Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
1. ENGLAND (1577-1583)
XI. IN A MIST
ha! ha! ha! full well is me,
For now I am at liberty."
and Sharrock came down the water stairs at Whitehall. The boats were thinly spread
upon the river, and through the gathering darkness and fog none were near enough
to be seen. Sharrock stepped to the light-post just above the waters edge
and carefully lit the lamp, and as its faint gleam shone out across the Thames
a cry went up from one of the nearer boatmen, whose oars could presently be heard
out of the shadows and clasped Evanss hand silently. The man said nothing
and seemed uncomfortable. Wreaths of mist came in off the water and swirled about
them as they waited. John Chayner and Thom Norris likewise came down the steps
and shook their masters hand. All of them had been summoned to the hearing
just ended, and they were now to ride back to Bristol to await the new receiver.
The boat came in along the
landing, emerging out of obscurity only at the instant before it ran up along
the steps. The waterman leant forward to help his fare aboard, as Arundell and
Sharrock leapt into his bottom and turned to gesture to the others. Then the boat
hauled away out into the darkness whence it had come. Evans and his companions
stared after it briefly, then shrugged, then went back up the steps to their dinners.
The hearing, after nearly
a years waiting and praying for it, had been anticlimactic. Late in October,
a gentleman of the court had ridden down to Sutton with papers of commission for
Walsinghams guards. Arundell had been given an hours time to dress
and ready himself, then, alongside the messenger, he had left the house of ten
months too much familiarity behind him and made his way at a gallop towards
the court. Standing by his horse on the ferry below Lambeth, he had had ample
time to gaze upon the buildings of Westminster and surmise both the best and the
worst about his reception there. He had felt prepared for neither.
arrived at the Council Chambers, there had been no humiliating delay awaiting
him, only Sharrock in the corridor to divest him of his cloak and the gentleman
of the guard to conduct him in. Robert Beale had risen from his hasty supper by
the inner doors and, hurrying before, had announced him to the councillors assembled.
his adversary nor his fellows had been there, nor had all of the councillors been
present; most notable of the absentees was Leicester himself, with his brother
and few of his closer cronies, but old Burghley had been there, wrapped in enormous
robes peering out from under declined brows with a wintry Olympian gaze. Sussex
had smiled faintly at him, but made no other sign; no more did any of the others.
Hatton had greeted him from official distance, rearranging his papers before him,
coughing gently, motioning Arundell to a place across the board.
answerings and declarations well considered," said the Vice-Chamberlain,
"and your manifold offenses well weighed, their lordships have thought good
to recommend to her majesty free pardon, which she in her justly celebrated clemency
vouchsafes to grant you."
lords," said Arundell; "what my adversaries have falsely charged to
me I must fully answer to . . ."
is no charge to answer; there is no more offense; you have free pardon for all
crimes committed or uncommitted by you to this day."
my lords . . ."
there an end," said Hatton, curtly, still staring into his papers. "Your
patent of the receivership of Bristol, Gloucester, and other places in that country,
your patent of the captaincy of Portland, and all other your patents and grants
by her majestys well known generosity bestowed, each of these and all of
them are revoked and cancelled from this day, as unnecessary and superfluous in
her majestys good service to remain with you. Furthermore, you are from
this day requested to press no other suit nor seek no other office until signified
unto by her majesty, or by messengers in her behalf, that further service is required
of you and likewise welcome unto her. And furthermore, being without business
which keeps you at the court, you are requested henceforth to quit and avoid the
court, wherever it may be in residence at any time, for a space of time limited
by her majestys pleasure, her need of further service to be signified to
you at that time if and when it should occur. Do you understand her majestys
gracious will and dealings herein?"
looked from one averted face to another, down the length of the board and back
"Of what charges
am I pardoned?" he asked slowly, in something almost like disinterest.
all crimes committed or uncommitted by yourself, wittingly or unwittingly, to
this day," answered Walsingham, the only man in the room staring hard upon
him. "But only to this present day," he added with some emphasis.
had thought to answer my accuser here."
is no accuser here," said Hatton. "Her majesty, in her foreseeing wisdom
careful of your future good and welfare, especially requests me to adjure you
in her name to look well to your courses in future time, and to keep yourself
very clear of all suspected and mischievous persons, and to deal openly and in
true loyalty with all men. Do you thank her majesty, whom the Lord long preserve,
for her merciful dealings towards you?"
his head hung down, muttered that he thanked her majesty with all his heart, and
met him as he emerged from the council rooms, not ten minutes after having gone
in, and together they had walked across the Privy Gardens in the slowly dying
afternoon. Evans, Norris, and Chayner had met them at the garden stairs; Arundell
realized that they must have been called up for the occasion, but asked no questions
In the corridors
of Gentlemens Row, Arundell had been greeted by his acquaintances long ungreeted,
affably enough but in a tone rather more subdued than was their habit. He had
entered his old room to find it occupied by a very proper young gentleman not
much unlike the paintings one sometimes sees of Ganymede, who had but newly come
to court; the porter had hurried in behind him with a bundle made up of his few
belongings, to say that his wardrobe was safely kept for him in the porters
lodge. Arundell had descended to the water stairs and taken boat.
boat passed silently by them in the mist and darkness, running west upon the river
towards the palace or beyond; the waterman belatedly gave out with his cry, answered
by Arundells rower. The great houses along the bank, as near as they must
have been, were invisible through the fog. One wondered how these solitary boatmen,
gliding silently through the darkness, managed to go their ways without coming
to wrack. Still the boatmen plied their trade, content with their chances, hopeful
always of a generous gratuity, by all appearances happy in their jobs. Their fares
had been fixed by the state many years ago, before these inflationary times, but
though now they made too little by their dangerous work, they seemed nonetheless
to be content. Perhaps they never stopped to think about what they did. Perhaps
they never met with accident because they never contemplated their risk, and perhaps,
were they now to begin worrying about the perils of the night, they would soon
end in disaster. Not unlike the old proverb about the clown who juggles ably until
he remembers that he cannot juggle, whereupon his bottles fall upon his head and
The boatman came
in close by the effluence of Fleet Ditch into Thames, following Sharrocks
direction along the first Blackfriars stairs nearly as far as Pauls Wharf.
Here, through the fog, the massive bulk of Baynards Castle loomed dark above
the water, wherein at Pembrokes table as likely as not the earl of Leicester
might be dining now and, it may be, even now inclining his head to a messenger
just arrived, never pausing in his meal or pleasant conversation, to hear the
news of Arundells rude dismissal, to add this bit of merriment to the table-talk.
do you know Arundell, my lord of Sussexs erstwhile friend?"
yes, of course, we do, he of the melancholic mien and hapless hangdog looks, a
very dolorous man; yes, of course, died or disappeared, did he not, some little
not this fellow; he has just returned to court and found for himself a very cold
welcome there indeed"--with meaningful looks and eyebrows raised aloft; "Oh
my lord, you are too witty! Leave the poor man to creep into his hole."
my friends, without a doubt. To creep into his little hole, ha ha!"
sat in the boat replaying this foolish scene many times over in several variations.
He was drawn again to emulate Tydeus, and run into the hall with rapier held aloft,
crying out his disdain for all his foes too soon triumphing over him. Where he
should doubtless find the hall deserted, or but a servant or two to stare at him
as if he were run mad.
tiredly upon the steps along the wharf and turned to pay the boatman. Together
with Sharrock he walked back into the tangle of dark streets and byways towards
the Priory Mansion, thinking to himself that whatever else was taken from him,
tonight at least he had his bed.
as they walked, spoke up for the first time, to say that more than he could give
voice to, he regretted the injustice done his master by their lordships.
James, thank you for so much. Whether stone hits pitcher or pitcher hits stone,"
Arundell replied, "it will be the worse for the pitcher."
there you are right," said Sharrock, and walked on silently to their destination.
the rear door of the Mansion, Charles took his bundle from Jamies shoulder
and turned to face him.
you must run up and find Lord Harry out. Try him at Arundel House, and the Dacre
House, and if he lies at neither, pray seek him out at the Charterhouse. Learn
from him what you can of what has passed. But never hurry, and pass the night
where sleep overtakes you; we shall meet on the morrow. Take this; and many thanks,
sir," Sharrock said, and struck off.
sighed heavily watching him go, and then entered the tiny hall. The candles were
where they always were, and he started up the narrow stairway. A sound of movement
came down from above. Arundell paused in surprise and listened. Came another sound.
He ran up the stairs, fumbling for his key in the pocket of his doublet, and began
calling, "Halloo, huswife; halloo, old huswife."
threw open the door. In the center of the room stood two young gentlemen, staring
at him in alarm.
what is this?" he demanded.
pardon, Mr. Arundell," said the nearer man. "You know me, sir; Basset,
"Yes; oh yes,
Basset; we have met. What make you here?"
pardon again, sir," said Basset. "Here is Mr. Michael Tempest, whom
perhaps you have never seen."
shook the young mans proffered hand, and somewhat lightened his looks to
put them at their ease.
well, gentlemen, I have this honor to remember," he said, more kindly. "But
I ask you, what do you in my rooms?"
good lord of Northumberland, sir, permitted us these rooms for certain uses,"
Basset replied. "I daresay, Mr. Arundell, he had no notion of your coming
home to them."
daresay not. To what uses do you put them, then?"
for the receiving of certain guests from time to time. We are seldom here, sir.
Only from time to time."
what guests? Oh I see," Arundell said, glancing over their smooth, handsome
faces and expensive dress. "Yes, I do see indeed."
it is not what you are thinking, Mr. Arundell! Nothing of the sort."
Is it not? Well, what then? What guests are you receiving from time to time in
my rooms?" Arundell was slowly losing patience with these coy youths.
other guests, sir," said Basset. The two fellows exchanged glances and shuffled
their feet for a second, then looked back at Arundell.
You are entertaining priests in my rooms, Gods blood, gentlemen, have you
lost your reason?" Arundell thundered out his dismay and the men backed a
few steps away for all chances.
Christ, gentlemen, under every stone we find a priest; I open my pockets and out
leaps me a smiling priest. Have you no sense?"
Mr. Arundell, we are told you are a Catholic."
so I am, but God, man, well do the Lord no good saying paternosters on the
gallows. Know you not where I have been these ten months past? Has not this house
we do, sir, but not watched. There was no choosing, do you see. With my Lords
Paget and Windsor themselves kept watch of, sir, and my lord of Northumberland
looked to everywhere he goes; and with the earl of Southampton dead, sir, we could
do no other."
said Arundell, drawing up a bench and sitting heavily upon it.
see, Mr. Arundell, my lady his widow is one of ours whole, but there had been
some wars between them, and she has been very ill dealt with in his will, an evil
instrument proceeded from his sickly mind, sir, as I guess, poisoned against her
causeless by certain base companions."
Charles Paget, sir, but more than him by certain others of his house, one Dymock,
to be plain. Which testament to break, do you see, my lady has sought the help
of my lord of Leicester, who can do much at court you know, and now with his lordships
comings and goings to her, pray God only upon the business of this will, she must
close up the house a little from its wonted hospitality. And her father, who mislikes
her dealing with this earl, has gathered up and travelled off to Cowdray. My lord
of Arundel, likewise, resides entirely in his country, sir, and so we lack of
proper housing for the priests in town."
in this city are there no rooms for priests but mine?"
there are, Mr. Arundell, but our many friends in the city are more careful than
they were, you see, with Fr. Campions taking, and since Fr. Parsons has
returned to France. Courageous still, they are, but for this time we trouble them
as little as we may."
has gone to France?"
sir. You have missed a great deal of news."
havent missed a bit of it. I had no idea in what bliss I lived."
is not so bad, sir," said young Tempest. "For you are free again. Felicitations,
Mr. Arundell, upon your delivery."
The men seemed ill at ease
still, and fidgeted nervously about the room while Arundell looked into the fire.
He wondered at their behavior, and thought them reluctant to sit until they were
bidden to. Then he realized that he was rather in their way.
priest," he said. "Damn me, you are expecting a priest just now; are
are, sir. But certainly you need not leave on that account."
certainly I must. It will be some hours yet before I shall be ready to be captured
with a priest. Besides, I may be watched."
feared as much as that, Mr. Arundell. We would leave you, I assure you, but we
know not how to prevent the priest."
I shall walk on at once," Arundell said. "Only tell me, where is the
woman who was wont to occupy these rooms before you came to them?"
woman, sir?" asked Basset.
a woman, Basset. Very like a man but different. Saw you no woman when you came
sir; these rooms were in disuse, which made us the more willing to accept of my
lords offer of them."
see." Arundell took up his cloak again and donned it, then placed his little
bundle in the corner. "I shall leave this for another time, eh?"
yes, sir, and your other household stuff will be safe for you, Mr. Arundell."
good," he said. He turned again at the door. "Do have a pleasant act
of treason," he said, grinning. They smiled wanly in reply.
streets in the Blackfriars district were dead black, with still deeper shadows
where alleys and recesses opened into the broader way. Here and there were men
lying asleep or drunk half in the street. One of them, a small man in a soldiers
jacket lying with his face beneath his arms, was sprawled just without the hall
door, so that Arundell had to step over him as he came into the road.
started off eastward, traversing the narrow ways between Thames Street and Carter
Lane above. Some distance along he saw a flood of light cascading from a tiny
open door, and made for it. It was here, in a tavern with only a green bush for
a sign, that Kate had often worked and lived as well when she was not in the Mansion.
main rooms were commodious, stretching back beneath low timbered ceilings to a
narrow stairs in the rear. This night the custom was immense, and the air within
was close and warm and the noise cacophonous. Here were knots of prentices laughing
and shrieking over dice, and groups of misplaced seamen from down the river planted
with their women at benches and boards throughout the room. Fishermen were here
from Queenhithe Dock and Billingsgate, banging their cups upon the oak, and a
few small parties of gentlemen who found the excitement of the fore rooms more
to their convivial purpose than those in the back. Buxom girls with low bodices
ran to and fro among the guests, carrying slab trays and coarsely answering the
calls and invitations made them. In several corners music was in progress, snatches
of several tunes from all directions at once, the insistent beat of tabors beneath
the hooting and squealing of pipes of all description. The place was lit as if
for a palace ball, and a portly man who must have been the host darted among the
candles to guard against their upsetting.
came down into the room and took off his cloak, and made his way to the drawers
bench. There was no one here with whom he was acquainted, but more than that,
nowhere could he find his Kate. The hilarity was high this night, and the cries
of laughter and sometimes lubricious glee suited ill his present mood.
had his ale from the tapster and stood at the bench peering round him. Still no
Kate to be seen. The cachinnations of the revellers he found irritating; a bit
of inebriety might be just the thing for his present black and evil humor, but
only when Kate was here beside him, laughing at his peevishness and jesting him
from his troubles.
ran by, bound for he himself knew not where, merely running to be busy amid this
busy mob. Arundell reached out and caught his sleeve as he scurried past.
man was a florid, ill-kempt fellow whose hot breath smelt of onions and whose
eyes had a trick of focusing several inches before ones face as one spoke
to him. He seemed confused and not a little put out at being snagged, and he stared
towards his hailer crossly.
host, I have a question for you," Arundell called.
Quidnunc, no questions here. In this house we all know everything there is to
"But I do
not know everything; you must make me perfect, host."
host looked impatiently round the room, fearful to be away from anywhere for very
"Well, put your
question, sir," he shouted back.
me where is Kate, good host." The din about them was deafening; nearby an
enormously fat soldier fell from his bench to the ascending howls of his comrades.
Kate, sir? We have no Kate," the host called above the roar. "But if
the gentleman is well provided, we must have the girl for him, with no mistaking."
you misunderstand me," said Arundell. "I ask where Kate has gone?"
Kate, gentleman, no more now than a moment ago. Many fine girls here, but no Kate.
I must be away!"
soldier was requiring the best efforts of half his company to remount him on his
bench. Book was being made on his chance of remaining atop it for a full minute.
host! Who worked here not ten months past! Where has she gone to?"
singing took up from a group hard by, a devilish awful squalling that pleased
the singers no end.
bethought him, and abruptly recognition dawned.
Kate! Dead, sir. Died of the fever at just about that time. Excuse me, gentleman,"
he called, hurrying on his way to anywhere.
picked up his cloak and bonnet and replaced them once again, then strode quickly
out into the darkness. Just outside the door, a small man in soldiers dress
lay sprawled in the street, his head buried beneath his arms.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter XII. Doubts and Passion (1581-1582)|
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.