Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
1. ENGLAND (1577-1583)
X. DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI
at my gate despair shall linger still
To let in death when love and fortune
sun set red upon the low hillsides of Surrey. Before it, the trees darkened through
the shades of green and blackened into the hills themselves as twilight deepened
into night. Singly and by twos and threes the stars sparked out in an enormous
empty dome. Behind him, the house rose dim and silent toward the sky. The air
felt extraordinarily soft and full. Arundell strolled meditatively across the
meadow, enjoying what little was left him to enjoy, which was the air.
thoughts ran naturally upon his troubles, but only in an aimless, mournful manner,
with neither plan of help nor analysis of cause. In the months that had preceded
this now quiet mood, all plans had failed of fruition, all analyses had been made
and remade till both causes and effects had become strange and distant to him,
as if they occurred in anothers life, or in a novella out of Italy. But
naming of causes were a profitless exercise in any case; he knew only that he
had gone from day to day, from early years to later, striving in little and unimportant
ways to rise in his calling, to worship quietly in his little corner, to offend
no man, to keep himself from harm and the malice of men and the passions of the
great; but that somewhere he had erred, somewhere he had made a little and unimportant
fault which, compounded daily in likewise unimportant ways, had ended in his ruin.
Where plans were bootless, too; for his fate depended wholly upon people to whom
he was now no more than a name on the wrong list.
had grown in him, especially of late, this ability, this willingness to give himself
up to events, to observe in resignation the great forces of this time clashing
about him, while he withdrew into recollections of a happier youth, when his life
had seemed his and the time had seemed his and the world had seemed waiting to
be acted upon. He had observed this blessed freedom from anxiety, this deplorable
failure of nerve, this retreat from life and people and action into thought and
memory and idle fancies, fancies so slowly revolving in him sometimes that they
seemed sometimes to stop, and he would sit for an hour staring at his plate, or
awake to find himself standing in the yard, half returned from a forgotten stroll
in the gardens.
is nothing but shall come to ruin, be it now never so glorious upon the earth."
dim passage out of Juvenal turned itself ponderously in his brain as he walked,
with neither implications nor echoes nor the following lines of the verse, merely
these words, expressing his whole sense of his own plight, seen increasingly from
outside himself, from outside his race, as something proper and fitting in creation,
a law by which the universe ruled itself, a principle that better than Providence
served to make sense of his lifelong observations. Whatever he had done, or now
did, whatever his adversaries did; whatever the queen did, or the Spanish, or
the pope; however craftily they did it, or ineptly, however right they were or
wrong in doing it, it must someday come to ruin. Not today, perhaps, perhaps not
tomorrow, but someday; someday all of them and all their works would be covered
over by dust and time and darkness, and new worlds would emerge, having forgotten
them entirely, then likewise pass away; until one day no new age would come, and
only dust everywhere, drifting over everything, everything forgotten, everything
as if it had never been.
shook himself. These pretty thoughts are very fine, he thought, a pretty poem
for a lugubrious hour. He tasked himself angrily for his weakness, marching towards
the house again, insisting to himself that doubts were doubtless salutary to a
point, lest he behave as fanatically as others behaved, but that too much of this
would render him fit for nothing but taking pablum from a spoon.
was this? He must put aside this feminine part and stand to; buckle up and meet
his adversaries in the field--for they were adversaries and of flesh and blood
and limitless ingenuity, no planets wandering slowly slower to a standstill, by
immutable laws eternally fixed from the beginning, but real men who sought his
blood by any means, whom he must strive against like Diomedes on the plain of
Ilium. It was just such irresolution that brought Norfolk to the block, just such
a failure of will that sent Northumberland and Westmoreland scurrying away to
the Scottish border, leaving their armies leaderless and defeated with never a
blow struck nor shot fired.
world may come inevitably to ruin, but Arundell was far from ruin yet. He was
inexplicably kept in ward these six months, kept from open hearing or confrontation
with his accuser, restrained from his acquittal by Leicester and the whole strength
of the Ursine faction. Nonetheless he was alive, untouched in any capital crime.
And it could not well go on forever. One day he must leave this house a free man,
and then he must begin rebuilding, resume his duty to the queen, restore a little
of her confidence in him, regain his living from his offices, come again to court,
pass Leicester in the Presence Chamber with a level eye and unbowed head.
Well have here now no more sour faces, no more broodish swells or sallow
thoughts--all hereafter will be lips curled back in a foolish grin, merriment,
and a bit of whistled song.
approached the house and threw back the heavy door with a clatter.
arms! Escape! Gentlemen, oh God! Escape!"
guardsman dashed out of the kitchens with his sword grasped in one hand and his
boots in the other. Arundell stood behind the open door, as Anthony galloped through
it and stopped in the path, peering in all directions through the darkness.
to the stream," Charles cried again; "I saw him, Tony, running down
the lawns, as naked as my nail."
threw down his boots and starting running towards the creek, then halted abruptly
and stood disconsolate.
I saw him, Tony. He was met by a host of Jesuits, all disguised as elephants,
and he rode away with them, I think to Africa."
guardsman turned and grinned. Overhead a shutter banged outward, and Barnabe called
down the question what the matter was.
matter, friend, but seeing you are awake, why will you not come down and join
Arundell for his puerile tricks, threatening him playfully with the semi-official
bastinado, Anthony came in and let himself be poured a cup of wine.
cavillations, my good fellow, these are but the murblings of a diseased humor.
For why are we gathered here this night, but for mirth and good fellowship?"
which the guardsman bashfully agreed, and drank to Mr. Arundells good health,
assuring him heartily that had he gone out to run away in earnest, which he hoped
he would never do, and he Anthony had caught him, he would never have found it
in him to do him any hurt. Joined by Barnabe, they drank a round to the queen,
and another to Anthonys merry wife, then to Barnabes sister. And the
rest of the evening passed in better sort than otherwise it might have.
Arundells sequestration in this house in Surrey, he had had little to do
but sit and write out answers to the interrogatories sent him, respond to the
labyrinthine questions of the earnest clerks sent down from the Council to trip
him up, and muse upon his condition. He read a fair amount (though his mind was
often wandering), chiefly in his favorite poets, who were his kinsman the late
earl of Surrey and also Wyatt, and also of the Latin authors, and also, of course,
in the law. The rest of the time he devoted to writing letters of supplication
to everyone whose name he could recollect. His accuser had at first seemed to
come off clean, released by Leicesters intercession after a few days in
the Tower; in the January tilts at Whitehall, Oxford had cut a brave figure and
ridden to great applause. Arundell had been beside himself at the news, not only
for the humiliation of his languishing in custody while his enemy frolicked in
the broad light of the sun, but chiefly for its ill ominations, with Oxford believed
sufficiently to be readmitted to the queen, perhaps believed sufficiently to send
Arundell to his doom. And indeed, throughout these winter months, the official
questions put him had become less perfunctory, their character more and more desperate
and their tone somewhat more hysterical, until Arundell grew certain that either
his own great friends had been excluded from the investigation or, worse still,
his friends had thrown over to the other side.
then things had changed abruptly. Arundell and his companions, for the familys
honor, though they had charged Oxford with everything their imaginations could
rack their pens to, yet they had never mentioned his tampering with Nan Vavasour.
But nature divulged what her friends would not, and in late March she disburdened
herself of a son in the Maids Chamber. The secret was well out, and so was
the fathers name, and Oxford replied by dashing to the coast in a blue panic.
Immediately, the ports were laid for him and he was taken and brought back. The
Tower regained him, and there too, the morning after her delivery, was Nan imprisoned
for the time.
adulteries broke the patience of his father-in-law and gave more color of probability
to the charges made against him. But there came no answering change in the treatment
of the Howards. Even as Oxford was recommitted, Leicester presented new briefs
against his former companions, and struck harder home with every item in the charges.
The parties at work hit a balance and an impasse. Arundell and Howard could not
be released before there was a hearing; Oxfords supporters refused to consider
any hearing, as if he had been a common felon, prior to his own release; the queen
refused to release him until he had confronted the others and proved his representations
against them to their faces.
the negotiations for a marriage with Anjou had indeed been resurrected. An embassage
of Monsieurs friends had come in February, headed by de Marchaumont and
the scholar Jean Bodin, and the ways had been prepared for the extravagant expedition
that arrived in April. New buildings had hastily been erected at Whitehall to
house the marriage commissioners, who came up the river on the 21st, a prestigious
troop led by Francis and Charles de Bourbon, the Marshal de Cossé, La Mothe Fénélon,
accompanied by a train of more than five hundred gentlemen. On Saint Georges
Day, Saturday the 24th, began a round of entertainments, three days of which passed
with enormous pomp and no negotiation. These great courtly exercises of the spring,
the excursion to Deptford for the knighting of Mr. Drake aboard his ship, the
dancing and games before the French commissioners, Arundell had only heard about
in his distant sequestration. When discussion of the marriage began at last, the
queen was as far from a husband as she had ever been.
still for the match and deluded at first by all of this elaborate staging, finally
sent word to Arundell that gave a discouraging interpretation. The queen was merely
buying time, he reckoned, keeping Monsieur in hand to prevent his striking off
upon his own exploits in Flanders. What she really sought was a defensive treaty
with the king of France, and she bore the French along with hopes of marriage
until, having got her treaty, she would come into the open and cease her dalliance
with Monsieur. Whereas the French had come to speak of nothing save a wedding,
the English commissioners would speak of nothing save a treaty.
at the same time, there came a far heavier hand over the papists--in the Parliaments
new statutes, in the gentrys new fines and persecutions, in the apprehensions
of poor priests. But Campion and Parsons, the Jesuits, despite the constant news
of appearances and near escapes, evaded their pursuers and continued in their
ministrations. Already from Parsonss secret press the inflammatory tracts
had begun to flow, forbidding the Catholics from preserving their anonymity by
attendance at the Protestant services, challenging the government in arrogant
terms to meet them in open disputation of the creeds.
afternoons, as often as not, were spent in correspondence. Sharrock came from
London from time to time to see to his wants, and when he left Charles usually
had a small bundle of letters to accompany him. Those letters he did not mind
having seen he sent by the official bearers who at intervals traversed the ten
miles between himself and the court, now in residence at Greenwich.
mornings, however, were usually spent in reading. Recently he had been at Statius
again; he enjoyed that antique poet not only for his great learning, but also
for his often demonstrated ability to lull Charless agitated mind into sleep.
He was many days in the reading, for with every three or four hundred lines he
felt constrained to take a lengthy nap.
Tydeus met the evil king Eteocles in Thebes, and leaving him to return to Argos
whence he came, he was set upon near the cliff of the Sphinx by fifty of the kings
best men. Terrified at first, he then shook off this weakness and set about the
work that must be done, hacking and hewing, throwing down boulders from the height,
roaring out his anger and his great heart, slashing through his enemies
futile attempts to shield themselves, ignoring their pleas for mercy utterly,
until only one man remained, whom Tydeus sent back to the king of Thebes as a
bearer of ill news. There was no help for it, but Arundell must picture himself
in the role of this great hero, overwhelming fifty, nay a hundred, or more, of
Leicesters hired bravos and sordid companions, returning then to Greenwich
as Tydeus did to Argos with the spoils of his victory, secure at last in the favor
of the queen for having rid the realm of this tyrants innumerable minions.
These idle daydreams were
worse than useless to him. Never since boyhood had he spent his time in fantasies
of battle, of gore and bloody victory, and he thought now that this must be a
measure of his desperation, that only slaughter would suffice.
far these matters had progressed. As a boy, he had ridden his pony all over these
low hills, in his visits to family in the county, near this very house, in fact,
never dreaming that one day it would serve him for a prison. Arundell stood in
the windows of his chamber on the uppermost floor, gazing dolefully out upon the
familiar terrain, replacing in his mind a meadow here with a copse of wood, removing
a cottage there, and not much more; the scene was as he remembered it from many
years before, when he and his boyhood friends had traversed this ground with the
exuberance of that unconscious time of life. Reviewing so, from this prison, this
scene of former happiness, he was reminded of Lord Harrys fathers
poem on that subject, similarly written in spring, from his imprisonment in Windsor
Castle where in love and play and in hateless debates with his friends he had
formerly spent his youth. He rummaged among his books for the tattered copy of
the Songs and Sonnets that travelled with him always.
pages were unnumbered, but he remembered the verse to have been but a short way
in from the beginning. There he found it:
Windsor walls sustained my wearied arm,
My hand my chin, to ease my restless
The pleasant plot revested green with warm,
The blossomed bows with
lusty Ver yspread,
The flowered meads, the wedded birds so late,
eyes discover; and to my mind resort
The jolly woes, the hateless short debates,
The rakehell life that belongs to loves disport;
Wherewith (alas) the
heavy charge of care
Heaped in my breast breaks forth against my will
In smoky sighs that overcast the air.
My vapored eyes such dreary tears distill,
The tender spring which quicken where they fall,
And I half bent to throw
me down withal.
for a moment, Charless spirit failed him. There was no help for it; this
ruin of his early dreams and the contrast with those jolly woes of his youth seemed
too poignant to him now, and like Surrey before him, with the spring verdure bursting
into life all about him, he alone seeming to wither and shrink like a flower in
October, he thought to remove himself from these ironies by leaning a bit more
forward, a matter of a foot or two only, leaning from this high window, a window
like the others in this high old house; but to lean a little further distance,
to lean, to cease to be amazed at the hard fortune which had brought him to this
place. He breathed heavily. From this height, from what a depth he cried out for
succor--if not for succor then at least for understanding. His enemies whose hatred
meant to baffle him, his friends who made a dainty show of love but stayed a distance
from him--all of these he could not curse for their words and actions towards
him, but began instead to see them but as actors in his special destiny, which
was to come aground on these hard skerries, to founder on these shoals of his
own hopes. To whom could he apply? The Catholics feared him, the English mistrusted
him; the French had no use for him; he feared the Spanish himself. Only a few
believed in him, and they scarcely in better case than himself. Lord Harry in
the same plight he was in, and Southwell too; Lord Paget suspected for religion,
and his comings and goings attended by a wicked sort of caterpillars in the pay
of Mr. Secretary. To poor Kate, he must be no more than a ghost now, a remembered
footfall in their empty rooms. Even Nan Vavasour, whom he had gone ridiculous
lengths to protect, now living in public sin with Sir Henry Lee, Leicesters
great companion, while Lees wedded wife, Pagets sister, lived mournfully
at home with her mother, driven deeper and deeper into that pale piety which was
her only rest, watched wherever she came. In all the thin black universe, he hung
alone in space; his friends were only ideas to him now, which he could not see
or touch; he had no world to live in, or had only three guards who, insofar as
they were flesh and blood, reminded him of a peopled world far off in his own
But a little push
forward. To lean, to launch himself, to flap a wing and fly ad patres,
like the Birds of Night. A crazy grin spread across his face, then froze into
a mask of surprise at the depth of his own grief--then he dissolved again into
the same grin, embarrassed by his own tears starting. He laughed desperately,
his wide eyes staring at the long sky; as he laughed at his own foolishness, a
low moan began in his throat and continued for a good time, his hands opening
and closing at his sides. What a world he had lived in then. Of which now nothing
remained save memories which jeered, which mocked him in his brain. The emptiness
of his years hollowed out in his belly and soul like the icy surface of a pond
suddenly giving way beneath; such emptiness he saw now that he could only wonder
how on earth he, or for that matter anyone else, could ever carry on, or had ever
hoped to. For a moment he beat upon his cheeks to restore life in them; and then
the beating grew more savage and he had to control his hands, roll his eyes about
again, and laugh scornfully at his tear-starting weakness.
a little push forward. That was not his way, nor had it ever been. While the chance
remained of a better day, he would wait for it; while any strength remained to
him, he would fight. If all Leicesters enemies waxed so philosophical as
he did now, the earl would rule a empty kingdom. If he stood alone in the universe,
then alone he would stand--but stand by God he would. Arundell turned abruptly
from the window, banishing all thought roughly, and went down to take some supper
with his guards.
later in the day, Jamie Sharrock rode in with some papers bearing on Arundells
lands, requiring a few hours work in the hope of collecting the little rents
owed him. The money, scant as it was, would be welcome to him now; his pensions
at court were all unpaid since Christmas, and the provisions of the house were
Sharrock brought another unsigned missive in the delicate handwriting of Anne
Lee. She prayed constantly that God would carry him through his trials. For herself,
she wrote, fate had been not very much kinder, for she with her family were kept
under constant watch for religion, which made their lives little freer than if
they had been in Newgate prison. Even so, the freedom of prayer could never be
taken from her, and she exercised that privilege daily and mostly on Arundells
at once, retiring to his chamber to indite a letter that would attract her mind
for a little while from her troubles, and at the same time dissuade her from a
further correspondence that might bring her into greater suspicion. When he had
finished, he found that the letter pleased him. The woes of which he wrote seemed
the less for having been written.
letter, with some other papers on his table, he stamped with his seal and handed
over to Sharrock, who looked at him long and bade him keep his noble heart a little
longer. Then his man rode off, and Arundell reclined himself in his rooms to dream
of the day that would never come, when he, like Tydeus, would defend himself in
arms against fifty of the devils best, and come away with but possibly a
little scratch, beneath all their blood upon him.
One morning Arundell sat reading
by the casement window in the north wall of his chamber. Hard at Statius again,
he was gazing idly out upon the meadows and the highroad winding away towards
From out of the trees
to the left of the road there emerged two gentlemen on horseback, making their
way at a leisurely pace towards the house. As they came near, Arundell observed
them closely. Young men both, they were splendidly dressed but seemed to go unarmed.
One of them looked familiar.
got up and walked out into the hall. Anthony came out of the next room and asked
who the men were, to which Charles replied, "Let us go and see."
in the yard, Barnabe was asking the pair the same question, but, before answering,
they caught sight of Arundell passing out of doors.
Arundell, sir," said the taller man. "Your friends give you their salutations,
and wish for news of you."
they so?" Arundell answered. He approached no nearer, but stood on the steps
beside Anthony, whose hand lay casually upon his sword hilts. "I thank my
friends for their good care; you must tell them I am very well."
men sat smiling from their horses, apparently unsure of what to do next. There
was a short pause.
there something else the gentlemen wished?" Barnabe asked.
Arundell, sir," said the taller man. "Your friend Thomas is anxious
for your advice in a matter of his health. A very private matter, sir, not perhaps
to be spoken of in congregated company."
looked to Arundell, but Charles flicked his eyes at him to hold him in his place.
"I shall be happy to advise him, sir," Arundell told the man, "the
better when I come to know more about him."
man smiled faintly with understanding. "Well, it is a delicate matter of
his health, sir, to do with the breaking of his forearm some eight years past."
snorted and told Arundell he would make no objection to the mans unbuckling
his coded ingenuity and speaking plainly. Charles laughed and nudged Anthonys
arm, and asked whether he might speak privately with his visitors. He understood
the men to have come from Lord Paget. Anthony frowned and shuffled uncomfortably,
then reminded him of their agreement. Arundell nodded, and the two guards withdrew
to the kitchens to polish their weapons by the door.
visitors left their horses and followed Arundell into the house. The taller one
was a very handsome man, dressed to the point of fashion, who introduced himself
as Mr. Gilbert. The other, only slightly less imposing to the eye, was Mr. Fitzherbert.
To the latter Arundell expressed his imperfect recognition of the face, upon which
Fitzherbert reminded him of their brief introduction in Staffordshire upon a time
some three years earlier. Arundell remembered him at once, but wished uncomfortably
that they might let that occasion pass into merited oblivion, to which Mr. Fitzherbert,
with a rueful smile, agreed readily.
what, gentlemen, brings his lordship to use these midnight means to send?"
asked Charles. "No trouble, I hope?"
Gilbert seemed to do the talking for the pair.
trouble, sir," he said. "In fact, it is not on my Lord Pagets
errand we have come." Arundell stiffened slightly. "But yet he loves
us well, Mr. Arundell, and told us you should know us by his forearm. He would
have you to trust us, I believe."
that is enough," replied Arundell. "But then where may I be of service."
is another, sir, who wishes to speak with you."
of course," Arundell said. "Ill just get my bonnet."
smiled at the little joke. "Unnecessary, Mr. Arundell. The gentleman is with
amusedly round the room.
gentlemen, if I cannot hear his voice better than I can see his face, it will
be a short conversation. What is this mysterious fellows name, pray?"
stared at him very seriously.
name, Mr. Arundell, is Eusebius."
sat expressionless. "Is it? I would have thought that worthy man had ended
his visiting of poor gentlemen many centuries ago."
name means nothing to you?"
your friend wrote no history of the eastern churches, I know him not."
Mr. Arundell, dost know the name Ricardo Melino?"
wrote of eastern churches?"
expression became increasingly intense.
Arundell, perchance you have come acquainted with the name of Mark?"
grinned. "Mr. Gilbert, I pray you, I lose myself in this march of nominations.
Your friend is known by too many names; tell me, how does his mother call him?"
said Fitzherbert, "his mother calls him darling."
laughed aloud, but the earnest Gilbert rose and stepped to the inner doors to
make sure of their secrecy.
name," he said in a whisper, "is Robert Parsons."
looked at him blankly.
he write of eastern churches?"
England knows that name, sir," said Gilbert, becoming annoyed. "He and
Father Campion are hunted up and down the length of the realm."
stared at him again.
God," he exclaimed. "You have not brought the Jesuit here! Gods
blood, man, do you realize what condition I am in?"
is just why we have come," said a voice from the door. There stood a short,
swarthy man, with thick, rather unattractive features but a kind expression, wearing
plain black clothing and no hat upon his close-cropped head.
leapt to the door and ushered the newcomer in, placing a chair for him opposite
Arundell at the table.
reward you for your care, Mr. Arundell," he said in a deep, solicitous voice,
"but I assure you, though the danger here be great, we are not afraid, for
we have faced far greater, with Gods help."
am very glad, Father," Arundell returned, ashamed to explain for whose safety
he had been so concerned. He glanced nervously to the inner doors. "Tell
me, Father," he said hurriedly, "how can I help you?"
are riding on to Michelgrove, Mr. Arundell, and thought to stop with you upon
our way. It seemed the least we might do for you in your Christian struggle."
thank you very much, Father," Charles stammered. "You need not have
troubled on my account." He was striving to find the means to get these gentle
fellows from his doorstep.
Mr. Arundell. Do you see, our friend George here," gesturing towards Mr.
Gilbert, "George has become too well known to the authorities of this kingdom,
whose atheistical spies and minions, as you know, are everywhere, and so we ride
now to Michelgrove, where he will travel thence across the seas."
thought of poor Shelley, arising from a well-set table to find these carriers
of legal plague plump and smiling at his door. He wondered aloud whether they
expected to find Shelley at home.
Mr. Arundell," Gilbert said, "Mr. Shelley is in prison and has been
these two weeks, didnt you know?"
my son," said the Jesuit. "There is nothing against him. With a courage
conferred upon him by the Holy Ghost, he refuses anymore to attend the queens
church, and must bide a while therefore in the queens jail. He has no shame,
only glory, by that course."
Robert Parsons, or Persons, S.J. (1546-1610)
I am relieved," said Charles, who was not. He suppressed his annoyance at
this blithe dismissing of the mans discomfort. "How fares my Lord Paget
"He is closely
watched, but free of prison for the time," said Gilbert.
cannot tell you seriously enough, Mr. Arundell," Parsons continued, "how
proud we are, and how proud God must be, of the trials you gentlemen suffer daily
for the faith, which is an example to all the laity. I am told, now, that you
have held out these six months with no one fault. When our gentlemen, and especially
those of your rank and kinship with the queen, continue thus to persevere in refusing
to attend her service, despite the threats and privations daily made upon you,
why, then I am very sure that God will end this persecution soon."
cannot tell, Father," replied Arundell. "Only this I say, I must be
plain with you; if my delivery depended upon a little sermon and communion, I
should have been rowing on the river long ere this."
cried Gilbert in surprise. "Do you mean you would not refuse to attend?"
man, I have been to the church weekly, and would go hourly if it might set me
free. God knows my heart, sir, I care not whether the queen knows where my arse
looked dourly upon him. "Mr. Arundell, I had thought otherwise. I pray we
are not deceived in you. Really, these feckless courses may speed you with the
queens men, but God would have more . . ."
me, Father." Arundells face had grown red with shame and irritation.
"God and I must work this out at our leisure; only now I must come free of
this. I have heard of your arguments, Father, I have considered well your cases,
I have seen your book of reasons; believe me, Father, you and I are different
men, and this is not for me."
gazed at him for some seconds, not without sympathy in his eyes. "Well, you
are not then one of our martyrs," he said, "but you are a Catholic nonetheless.
But I must not comfort you in this; the holy church, with the decision of the
late Council at Trent, forbids your acquiescing in this opinion and worship condemned.
But you will do as you decide. Only remember this; when you lose your way, God
will welcome you; do not wait too long."
then," said Arundell.
will not discuss the reasons for your durance here, since they have not to do
with faith. Unless, my friend, there is something I can help in?"
shook his head.
let it be," said the priest. "You know, in any case, I am prevented
from discussion of any matters of the state."
my lords of the Council knew that. The rumors go that you have come to raise rebellion."
"Nothing less, Mr. Arundell,"
Father Parsons answered, "nothing less, believe me. We are here for cure
of souls, and meddle not at all in politics. Only to say that, when our lost sheep
have been regained, as one day soon they will be, then the atheists and hypocrites
remaining must necessarily be put aside with perhaps a little force. But the atheists
need not trouble us overmuch, Mr. Arundell."
sat gazing at the table before him. He considered himself as good a Catholic as
any in the ordinary way, but often he felt out of touch with the Roman point of
view, at least as nowadays he heard it given voice.
do you think all Protestants to be faithless?"
I speak not of those wanderers who are ignorant, but of the others, yes undoubtedly
they are faithless. I can affirm it of my knowledge that heresy in England is
desperate, and few or no men of judgment do think in their consciences this doctrine
to be true and defensible that is commonly taught and practiced, the absurdities
thereof being so many and manifest as they are. But that some men for policy,
some for present government, others for ease, others for gain, honor, and preferment,
and all commonly for some temporal interest or other, do stretch out a hand to
hold it for a time by force and violence."
said Arundell, as the Jesuit bore on.
when the childish and ignorant have been well taught, and the schismatical temporizers
have been led gently back to Christ, and the obstinate and hard-hearted only remain,
then we shall know a way of proceeding with them."
I do believe that when at last we have come into our happy kingdom, you would
deal as harshly with the Protestants as they do now with us!"
surprise me, the cases are nothing like! Their violence against the one church
of Christ is naught but a persecuting raised by the devil, and cannot by any means
be consonant with justice. Marry, notwithstanding this, when a man hath received
once the Christian Catholic religion and will by new devices and singularity corrupt
the same, by running out and making dissension in Christ his body, as all heretics
do, then, Mr. Arundell, for the conservation of unity in the church and for restraint
of this mans fury and pride, the church has always allowed that the magistrate
should recall such a fellow by temporal punishment to the unity of the whole body
again. But we, do you see, keeping still our old religion, and having not gone
out from the Protestants but they from us, we cannot be enforced by any justice
to do any act of their religion; and that is why we require toleration from them,
and why you must not yield to their threatenings now."
must pardon me, Father. You are too earnest for me."
I see we are. Mr. Arundell, of ourselves we require the supreme courage. Of you
we merely ask a little patience, a little steadfastness. One day very soon we
shall all worship freely here."
you see more than I do. The Protestants are stronger every day, and the Puritans
seem to me more numerous."
my friend, I see more than you see."
Arundell," said Gilbert, "when you do come free, we will hope to see
more of you at the mass."
you are bound across the seas, sir, you must excuse me."
sir, I meant to say," the other replied, "I meant to say that our little
association is always in great need of help, you see, and should be very glad
to have you join us here in England."
Arundell asked with a new wariness. "What sort of association do we speak
of, Mr. Gilbert?"
Parsons intervened and said, "I think you exaggerate them in your mind, Mr.
Arundell. Their principal activity, I am afraid, is but looking after me. No plots,
you see, no privy conspirings. Our friends here help the priests come from house
to house, and now they are helping too in the printing of our books. You said
you have perused my little book of reasons; now, did you know, that book was printed
manifestly very pleased by this, a pride which Arundell thought not unwarranted.
beneath their very noses. Mr. Fitzherbert here has even left his new wife to join
us for a time, for Fr. Campions little treatise requires to have its citations
checked before the printing of it, but he is unavailable at this present. And
Mr. Fitzherbert takes the work in hand."
smiled at Arundell somewhat ruefully.
said Charles, "as for joining you, I know not when I shall be free. So long
as Oxford remains in the Tower I still await my chance, for he must have his hearing
before he may come out, but when that shall occur I know not . . ."
three of his visitors were looking at him strangely; Charles was caught up abruptly.
Gilbert said. "My lord of Oxford was delivered from the Tower almost a week
past. I wonder that you have not heard."
Arundell murmured, and dropped his gaze tiredly down to the table beneath his
"Now, never fear,
my friend," said Parsons quickly. "God is watching, in his wisdom, oh
you may be sure of that. If it pleases him to set you free, then free you shall
be set, and if to keep you in the deepest dungeon, then there is where you shall
remain forever. The earl of Oxford, believe it, will never change Gods mind."
by this I think I see which way Gods thoughts are running, and I cannot
say I like them."
Arundell. Do not anticipate the Lords will. But if indeed he would have
you here to remain, why then you must accept it willingly and love your prison
for that cause."
very damned likely," said Arundell.
Arundell," said Parsons sternly. "I must tell you, you are not the man
I heard reported."
does ones poor best, Father."
daresay one does," countered the priest. "But these are tickle times,
and Gods work requires much better than that. Charles, you are not a silly,
pious gentlewoman in the far country whom we must comfort as best we may; no,
you are a respected man of many parts, much admired for your demonstrated qualities;
people look to you for an example. You must be one of the leaders of this straying
flock, for it is the place the Lord has chosen out for you. I cannot let you retire
here in self-pity and shameful carelessness. This is a day for heroes and martyrs,
not for standers by, all of us, we must sacrifice for God our petty and . . ."
Jesuit stopped. His subject was grinning at him crazily, an unfamiliar response
to his familiar exhortations that threw him momentarily off his stride.
what is it, Charles?"
would have me sacrifice for God, the queen my sovereign would have me sacrifice
for loyalty to her; the queen of Scots her friends would have me sacrifice for
her; yet I cannot sacrifice for all of these. How may I choose?"
want of praying here. I am in a deep fog, and have been for as long as I can remember."
God will see you through it."
him to hurry, Father, I have not much sacrificing left. If Oxford and his friends
are given their free passage, I may soon be called to sacrifice my last jot."
drew his black shoulderbag around before him.
us minister a private good, here, for comforts sake and for devotion."
sprang up. "Mass? Mass! Where would we be should we be taken saying mass?"
Arundell, calm yourself," said Gilbert. "We do hear mass regularly in
the deepest prisons in the realm."
not in this one! Here, gentlemen, thanking you heartily believe me for your visit,
and commending you to Gods care in your journey . . ."
right, Mr. Arundell, I understand you, and I forgive you; we are on our road.
Do bear in mind our conversations. You are needed, Charles, and do believe me,
you need us."
shook their hands hastily all round and bade them a quick farewell. Watching them
ride off toward the trees again, he sighed mightily in relief and in something
like despair at the same time. His shame choked him.
stood on the steps before the door.
go with you," he shouted in a strangled voice.
little man in black stopped his horse and looked back, and waved, then resumed
his way, just as Anthony came through to see whether the conference had ended.
Oxford was free again. How so? In house arrest, or roaming the streets of London,
dancing with the queen at court, setting his amorous traps for another Maid of
the Chamber? While Arundell, and Howard, and Southwell wasted away in isolation,
foolishly applauded for a heroism they loved very little to be guilty of, while
others pined in prison, or hid in house watched and followed at every walking
forth of it? Such was Leicesters port and sway, that every false companion
of his own, however black and foul beneath his silk and sarcenet, may lord it
over all with him, while good, simple folk must bear his whims.
thought of trial consumed him. Without it, he might sit in Sutton for the rest
of his life, forgotten utterly and left to explain his doubts to the walls of
this house, growing poorer and poorer, less and less amiable, more of his goodness
gone and abilities wasted with his fast fading youth. Lord Harry, with his naturally
melancholic turn of mind, must be near to desperation now. Kate he had not heard
from; she could not write, neither could she read, but in any case he would never
have sent to her, for such a woman must be allowed to go her ways.
towards the end of July, Arundell heard more news from Jamie Sharrock. Oxford
was indeed in house arrest, still refusing to come to any hearing until he had
his own free pardon in advance. His friends at court continued tirelessly to speak
for him. Charles was heartened somewhat to learn that, in the very Council Chamber,
Sussex and Leicester had come to blows on the matter, and a duel had been made
between them until the queen had taken it up, both earls commanded to keep their
rooms. He was not forgotten. So far at least, at least Sussex stood by him. At
least there were no more interrogatories, no new charges to be answered; now,
it seemed, only time and the labors of his friends should make the difference.
ceased writing to the Lord Treasurer, who had come fully in for his son-in-law,
God knows why. But to Walsingham he wrote still, and especially to Mr. Vice-Chamberlain,
Sir Christopher Hatton, at the court, give these.
Sir: it is a fault in grief, that either
it complaineth too much, or else saith nothing: and yet, for my own part, I seek
as much as I can to shun extremes. I have largely unfolded my whole estate to
Sharrock, this bearer, because I would not be cumbersome unto you; only craving
of charity and justice that my trial, which hath long been promised, may not be
any longer deferred. For then shall my enemies sink with shame, and I depart out
of the field with honor, and whatsoever either malice hath unjustly built, or
a fool devised upon a false ground, must play Castle-Come-Down and dissolve to
nothing. God and truth being on my side, is all my comfort; and I now know well
that whatsoever the devil or his ministers could devise against me was not wanting,
and if there had been any probability in my enemies accusations, I had been
ere this time past laudate. I will say no more until either trial or
liberty be obtained, which I wish to enjoy by your mediation, whom I commit to
the grace of God. From Sutton, the 20th of July 1581. Your honors fast and
thought Arundell, staring out upon the fields surrounding, browning under the
summer sun, somewhere there is a place in this long world where men do not strive
for creeds, where men live humbly and modestly with no eristic searching of loyalties
and allegiances. Here, he was an Englishman, and he was a Catholic, and in the
logic of these times there was no such creature possible.
he been made of martyrs stuff, this dilemma would be easily solved--nothing
finer than to go to the gallows for God. But so for a martyr; he was but a man.
Is there anything more futile than to be turned off by the hangman for what may
after all be the wrong faith? He loved nothing worse than to be hanged for quarrels
sat by the fluttering half-light of a guttering candle that threw fantastic dancing
shadows upon the chamber wall. His papers strewn about him on the table, the bed
turned down hours ago awaiting him, he ignored them and gazed upon the shadows,
rising and leaping and fading out, then disappearing as the single light went
out with a sizzling gasp in its tray. In the darkness he remained, the darkness
within him somewhat deeper than that without, staring long at the darkness where
formerly the papers had been visible.
waned, and chills came in the air. The birds lost no time in quitting the territory,
hurrying overhead in long files in search of more hospitable ground. Arundell
watched the days progress towards winter, with nothing else for him but to sit
before his door or in his chamber watching the breezes in the dying trees, the
leaves falling to the ground and being lifted lifelessly across it, wasted and
dead now and spent. Anthony and Barnabe, affable, good-hearted men, had been withdrawn,
replaced by four men of Walsinghams choosing, unaccommodating men with cold,
humorless faces who waved all visitors away with upraised muskets before they
had come near enough even to be recognized. They scarcely spoke to him at all,
save to give him news doubtless sent to him from Walsingham, as for example of
the arrest of Campion the Jesuit in Oxfordshire in late July, not told him until
September. Arundell concluded that his cause was hopeless, and accordingly he
gave up hope.
Then, on a morning
in October, a man of Hattons rode in with Evans, one of Arundells
secretaries in his receivership. They found Arundell still abed at this late hour,
for he had taken to rising only in the afternoon, and sometimes not at all, with
no more reading and very little correspondence to read or write in the evening.
But the reappearance of one of Hattons men augured a change for the better,
as if in the halls and chambers of the court some subtle shift had taken place,
and he was now again within reach of his protectors, Leicesters grasp a
little loosened, incapable now of maintaining him entirely in isolation, the first
face from outside the Secretarys circle of cutthroats he had seen in two
whole months. Arundell dressed and went down with something more of spirit in
The news they brought
was better still. He was at last to have his hearing.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter XI. In a Mist (1581)|
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.