Peck's lengthy tales
and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
2. THE CONTINENT (1583-1587)
XVIII. THE REIGN OF AMBIDEXTER
often look upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
I often view
the hollow place
Where eyes and nose had sometimes been;
I see the bones
across that lie,
Yet little think that I must die."
ground ahead was only just visible, a flat expanse of two furlongs almost treeless,
with a few dark rises and a shadowed trench running obliquely away to the right.
The air was neither cold nor warm; there lay upon the earth a green-black patina
of mud. He was crouched over in a shallow ditch, his joints aching from long continuance
in the same position. Some sort of heavy helm or morion had slipped awkwardly
over his eyes so that he could scarcely peek from beneath it. In his hands he
grasped a javelin and a sword, both like his hands fouled with moist earth that
clung in clumps and gritted beneath his palms.
heard no sound save his own breathing. The first rays of the new sun were reaching
into the sky before him, thrusting distinct lances of light through layers of
ground mist which rose very slowly from the field. The mist had begun everywhere
almost to glow. The number of rays increased until the entire eastern aspect began
to shine, then the sun itself broke silently above the horizon behind the skeleton
of a tree. He saw in the new light an earthen sconce directly before him, a low,
flat mound still in shadow, surmounted by a drooping flag whose emblem he could
From beside him in
the ditch he heard a smart rattling and the hushed clang of armor. Forms stepped
up out of the shadow and gleamed sharply in the sun. He felt a general rush over
the low ditchwall and found himself being carried with it, lumbering heavily and
unwillingly towards the suns painful glare above the sconce. Still the only
sound was a subdued, rhythmical jangling of plate and weaponry. A whole line of
corseletes had taken up running over the ground, splashing through depressions
in which mud sucked at their boots and threatened to throw them down. The brilliant
rim of the sun seemed to draw him onward.
soon found himself short of breath. The pace was slow, but he could scarcely keep
his balance in the slippery spots, so quickly had his legs weakened from the effort
of running. About him, however, the line was moving more rapidly. The orange sphere
had risen higher; the writhing mists about their feet seemed already to be thinning.
To his right, a man grunted as he stumbled upon a stone or hole in the earth;
it was Lord Harry Howard, clad cap-à-pie in the same ungraceful trappings, breathing
stertorously through half-opened mouth. The shadowy sconce began to assume some
definition: two triangular ravelins protruded from its front, their angles pointed
straight into the advancing force, and along the tops of the ravelins and along
the top of the sconce one could make out dark heads and the glint of weaponry
catching the light behind.
in a burst of noise upon the rustle of the rush came a volley of gunfire, a single
vast explosion all along the sconce that degenerated into a ragged series of late
reports. White and black smoke commingled in a long, flat cloud rising slowly
into the suns light. Cries of pain and dismay rang out sharply along the
charging line, followed by an ascending chorus of shouts. Some few began yelling
out the cry of "Esperance!" but most emitted rather groans as loud as
shouts. He himself was making the same unholy noise, a bestial cry compounded
of despair, bewilderment, and the mere necessity of making a frightened and frightening
sound. Another fusillade broke out from the sconce, more smoke, and the hellish
cry rose still louder, the pace of running increased still more. His legs encased
in heavy cuisses dragged beneath him in a terrible kind of double-shuffle through
After the second
volley the shooting broke down into a steady, irregular fire ad libitum,
as the defenders began the ghastly dance of the firing line, each man stepping
up to the bank to discharge his piece, then retreating hastily to set about reloading,
making room for another in his place. From the field all that could be seen were
the tiny billows of smoke bursting out horizontally and drifting slowly upward
to join the heavy cloud already dimming the new sun, or rather than dimming it,
throwing its sphere into relief and turning its rays to a sickly sheen over the
whole ground. A staccato rhythm of small shot was set up to beat upon the advancing
The man to his left cried
out and fell. He looked down and saw the face of Cuthbert Mayne, the quondam priest,
in a new repose. Just beyond him Mr. Tregian grasped his middle and fell, with
a sadly sympathetic smile upon his lips. Running as fast as he could, he was barely
able to stay up with the line. With a shock he noticed the earl of Southampton,
dressed in the plate and leather of the common conscript out of Norwich or Valencia,
sprawling head downward into the mud to lie with arms outstretched. Francis Southwell,
whod come up to fill the place on his left, fell also, with a murmur, and
with a squashing thud.
rolling cloud of smoke grew denser still. The same continuous firing kept up from
the sconce, and the line was growing thinner, the field over which it had advanced
now strewn with dead and sobbing wounded. He reached the obliquely running ditch,
a shallow, empty watercourse, and leapt across it, wishing rather he had the courage
to lie down in it and cover his head with his arms. Lord Harry went down, fallen
to his knees, toppling slowly over with his eyes closed. Before him a slight man
was struggling beneath the weight of his accoutrements; overcome by exhaustion,
he let fall his weapons and came to a stop. Within a second he had been struck
by a ball and tumbled backwards. Francis Throgmorton could be seen plashing through
the mire, but he seemed to lose his footing and fall, shot through.
line was thoroughly thinned down. The earls of Arundel and Northumberland, the
latter ridiculous in his colorful panache surmounting his steel cap, both fell
abruptly and lay still on either side of him. He was nearly incapable of breathing,
but seemed to be running on muscle fiber only, though his stride had shortened
even further to what seemed a hideous waddle. Mr. Shelley, further down the line,
spun sharply and fell without a sound. The ravelins seemed close, still spewing
orange darts of flame and furious billows of dirty smoke in a pandemoniac din.
He was running almost alone, directly into the rattling guns. About him there
were but one or two clusters of charging men, no longer yelling, with a few more
groups further along what had once been the brave line. He kept pumping his legs
with all the strength he had remaining, but his arms had grown useless and beat
idly against his breastplate; the javelin had slipped from his grasp, the sword
still waved in the air by his shoulder.
Paget drew up short, turned to look sadly at him, then dropped over. His eyes
swept crazily over the sconce and caught again the enemys flag upon its
staff, but as it hung straight down amid the smoke it was impossible to tell what
emblem was borne upon it. He struck a wet place and lost his footing; a hand prevented
his falling and helped him regain his small momentum, but then its owner, Thomas
Throgmorton, spun away and lay immobile in a pool of water. Fitzherbert, too,
fell with a thud as they approached within twenty meters of the arquebusiers of
the other side, and so too fell the others remaining in his party.
came to a halt. The musket fire had diminished not one whit; the din was outrageous,
the smoke rolled thickly out from the defenseworks. Dimly through it he could
see the movements of the enemy, stepping up to fire, stepping back to make room,
regular as a diabolical clockworks. He stood all alone. Overhead, God in his providential
care of the right watched grimly. He turned back to stare into the guns. A thousand
flaming orange knives stabbed out at him, the filthy, acrid smoke boiled round
him. His armor was gone and he stood now in his open doublet and stained hose,
waiting to be torn up by a shower of shot.
his luck held a little longer, and he awoke.
Channel sea pounded hard upon the strand, a great roar with each wave as it broke
over the rocks and sandy shingle below, followed by a receding line of lesser
crashes northeastward along the coast. The booming and rebooming sea seemed almost
like the din of modern battle. From the sky above the sea a flood of pale, new
light poured into his chamber.
The room in which
he woke was the pattern of comfortable grace. His bed, where now he lay lowering
over his dream, was a massive envelope of soft down, enclosed with a quadrate
curtain of plissé. The writing desk and a set of chairs, delicately carved of
a fine dark wood, stood beneath a pair of windows a bit larger than was custom.
Even the chamberpot was of china, ringed with detailed depictions of the lives
of saints. The walls were hung with elegant religious works and with portraits
of various ancestors of the family of Guise, most of them in the habiliments of
bishops and cardinals, hard bold faces wreathed symbolically with the True Vine
or with cryptic mottoes and homiletic cautions, signed with dates reaching back
nearly a century. In the cold fireplace sat an iron trivet cast in the form of
The dream continued
to disquiet him. He was impatient with the oneiromantic fancies of the peasants,
which he considered to be like so much else of their lore, attempts to find small
comfort where otherwise there would be none. But this dream was redolent of prophecy.
So many of his friends fallen from him in a headlong rush through time, himself
almost alone, his last friends perhaps falling from him soon, until he stood alone,
equally redolent of ordinary fear, unworthy of him.
good allowing dreams to rule his waking hours, too. He shook his head and clambered
briskly out of bed, and threw a rug across his shoulders. The air in the château
was freezing, and the brick floor set his legs to trembling. Through a service
door he stepped into the adjoining room and woke Sharrock. Jamie arose and came
in to blow up Arundells fire in the grate; he returned a moment later with
his own clothing and dressed before the new blaze, then ran down to alert the
Arundell brought the
warmed water from the trivet and set about shaving before a steel glass. His toilet
knife was duller than prudence would have had it, and he nearly slit his throat
with a trembling hand. He wrapped a linen scarf about the tiny wound before donning
his ruff, which would conceal the mishap well. His hose and breeches he set across
the fender and waited in his shirt beneath the covers till they warmed.
day, though cold, was coming up clear, but with snow clouds in the offing. The
gray Channel showed choppy and restless even from a distance, for there came over
it a stiff northerly breeze. When he descended to breakfast, he found that Gilbert
Gifford had preceded him and was already engaged upon his meal. The priest wore
a rich gentlemans dress and was bundled up with additional padding beneath
his doublet and, apparently, two pair of breeches one within another, so that
with his natural heaviness he looked comical. This was the day when he was to
go upon the sea, and he had dressed for the journey.
was travelling into England. With letters from Morgan and Paget, hed been
entrusted with the task of reaching the queen of Scots and discovering a new method
of communicating with her. The challenge seemed insuperable, and Arundell thought
it a fools errand. She dwelt now at Tutbury near Derby under the careful
eye of Sir Amias Paulet, a thorough Puritan who left nothing at all to chance.
The old channels of many years
efficiency, devised and followed in the fifteen years of Queen Marys wardship
under the kindly earl of Shrewsbury, were no longer workable. Her servants were
forbidden all contact with the servants of the house, so no packets could pass
that way. When she rode for exercise, no longer was she permitted to greet her
well-wishers among the common people as she passed; the young gentlemen who joined
those jostling throngs in order to thrust missives into her maidens hands
had now no opportunity to approach. Her palfrey, with the queen sidesaddle upon
it, was directed instead over open countryside, away from the villages, surrounded
by eight or ten horsemen armed with dags.
Queen of Scots, 1542-1587
problem that presented itself, for anyone who tried to reach her, was focused
upon the queens own domicile. Bringing her correspondence to and from the
continent was easy; it could always be smuggled over by priests or gentlemen or
sympathetic merchants, but even these shifts were unnecessary, because as Mauvissière,
the former French ambassador, had done, so now Châteauneuf, these three months
the new ambassador, would continue to permit the use of his diplomatic pouches
for the purpose. Transferring her mail from the French embassy to the neighborhood
of Queen Marys house in the country was not much more difficult, but that
was the end. Only once in the year since she had been removed to Tutbury in January
1585, a bearer had found the means to reach her secretly. Otherwise, in all that
time, the only method had been for the French ambassador to turn her packets over
to Walsingham or Phelippes, who would open and read them before having them handed
in to the captive queen. This method was not useful.
had been that one time, in August, when Robert Poley had found a means of reaching
her, and no one in the queens party quite understood how he had accomplished
it; partly for that very reason, the queen had refused to trust him. Despite Morgans
letter introducing him, she thought Poleys attachment to the earl of Leicester
in former years and to Walsinghams household now sufficient to disqualify
him, and she had left for him a polite reply and refusal of his services. And
so for a full year there had been no secret correspondence with her. Now, in December
1585, of all the discussions, hopes, schemes, invasions planned in her behalf,
by romantic partisans, by sober ministers of foreign states, she knew nothing
but her own imaginings, nothing but the conjectures or confections of her secretaries,
Curle and Nau. The squabblings among her partisans, the accusations of some by
others and back again of treachery or unreliability, she had been spared; the
uses of her money she remained ignorant of, which Mr. Morgan and Mr. Paget carried
on with, in her name, bravely. When Châteauneuf had arrived in London, hed
inherited a carpetbag full of letters, and had still found no way of sending them
Unless some man she
would trust could find a way of piercing Walsinghams blockade about Tutbury,
she would remain isolated utterly, unable to warn her friends of the increasing
severity of her imprisonment, incapable of being warned of threats to her safety
or of new attempts to free her. Her own great fear was that thus cut off and at
the mercy of Leicesters favorers, she might be made away secretly, with
neither the English queens nor any other princes knowledge. Regularly
she wrote to Queen Elizabeth begging some relief, but her letters, delivered to
her keeper and transmitted by him to Walsingham, seemed never to come to Elizabeths
Gifford had no scheme
for remedy, but he did have Morgans introduction, and through the social
standing and long suffering of his family he had the most Catholic of credentials.
If he could once contrive to reach her, doubtless she would trust him. Disguised
as a brave gentleman, he was to enter the realm and make his way to Staffordshire,
and then to try his best wit and ingenuity. He had joined a party travelling north
from Paris. Throgmorton had gone to Geneva to meet Lord Paget, Charles Paget remained
in Paris near Mr. Morgan still in the Bastille, but several other Englishmen journeyed
with him. Fitzherbert and Berden had stopped in Rouen on business there, but Arundell
had brought Gifford onward through the duke of Guises territory, as a sort
of living passport, to Eu, where they slept overlooking the sea in the dukes
house. There for almost a week they had awaited the day when the ship should meet
Gifford in Dieppe, which was today, the very day upon which Arundells own
business should come to him in this same house.
Arundell, musing upon his dream, came down to the warm kitchens, Gifford tried
making cheerful conversation. Nothing about the man seemed quite right to Charles,
nor did he sound really cheerful now; it was a forced, perhaps a sycophantic heartiness.
Arundell replied politely, distantly. As always he avoided discussing anything
of consequence with the man. The truth was that he had taken a strong dislike
to the coarse priest even upon first meeting him, and so had Fitzherbert and Berden,
but all three had done their best to hide that from him. The man was after all
undertaking a dangerous mission in their ladys behalf; it would not do to
show ingratitude or meanness. And in any case Arundell feared he disliked the
man for unworthy reasons, for his physical vulgarity, rather than for any true
After the meal, Arundell
and Gifford, Sharrock and one of the dukes household men, bundled into greatcoats
and set out for Dieppe harbor. Snow had begun falling and had accumulated to an
inch or more, respecting which, the dukes man led them away from the cliffside
path, which had grown treacherous, and towards the more circuitous highway. Well
before the noon hour they arrived at the port. Arundell rode past the royal dockmasters
house and straight on to the dukes officer, who dwelt above a tavern on
the wharves. Since the outbreak of the new French wars, there were royal garrisons
in all of these northern harbors, but they were small companies, merely symbolic
of the crowns alliance with the Holy League, and since they were here only
upon the duke of Guises sufferance, the merchants and travellers merely
passed them by and spoke directly to the dukes own men.
found the officer in the wineshop below his chambers. Glancing over Arundells
warrant from the duke, the master rose and guided them into the snow to the proper
ship, sailed by a man named Nicholas de Hew from Calais, where Gifford made his
final arrangements, thanked Arundell for his aid and begged him to pray for his
success, then went below to await the captains getting under way. Light
snow hissing as it fell upon the water made the journey seem exceedingly forbidding.
Arundell and Sharrock returned
to the dockside taverns and began making inquiries for the men he was to meet
there. One of them, Captain Gay, they found immediately. He was a big, intelligent
looking man, apparently a Scotsman though he used his flawless French to turn
aside any inquiries about his origins. The captains colleague, however,
had not yet appeared, and the three men, when they had searched all of the waterfront
inns, stopped in the best of them to dine. About midafternoon Captain Francisco
found them out.
wore the expensive dress of a seagoing caballero; perhaps he was a Spanish younger
son whose father had fitted him with a small command in King Philips naval
forces. That would have been some time ago, for he looked some thirty-five or
more years old and he had long since forsaken the Mediterranean galley fleets
and now spent his time in the North Atlantic and among the Channel islands, independent
of any regular commanders but as often as not serving the duke of Guise. His small
bark was nominally a merchant carrier, but she had a warships lines and
armament, and Francisco took more voyages in escort of other merchants or preying
upon them than he ever did with cargoes of his own. The same was true of Captain
Gay. There had been a time when both men could freely roam through all the northern
seas, but since Admiral Winters patrols of the English and Irish waters
and since the Sea Beggars had come to dominate all the Dutch coastline, they sailed
seldom above the Gulf of St. Malo or the Channel islands, and indeed cruised mostly
in the Bay of Biscay preying upon Huguenot shipping from La Rochelle.
had come up the Channel now, however, to confer with Arundell at the dukes
appointment. While their seamen stood watch on their ships or took leave in the
quayside havens, the two captains borrowed horses from the dukes officer
and joined Arundell in returning to Eu. A few armed sailors accompanied each of
When they had regained
the dukes chateau, the snow was falling more densely and dusk had come on
prematurely. The servants of the house had lit lamps in the corner tower. Within,
unexpectedly, Arundell found Berden and Fitzherbert awaiting him, and by the time
the introductions had been made, the dukes people had spread an ample dinner
on the board.
Berden and Fitzherbert
were in a particularly jocund mood. They made an amusing pair, the former small
and slight and softspoken, the latter as far above the average height as Berden
was below it, his head as dark as Berdens was fair. They seemed already
in four months time to have developed great affection for each other, and
indeed seemed two as honest and gentle men as one might meet. Likewise, the sea
captains proved to be amiable companions, and altogether the evening, with the
aid of the dukes good wines, passed enjoyably.
the following day, Arundell and the seamen drew apart into the dukes study
and fell to discussion. The matter was a toy of the dukes, which Arundell
was obliged to pretend he took seriously, though it was just the sort of thing
which if taken seriously might prove very dangerous. When the hostilities in France
had broken out afresh, the duke of Guise had naturally turned his resources to
defeating the Huguenot armies. As a consequence, his frequent plans for the conquest
of England and the liberation of the queen of Scots had been thrust to one side,
temporarily as he declared; for as the duke told Arundell and others in confidence,
he fully expected from these wars not only to expunge the Protestants from the
realm but also to emerge with the king himself firmly under his own "guidance."
At that time, with Spain and a renewed France united in Catholic zeal, the reduction
of England to the ancient faith should be but childs play, and he intended
to accomplish the task himself.
interested persons, however, like the English Jesuits and their favorers, had
finally given up their hope of the dukes support in arms, for they believed
that, as he never had been, so he never would be free of such distractions. Consequently,
they were fixing their dreams and their diplomacy upon the king of Spain, because
though he had his own distractions in the Netherlands he might yet be got to see
the invasion of England as a part of a larger strategy ultimately the most advantageous
to himself as well as to God. England, after all, was now well into the Dutch
wars. While the prince of Parma awaited the new season in his winter quarters
in Brussels, English money and men had been crossing to the northern States; the
earl of Leicester had been invested with the command of an expeditionary force
that was expected to come over almost any day. King Philip ought in reason to
be persuaded that the only way to stop this flow of reinforcements to his rebels,
as well as finally to end the depredations of the English seadogs in his American
colonies, would be to launch a great armada against England herself.
the duke of Guise was not to be omitted from the English business. Whether from
a sense of obligation to his favorers or merely to keep his thumb in the English
pie, he was making a new proposal. If he could not now make an invasion, for which
he had already obtained the papal sanction, he meant instead a less ambitious
operation. This scheme he had charged Arundell to fulfill, deeming it quite rightly
a great honor for the Englishman, and he had had Arundell broach the matter to
both the nuncio and the Spanish ambassador. This Arundell had done, and Mendoza
especially had approved the plan enthusiastically and offered to make some pecuniary
contribution to its success. M. Simier had been suggested as a lieutenant.
plan of course was a mad one, the creature of a fevered brain. Arundell, though
he carried on in negotiating it, prayed the while that it would like most other
such schemes die aborning. The duke called it his "roving enterprise":
Arundell was to take however many ships he could get together, with some six or
seven hundred men, sail from St. Malo around Lands End and up the Bristol
Channel to land in Somersetshire. There he would march at double speed into the
country rounding up as many of the gentlemen of wealth and worship dwelling in
those parts as his men could lay their hands upon. Then, having destroyed whatever
fortifications or large structures he could easily take, he was to regain his
ships and set to sea, returning directly to France where the gentlemen would be
held until their ransoms had been arranged.
had always dreamed of one day going home--this perversely mocked his dream. He
had permitted himself to dally with the image of himself at the head of an invading
army; the common people flocking to him as their champion and liberator as he
rode up Fleet Street; the home militia coming over to his standard with never
a shot fired, the earl of Leicester and a handful of his base companions caught
in flight in the midlands and hauled before him, as he sat near the grateful queen
at Greenwich, for summary judgment. But his sober mind better knew how unlikely
it was that he or anyone might conquer nations with no blood shed, with no cruelty
of troops upon populace, victorious upon defeated. It was only his daydream, his
Knight of the Lion or Amadis of Gaul, which amused him harmlessly. With the dukes
new emprise, he seemed required to take this boyish chivalric task in hand in
earnest, rampaging through England like Godfrey de Bouillon among the Paynims,
despite its perfectly obvious foolishness to any man of sense. The only thing
more foolish than actually leading such an expedition would be to tell the duke
of Guise that the scheme was foolish. Zealots have a logic of their own.
Arundell dealt soberly with Gay and Francisco about the sums needed to retain
their crews, to outfit such other ships as might be required, to provide the marines
the ships should have to carry. The seamen disagreed about the best time for sailing:
Gay recommended midsummer, when the harvests were coming in and most of the English
army had shipped across to the Netherlands; Francisco preferred the first turning
of the weather, in order well to precede the Spanish fleet rumored to be in preparation
against England. But they agreed in urging a revision of the dukes intention
to send Arundell on to the coast of Brittany with them. They would canvass the
possibilities for recruiting ships and men, while Arundell, they insisted, must
return to Paris and argue for more funds, especially for their own retainers.
Later he could join them in Brest, when once he had the money. These were intelligent
Arundell himself, in
petto, thanked God and the stars for the delay. Self-serious negotiating
over freely flowing wine in the dukes warm house was almost fun, but hiring
ships for a flying piratical raid was something altogether different. There was
many a slip twixt the cup and the Bristol Channel.
luncheon, Francisco and Gay and their escort departed for their ships, and the
others bundled warmly up and took a walk along the cliffs. Below, across the steel-gray
sea, there was not a sail anywhere in sight, nor along the beach was there any
human traveller. The harshness of the weather, bitterly cold and snowy to their
boottops, and the vacancy of the seascape combined to bring in an agreeable sense
of isolation, with corollary feelings of human insignificance and the terrible
indifference of this great world to man. They discussed these themes animatedly
and imperfectly quoted from the ancient authors, while Mr. Berden maintained that
the gray ocean was but a mask which all-seeing God wore to hide his kindly smile,
as a pleasant hour passed. Then they stuffed snow down one anothers backs
and hastened back to the fireside.
the evening, they drank too much wine and reminisced about winters in England.
the following day, they tipped the dukes steward with the dukes money
and set out for Paris.
de Hews little ship came up the Rye Bay about two hours before dawn. Passing
Camber on the right, the traffic from Winchelsea plainly visible on the other
side, she entered the river and made under small sail up into the harbor pool.
There were only a scattering of other craft upon the water. The Frenchman loosed
his anchors and ordered the boats to be dropped over the board.
Gifford and several other passengers were rowed in with the first boat ashore.
He alighted on the quays amid the offloading of other cargoes and the cries of
merchants factors about their business. As he had no more luggage than he
could carry, he tarried no longer there, but took up his bags and strolled slowly
up the docks. The queens officer met all the newly arrived as they reached
the end of the street. Gifford gave his name ("Nicholas Cornellys")
and identified himself as a gentleman soldier returning from the Netherlands to
attend to business before going to rejoin his company. His papers confirmed that
When he had safely passed
the searcher, he left his companions and began walking away into the town of Rye.
He passed down a row of busy shops, almost beyond the sight of the docks, and
paused to purchase a pastry from a hawker. Two men stepped up on either side of
him and addressed him in low tones. Gifford seemed taken aback and could be seen
answering excitedly. They laid hands upon his arms. He shook them off and made
to move away; a third man stepped from the doorway of a chandlers shop and
blocked his path. He stared about him in evident frustration. Then all four men
walked into a passage between the buildings, where four horses awaited them ready-saddled.
They mounted and edged their way into the center of the street, then set off at
a brisk pace along the London road, one man before, one at either hand, and Gifford
riding evenly along, squarely in the middle.
Paris, when Arundell and his friends returned in mid-December 1585, there were
new tidings. The French spoke only of the shifting progress of the wars against
the Huguenots in the south and west. The Englishmen however could speak of nothing
but Scotland. The Protestant lairds hiding out in England had been permitted by
the English Council to return home. They had ridden swiftly and surprised the
young king at Stirling; the Catholic earl of Arran, who controlled him, had been
deposed, and the Protestants were once again in the ascendant. Those who had been
encouraged by King Jamess rapid inclining towards the old faith now expected
soon to see him come to friendly terms with Queen Elizabeth. Those who had begun
to look to him as the best hope of a Catholic successor in England in view of
his mothers desperate situation, found themselves more than ever constrained
to consider a Spanish invasion as the only chance left. The rumor was going round
that the queen of Scots had willed her title to the English crown to King Philip
if she should not be alive to claim it.
Claude Hamilton was in a quandary. Though he lived in Parisian exile a devoted
Catholic, yet his brother Lord John had ridden with the returning Protestants
and was reported now to be in great power in Edinburgh. Lord John, though no papist,
was well disposed towards Queen Mary in his heart and furthermore would welcome
his brothers return. Some urged him to go home therefore, so that he might
cast his die in what was becoming there an open game of hazard.
long after the first news of the Scottish troubles had reached their ears, the
gentlemen planned a meeting to determine together the truth of them and decide
their best course. The archbishop of Glasgow was chosen to play host in his capacious
rooms, less for their capacity than because they seemed a sort of neutral ground.
He was a kindly, elderly man who had been the longest in exile of them all, having
served as the queen of Scotss ambassador here even when she had reigned
in her own realm, twenty years ago. Since that time, if he had lost the management
of most of her affairs, still he held her trust and the trust of nearly everyone
among the several factions. His own position was well known, though it was generally
regarded as a merely sentimental one. He opened the conference by restating it:
political cunning quite apart, the queen of Scots was the lawful queen of Scotland
and the lawful heir of England, and as long as she lived he was bound to uphold
her titles. For her son James, the young king, Glasgow prayed for him daily and
hoped that God would care for him and bring him up aright, but for his own part,
his loyalty, true and undivided, he owed to Queen Mary alone.
Foljambe and Charles Paget arose together to reply and quickly fell to arguing
over who should speak next. The archbishop asked them both to be seated, for he
wished his countryman Lord Hamilton to have the first response. Claude, as he
began, praised the aged prelates devotion at some length and voiced his
own undiminished allegiance to the queen, but then insisted that it was well known--and
here he gestured towards the earl of Westmoreland and several others of his friends--it
was well known that Queen Marys case, in sober fact, was hopeless, so securely
was she hedged about by the Leicestrian English government, for nothing at all
might be done for her but Secretary Walsingham would dispatch her at once; and
if the Jezebel of England were suddenly to die, Leicester and Walsingham and the
atheistic Puritans would kill her just as speedily, for they had learned that
lesson too well in Leicesters fathers time to think they would keep
their heads if she should ever come to that throne.
were murmurs throughout the room. Lord Claude raised his hand and went on to say
that, their love for the queen apart, what mattered most at this time was the
fate of Scotland itself. In its present state, ruled by the Anglophile lords,
the realm should soon be "mere kirk", its Catholics persecuted as Englands
were, its young king a Protestant puppet whose strings were pulled by the English
Council. If, on the other hand, matters could be turned round there, the whole
realm might be saved for the Holy Church and, after the Jezebels time, the
young king would ascend the English throne in the right of his mother, a strong
prince Catholic in his heart, backed by his own forces and by all the good princes
of Europe. And therein, he said, lay the hope for Catholic England. He ended by
advising that they continue to love the queen of Scots for her holy life, but
set about presently, by intrigues, military projects, and the introduction of
uncountable numbers of priests and Jesuits there, to reclaim the Scottish kingdom
before the new changes became settled.
penultimate words set up a hubbub of dispute throughout the chamber. The mere
mention of Jesuits brought remonstrations from many of the gentlemen, who like
Charles Paget and the priest Gratley grew into a rage whenever the fathers of
the Society were named. Others, like Foljambe and Tunstead, defended the Jesuits
nearly as vociferously. Simultaneously, Lord Hamiltons mention of military
expeditions evoked a babble of opinion, less about the sites and size of any landings
than about the old question of the auspices under which they should be made.
insisted that invasion by foreigners was unnecessary, that the English answer
to Englands woes remained as always a well-planned rising among the Catholic
majority at home. Foljambe and the friends of the Jesuits, however, insisted upon
looking to the Spanish king for the great attempt, through the instrumentality
of his own fleet of ships and the prince of Parmas soldiers, and they avowed
that it was only a question of time before the pope and the king of Spain should
agree upon the terms. Westmoreland decried the Jesuits meddling in Rome
but agreed that King Philip should be brought to hold up his end. The earl, however,
had recently taken up a hatred of Parma, who seemed to hold his English regiment
(or the earls command of it) in some disdain, and so he much blamed the
prince for being an ambitious temporizer and exclaimed that the troops could only
come from that excellent Catholic Hannibal, the duke of Guise. He wished to know
where Mr. Arundell was, who should speak to them of the dukes true meaning
towards them and their cause.
length, Charles Paget regained their attention and said that he could walk with
them all who held for the need for a great landing. He agreed likewise that when
a crusading army did arrive, all of the Catholics in England could be trusted
to rise up to a single man and overthrow the heretics, so that it did not much
matter whose army did the invading, as long as someone invaded, with at least
sufficient force to cause the devout and the well-disposed Englishmen to take
heart and rouse themselves. Let them therefore, he said, seek help everywhere,
and cease quarrelling.
Paget reminded them that in all their talk of war and uprisings, he had heard
no more words spoken of the queen of Scots. He and Mr. Morgan held themselves
firm for her safety above all things, and responsible for the same, and this,
he said, was where all their efforts lay. Those who were in the bosoms of great
princes, he said somewhat acrimoniously, might dream recklessly of leading such
armies as the duke of Guises to conquest, perhaps only for their own glory,
if the truth were known, but he thought it much more needful that they should
strive to bring her majesty to safety, and cease immediately to think of her as
already lost. The great plots should come in good time after her majesty were
At the door,
Charles Arundell and Nicholas Berden appeared, shown in by a man in livery. It
was understood that Pagets disparaging allusion had been to Arundell, and
everyone paused to watch his reaction. The two men nodded to their acquaintances
and moved carefully to take up vacant stools. From Arundells grim expression
it was apparent that he had caught the sense of those remarks.
Foljambe spoke up to take exception to Pagets implications. They all cared
for the queens safety quite as much as he and Morgan did, he said. The fact
remained that as matters stood nothing could conveniently be done for her without
endangering her life, and it would be an injustice to cease working for the freedom
of all Englishmen only because she lay beyond their reach.
Mr. Foljambe," Paget said, pacing behind the archbishops chair as if
he were reading the lectures in one of the colleges in the next street; "I
beg to tell you that your errors are manifest to all. For first, the freedom of
Englishmen with Gods help and good time is assured. No injustice done by
us can prevent the triumph of the Lords battle against heresy. I wonder
that you doubt it. In the second place, my lady the queens cause is not
by no means hopeless. On the very contrary, we have every meaning to succeed in
making her free and secure from harm."
in the room murmured in indignant assent to Pagets proposition, as if censuring
a different kind of heresy. Foljambe made as if to reply, but Paget spread his
hands largely and continued.
first, my friends, you must know that of any attempts for her good the good queen
must be timely warned, and to that end we have not been idle. Our friend Gifford
is engaged in renewing correspondence with her majesty, and should he fail, others
will succeed. Likewise, there are those in England at this day who would hazard
life and limb and all they have to bring her away from danger. I speak particularly
of Mr. Anthony Babington and my Lord Windsors brother and their century
of friends, all much loved at court but devoted wholly to her cause. You may easily
believe that when they see their opportunity they will do much, all at our direction.
And last, I will tell you that we have more friends, even in the bosoms of the
Councils self, who warn us daily of what passes there to our ladys
seemed incredulous. "Do you mean that there are spies in the Privy Council
itself? Who are they, man?"
paused melodramatically and looked about the room appraisingly, as if deciding
how far his listeners might be trusted. "I am to tell you," he replied,
"that we have friends in great places, who inform us of what is needful.
More than that I may not safely say."
come, plain dealing," Arundell said. "Who are these cunning spies?"
"Mr. Arundell, for causes
to himself best known, would have that knowledge which is most dangerous to our
ladys most devoted friends. Will it not suffice that I tell you straight,
there are some, whom Mr. Morgan and myself know well, and will not divulge it
even upon the rack to put them in hazard of destruction, who will tell us if anything
is meant against our lady, so that we may prevent it. And in the meantime, we
will so manage ourselves and our friends, I warrant you, that in not too long
time she will be free and maybe queen of England! For my part, I wish Mr. Arundell
and others could say as much of themselves."
have you not considered that there be spies among us as well as among them? Is
it not most probable that the Secretary will learn of all your attempts before
her majesty herself will hear of them?"
Charles Paget preferred to address the whole assembly. "My friend Arundells
doubt of spies among us is well advised. I grant to him a perfect knowledge of
such things as spies among us. It may be there are some who to line their purses
with English gold would basely deliver our lady to the very carnifex--perhaps
he can point them out to us--but I assure him again that the business will be
managed very secretly and none shall hear a syllable but them that we may trust."
"Oh, Mr. Paget,"
cried Berden, "this is too bad. You cast aspersions which are needless upon
Mr. Arundell, whose only care is for the queen. For, think you, will you not bring
her majesty into far greater peril by scheming ill-advised among yourselves? Let
Paget, who was
growing quite angry at such outspoken criticism, replied heatedly from behind
the archbishops chair. "For the queens safety, let me alone for
that! Mr. Morgan and myself have been her majestys best friends when you,
sir, were safely at home in bed. I will tell you where her danger is! It is the
duke of Guise and other such great men who would invade realms and fight pitched
fields without a care i the world for her life, that is where her danger
is. Speak not to me of dangers. Every year a new plot for invading! Still she
lies in prison."
round and faced the middle of the room. "If Mr. Morgan had been of the dukes
good counsel, as right was, we should never have had such mad schemes, barren
of all issue. If Mr. Morgan had been trusted by the duke of Guise, I say again,
and not some others who are present, and their Jesuitical companions, who woo
him to lunatic designs careless of our ladys life. And who," he said
still more loudly, "and who even now persuade his grace to keep Mr. Morgan
in durance here!"
had been spreading outward over the assembly as a sort of expanding electrical
field. Men had been sitting up straighter in their chairs and on their stools
and nodding agreement or slapping their thighs in annoyance. At Pagets last
words some of them set up uttering angry exclamations. "Why," said Paget,
in mock surprise, "why, do you think Mr. Morgan should still be in prison
these nine months because the English Jezebel only wished it? Because Mr. Stafford
demanded it? Never believe it! It is the wholly Jesuited duke of Guise who works
upon the king to keep him there."
men took up the theme of outrage and rounded upon Arundell with wrathful oaths.
true," Arundell shouted back, "it is quite true that his grace the duke
keeps Morgan where he does less harm. For why, think you? Every man with eyes
can see what the duke himself sees, with no mans advice, nor mine. Mr. Morgan
is not sound!"
sound!" The earl of Westmoreland stood up and shook his heavy, gray head
in rage. "Not sound, say you?"
arose and stepped to the table behind which Paget stood. "Who is the man
Hert," he cried, "that is the Secretarys great confidant?"
leaning forward nearby, interrupted in his friends aid. "For shame,
Mr. Paget, it is too well known that in the name of Hert you kept a correspondence
with the Council to the near ruin of some of our best. Why does not the duke trust
Morgan and yourself!"
were yelling "hear, hear" and "speak up." Paget appeared nonplussed
by the suddenness of the attack, but he rejoined without hesitating.
is a public matter that in the name of Hert I kept correspondence with the Secretary.
It makes nothing to the matter here to say so! My only purpose was to discover
the traitors among us here and there at the court, and so I said freely to his
excellency the archbishop of Nazareth."
spoke so much publicly only because you knew it was known already, and would come
to all mens eyes anon!"
said this upon impulse, as the opportunity arose, and observed his antagonist
to see his reaction. Paget seemed genuinely surprised by the idea, however, and
almost convinced Arundell that his guess had been a bad one.
Berden reminded Paget that his explanation for his actions was a most convenient
one and must be understood in light of the nuncios verdict for those Hert
Paget returned to him. "It is enough that Mr. Arundell, and maybe those who
friend him most, do understand my meaning. The queen of Scots will know her friends
when she is free."
thumped the desk with his fist.
Paget! I am as true a man for her majesty as any man i the world. Never,
I say, willingly will I let harm come to her. Some of those who daily protest
most for her may mean least for her! You know the proverb is, A long tongue
is a sign of a short hand."
is too much," cried the earl of Westmoreland. He too tried to rise but fouled
his hangers in his chair. Dropping back into his seat, he began to expostulate
about Paget and Morgan being made to suffer because they were not Hispaniolated
lovers of creeping Jesuits. Gratley immediately took up the identical tune, and
the debate degenerated further into a babble of abuse. Everyone, it seemed, had
one chief complaint, peculiar to himself, against some other man.
shouted that Hispaniolation was immaterial. He wished only to know where had gone
the queen of Scotss money entrusted to Morgans care. It seemed always
to disappear among his and Pagets friends and never reached the purposes
meant for it nor her followers most deserving. Why was it, he asked, that any
man who wished to do her service must do it only at Mr. Morgans bidding
or receive no gratitude for the same? It was not so when the archbishop of Glasgow
had had the keeping of her business.
Beaton seemed to miss the mention of his name, but remained staring nervously
with a benevolent or tolerant smile at the whole group. Others were not so unmoved.
Those who had had similar trouble with their pensions chimed in with their own
recriminations, whereas others took up Morgans defense no less loudly.
his face gone livid, was shouting that Arundell, far worse, had a stranglehold
upon the duke of Guises favor, and it was through Arundells influence
upon the Spanish ambassador that the prince of Parma had thrust himself and his
picked captains out of their regiment. Did not Arundell, he demanded, did not
Arundell control the duke of Guise and deflect him from the aid of worthy Englishmen?
At the same
time, Paget was exclaiming that he and Morgan could account for every farthing
dispersed in the queens cause, to which Foljambe inquired about the sums
of her money dispersed in their own cause. Tunstead required to be told why he
had never had an écu of his own pension, why Tom Throgmorton had never
had a pension at all. Arundell asked again, as he had many times, where had gone
the three thousand crowns of his own he had sent out of England in times past,
by way of a loan to the queen of Scotss accounts.
raised his hands and shook his dark head in mimicry of an Hebrew moneychanger.
"The same old song," he yelled. "Will you never cease mewing about
never cease your thieving and your lying? How are men to live, when their honest
debts are not repaid?"
my avaricious gentleman, you shall have it, you shall have your moneys. Radix
malorum est--," Paget called. "Restrain your gross cupidity whiles
we sit in a holy house at least."
fought down his wrath at being spoken to so by this perfidious little man. The
confusion in the room grew still greater, and there was some jostling. Before
him, this sordid fellow, once all obliquity and feigned deference, stared impudently
back at him, apparently grown absolutely confident of his position here.
me," Charles hissed. "It is not the money. It is being served so by
what will you do then?" crowed Paget. The others roundabout left off their
own disputes and turned to observe. "What will you do? Will you write off
a line to your sweet coz the Secretary of England? Has he been cunctatory in paying
out thy wages?"
gave a low growl and dashed round the table, shoving Westmoreland out of his way.
From a sheath beneath his doublet he swept out a short dagger and leapt upon Paget
with the weapon held high. Paget fell squealing beneath him, both hands clutching
Arundells wrist. Lord Claude Hamilton jumped forward and grappled with Charless
middle, trying to drag him off, as Nicholas Berden dove across the table, directly
over the archbishop, and pulled Arundells arm away. Lord Hamilton and Berden
between them succeeded in lifting Arundell almost upright, but he clung tightly
to Paget and brought him up, too, and the entire clutch of them began spinning
slowly towards the corner.
earl of Westmoreland with difficulty regained his feet, swearing fearfully, and
tried to draw out his rapier. Somehow it became snagged in his belt, and he bent
over to free it, giving Mr. Foljambe time to dart across and take it from him.
Hamilton finally wrested the knife from Arundells grip and threw it into
the casement. With a great heave, however, Arundell tore himself free of those
restraining him. He took hold of Pagets doublet with both hands and lifted
him, then threw him into the wall, where he crashed down upon a table and lay
in a heap staring up, much abashed.
gently rolling hills the frost lay like the mortal pallor. Beyond the river Trent,
an icy haze hung in the sky above the valley, and the water flowed steely gray
and uninviting. The scene was vacant of humanity. The wintry air, unusually cold
even for the season, kept the simple folk indoors, and in the great houses throughout
the country, the new Christmas holiday kept the gentry occupied with a round of
Phelippes, no matter what people might say of him, was not immune to the cold
or other pains. He was thoroughly well dressed, from a thick leather overjack
above his doublet, surmounted by a lined riding cloak, to a pair of huge mitts,
but he felt frozen through nonetheless. His small, slender frame trembled in the
saddle. Across his pockmarked face and yellow beard he had wrapped a woolen piece
which left only his eyes and the bridge of his nose uncovered. However the hard
weather made him feel, it worked a miracle for his appearance. From the prominence
upon which he sat atop his horse, he could see the young earl of Essexs
house called Chartley. Thence in the earls absence the queen of Scots had
been removed a few days earlier, on the day of Christmas Eve, 1585. Tutbury Castle
had grown unsweet, for the inhabitants were many and the facilities for sanitation
no better than at any other house. Above Essexs protestations, Chartley
had been chosen to replace it. Its furnishings had had to be enlarged, and for
the purpose the crown had confiscated most of the household goods of Thomas the
third Lord Paget, the attainted traitor who had fled the realm. Sheriff Gresley
of the county had personally seen to the transport of fifty-six featherbeds, fifty-one
coverlets, twenty common and eight standing bedsteads, seven pieces of old and
ten pieces of new tapestry, six backed chairs, five taffetie curtains fringed
with gold, four rugs and two turkey carpets, eighteen joint stools, eighteen iron
spits, one frying pan, eight pewter chamberpots, one hundred and sixty pewter
kitchen utensils, twenty-three halberds (some ceremonial), forty calivers and
other light muskets, five barrels of gunpowder, ten cases of dags and smaller
pistols, and ten pewter pie plates, among other things. He had also removed Lord
Pagets son and sent him up to become the ward of one of Leicesters
men. His lordships aged mother and two of her daughters, Lady Anne Lee and
Lady Ethelreda Allen, had been left to get on as best they could. Because Chartley
lay somewhat more exposed, less easily defensible than Tutbury had been, the guard
would have to be increased as well. Whereas formerly there had been forty guardsmen
recruited from the local country, quartered in Burton town to save room in the
castle, more would soon be added to them. The six who were to stand watch at all
times would be increased to eight or ten. The men could be hired without difficulty
from among the destitute veterans dwelling as near as Derby; but that would be
Paulets task, of no concern to Phelippes now.
he left the trees surrounding the house at some distance, Phelippes bent his head
forward and tipped his leather bonnet over his eyes. The queen of Scots and some
of her people knew him by sight. He had once tried, posing as a Catholic gentleman,
to win her confidence and be entrusted with her correspondence, but somehow the
queen had not only suspected his motives but rightly guessed his identity.
small ice-covered creek ran diagonally down behind the house from the north, lined
on either side with bare trees and low brambles. Beyond it, a layer of gray frost
covered the meadow stretching from the rear of the house. The frigid air was soundless
except for his own approach, his horses breathing, the hooves crunching
over the slope, the creak of his cold leather.
the nether gate, he pounded at the door and was let into the tiny court within.
Passing into the guardroom he divested himself of his outer clothing and got to
business. The men of the watch told him that Paulet was out of the house, but
shortly Brian Cave came down and joined him by the fire. Phelippes, as he warmed
himself, handed in the letters he had brought from the court, and with Cave he
discussed the new dispositions being made for the maintenance of the queens
household. He inquired particularly about the manner in which provisions would
be supplied to the house from the nearby town.
next day, Phelippes left his inn in the town of Burton and made his way to the
brewery on the outskirts. Here labored the man who had been employed to furnish
beer to the queen of Scotss household. By the terms of his arrangement,
he was to travel to Chartley every Saturday morning with his wagonload of kegs,
which he and his boys offloaded at the postern guard station, receiving in return
the empty kegs of the past week. Because of competition in the neighborhood, the
honest man had been in fear of losing his trade before this, but the addition
of a regular business with the government fairly set him up.
Phelippes dismounted and sought the brewer out where he sat by his vats among
his apprentices. They drew apart and spoke together in the stinking corner for
nearly an hours time, after which Phelippes bade him farewell and rode away
towards the south.
bones, I am not in jest!"
asseverations to the contrary, Sir Edward gave a great grin and seemed indecently
pleased by the effect of his revelation.
a pack o devils do they know that, now?" Arundell was surprised, indeed,
but felt as well both frustration on the one hand and an oddly disengaged curiosity
on the other. Several other patrons in their vicinity, mostly rivermen already
well advanced upon the evening, stared at the pair stupidly.
I canna say, Charles, but they know it, aye. Twas put to me in the nicest
detail--you and our ancient chum, that John Simyers, Simier, eh? the dancing fellow,
off from Brittany with a master named Francisco. Mad jigs in Bristol, burning
barns in Somerset. Ah, Charles, what do ye do? I am ordered to have you clapt
up by the authorities here upon hard informations of a harm meant to the queen."
will ye do me that great evil, Ned?"
already have done it, man. I spoke to Secretary Villeroy about it yester evening,
the king being indisposed. I had quite a talk with him on that head. A promised
speedy action in the matter, indeed he did--the best reception Ive had at
court these five months."
exciting for you," Arundell said drily. He was not concerned about being
arrested by the French officials just at the present. Stafford knew why.
nothing whatever to fear o that, boy--not so long as ye stay in the grace
of his grace, nor so long as the king and the duke stay in one camp each with
other. Yere quite well known, I find. I often think, Charles, if the king
should ever stand on his own pegs at last and shake himself free o that
family of Guise, you will be the first to suffer, mark me. Disappear in the night,
that is what ywill do."
had given thought to just that eventuality, and he dismissed it now. What struck
him as important in this business, now the familiar puzzle but not less urgent,
was how Walsingham and the Council had learned of his "roving enterprise"
when not ten or twelve men besides himself and the duke of Guise had ever talked
of it. Not even Stafford had he told it to, and the ambassador was less disposed
to help him deduce the source of the intelligence than to twit him now with having
withheld it from himself. Arundell took pains to assure his friend that he had
never seriously meant actually to lead the expedition, but had to admit, when
pressed, that if the duke had continued in his resolution he should certainly
have had to follow the raiders in a leadership position. Which to all observers
would have looked very much like leading it. Stafford appreciated the perilous
delicacy of his situation, at least to the extent of finding it funny. He conjured
an image of Arundell the reluctant privateer, dragged by his crew from prize to
prize, from burning town to ruined fortress. As Sir Francis Drake was to the wide
Atlantic, so Arundell to the lower Severn.
merely growled acidulously, occasioning the observation from Sir Edward that he
had gone far to becoming entirely humorless in the past eighteen months. Arundell
assented to the proposition, but blamed it on the treachery he walked amid. Spies,
it seemed, were everywhere--this "Hert" had tried to trip him up, another
had put him in still worse odor with the English Council by this tale of the piratical
raid; spies for the Council, spies for the Jesuits, for the Welsh faction, for
the Spanish, the French crown, the Huguenots, the Dutch, spies everywhere--and
he knew not whom to trust. Sledd seemed to haunt his thoughts, though he had not
seen the frightful man in nearly a year. Stafford had been unable to discover
what had become of the ugly footpad, nor, since the ambassador had none of the
confidence of Mr. Secretary, had he learned whether Sledd was still an agent for
Walsingham, for someone else, or not at all. No one seemed to know him anymore.
undertook to put Arundells mind to rest. In his opinion, Arundell like many
others was inclined to exaggerate the ubiquity of these determined secret agents.
Some there were, no doubt, he said, who in the service of this or that paymaster
infiltrated the conventicles of others and reported on them or subverted them
or--who could say?--murdered their members foully in their beds. But these true
covert agents were not many. Most news, it was his belief, came haphazardly, by
voluntary submission from poor men seeking a gratuity or some small favor. He
would venture to guess--and he looked at Arundell for a moment very earnestly--that
not a single Catholic Englishman on this side the sea, or very few, had not at
one time or another penned a missive to Walsingham or Lord Treasurer Burghley
or the earl of Leicester, begging favor and offering loyalty and service in return
and filling the note with whatever news came readily to hand, in token of his
future usefulness. Hardly one of them, excepting only some of the priests, he
said, would not go home upon the instant if pardoned their sins and promised they
might worship quietly in England. In the hope of earning that favor, they all
sent news to the Council, some once, some regularly, while carrying on simultaneously
their continuous scheming with every appearance of devotion to their cause.
though he knew something like this to be quite true, protested that Sir Edward
exaggerated cynically. The ambassador thought for a moment, quite serious himself
now, then said that he did not exaggerate, that probably all of them (excluding
the Jesuits, of course) sent letters to some great lord once in a way, but varied
only in the truth or importance of the intelligence they offered. They often wrote
to himself as well, pleading for his intercession; Charles would be astounded
to hear the names of some who had sought his favor since hed come to his
present post. The quantity and quality of the information diverged greatly; some
of it was quite general, or it was obsolescent or really obsolete or downright
false; some of it was damnably accurate. Arundells journey to the prince
of Parma, for example, Stafford had been warned of by a man who signed himself
"the Sibyl" and promised further intelligence on the same subject. Obviously
the Sibyl had not been aware that Arundell went with Sir Edwards secret
blessing, and in any case he had never again made contact. It was not important,
he said, merely an exemplum of what every minister of state lived with daily:
torrents of information, some good, some bad, with seldom any way of telling which
were which until the event proved them true or false, when naturally it was too
late to use them.
In any case,
he bid Charles take heart from that. Since he had come so deeply into the duke
of Guises counsel, Arundell was inevitably a minor celebrity among the newsmongers;
his name would inevitably come up from time to time, sometimes in fanciful fictions,
sometimes with embarrassing accuracy. This he might regret as a great nuisance,
but need not fear as genuine treachery.
effect of Staffords speech was counter to his intent. Arundell seemed still
more dispirited by this testimony to the careless faithlessness all about him
than he had been by the spectre of resolute agents under every hassock. He observed
that he could find "no book in a civil tongue"--as if every volume of
ethics or faith or theory of states were written in some barbarous language. Stafford
understood his metaphor, and he said that to his poor judgment, Arundells
perpetually melancholic mood came of his doubts of himself, not of those around
The server, responding
with alacrity to Sir Edwards signal, placed two more mugs of porter before
them. They ceased speaking until he had withdrawn. Then Arundell shook himself,
as if to dispel the black fumes of moodiness, and drew out a purse of coins. The
bag bulged unnaturally, so full had it been stuffed with money.
duke sends his gratitude with his money," Charles said with a touch of irony.
"You and your lady may now dine well for a week and three days."
ambassador received the purse and tucked it quickly beneath his jacket. He inquired
casually how much it summed to.
thousand écus, which he says is more than the figure mentioned. His good
brothers the duke of Mayenne and the cardinal of Lorraine have made their contributions
to this charitable fund."
nodded. He was thoughtful for a few moments, and then spoke rapidly. "You
may inform the duke that the earl of Leicester has landed with his force. Even
now he is enjoying triumphal progresses through the Hague and Amsterdam. The States
salute him as if he were their king."
is known to them already," Arundell said. "The duke would wish particularly
to know what plans they have for the campaigns of the new season, when these have
shall hardly learn of them at all. Nothing at all am I told of military matters
there." Sir Edward thought again. "Well, I shall have somewhat ye may
feed into his greedy maw when the time comes. What else?"
would know when Drake is to return from the Americas."
dunna know that. I think no man does. Drake returns when his hold is full or his
powderkeg empty. Tell his grace that he is looked for in March or early April."
nodded. "The Spanish brag that he missed both the plate fleets in his passage
noted that fact, for it was something he thought might not have been learned in
London. He inquired mechanically about the reliability of the source, to which
Arundell merely shrugged.
is the French Jesuit, the dukes great friend?" Stafford asked. "The
courier of the League? I misremember his name. The Provincial of Paris."
laughed aloud and glanced about at his neighbors. Those who were not singing lustily
their bargemens ballads were asleep upon their tables.
Claude, you mean. He has been retired, as the phrase is among them.
Back to the hermits cell. Too much by half the cunning politico for his
superiors in Rome." He laughed again. "God, Ned, even the duke found
him unnerving. Lunatic zeal."
dare say," Stafford replied. "Where is the Marshal Birons next
sally out against the Protestants?"
me not. The duke knows not the same himself, but only has the kings promise,
as great value as that may be, that the marshal will strike in force to Navarres
home country, directly the weather changes for the better. By mid-March at the
latest. His grace is less exercised by Navarre than by the thought he has taken
that the Swiss are coming in again. Someone has buzzed it in his ear that our
queen has struck another bargain with them."
Sir Edward nodded.
true?" Charles asked.
Where lies the duke now?"
Soon to ride for Orleans."
Stafford thought again."Where is the Lord Paget gone?"
Rome. Throgmorton has returned to us."
Edward paused and reflected for several seconds. His hand, cradling his forehead,
lifted slightly, and he looked at Arundell from beneath his palm.
is afoot in the queen of Scotss cause. Know you what it is?"
London. A new compact of gentlemen to free her, it may be?"
know naught othat. No word here."
name of one Babington?"
me now. Methinks I never heard the name."
a secular priest called Ballard?"
know him not."
would you tell me, eh? You sentimentalist. I tell you again, she is safer by a
long march if you divulge these fanatical ninnies to the Secretary before they
descend upon her guards and bring in a general massacre." Stafford seemed
both jocular and serious in saying this, and it was impossible to tell from his
tone whether he considered that gruesome event a real likelihood.
on the qui vive. Most especially for what may benefit Mr. Secretary to
know." Arundells tone, at least, despite his ironic words, was decidedly
"Ah, ye buffoon,"
Stafford said, punching Arundells arm affectionately. "Yknow
your own trouble; Ill tell it to you. Whereas all your friends here, these
faithless caterpillars who so inconvenience you, whereas they go amiss by being
loyal to no cause, you, ye daft puny, you are loyal to em all! What a strange
man are you. Yell come to no good whatever. Yre loyal teverybody,
an ugly, black mind you have, Ned, you eat too many herbs with your meat."
ha, and yself, youve got the splenetic fog risen to your brain of
late." Stafford went on laughing cordially at this gentle flyting.
my good friend," he said, "I shall give to you a midgin o the
best counsel. Do ye recollect to mind an old play done at court now many years
agone, later in print? A beastly written play it was, full of huffing and ruffing
and snuffing in murderous verse and pious consequences, but there was in it the
old Vice who was the best fellow o the lot. Ambidexter he was called by,
and that was his whole philosophy, which made him a merry fellow with never a
one of the fears and dreadful doubtings which keep you in the dumps. One verse
of his expressed it quintessentially, for when he once met with such a sour dedicated
gentleman as you are, he gave out an awesome laugh and said, What! Can you
not play with both hands, and turn with the wind?"
rose from his meal and stretched himself almost painfully. He liked very much
the food he found in London and disposed of more of it than was strictly required
by his health. In five months here, already he had begun to show a new tendency
to corpulence, the line of the jaw a little blurred, the cut of his doublet a
trifle confining. He resolved to omit luncheon today, quite certain he would never
keep his resolution.
came out into the hallway by the street. He had risen late, and the mid-morning
traffic of carts and horses and hurrying human beings along Fleet Street was in
full progress. The day was cold, even for late January, a splendid day for staying
abed and addressing ones correspondence upon a lapboard; but the business
continued outside, and so it must within. He had hope of an audience with the
queen in the evening, and he must arrive prepared.
from the window, Châteauneuf nodded to the domestic who was cleaning the room
opposite and went up to his study. Des Trappes was already well engaged upon his
labors, and he nodded to his superior as the ambassador came in. From the look
of it, with letters and his key spread before him on his table, des Trappes was
deciphering the latest dispatches from home. Châteaufneuf came and stood above
him, rummaging with his fingers through the completed leaves. The secretary gestured
to him that he might take them away with him, and so he bore them to his desk
and began poring over them.
a half hours time, one of the servants came up to announce a visitor. Des
Trappes rose and went below to inquire. Châteauneuf stared out into the yard below,
by Sackville House. From the gates opposite, ice formations hung like translucent
sculptures to the length of a foot and a half.
Trappes returned with letters from Thomas Morgan and Charles Paget in Paris introducing
a priest by the name of Gifford, who was engaged upon the business of the queen
of Scots and begged the readers aid in that cause. On that account he felt
inclined to grant the interview, though usually he discouraged the visits of fugitive
English priests who might well compromise him.
bid his secretary fetch the fellow up. He studied the documents in the meantime
and satisfied himself that both were holographs in the familiar hands of Morgan
and his crony; indeed, Morgans handwriting would be a most difficult one
in the door, bowing deferentially, a small thick-featured man in the rich dress
of a gentleman of fashion, almost of a courtiers extravagance. He introduced
himself in excellent French and begged the ambassador to attend to his new plan
for reaching the queen of Scots. Châteauneuf kept a non-committal silence. He
had heard many new plans from the Catholic gentlemen of the court, none of which
had proved itself out in the execution, but he gestured kindly for his guest to
continue. The device he heard, however, made him sit forward, first in increasing
curiosity, then with a real interest.
had successfully suborned the brewer in the neighborhood of Chartley, whose job
it was to provide the house with its weekly store of beer. By that means, he proposed
to smuggle into the queen of Scotss household all her correspondence, and
to receive thereout all of her replies; a metallic cylinder would protect the
missives as he fitted them into the bung holes of the kegs. He would wager his
life and reputation for cleverness, he said, that the guards would never discover
the same. He was assured, he believed, of the queens good trust, both for
the love she bore to Mr. Morgan and for the honor in which she held the ancient
Catholic family of Gifford, and he desired only M. Ambassadors cooperation
in providing him with her letters and in sending them overseas again to France,
as his predecessors had been wont to do.
found himself intrigued by the ingenuity of the scheme. As duty required, he questioned
Gifford for a time about his actions and associations, but saw no reason to doubt
him. He proposed at last to write a letter to Queen Mary recommending the bearer,
and, he said, if her majesty approved the plan--if the plan worked sufficiently
well for him to receive her approval--then he would instantly make bold to turn
over to Gifford all of the letters he had held for her, accumulated over a full
years lack of means to forward them. If the device went successfully forward,
he maintained, all Europe would live in Giffords debt. Rapidly he wrote
out the letter to the queen.
Gifford replaced his colorful bonnet, with its silver buckle and hat-badge, and
thanked the ambassador in her majestys name for his good offices. He swore
that the scheme would succeed, that the queen of Scots would one day be free,
and that all Europe would live in Châteauneufs debt.
Arundell and François de Mayneville rode steadily upward into the Morvan, the
wooded peaks always before them as they rejoined the valley of the narrower Seine.
The duke of Guise lay momentarily in Dijon, or was thought to lie there still.
The message required speed. Mendoza and the dukes sister, "Silvio"
as she was known in the dispatches, Madame de Montpensier, had reached some sort
of agreement; they saw the opportunity to augment still more the Leagues
power in the capital, to diminish again the power of the king of France. No delay
was permissible in advising the duke himself. When twice Arundell and Mayneville
had encountered signs of the enemy, they had left the road but not slackened their
pace by a small step.
beyond a tiny village huddled round a mill, they found a venerable manor house
the owner of which, a simple knight, seemed glad to give them shelter for the
night. M. de Mayneville, when he and Arundell had been made comfortable in the
main bedchamber, asked for all the keys to the house. Locking the entire household
in was far easier than standing watch each of them for half the night.
shaft of white light stabbed across the vault of heaven, surrounded to its whole
length by a haze of gleaming mist. By slow increments the horizon took on a semicircular
glow. No birds greeted it, no dogs barked, but with silent lentitude the rim of
the white sun emerged above the black world. The first shaft ramified itself into
a hundred, joined like luminous webbed fingers reaching upward across the sky.
the dark plain the ground fog shone weirdly. In absolute stillness the sun ascended
imperceptibly, by imperceptible degrees the character of the land was altered.
A black tree invisible in the black air suddenly shone out argently along one
side, then the air too lightened about it and the skeletal trunk and limbs seemed
actually to fade against their background.
directly before the sun, as it edged above the mists, lay a low, black earthen
mound, flat across the top. Gradually it became suffused with dull colors, a washed
out green and a deep brown at its base. Particular features here and there stood
out, and once or twice a brilliant gleam flashed out from it, as the light struck
from just the correct angle upon some polished surface. In the interminable course
of a quarter hour, the outlines of the sconce took on fullness; the guardsmen,
standing watch along the wall, found definition. The enormous sun, hanging behind
a dead tree like a candles flame behind a wisp of straw, bathed the prospect
and the mists rising lamellate from the mud in a white sheen. The colors stood
upon a flagstaff atop the sconce, but because they hung limply in the motionless
air, it was impossible to tell whose colors they were.
Phelippes and Francis Milles sat beside one another at a low table, both dressed
only in their shirts and breeches. Before them, between a pair of long tapers,
lay a stack of flattened documents. Upon a similar paper Phelippes was gazing
intently, dictating in bursts of translation line by line, pausing to read ahead
for the sense of whole passages. Occasionally, he came upon an unfamiliar name
that smelled of an allonym or outright fiction, from time to time a short row
of arbitrary hieroglyphs derived from some primitive substitution table. Many
of these he was able to decipher with scarcely any hesitation, either by the context
of the passage or by one of a sheaf of ciphers he had come upon or had sent him
by informers; when he could not do so, he had Milles put down precisely the symbols
he found before him, hopeful that time might solve their puzzles. He dictated
in measured English, but the documents he read from were in French, Latin, Spanish,
Italian, and the uneasy English of the Scots.
addition to their translations, they kept a register in which each of the papers
had its entry. Places of origin and dates they listed there along with a brief
epitome of their contents, and with the authors names appended. In the pile
there were letters from twenty-one packets, sent from Father Parsons in Rouen
and Rome, from Sir Francis Englefield in Spain, from Hugh Owen and Ralph Ligons
in the Low Countries, from the archbishop of Glasgow, several from Charles Paget
and still more from Morgan, one or two from the prince of Parma, two from the
duke of Guise and another from Savoy, one from the nuncio in Paris, one each from
Charles Arundell and Thomas Throgmorton, another from Mendoza, all bearing dates
upon them back to more than a year earlier. All were addressed to the queen of
When they had completed
the last dictation, Phelippes began refolding the originals as they had come to
him. He took no care to conceal his tampering with their seals, for the packets
would have to be broken up to be fitted through the bung holes. He stuffed the
bundles into a saddlebag to be given on the morrow to Giffords substitute,
a man of the earl of Leicesters who would ride with them to Burton. There
was no need of Giffords making the journey himself; once Mary had accepted
him as her courier, neither she nor any of hers would have any way of knowing
who waited at the other end of the honest brewers wagonroad. Then he blew
out the candles, and he and Milles retired to their beds.
Westminster roofs came the lonely cry of a waterman upon the cold Thames.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter XIX. Summer Fruit (1586)|
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.