Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
2. THE CONTINENT (1583-1587)
XIV. COLD CITY
will come to learn how bitter as salt and stone
Is the bread of others, how
hard the way that goes
Up and down stairs that never are your own."
almost perfect gracelessness, the door had recently been painted a luminous green.
The wooden façade, in desperate contrast, had of white long since become dirty
brown. The whole establishment spoke only of neglect and penury and deplorable
lay in La Monnaie, just north of the Seine between the Grand Châtelet and the
palace of the Louvre. His predecessor Cobham, in his excitement at going home,
had permitted himself the luxury of a quarrel with his landlord. The new ambassador
had thus arrived at the commodious old "English house" nestled so conveniently
beneath the great mass of the Queen Mothers half-finished palace, the Tuileries,
just without the city wall, to find the lofty chambers vacant and most of Cobhams
furnishings departed towards the coast. Only luck, of a qualified sort, and the
help of some of his exiled countrymen, had found Stafford his new house off the
Rue du Bout, an astonishingly ugly little house, long disused, far too small for
his staff and household servants.
Paget stood beside the door of garish green and blew on his fingers. The afternoon
sun sat upon the high roofs behind him. No one responded to his knocking; he and
his companions waited in the disagreeable chill, cloaks drawn tightly about them,
stamping their feet on the bricks to keep them from going numb.
God, you must have it wrong, Charles," he said to his brother. "No one
lives here. No one could ever live here."
younger Paget reached across and pounded upon the door.
another wait, his lordship frowned at his friends and tried the latch, and found
it free. Slowly, he pushed the door open and peeked into the hall. The oak panelling
in the dark room was old and in places split, but it was evident that some program
of renewal had begun, for the furnishings were new and clean and the walls bore
a few hangings that were well chosen. By the stairs that wound tightly above stood
a small table, upon which rested a pile of paper packets near an open diplomatic
Arundell gestured towards
chuckled, but glanced uneasily at his brother. Charles Paget, however, removing
his cloak and brushing back his hair with his fingers, seemed not to have noticed.
the main room, with his back to the long passage, sat Sir Edward Stafford at his
dinner. At the farther end, intent upon her plate, was his wife Lady Douglass.
She sat beneath a tapestry upon the wall that gave a colorful scene of the winged
demons hurrying the howling Lost with pikes and spears downward to the left of
the throne of judgment, a tall seraph looking on complacently. Two unfamiliar
young men dined with the Staffords, one on either side of the table. So far, amid
the sounds of mumbled chewing and clacking cutlery, no one had observed the newcomers
"Room for three?"
leapt to his feet, upsetting his chair.
good lord man, is it you?" He began pumping Arundells hand with enthusiasm.
"Your lordship," he nodded, stooping to set right his chair, and nodded
again, a little less cordially, to the other Paget. "Here, I am astonished.
Do sit. Tell me what this is."
continental holiday, may be," replied Arundell, and made his way to greet
her ladyship, who in seeing him looked less querulous than her custom was.
followed him round the table, as the other men stood. "Oh you are welcome,
remembered himself and turned to bring in the other gentlemen. "Look, you
must know Mr. Constable, who is a very proper young man, the earl of Rutlands
trusted kinsman, now in his travels. And over here is Mr. Hakluyt, who is our
chaplain. Mr. Arundell, my Lord and Mr. Paget."
and Lord Thomas greeted the first man and nodded affably to the second across
an Oxford man, you must know more of him. He makes those books of the navigations
in unknown seas. Look you, do sit down. If you have eaten nothing yet . . ."
we have eaten. I fear we disturb. Let us just warm ourselves, if you please, Ned."
Arundell and Lord Thomas sat up to the table as the diners resumed their meal,
while Paget went down to sit before the fire.
the greetings had progressed, Sir Edwards brain had not been idle. It occurred
to him that, as pleasant as he found his new surprise, there ought not to have
been surprise at all. Slowly his brow darkened and for a few moments he ate silently.
Arundell, as the servant appeared with cups of warmed wine, watched his host with
are right, Ned," he said at last. "Not quite a simple holiday."
looked up and said, "Mr. Constable is on his road out of Italy and, gentlemen,
we have been debating where are the least civilized, in those parts or in France."
said Constable; "and the question devolves wholly to the point of haberdashery.
Not to put too fine a point on it, sirs, we ask ourselves whether the more barbarous
were to invent these outlandish fashions of attire, as do your Italians, or basely
to imitate them, as do the French."
laughed. "But then tell me, sirs--I exclude you deliberately, madam--what
barbarian do we accuse for the green door just without?"
God," Sir Edward groaned. "My door! Oh."
we beg your forbearance here in this unfamiliar land," Lady Douglass cried.
"I am too much at fault."
sweet, never say it. My lady, Charles, upon our first arriving, told me that if
I did nothing straightaway for the sad aspect of this house she would destroy
herself. Well then, I ran to Lilly, my man, and I said Beautify this house
at once, and he, dull man, ran out and engaged a Frenchman painter who hates
the English mortally, and now we eschew that door and come round to enter through
the garden. Indeed, we pray nightly that a mad St. Bartholomews crowd of
the city will come and knock it in."
ha ha, and then retire, their spleens well vented on the loathsome door."
Stafford carefully wiped his fingers on his lap-cloth. "Retiring, you know,
is not the thing which Paris mobs do best."
but it is that thing that I do best, my friends," Mr. Constable said; "and
if you will forgive me, I will remove me now to my chamber. I have letters to
write and would not lose this bearer." He rose from the table with a polite
bow towards the lady, then bowed again to the gentlemen. "We shall meet again
soon, I hope, good sirs."
I may have my wish, sir," said Arundell amiably.
Constable took up his rapier and belt from the high back of his chair and, with
another courteous nod, left the room.
Hakluyt was a thin man of about thirty years, with a nose that frequently drew
comment. Having regained his seat after the others departure, he resumed
his meal energetically. Stafford glanced at Arundell. Hakluyt, with a fowls
breast in his hands, looked up at Sir Edward and smiled somewhat greasily. Sir
Edward smiled back with a friendly nod. Richard Hakluyt returned to his bird,
and then paused to swallow off some of his wine. His eyes met Lady Douglasss;
she smiled at him; he tried awkwardly to dip his head in a short bow whilst drinking.
Hastily, he turned down to the other end of the table. Sir Edward, Lord Thomas,
and Mr. Arundell smiled pleasantly back at him. He nibbled furtively at his fowl.
Sir Edward, he noticed from the corner of his eye, was turned away. He raised
his head; Sir Edward swung about and smiled at him.
elaborate show of finishing, Mr. Hakluyt sat back in his chair and pushed his
plate from him, patting his lips slowly with his lap-cloth and replacing his knife
in its silver holder on the table. He sat for an uncomfortable half minute gazing
bemusedly at the timbers above, as if recalling an entertaining anecdote hed
been told a day or two before.
then," he said. "I crave your pardon, madam, for this incivility, but
I must return to the writing of my sermon. It is, you know--aem--the Lords
"By all means,
sir," replied her ladyship, smiling graciously.
bowed to the gentlemen, who smiled at him, and then, adjusting his dark jacket,
saying again "sermons always to be written, my good friends" as he backed
away, he left the room somewhat hurriedly, his hard shoes clattering across the
Charles Paget rose
grinning from his place by the fire and took the chair before the half-finished
"Well, my friends,
he is gone," Stafford said after a moment. He frowned quickly. "You
anticipate my thoughts. As custom and use is, I think, I should have been warned
to look for you, should I not, as I am warned of all gentlemen who take the queens
passport to travel in these parts?"
think you should have," said Lord Thomas.
of government," said Arundell. "Most reprehensible."
Sir Edward replied, more soberly, "then I doubt not this has some taste of
politics in it, eh? What is the cause? Not this Throgmorton business, is it?"
Edward, you have named the occasion of our coming, but not the cause, which verily
was all upon the note of conscience." Lord Thomas too grew earnest. "The
queen herself and all impartial men do know our loyalty for our bodies to her
majesty, but now our souls must speak to God, and that, Sir Edward, they cannot
easily do in England at this day."
one need not ask whether you have been touched in any matter of state?"
we have not! But like all honest men in these divisive times we have enemies--who
knows that better than yourself and your good lady?--and we may not go to bed
in good hope, anymore, of arising free men. For you know that this traitorous
Somervilles taking will be fuel for the brands of those who would burn us
on the flagrant pyres of their bigotry and--."
Tom," Arundell said.
I wax metaphorical. You understand me, Sir Edward. The precisians will rally to
this, mark me, and make their use of it, and we fear a hard hand over all the
papists, while our enemies will grasp upon it to bring us into peril. Hardly should
we ever come out of it in England, thus we have come abroad only until the occasion
of this danger is past."
hope you do exaggerate," the ambassador replied. "What, may I expect
a general Exodus? England is England still, where law rules even above the queen."
it so, Ned?" his wife put in heatedly; "or shall we say where the earl
of Leicester and his canting creatures rule above both law and queen!"
put, my lady," Lord Paget said. "Already Mr. Arden, no better man in
the country, nor a truer, is arraigned for treason; and because why? Because he
refuses to take Leicesters livery upon his back, because he would not let
go his freedom to join that faction; the tale is too notorious. And now Mr. Throgmorton
and my Lord Harry taken up. Who next, Sir Edward?"
indeed?" Sir Edward sat back wearily. "What would your lordship have
of me, then?"
this, sir. We come to you, not only as our friend and (if I may boldly say it)
our kinsman, but as you are her majestys lieger here, to beg you write to
her, to assure her majesty that for all things but for exercise of conscience
we will live as dutifully here as any men in the world, and to beg her highness
on our knees to preserve our little livings, and allow us to enjoy them here if
it were possible and readmit us to them at home when passions cool."
will say ye said so."
is our whole joy." Lord Thomas thought again. "Look to a gown
of gold, say I, and you will get at least a sleeve of silk.
And what you may also tell her, we will remain here either with you or else wholly
at your appointment, or if you would not that, then refrain any company here you
would forbid us."
But you are very silent, Charles," Stafford said, turning about to face Arundell.
"It may be yare musing upon your recollection of our last meeting.
What was it was said then, do you remember?"
I recall, Ned, you advised me hang myself, as the only way to be free of detractors."
it may be that is what I should have said." Stafford thought for several
Thomas, I must say, as I think reason is, that your coming away at this time may
very well give cause to your enemies to suspect your conscience be not clear,
and may breed more mislike than abiding the peril would have done. Notwithstanding,
I will make report to her majesty of your speeches here; but for coming to me,
I must desire ye to forbear me till I know her majestys pleasure and receive
her commandment for the course I shall take with you. In the meantime, I would
have you, in friendly counsel, to write to her yourself to say the same."
Paget reached into the bosom of his doublet and withdrew several papers.
I have done so, if I may avail myself of your bearer."
truth, Ned," put in Arundell, "we had thought merely to tuck our missives
silently into your pouch to avoid troubling you with such a small matter."
into my pouch? Heh, heh, my dear Charles, I hope my pouch is better looked to
lying open in the hall."
The ambassador dashed into the passage, pursued by the others laughter.
"Moody! Damn me, where is that bearer? Bring down that bearer."
returned in a moment, carrying his leather pouch and all his weeks dispatches.
His eye went uncomfortably to the younger Paget, who was toying innocently with
the remains of Hakluyts bird.
your lordship, you may add these to my pouch. But ymust know that they will
come first to the sight of Mr. Secretary."
Paget held up three papers folded and tightly sealed. "They need not come
to Walsingham, Sir Edward. Let me show you, here is one addressed for her majesty,
another for my Lord Treasurer, and a third, if you will permit, for my mother,
lest she worry needlessly."
good. But I am to tell you, the bearer will deliver my pouch direct to Mr. Secretary,
and (I say it in confidence) he will likely have a sight of all of them before
they reach their destinations."
Douglass emitted something like a snort of anger. Lord Thomas caught on only very
"But they are
sealed, Sir Edward."
Thomas, boldly I will tell you now, Phelippes, who will receive them for Mr. Secretary,
is competent to open your mouth, copy me out your teeth, and close it again without
your knowing of it. If these cannot be seen by Mr. Secretary, I advise you to
send them by--by another way." He glanced again at the younger Paget, who
still gazed modestly upon the ruins of dinner. "Or much rather, not to send
them at all."
Moody interrupted by entering with young Painter, the courier, firmly in tow.
Stafford held up the open pouch and let the papers fall severally through his
fingers to the table. Painter shone with embarrassment and tried stammeringly
to indicate that, passing up to the study, he had stayed merely to answer the
call of nature. The ambassador cut him off with a gesture.
bring him back and have him ready to ride within the hour. Mr. Constable will
have a letter for him, too, see that he has it, and I shall have another."
nodded and gathered up the papers and pouch. Painter followed him silently back
towards the hall.
Moody, for Gods sake, set someone near the door!"
turned to the others when his men had departed.
see how it is, gentlemen. The fellows father once pleases the earl of Leicester
with his moral tales and pleasant narratives, and not only he must have the best
post in the Tower armories, but his noddyheaded boy must carry all my news. There
are but two ways to gain employment in England, ifaith, which is either
to murder a man for Leicester or else dedicate a book to him."
time," said Arundell, "let me tell you how to lose employment there."
Stafford laughed. "Well, for your company here, only I will say that you
know there be papists of two sorts here in Paris, those whom we call papists of
state and those we call papists of religion only. With the former ones I would
by no means have you to meddle, so that I may report you keeping clean apart from
them. And you, Mr. Paget, I say this no less to you, sir. You know you have not
dealt plainly with me."
looked up slyly at the mention of his name. "But, Sir Edward, neither have
you found for me the favor of her majesty I might have looked for."
I told you when last you came, you must avoid this Morgan and all his brood, and
you must do for her majesty some of that signal service you never cease to promise."
Morgan is as honest an Englishman as any on live," the other said heatedly.
he is not. He is a busy meddler, and a Welshman too, and while you league with
him I can report no good of you. No more for you, my friends. I say it in old
friendship. Do hold yourselves free of--. And then this Roman widower, who had
buried twenty wives, in his perfect confidence did marry with the widow of twenty-two
husbands, and all the city of ancient Rome did fall to wagering huge estates who
should bury other, ha ha."
another of the ambassadors household, had come through the door with a message
for his master. Stafford read from the paper and thanked the man, continuing,
"And all the aged men daily gathered before the house to cheer the husband
on, and the grave matrons of the city likewise assembled daily to do their best
for the wife, you see."
looked over to where Grimston had departed. His companions chuckled amusedly at
the anecdote until the footsteps were no more to be heard.
is the Secretarys man," Stafford explained simply. "Well, enough.
Where may I find you?"
sat forward. "For the moment I am with a man named Fitzherbert in the Ruelle
du Foi on the other side the river."
know the man, a good man. Ill inform her majesty what you say. I may have
word for you within this fortnight. And I must beg your pardon, gentlemen. Painter
must be prompt upon his journey."
arose and shook his hand.
God, Charles," Sir Edward said, "you may have your wish. If it is this
Throgmorton business I hold little hope for a speedy reconciliation."
shall see." Arundell bowed to Lady Douglass, who sat scowling in a sort of
slow anger. Lord Thomas took up his cloak and bowed likewise, and the three of
them departed from the notorious door.
had not brought horses over, so to avoid another long walk round by the bridges
in the cold they decided to try the river traffic. At the foot of the Rue de la
Monnaie, across the wide bank, there were several small wharves and a few unoccupied
boats tied up to them. They looked a hundred meters across the stream at the tiny
mounds of islands below the Ile de la Cité, where some men were to be seen working.
Up river, obscuring all but the rooftops of the Pont au Change, lay the Millers
Bridge, with ten or eleven wheels reaching across from the shadow of the Palace
of Justice on the island. They set off walking downstream past the school of St.
Germain in hopes of flushing out someone to row them over. The bitter wind blew
down behind them from the north and forced them to lean sideways into it with
necks drawn in.
wrathful winter, proaching on apace," Arundell quoted, "With
blustring blasts had all ybared the treen--"
others looked at him in mock rancor.
cold, gray water swept by below them with a hushed rustling sound, swirling against
the rocks and pilings and carrying bits of refuse and wood in its flow. Alongside
them the graceful Hôtel de Bourbon rose amid the ruin of the ancient city wall,
and a little further on, the mighty Louvre, the high lines and bellied towers
and embattled parapets of the medieval fortress softened by its long new windows
and gardened walks, loomed enormously against the sky.
me," cried Lord Thomas, who had seemed lost in thought. "I should like
to know whether widower or widow won the hazard."
ha, the husband won, Tom," Arundell said. "His friends, at the unhappy
womans funeral, crowned the worthy man with a laurel wreath and, setting
him atop the wagon, danced victoriously before it as she rode to burial."
Charles, is it true?"
true I cannot say. The tale is in old Painters book, The Palace of Pleasure,
that Sir Edward spoke of, do you look to it yourself."
found a boatman, they clambered aboard his punt and dropped down the cold river
towards the center, then huddled together against the wind as the man rowed powerfully
back against the current. Alighting by the city wall, they entered through the
Porte de Buci and separated, Arundell turning in to Thomas Fitzherberts
rooms near the Hôtel St. Denis. Fitzherbert kept these chambers chiefly as a stopping
place for himself and his acquaintances, and so, though altogether much lived
in, they little looked it, remaining bare and cheerless when unoccupied, pleasant
only when pleasant people stayed in them. Tom Throgmorton resided there often;
William Tresham was there now, newly evicted from his old place for a failure
to pay up his keep. Fitzherbert himself used them but seldom, for in his post
as the English secretary of the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, he was usually
fain to follow the court, and otherwise he often moved to Rouen, where also he
Arriving in Paris
some few days earlier, Arundell and Lord Paget, ignorant of the city, had gone
first to the College of Clermont near the Sorbonne. The Jesuits there, in particular
Father Claude, the duke of Guises favorer, had directed them to Charles
Pagets rooms in the Rue de la Harpe, the left banks principal boulevard.
Lord Paget promptly moved in with his welcoming brother, while Charles found hospitality
with Fitzherbert not far off.
are not many things so disheartening as a strange city in a foreign nation, in
the gathering dusk of a winter evening, especially when one is not only cold but
nearly penniless and not very far from friendless. The loneliness of the twilight
hour weighs upon ones heart. The people rushing by one have homes to go
to, warm homes, probably well lit.
what a morass had he fallen unawares? No money with which to buy a position in
some court or entourage or a command in someones army; no skill to offer,
no military expertise save a few skirmishes in his youth. He had all his adult
life been a courtier, and a courtier might or might not capably acquit himself
in the offices granted him, but one skill indispensably he must have, that of
getting and retaining favor. Arundell had lost all favor. A courtier without a
court can scarcely be said even to exist.
days after his visit to Staffords house--it would now have been Thursday,
the 10th of December 1583 in the English style; in Catholic countries, since the
advent of the popes new calendar, it would be reckoned the 20th--Arundell
lay late in bed watching the gray sky above the towers of the Hôtel de Nesle toward
the river, and listened to Tom Throgmorton clattering pots near the low fire trying
to stir up something for a breakfast. Similarly in former years, he had lain abed
gazing at Baynards Castle on the wintry Thames, while Kate had stirred up
a new fire and then crept back beneath the quilts beside him. Throgmorton, an
honest fellow, was a jolly poor substitute for Kate. But Charles found it entertaining
to try picturing Kate as she would have looked, bending at the grate where Throgmorton
bent now, tossing her hair back irritably, laughing perhaps in mock cruelty as
she came back to him with icy fingers on his chest.
his bed, Charles heard heavy boots tramping up the stair. Tresham, who was reading
in the front room, went to the door; the sounds of greeting came down the open
passage. He watched young Throgmorton reach into the high chiffonnier and extract
a shirt with which to cover his thin, hairless chest.
Paget came in first and called, "Wheres to eat?" He darted straight
for the fire basin, where he commenced at once, heedless of expense, to throw
new coals under the grate.
called Throgmorton, and playfully elbowed him away. "Tonights coals;
mind your freedom with us, sir!"
Paget came in after his brother, followed by Tresham still in morning undress,
and after them came two others. One was a man somewhat older than the rest (who
were all, save Throgmorton, in their early forties), and somewhat stouter as well;
the other was a tall man gone prematurely gray, wearing the remains of fine attire,
now in disrepair.
were echoed round the room, and Lord Paget undertook to introduce Arundell to
the tall man, Charles Neville, the earl of Westmoreland, no older, indeed a little
younger than Arundell, yet a veteran of thirteen years exile. He had been
attainted as a traitor for his leadership (to flatter him) of the Rebellion of
the Northern Earls in 1569, and had wandered across the continent ever since,
enjoying a small Spanish pension in consideration of his rank and trying generally
to make himself useful.
meet at last," his lordship said in what was meant to be a cordial tone,
but came off sounding fatuous. "You know, Mr. Arundell, we must be something
like, let me meditate a space, something like second cousins, are we not?"
marriage, your lordship," Charles replied, taking the earls proffered
hand a little diffidently, forced to rise higher from the bedclothes than modesty
"Well, my brother
Howard has lost his wonted agility, has he not? Not nimble enough at the last,
eh? But youve come out of it right enough; well played!"
The older gentleman
was Dr. William Parry, a man whom many of the stricter sort were inclined to avoid
for the scrapes into which hed none too honorably fallen in the past, but
nevertheless a man who found himself (one presumes for his love for the queen
of Scots) made welcome in the Morgan circle. Only recently having obtained his
degree in the faculty of law, he wore his learning well, and spoke intelligently
and soberly, and expressed authentic-seeming pleasure at meeting Arundell, whom
heretofore he had seen only from afar when in former years he had hung on the
fringes of the English court.
completed, the gentlemen ranged about the room finding places to settle; they
were awaiting the arrival of Morgan himself, whom business had detained. A shout
came from the outer room, and Thomas Morgan stood in the narrow doorway.
dressed in his great cloak and spurs, the Welshman looked the more imposing for
this evidence of haste, as if he were a man whose time is too valuable to be spent
in dressing and undressing for every occasion, a man always caught in flight,
as it were, from some princes chamber to anothers council of state,
with scarcely time between for bothering about his cloak. From his shocking red
hair to his broad, blocky shoulders to his travel-stained hose, Morgan was a picture
of the energetic, industrious man of affairs. From his beginnings as a mere secretary,
he had come a long distance. In his few years in Paris, indeed, he had contrived
to wrestle from old Glasgows grasp the management of all the queen of Scotss
affairs; in this capacity, he corresponded with princes indeed and, controlling
as he did the captive ladys purse-strings, her French dowry and her annuity
from the king of Spain, he was much sought after by nearly all the English Catholics
on this side the sea. If sometimes it was whispered that events had yet to prove
his qualifications for these tasks, yet Morgan betrayed no want of confidence
in himself and had lately taken to beginning his letters to great prelates and
high ministers of state with not much more than "Sir."
Morgan greeted him, Charles took occasion to watch the mans behavior. He
grasped Arundells hand firmly enough, and even ventured a conventional jest
upon his dishabille, but he glanced busily about the room the whole while, as
if checking off an invisible attendance card, and never met Charless eyes.
Morgan welcomed the new expatriates
and informed them that already he had written to their saint and very good lady
the queen of Scots, begging some small maintenance for her ancient servants Lord
Paget and Arundell, now in want for her sake. He doubted not (for her trust in
his judgment) that a favorable reply might be expected. He had been yesterday
with Tassis, the Spanish agent, about the long-awaited creation of an English
regiment in the prince of Parmas army, and he foresaw better-filled pockets
for all of them who cared to enlist, especially for Westmoreland, whose command
it was to be. Dr. Parry, he continued, so recently come to them in autumn, was
soon to leave again, bound shortly for England where he had in hand some special
service for the cause, the secret of which did not yet bear divulging.
Morgan came to his last news, which bore on the new arrivals case. "Not
a few days after you twa be departed of the ambassadors," he said,
"did a not receive a special rider with missive from the Secretary,
reading what, think ye? Wall, it warned him particularly of yr dangerous
flight and bid him in her majestys name tcarry a verra watchful eye
over yboth, to understand what ye may practice or deal in to the prejudice
of the realm; and said furthermore that the queen ware assured that Sir Edwards
ladys near kinship wi yboth should neer make him remiss
to perform his duty."
a bit queer, is it not?"
it is, verra quare," Morgan replied, "and shows what good faith Sir
Edward may expect from Walsingham and all that brood. And look ye, a grew
in a rage thereat, and wrote a letter full ovenom to his old pallie the
Lord Treasurer, to tell him of these foul aspersions and demand apology; but a
neer shall have it, for Mr. Secretary will look old William calmly in theye
and say he wrote but what her majesty bid him write."
felt some distress for his friend Stafford; for the others, the business seemed
but a lively joke.
how is this known all so particularly?" he asked.
of that house is ours." Morgan was manifestly impatient of delay. He glanced
round the room as if to inquire what business was left untouched upon; then he
spun to face Arundell again and said briskly that he never doubted Charles would
soon have his health again and need no longer languish his days away abed. With
that, and with a series of abbreviated nods like cervical twitches round the room,
he departed. Westmoreland, waving apologetically at his newly-met kinsman, hastened
to overtake him, and the brothers Paget and Dr. Parry followed after. The image
came in Arundells mind of a duck, with an absurdly red head, bustling across
a barnyard with her file of ducklings, in ruffs and hangers, trailing behind her.
Charles Arundell, matters were in abeyance. More than anything else there was
only waiting, and for him the sensation of dangling. He sent once to Stafford,
and had word in return that he must wait a little longer. Morgan had written once,
a week into January, to inform him that the queen of Scots had been advised of
his worth and need, and that one had now only to wait.
wait then. Only tarry a little; go soft a while. Linger here in bare rooms. Stay!
stay; abide this little time. Only wait; December grows to January, as the Yule
season passes (in these bare rooms), while others act, do, bustle everywhere on
errands. Arundell hung on nervously, cleaving to his little hope, dreaming of
errands to bustle on. Occasionally he attended mass in the chapel in the next
street, and now and then he walked out and paid brief visits to the famous parts
of the city, strolling of a gray morning past the Petit Châtelet and across the
Petit Pont, to survey the grand heights of the cathedral of Notre Dame; thence,
perhaps, he would descend the length of the island, across the boulevard and beneath
the arches into the great courtyard of the church of Sainte Chapelle. Another
time he would walk through the serried colleges of the university district, passing
the scholars in their gowns and the monks in theirs, or scurry through the stews,
brushing away the gay women who leered up at him and the lurching drunks who sought
clumsily to slit his purse. All the time he was waiting, tarrying, dangling.
some time, he had little news. Throgmorton was out of the city, and Tresham had
ridden to the prince of Parmas camp at Tournai, concerned that the formation
of the new regiment should go through without impediment. Fitzherbert brought
word of more arrests in England. Northumberland had been transported to the Tower
of London, but had not yet been charged substantially. Good Mr. Arden had been
executed, though his mad son-in-law Somerville had escaped a public hanging by
conducting a private one in his Newgate cell. The earl of Arundel had been arrested,
as had Mr. Shelley, along with a host of their servants and a number of Sussex
men thought to have known something either of the Petworth meeting or of Lord
afterward, Arundell was sitting at midday before a low fire, reading laboriously
a book of tragical histories in French. He answered a quiet knock and found the
man hed once met at Petworth, then called Señor Martelli, who now wore clerical
garb and reintroduced himself as Father Henri, and summoned Charles abroad. Together
they walked southward a short way, then westward almost to the city wall at the
Porte St. Germain, whence they turned eastward again along the Rue des Cordeliers
to the church of that name. They entered the dark, silent edifice by the main
portals, and then Father Henri left him alone.
church was bitterly cold and seemed entirely vacant but for himself, left to the
huge motionless shadows cast by columns and arches in the pale light that shone
down from dusty clerestory windows at the top of the vault. He stepped across
the stone floor, startled by the echoing clatter of his own boots, and ventured
further down the center of the nave. Still no one appeared to greet him.
slowly he approached the raised chancel, he discovered that the effect of the
place had begun to grow in him. Blocks of chilled stone rose silently all about
him in arching shapes. He stood in a small pool of rose light at the foot of the
steps and gazed past the altar into the apse, where dirty ornamented windows threw
a halo of pallid sunlight round the great tortured crucifix mounted there. Beneath
his feet he felt the worn contours of the effigies of buried knights and churchmen,
their names with their poor faces trodden away by the passing generations. The
marble heads of noblemen stared sternly or forlornly from the walls, guarding
in the darkness the skulls of their subjects plastered within their niches.
stillness of the place began to seem less annoying (because he had been called
out and left to stand idly) than almost comforting, as if he had wandered into
a sort of haven. Here, it seemed for the moment, the passionate men and actions
and causes and the mighty struggles of the daylit world might carry on around
him throughout the busy city and leave him unnoticed and undisturbed. Here suddenly
his concerns over factions and loyalties, even simple livelihood, seemed less
real, or at least less immediate, and he sensed a certain tentative peace in a
world that was above faction and above violence, above even common notions of
loyalty. Perhaps it was some spiritual breath that filled the air of the place
that made him feel so, or merely the presence of dark, cold death on every side.
him the great doors swung heavily open. The deep, echoing clatter returned him
abruptly from his reverie, and instinctively he stepped across into the southern
aisle, where the columns and the gloom hid him completely. Murmuring voices and
the tread of boots approached him down the nave, and he recognized Lord Paget
and Twinyho, his man.
Paget called in a voice that boomed through the vaults and came back to startle
him more loudly than hed sent it out. He and Twinyho stood somewhat abashed
Arundell replied from just beside them. Both leapt half a meter into the air.
Thomas greeted Charles warmly. They had seen little of one another in the six
weeks of their sojourn in the city. He professed a similar ignorance of the cause
of their summoning out, but seemed less disposed than Arundell had been to wait
patiently for a sign.
however, the sign came. There was a rustle of silk from the direction of the choir
in the chancel, and out of the shadows a priest stepped forward. Hitherto unnoticed,
the man had been seated in the darkness, watching Arundell, probably, for some
reason of his own, since he had entered the church. The man motioned them to follow
with his black-robed arm and led the way out of the southern door into the cloisters
beyond. In the dim sunlight, he could be seen; without the gentlemans jacket
and hose, in the long soutane and blocked cap of the Jesuit, he was Robert Parsons.
led them silently along a corridor open in stone arches on the left and hard against
the buildings wall on the right, passing from time to time through dark
tunnels where small overhanging outbuildings closed them in entirely. On the farther
side of the deserted quadrangle ran a similar walk, enclosing a half-paved court
open to the sky, with gray cobbled walks radiating from a great stone well in
the center. Only gradually did Arundell become aware of obscure figures moving
across the yard as well. As the little party passed into a complex of masonry
at the corner of the square, the other men across the way were lost from view.
before the tombs of several abbots set into the wall, the parties met. In the
shadows of the corridor, three men approached and stopped. Father Parsons took
Lord Pagets arm and led them all into the somewhat better light of an archway,
and there made introductions. The first man was a dark Welshman of middle size,
dressed in the robes of a secular priest, who was called Father William Watts
of Rouen. The second Charles had met not long before at Petworth, then Captain
Pullen, the earl of Northumberlands retainer and once his deputy at the
Castle of Tynemouth, now likewise dressed in priestly attire, and transformed
by it, looking less the bluff, laconic soldier Charles had taken him for and more
the austere servant of the Lord.
third man, taller than either, stood behind them. He stood slightly bowed by some
fifty years or more, but his thin frame still rose above Parsons by a full eight
inches. His long, thin, delicately bearded face, with its large eyes, clear and
steady, framed by a three-cornered cap, a hood thrown back, and below it, a stiff
robe unadorned but for a row of tiny buttons down the front, spoke immediately
of enormous intelligence and commensurate self-respect. The man merely gazed,
as if appraisingly, at Arundell and Lord Paget.
gentlemen, is Dr. Allen." Parsons paused to let the effect sink in, which
promptly it did.
in exile for over twenty years, once a colleague of the great doctors of Louvain,
more recently the founder of the English seminary of Douai then of Rheims, was
the unofficial head of all the English Catholics. The idea of meeting so important
a personage, of consuming his time even by an introduction, made Arundell flush
with embarrassment. "He has come," the Jesuit continued in his broad
Somersetshire English; "he has come from Rheims especially to welcome you
to these parts."
Cardinal Allen (1532-1594); engraved J. Cochran.
Thomas and Arundell stood at a loss to know whether they should shake the mans
hand, or kiss it, stand or kneel, or simply flee back down the corridor. But Allen
contrived to put them more at ease with a half-smile and a simple gesture of the
Then Parsons came to
the business, entering into somewhat convoluted expressions of sympathy for their
present circumstances. These required a lengthy exposition of the deeper historical
meanings of the heretics persecution of the faithful, of which the difficulties
of these men here and of their compatriots now in English prisons were only a
small, albeit to them a painful part, but not unlike the trials of the ancient
faithful under the pagan Romans. Arundell understood the Jesuits analysis,
in which the new men with their self-serving new creeds were shown to be intent
upon erasing the old faith from the English realm, in order to clear their own
paths to personal gain; he was not so certain that it was all so simply a matter
of the Devil at work in the human theater. But he listened politely without demur,
content to allow Parsons the rather streamlined interpretation doubtless necessary
for his passionate continuance in the cause.
this declined into a martyrs roll of priests hanged and simple gentlemen
turned out of their homes and forced to lie in common prisons, like poor Verstegan,
lately incarcerated in the Bishops Prison in Paris at the instance of the
English ambassador in this town, but Parsons came round finally to Lord Paget
and Arundell. He knew of their kinship with Sir Edward Stafford, and he hoped
he might advise them in friendliness and mere love not to presume upon that thin
bond for fair treatment from the government. They would never be reconciled to
the English state, he said, no matter what fond hopes they may have harbored,
and they must never allow themselves to be suborned by Staffords words into
any act of bad faith with their coreligionists here.
this was only half the Jesuits theme. He embarked now upon a too circumstantial
explanation of the factional strife in the English College in Rome back in 1579,
which had from that time and place grown and spread like a chancrous disease and
now threatened the unity of the body of the English Catholics here on the continent
and even at home, all of which disaffection and acrimony gave scandal to their
enemies and undermined their hopes for aid from their friends. The causers and
setters on of this division and broils, he said, were notorious for a sort of
busy malcontents, envious neer-do-wells who thought more of wealth and worldly
power than of any true service to God. Many of them were thought to be secretly
in the employ of the English government, especially to divide the poor Catholics
here and set them one against another, and to that purpose they played upon the
weaknesses and infirmities of frightened men to turn them against their natural
superiors. Amongst those whom he named as members of this factious crew were the
bishop of Ross, Mr. Tresham and the earl of Westmoreland, the Lord Claude Hamilton
of Scotland, Dr. Parry who was an open spy, the disreputable priests Gilbert Gifford
in Rheims and Edward Gratley in Paris, but the chief and head of all, he said,
was a certain dissolute Welsh madman by the name of Morgan. May the Lord deal
with justice not with mercy in his case.
your reverence," Lord Thomas cried, "this Morgan is my brothers
held his eyes for a long moment. "That, your lordship, is why I have ridden
specially from Rouen to warn your lordship from this infection, ere it be too
late to withdraw yourself from other mens suspicions."
Thomas shifted uneasily from one frozen foot to the other. Then Dr. Allen stepped
me, friends," he said. His face was settled in a sort of wise energy. "The
cause of God has never had more need of good men. It has never, perhaps, been
more endangered by the malice of bad men. We look to you to join with the good,
and to avoid the bad. In our lifetimes, with your help, we shall
worship freely in England again."
at the mans eyes as he spoke, for that moment Arundell had no doubt that
he was right.
on to say that he was soon to write personally in their behalf, using Dr. Allens
good name and credit, to the pope in Rome and the king of Spain, and that he would
soon have welcome news for them in the form of some small living. He expressed
confidence that they would not, before that relief should come, be driven by want
to any desperate acts. Then Pullen led them away towards an exterior gate letting
from the cloister of the Cordeliers into the street just near the city wall. Arundell
glanced back and saw Allen and Parsons standing together looking after them.
the street, Lord Thomas seemed awkward in Arundells presence, and after
a promise to meet soon, he hurried away with Twinyho at his heels.
walked slowly back towards his chambers. The Jesuits speeches concerning
Stafford were only what he had expected, raising again a genuine problem--in short,
was Sir Edward to be regarded as his friend or enemy?--but adding nothing toward
its resolution. Parsonss insistence about Morgans crew, though, this
being pressed to choose sides in a game he had not yet learned how to play, this
unsettled him. It confirmed rumors he had lately met of animosities and smoldering
fires within the papist community, but left him without a clue about what the
issues were and what was at hazard. Charles thought carefully over all he knew
of the men hed met on each of the two sides, if "sides" were really
the correct word, and if indeed there were only two--the Jesuit and his colleagues
with their moral straightness and their singlemindedness and their religious devotion
the intensity of which he found (he confessed it to himself) alarming; and on
the other side, Morgan, whom he had distrusted from first meeting, and Charles
Paget, whom he had never liked, and their less godliness but equal singlemindedness.
And were there other factions yet unheard from? With so many zealots all under
such formidable strain, how could there not be, now or someday, as many factions
as permutations of a single creed, as many as opportunities for jealousy and disagreement?
was no solution now to be had. He was as much in the dark, as lost among uncertain
friends and veiled enemies, as he had been in Leicesters home court in the
palaces of the queen. But here, at least, both sides, all sides, seemed prepared
for the time to bid for his allegiance with the promise of pensions.
was nothing for it now but to go on waiting, but waiting for what, really, Arundell
could not have said.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter XV. "My Lute, Awake!" (1584)|
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.