ccd-logo1.jpg (12597 bytes)Dwight Peck's lengthy tales


faith and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I

Part 1. ENGLAND (1577-1583)



"And at my gate despair shall linger still
To let in death when love and fortune will."
-- Raleigh

The sun set red upon the low hillsides of Surrey. Before it, the trees darkened through the shades of green and blackened into the hills themselves as twilight deepened into night. Singly and by twos and threes the stars sparked out in an enormous empty dome. Behind him, the house rose dim and silent toward the sky. The air felt extraordinarily soft and full. Arundell strolled meditatively across the meadow, enjoying what little was left him to enjoy, which was the air.

His thoughts ran naturally upon his troubles, but only in an aimless, mournful manner, with neither plan of help nor analysis of cause. In the months that had preceded this now quiet mood, all plans had failed of fruition, all analyses had been made and remade till both causes and effects had become strange and distant to him, as if they occurred in another’s life, or in a novella out of Italy. But naming of causes were a profitless exercise in any case; he knew only that he had gone from day to day, from early years to later, striving in little and unimportant ways to rise in his calling, to worship quietly in his little corner, to offend no man, to keep himself from harm and the malice of men and the passions of the great; but that somewhere he had erred, somewhere he had made a little and unimportant fault which, compounded daily in likewise unimportant ways, had ended in his ruin. Where plans were bootless, too; for his fate depended wholly upon people to whom he was now no more than a name on the wrong list.

This had grown in him, especially of late, this ability, this willingness to give himself up to events, to observe in resignation the great forces of this time clashing about him, while he withdrew into recollections of a happier youth, when his life had seemed his and the time had seemed his and the world had seemed waiting to be acted upon. He had observed this blessed freedom from anxiety, this deplorable failure of nerve, this retreat from life and people and action into thought and memory and idle fancies, fancies so slowly revolving in him sometimes that they seemed sometimes to stop, and he would sit for an hour staring at his plate, or awake to find himself standing in the yard, half returned from a forgotten stroll in the gardens.

"There is nothing but shall come to ruin, be it now never so glorious upon the earth."

This dim passage out of Juvenal turned itself ponderously in his brain as he walked, with neither implications nor echoes nor the following lines of the verse, merely these words, expressing his whole sense of his own plight, seen increasingly from outside himself, from outside his race, as something proper and fitting in creation, a law by which the universe ruled itself, a principle that better than Providence served to make sense of his lifelong observations. Whatever he had done, or now did, whatever his adversaries did; whatever the queen did, or the Spanish, or the pope; however craftily they did it, or ineptly, however right they were or wrong in doing it, it must someday come to ruin. Not today, perhaps, perhaps not tomorrow, but someday; someday all of them and all their works would be covered over by dust and time and darkness, and new worlds would emerge, having forgotten them entirely, then likewise pass away; until one day no new age would come, and only dust everywhere, drifting over everything, everything forgotten, everything as if it had never been.

Arundell shook himself. These pretty thoughts are very fine, he thought, a pretty poem for a lugubrious hour. He tasked himself angrily for his weakness, marching towards the house again, insisting to himself that doubts were doubtless salutary to a point, lest he behave as fanatically as others behaved, but that too much of this would render him fit for nothing but taking pablum from a spoon.

Where was this? He must put aside this feminine part and stand to; buckle up and meet his adversaries in the field--for they were adversaries and of flesh and blood and limitless ingenuity, no planets wandering slowly slower to a standstill, by immutable laws eternally fixed from the beginning, but real men who sought his blood by any means, whom he must strive against like Diomedes on the plain of Ilium. It was just such irresolution that brought Norfolk to the block, just such a failure of will that sent Northumberland and Westmoreland scurrying away to the Scottish border, leaving their armies leaderless and defeated with never a blow struck nor shot fired.

The world may come inevitably to ruin, but Arundell was far from ruin yet. He was inexplicably kept in ward these six months, kept from open hearing or confrontation with his accuser, restrained from his acquittal by Leicester and the whole strength of the Ursine faction. Nonetheless he was alive, untouched in any capital crime. And it could not well go on forever. One day he must leave this house a free man, and then he must begin rebuilding, resume his duty to the queen, restore a little of her confidence in him, regain his living from his offices, come again to court, pass Leicester in the Presence Chamber with a level eye and unbowed head.

Come! We’ll have here now no more sour faces, no more broodish swells or sallow thoughts--all hereafter will be lips curled back in a foolish grin, merriment, and a bit of whistled song.

He approached the house and threw back the heavy door with a clatter.

"To arms! Escape! Gentlemen, oh God! Escape!"

The guardsman dashed out of the kitchens with his sword grasped in one hand and his boots in the other. Arundell stood behind the open door, as Anthony galloped through it and stopped in the path, peering in all directions through the darkness.

"Down to the stream," Charles cried again; "I saw him, Tony, running down the lawns, as naked as my nail."

Anthony threw down his boots and starting running towards the creek, then halted abruptly and stood disconsolate.

"Well, I saw him, Tony. He was met by a host of Jesuits, all disguised as elephants, and he rode away with them, I think to Africa."

The guardsman turned and grinned. Overhead a shutter banged outward, and Barnabe called down the question what the matter was.

"No matter, friend, but seeing you are awake, why will you not come down and join us?"

Remonstrating with Arundell for his puerile tricks, threatening him playfully with the semi-official bastinado, Anthony came in and let himself be poured a cup of wine.

"Senseless cavillations, my good fellow, these are but the murblings of a diseased humor. For why are we gathered here this night, but for mirth and good fellowship?"

To which the guardsman bashfully agreed, and drank to Mr. Arundell’s good health, assuring him heartily that had he gone out to run away in earnest, which he hoped he would never do, and he Anthony had caught him, he would never have found it in him to do him any hurt. Joined by Barnabe, they drank a round to the queen, and another to Anthony’s merry wife, then to Barnabe’s sister. And the rest of the evening passed in better sort than otherwise it might have.

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Since Arundell’s sequestration in this house in Surrey, he had had little to do but sit and write out answers to the interrogatories sent him, respond to the labyrinthine questions of the earnest clerks sent down from the Council to trip him up, and muse upon his condition. He read a fair amount (though his mind was often wandering), chiefly in his favorite poets, who were his kinsman the late earl of Surrey and also Wyatt, and also of the Latin authors, and also, of course, in the law. The rest of the time he devoted to writing letters of supplication to everyone whose name he could recollect. His accuser had at first seemed to come off clean, released by Leicester’s intercession after a few days in the Tower; in the January tilts at Whitehall, Oxford had cut a brave figure and ridden to great applause. Arundell had been beside himself at the news, not only for the humiliation of his languishing in custody while his enemy frolicked in the broad light of the sun, but chiefly for its ill ominations, with Oxford believed sufficiently to be readmitted to the queen, perhaps believed sufficiently to send Arundell to his doom. And indeed, throughout these winter months, the official questions put him had become less perfunctory, their character more and more desperate and their tone somewhat more hysterical, until Arundell grew certain that either his own great friends had been excluded from the investigation or, worse still, his friends had thrown over to the other side.

But then things had changed abruptly. Arundell and his companions, for the family’s honor, though they had charged Oxford with everything their imaginations could rack their pens to, yet they had never mentioned his tampering with Nan Vavasour. But nature divulged what her friends would not, and in late March she disburdened herself of a son in the Maid’s Chamber. The secret was well out, and so was the father’s name, and Oxford replied by dashing to the coast in a blue panic. Immediately, the ports were laid for him and he was taken and brought back. The Tower regained him, and there too, the morning after her delivery, was Nan imprisoned for the time.

Oxford’s adulteries broke the patience of his father-in-law and gave more color of probability to the charges made against him. But there came no answering change in the treatment of the Howards. Even as Oxford was recommitted, Leicester presented new briefs against his former companions, and struck harder home with every item in the charges. The parties at work hit a balance and an impasse. Arundell and Howard could not be released before there was a hearing; Oxford’s supporters refused to consider any hearing, as if he had been a common felon, prior to his own release; the queen refused to release him until he had confronted the others and proved his representations against them to their faces.

Meanwhile, the negotiations for a marriage with Anjou had indeed been resurrected. An embassage of Monsieur’s friends had come in February, headed by de Marchaumont and the scholar Jean Bodin, and the ways had been prepared for the extravagant expedition that arrived in April. New buildings had hastily been erected at Whitehall to house the marriage commissioners, who came up the river on the 21st, a prestigious troop led by Francis and Charles de Bourbon, the Marshal de Cossé, La Mothe Fénélon, accompanied by a train of more than five hundred gentlemen. On Saint George’s Day, Saturday the 24th, began a round of entertainments, three days of which passed with enormous pomp and no negotiation. These great courtly exercises of the spring, the excursion to Deptford for the knighting of Mr. Drake aboard his ship, the dancing and games before the French commissioners, Arundell had only heard about in his distant sequestration. When discussion of the marriage began at last, the queen was as far from a husband as she had ever been.

Sussex, still for the match and deluded at first by all of this elaborate staging, finally sent word to Arundell that gave a discouraging interpretation. The queen was merely buying time, he reckoned, keeping Monsieur in hand to prevent his striking off upon his own exploits in Flanders. What she really sought was a defensive treaty with the king of France, and she bore the French along with hopes of marriage until, having got her treaty, she would come into the open and cease her dalliance with Monsieur. Whereas the French had come to speak of nothing save a wedding, the English commissioners would speak of nothing save a treaty.

And at the same time, there came a far heavier hand over the papists--in the Parliament’s new statutes, in the gentry’s new fines and persecutions, in the apprehensions of poor priests. But Campion and Parsons, the Jesuits, despite the constant news of appearances and near escapes, evaded their pursuers and continued in their ministrations. Already from Parsons’s secret press the inflammatory tracts had begun to flow, forbidding the Catholics from preserving their anonymity by attendance at the Protestant services, challenging the government in arrogant terms to meet them in open disputation of the creeds.

Arundell’s afternoons, as often as not, were spent in correspondence. Sharrock came from London from time to time to see to his wants, and when he left Charles usually had a small bundle of letters to accompany him. Those letters he did not mind having seen he sent by the official bearers who at intervals traversed the ten miles between himself and the court, now in residence at Greenwich.

His mornings, however, were usually spent in reading. Recently he had been at Statius again; he enjoyed that antique poet not only for his great learning, but also for his often demonstrated ability to lull Charles’s agitated mind into sleep. He was many days in the reading, for with every three or four hundred lines he felt constrained to take a lengthy nap.

Here Tydeus met the evil king Eteocles in Thebes, and leaving him to return to Argos whence he came, he was set upon near the cliff of the Sphinx by fifty of the king’s best men. Terrified at first, he then shook off this weakness and set about the work that must be done, hacking and hewing, throwing down boulders from the height, roaring out his anger and his great heart, slashing through his enemies’ futile attempts to shield themselves, ignoring their pleas for mercy utterly, until only one man remained, whom Tydeus sent back to the king of Thebes as a bearer of ill news. There was no help for it, but Arundell must picture himself in the role of this great hero, overwhelming fifty, nay a hundred, or more, of Leicester’s hired bravos and sordid companions, returning then to Greenwich as Tydeus did to Argos with the spoils of his victory, secure at last in the favor of the queen for having rid the realm of this tyrant’s innumerable minions.

These idle daydreams were worse than useless to him. Never since boyhood had he spent his time in fantasies of battle, of gore and bloody victory, and he thought now that this must be a measure of his desperation, that only slaughter would suffice.

How far these matters had progressed. As a boy, he had ridden his pony all over these low hills, in his visits to family in the county, near this very house, in fact, never dreaming that one day it would serve him for a prison. Arundell stood in the windows of his chamber on the uppermost floor, gazing dolefully out upon the familiar terrain, replacing in his mind a meadow here with a copse of wood, removing a cottage there, and not much more; the scene was as he remembered it from many years before, when he and his boyhood friends had traversed this ground with the exuberance of that unconscious time of life. Reviewing so, from this prison, this scene of former happiness, he was reminded of Lord Harry’s father’s poem on that subject, similarly written in spring, from his imprisonment in Windsor Castle where in love and play and in hateless debates with his friends he had formerly spent his youth. He rummaged among his books for the tattered copy of the Songs and Sonnets that travelled with him always.

The pages were unnumbered, but he remembered the verse to have been but a short way in from the beginning. There he found it:

When Windsor walls sustained my wearied arm,
My hand my chin, to ease my restless head;
The pleasant plot revested green with warm,
The blossomed bows with lusty Ver yspread,
The flowered meads, the wedded birds so late,
Mine eyes discover; and to my mind resort
The jolly woes, the hateless short debates,
The rakehell life that belongs to love’s disport;
Wherewith (alas) the heavy charge of care
Heaped in my breast breaks forth against my will
In smoky sighs that overcast the air.
My vapored eyes such dreary tears distill,
The tender spring which quicken where they fall,
And I half bent to throw me down withal.

Here, for a moment, Charles’s spirit failed him. There was no help for it; this ruin of his early dreams and the contrast with those jolly woes of his youth seemed too poignant to him now, and like Surrey before him, with the spring verdure bursting into life all about him, he alone seeming to wither and shrink like a flower in October, he thought to remove himself from these ironies by leaning a bit more forward, a matter of a foot or two only, leaning from this high window, a window like the others in this high old house; but to lean a little further distance, to lean, to cease to be amazed at the hard fortune which had brought him to this place. He breathed heavily. From this height, from what a depth he cried out for succor--if not for succor then at least for understanding. His enemies whose hatred meant to baffle him, his friends who made a dainty show of love but stayed a distance from him--all of these he could not curse for their words and actions towards him, but began instead to see them but as actors in his special destiny, which was to come aground on these hard skerries, to founder on these shoals of his own hopes. To whom could he apply? The Catholics feared him, the English mistrusted him; the French had no use for him; he feared the Spanish himself. Only a few believed in him, and they scarcely in better case than himself. Lord Harry in the same plight he was in, and Southwell too; Lord Paget suspected for religion, and his comings and goings attended by a wicked sort of caterpillars in the pay of Mr. Secretary. To poor Kate, he must be no more than a ghost now, a remembered footfall in their empty rooms. Even Nan Vavasour, whom he had gone ridiculous lengths to protect, now living in public sin with Sir Henry Lee, Leicester’s great companion, while Lee’s wedded wife, Paget’s sister, lived mournfully at home with her mother, driven deeper and deeper into that pale piety which was her only rest, watched wherever she came. In all the thin black universe, he hung alone in space; his friends were only ideas to him now, which he could not see or touch; he had no world to live in, or had only three guards who, insofar as they were flesh and blood, reminded him of a peopled world far off in his own deep past.

But a little push forward. To lean, to launch himself, to flap a wing and fly ad patres, like the Birds of Night. A crazy grin spread across his face, then froze into a mask of surprise at the depth of his own grief--then he dissolved again into the same grin, embarrassed by his own tears starting. He laughed desperately, his wide eyes staring at the long sky; as he laughed at his own foolishness, a low moan began in his throat and continued for a good time, his hands opening and closing at his sides. What a world he had lived in then. Of which now nothing remained save memories which jeered, which mocked him in his brain. The emptiness of his years hollowed out in his belly and soul like the icy surface of a pond suddenly giving way beneath; such emptiness he saw now that he could only wonder how on earth he, or for that matter anyone else, could ever carry on, or had ever hoped to. For a moment he beat upon his cheeks to restore life in them; and then the beating grew more savage and he had to control his hands, roll his eyes about again, and laugh scornfully at his tear-starting weakness.

But a little push forward. That was not his way, nor had it ever been. While the chance remained of a better day, he would wait for it; while any strength remained to him, he would fight. If all Leicester’s enemies waxed so philosophical as he did now, the earl would rule a empty kingdom. If he stood alone in the universe, then alone he would stand--but stand by God he would. Arundell turned abruptly from the window, banishing all thought roughly, and went down to take some supper with his guards.

A little later in the day, Jamie Sharrock rode in with some papers bearing on Arundell’s lands, requiring a few hours’ work in the hope of collecting the little rents owed him. The money, scant as it was, would be welcome to him now; his pensions at court were all unpaid since Christmas, and the provisions of the house were distressingly low.

With him Sharrock brought another unsigned missive in the delicate handwriting of Anne Lee. She prayed constantly that God would carry him through his trials. For herself, she wrote, fate had been not very much kinder, for she with her family were kept under constant watch for religion, which made their lives little freer than if they had been in Newgate prison. Even so, the freedom of prayer could never be taken from her, and she exercised that privilege daily and mostly on Arundell’s behalf.

Arundell responded at once, retiring to his chamber to indite a letter that would attract her mind for a little while from her troubles, and at the same time dissuade her from a further correspondence that might bring her into greater suspicion. When he had finished, he found that the letter pleased him. The woes of which he wrote seemed the less for having been written.

This letter, with some other papers on his table, he stamped with his seal and handed over to Sharrock, who looked at him long and bade him keep his noble heart a little longer. Then his man rode off, and Arundell reclined himself in his rooms to dream of the day that would never come, when he, like Tydeus, would defend himself in arms against fifty of the devil’s best, and come away with but possibly a little scratch, beneath all their blood upon him.

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One morning Arundell sat reading by the casement window in the north wall of his chamber. Hard at Statius again, he was gazing idly out upon the meadows and the highroad winding away towards the city.

From out of the trees to the left of the road there emerged two gentlemen on horseback, making their way at a leisurely pace towards the house. As they came near, Arundell observed them closely. Young men both, they were splendidly dressed but seemed to go unarmed. One of them looked familiar.

Arundell got up and walked out into the hall. Anthony came out of the next room and asked who the men were, to which Charles replied, "Let us go and see."

Out in the yard, Barnabe was asking the pair the same question, but, before answering, they caught sight of Arundell passing out of doors.

"Master Arundell, sir," said the taller man. "Your friends give you their salutations, and wish for news of you."

"Do they so?" Arundell answered. He approached no nearer, but stood on the steps beside Anthony, whose hand lay casually upon his sword hilts. "I thank my friends for their good care; you must tell them I am very well."

The men sat smiling from their horses, apparently unsure of what to do next. There was a short pause.

"Is there something else the gentlemen wished?" Barnabe asked.

"Master Arundell, sir," said the taller man. "Your friend Thomas is anxious for your advice in a matter of his health. A very private matter, sir, not perhaps to be spoken of in congregated company."

Anthony looked to Arundell, but Charles flicked his eyes at him to hold him in his place. "I shall be happy to advise him, sir," Arundell told the man, "the better when I come to know more about him."

The man smiled faintly with understanding. "Well, it is a delicate matter of his health, sir, to do with the breaking of his forearm some eight years past."

Anthony snorted and told Arundell he would make no objection to the man’s unbuckling his coded ingenuity and speaking plainly. Charles laughed and nudged Anthony’s arm, and asked whether he might speak privately with his visitors. He understood the men to have come from Lord Paget. Anthony frowned and shuffled uncomfortably, then reminded him of their agreement. Arundell nodded, and the two guards withdrew to the kitchens to polish their weapons by the door.

The visitors left their horses and followed Arundell into the house. The taller one was a very handsome man, dressed to the point of fashion, who introduced himself as Mr. Gilbert. The other, only slightly less imposing to the eye, was Mr. Fitzherbert. To the latter Arundell expressed his imperfect recognition of the face, upon which Fitzherbert reminded him of their brief introduction in Staffordshire upon a time some three years earlier. Arundell remembered him at once, but wished uncomfortably that they might let that occasion pass into merited oblivion, to which Mr. Fitzherbert, with a rueful smile, agreed readily.

"And what, gentlemen, brings his lordship to use these midnight means to send?" asked Charles. "No trouble, I hope?"

Mr. Gilbert seemed to do the talking for the pair.

"No trouble, sir," he said. "In fact, it is not on my Lord Paget’s errand we have come." Arundell stiffened slightly. "But yet he loves us well, Mr. Arundell, and told us you should know us by his forearm. He would have you to trust us, I believe."

"Then that is enough," replied Arundell. "But then where may I be of service."

"There is another, sir, who wishes to speak with you."

"Yes, of course," Arundell said. "I’ll just get my bonnet."

Gilbert smiled at the little joke. "Unnecessary, Mr. Arundell. The gentleman is with us here."

Arundell looked amusedly round the room.

"Well, gentlemen, if I cannot hear his voice better than I can see his face, it will be a short conversation. What is this mysterious fellow’s name, pray?"

Gilbert stared at him very seriously.

"His name, Mr. Arundell, is ‘Eusebius.’"

Arundell sat expressionless. "Is it? I would have thought that worthy man had ended his visiting of poor gentlemen many centuries ago."

"The name means nothing to you?"

"If your friend wrote no history of the eastern churches, I know him not."

"Then, Mr. Arundell, dost know the name ‘Ricardo Melino‘?"

"He wrote of eastern churches?"

Gilbert’s expression became increasingly intense.

"Mr. Arundell, perchance you have come acquainted with the name of ‘Mark’?"

Arundell grinned. "Mr. Gilbert, I pray you, I lose myself in this march of nominations. Your friend is known by too many names; tell me, how does his mother call him?"

"Oh," said Fitzherbert, "his mother calls him darling."

Arundell laughed aloud, but the earnest Gilbert rose and stepped to the inner doors to make sure of their secrecy.

"His name," he said in a whisper, "is Robert Parsons."

Arundell looked at him blankly.

"Did he write of eastern churches?"

"All England knows that name, sir," said Gilbert, becoming annoyed. "He and Father Campion are hunted up and down the length of the realm."

Arundell stared at him again.

"Oh God," he exclaimed. "You have not brought the Jesuit here! God’s blood, man, do you realize what condition I am in?"

"That is just why we have come," said a voice from the door. There stood a short, swarthy man, with thick, rather unattractive features but a kind expression, wearing plain black clothing and no hat upon his close-cropped head.

Gilbert leapt to the door and ushered the newcomer in, placing a chair for him opposite Arundell at the table.

"God reward you for your care, Mr. Arundell," he said in a deep, solicitous voice, "but I assure you, though the danger here be great, we are not afraid, for we have faced far greater, with God’s help."

"I am very glad, Father," Arundell returned, ashamed to explain for whose safety he had been so concerned. He glanced nervously to the inner doors. "Tell me, Father," he said hurriedly, "how can I help you?"

"We are riding on to Michelgrove, Mr. Arundell, and thought to stop with you upon our way. It seemed the least we might do for you in your Christian struggle."

"Oh thank you very much, Father," Charles stammered. "You need not have troubled on my account." He was striving to find the means to get these gentle fellows from his doorstep.

"Yes, Mr. Arundell. Do you see, our friend George here," gesturing towards Mr. Gilbert, "George has become too well known to the authorities of this kingdom, whose atheistical spies and minions, as you know, are everywhere, and so we ride now to Michelgrove, where he will travel thence across the seas."

Arundell thought of poor Shelley, arising from a well-set table to find these carriers of legal plague plump and smiling at his door. He wondered aloud whether they expected to find Shelley at home.

"Oh, Mr. Arundell," Gilbert said, "Mr. Shelley is in prison and has been these two weeks, didn’t you know?"

Arundell turned pale.

"Fear not, my son," said the Jesuit. "There is nothing against him. With a courage conferred upon him by the Holy Ghost, he refuses anymore to attend the queen’s church, and must bide a while therefore in the queen’s jail. He has no shame, only glory, by that course."

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Father Robert Parsons, or Persons, S.J. (1546-1610)

"Well, I am relieved," said Charles, who was not. He suppressed his annoyance at this blithe dismissing of the man’s discomfort. "How fares my Lord Paget then?"

"He is closely watched, but free of prison for the time," said Gilbert.

"I cannot tell you seriously enough, Mr. Arundell," Parsons continued, "how proud we are, and how proud God must be, of the trials you gentlemen suffer daily for the faith, which is an example to all the laity. I am told, now, that you have held out these six months with no one fault. When our gentlemen, and especially those of your rank and kinship with the queen, continue thus to persevere in refusing to attend her service, despite the threats and privations daily made upon you, why, then I am very sure that God will end this persecution soon."

"I cannot tell, Father," replied Arundell. "Only this I say, I must be plain with you; if my delivery depended upon a little sermon and communion, I should have been rowing on the river long ere this."

"How?" cried Gilbert in surprise. "Do you mean you would not refuse to attend?"

"Foh, man, I have been to the church weekly, and would go hourly if it might set me free. God knows my heart, sir, I care not whether the queen knows where my arse is placed."

Father Parsons looked dourly upon him. "Mr. Arundell, I had thought otherwise. I pray we are not deceived in you. Really, these feckless courses may speed you with the queen’s men, but God would have more . . ."

"Spare me, Father." Arundell’s face had grown red with shame and irritation. "God and I must work this out at our leisure; only now I must come free of this. I have heard of your arguments, Father, I have considered well your cases, I have seen your book of reasons; believe me, Father, you and I are different men, and this is not for me."

Parsons gazed at him for some seconds, not without sympathy in his eyes. "Well, you are not then one of our martyrs," he said, "but you are a Catholic nonetheless. But I must not comfort you in this; the holy church, with the decision of the late Council at Trent, forbids your acquiescing in this opinion and worship condemned. But you will do as you decide. Only remember this; when you lose your way, God will welcome you; do not wait too long."

"Right then," said Arundell.

"We will not discuss the reasons for your durance here, since they have not to do with faith. Unless, my friend, there is something I can help in?"

Arundell shook his head.

"Then let it be," said the priest. "You know, in any case, I am prevented from discussion of any matters of the state."

"Would my lords of the Council knew that. The rumors go that you have come to raise rebellion."

"Nothing less, Mr. Arundell," Father Parsons answered, "nothing less, believe me. We are here for cure of souls, and meddle not at all in politics. Only to say that, when our lost sheep have been regained, as one day soon they will be, then the atheists and hypocrites remaining must necessarily be put aside with perhaps a little force. But the atheists need not trouble us overmuch, Mr. Arundell."

Arundell sat gazing at the table before him. He considered himself as good a Catholic as any in the ordinary way, but often he felt out of touch with the Roman point of view, at least as nowadays he heard it given voice.

"But do you think all Protestants to be faithless?"

"Ah, I speak not of those wanderers who are ignorant, but of the others, yes undoubtedly they are faithless. I can affirm it of my knowledge that heresy in England is desperate, and few or no men of judgment do think in their consciences this doctrine to be true and defensible that is commonly taught and practiced, the absurdities thereof being so many and manifest as they are. But that some men for policy, some for present government, others for ease, others for gain, honor, and preferment, and all commonly for some temporal interest or other, do stretch out a hand to hold it for a time by force and violence."

"But," said Arundell, as the Jesuit bore on.

"Now, when the childish and ignorant have been well taught, and the schismatical temporizers have been led gently back to Christ, and the obstinate and hard-hearted only remain, then we shall know a way of proceeding with them."

"Father, I do believe that when at last we have come into our happy kingdom, you would deal as harshly with the Protestants as they do now with us!"

"You surprise me, the cases are nothing like! Their violence against the one church of Christ is naught but a persecuting raised by the devil, and cannot by any means be consonant with justice. Marry, notwithstanding this, when a man hath received once the Christian Catholic religion and will by new devices and singularity corrupt the same, by running out and making dissension in Christ his body, as all heretics do, then, Mr. Arundell, for the conservation of unity in the church and for restraint of this man’s fury and pride, the church has always allowed that the magistrate should recall such a fellow by temporal punishment to the unity of the whole body again. But we, do you see, keeping still our old religion, and having not gone out from the Protestants but they from us, we cannot be enforced by any justice to do any act of their religion; and that is why we require toleration from them, and why you must not yield to their threatenings now."

"You must pardon me, Father. You are too earnest for me."

"Yes, I see we are. Mr. Arundell, of ourselves we require the supreme courage. Of you we merely ask a little patience, a little steadfastness. One day very soon we shall all worship freely here."

"Then you see more than I do. The Protestants are stronger every day, and the Puritans seem to me more numerous."

"Well, my friend, I see more than you see."

"Mr. Arundell," said Gilbert, "when you do come free, we will hope to see more of you at the mass."

"If you are bound across the seas, sir, you must excuse me."

"No, sir, I meant to say," the other replied, "I meant to say that our little association is always in great need of help, you see, and should be very glad to have you join us here in England."

"Association?" Arundell asked with a new wariness. "What sort of association do we speak of, Mr. Gilbert?"

Father Parsons intervened and said, "I think you exaggerate them in your mind, Mr. Arundell. Their principal activity, I am afraid, is but looking after me. No plots, you see, no privy conspirings. Our friends here help the priests come from house to house, and now they are helping too in the printing of our books. You said you have perused my little book of reasons; now, did you know, that book was printed in London?"

Parsons was manifestly very pleased by this, a pride which Arundell thought not unwarranted.

"Yes, beneath their very noses. Mr. Fitzherbert here has even left his new wife to join us for a time, for Fr. Campion’s little treatise requires to have its citations checked before the printing of it, but he is unavailable at this present. And Mr. Fitzherbert takes the work in hand."

Fitzherbert smiled at Arundell somewhat ruefully.

"Well," said Charles, "as for joining you, I know not when I shall be free. So long as Oxford remains in the Tower I still await my chance, for he must have his hearing before he may come out, but when that shall occur I know not . . ."

All three of his visitors were looking at him strangely; Charles was caught up abruptly.

"What is wrong?"

"Mr. Arundell," Gilbert said. "My lord of Oxford was delivered from the Tower almost a week past. I wonder that you have not heard."

"Ah," Arundell murmured, and dropped his gaze tiredly down to the table beneath his hands.

"Now, never fear, my friend," said Parsons quickly. "God is watching, in his wisdom, oh you may be sure of that. If it pleases him to set you free, then free you shall be set, and if to keep you in the deepest dungeon, then there is where you shall remain forever. The earl of Oxford, believe it, will never change God’s mind."

"But by this I think I see which way God’s thoughts are running, and I cannot say I like them."

"Mr. Arundell. Do not anticipate the Lord’s will. But if indeed he would have you here to remain, why then you must accept it willingly and love your prison for that cause."

"Not very damned likely," said Arundell.

"Mr. Arundell," said Parsons sternly. "I must tell you, you are not the man I heard reported."

"One does one’s poor best, Father."

"I daresay one does," countered the priest. "But these are tickle times, and God’s work requires much better than that. Charles, you are not a silly, pious gentlewoman in the far country whom we must comfort as best we may; no, you are a respected man of many parts, much admired for your demonstrated qualities; people look to you for an example. You must be one of the leaders of this straying flock, for it is the place the Lord has chosen out for you. I cannot let you retire here in self-pity and shameful carelessness. This is a day for heroes and martyrs, not for standers by, all of us, we must sacrifice for God our petty and . . ."

The Jesuit stopped. His subject was grinning at him crazily, an unfamiliar response to his familiar exhortations that threw him momentarily off his stride.

"Why, what is it, Charles?"

"You would have me sacrifice for God, the queen my sovereign would have me sacrifice for loyalty to her; the queen of Scots her friends would have me sacrifice for her; yet I cannot sacrifice for all of these. How may I choose?"

"Pray for guidance."

"No want of praying here. I am in a deep fog, and have been for as long as I can remember."

"But God will see you through it."

"Tell him to hurry, Father, I have not much sacrificing left. If Oxford and his friends are given their free passage, I may soon be called to sacrifice my last jot."

Parsons drew his black shoulderbag around before him.

"Let us minister a private good, here, for comfort’s sake and for devotion."

Arundell sprang up. "Mass? Mass! Where would we be should we be taken saying mass?"

"Mr. Arundell, calm yourself," said Gilbert. "We do hear mass regularly in the deepest prisons in the realm."

"Well not in this one! Here, gentlemen, thanking you heartily believe me for your visit, and commending you to God’s care in your journey . . ."

"All right, Mr. Arundell, I understand you, and I forgive you; we are on our road. Do bear in mind our conversations. You are needed, Charles, and do believe me, you need us."

Arundell shook their hands hastily all round and bade them a quick farewell. Watching them ride off toward the trees again, he sighed mightily in relief and in something like despair at the same time. His shame choked him.

He stood on the steps before the door.

"God go with you," he shouted in a strangled voice.

The little man in black stopped his horse and looked back, and waved, then resumed his way, just as Anthony came through to see whether the conference had ended.

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So Oxford was free again. How so? In house arrest, or roaming the streets of London, dancing with the queen at court, setting his amorous traps for another Maid of the Chamber? While Arundell, and Howard, and Southwell wasted away in isolation, foolishly applauded for a heroism they loved very little to be guilty of, while others pined in prison, or hid in house watched and followed at every walking forth of it? Such was Leicester’s port and sway, that every false companion of his own, however black and foul beneath his silk and sarcenet, may lord it over all with him, while good, simple folk must bear his whims.

The thought of trial consumed him. Without it, he might sit in Sutton for the rest of his life, forgotten utterly and left to explain his doubts to the walls of this house, growing poorer and poorer, less and less amiable, more of his goodness gone and abilities wasted with his fast fading youth. Lord Harry, with his naturally melancholic turn of mind, must be near to desperation now. Kate he had not heard from; she could not write, neither could she read, but in any case he would never have sent to her, for such a woman must be allowed to go her ways.

Later, towards the end of July, Arundell heard more news from Jamie Sharrock. Oxford was indeed in house arrest, still refusing to come to any hearing until he had his own free pardon in advance. His friends at court continued tirelessly to speak for him. Charles was heartened somewhat to learn that, in the very Council Chamber, Sussex and Leicester had come to blows on the matter, and a duel had been made between them until the queen had taken it up, both earls commanded to keep their rooms. He was not forgotten. So far at least, at least Sussex stood by him. At least there were no more interrogatories, no new charges to be answered; now, it seemed, only time and the labors of his friends should make the difference.

Arundell ceased writing to the Lord Treasurer, who had come fully in for his son-in-law, God knows why. But to Walsingham he wrote still, and especially to Mr. Vice-Chamberlain, as follows:

To Sir Christopher Hatton, at the court, give these.

Sir: it is a fault in grief, that either it complaineth too much, or else saith nothing: and yet, for my own part, I seek as much as I can to shun extremes. I have largely unfolded my whole estate to Sharrock, this bearer, because I would not be cumbersome unto you; only craving of charity and justice that my trial, which hath long been promised, may not be any longer deferred. For then shall my enemies sink with shame, and I depart out of the field with honor, and whatsoever either malice hath unjustly built, or a fool devised upon a false ground, must play Castle-Come-Down and dissolve to nothing. God and truth being on my side, is all my comfort; and I now know well that whatsoever the devil or his ministers could devise against me was not wanting, and if there had been any probability in my enemies’ accusations, I had been ere this time past laudate. I will say no more until either trial or liberty be obtained, which I wish to enjoy by your mediation, whom I commit to the grace of God. From Sutton, the 20th of July 1581. Your honor’s fast and unfeigned friend,

Cha. Arundell.

Somewhere, thought Arundell, staring out upon the fields surrounding, browning under the summer sun, somewhere there is a place in this long world where men do not strive for creeds, where men live humbly and modestly with no eristic searching of loyalties and allegiances. Here, he was an Englishman, and he was a Catholic, and in the logic of these times there was no such creature possible.

Had he been made of martyr’s stuff, this dilemma would be easily solved--nothing finer than to go to the gallows for God. But so for a martyr; he was but a man. Is there anything more futile than to be turned off by the hangman for what may after all be the wrong faith? He loved nothing worse than to be hanged for quarrels of creeds.

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Arundell sat by the fluttering half-light of a guttering candle that threw fantastic dancing shadows upon the chamber wall. His papers strewn about him on the table, the bed turned down hours ago awaiting him, he ignored them and gazed upon the shadows, rising and leaping and fading out, then disappearing as the single light went out with a sizzling gasp in its tray. In the darkness he remained, the darkness within him somewhat deeper than that without, staring long at the darkness where formerly the papers had been visible.

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Summer waned, and chills came in the air. The birds lost no time in quitting the territory, hurrying overhead in long files in search of more hospitable ground. Arundell watched the days progress towards winter, with nothing else for him but to sit before his door or in his chamber watching the breezes in the dying trees, the leaves falling to the ground and being lifted lifelessly across it, wasted and dead now and spent. Anthony and Barnabe, affable, good-hearted men, had been withdrawn, replaced by four men of Walsingham’s choosing, unaccommodating men with cold, humorless faces who waved all visitors away with upraised muskets before they had come near enough even to be recognized. They scarcely spoke to him at all, save to give him news doubtless sent to him from Walsingham, as for example of the arrest of Campion the Jesuit in Oxfordshire in late July, not told him until September. Arundell concluded that his cause was hopeless, and accordingly he gave up hope.

Then, on a morning in October, a man of Hatton’s rode in with Evans, one of Arundell’s secretaries in his receivership. They found Arundell still abed at this late hour, for he had taken to rising only in the afternoon, and sometimes not at all, with no more reading and very little correspondence to read or write in the evening. But the reappearance of one of Hatton’s men augured a change for the better, as if in the halls and chambers of the court some subtle shift had taken place, and he was now again within reach of his protectors, Leicester’s grasp a little loosened, incapable now of maintaining him entirely in isolation, the first face from outside the Secretary’s circle of cutthroats he had seen in two whole months. Arundell dressed and went down with something more of spirit in him.

The news they brought was better still. He was at last to have his hearing.

goback.gif (2185 bytes)Go back to the Preface and Table of Contents
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bookpen.gif (2870 bytes)Please 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.


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