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)



"Now ha! ha! ha! full well is me,
For now I am at liberty."
-- Wyatt

Evans and Sharrock came down the water stairs at Whitehall. The boats were thinly spread upon the river, and through the gathering darkness and fog none were near enough to be seen. Sharrock stepped to the light-post just above the water’s edge and carefully lit the lamp, and as its faint gleam shone out across the Thames a cry went up from one of the nearer boatmen, whose oars could presently be heard approaching.

Arundell stepped out of the shadows and clasped Evans’s hand silently. The man said nothing and seemed uncomfortable. Wreaths of mist came in off the water and swirled about them as they waited. John Chayner and Thom Norris likewise came down the steps and shook their master’s hand. All of them had been summoned to the hearing just ended, and they were now to ride back to Bristol to await the new receiver.

The boat came in along the landing, emerging out of obscurity only at the instant before it ran up along the steps. The waterman leant forward to help his fare aboard, as Arundell and Sharrock leapt into his bottom and turned to gesture to the others. Then the boat hauled away out into the darkness whence it had come. Evans and his companions stared after it briefly, then shrugged, then went back up the steps to their dinners.

The hearing, after nearly a year’s waiting and praying for it, had been anticlimactic. Late in October, a gentleman of the court had ridden down to Sutton with papers of commission for Walsingham’s guards. Arundell had been given an hour’s time to dress and ready himself, then, alongside the messenger, he had left the house of ten months’ too much familiarity behind him and made his way at a gallop towards the court. Standing by his horse on the ferry below Lambeth, he had had ample time to gaze upon the buildings of Westminster and surmise both the best and the worst about his reception there. He had felt prepared for neither.

Once arrived at the Council Chambers, there had been no humiliating delay awaiting him, only Sharrock in the corridor to divest him of his cloak and the gentleman of the guard to conduct him in. Robert Beale had risen from his hasty supper by the inner doors and, hurrying before, had announced him to the councillors assembled.

Neither his adversary nor his fellows had been there, nor had all of the councillors been present; most notable of the absentees was Leicester himself, with his brother and few of his closer cronies, but old Burghley had been there, wrapped in enormous robes peering out from under declined brows with a wintry Olympian gaze. Sussex had smiled faintly at him, but made no other sign; no more did any of the others. Hatton had greeted him from official distance, rearranging his papers before him, coughing gently, motioning Arundell to a place across the board.

"Your answerings and declarations well considered," said the Vice-Chamberlain, "and your manifold offenses well weighed, their lordships have thought good to recommend to her majesty free pardon, which she in her justly celebrated clemency vouchsafes to grant you."

"My lords," said Arundell; "what my adversaries have falsely charged to me I must fully answer to . . ."

"There is no charge to answer; there is no more offense; you have free pardon for all crimes committed or uncommitted by you to this day."

"But my lords . . ."

"And there an end," said Hatton, curtly, still staring into his papers. "Your patent of the receivership of Bristol, Gloucester, and other places in that country, your patent of the captaincy of Portland, and all other your patents and grants by her majesty’s well known generosity bestowed, each of these and all of them are revoked and cancelled from this day, as unnecessary and superfluous in her majesty’s good service to remain with you. Furthermore, you are from this day requested to press no other suit nor seek no other office until signified unto by her majesty, or by messengers in her behalf, that further service is required of you and likewise welcome unto her. And furthermore, being without business which keeps you at the court, you are requested henceforth to quit and avoid the court, wherever it may be in residence at any time, for a space of time limited by her majesty’s pleasure, her need of further service to be signified to you at that time if and when it should occur. Do you understand her majesty’s gracious will and dealings herein?"

Arundell looked from one averted face to another, down the length of the board and back again.

"Of what charges am I pardoned?" he asked slowly, in something almost like disinterest.

"Of all crimes committed or uncommitted by yourself, wittingly or unwittingly, to this day," answered Walsingham, the only man in the room staring hard upon him. "But only to this present day," he added with some emphasis.

"I had thought to answer my accuser here."

"There is no accuser here," said Hatton. "Her majesty, in her foreseeing wisdom careful of your future good and welfare, especially requests me to adjure you in her name to look well to your courses in future time, and to keep yourself very clear of all suspected and mischievous persons, and to deal openly and in true loyalty with all men. Do you thank her majesty, whom the Lord long preserve, for her merciful dealings towards you?"

Arundell, his head hung down, muttered that he thanked her majesty with all his heart, and was dismissed.

Sharrock had met him as he emerged from the council rooms, not ten minutes after having gone in, and together they had walked across the Privy Gardens in the slowly dying afternoon. Evans, Norris, and Chayner had met them at the garden stairs; Arundell realized that they must have been called up for the occasion, but asked no questions of them.

In the corridors of Gentlemen’s Row, Arundell had been greeted by his acquaintances long ungreeted, affably enough but in a tone rather more subdued than was their habit. He had entered his old room to find it occupied by a very proper young gentleman not much unlike the paintings one sometimes sees of Ganymede, who had but newly come to court; the porter had hurried in behind him with a bundle made up of his few belongings, to say that his wardrobe was safely kept for him in the porter’s lodge. Arundell had descended to the water stairs and taken boat.

Another boat passed silently by them in the mist and darkness, running west upon the river towards the palace or beyond; the waterman belatedly gave out with his cry, answered by Arundell’s rower. The great houses along the bank, as near as they must have been, were invisible through the fog. One wondered how these solitary boatmen, gliding silently through the darkness, managed to go their ways without coming to wrack. Still the boatmen plied their trade, content with their chances, hopeful always of a generous gratuity, by all appearances happy in their jobs. Their fares had been fixed by the state many years ago, before these inflationary times, but though now they made too little by their dangerous work, they seemed nonetheless to be content. Perhaps they never stopped to think about what they did. Perhaps they never met with accident because they never contemplated their risk, and perhaps, were they now to begin worrying about the perils of the night, they would soon end in disaster. Not unlike the old proverb about the clown who juggles ably until he remembers that he cannot juggle, whereupon his bottles fall upon his head and kill him.

The boatman came in close by the effluence of Fleet Ditch into Thames, following Sharrock’s direction along the first Blackfriars stairs nearly as far as Paul’s Wharf. Here, through the fog, the massive bulk of Baynard’s Castle loomed dark above the water, wherein at Pembroke’s table as likely as not the earl of Leicester might be dining now and, it may be, even now inclining his head to a messenger just arrived, never pausing in his meal or pleasant conversation, to hear the news of Arundell’s rude dismissal, to add this bit of merriment to the table-talk.

"Oh do you know Arundell, my lord of Sussex’s erstwhile friend?"

"Oh yes, of course, we do, he of the melancholic mien and hapless hangdog looks, a very dolorous man; yes, of course, died or disappeared, did he not, some little time ago?"

"No, no, not this fellow; he has just returned to court and found for himself a very cold welcome there indeed"--with meaningful looks and eyebrows raised aloft; "Oh my lord, you are too witty! Leave the poor man to creep into his hole."

"Assuredly, my friends, without a doubt. To creep into his little hole, ha ha!"

Arundell sat in the boat replaying this foolish scene many times over in several variations. He was drawn again to emulate Tydeus, and run into the hall with rapier held aloft, crying out his disdain for all his foes too soon triumphing over him. Where he should doubtless find the hall deserted, or but a servant or two to stare at him as if he were run mad.

He alighted tiredly upon the steps along the wharf and turned to pay the boatman. Together with Sharrock he walked back into the tangle of dark streets and byways towards the Priory Mansion, thinking to himself that whatever else was taken from him, tonight at least he had his bed.

Sharrock, as they walked, spoke up for the first time, to say that more than he could give voice to, he regretted the injustice done his master by their lordships.

"Well, James, thank you for so much. Whether stone hits pitcher or pitcher hits stone," Arundell replied, "it will be the worse for the pitcher."

"Aye, there you are right," said Sharrock, and walked on silently to their destination.

Outside the rear door of the Mansion, Charles took his bundle from Jamie’s shoulder and turned to face him.

"Jamie, you must run up and find Lord Harry out. Try him at Arundel House, and the Dacre House, and if he lies at neither, pray seek him out at the Charterhouse. Learn from him what you can of what has passed. But never hurry, and pass the night where sleep overtakes you; we shall meet on the morrow. Take this; and many thanks, my James."

"Aye, sir," Sharrock said, and struck off.

Arundell sighed heavily watching him go, and then entered the tiny hall. The candles were where they always were, and he started up the narrow stairway. A sound of movement came down from above. Arundell paused in surprise and listened. Came another sound. He ran up the stairs, fumbling for his key in the pocket of his doublet, and began calling, "Halloo, huswife; halloo, old huswife."

He threw open the door. In the center of the room stood two young gentlemen, staring at him in alarm.

"Here, what is this?" he demanded.

"Your pardon, Mr. Arundell," said the nearer man. "You know me, sir; Basset, sir?"

"Yes; oh yes, Basset; we have met. What make you here?"

"Your pardon again, sir," said Basset. "Here is Mr. Michael Tempest, whom perhaps you have never seen."

Arundell shook the young man’s proffered hand, and somewhat lightened his looks to put them at their ease.

"Very well, gentlemen, I have this honor to remember," he said, more kindly. "But I ask you, what do you in my rooms?"

"My good lord of Northumberland, sir, permitted us these rooms for certain uses," Basset replied. "I daresay, Mr. Arundell, he had no notion of your coming home to them."

"I daresay not. To what uses do you put them, then?"

"Well, for the receiving of certain guests from time to time. We are seldom here, sir. Only from time to time."

"Guests; what guests? Oh I see," Arundell said, glancing over their smooth, handsome faces and expensive dress. "Yes, I do see indeed."

"Oh, it is not what you are thinking, Mr. Arundell! Nothing of the sort."

"No? Is it not? Well, what then? What guests are you receiving from time to time in my rooms?" Arundell was slowly losing patience with these coy youths.

"Certain other guests, sir," said Basset. The two fellows exchanged glances and shuffled their feet for a second, then looked back at Arundell.

"And so?"

"Priests, sir," Basset said.

"Priests! You are entertaining priests in my rooms, God’s blood, gentlemen, have you lost your reason?" Arundell thundered out his dismay and the men backed a few steps away for all chances.

"By Christ, gentlemen, under every stone we find a priest; I open my pockets and out leaps me a smiling priest. Have you no sense?"

"But, Mr. Arundell, we are told you are a Catholic."

"Well, so I am, but God, man, we’ll do the Lord no good saying paternosters on the gallows. Know you not where I have been these ten months past? Has not this house been watched?"

"Oh, we do, sir, but not watched. There was no choosing, do you see. With my Lords Paget and Windsor themselves kept watch of, sir, and my lord of Northumberland looked to everywhere he goes; and with the earl of Southampton dead, sir, we could do no other."

"How, Southampton dead?"

"But newly."

"Good Lord," said Arundell, drawing up a bench and sitting heavily upon it.

"You see, Mr. Arundell, my lady his widow is one of ours whole, but there had been some wars between them, and she has been very ill dealt with in his will, an evil instrument proceeded from his sickly mind, sir, as I guess, poisoned against her causeless by certain base companions."

"You mean Paget."

"Well, Charles Paget, sir, but more than him by certain others of his house, one Dymock, to be plain. Which testament to break, do you see, my lady has sought the help of my lord of Leicester, who can do much at court you know, and now with his lordship’s comings and goings to her, pray God only upon the business of this will, she must close up the house a little from its wonted hospitality. And her father, who mislikes her dealing with this earl, has gathered up and travelled off to Cowdray. My lord of Arundel, likewise, resides entirely in his country, sir, and so we lack of proper housing for the priests in town."

"But in this city are there no rooms for priests but mine?"

"Oh, there are, Mr. Arundell, but our many friends in the city are more careful than they were, you see, with Fr. Campion’s taking, and since Fr. Parsons has returned to France. Courageous still, they are, but for this time we trouble them as little as we may."

"Parsons has gone to France?"

"Indeed, sir. You have missed a great deal of news."

"I haven’t missed a bit of it. I had no idea in what bliss I lived."

"It is not so bad, sir," said young Tempest. "For you are free again. Felicitations, Mr. Arundell, upon your delivery."


The men seemed ill at ease still, and fidgeted nervously about the room while Arundell looked into the fire. He wondered at their behavior, and thought them reluctant to sit until they were bidden to. Then he realized that he was rather in their way.

"A priest," he said. "Damn me, you are expecting a priest just now; are you not?"

"Yes, we are, sir. But certainly you need not leave on that account."

"But certainly I must. It will be some hours yet before I shall be ready to be captured with a priest. Besides, I may be watched."

"We feared as much as that, Mr. Arundell. We would leave you, I assure you, but we know not how to prevent the priest."

"Yes, I shall walk on at once," Arundell said. "Only tell me, where is the woman who was wont to occupy these rooms before you came to them?"

"A woman, sir?" asked Basset.

"Yes, a woman, Basset. Very like a man but different. Saw you no woman when you came here?"

"No woman, sir; these rooms were in disuse, which made us the more willing to accept of my lord’s offer of them."

"I see." Arundell took up his cloak again and donned it, then placed his little bundle in the corner. "I shall leave this for another time, eh?"

"Oh yes, sir, and your other household stuff will be safe for you, Mr. Arundell."

"Very good," he said. He turned again at the door. "Do have a pleasant act of treason," he said, grinning. They smiled wanly in reply.

The streets in the Blackfriars district were dead black, with still deeper shadows where alleys and recesses opened into the broader way. Here and there were men lying asleep or drunk half in the street. One of them, a small man in a soldier’s jacket lying with his face beneath his arms, was sprawled just without the hall door, so that Arundell had to step over him as he came into the road.

He started off eastward, traversing the narrow ways between Thames Street and Carter Lane above. Some distance along he saw a flood of light cascading from a tiny open door, and made for it. It was here, in a tavern with only a green bush for a sign, that Kate had often worked and lived as well when she was not in the Mansion.

The main rooms were commodious, stretching back beneath low timbered ceilings to a narrow stairs in the rear. This night the custom was immense, and the air within was close and warm and the noise cacophonous. Here were knots of prentices laughing and shrieking over dice, and groups of misplaced seamen from down the river planted with their women at benches and boards throughout the room. Fishermen were here from Queenhithe Dock and Billingsgate, banging their cups upon the oak, and a few small parties of gentlemen who found the excitement of the fore rooms more to their convivial purpose than those in the back. Buxom girls with low bodices ran to and fro among the guests, carrying slab trays and coarsely answering the calls and invitations made them. In several corners music was in progress, snatches of several tunes from all directions at once, the insistent beat of tabors beneath the hooting and squealing of pipes of all description. The place was lit as if for a palace ball, and a portly man who must have been the host darted among the candles to guard against their upsetting.

Arundell came down into the room and took off his cloak, and made his way to the drawer’s bench. There was no one here with whom he was acquainted, but more than that, nowhere could he find his Kate. The hilarity was high this night, and the cries of laughter and sometimes lubricious glee suited ill his present mood.

He had his ale from the tapster and stood at the bench peering round him. Still no Kate to be seen. The cachinnations of the revellers he found irritating; a bit of inebriety might be just the thing for his present black and evil humor, but only when Kate was here beside him, laughing at his peevishness and jesting him from his troubles.

The host ran by, bound for he himself knew not where, merely running to be busy amid this busy mob. Arundell reached out and caught his sleeve as he scurried past.

The man was a florid, ill-kempt fellow whose hot breath smelt of onions and whose eyes had a trick of focusing several inches before one’s face as one spoke to him. He seemed confused and not a little put out at being snagged, and he stared towards his hailer crossly.

"Here, host, I have a question for you," Arundell called.

"Ho, Quidnunc, no questions here. In this house we all know everything there is to know!"

"But I do not know everything; you must make me perfect, host."

The host looked impatiently round the room, fearful to be away from anywhere for very long.

"Well, put your question, sir," he shouted back.

"Tell me where is Kate, good host." The din about them was deafening; nearby an enormously fat soldier fell from his bench to the ascending howls of his comrades.

"What Kate, sir? We have no Kate," the host called above the roar. "But if the gentleman is well provided, we must have the girl for him, with no mistaking."

"No, you misunderstand me," said Arundell. "I ask where Kate has gone?"

"No Kate, gentleman, no more now than a moment ago. Many fine girls here, but no Kate. I must be away!"

The fat soldier was requiring the best efforts of half his company to remount him on his bench. Book was being made on his chance of remaining atop it for a full minute.

"Kate, host! Who worked here not ten months past! Where has she gone to?"

The singing took up from a group hard by, a devilish awful squalling that pleased the singers no end.

The host bethought him, and abruptly recognition dawned.

"Oh Kate! Dead, sir. Died of the fever at just about that time. Excuse me, gentleman," he called, hurrying on his way to anywhere.

Arundell picked up his cloak and bonnet and replaced them once again, then strode quickly out into the darkness. Just outside the door, a small man in soldier’s dress lay sprawled in the street, his head buried beneath his arms.

goback.gif (2185 bytes)Go back to the Preface and Table of Contents
gonext.gif (2192 bytes)Go ahead to Chapter XII. Doubts and Passion (1581-1582)

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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