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


faith and doubt in the time of Queen Elizabeth I

Part 2. THE CONTINENT (1583-1587)



"Whose conscience is cumbered and not clean,
Of another man's deeds the worse will he deem."
-- Proverb

Because the day had come on finer than any in the year, Arundell bid the host remove his chair to the terrace, where, cup in hand, he leant back and propped his boots upon the wall before him. On the other side of the way, the trees of the Vincennes Wood showed the first foliage of the new season, the palest sprinkling of greenness about the black and brown stocks of dead winter. The year was slow in changing, for it was March; but it had been a hard year.

During the most inclement part of it, in January of 1585, and through much of February, normal business had come nearly to a halt. The autumnal chill, welcomed when it had first crept in upon the languishing city of the dog days, bringing the cure that helpless men despaired of to the murderous summer's plague, had then progressed from friend to foe. For it had worsened without respite, as early the poor and eventually even the rich went destitute of fuel to heat their rooms, as the impassable roads prevented revictualling from the south, and riots interrupted market days when the quantity of food appearing in the stalls was found to be too little by half. The reports from the prince of Parma's camp, where the army lay in siege of Antwerp, told of soldiers dying a hundredfold more numerously of cold and want than ever by enemy pike or gun in the hottest skirmish of the former season.

Arundell squirmed more deeply into his cloak and contemplated this first reprieve from the sharper chill. It had not been the sort of winter that dampens one's spirits and vexes one with staying in at doors, but rather the sort one feels grimly fortunate to have survived. He had survived it, and looked soon perhaps to live less in want than heretofore. For if matters fell out as it began to look they would, by the onset of the next winter he might enjoy a few coins, at least, to rub together to bring him warmth.

He stared vacantly at the boughs across the road.

Winter is worn, that was the flowers' bale.
And thus I see among these pleasant things,
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

Lord Harry's dad again. A couplet or twain for every mood. Arundell brooded silently. What a course had he set for himself now, this too blithely sailing under crowded canvas among unknown skerries and shoals, bearing out with neither chart nor compass into strange oriental seas; to find what blank shores, with the godless anthropophagous Canibales, savage beasts peering from the verge upon the strand, and scritching birds of death only awaiting one's wrack of ship--what an unthought course this was.

Arundell fetched up a laugh despite himself. Beggar this farrago of nautical metaphors. In truth, he had set no course, and he flattered himself in this pose upon the high deck, persisting in despite of all the timorous wise to brave the dark sea and find the Terram Novam. In truth, he was merely adrift, still adrift these fifteen months, and merely found himself now answering a new current fortuitously come his way.

The wind was lightening, and as it did the air felt warmer, the sun having risen now well above the trees. Intruding upon his thoughts came the sound of horses approaching along the road. Arundell turned to the west, toward Paris, and out of the wood came three riders making their dilatory way along. He called within to have his horse brought round and ascended to the level of the highway.

Hans Oberholtzer came up in the lead, holding his own reins in one hand and his master's in the other. Mendoza himself, aware of the altering pace, mumbled something in the Spaniard's tongue, to which replied the third man, Sir Herman Cartelegar, a fellow of indeterminate nationality. Back along the road, where it wound into the wood, a fourth rider drew up and sat facing backwards into the eastern suburbs.

Don Bernardino squinted up at the inn that rose above him, then sat waiting while Arundell approached near enough for his failing eyes to make him out. Charles doffed his cap.

"Good morning, my lord Ambassador."

"Good morning, my friend. You are ready?"

The innboy came round and coaxed Arundell's horse up into the road. He mounted, and the ambassador's secretaries led the way onward, slowly, into the trees again on the eastern edge of the clearing. Behind them, the rearwatcher resumed his even pace, with frequent glances back towards the city.

The party crept on in a southeasterly curve through the forest until they reached the crest of the valley of the Marne. Below them, running northeastward to Meaux, a well-travelled route wove its way over dun hills into the distance. To the south the lazy river could be seen sweeping back round in a wide arc before it bolted westward to join the Seine. Just across the stream lay the village and château of Joinville. They continued a short way along the crest, and then rode down to the bridge below.

As they descended the open slope, the rear rider caught them up and settled down to their pace. Beside the bridge stood a tiny timbered house, scarcely more than a single room within, with three loops spread across the face fronting the ridge above, and with a few truncated sheds behind it along the riverbank. A thin fume of smoke rose from the roof. Two crudely-built turnpikes hung across the ways, one at the head of the bridge, the other intersecting the southern road to Brie.

Mendoza's party approached the meeting of the roads and came to a stop. Within a few seconds a long musket poked from one of the loopholes and trained itself rather loosely upon them. Then someone shouted for them to halt.

A hatless trooper ran out of the house and called for one to draw near him, which promptly Herr Oberholtzer did. The Fleming drew from his doublet a sheaf of papers and extended them for the guardsman's perusal, after which the man waved them forward, returned the papers, and crossed the road to loosen the pike-noose.

The huge trunk, weighted on the other end, rose silently into the sky. Arundell surveyed the man closely as they approached; he wore the scabbard of the cavalryman, and the leather holster across his chest, but both were empty, and his jacket hung open to his girdle. To his beard clung bits of cheese, as the man stood gazing impatiently down the river. As they passed the house, Arundell saw another guardsman reclining on a pallet within; near the loophole, the musket was held by a giant of a woman clad only in her chemise, who met Arundell's eyes silently until he had progressed beyond the door. The trooper cursed as he hauled the pike down behind them. So much for the king's discipline.

The timber bridge ran steeply up to a height of three meters above the brown water, and continued level upon pilings the entire way across first the narrow channel, then a lightly wooded island, and then the main stream. From that vantage Arundell could see a company of troopers riding to meet them at the farther bank. Both groups reached the bridge's end; as before, Herr Oberholtzer descended and presented another fold of papers. The leading horseman scrutinized them closely, his saber balanced across his pommel as he held the documents close to his eyes. Satisfied at length, he returned them to the secretary. Resheathing his sword smartly, he swung about and led the way at a handsome trot towards the château, which was already visible through the trees.

Mendoza paid no attention to the trooper's gesture and made his own leisurely pace down from the bridge and along the road. In a few moments, the military men, now some distance ahead, wheeled round and came back. The leader inquired with forced courtesy whether anything were wrong. The ambassador bestowed a smile upon him, with a squint, and moved slowly past. The soldiers swore murmured oaths and looked at Arundell, who shrugged, and then they split off to encircle the party and accompany it at its own speed.

The road brought them round from the side of the château of Joinville, which had a relatively large Renaissance front, with rows of long, southern windows, appended to the older structures, the squat block of the donjon and the great hall, both of which dated from before the time of the thirteenth century seneschals of Champagne who had made the place their principal residence. The whole assemblage of new and old was now the seat of the family of Guise, less comfortable than its commodious house at Eu on the coast, less formidable in defense than its great fortress at Châlons; but it was closer to the capital than either, yet not so conspicuously under the royal eye as was the Hôtel de Guise in the northern quarter of the city.

In this ambiguous time, neither war nor peace, the fortification of Châlons was not quite necessary, the proximity of the town house not quite wise. In December the great Catholic nobles of the faction of Guise had gathered here and struck a pact, which included the Spanish interest through the representation of Juan Baptiste de Tassis. The aim of this "Holy League," as it was called, was to coerce the French crown into a religious war of extermination against the Huguenots of France. Philip II contributed Spanish money to the cause, gaining in return the alliance of this powerful faction in a contiguous kingdom and the promise of Guisard aid against his own Protestants in the Netherlands. Both parties profited equally by their coalition against the Protestant English, who were known to be helping underhandedly, by gold, stores, and volunteers, their coreligionists the rebels in both France and the Spanish Netherlands.

Only a few days earlier, on the 9th of March 1585, the French king Henri III, unaware of Spanish involvement in the League and probably unaware of the strength of the radical Catholics' contempt for his temporizing ways, had moved to test the League by promulgating an edict that solemnly prohibited the formation of armed bands that were not his own. No one, not even the king himself, expected either Catholics or Huguenots to disarm; rather the edict was taken as a sign of his refusal to bow to the League's demands. A prompt response was therefore in order, lest the king and his mother draw confidence from the irresolution of their more zealous subjects. For that purpose, Mendoza, who had superseded Tassis as ambassador to this realm, arrived now at the château to confer upon the matter with the representatives of the League.

The owners of the house, when the ambassador's party had ascended the long Italian staircase and been shown in, were unready to greet them. The visitors were brought to a wide glassed terrace to take refreshment while they waited. In due course, a servant appeared to announce at least one host, who swept in a second later: Charles, the duke of Mayenne, Guise's brother. A disappointingly short, thick man, he had heavy-lidded eyes, one strangely wider than the other, thick curly dark hair, and abbreviated beard and moustache covering a slightly puffy face. Altogether he seemed rather a stolid merchant or financier than one of the greatest noblemen of the realm, but his was a comfortable face that partly put one at one's ease.

ccd-guise.jpg (29054 bytes)

Henri of Lorraine, duke of Guise
(Bibliothèque Nationale)

Far unlike the great duke's face, when he came in. Henri, the head of the crusading house of Guise, the eldest son of Francis "the Scarred" and himself the firebrand of the Catholic right wing, looked his part in every feature. His great wide forehead, surmounted by a full head of dark hair swept straight back all round, tapered to a long, determined nose and chin; his sleek jawlines and sharp beard accentuated the illusion of a sword or mattockblade for a face. His moustache he wore brushed up across his cheeks, which though meant for a rakish effect rather seemed diabolical, and his eyes, swiftly darting, looked constantly to be searching out the hidden meanings. His most distinguishing feature was his small, pursed mouth, which was arrogant and amused at the same time. The lower lip bore a sharp, vertical duelling scar. His clothes, even to the particularly high ruff, were properly aristocratic in cut and ornamentation, but gave anyhow a military air.

With the duke of Guise came Mayneville, whom Charles had come to know slightly in the few months past. About the same age as the duke himself, only about thirty-five, he was nonetheless a trusted diplomatist for the interests of Lorraine and Guise, and at the same time, miraculously, a likable fellow. As the duke made solemn greetings round the room, Mayneville waved cordially to Arundell from behind his back. Then the duke turned to Arundell and spoke in French: "My dear Mr. Arundell, perhaps you will find the library suitable for your brief attendance."

Arundell bowed and followed Mayneville out of the solarium and across the broad hall. Behind him the dukes of Guise and Mayenne, Mendoza and his two secretaries, came out also and mounted the central stairs towards the study above. Two servants scurried after them.

When Mayneville had withdrawn, Arundell was left alone in the room the duke had called the reading room, by which he had thought a family library had been meant. The opportunity to survey the accumulated books of a great princely family had struck him as an amiable recompense for his time. What he discovered was rather a chapel than a library, for in a small dark room dominated by a raised altar and, above it, an art-window that portrayed a gothic, bloody Passion, he saw but a row or two of pious books along each wall, fastened to their places by chains just long enough to permit the reader to sit in straight benches nearby while conning them. On the one side were works chiefly homiletic, both ancient and modern, but all very strictly orthodox, arranged by the scriptural books they had as texts. Along the other wall lay the scriptures themselves, with a collection of brevaries and missals. Arundell settled onto the hard bench and sighed.

In due course, he was summoned above to the others. In a capacious study well placed so as to overlook the stair and road below, he found the other gentlemen sitting on chairs strewn all about the room. Along with those he had met below, there sat Fr. Claude Matthieu, "the duke's Jesuit," the Provincial of Paris, and several noblemen unfamiliar to him. Arundell bowed courteously all round and especially to the duke.

Guise half-rose from beside a great table and inquired whether Charles had been much put out by the long tarrying. He replied that he had found his time in the duke's splendid room most rewarding. He said he felt curiously renewed. The duke seemed enormously pleased by this.

A chair was brought up, and Arundell sat just to the duke's side, with Mayenne by his other arm and the Spanish ambassador directly across. Guise remarked that before he opened his business he wished to learn what Arundell knew of the miscreant Parry, his countryman. Charles answered with the bare details of what had newly been told him, that Dr. Parry--a Welshman and therefore not his countryman--had been tried in England for a conspiracy to assassinate the queen of that realm, and that, there having been only one witness against him (the law required two), the government had introduced his own confession, which he had refused to acknowledge. And, of course, that he had been condemned.

"Well," said the duke, "we have learned this morning that the villain has been executed."

Arundell made no reaction.

"But here is what I wish to know. By whom was it said that he was set on?"

Arundell blinked. "As I hear, my lord, by some great persons."

"But by whom, do you see? That is what I wish you to tell me. My friends tell me that the wretch in his confession named myself to be his suborner and the original of this devilish device--that through your people here in Paris I have myself been the means to send him to his work. Is so much true, as I have heard? If not your friends, then the ambassador of England must have heard somewhat on that head."

"My lord," said Arundell, carefully seeking the proper words in French, "that false lie have I met with once or twice indeed, but only from those this side the sea. This I know of a certainty, that was sent to the lieger here from Walsingham, which was that his indictment alleged him to have come from his holiness the pope himself, and that a commission was found upon him subscribed by the papal secretary Cardinal Como in his holiness his name, granting him an indulgence for a meritorious deed."

Mayenne spoke up to ask whether the duke of Guise were named at all in that indictment, and Arundell assured him that, to his knowledge, he was not. The duke inquired then what really lay behind it all. Charles asked them all to pardon him, for he had no knowledge beyond that much spoken already.

"Well, then good," returned Guise --"but surely Mr. Stafford must have had some conjecture in the thing. Did he not speak something to you in this cause?"

Arundell checked for just a second, and then said, "Yes, my lord, but speculations only, which was the cause I did not speak of it at once. Sir Edward believes that the man was in my Lord Burghley's confidence, whose commandment was to sound out others for their disaffection and learn their true intents; which business happily he was engaged upon when the spies of Leicester and Walsingham his famulus took him up; and finally, that he perished for the differences between those two great planets, for my Lord Treasurer could not save him once he was well in."

"No doubt very true. These perfidious mercenary men are everywhere among us. Who on this side knew. . ."

Arundell raised his hands in demur.

"-- Oh, only as the rumor goes, Mr. Arundell," the duke continued. "Were any of yours inward with the man whilst he was here?"

"Only, my lord, the indictment nominates Mr. Morgan as his confederate, and Mr. Stafford is warned that there shall soon be means to have him attached in this realm and sent for home to answer for the same."

"Well, let Morgan go and to the devil," Mayenne interjected. "I never trust the man."

"Nor I," said Guise. "Mr. Arundell, do you for my love this one thing, which is to have it known everywhere as you come that this was none of mine, this sneaking murder. The imputation does me no honor. The man Parry I never saw, nor I think have any of mine ever spoken with the wretch. He was disembowelled while still alive, you know."

Arundell thought of the polite, shy man he had met but once, and suppressed the disagreeable image of those ample guts spilling upon the scaffold to the loud hurrahs of a London mob.

Herr Oberholtzer and one of the duke's clerks leant over to assemble some papers for the duke's inspection. Guise opened a black case on the desk and withdrew a tiny pair of spectacles. "My Florentine eyes," he smiled at Arundell as he hooked them behind each ear. He scanned the uppermost sheet.

"Mr. Arundell, my good man," he began then. "Here we come to my reason for bringing you this distance. You know of our League, as it is called, to fight Christ's battle against the heretic, schismatic, and infidel. You know too how closely Señor Mendoza and his master participate with us in this crusade and sacred war. For you who are English, and I who am a Frenchman, and my lord who is a Spaniard, we are all good Christians, and we stand together as one against the armies of Averna, of whatever nation either we or they do come. But not every man understands so well what you and I together understand, and so for the time this must remain our secret.

"Enough of that. I think you also know that we would have that king of ours to leave off his staggerings and divagations and join with us in pursuing God's cause. But as you see, his wicked mother woos him to the devil's party, to the everlasting peril of his soul, may the Holy Mother of God have pity on them both; and now, per consequens, there comes this late edict for the dismembering of our only strength. Now we must make reply to this and leave no doubt that we will never like St. Peter deny our Lord, and for this reason we are at work upon this manifesto. There are other great men with whom first we must confer, but here is what today we have agreed upon."

He flourished aloft a single sheet of parchment.

"I recount to you the main heads for a need I have of you. They are, first, that we must have no heretic for king in this realm, neither now nor ever more. I spare you the details of the terms. Second, that there must be no more favor shown the heretic nobility, and should there be, this Holy League of ours will prosecute the war against them, if necessary without the king's aid and good opinion. Following this, we call for an end to oppressive taxation of the loyal nobility, and for a regular meeting of the Estates General in each triennium. In the last, we appeal to all the great towns of France to join our towns in excluding the king's garrisons from their midst, until the king does as reason is and complies with our just demands, which are very modest and also godly.

"This," the duke continued, "will be the color of our manifesto. Now to you. You must tell me, what will be the English reaction to what I have opened to you here? For you know the meddling ways of that queen of yours, and that she was never a friend to the Holy Church, nay even a great enemy. How will her advisers speak when this comes to their ears? Will any of them intend us greater harm, and will they be sufficient to sway that Jezebel and breed us some distress?"

Arundell considered the matter carefully. Absently he mopped his brow. After some moments of thought, during which the room remained silent, Charles turned to the duke of Guise and said: "My lord, I beg your pardon, I do not know what the reaction of the queen's Council is like to be." He paused.

"Pray continue."

"Well, there is only to say that you know that Leicester's men at that table bear little love to you and your cause, yet for all that, I think they mean still to speak for their war in the Low Countries." Mendoza began nodding in solemn agreement. "They believe they are close to an intervention for the Protestants in those parts, in all plainness, and need only to push her pacific majesty a foot or two farther in that cause. With Orange lately dead, and Antwerp in this peril, we hear the representatives from the rebel States are howling in her ears for present help. In my own opinion, I do not foresee their letting slip that opportunity to open new matters here."

The Spaniard reminded the dukes that this had been his opinion from the first.

"Only this might be feared," Arundell continued, "that should these broils proceed still further and a new war here seem toward, then might they counsel to send more in loans for the fortifying of the Calvinist towns, as in the past they have done. Hardly, I think, will the queen be brought to open jars in this kingdom."

Arundell thought for a second more.

"And furthermore there is that last thing, which is that any plain discords between yourself and that state of England may fall out dangerously for your noble cousin, my lady the queen of Scots."

"She is ever in my thoughts," the duke replied easily.

When he understood that Arundell had concluded his opinion, the duke of Guise prodded him with a few unimportant questions about individual members of the English Privy Council and then pronounced himself satisfied.

"I ask you now, Mr. Arundell, for the glory of God, that you will tent your friend the ambassador on these same heads, as (in conversation) to ask as it were lightly, 'what d'ye suppose if such-and-such,' or 'this-and-that,' and discover whether his opinion consorts with yours. And directly you find, either before or after the publishing of our manifesto, that anything more is meant, that you do send or come to us at our house at Châlons with speedy news of the same. We are fortifying now a line of towns and castles from Orléans to Verdun, to anticipate all events, and shall ourselves remain at Châlons until we better learn the king's meaning."

The duke removed his spectacles and replaced them carefully.

"This too, mon ami. You will sound him at what time you think propitious whether the ambassador will come in with us. I leave to you to choose the time and place of asking, or whether never, but if ever you should have him in, I have left at the house of Señor Mendoza the sum of 3000 crowns, which you will come and deliver to your friend with promise of more as service warrants. I hope you will work upon him through his wife, who as I hear is well beloved of all the Catholic ladies of the king's court."

Arundell nodded again. The conversation then became desultory as the men slowly quit the room. The visitors were invited to stay over till the morrow, as already the sun was westering. Arundell, however, preferred to return at once to the city and, as the party descended to the great hall below, he took his leave. The duke of Guise, in parting, made him a present of a small, jingling purse.

Finding his horse readied before the house, Arundell set off towards the bridge. As he hadn't his own papers for the guardsmen, he angled his route northward and forded the main stream of the river somewhat above the guardhouse, protected from the guardsmen's view by the island intervening. As he splashed across the narrower channel, one of the guardsmen peeked out of the door and yelled at him, but unhastily he mounted the bank and set off up the slope to the ridge above. Of course, there was no pursuit.

Within two hours' time he had regained the city, riding into the long shadow of the Bastille just as the sun fell below the spires to the west. His reflections as he rode through the dark wood had been all of Dr. Parry. The shadows deepened round him as he rode, and he shivered with the cold.

Having reached home, after a short respite from his journey, he went down to take supper in the next street. The ordinary was more crowded than usual, and he was forced to dine uncomfortably far from the fireplace. When he had half finished his meal, he saw Throgmorton entering the room, who when he noticed Arundell left his companions and came across to join him.

"Well, my friend," the younger man cried out; "here he sits celebrating the Lenten season of sacrifice, stuffing himself with all manner of dainties."

That, indeed, was precisely what Arundell was doing, betraying the vulgar pleasure of the poor just come into money as he spent more of the duke's purse than was prudent. He grinned at his comrade and motioned to a place opposite him.

"Here, good Tom, it's as cheap sitting as standing."

"You have been strangely absent during our great excitement, Charles. We sent to you this morning and found you gone out."

Arundell murmured that he had ridden to St. Denis for the seasonal observances in the abbey there. Throgmorton inquired no further, for he had a tale to tell. On Saturday at ten o'clock in the night, he had been with Thomas Morgan in the latter's rooms when a party of soldiers had burst in and carried Morgan off. There had been sixteen royal guardsmen and an officer, accompanied by an English intelligencer named Shute, whom he believed to have been sent from Ambassador Stafford. They had attached Morgan in the name of the king of France and removed him to the house of the lieutenant of the Provost del Hostel. Throgmorton himself they had left standing in the middle of the room all but unnoticed. He had not been in their warrant.

Arundell pretended to surprise at the news and asked the reason for the raid. The earl of Derby, his friend replied, had recently arrived in Paris for a ceremonial occasion; King Henri was being inducted into the English Order of the Garter, by way of cementing that long amity the two realms enjoyed. In the course of his diplomatic business, Derby had conveyed his queen's insistence that Morgan be arrested as an accomplice in Dr. Parry's attempt against her life, and the French king had felt constrained to comply when such a serious charge was laid.

Arundell was hardly astonished at the turn of events, but fully expected that the Welshman would be free again in short time. Despite mutual expressions of sympathy, neither the French king nor the English queen proceeded very energetically against each other's refugees, English Catholics or French Huguenots, residing in their respective kingdoms. This case, involving an assassination plot already proved in court, required merely a bit more of that sympathy. In the meantime, Arundell found the man's detention very inconvenient, because he’d almost won from him the repayment of some money lent to the queen of Scots's cause in years past, which would much relieve his present want. He recounted again the money given him by the duke of Guise.

The following morning, another fine day, Arundell rose at mid-morning and made his way across the island to the right bank. Four boys were playing with a bright red ball by the edge of the bridge, and he stopped to watch them for a while. Then he turned west, worked his way patiently through busy lanes, and arrived finally at the point in the Rue du Bout whence he might enter through alleys into the Place de la Monnaie. He led his horse behind the house and left it to feed quietly in the stable, then approached the rear door, used his key, and ascended a narrow staircase to the floor above.

Stafford was at work at his desk as Arundell came in. Immediately the ambassador rose and greeted him, motioned him to a chair, then went out of the room for several minutes. When he returned, closing the door carefully, he offered his guest a piece of fruit from below and then began sifting through a chest atop his desk, seeking some papers there.

"Did you know that Morgan has been taken up?" Charles inquired.

"Yes, my lord of Derby spoke for him in her majesty's name. I'm afraid they tired of my ineffectual means. But God's bones, Charles, the Secretary has me complaining of so many things and so many men at every audience I can obtain, that the French king only takes my arm and smiles with tolerance of me and says, 'Mais oui, mais oui, Sir Robert,' and proceeds to other matters."

"Sir Robert?" Charles asked in surprise.

Stafford waved the question aside. "Aye, he calls me Sir Robert; what can I do? One corrects a king once, eh? Thereafter one corrects oneself. You see that this is to my embarrassment, that they in England would go round me as if I were but a noddy put in this place only to play innkeeper to travelling gentlemen. The Council is sending over Waad to have Morgan called for home."

"I doubt they will give him up. Pray, Ned, who is the man Shute you sent to lead the soldiers to him?"

"None of mine, I know not who he is. He came to Derby from among your people here. I know him not." Sir Edward tossed over another piece of fruit and then pointed to a pile of printed sheets folded into the unbound leaves of a book. Arundell took them up. Lifting the pages until he found the title, he read aloud, "Discours de la vie abominable, ruses, trahisons, meurtres, impostures, empoisonnements, atheismes, & autres tres iniques conversations de my lorde de Lecestre," and so on. He began to laugh aloud.

"I suppose you knew of this, your damned book of Leicester's life, or what d'ye call it. 'Twas bad enough in English, we must have it in French now, too. My wife will die of shame when her friends here come to read in it."

"I knew that it was coming, Ned, not that it had burst forth already. How came you by it now?"

"A street boy brought it, disremembering of course whence he had it. Your friends are in the mocking vein. I suppose your Throgmorton took it in hand, eh?" Arundell merely smiled. "Nuisance for me just now, you know, for I tell you, Charles, I am looked to straitly for every little thing that happens here. Already I am blamed for never setting Mr. Secretary's hands upon the first authors thereof."

He took the book and threw it onto the desk, pronouncing the entire libel a boyish exercise that only served as a distraction from the main business, which was to preserve the peace of Europe and free the English kingdom from the evil forces that were leading her to confusion. Arundell heard him out patiently and waited until he had composed himself.

Finally the ambassador reseated himself by the window. "Well," he said at length, "I suppose you have come out from the lion's den."

Arundell nodded. He reported first that he had learned of Dr. Parry's execution; Sir Edward remarked that he himself had heard no more since Walsingham's account of the man's trial. The Secretary's version ran thus, that Parry had come over a year earlier and gained an audience with the queen, in which he had informed her that he had been sent by Morgan and the Jesuits to kill her. In reward for his good care of her safety, Elizabeth had granted the man a pension and found him a seat in Parliament.

Some time later, however, he had broached the same plot to another man who had some grievance regarding an inheritance. As God in his love and care of princes would have it, that man had been what Walsingham coyly termed a "correspondent" of his own. Walsingham, always the fairest of men, had called Parry in and inquired whether, in order to discover dangerous leanings in any other man, he had suggested to anyone such a plot. Parry had foolishly denied the same, and Mr. Neville, the informant, had been brought in. God had then caused the fellow but two days afterward freely to confess all of his murderous intent. A fortnight later he was condemned. Now he was dead. Stafford knew that Parry had been Lord Burghley's agent while in France. He was convinced that the fellow had been a victim of Leicester's encroachments on the Lord Treasurer's ground, that the fool had thought he was acting within his warrant all the time.

But Stafford seemed to care nothing further about the matter, and he pressed Arundell for the details of his meeting with the duke of Guise. Accordingly, Charles turned his mind from Parry and began to recount quasi ad verbum the duke's description of the forthcoming manifesto. He then described his own response to it, that in effect he disbelieved the English Council would move in any way against it. He told also of the meeting itself and of Mendoza's part in it, and ended with the duke's request that he try again suborning Stafford to the League's interests.

The ambassador said nothing for a time, considering the matter with some care. Finally he remarked that doubtless Arundell had been correct in his response to the duke and that he might subsequently report that he, Stafford, had expressed the same opinion in his hearing. Concerning the subornation, Arundell should report that he had playfully remarked to Sir Edward that there was money to be made in showing his dispatches, which anyway came from councillors he little loved, and that Sir Edward had lightly answered that money from whatever source would never be unwelcome, seeing that he was almost ruined by his queen's hard usage of him through Walsingham's means, and had not had a farthing to pay his expenses these seven months past.

"Let them think still that I may someday be their man," he said, "but not yet. I may move no further in this direction at this time, for I have asked again the queen's leave to show false dispatches to draw them on, and again Mr. Secretary has refused me, as he says in her majesty's name, but I think not. But here is something too which you must know."

He rose from his place and came to sit on the table near Arundell's chair.

"Mr. Secretary commands me in the queen's name to desist from any speech with yourself, for you are (says he) a known traitor and dangerous enemy of her majesty's safety."

Arundell leant his head back against the high back of the chair and closed his eyes.

"Had you written my name to him again then?" he asked.

"That is the nettle in the bush, Charles. Not after this time a year since have I sent to ask her majesty that I might employ your service. You know what Mr. Secretary replied to me at that time."

"And so the question arises," said Charles, "how does the good Secretary come to know of my resort hither to you?"

"That is the only question." Stafford arose again and stood by the casement. "This I will tell you, the knowledge comes not to him from any in my house."

"Whence, then?"

"Necessarily, from one of yours."

Arundell ran over in his mind as many of the English refugees as he could recall; though there were many whom he counted capable of any treachery, he could point to none likely to be in the Secretary's pay. But the informant need not be any paid agent of the Council; one could picture some small tired man, languishing in penury and half-mad with homesickness, writing unsolicited to Sir Francis offering every scrap that might win a bit of favor for himself.

"Whom do ye have in your very bosom, then?" the ambassador asked.


"With whom do ye correspond?"

"With none but well tried friends, for the most part, my Lord Paget among other, of events that do occur."

"None who is not known to you?"

"Yes, with several, from time to time, unknown to me by sight, but circumspectly; a few among the Frenchmen, and especially one called Hert on matters of the queen of Scots."

Stafford turned, blinking. "Hert?" he asked. "What, you have not told this Hert about us two?"

"Not the briefest word. It is all upon her money here, and Morgan and the other Paget, as also upon all the great designs for the freedom of our Lady Mary. Why, Ned, what d'ye know of Hert?"

Stafford began laughing at the silly complexity of the business. He shook his head from side to side in wry exasperation.

"My man Lilly has just come back to me from the court, and tells me what he learns from Phelippes, that one Hert is Mr. Secretary's chiefest intelligencer here in some particular affairs. They would gladly know more of him, too. I would you would show some more caution hereafter."

"Indeed." Arundell began laughing, too. "And who may the man be?"

"Certes, one of them in great trust among you, whoe'er he be, judging by the Secretary's opinion of his news. A very great man among the laymen here, which is the cause why Mr. Secretary loves him, for that he is such a hater of Jesuits."

Arundell thought over again the idea that somehow his frequenting the ambassador's house had become known to someone of his acquaintance. The fact seemed the more perplexing since that same man could have ended his visits, and possibly his life as well, simply by letting them be heard of in this town. He could see from the expression on Stafford's face that his friend's thoughts were following similar lines.

"You asked that I learn somewhat of the man sent over from Leicester to slaughter you."

"Yes, so the rumor ran among us. Have you news?"

"I have. I put it to my Lord Burghley as a damnable thing if true, to murder a man in a strange kingdom whether or no he were a traitor to his own, which, I told him roundly, you are not. This I received but yesterday. With the first clause my lord agrees, with the second he cries 'I suspend.' But he peered into it there and found that only one man went from Leicester overseas, and that was to buy fine cloth for his lordship's back, and shortly home again. I think the rumor was untrue."

"Doubtless so. A coin of Morgan's stamping. I thought I should have met with him before this if it were true. Did you not say his Dudleyship believed some others to have writ the book against him? I know no other reason he should wish to snuff me now."

"Well, the devil speaks in him. Sit in public rooms with your back to the wall, will ye not?"

"Ha, ha, yes I will do that."

Stafford retrieved the paper he'd earlier searched out and glanced it over once again.

"Look you, Charles, that is another thing. Walsingham in speaking ill of you again writes that you are to command an army of the duke's to land in Sussex. What, are you Hannibal, to lead armies; are you Caesar, to lead armies against your homeland?"

Arundell's face reddened. "That is but idle speech. It comes not from the duke of Guise, of that you may be sure."

"Whence then?"

"Oh, it is the common talk at tables everywhere among our disappointed fellows, one to land here, another to land there, nothing more ordinary among us."

"Well, were I to don my cuirass and helm for every warning I have of an enterprise against our shore," Stafford replied, "I should wear them out from within, with never stroke struck. But while Mr. Secretary learns of dreams like this, or schemes I would have said, you must be patient if he will not credit me when I write you are an honest man."

Charles sat looking glumly at the French book of Leicester's life again, and said nothing.

"But look ye, cousin, do ye keep a sharp eye to plots like these, for mark me, one day an army will come, whoever leads it in, and we of England must be ready for it on that day."

"No, Ned, you watch for armies. I mean to enroll me for an hermit religious."

"There is my man! The anchorite of Cheapside." Stafford rolled his eyes in mock exasperation, then grew serious. "They may ever say they come for religion only, Charles, but you and I are not ninnies. The good musters from the counties will beat them from our shores, but you and I will fight in our manner, which is by eye and brain and pens."

"And what still for my lady, Ned? How have you helped her? How has your Lord Treasurer come to her aid now? Now she is in still stronger durance, moved from castle to castle with bilious Puritans set to watch her. No more correspondence reaches her. Daily the trap closes more upon her, and how much time has she, think you, before the wicked have her in their jaws?"

"The queen of Scots remains alive, never fear for her. She shall have her day, and you her servants shall ride home with her in triumph. She is not friendless, Charles," Sir Edward said heatedly, "even amongst the great of England, and never shall she be delivered up to ravening bears. Only patience required, now as before. She is true heir, and she will have her own. Only let her not be brought into jeopardy of her head by some prince's army--believe me, Charles, these great kings would give not a penny for her truly, I care not what they piously mutter in your ears. They will come for England itself, and when they do, mind now! my lord of Leicester will have warrant to dispatch her before beak of ship strikes sand."

Arundell sat still in the dumps. He'd had learned enough of the duke of Guise, the queen of Scots's own cousin, to know what she might expect from the king of Spain, whatever the dreaming exiles hoped for from them both. He saw no way out, for her, for himself, for the others, indeed for anyone. The entire world seemed locked together like two mastiffs with teeth sunk into one another's haunches, snarling and whirling in a circle in the dust, neither able to give it over without finding the other in his throat.

"You have your religion, Charles, as each of us has his, and may God instruct us all. But most of all you are an Englishman, and will do right."

"Never doubt me, Ned," the other answered, "when once I know what right is."

"Well, look you now," Stafford began, his face taking a light as if some great new thought illumined it from within. "You know, the great Aeneas, who was the pattern and original of all great men since, was in a like case upon a time, and found himself rent between his great love for the Lady Dido and his duty to his country, when he would have sailed away to found his nation of Latium. And sure he doubted of his course as you do, but he sailed, to make his nation and preserve his countrymen, and never looked back."

Arundell smiled ruefully. "Oh, a casuist! For first, he did look back. And for another, the god came to him and commanded him to do as then he did. Ah, Ned, the god appearing never fails to make decisions altogether easier to make."

"Well, take me then for your Mercury and I shall command you."

"Thank you. 'Sail at once for Italy,' say you? Where would you be then for news, Ned? Ha ha. You god of thieves."

"Ha ha. Well, in the end it will come right. You will see, and thank me then."

Arundell was growing merry again and twitted his friend for his surly optimism.

"No, Sir Edward, I fear not so. You know, our England can never escape the fate of Troy and Rome in ancient times."

Stafford feigned surprised dismay.

"Why, do you not know 'Chaucer's Prophecy,' Ned? Do you not listen to what your people say amongst themselves? For by those mantic verses it is proved that England's glory is no more and she has bespoken her own destruction. Sure it is true. The ancient sage knew more than all our chroniclers, Ned, with his second sight.

When faith faileth in priests' saws,
And lords' behests are held for laws,
And robbery is held purchase,
And lechery held solace;
Then shall the land of Albion
Be brought to great confusion.

And these conditions we see all met now, do we not in truth? The priests ignored, the laws overruled. Oh Albion, oh England! The climacteric year of '88, Ned, as they prophesy. Sic probo."

"Well, I maintain me still. I for my part expect old King Arthur shall ride forth again of Avalon, when we have most need. Get you gone, then."

As he rode through the late afternoon city, Arundell ran over again the vexing ambiguities and byways of reason of his present state. He could hardly say he was doing right--he could hardly say what he was doing. For England or for the church? For Mary or for Elizabeth? For war or for peace? For his friends, most of them traitors so-called, or against them? For the layman Catholics or for the priests? Against Leicester or against Morgan? For which laymen? For which priests? The truth seemed to be that he was more or less for nearly everyone and everything. But at least he had begun of late to feel that he was working to some end; if still he did not clearly see what end, yet he was working. He did not spend all his hours dreaming mawkishly of firesides with Kate.

He wished wistfully he had been born a zealot. Whether Jesuit or Puritan or patriot, warrior or pacifist, papist or devoted partisan of this or any queen or king, it mattered very little which, as long as very zealous. Wished he had been born one or could think himself into that blessed, excited state; but thinking was the hitch. Do zealots think, or do they divide their time only between adoration and plotting final victory over their enemies? And sometimes wished, alternatively, that he might make of himself a simple, good-natured opportunist, for which there were models enough about him now, a time-server, perhaps cunning, perhaps merely lucky, but seeking after his own comfort and profit only. Life seemed hard enough in its own nature without aggravating it with niggling doubts. Only to be either utterly absorbed in piety or on the other hand skeptical and indifferent, with that quality of ataraxia professed by the ancient philosophers; but he was neither as much as he would have liked to be either, and so must lurch from one to the other. Well, he was neither saint nor sinner, nor even, like some of the people in this town, both at once. He felt he was by nature nothing, only a creature who wanted to be something.

Waxing ironical now, Arundell sang over in his mind the old verse,

The wind is great upon the highest hills,
The quiet life is in the dale below . . .

Rather, the reverse were more true. For always it appeared that the great magnates, the kings and queens, the dukes, the leaders of armies and far-flung missionary brotherhoods, if they were blown by a strong wind without, had nonetheless roots and trunks to bear it up, and so the wind was naught, and only strengthened them. But in the dales the wind is great, too, from time to time, for now the storm is everywhere. And there the unprotected shoots are torn up and scattered, some to be blown forever maybe, some to cling to life with broken tendrils, or perhaps to huddle beneath some great tree in a vain hope of a period to this strife. He remembered his father dead, unnoticed, because great Somerset had taken a wrong step. It is we little people, Arundell thought, we groundlings, we supernumeraries, who suffer most, because when everyone is buffeted, the great ones may receive their buffets as marks of their own greatness. Their defeats are their victories, and finally they go to death as martyrs not as victims. His self-pity threatened to become the master of him.

The sun was declining as Arundell crossed the bridges to his own side of the river. Towards the roofs of the bridgefront shops the shadows ascended from the stones, claiming windows and hanging signs, story by story, as they rose above the little people and their houses to join the greater shadow spreading across the eastern sky. At passages between the buildings, the sound of the streaming river, invisible, but bubbling and washing by, rose to the street. The shopkeepers began hastily to close up their stalls and street doors, to retire to warm rooms within.

Arundell passed from the bridge of St. Michel into the great place at its southern end. He paused there before turning westward, observing across the square, among the hurrying travellers, a party of men in English dress bound for the Petit Pont. He edged his horse more deeply into shade. Doubtless, from their clothing, they arrived in the city from the south, a timely coming at the end of day. They rode across the square more leisurely than the citizens scurrying past them, as if they were hindered by fatigue.

Two of them Arundell knew by name. One, he saw with surprise, was Walklate, Lord Paget's man, whom he had not seen since his lordship had departed for the south. The second was a little man bent in conversation with another who rode with his back turned outward. Aldred, the speaker was, an Englishman, professing to be a tailor, who dwelt in Lyons but made frequent journeys hither, where he had brought himself into bad odor as a turbulent and maledicent spirit. The late sunlight in the square fell full upon his puckered face, which worked animatedly as he pursued his point with his companion, heavy eyebrows keeping time with a waving fist of rhetorical emphasis.

The sight Charles found an unpleasant one. The nasty little man whose face he now saw haloed by the last strong beams was contemned by everyone for being a mean intelligencer, a mere spy, an odious creature of cunning and bad faith who could never be trusted by his friends nor even, it was said, by his employers, whoever they might be at any time. Almost everyone despised the treacherous, faithless fellow, and the churchmen in every city had been warned to refuse him any hearing. Yet this little ferret of a man, in his shifting disloyalty, was merely known to be what Arundell had secretly become, he who but a day since had been obliged to cover his movements with a bald lie to the good man with whom he lodged. What extenuations might be offered seemed sometimes only that, excuses, to conceal from himself the double-facing role he had assumed.

For a brief second, as the English party reached the bridge and Solomon Aldred left the clear square, the man with whom he had been conversing turned with a sort of sniggering laughter and faced the west. Arundell, though still unseen, saw him too now with the sunlight full upon his face, his face standing out alone against the semi-darkness all about him. The man's right eye writhed in derisive merriment; his left eye was a horrible dead blank, a milk-white globe that sat in its socket like a piece of glazed cake. And then the men were upon the bridge and gone from sight.

Arundell sat motionless, fixed by a strange disgust to his place in the shadows. The vision of the face pressed like a night bird's wings close upon his face. Only gradually he came to himself, then gave himself a thorough shake and galloped homeward.

Once arrived at his house, omitting to dine, he ran up to his empty rooms and paced the floor for an hour in a black funk, overcome by helplessness and restlessness. Then, fully dressed, he threw his long frame across the bed and closed his eyes. It was a long time later that he drifted uneasily into sleep, alone on the rough blanket, a tense line drawn above his brows even in that relative repose.

Outside the windows, full night came rapidly on.

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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