seat near the door.
the host brought us stoups of ale, Jean stood up and stretched, then ambled into
the rooms behind. We spoke loudly of our coming journey, until a few moments later
he rejoined us, whereupon we drank off our ale and laughed at still more empty
jests, feeling like asses as we did so. I was very distressed to see that the
priest was rather smaller than middle size, but he had the good sense, as we departed
past the spy, to draw himself to full height; little save hatbrim and great false
beard were visible unto the man.
outside, it was an easy matter to reach the river and summon a waterman to the
stairs. The prentice came down behind us to see us on our way, but gave no hint
that he had tumbled to our little subterfuge. Moments later, we were shooting
the bridge towards the Pool, where lay our ship and, beyond it, home.
was a whore, and Joseph both a cuckold and a wittol."
me, Oxford, you cup-shotten nullifidian! Enough, man, I say enough."
Southwell rose angrily from his cushion near the fire and helped himself from
the jug on the sideboard, his back turned to the rest of the company. Young Lord
Windsor sat staring at the earl with mouth agape.
ha. No, I do protest, Frank, your glorious Trinity is but an old wives tale,"
Oxford laughed. "A learned man can never believe in such arrant trumperies--such
a God as deals well with those that deserve evil and evil with those that deserve
with his feet up and a broad grin spread across his face--whether a grin of approval
or derision was impossible to tell. Against the wall sat Arundell, nursing his
cup with no expression at all.
your scripture, Frank, oh these vile, foully penned pages; why I could write you
a better and more orderly scripture on six days warning. Confess it, Southwell,
there is nothing so defensible by scripture as bawdry. Oh those old beasts with
their thousand wives. In faith, man, it reads like the very Aretino. Why, for
good religion, the Turk is only wise who wrote his own koran."
me, my lord! I tell you, enough!" Southwells face was reddening as
he stood before the earl.
a passion is this, Frank," said Oxford sharply. "Do sit down, you tiresome
Ned," interjected Harry Howard. "This really is excessive."
you too, Howard? Come, come, you funny old thing. Well, I shall outface you all."
arrogant smirk was maddening to Southwell, who stood spouting in the middle of
the chamber; but now Raleigh was chortling to himself.
you, Harry, I shall prove you, from your very scripture, mind, that after this
life we shall be as if we had never been, and that the rest was devised by a subtle
priest but to make us afraid like babes and children of our shadows."
doubt not you can, Ned," said Harry, "but now is neither time nor place
de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford
(Marcus Gheeraerts portrait, ca.1586)
"Well, it may be you
are right in that." Oxford lifted his cup aloft. "I drink to good fellowship,
Southwell. Salutem in Christo!"
snorted and laughed aloud. Southwell flashed angrily, then flung down his cup
and bolted from the room. Arundell rose with a sigh and went after him.
devil comber him. Can he not bear a jest?" The earl refilled his cup and
smiled round the room. Lord Windsor con-tinued to stare at him. Half a minute
passed in restless silence. Then Oxford felt the advent of a thought.
in good sadness, Harry, these splenitive religious so quick to rise upon a jest,
why do they not rise in earnest when there is greater cause?"
rise, Ned?" asked Lord Howard.
Arundell and Southwell re-entered and resumed their seats. Francis looked troubled
but somewhat embarrassed by his show of bad temper.
from the rear yards came the sounds of workmen busily engaged upon their labors.
Christmastide was fast approaching, with its long round of puffpaste festivities,
for which the palace at Richmond must be got ready. The weather continued foul;
all along the Courtiers Row the gentlemen were indoors, concentrating before
their fires upon cards or other pastimes, while far away, past Maids of Honor
Row, in the Councils chambers in the Privy Lodgings, the business of government
went on. From Oxfords windows, one could have viewed the Richmond Green
and old Shene beyond the park. The court had just removed from Hampton Court,
descending the Thames in a navy of barges filled with nobility and servants, tapestries
and spoons, Privy Councillors and hunting dogs, to pass the Christmas season in
a fresh house.
Here it was
that Oxford had been holding his friends in unseasonable conversation concerning
the mortality of Christ. But his talk was passing to other matters.
I use to say rise, why rise is what I mean. Why, by my faith, these Catholics
are good Ave Mary cockscombs who will not rebel against the queen and her minions.
Harried upon every side like game of the chase, hunted down by baseborn spies
and clapped up in dungeons, I say I know not why they bear it, except they are
women in mens clothing!"
lordship must remember that not every man is as full of blood as he is,"
they are not," Oxford exclaimed. "I have said before, Harry, that my
lord of Norfolk was worthy to lose his head for not following my counsel at Titchfield
to take up arms."
did counsel well, milord," said Howard drily.
did that, believe as you list. Damn him for coming at the queens commandment,
when he might have set his lady upon the throne and supped on cakes and ale. This
is no queen, I tell you, she is but a b-b-bastard and an heretic." He swigged
hastily from his cup. "I do love my lord of Balternig-Baltinglass, you know--pardon--for
his letter that he wrote to the earl of Ormonde, wherein are many things to please
me. But this above the rest, how he could not but wonder by what claim or by what
color her majesty only a woman could challenge that authority of supreme governor
of the church which Christ never gave to his own mother! Urp, pardon."
lord, these are dangerous words," said Howard, "and Baltinglass of Ireland
an open and known rebel. You are too hot. Do not say that arms may justly be taken
up gainst princes which swerve from right."
cannot justify the contrary! Do we not see P-Protestants practice the same daily
in Catholic nations, where they maintain arms? Whereas these simple Catholics
are c-content to lay down their heads till they be taken off, and therefore for
mine own part, I wish that for every one they lose, they may lose a thousand,
till they learn to be wiser and take out another lesson."
you speak in choler," said Arundell. "Do contain your manly feelings,
and let us have good fellowship."
yes of all, and let us sing. I shall sing you now a merry air. Southwell commends
to us the queens singing at Hampton Court, but by the blood of God! gentlemen,
she has the worst voice and does everything with the worst grace that ever any
face was beetled up in drunken anger, and his hands shook before him on the board.
Howard was nonplussed at these excessive speeches. He tried to placate the earl,
but the mans resentment and frustration were too great any longer to be
restrained. He stormed on as the others stared at one another, how the queen was
a foolish whore who abused her body with the earl of Leicester, how Leicester
was a fat roué gone broken in his belly from excess of venery, how old Burghley
was a puritanical hypocrite who loved nothing more than to keep a good man down.
He commended to them firebrand schemes to prove by suborned witness that Leicester
had murdered his wife by throwing her down the stairs, had murdered Essex, had
tried to poison his mistress Douglass Sheffield when she would not leave him gracefully
as soon as he would have wished. He would have evidence that the queen had borne
five children. He knew where Burghley kept the moneys stolen from the Court of
Wards and from the lotteries. He knew gentlemen in the country who waited for
his sign, when they would ride to London with the queen of Scots and proclaim
her heir in Cheapside. He knew a certain cutter, he said, who would dare a desperate
act if paid for it, whereby they might all live the freer. His man Sanckie, he
cried out, he knew to have been a spy set on him, and Weeks that killed him, later
executed for the deed, had done it at his bidding. Finally, all this given vent,
his cup dry, abruptly he fell asleep.
fire crackled merrily upon the grate, throwing brilliant sparks, some of which,
however, fell out upon the floor and threatened danger.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter V. A Disturbance in the Country (1578)|
do not reproduce this text in any form for commercial purposes. Historical references
for events recreated in this story can be found in D. C. Peck, Leicester's
Commonwealth: The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584)
and Related Documents (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985). Feedback and
suggestions are welcome, .
Written 1973-1989, posted on this site 10 June 2001.