Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
1. ENGLAND (1577-1583)
XIII. THE VORTEX
what dreaméd I this night?
Methought the world was turnéd up so down;
The sun, the moon, had lost their force and light;
The sea also drowned both
tower and town."
great party of men, naked to the waist, charged over the meadow, most afoot but
not a few on horseback, toward a similar party charging from the opposite direction.
In the middle, a man on a grey mare held aloft a wooden ball that shone in the
sides approached, raising up a tempest of hurrahs and dust, which mounted and
crested just as the centerman dropped the ball to the turf and tried to slap his
horse away from the collision that impended. But it was not to be. At once he
was caught up in the havoc, unhorsed and dimly to be seen pushing and hauling
to come clear before he made an unheroic end beneath a thousand feet.
mounted men on both sides were first to reach the ball, but they failed to strike
it with their long cudgels and, wheeling their horses about, found themselves
confronting their opponents instead, and fell to bashing one another while the
ball was kicked about beneath them.
the forward runners reached the place. One fine young fellow, lithe as lass of
Kent, scooped up the ball and ran laterally to the north, evading his pursuers
with dips and ducks and seeking the cover of his friends. But a broad giant of
a man caught the ballcarrier with a headbutt to the chest that sent him sprawling.
The giant tore the ball from his grasp and stood erect, towering above everyone,
to let the wave of attackers break upon him, and disappeared forthwith beneath
Now all was cries
and curses and limbs in the air, as both lines converged upon the center. Through
the melee, the ball was nowhere to be seen. The Walthamstow men seemed to be carrying
the field, but still there was no ball.
from the rear of the battling hosts emerged a single Wanstead man, who darted
away towards his home village with mad speed. The cry went up and all turned to
the chase, the Walthamstow men earnest to bring him down, his teammates seeking
to prevent them by any means whatever. Within four or five minutes, every man
capable of running had passed over the low hill to the east. Those remaining were
the men who had given their best fight before the game was well begun.
Paget, from his place on the overlooking hill, let out a low whistle.
a devilish sort of game these men take up," he said, an immense grin wreathing
the Spaniards were here to see our play in England," said Arundell. "Surely,
they would be in bodily fear of our war."
remounted their horses and paused to survey the bloody scene once more.
have my wager, gentlemen," Northumberland said. "Wanstead has it, friends,
let there be no equivocation in the settlements."
my lord," said Paget, "you shall have your bet when the ball has found
a home. It has a right space to go before that time."
laughed. Around them, other gentlemen were resettling themselves on their horses
and starting off in twos and threes for London, with their servingmen about them.
Wanstead men are Leicesters interest," Paget said. "I wonder he
was not here to cheer them on."
is here, Tom," Arundell replied, nodding towards a rise in the land above
them. They looked up. There sat the earl of Leicester with a troop of his friends,
brilliant in full sunlight upon his bright colors, and, as it appeared from that
distance, he was staring directly down upon them. Points of light flashed from
his silver, and his rich blue jacket, as if absorbing the sun and radiating it
forth once more, seemed to bring him nearer, almost to hover over them. Abruptly,
the earl and his companions wheeled off towards the east, returning to Wanstead
whence they had come.
a devil chill I feel whenever he looks upon me," said Northumberland. "He
is like the bogeymen and bugbears that affrighted me in childhood."
others made no reply, but all spurred off towards the city.
road lay through Hackney Marshes, into Shoreditch and by Islington, south to the
Bishopsgate, past the theater near Finsbury and the Bedlam against Moorfields.
Once within the wall, they turned west towards the Guildhall, beyond which the
earl and Lord Thomas and their servants rode off down Wood Street towards Cheapside,
where lay their favorite ordinary, the Horsehead. Arundell carried on straight
through Newgate to the Fleet prison without the wall again. Here reposed Lord
Harry Howard, who had been imprisoned, in some irony, for an effort to ingratiate
himself with the powers that heretofore had kept him in suspicion.
was all the cry just now, causing consternation among the churchmen. Lord Harry,
sensing his opportunity, had returned to Audley End, his nephews house in
Norfolk, for the Christmas season, and had brought to completion his great attack
on astrology, entitling it the Defensative Against the Poison of Supposed
Prophecies, which he had then had printed in London with a flattering dedication
to Walsingham. So far from being flattered by the book, or edified by its scrupulous
orthodoxy, Mr. Secretary, or someone, had had it pored over for heretical doctrine,
which some of its more opaque citations (despite Lord Harrys care) seemed
almost to confirm. He found himself remanded to the Fleet for what he hoped would
this time be a short visit. A month had passed already.
left his horse near the stable behind the building and walked round to the public
gate. There the porter summoned a guardsman who (for a sum) led him up the stone
stairs to Harrys room in the southern wall, overlooking Fleet Street and,
beyond that, Bridewell and the Thames.
Howard was half in sleep when Arundell entered, but hearing his name called he
turned his head and blinked at his visitor several times.
blood," he cried out; "Carolus redivivus! Enter, my boy, my
humble establishment. God, man, how good to see you now."
you, Harry. More treason, is it, what?"
Charles, you will not well believe. It passes all description what meanings and
constructions these Bible-eating preachers can wring a learned passage to. I wrote
but a simple book, as free of any hurt as pudding. God, man, they have clapped
me up for a Latin phrase the meaning of which I scarcely knew myself."
ha ha," laughed Arundell. "Why, no more do they, it is the very latinity
which makes their scholars think you quote the pope."
there is the joke, Charles. The heresy they charge me with is clean the other
kind. I grin to think of it. They peer into my lines because they suspect me of
papistry, and lock me up for a line of the Family of Love or some Anabaptistical
gibbering. Oh, God, they are too funny."
laughed with him again, but then grew serious.
you are charged, then?"
no, no I am not charged; I spoke over-loosely. That makes twice. I shall learn
to look to my words more straightly. No, only suspected, as they say. Unless this
covers some deeper matter, which I think not, I shall be enlarged as soon as they
find the man can check my sources. There is nothing to it this time, Charles,
trust me for that; I think they repossess me only that my old rooms will not forget
me and wax lonesome."
it is but a pretext."
it is but a pretext only, but I do not think it so. There is never a word of Jesuits,
none of the queen of Scots, none of armies or wars or spials; only of some ancient
passage about orbits of planets, be they free, be they fixed, and what not else,
ha ha, some Babylonish mysteries of such pagan foolery."
so, then. I share your optimism gladly." Arundell walked over to the writing
table and gazed idly at the books strewn across it. Lord Harry appeared to be
at work upon something else even now.
Charles, where have you been this year and a half past? Here, stay a moment. Gage!"
Harrys man appeared from the dressing room beyond.
please, Jack. Bring in some wine."
good, my lord."
where have you been hiding out, Charles, with never word to a soul whether you
are here on live or dead and watching from above?"
I been dead, Lord Harry, how would you have had me to advertise you?"
stiffened suddenly and stared about him wildly with bugging eyes. "Harry,"
he croaked vilely, "Har-r-ry. For the love of God, Harry. I have somewhat
to speak you from the other kingdom."
shouted Arundell. "Now, Harry, in good sadness. Do not jest too loudly of
other kingdom here, ha ha, or I shall have to share the room with
then, Charles, where have you been? We have been very diligent of inquiring, but
it makes no matter. I have lived with Sharrocks people in Wales; never ask
And now you are come to join us in our revelry."
it seems so."
good. Matters have moved along since your going off, Charles, you know. Much of
the speech we hear commonly at table now would startle you, I think."
Charles looked at him steadily. "How startle me?"
is much ado now of plots and tricks of a military character."
said Charles, accepting the wine that Gage proffered him. "Military plots
are bad enough, Harry, but are there soldiers to accompany them?"
that I may learn of. There was a great plan now a nine months or a year gone of
the duke of Lennox by Scotland way, for bringing in from those parts a certain
army of the duke of Guise and others. But all is whusht, Lennox is overthrown
and fled to France whence he came, and the young king of Scotland lies in Protestant
hands and never thinks of his poor mother now. For the rest, you will hear much,
but nothing of substance at this time, I think."
no more talk of risings within the realm?"
for that, of course there be our younger bloods who still maintain as an article
of their creed that, were the word but given, the full-armed Catholics would rise
up like dragons teeth. But there is nothing there, Charles, you know that."
Lord Harry sat shaking his head in weary amusement. "No, there is nothing
in that at all. We are not so many in the country, nor so strong, as once we were."
to what purpose all this plotting?"
you see," said Howard, staring from his high embrasure towards the river,
"its a matter of keeping up ones spirits. There are two sorts
of plottings I do hear of. The one, of some midnight raid upon Sheffield or so,
to free the queen of Scots and ride away in the darkness, no man knows whither;
very fine stuff, just out of the old romances. The other, to seek out some foreign
prince who will commit himself to a landing here. I have few hopes of either course
at this time. One man there was, a black little fellow who offered that some must
kill the earl of Leicester and all the Protestant lords upon the sudden, but the
men beat him soundly and left him by the road in Berkshire; for, do you see, he
was either a stark madman, as that man who shot upon Hatton some years past, or
else, what is the more likely, he was an agent-provoker sent to stir us into somewhat
for a hanging."
you are already ripe for hanging, Harry." Charles looked at him soberly.
"Between armies landing and assassins shooting there is little for an English
jury to choose."
is true enough. But I cannot overwatch them all. They will speak what they list,
you know. And theyre hot, Charles, yes they are hot--no, do not shake your
head so; they are not all to blame. All have brother or father in prison or in
some other straits."
Harry, thus much for the younger men," said Arundell wearily. "Tell
me now, what does a lonely old scholar have to do with all these broils? I am
told you are in something to your hangers, but no man tells me what it is."
is as I would have it, my friend," said Lord Harry. "But I shall tell
you, for anyway I have need of your help now. It must pass no further, for discretions
"I am told
you are somewhat familiar with the ambassador of Spain."
am, I am. Charles, as he is a Spaniard he is an arrogant hidalgo whom I would
not cross a narrow road to greet; but as he is a Catholic, you must know, he is
a loyal man and a true one."
the sound of it, you spend a little of his masters fortune."
bit of it, yes, a little bit. Nor am I the only pensioner in London, never think
so. A glance about the Council board might show one or two more of them. In return
for which I pass to Don Bernardino whatever little informations come to me, matters
at court, matters in the country--what the Catholics do, what Leicester and his
fautors make to, similar toys--any small bit of news one hears from the ladies
our friends or from whatsoever other mouth."
small matter of spying for pay, is it?"
is, but no consequence, really, for I no longer hear the best news. And do remember,
Charles, I say it to my partial exculpation, that in this paradoxical time Don
Bernardino is a truer Englishman than are many of our greatest councillors. For
you know, he serves his master zealously. Now, observe: his master wants no war
with England, nor should we with him; he wants no helps to the rebel part in Flanders,
no more should we; he wants no harm to threaten the good queen in prison, no more
do we. In all of these, must we with the Spaniard prevent the Leicestrian Bear,
who if he goes unchecked and unmuzzled will ere long bring all Europe into conflagration.
To be true Englishman, Charles, is now to aid the Spaniard."
are a casuistical rogue, my lord."
I daresay I am that, but do you see the truth of it?"
see much truth in it."
Charles, always we have sought, you and I, to limit and restrain the earl of Leicesters
port and sway in the court. But there is no flying without wings, as Paget says;
Leicester has beaten us, alone we may make nothing against him. The French have
proved to us but weak reeds, and spoke us fair for as long as we served their
turns, but now it is the Spaniards who must aid us, and I will tell you, Charles,
they will stand more steady."
hearken to your words, Harry, but remain in some part unconvinced."
what part? Gods blood, man, do you think things can continue as they are?
Matters are daily approaching rage and desperation, Charles. In not long time,
if nothing intervenes, we shall have a mighty war with Spain, if not here then
in the Netherlandish fens, and when it comes, Charles, here at home we shall see
such papist blood to flow as will not be believable. There is but one way out
of it--to induce her majesty to name Queen Mary her successor, as in right and
law she is, at which time this persecuting of her favorers must cease upon the
hour, and our continental foes become our friends again. But hardly will the queen
be brought to like of this while Leicester and his canting companions do spoon
in her ear this stew of plots and treasons. We must overcome the earl by any means
before this realm can be made safe."
stew in her ear."
right, all right. But I speak in earnest."
cannot deny you phrase it well. But consider, though you oppose this traitor Leicester,
yet you oppose a many-friended councillor. If taken in this, you may find a room
of peers less easily persuaded."
do what we must for God and England, Charles, we take a risk or two if we must,
so only this venture will succeed."
Lord Harry rose from his pallet
and went to his table. He found a sheet of paper among his books and, dipping
his quill, wrote briefly upon it.
this will introduce you to Don Bernardino. He will remember you from the night
of our resort to him."
the sheet, Charles read, in Lord Harrys distinctive Italic hand, the words,
"Love him as myself."
entangle me, Harry."
have need. Charles, the passage of the Scottish queens letters is a crucial
matter for us. The French house is watched, and by that way we send but letters
of love and greeting, such as may be patently seen. Otherwise, chiefly we use
Don Bernardinos pouches, which is a means as yet all unsuspected. Now, mark
me, two of us specially are in touch with the Spaniard, myself and Mr. Throgmorton,
whom you know."
shook his head.
Throgmorton. He is a little man from Chester, his father was a justice there,
but ruined by Leicesters craft and brought thereby to his grave, as is thought.
He is a faithful man, but heady, Charles, too young for discretions requirements.
But a very loyal man."
Howard took the paper and folded it several times over, then tucked it into Arundells
"You must occupy
my place for me, until I come free, lest our chain be broken. Letters from the
queen of Scots and from Curle and Nau her men, out of Sheffield or Tutbury Castle
by covert means, will come to you by two men in special, one Foljambe and one
Ardington, both excellent men and as Catholic as a cardinal; trust them, therefore."
Harry, letters are letters, and I would do for our lady what in reason can be
done. But I will plot no plots, nor carry them. You hurry on before me, and I
cannot keep your pace."
plots, none at all. Be assured. Though I would not minimize the peril to your
body, whatever benefit your soul may reap from this charitable service."
I cannot tell how great. We have been imperilled before, but here, I think, we
may be further out of help than heretofore. There may be no earl of Sussex to
love us well if hard constructions should be used of us."
lord, perhaps you do not know. My lord of Sussex is vastly ill. He is retired
to his house in Bermondsey, and it is thought he hardly will emerge from it."
me. And thus my month in prison here."
I saw him but this morning, and he lamented much he could not rise to speak for
be it. The peril is here, Charles, and I would not tell it you in candied terms."
Harry. What else have we, eh? Two lonely old men."
so very old, Charles."
not so old; but we have neither wives nor heirs, nor fathers alive to fret for
us, nor, for me, much lands to lose. I will take up this peril."
I knew you were my man as ever."
started towards the door, but paused.
you know, Paget tells me he has given thought to going over for his conscience.
I had thought I might go with him."
wife and all?"
has no more wife, having just returned from placing her in ground, with sadly
little sorrow, Im afraid. Sure she will be happier in the earth than she
ever was upon it. His brother awaits him in Paris, and sings him a fine song of
his entertainment there."
you will, Charles. But we have need of you here."
what of Pagets sister? Has he not a sister whom you were somewhat familiar
withal? I might have thought you would marry, after so many years a gentleman
of the court, and go into the country for the quiet life."
Lee is married already."
we have other dames."
for me, Harry. What, will I keep my wife like Diogenes living in a tub? Little
lands, less coin, a patrimony such as the cat left on the malt heap. Now I am
closed from employment in the court. I will never regain my living, I fear me,
as long as Leicester lives."
not. Well, Charles, you are the man for the desperate act. Penury urges us to
heroism, oftentimes, have you observed? Well, goodbye. I little doubt I shall
meet you soon on freer ground. Where do you stay?"
come into one of the Howard houses if you wish to. As you will."
then. God be with ye, my lord."
stepped out into the dark corridor. The low stone ceiling weighed upon him, and
he felt the pressure of this oppressive house with its unhappy tenants and its
silent guards. Lord Harry bore it up admirably, but he had the money to live more
tolerably here, floors above the dark basement wardrooms where the poorer sort
were thrown in together and left till someone at court chanced to remember them,
or till some bailiff summoned them forth to trial or the gallows, or till some
kinsman in the country raised the money for their fines or, at least, for their
The place chilled him.
He feared it more than death, feared that in such a place as this he would end
his days, starved and forgotten. His ride in from the west country had seemed
like a protracted march up Calvary. Something called him to London, some clouded
hope of change, some half-understood conception of offering himself to some still
less understood cause--some notion of sacrifice--but he feared what might transpire.
He sensed the final act beginning, in which he, though merely a supernumerary
upon the great stage, must participate in the tragic dénouement. He almost believed
he was being drawn, both unwillingly and, at the same time, willingly, to his
He threw off this
growing depression. This black mood came of his perplexity and helplessness. God
watched. It was enough.
retrieved his horse, Arundell rode north towards outlying Clerkenwell, where lived
his brother Sir Matthew. The day continued fine, and the ride was a pleasant one.
In the bosom of his shirt he kept Lord Harrys missive to the Spaniard, but
forced himself to think of other more congenial matters. It was something better
left for tomorrow.
the horse-coursers were busy. Their strings of horses, led north and south along
the road and back and forth across it to pens on either side, made the going difficult
and slow. Cries of trade filled the air, as Arundell rode into the cluster of
houses and stables and inns that made up this bustling suburb in the shadow of
the London wall. In the chief building, a tavern, which fronted on the wide Farringdon
Road, the westering sun glanced off the windows and made them seem afire with
blinding white light. Arundell guided his horse through the press of people and
animals, past the taverns open door with its jovial sounds splashing out
into the street. He held his bonnet over his eyes and beheld the windows, some
sixteen or twenty panes of glass blank and shining with an unearthly blast. Abruptly,
he passed the angle of reflection and found himself peering deep into the main
In the nearest window
was a face, a blank, repulsive face, with one useless, milk-white eye staring
hard at nothing and a good eye staring hard at him.
cold panic swept over him. He slapped up his horse and plunged through the crowd,
rounding the corner opposite the tavern and galloping out westward into open country
towards St. Giles. He never looked back. Soon well away from the good eyes
field of vision, he believed nonetheless that the blank eye, wherever he might
travel to, would follow him.
his honor, Mr. Secretary Walsingham, at Barn Elms, or one of his special trusted,
after my hearty commns, etc. I have advertised you of mine intent to hold
to our present course. The hoped for event is so far delayed. Myself remaining
in the bootmakers at Shoe Lane bottom, where at the 10 [French] house none
have come these four or five days, saving only, again in the night, my lord the
bishop of Herefords son Sylvanus, who may bear watching in particular, and
also once or twice 75 [Fran. Throgmorton]. My man Adrastus informs me from within
that house that 75 brought nothing with him neither in nor out of the house, which
consorts with my own observation from without. Mr. Parthenopaeus is of like opinion,
who has been as flea upon dog with him and informs me 75 has neither seen friend
nor received message, saving one thought to be from his brother Tho. over the
sea, which could not by any means be got, for this entire week. Mr. Parth. means
at my bidding to follow his quarry close upon him till he yields us better game.
furthermore offers his copies of other correspondences of that house, all which
I enclose, as namely three several letters from the man of 10 [France] extraordinary
now in 14 [Scotland], to the effect that you see, of changes wrought by the late
escape of 107 [king of Scotland]. As also one of 5 [Lord Treasurer Burghley],
which may bear your careful reading, to 11s [the French ambassadors]
self, in cipher as it seems.
is upon 76 [my lo. H. Howard] since his late releasing out of durance, but reports
no doings, for 76 has never approached them of 10 not once, which gave me much
surprise, to say truly; for he dwells now in Arun. House upon the river, which
is hard by. One time this week only he has gone out, for companys sake it
seems, for he crossed river and called short time at the Spanish house and at
the house of 28 [Lord Montague], returning then to his bed by the water without
passing them of 10 at all. What entertainment he may have had among the Spaniards
may bear looking into. He is visited on Monday by 33 [Ch. Arundell], later by
62 [the e. of Northumberland] and 36 [my L. Paget] together, and on Tuesday by
one Foljambe. Mr. Capaneus is presently away from town, for on Tuesday early 62
rode out from town, and from him I have not heard since that time, though by arrangement
I shall if he has matter.
[Paget], besides this visit to 76, dwells at home, but goes out often, but never
to the 10 house, only twice to tennis and many times to take the benefit of the
air, with never stopping for any speech. My Hippomedon is with him at all times.
This Mr. Hipp. is an excellent man whom your honor has never seen, for he is but
newly arrived and joins me with a great will to do your honor good. He is my sisters
only son, and will do much, for which great promise that I see in him I recommend
him heartily to your honorable notice, for what time he does some better service
you may think well to reward him. I pay him at the wonted rate by the day. Visits
his man has had in several, specially from 33 [Arundell], at least once daily,
also by Mr. Fagot a Frenchman residing in the 10 house, who I think is one of
yours, also by Mr. Gifford a notorious papist lately a prisoner.
which 36 [Lord Paget] receives this week are some from the country of no matter
saving money matters and childrens toys, and but one from over seas, brought
to him by a man unknown to us, but as is thought it is from his brother 20 [Charles
Paget]. We could not come to any sight of it, and it was burnt. One Walklate who
is his man is thought to yield soon to the argument of angels, which if he does
his greed shall speak in torrents to us. Hippomedon is persuaded his man is very
deep in all, but I think otherwise, and think him but an idle fellow and sequacious
Tydeus I have kept
close upon 33 [Arundell], notwithstanding he is known by sight unto him, for the
respect of your honors trust in him oftentimes expressed, as well for the
knowledge I have also of his excellent skill. 33 was at the house of Sp. on two
occasions these three or four days past, and Tydeus is of opinion he breeds something
there but cannot tell what. God grant he receive little welcome there if true.
Also once to 76 [Howard], once with Foljambe walking in Pauls Yard and again
in East Cheap, once by horse to my lord of Sussexs widow, for causes of
consolation it should seem. 33 lies still at the Horsehead.
week past we have neither sight nor smell of any of 100s [the queen of Scotss]
letters in any place we come to or are led unto, neither at the 10 house, so I
believe and will maintain it, nor with any of those we cleave to. Unless there
were some other avenue in use, I think this week has gone with nothing in or out.
Your honor may know better from the other side the sea, but we hold on as erst
we have begun and find no hint of actionable matters or matters of suspicion here.
As you command me, so I perform it, begging only that my account, which your honor
may remember I sent to you with my last, may be paid me straightaway; for truly,
your honor, though if I could (and would God that I could) I would serve you only
for the honest love I bear you, yet my poor men do somewhat starve, and I pay
them as I can from my own little purse, which were a threadbare service to so
great a queen.
your honor, that we shall have our traitors and our proofs, and that when this
unhappy correspondence is revived we shall soon know all, well beforehand with
the perfidious proditors who seek the shame and dishonor of this realm by lewd,
unruly means. God be praised for your care of our merciful queen. Remembering
me and my small purse to your honors charity, I remain before the 10 house
ever diligent to justify your trust in my poor self, commending you to God, who
cares for you as one of his best, this 27. of June 1583.
chief of your honors "Seven Against Thebes."
or The Hance, lay in Westminster west of the Old Palace, some way north of Chelsea
Reach. In this quiet corner, more than a mile and a half from the court at Whitehall,
Edward Stafford kept his ancient house, regranted to him from the huge, dispersed
patrimony of the Stafford dukes of Buckingham. The establishment itself was not
a large one, but comfortably appointed and conveniently placed, and he preferred
it to his home in Grafton, Northants, for here he enjoyed the pleasures of the
country without sacrificing his proximity to affairs of the court. For some years,
he had served as a diplomatic Johannes Factotum, employed first in minor and then
in increasingly responsible missions principally involving France, in the affairs
of which nation he was coming to be regarded as an expert.
rise at court may be credited to his abilities and honesty, but not to his delicacy,
of which he demonstrated not a trace. He was an abrasive man, and an outspoken
one. Having come to notice first by his mothers influence, who was Mistress
of the Queens Wardrobe, he had had the timely wisdom to link up with the
Lord Treasurer at the beginning of the Anjou marriage talks, when Leicester might
have hurt him more than ever his mother could have helped. He had soon become
known as Burghleys man. This patronage, despite his vociferous support of
Monsieurs cause at that time, had afforded him a certain immunity from Leicesters
attack. Fiercely loyal to the queen and to the England he saw misled into peril,
he had never concealed his hatred for the Bear and Ursine brood, nor held his
tongue in denouncing the earls motives in everything. So far Leicester could
do little, for as long as Stafford sheltered under Burghley and continued irreproachably
loyal in all his doings, he might say almost what he pleased.
nature prompted him to in his disdain of the earl, his marriage perfected in him,
for late in 1579 he had taken up and made respectable the Lady Douglass Sheffield,
Leicesters cast-off mistress, who vied with her husband who should vilify
Leicester more in private speech. Lady Douglass was a Howard and like many of
her clan she was secretly a Catholic, a persuasion that sorted well enough, if
not with Staffords theology, which could not be said really to exist, at
least with his aristocratic pride and inbred scorn for the new men and their new
ways. Between them Stafford and his wife made a pretty pair of bitter birds, cooing
lovebirds as often as otherwise, but screaming jays when Leicesters name
arose in conversation.
it arose now, over dinner, in the great hall that dominated the house in Hances.
Douglass, a tall, imperious woman who had nonetheless, despite her Howard nose
and strict features, been reckoned a famous beauty not so long ago, sat simmering
with familiar rage as her husband rehearsed once again the tale of her poisoning.
gentlemen," he said, "it is a thing well known and spread over all the
court how my lady, having observed and noted divers most abominable disorders
and enormities of this good earl, and doubting in her heart--did you not, my lady?"
(she nodded primly)--"that if speedy redress were not had thereof all the
world would cry out of it to the great slander and reproach of all the court,
complained one day to the queen, of which this good lord, being advertised very
speedily and imagining belike in his mind that this complaint proceeded of the
abundance of some melancholic humor in her, and moved with a brotherly charity,
judged that this humor offending should be well purged, and to this end gave in
charge to one George Vaux, his yeoman of the bottles, to provide with all diligence
that some drugs might be had fit for such operation. Who belike, not taking good
heed to the confection of the potion, instead of elleborum or good sentuary took
a quantity of red arsenic, and the less to offend the weak and delicate stomach
of my lady, he espied an opportunity and a fit commodious hour for her to take
it all unwittingly. For spying her one day passing by the place where my lords
bottles stood that were in his charge, he presented her with a cup of my lords
wine under a color of courtesy, which my good wife, not dreaming of any malice,
refused not but took a good draught, which was the dearest draught that ever she
drank; for she had no sooner swallowed down this good wine of my lord of Leicesters
but she was immediately after swollen and as it were leprous, in such sort that
albeit by the great goodness of God she escaped death, yet notwithstanding, all
the world might easily see that she had been poisoned. Yet notwithstanding, this
ill which happened to my lady brought both to herself and others this good, to
take better heed hereafter how they come to such bargains to come so near my lords
bottles or to taste of his lordships wine anymore."
friends laughed politely with him, genuinely to the extent that his last jest
and heavy irony merited, and somewhat more to make up the difference, for the
often hearing of the tale had diminished its effect. Lady Stafford let them laugh
but put on the martyrs face, as befitted her dignity. But when the moment
of mirth had passed, she ventured (as she always did) to correct certain misinformations
in the telling, and reminded her husband that he had got right the doing of the
act, but erred in the fullness of the earls motives, which in point of truth
came most of all of her refusal to renounce her legal marriage to him, which certainly
she would have done, she said, having come to a better knowledge of his lordships
character, but that in so doing she would have made her son a bastard. Stafford
apologized (as he always did) for having got it wrong, and the others (as always)
professed wonder and admiration at the earls unconscionable treatment of
a loving wife. No one in England believed she had really been married to the earl
of Leicester, with the possible exception of herself.
then set about, in the spirit of the occasion, to tell the tale of Leicesters
unworthy acts against Simier, how he would have practiced with one Fervaques to
assault him in the open street as he was going to the Royal Exchange under pretense
of an old quarrel that was between them; "and to this end, my friends,"
he said, "my lord of Leicester promised him the aid and assistance of all
his hewsters and murderers, of which he entertains no small number to serve him
at all assays."
he smiled at his wife, as if to ask her pardon for speaking of such violent affairs.
His friends listened patiently, with frequent signs of interest, to this tale,
which also they had heard many times before. As always, everything was in the
telling of it, for this and the rest of the Leicestrian saga they all had well
"But God (that
by his providence overthrows the purposes of the wicked)"--Drury glanced
quickly to the ceiling--"suffered this to come to the knowledge of the queen,
who calling Leicester to her in presence of divers of her Council made him there
a knight of a new order for this his newest practice, giving him goodly titles
of Murderer, Traitor, and Villain, and protesting of her honor that if Simier
should lose one drop of his blood his lordship should be hanged like a knave as
he was, which words did so cool and abate the courage of this brave knight that
that which he had so wickedly plotted passed no farther, although the stay was
not in himself, whose wicked meaning was sufficiently declared in this matter
cried Lady Douglass, "this rebuke so quelled my lord of Leicester that his
feigned humility was long after one of his best virtues, nay his only."
brother, what will restrain this over-violent skellum when the queen is no longer
on the earth to somewhat modify his rages?"
eyes were merry. He was at home in the rhetoric of Leicestrian slanders, but having
never felt the earls whip upon his own unprotected back, though his hatred
of the man was real he rather played at fearing Leicester as a game than lived
it as a career. Arundell said nothing.
talk progressed to recent news of the Flanders wars, and then to the perilous
state of Scotlands affairs, where the friendliness of the young king to
English interest was in great doubt and much discussed in London. The councillors
feared that James, with the wrong advisers, would drift to the Catholic part,
and Sir William Drury shared this concern. The talk was going round the corridors
of the court that the English Council had offered to send his mother back to him
if James would share his throne with her, but the king was responding coolly to
sister Bess Drury, somewhat younger than her brother, a Catholic but an unassuming
one, had no head for heavy talk of state, and seemed on the point of drifting
impolitely into sleep. Drury roused her and, with apologies all round, together
they ascended to their chamber.
for my part, I will benefit from this example," said the Lady Douglass. "Forgive
us for rushing you off, Charles; always welcome here, you know, do come again."
rose from the table and began to take his leave.
moment, Charles," said Stafford. "Please go on, sweet, and I shall join
ye shortly. Charles and I must have a word more ere he leaves us."
you wish," she replied. She called her woman to her, and together they went
up to her rooms for her undressing.
sat back down.
as is not unknown to you, I am in the way of learning much by piecemeal that passes
at the court, what with overhearing this and deducing that from antecedent words
and gestures, and wi the odd remarks my Lord Treasurer lets fall within
and Arundell thought a nod appropriate, still doubtful as to what was next to
"Well. These few
words heard and some signs seen do give me cause for worry now, for, letting alone
the great causes of kingdoms always ready to trouble us sorely, lately I hear
of somewhat nearer home, which nearly concerns my friends and, if permitted, I
may say my kinsmen."
am flattered by that designation," Arundell murmured, "if I am one of
those you mean."
are. Long time my friends, certainly my wifes near kinsmen, if mine more
distantly; and so the objects of all my care and watchfulness."
which I greatly thank you."
am glad. I would not speak unwelcome to ye, or meddle in affairs of others where
my care was hateful to any. Know that what I speak, I speak it to your health,
then. The cause of my present grief is the suggestion which I hear that yrself
and others are lately suspected of some disaffection." Stafford held up his
hand to prevent reply. "Now, understand me, it is not to be thought that
we must lay down our heads and let these warlike, canting councillors carry us
to ruin. But there is more in this, do you see, and also my Lord Burghley has
let pass some monitory word or two, I think in the hope I shall speak to you as
now I do."
speak on then."
so I shall. The burden of all is this. I understand by these means just mentioned
that you are set upon and watched, as likewise Harry is and my Lord Tom Paget,
with some others whom I know not even by their names. I understand further that
the reason for this constant watching is twofold. For one, it is thought that
all amongst you ydo participate in the passing of the queen in prisons
secret correspondence, which were enough, in these troubled times. But far worse
is next, that in this correspondence and other which it is thought you keep there
is the plotting of foreign landings and other military matters, which truly, Charles,
would merit harsh dealing if true, as I will never believe it is."
why do you mention it, to trouble my dreams with talk of treasons?"
mention it to the end that, howsoever false it be, ye may look to yourselves and
keep free from all matter of like suspicions. You may think no treason in your
deep heart, Charles, but confess it, something in your present carriage is bringing
this suspicion down upon you."
cannot think what I have done to merit such---."
cut him off.
friend, I am no spymaster or inquisitor. Speak plainly. To begin withal, you know
that both my Lord Paget and this new friend of yours called Throgmorton have brothers
over the seas whose actions are none of the most loyal to this realm. These boutefeux,
these far-ranging Englishmen in France and Spanish Flanders you know are much
cried out upon here. Now, every letter passed secretly from these men to their
brothers, however innocent it may be, nonetheless it cannot but breed the worst
interpretations if overseen by other eyes. Northumberland, too, with whom I observe
you spend much time, is not his son Percy over seas? I am informed that the Catholics
there do spread their nets to keep the boy, and letters are taken which reveal
their attempt to win the earls consent thereto. This cannot fail to excite
Mr. Secretarys rage. If Harry Percy joins the Jesuits part, mark me,
his father shall suffer for it here. And for yourself, will you tell me you work
nothing at all for the queen of Scotlands aid and succor?"
have never had in my life any traitorous intent," said Arundell firmly.
far am I as the sun above the earth from thinking treason in you or any of my
kinsmen. But this I will say. One, I cannot say as much for some others you are
seen to keep company with daily, and two, I cannot swear that some of these present
dealings will not be forced and drawn and strained to treason-seeming intents
by those who are not your kinsmen nor never wish to be. Mark me well in this,
I speak it for your safety. Something grows to boiling very soon, Charles, and
I would not for any sum of money have you to be in the pot at that time."
"Well, Edward, I thank
you for your careful words. I shall look to myself and speak also to my friends;
but meanwhile, I dare assure you, you shall never have cause of shame in us. If
some mild aids to the Scottish queen do cross my mind from time to time, yet I
have never dealt in plots or attempts of any kind, nor will I. But these times
do grow to desperation, and I cannot promise the peace of this realm for much
longer if present courses hold. No man may think evil of his lawful queen, but
neither must he, for respect of that specious loyalty we are enjoined to by bad
counsellors, lie down before the monstrous men who hurry our Christian land to
godless, bloody ruin. Marry, I . . ."
So far I agree with all my heart. But yet I fear me much that you and I shall
come to different reckonings, both born of the same belief but pursued in the
end by different ways. Look very well to yourself, Charles, for I tell you again,
justly or unjustly, and it skills little which, you are watched over and sought
after. And so I would say also to your friends, for you have no Sussex alive now
to speak for you to her majesty."
sat gazing into his cup. Here were his own suspicions, here his nightmares of
the man with the all-seeing blind eye; he was abashed to learn he was so much
marked and spoken of.
will inform my friends of your fears for us," he said at last.
you will moderate your courses."
what I can."
I have my wish." Stafford yawned and stretched himself. "It grows late,
Charles; I must offer you a bed."
no, many thanks, but I must ride back tonight, for I am expected."
I see; another wench, perhaps?"
marry, Charles, and look to your old age, when a man alone will grow cheerless
in an empty bed."
I must, Edward. One day perhaps."
course, of course. Why not Drurys sister now, newly widowed, or Mistress
Pierrepoint, or any of a hundred lovely dames all richly suited? Why keep you
always to these inelegant rooms with some old tavern matron who cares nothing
for any but your purse?"
more. We muddle on in our best way. Good night, then, Ned, and many thanks for
Id rather put it in than yours. Fare well, friend. Have a great care now,
will you not? Forewarned is fore-armed."
departed to the road, where Sharrock had prepared his horse for him. He affected
something like insouciance at parting, but his heart misgave him, filled as it
was with a slow fear, not first lit, but fanned to flame, by Staffords warning.
He and his man rode back into the city through the darkness, peering behind to
see whether they were followed. They saw no one.
Master Phelippes, at the court, in case of Mr. Secretarys absence, give
Phelippes, greeting. I am informed here of Mr. Secretarys continuance in
Scotland, wherefore again I make my accustomed report to yourself, trusting well
you will inform his honor of any herein requiring haste or his perusal. Notwithstanding,
this my report, though I might (if I would) so ornament its outside with tales
of comings and goings and pregnant speeches overheard, yet it would remain hollow
within. Mr. Adrastus informs me, who lies within the 10 [French] house, of the
bad 100s [queen of Scotss] correspondence these two parcels sent this
past week out and but one only in, which are all of health wished and love forever
offered, with only (to be noted) one message from a great prince overseas offering
in shrouded terms an everlasting promise of helps, but nothing more harder than
"someday" and "let me never fail you." It is enough, Mr. Phelippes,
I assure you, to make my teeth ache, for however vigilant we maintain ourselves,
still we get nothing this way (alas) but charitable drivel and good wishes, knowing
full well nevertheless that some great matter is on foot that yet we understand
not fully of. 100s correspondents out in these two parcels have been, 39,
14, 17, 3, 104, and 6 of Savoy; whereas in have been 3, 104 also, the Lord 42,
and her own friends in 10 [France], 22 [Tho. Morgan], 20 [Ch. Paget], and the
b. of Ross, and one unsigned.
lest Adrastus is secretly discovered and the weightier matters by art kept from
him, I have asked him so much, but he swears he is as greatly in the true confidence
of his countrymen as ever he was before he answered to our wishes. Notwithstanding
I believe in his fidelity, I have employed another, whom I call Littlewit, who
is English and now has his place in the 10 kitchens, where he may observe both
Adrastus and those others of that house towards Adrastus. This Littlewit, my cousins
son, is but a boy, and works upon promises at no expense to me. Which is a very
fortunate thing, for I have naught but promises to give him.
despite of these thwartings at the house of 10, yet do I believe very earnestly
that matters draw on more perilously. Certain I am that 75 [Throgmorton] is in
the thick of all, for, I assure you, sir, his house is become the very Royal Exchange
for goings in and out and congress of people, mostly men suspected, with more
selling of secrets there, I think, than horses in Smithfield. Mr. Parthenopaeus
still watches by his house, and observes the visiting of many men this week or
so past, as once 76 [Henry Howard] and another close behind, who in truth, sir,
(here I shall make you smile) was our own Amphiarus, unknown to Mr. Parth.; also
visited by one Foljambe, one Ardington twice, and one Tunstead, all of whom ride
daily in and out of the town to all parts of the country, it should seem, precisely
we know not whither, but certainly upon some furious business of states, as likewise
one Meredith, who is 75s man. Also there came a man a fortnight ago, of
whom I advertised Mr. Secretary at that time, a man I thought to be and think
still to have been 75s brother Tho., whom I was assured dwelt in Paris or
Rouen or some other foreign part, and accordingly I did then require Mr. Secretarys
leave to attach and take him up, but received no reply of him, and so the man
is gone, doubtless (if it was he) over the seas again, busy busy in work of plotting.
[L. Paget] has remained much at home, as heretofore likewise has 33 [Arundell]
in his tavern room, going out but seldom, but here is news of moment. This morning
early 33 rode out somewhat towards Nonesuch or thereabouts, but by ill luck saw
my man Tydeus and by artful tricks gave him the slip and rode away. Tydeus is
with me as I write, angry at himself for this punys bumble in a man so long
expert, but I must console him and tell him that any man once knowing he is followed
may elude the best follower alive. But also this morning rode out 36, whose follower
my nephew Hippomedon sent word of his departure but not whither, so that I must
linger for his news.
and effect of all this riding out, in mine opinion, is something comes on now
more worthy of our diligence. I understand by rumors mouth of a base man
taken lately and clapped in ward and taken upon him certain papers of invasion
by some one of the popes minions, which if true, sir, I beg you tell us
of it, Mr. Secretary would do as much I know, for without such knowledge we cannot
tell how best to lead our searches here. We hear also of ships on the 10 coast
in preparation, which by her majestys commandment at Greenwich to 11 [the
French ambassador] are lately stayed by 12 [the king of France], which if true,
I tell you we must be informed of these and suchlike matters. We intelligencers
must not always be the last to learn of things.
I know well you be not one of us poor humble servants, unworthy to touch Mr. Secretarys
hem or tread upon his floor, yet do not despise us, for like us you love and serve
him zealously, and so I presume unforgivably upon this common bond we have to
beg you speak for us to his honor when he returns. For, you know, Mr. Phelippes,
so far arrears has our payment become as almost we must feed ourselves on the
scraps thrown out by common housewives and sculleries in the street, indeed not
these four or five months has a shilling been given me for disbursement amongst
the rest, already is my own poor living gone to keep them above the earth which
yawns to claim their starving corpses, and believe me, sir, heartily would you
weep to see these loyal men who pass such trials in her majestys service,
all for the love of Mr. Secretary, go ragged and scrawny through the town, following
the traitors they are charged to follow but unable almost to keep up with them
for the faintness of hunger they feel. For Gods sake, Mr. Phelippes, do
speak for us, and keep life in us, which if you do doubt not we shall soon have
our felons in the noose. Remaining here, where you know how to reach me, this
11. of Sep. 1583, your ready servant who calls himself for the present,
a journey of more than fourteen hours, Shipmaster Haller made Arundel Haven not
long after the sun had set. Lying in Dieppe quays a week earlier, he had been
approached by a military gentleman named Watts (whom nonetheless he had once seen
in priestly dress coming from the Jesuit house in Rouen), who had settled with
him for seven pounds to carry over another gentleman and his man on the 7th of
September. On the morning of that day, the gentleman had appeared, a small dark
fellow indifferently clad, who had introduced himself as Mope. Again the seaman
had been given pause, for this same Mope too he had seen not long since in Rouen,
and his name then had been, not Mope, but Nauris.
inquisitiveness was not one of the masters vices: a measure of common avarice,
sometimes, but not excessive curiosity. He had greeted his passenger dutifully
as Mr. Mope and set to sea at once. Mope, whatever his true name, was as sick
at sea as any human creature he had ever seen. Now, having come ashore in the
haven, after a quick meal at a house he knew there, he led his men up into the
hills surrounding and walked with them to Mr. William Daviess house at Patching
a few miles inland.
at two in the morning of the 8th, they went to rest. The next day, Haller left
them, and Mope and his companion rode onward, a half days journey to Petworth,
the earl of Northumberlands manor in Sussex. They left Mr. Daviess
horses in the courtyard and entered the first hall, where Wycliffe, his lordships
new secretary, came to meet them. Robotham, the companion, introduced himself
to Wycliffe, whom he had never met, for though he was another of the earls
secretaries he had been abroad as travelling fellow of the young Lord Percy. Wycliffe
brought Mope into the long gallery to meet the countess and pass the interval
until the earls return, for his lordship, he said, having been to church
in the morning, had ridden out not long before to pay respects among his tenants.
The countess greeted Mope
somewhat stiffly. She had seen him at Petworth before, but never met him; aside
from his furtive looks, which did not inspire trust, the very fact that her husband
had never thought good to present him to her linked him in her mind to a part
of the earls life she wished not to think about. Mope did his best to charm
her with his conversation, but increasingly she found him graceless and overeager
and, excusing herself at last, she went off to the children, where she felt more
at ease. Mope sat dejectedly staring at the books of his lordships library.
Idly, he turned the globe that rested near him, trying to find upon it the distant
lands whose names he had learned in fable and report.
length he heard a clatter of hooves in the court below and rose to watch from
the windows. The earl of Northumberland he saw dismounting, with Robotham and
some of his auditors and other servants with him. Mope strode to a burnished shield,
emblazoned with the cognizance of Percy, hanging upon the wall, and in its reflection
he adjusted his doublet and the bright scarf he wore rakishly in the new fashion
of Savoy. Presently Northumberland burst into the room.
Paget," he cried out cordially, "here you catch us all unexpecting.
Good to see you. How fare our friends?"
well, it is bountiful of God to give you to us. Mope, is it now, eh?
Ha ha. A novelty. Here, you must know Captain Pullen."
sturdy dark-haired man in officers undress stepped forward and bowed stiffly.
you good day, Mr. Paget."
all my heart, Captain," said the visitor. "We miss you in Paris and
wonder at your stay."
is here on business of my lord my boy," the earl said. "But, you see,
Charles, his coming over was learned of, and we feared to send him back upon the
sea whilst the watch was set."
bosh," said Paget, addressing himself to Pullen. "I come and go as I
please, and so may you do."
am very glad to hear it." Pullen maintained, as always, a certain taciturnity
tinged now with surliness.
yes, never fear. A great lot of blind gropers these watchers are, your lordship,
wandering about in Stygian night. Never fear them, Captain, never, I say."
we shall not, then," said Northumberland. "Robotham tells me you come
upon some errand here, Charles. But let us keep mum until you have well rested
and drunk some of our ale for but a day or two, then to errands. We shall have
some hunting for you. Eh, some hunting, eh?"
all my heart, your lordship," Paget replied. "But first I beg you to
summon to this place some of our friends, for I do have messages which in time
I must convey."
so, indubitably so. Do but give me their names and dwellings and we shall make
them welcome all. Wycliffe, rouse some men to ride tomorrow." Northumberland
grew expansive. "It will be a country party as in happy former times. Oh,
indeed, the more the merrier we shall be."
lordship, rubbing his hands together, led his new guest and the taconic captain
in to dinner, where for an hours time the countess fidgeted and ate very
little of her meal.
morning of the 11th, Mr. William Shelley rode in from his house not far off, and
a few hours after him, Mr. John Gage came from Firle, accompanied by his son and
his brother, Edward, Mr. Shelleys brother-in-law. The others expressed great
pleasure at seeing Mr. Gage pater, having thought him still in prison,
as until a few days earlier he had been. He hastened to explain (lest they surmise
he had recanted) that he had been given a certain time to see to business, after
which he must return to jail. "They would not kill this golden goose,"
he said, referring to the fines that monthly he paid into the Exchequer.
after noon, William More rode over from Loseley Hall, but having greeted the other
men warmly, he drew up when he came to Charles Paget, and soon after made rather
lame farewells and rode away again. Towards evening the Lord Paget arrived with
Walklate and Twinyho his men, and between him and his brother there was a hearty
reunion after a years separation. Soon after Charles Arundell rode up, with
Sharrock his servant. Northumberland led the growing party out into the fields
nearby and pointed out to them some of the innovations he was trying out with
the help of his tenants.
countess kept well out of the way, understanding correctly that her presence was
not required. By ten in the evening, three sheets to the wind and still roaring
with laughter, the gentlemen slapped one anothers backs and retired loudly
to their rooms.
The next day
another group came in, Lord Harry Howard and Gage his man, Francis Throgmorton
and John Meredith, and Godfrey Foljambe. They had thought themselves followed,
they explained, and had ridden by circuitous ways throughout the night to preclude
any chase. Arundell replied that he too suspected he had been followed at a distance,
and had taken pains near Croydon to elude pursuit. Lord Paget was quite certain
he had not been similarly attended. Lord Harrys party retired to the rooms
assigned them, while the others spent the afternoon at falconry. The last arrival
was a Frenchman named Martelli, who likewise turned straight into his bed.
the evening, they congregated in the gallery, and the earl of Northumberland called
out for everyones advertence to their visitor and his matter. Charles Paget
assumed an air of gravity and seated himself upon the table before them all, the
better to command his audience.
my appreciation of these few days of bonhomie runs far too deep within me for
words. What a great joy it is to one who labors long in stranger lands to spend
a time with his old countrymen in sport and gentle conversation. Nevertheless,
we cannot dwell here overlong like careless lotus eaters while events take hold
of us unawares. For, my friends, a great moment has come in the history of Christendom,
like unto which the crusaders conquest of the Holy Land will seem as a baronial
feud to future generations."
paused to wet his throat.
come to you," he continued, "from conference with that renowned warrior
and defender of the holy church his grace the duke of Guise, who is pleased to
trust me as his own. Throughout this summer past, we have sat in high counsel,
diligent to devise amongst us some good means by which we might succor the queen
of Scots and relieve our brethren the Catholics of this realm.
us in that place came all the great heads of Europe, or nearly all, all anxious
to deliver you from this unholy heretical persecution under which now you labor,
among whom I may mention not only Mr. Morgan and myself and Dr. Allen and two
Jesuits his friends, Fr. Parsons and Fr. Crichton, but also his noble lord his
grace the duke of Guise, Monsignor Castelli the popes nuncio in that realm,
and John Baptist de Tassis the great Spaniard lying there, and the archbishop
of Glasgow, the queen of Scotss most trusted agent in that kingdom. And
also Mr. Martelli, who sits among us now."
others looked at the stranger with new eyes.
at last we have our mundane salvation, and you must know that my whole mission
is to inform you of this present determination, and to learn from you how far
able you are to lend your support to this great enterprise."
gazed round the room. He had at least the complete attention of everyone present.
"What is this present
plan?" inquired Howard.
this. Observe me now. James the king of Scotland, as you know, even now divests
himself of his English faction, more daily. The Spanish force, which is the main,
will land at Leith or thereabout, with his consent, and descend by Berwick to
York. His grace the duke of Guise will at that time strike upon the Sussex coast,
as a man might jab with his left hand before his right is launched with all his
strength. In the meantime, certain gentlemen will descend upon Wingfield in the
night season and bring forth the queen of Scots to our friends in Wales before
anyone is the wiser. Then, if you are with us, my lord of Northumberland shall
lead an English force to join the other two and take possession of the court."
Paget," interjected Lord Harry. "What if her majesty in prison will
not accompany you, as not knowing your intentions or authority?"
I believe, has been M. Martellis task."
Frenchman rose and bowed to Lord Howard.
Morgan is correct. I have been again to visit with her majesty and tells her of
this plan of the duke of Guise to free her noble person, which now she expects
her liberator soon to come."
am Paget; Morgan is in Paris."
excuse me. You of course are M. Paget. I am befuddled again."
come lately from the queen," said Mr. Foljambe from the shadows, "and
her man who gave her letters out to me asked me particularly in her name whether
I knew of any such attempt which a M. La Rue had told her of."
was your reply to him, Godfrey?"
told him that I had not heard of it, but should inquire upon my return to you."
then, who is this La Rue?"
is certainly myself," Martelli said with a pleasant smile.
very good. So you see, my lord, she will be ready." Paget dismissed this
aspect of the problem and turned to another. "Now, gentlemen, I turn me to
the second part of my commission from the duke, which is to tell you in the dukes
name and especially in the name of the king of Spain that no conquest of this
realm is intended by any person, in proof whereof you see it is a combined force
of Spanish and French, with no bond between them save their Catholic zeal to do
us good. Their whole interest is to liberate the queen of Scots our virtuous lady
and to set her upon this throne, which in right is hers already, and to return
this realm to the holy Catholic faith of our many generations of forefathers.
There shall be no loss of life to any saving to those who resist these sacred
purposes. In proof whereof, I show you my instructions signed by the dukes
hand and seal dated the 28. of August past."
drew from his bosom a folded sheet of paper and passed it to Northumberland, who
glanced it over and handed it on to Lord Howard.
have heard many times before of the king of Spains invasions," said
Arundell. "It is well said that if death came from Spain we should all live
a long time. What if he has no more soldiers now than formerly for this enterprise?"
"Then there shall be
no enterprise," said Paget. "Not this year in any case. We rise or fall
by his aid, which though it is not yet a thing decided, yet I believe we shall
in another point. "The game of guessing where the king of Scots will play
is an old one everywhere pursued."
we may not land in Scotland, then we shall land elsewhere." Paget spoke almost
flippantly. "I have spoken for Wales from the first, in Snowdonia or Denbighshire.
Others hold for Lancashire coasts. It skills not where we land."
sat silently for some moments, some perusing the dukes commission, others
staring at the floor.
Harry asked Paget why Don Bernardino de Mendoza had never alluded to this latest
plan in his own presence, if the Spanish were so nearly along to leading it.
he knows not of it yet," said the little emissary. "I will not suggest
he trusts your lordship too imperfectly for such news. No, this is fresh from
the press, gentlemen, and you are its readers of proof. It will not rest long,
I doubt not, before Señor Mendoza will receive his instructions from home, for
jump upon my departure for this coast, Señor Tassis sent to Lisbon with our news.
Now, as you know, though his Catholic majesty is ever true and faithful where
the cause of God does call him, he does not always promptly answer. Answer he
must, believe it, but we must allow him his own time, for he is a great monarch."
Mr. Paget," spoke up the elder Mr. Gage. "What would you have of us?"
asked, Mr. Gage, well asked indeed. I am now to embark upon the third part of
my commission you see before you. Gentlemen, I must now enlist your aid in this
great enterprise of England."
strode over to the brown globe resting in its cradle near the window. Taking it
up in both hands, he returned with it to the candlelight and held it out before
one round earth upon which God would have us live in Catholic unity. We do not
have that unity, and why not? We have not that unity for two causes in chief.
One is ignorance and the other is the evil of men. Now long time, gentlemen, we
lived in that unity so far as we knew, except as the ignorance of the paynims
kept them in the awful schism of their damnable prophet Mahomet. Now newly we
learn of new lands, thronged with benighted savages, and now the furious wills
of ignorant heretics, now the devious policy of scheming atheists, pare us away
and away, and Gods Church--here you see, gentlemen; in this little corner
of this ball--Gods Church dwindles almost to nothing.
see, how the spirit of the Holy Ghost entering into brave and pious men can bring
this earth within a halo once again. The king of Spain, in his late victories
over the Turk, weakens their great sway in Africa and the Orient. The Anabaptists
and the minions of Calvin in the Low Countries will soon be chastised. Polonia
is daily more reclaimed. The Jesuits convert the Indies, by their holy sacrifices
and truly Christian zeal--I do not hold with priestly meddling in our affairs
of state, but for missionaries to the heathen lands, by God, the angels could
do no better. What is left, gentlemen? I ask you, look upon this ball, what is
left? England only is left! This is your great opportunity, and think not God
is not attending to your choice. Gentlemen, will you throw yourselves to this
stared at him.
will you?" Paget cried. "God is waiting for your answer!"
At last Arundell broke
eternity to wait in, he can wait a little longer for mine."
the duke must know what he may expect of you."
the duke must know! I thought you had said God."
Paget," asked Shelley querulously, "must we reply at once? These are
weighty matters, man, you shall not have me down with no respect of reason and
let me not unduly hurry you," said Paget. He seemed to recognize that his
precipitousness might rather alienate his hearers than propel them.
for my part am well inclined to this bold scheme," Northumberland said, "and
find myself more than half inclined to say aye."
I to say nay," said Arundell. "My lord, there is a vasty difference
to be made between resisting a usurpation or so at court and joining up as rebels
our very selves. Gentlemen, my friends, do not count on me for anything."
fact, Mr. Arundell, we do not. But some of our more substantial and perhaps more
zealous friends here might contribute much. You gentlemen are powers in your countries,
and your tenants await your lead. And all the younger bloods, Babington and his
legion of companions, throughout the realm, will follow your examples. Mr. Arundell,
with his one servingman, may come along if he likes."
right, brother," said Lord Paget. "Enough is said for one night. Let
us have less of acrimony, and more of amity now. We shall sleep upon these hot
words of yours, and reconvene on the morrow. But I will say you surprise me, Charles,
with these great matters, so little do I know you anymore."
you are my brother still," said Paget, "but no longer perhaps my tutelary
The party began
ill-naturedly to go their ways in twos and threes to bed, muttering among themselves.
Shortly the corridor without the gallery looked like a night processional in a
jubilee year, pairs of candles pinpoints marching slowly, in near silence,
to the wings of the darkened house. Within a quarter of an hour, the house was
shared a small chamber with Lord Harry, who drifted uneasily into sleep in an
uncomfortable bed hed been given near the door. Gage slept on a pallet near
his feet, and alongside him lay Sharrock. Arundell sat long by the casement gazing
dolefully upon the meadows behind the house, thinking of nothing very coherently
but mulling over his powerful sense of uneasiness at the sort of talk he had been
hearing. The image of Tydeus at the cliff of the Sphinx came back to him, and
briefly he saw himself raised up in military triumph over all his foes, but hard
upon that came the face of the blank-eyed man, the black squinting face with the
blind, all-seeing eye that seemed to haunt him everywhere and peer into his thoughts
to root out only his graceless ones.
started. Below in the shadow of the house there had been a movement. The slim
moon threw a faint luminosity over everything, and, in a moment, into that pale
light a figure darkly ran. What a murrain made a man out in the middle of the
night, furtively running to the trees across the field. From that wood, Arundell
thought he saw another shape stand forth. The two seemed to meet before the tree-line,
lost in those shadows but surely somewhere there. Of the one figure, in any case,
he was certain, for presently he saw it come scurrying back to the house. A face
seemed to glance up toward the black windows. Arundell strained his eyes to recognize
the man. He was almost sure, in the last second before the figure passed into
the darkness beneath him, that he had seen the face of Charles Paget.
Lord Howard sat
in his bedclothes watching his companion. Arundell hadnt realized how alarmed,
indeed how ridiculous, he must have looked, dressed only in his smalls, leaning
over the casement sills long after there was no more to be seen.
assignation, as should seem," Arundell whispered back, "amongst yonder
"I thought it
was our great friend Mope," said Charles. "I am less certain as I try
to recollect his face now."
Lord," said Harry. "What, is it more treachery?"
may not have been him. Indeed, it may have been anyone--a servingman, perhaps,
selling off the cutlery as a nightly sort of thing."
I should scarcely be surprised to find Paget engaged in something lewd."
Harry rose and stepped quietly to the window. "What think you of his speeches,
lord, do not ask. I am in a great quandary. It is as if we stood in a deep hole,
all inky darkness around us, and we must learn where to climb out, with never
knowing if there really be a way of climbing out, and never able to see it anyway,
and furthermore unsure whether we can climb out if with Gods help we should
said Lord Harry in a low voice, "this talk of landings and rebellion ever
chills me, but long enough I have awaited some remedy, and now I am half prepared
to eat my proper fears and dash ahead."
understand you," Arundell answered. "But Harry, you know I am not a
heroic man, yet I will fight a field if I must. That is not that which so much
troubles my heart. Rather it is that there is more to everything than ever I can
see. Look me now--Paget bids us all openly to take arms against the queen, then
slips out and bids I know not whom to do I know not what in the darkness whilst
we sleep. This Monsieur Martelli; this La Rue, whatever he prefers now; well,
he is neither. Whether he means us well or ill, I have seen him before, a long
time since, in Paris, and at that time his name was Samerie, and he was then a
Jesuit. Now I say nothing against the man at this time; only I wish to say that
if I must talk hanging talk with any man, I mean to know his name."
are right in that."
consider further. Here we mean to do ourselves some good and help God likewise
by combining for the pope to put aside our queen. So far, good. The pope is Christs
vicar, the queen is a heretic. Good. But who is this pope, Harry? I have never
seen him. If I were to see him, would he look upon my face half so graciously
as this queen was wont to do?"
may be he would, if you ever saw him."
may be he would. But I have seen this queen, and known her friendliness."
"My cousin, in good sadness,
let me advise you just a little." Lord Harry spoke solemnly, looking down
at his hands which shone palely in the windows soft glow. "Charles,
give up this business, will you not? Whether this be right or wrong I leave to
Almighty God to judge of. But as I listen to your speeches, I cannot think that
any decision you may come to will hold good for you. You may stick your course,
indeed I know you will; but I know you, Charles, you will never cease to doubt
of it. Get you free of this, therefore, for if once you enter this full in, you
must never look behind."
if it is right, Harry, and what I should have done, where will I be not having
you should always have been, in Cornwall or hiding out in Wales. Charles, these
great deeds, these great jars of nations and creeds, these are for kings and queens
and dukes to worry one another over, like snarling dogs about a joint, not for
such as you and me."
make you here then?"
ha ha, you know, I am a busy meddler born, I cannot keep me from it. I sometimes
think, Charles, tell no one of it--I sometimes think that if this realm were now
a Catholic realm, perhaps I should be meddling on the other side. Damn me for
giving voice to such a godless thought. Bless me now! But I never rest, you see,
but meddle always. And to say the very truth, the same is the case of half these
busy plotters, and this lesser Paget is not the least among them. He will never
rest until either he is lord of his own little nation or dies seeking the same,
which will happen first I leave to your judgment." Harry gazed out at the
pallid moon and sighed quietly. "Give it over, Charles, this is not for you,
with your doubts and second thoughts and maybes and maybe nots."
it may be you are right."
And maybe not!" Lord Harry laughed. "Come, old rogue, to sleep now.
Tomorrow we shall talk again."
when they had retired finally, the great manor house was absolutely still. Occasionally
from the kennels, the sound of a dogs restless barking broke the silence,
but that was all.
left his master to his snoring and descended to the Petworth kitchens. The gentlemen
were breaking fast in the main room, but in the back the aggregation of servingmen
and women, those attending to the present business and others awaiting a momentary
call, was overwhelming in its noise and bustle.
came down late. Some of the gentlemen had already departed for their homes. No
decisions had been arrived at. Though Pagets plots were given an encouraging
response for transmission back across the Channel, he had no firm reply. The consensus
of the gentlemens opinions, it seemed, was that they first must see some
firmer assurance of both capability and good intentions from the invading princes
before they would commit themselves to support of any kind. Charles Paget suggested
that these men might never be prepared to do themselves this good, and more than
a few of them murmured that he might well be right in that.
Paget spent the early afternoon walking with his brother near the house. Howard
and Arundell accompanied them for a time, listening as the expatriate described
his entertainment and estate in France. Though vast sums passed daily through
his hands, he said, of the queen of Scotss money, meant for her special
friends and favorers, he had none of that for himself, but was well provided for
out of a special pension given him by that queen for his careful service. But
failing that, he insisted, he might live equally well, indeed far better, out
of any one of the allowances pressed upon him by other great princes. "Ma
foi," he said again and again, "a good and clever man would never
want for a living while such Christian princes remain on earth."
Thomas had several times all but made up his mind to carry himself over to join
the Catholics in exile. Now, his age coming upon him, sick of the gout, his wife
dead, he was toying with the opinion that nothing mattered so much as the freedom
of his conscience. In good part he still hoped for some change in England, some
change of heart in this government or change of government in this realm, which
would permit him to worship in the Roman manner with no more fear. But increasingly
he complained that such an alteration would hardly come within his lifetime, and
increasingly he thought of giving it all up and retiring to meditation in some
continental haven. So far he had not had the courage to make the break. Always,
in brief time, his natural optimism intervened, and he would give a laugh, and
shake his head as if clearing it of muddle, and return forgetfully to the daily
round of his affairs. He could not so easily part with the familiar.
too, had entertained such thoughts. But he knew better the precarious life of
a penniless Englishman in foreign parts, especially one perhaps too old to begin
a military career and perhaps too proud to dog the steps of clerks and secretaries
begging some small hospitality. For the great lords with great pouches jingling
full of gold and silver coin, travel might be all the cry, but we ordinary men,
we impecunious mortals, have need of some more circumspection.
in any case, was to be decided now. Charles Paget was to remain a week or two
more at Petworth and Michelgrove, and then he would return to the duke of Guise
with his report. The others, the gentlemen of the country, the city kinsmen, the
servants, set out for their houses or for London, travelling in small parties
by separate ways, lest they attract the attention upon the road of any suspicious
man. Rain was falling all over England.
Mr. Principal Secretary, at the court at Oatlands, give these.
my hearty commendations, saving your honor, etc. It grieves me more than I can
tell your honor I cannot bring you that which you desire, for as yet, though we
have everyone of the small fry secure within our nets, we have not got our big
fish. Daily more and more we see who are the main actors in all, viz.: 75 [Throgmorton]
who receives these correspondences from some (whom yet we know not, but by sight)
and 76 [Howard] to whom he passes some of them. In my conscience I believe that
my Adrastus has seen everything that has gone by the 10 house, and if as I understand
by certain mouths that Mr. Fagot of that house is also one of yours, then we be
doubly sure. Some way our big fish nibbles at this bait, but we cannot tell how;
here is my poor opinion, that if any longer we must wait, we may lose fish and
hook and pole and boat and all. For, your honor, if any letters pass by devilish
arts or howsoever and we ignorant of their contents, why we can never guess at
what new sleights and shifts daily they may devise. I speak it for her majestys
My Hippomedon, who
is my nephew and was the man who brought to your honor your message from this
Mope, is of opinion his man 36 [Lord Paget] makes nothing more in any of this
business, and on this account in part and for some other respects he thinks your
honor must not believe this message sent to you from this Mope.
beg your honor to teach us whether this Mope be one of yours or no. But whether
or not he is I do not see how any of his informations will serve your honors
turn better than ours will; for consider, I beg you, we have the men (if not yet
the matter), and these men once given a little taste of the rack will give us
all, I warrant you. Arrest them now, I urge you, sir. Not until that is done,
perhaps, will your honor and the noble lords of the Council truly believe me how
deep this stratagem will be seen to run.
craving your pardon, my men and I are starving still for want of any sustenance,
for these many months have my accounts to your honor gone unpaid or only in so
little as keeps us enough alive to starve the more. I beg your honor therefore....
morning, the 5th, dawned bright and clear. Arundell was in his old rooms in the
Blackfriars Priory, and the Thames, glimpsed from the windows in the corridor
without, flowed cold and crisp beneath the small November sun. Arundell spent
an early hour answering his correspondence, and then rolled Sharrock from his
bed and bid him come abroad.
they walked leisurely towards the river. The broad expanse of glaucous water,
smoothly rolling through the city towards the sea, calmed one, made one think
of pleasure journeys and river trips on holiday in warmer times. Near Pauls
Wharf, they turned aside, intending to step in and knock up Throgmorton, whose
late rising had grown to be a jest amongst his friends.
of Throgmortons door came a white-jacketed gentleman of the court, followed
by Throgmorton himself and then another gentleman. Arundell stopped in his steps.
The three men turned down towards the river stairs at the end of the street, hurrying
along in an absurd little jog which should have been comical but for the sick
pallor of Throgmortons face. He was held firmly by both his arms.
a moment Arundell stood and trembled. All his nightmare visions these seven years
of dungeons and racks flooded into his mind at once. It seemed unwise to him to
be seen upon the streets, and he felt irrationally that he would be safer at home
in the Priory, where accordingly he flew now, with Sharrock close behind him.
taken before his eyes years ago. Troops of priests, crying out abjectly or grinning
with some crazy inner triumph, gone to the rope and disembowelling knife, for
the saying of a mass. Arundell expected a hand upon his shoulder round every corner.
Once at home, he sent Sharrock
running on to Arundel House to bring the news to Lord Harry, then sat numbly staring
at his fire, remonstrating with himself that now when action was most required
of him he could think of nothing to be done.
returned with the message that Lord Harry too was taken. Arundell was beside himself.
His first thought was to gain his horse and turn its head towards Cornwall or
some other wild place, where between friends and uninhabited parts he might elude
his pursuers for who knew how long. But he reconsidered. It was only by lucky
accident that he knew of these arrests; there were others to be warned.
rode for Pagets house, a matter of ten minutes pushing through the
crowds in the market lanes and watching everywhere for the queens men. Lord
Paget, by the grace of God or a piece of luck, was in, but soon in panic, incapable
of any counsel. Arundell scrawled out hasty notes to as many friends as might
be threatened by this unhappy chance, and employed his lordships servants
to post them on their ways. Then, no better plan forthcoming, they did nothing,
There were no more
arrests. For the next week, Lord Paget, Arundell, and now Northumberland as well,
and Shelley and several others, kept together and listened for what news could
be obtained from surreptitious sources anywhere. Everyone spoke, not only of these
late arrests, but also of the recent indictments against Mr. Arden, their friend
from the country, a worthy Catholic gentleman. For the murderous ravings of the
lunatic Somerville, who by the worst luck happened to be his son-in-law, Arden
had been brought up and charged with an attempt upon the queens life. This,
with everything else, was taken to signify the beginning of a general massacre
of Catholics throughout the realm, a pogrom, no less. But still, a few days passed,
and there were no more arrests.
first tidings, discounting those mad rumors that subsequently came to nothing,
were that Foljambe had fled the realm successfully, but his colleague Ardington
had been taken on the coast. There was yet no word of Howard; Francis Throgmorton
and his brother George were said to be lodged in the Tower of London and threatened
daily with the rack. Gradually Arundell began to understand what had happened:
Walsingham had fixed upon that small correspondence of the Scottish queen that
travelled by the embassy of France, in which Lord Harry and Throgmorton had been
forward. Since none had been clapped up but those involved in that part of the
whole, it was easily to be inferred that the rest was yet unknown, in which case,
for as long as these men kept their silence, the others had some respite.
great questions then were how long Throgmorton might hold out before divulging
all he knew, and how far privy to any other matters were Ardington and, now, Tunstead,
who had been seen by some prisoners being led into Newgate prison. The general
opinion was that Throgmorton could not stick above three or four good rackings.
the 15th, more than a week after the first arrests, arrived a message from Mendoza,
to the effect that Throgmortons man Meredith had come to the embassy bearing
a green velvet-covered casket in which his master had kept his special papers.
The casket, however, once prised open, had been empty. Whatever were these papers,
they were hidden elsewhere in Throgmortons dwellings, either at Pauls
Wharf or in his house at Lewisham, and would not long escape detection.
a postscript, Mendoza added a piece of political news: his master the king had
important affairs in hand and (this stated in the most circumlocutory terms) could
not be expected to afford any aid to anyone to any purpose whatever. Thus, no
had to be done. Northumberland was of opinion that for most of it, no treasons
actually committed, they might bear it out, especially, whatever became of the
lesser actors, might the earls and barons be left with their knuckles rapped and
a little time instructed to keep to their houses. But only, he thought, two things
in chief he would not answer for if they were to come out, which were, first,
Charles Pagets dealings for invasion, and second, whatever frequenting of
the Spanish house had gone on in addition to Harry Howards.
he said, sucking on a comfit for his breath, was the crux of all. But for these
two fatal facts, the rest of them might come cleanly away, whatever Throgmorton
was constrained to sign to on the strappado. And this must be a paramount concern,
he affirmed, stoutly. For as the duke of Guises plots served to illustrate,
a man such as himself, Northumberland, was too vital to the success of the Catholic
cause to be sacrificed without need. Thus it was imperative that every link in
the chain of suspicion to himself must needs be severed without delay.
asked, somewhat drily, what that meant in practical terms. Only this, his lordship
replied, looking slowly round the room, that Lord Paget, the brother of this tainted
messenger, must promptly flee the realm, and he spoke this the less reluctantly
seeing that Lord Thomas had often said that he meant to do the same of his own
inclination anyway. (Lord Thomas began to frown and look alarmed.) Furthermore,
any who might have been seen at the Spanish house, or who might be alleged to
have been there, must likewise flee forthwith.
mean me, said Arundell. As it turned out, when the activities of all the men present
had been somewhat inquired into, that was who was meant. Whatever had been done
or not done, that made nothing to the matter; that Arundell had visited that house
regularly might suffice to have him attached, after which there was no guessing
what might be wrested from him all unwilling.
so it was concluded. Northumberlands reasoning was sound enough; the earl
was, still, an earl, and could presume some distance upon his rank alone. But
Lord Paget had been found troublesome in the past, and for Arundell, what Leicester
might do to him now, having him thus at utter disadvantage, did not bear contemplation.
Of so much he might be sure: Arundell needed no guilt--a charge or two would suffice
to deliver him up to Leicesters mercy, which his lordship had in no abundance.
Arundell made ready. Northumberland, indeed all those of the Howard party, he
implored to fly with him. But the others intended resolutely to brave it through.
As the earl of Arundel said, there was great hope that the queen would never allow
the Bear to bear them all away, for she must have them still as her old counterpoise
to his power.
Paget, too, set
about completing what already he had begun, collecting as much ready money as
his solicitors could set their hands upon and placing his affairs hastily in order.
Shelley was charged with bespeaking a craft to carry them across. At last, when
word was brought of still another racking of the miserable Throgmorton, and when
no man could be expected to hold out through a third, on the evening of the 23rd
of November, Thomas Lord Paget, Charles Arundell, and a few of their servingmen,
accompanied by William Shelley, rode north out of Moorgate to mislead any watchers,
then galloped round and crossed the Thames beyond Chelsea Reach, and made for
the southern coast.
just in time. On that same day, Throgmorton, merely shown the rack and scarcely
roughly handled, broke utterly. On the morning of the 24th, a squadron of pursuivants
and some of the officers from the court ran through Lord Pagets house and
found him gone. The chase was made through town for Charles Arundell. Northumberland,
against his expectations, was arrested, with all of his principal servants, and
lodged with a man of the court, and a day or two later removed to the Tower of
London; Wycliffe and Robotham and the others went to the Fleet. Men were likewise
sent to Shelleys house off Chancery Lane and, finding him out, settled down
to await his return. The earl of Arundel was commanded to keep his house, and
then, like Northumberland, transported to the Tower, though he had had no greater
part in these affairs than a mass or two at intervals and a certain affection
for his uncle Harry. The examiners began the work of sorting out what evidence
they had to hand and obtaining what they had not, and the Protestants breathed
a hearty sigh of relief that the realm continued safe and the queen in good health.
as Lord Harry paced his long familiar rooms in the Fleet, as Throgmorton shivered
in the Tower, Arundell and Lord Paget, in the care of shipmaster Clynsall, rode
the night waves and the channel breeze towards France, in some concern about what
awaited them on the other side.
the day there cometh the dark night;
For though the day be never so long,
At last the bells ringeth to evensong."
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Part II. The Continent (1583-1587)|
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, .
posted on this site 10 June 2001.