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)



"This instant of my song
A thousand men lie sick;
A thousand knells are rung;
And I die, and I die as they sing;
They are but dead and I dying."

Shortly before midday, Jamie Sharrock rode out of the French city of Cateau Cambrésis. Uncertain of his way, he turned mistakenly into the road towards Valenciennes; an hour passed before he recognized his error and sought correction. The sudden descent upon him of a patrol of Walloon militia told him that he had crossed into the province of Hainaut. He inquired the right road of the ensign of the troop, and then set off eastward towards Maubeuge, whence he would turn northward again in good hope of striking Mons.

The ordinary route lay through Tournai, where the headquarters of the Spanish military were stationed, but would have taken him through several other towns which, like Ghent and Dendermonde, both taken only within the past year, were still harassed by raiders from the rebel States. He preferred the safer road, the road which, with a lengthy river voyage, would take him through Malines. This town too had newly fallen, but was securely behind the lines.

Not three months since, Sharrock had been residing in the west, at his master's little house at Lutton, looked in upon from time to time by the high sheriff but otherwise left in peace. Over the nearly two years since his master's flight Sharrock had been quietly selling off what could discreetly be sold, sending small sums over the seas whenever carriage could be found. At last, however, he had done all that he could do, and so had determined, abruptly, to send himself as well.

Wrapping up his master's fortune and a few clothes of his own, he went down to the countess of Arundel's country house. There, in late April 1585, he was received not only by the countess but by her husband as well, who had been permitted these brief holidays with his lady, and he was let into the earl's new plan of escape. Dressed as common seamen, he and one William Bray met the earl in a creek mouth on the Sussex coast, whence they rowed him to a ship awaiting them just beyond Littlehampton harbor; they went aboard and set sail, praising God for his care of them, when Sir Richard Bingham, forewarned, came out to intercept them in the queen's bark, boarded them, and, with a sympathetic smile, conveyed the earl back to the Tower of London. Sharrock and Bray, first taken for seamen, were returned to Portsmouth and there examined, following which Bray and some others were arrested and Sharrock was sent on his way.

Following that fright, Sharrock recuperated a short space in the country and then came up to London. It was in his mind to find out a priest, from whom he might obtain advice, but without any friends he could find no priests. Finally, he went visiting in the Marshalsea prison, where there were priests in abundance. Those good men referred him to one Berden, near the Bell in Aldersgate Street. Nicholas Berden, as it turned out, had formerly under the name of Rogers (which was his real name no man knew) been a servant of Robert Parsons during the Jesuit's sojourn in the realm, and had come forward but recently to aid the cause again. He was a small, fairhaired man whose suspiciously shifting gaze was belied by his soft voice, pleasant and melodious, and by his even temperament.

Sharrock first encountered Berden in early June. The fellow was most accommodating, promising to make the necessary arrangements for his travel abroad. At that time, the great fear among the Catholics was for Mr. William Shelley, who the Tower prisoners reported had been racked several times and was weakening in his resolution. It was doubted that he would soon begin speaking torrents, like a toothless gammer by the fireside. The earl of Northumberland was beside himself in the fear that his own part in the Throgmorton business would soon become known. He smuggled word out of the prison that his friends and servants were to scatter for their lives. A week or two passed without occurrence, whilst Berden put Sharrock off with delays he called inevitable. Then on the morning of 21 June came word that Northumberland had murdered himself with a pistol in his cell in the Bloody Tower; Berden sent Sharrock off to the Kentish coast with no more hesitation, armed with a letter of introduction from a priest Jamie had neither met nor ever heard of.

At Folkestone, awaiting his rendezvous with the shipmaster, Sharrock was joined by two others similarly sent down by Berden. One was Robert Poley, who explained confidentially that for many years he had served the holy cause from within the earl of Leicester's entourage, but was now employed upon an errand of importance to the Paris exiles, sent by Mr. Christopher Blount to consult with Mr. Morgan about the Scottish queen's correspondence. He was a pale, thin man who was evidently well educated, yet spoke quickly and smiled convulsively as if unnaturally anxious to please. Poley's companion, whom it seemed he knew no better than Sharrock did, was a surly half-Italian Englishman called Captain Jacques. A day after their meeting, their ship sailed for France.

Originally the shipmaster had been instructed to enter Calais Roads, but the appearance of the Dutch Sea Beggars off the coast induced him to turn into the wind and make instead for Boulogne, where they arrived under the castle guns just before the Beggars overtook them. The three men progressed by hired horses to Amiens, then in another day to Compiégne, where Captain Jacques's way divaricated toward Rheims.

Once in Paris, Sharrock and Poley searched out Charles Paget's rooms and stayed the night with him. The next day Jamie was shown to Fitzherbert's chambers, where he found neither Arundell nor his friends in residence. Two days later, Paget brought him and Poley to speak with Thomas Morgan in the Bastille prison. Poley, who evidently knew Morgan already, introduced Sharrock to him; Morgan, though with no great show of friendliness, accepted him as Arundell's man and spoke freely in his presence of their enterprise in progress, which was to hit upon some scheme to reopen communications with the queen of Scots.

During the preceding winter, Queen Mary had been transferred from Wingfield to the tighter security of Tutbury, and in the spring her new keeper, the strict Puritan knight Sir Amias Paulet, had taken up his charge. Since that time, her partisans had neither received nor successfully sent in a single secret communication, only the vacuous formal greetings that passed openly by way of the French ambassador through Walsingham's own hands. This unhappy state could not continue. To discount a host of compelling reasons, of finance and strategy and morale, for which correspondence must be got through, there was over them all the most important one; that without proof of regular consultation with the Scottish queen, the refugee leaders would lose most of their power and influence. Morgan would become superfluous.

Morgan, of course, did not have to explain all this to Sharrock. He had merely to indicate curtly that he was engaged in the business of princes and considered private men's troubles an imposition upon his time. In fine, in searching out Sharrock's master Morgan was no help. He could do no more than to direct Sharrock to Señor Mendoza's house, since that worthy man, Morgan remarked with some asperity, seemed nowadays more in Mr. Arundell's confidence than any of his own countrymen.

From the great prison, Sharrock rode to the Spaniard's house in the Rue du Peau Diable near the Hôtel de Ville. There, after stating his name and business, he was turned away by a secretary with the bare message that the diplomat was an exceedingly busy person, engaged in the business of princes, and would send. Sharrock returned to Arundell's rooms and dwelt there for an anxious week.

Finally, half through the second week of July, Sharrock received a messenger from Mendoza. Promptly he accompanied the boy and was led ahorseback seven leagues or more out of the city to a tiny village called Villame. The last five miles they rode with an escort of light cavalry that wore an almost uniform dress he had never seen before, but was sure it did not bear the French king's badge. On the farther edge of the town, he was brought into an inconspicuous house, and there to his horror found himself being announced to both Mendoza and the duke of Guise, celebrated scourge of Protestants.

There, while the two great men, whom in England Sharrock had only heard spoken of arranged with the devil as a third, merely stared at him, a more kindly subordinate took pains to calm his agitation, which threatened to overcome him and make him silly. Mendoza gave him a message and repeatedly tested his memory of it, and then he was sent to an early bed in the same house. The next morning, he was provided with a bundle of papers for the patrols, tested once again as to his memory, and sent away. Now, on his fourth day since, he crested a low hill and found the walls of Mons before him.

The region about Mons, because of its distance from the present lines, showed few signs of the eighteen years of warfare in this part of the country. Late in the day, however, as Sharrock progressed northward into the Brabantine flatland, he came across devastated villages and the charred ruins of farmhouses, the visible scars left by the skirmishers and raiders of both sides before Parma's troops had pushed the zone of battle as far north as the river Scheldt. Brussels itself he found not much damaged, for no direct attack had been made upon it. The suburbs, however, were in disarray, because whatever in the surrounding villages the besiegers had not been able to turn to their own defense they had levelled to clear a field of fire.

For this was the character the war had assumed. The new defensive architecture imported from the south had made almost the smallest town impregnable by direct assault. Gunmounted arrowhead bastions, with crossfiring flankers that kept the enemy artillery at a distance; low, thick curtain-walls of brick and rubble that absorbed shot that would have shattered the mighty stones of ancient castles; wide, circumfluent moats, themselves defended by ravelins and earthen sconces--all of these had made traditional assaults through cannon-pounded breaches all but impossible. Where treachery from within, the most economical device, was wanting, there had to be starvation, which required a total blockade of long duration. Consequently, the besieging force normally built its own fortifications, a pair of circumvallations, the inner defenses against sallies from the besieged, the outer ones against relieving armies, and settled down to wait. When the blockade was successfully enforced, the town came eventually to terms, but there were few sudden victories--Antwerp had held out so far for eleven months--unless the inhabitants came to blows amongst themselves and some of them appealed to the force without the walls, which not infrequently happened in this land of divided loyalties. Not many towns had a clear majority within of either Catholics or Calvinists, loyalists or rebels.

As a result of these conditions, there were few towns stormed and fewer pitched battles in the field. It was a war, on the one hand, of long, settled sieges and, on the other, of pillage and banditry, of skirmishes and flying raids upon relief columns, villages, sconces, and enemy patrols. Even here, near a city that had capitulated some four months earlier, there was no one residing in the countryside.

As he approached the southeastern gates of heart-shaped Brussels, Sharrock began encountering the soldiers of the Army of Flanders, loose comrade-bands foraging for food or seeking plunder overlooked, occasionally, nearer the walls, an escuadra or a full company at drill. Just without the city, the road took him through one of the bivouacs of those men unable to be quartered upon the citizens. Most of them seemed to be Walloons, Netherlanders, who wore the red sash of Spain over their motley shirts, and Germans, who did not.

At the gate, cowering beneath the huge guns that hung out from the bastion above his head, he proffered his warrants to the guardsman, who summoned a passing boy to lead the traveller into the heart of the city. There in a small black inn in the Rue du Lombard, not far from the Grand Place, he passed the night.

Departing at an early hour from the Schaerbeek Gate, Sharrock rode on across the low land until he reached the riverside docks where larger flat-bottomed boats set out for the northern towns. There he searched out the captain of the docks. An hour later, Sharrock was standing beside his horse in the bottom of a stout barge, near a pack train of victuals and casks of corn powder for the guns, floating down the slow stream northward.

In due course, he discovered the military activity along both banks to be increasing. Besides a large number of stragglers and small bands camped along the river, twice he saw whole companies of Burgundian infantry in bright colors marching downstream. Troops of lancers were to be seen hastening forward, both along the banks and away across the marshy ground. Once the barge came abreast of a slow-moving column of the awesome Black Riders, an independent company of German heavy cavalry, in their full armor despite the heat.

Near Malines, or Mechlin, which had capitulated only within the past month, Sharrock found signs of great disorder. Much of the siege camp was only gradually being broken up, and though the active soldiers had been ordered on, the wounded remained. Directly across from the quays, the maimed and ill were being loaded into lighters and poled over to the military hospital in the city. Sharrock, as his barge glided past them, stared in horror at the swathed heads and stumps of former limbs. Almost half the injured seemed to bear no physical wounds. They sat or walked (if led) like ambulatory dead men, with vacant gaze and features devoid of all expression. Many of the soldiers who tended them wore the badge of the defeated city on their shirts, but notwithstanding that, wore also the red sash or a red feather hastily pricked in their hats.

Some time later, the laden barge passed into the river Scheldt. Now the soldiers on the bank marched on one bank only. Across the flat land of Brabant, almost to the horizon, small units of footmen, with sometimes their women following, plodded slowly onward towards a common destination. On the other side, in Flanders, the land was waste and virtually empty, birdless and almost treeless, with only a rare watcher standing alone upon a prominence from time to time gazing at them as they passed. The great river flowed in wide gentle curves slowly towards the sea. In the distance, after a while, one saw barely discernible ahead some bright objects rising from the platteland. That was Antwerp, queen of cities.

Well above the town, the barge was drawn in to makeshift docks along the Flemish bank. Beginning there, a line of earthworks, thinly manned by a company of shot from the Italian tercio, ran along the river and created a highway for the shifting of goods into the camp. Remounting his horse, Sharrock joined the stream of sutlers and noncombatants and followed the road out into the marshland away from the city walls across the river. At frequent intervals, the raised, hardpacked surface was protected by earthen sconces, with the barrels of demi-culverins bearing out upon the land. Soon he found himself within the camp, where hastily built huts were clustered round the black remains of campfires. The soldiers themselves, some, the veterans, in rags, others in expensive finery, lounged idly about or slept in the sun.

Sharrock pressed on through the crowded camp, past huts and past small companies at drill, until at length he came upon a short, full-bearded officer who wore, fantastically, a gentleman's high hat with plume atop the thick steel cap of a pikeman. As he gawked at the strange assemblage, the little man winked comically and made merry comments in an unknown tongue. Sharrock came to himself and began bowing to the man, saying "Señor" several times, and handed him his papers. The officer looked them over hastily, then handed them back, shaking his head and speaking rapidly again in his own tongue. Sharrock began saying "Parma," "Parma," over and over, at which the man looked at him quizzically for a moment, then shrugged and pointed further downstream toward a low bridge that snaked across the marsh and river all the way to the dikes on the far side.

With this construction, completed in early spring, the prince of Parma had cut off all resupply of the city from the Protestant sea-towns to the north. The rebel chieftain, the prince of Orange, whilst he lived, had foreseen as much and had instructed his deputy in Antwerp, Marnix de St. Aldegonde, in how to prevent that danger. His plan had called for the timely destruction of the Kouwenstein cross-dike and the Blaugaren dike, which would have inundated all the pasture land to the north, so that however thoroughly Parma might dominate the ground about the city walls, yet the ships of the rebel States, which controlled the seas, could never have been kept from relief of the town across the broad bay thus created. St. Aldegonde, however, a year ago now, had been unequal to the citizens. The city guilds, especially the butchers, who grazed their cattle in the nearby fields, had refused to let the dikes be cut. Parma had moved up swiftly and seized them all.

ccd-parma.jpg (30597 bytes)

Alexander Farnese, prince of Parma (portrait by Otto van Veen_

Hope of relief thus depended entirely upon the narrow river, and though few ships had dared to run before the prince's guns in any case, Parma had completed his circle by constructing a great bridge--of earth and stone across the marshes, of boats conjoined and fixed to pilings over the stream--which made finally impossible all communication between the city and its allies to the north. One great attempt had been made to breach the structure; the Italian's "hell-burners," hulks filled with explosives and rubble, had been released in the river to float down upon the bridge, and one had struck its target, only minutes after the prince himself had run to safety. But so great had been the surprise at the fury of the blast that the sally from the town had not come out in time, and the repairs had been made unhindered. Antwerp was in its last days as a great rebel city. Already the prince spent most of his time negotiating with dissident factions within the starving town, and soon one of them would strike the flag and admit the Spanish forces.

The soldiers seemed to sense so much. Everywhere as Sharrock rode, he saw the men and their dependents, often as illdressed, as underfed, as miserably housed in rough baracas of their own construction from rubble and scrap, as Spanish soldiers, nay all soldiers, usually were, yet going about their work or play with light step and frequent bursts of laughter. In one camp, on the ground before the whores' hut there was a party in progress, with music, dance, and freely flowing drink, the revellers oblivious to the war, ignoring a half company of corseletes executing pike formations not sixty meters away.

At length Sharrock came upon a camp in which many of the huts were larger and more soundly built, and when he repeated Parma's name to an ensign or lieutenant, or alferez as they called it, the man rather than pointing him onward began to put questions to him. Sharrock proffered his warrants. The ensign bade Jamie dismount and follow him, and conducted him to a purveyor who was attached to the company. The purveyor’s home was a rough-timber affair constructed in lean-to manner alongside a wagon, upon which was piled under wraps a sizable store of goods. He too was an Englishman, with the improbable name of Constantine Watchindroppe; he and his Walloon wife had lived in and dealt from this hut for the past eight months, making biweekly journeys either south or northward into enemy territory for revictualling and for selling away the plunder he had taken in trade from the soldiers. When food was scarcest and the pay longest in arrears, he found that he could buy up treasures for a few loaves of bread, and he therefore loved his work.

Sharrock learned that he was in the company quarters of the prince's own sergeant-major. Watchindroppe obligingly left Jamie in the care of his wife and went off to find some other English who would know everyone who came or went. When the sutler returned, he brought Ralph Ligons, whom Sharrock had known long ago when the man had been a servant of the earl of Northumberland. Ligons, though he did not recognize Sharrock, yet read over his warrants and offered to bring him to his master. With thanks and a coin for Watchindroppe, Sharrock set off after his new guide.

They found Parma's camp just under the western end of the bridge. Along with the regular pikemen and arquebusiers and their hovels, there were a few more substantial huts, and passing to and fro one saw men more smartly dressed in officers' habits and in the sometimes splendid garb of personal valets and squires. Ligons led him directly to a group of small huts nestled under an enormous tree just at the river bank. He called out for Mr. Arundell. Talking ceased roundabout and there was movement within one of the shelters, and then Arundell stepped out of the opening.

So long did Sharrock and Arundell stand slapping each other's shoulders that Ligons walked away, and the two who had come out with Arundell re-entered the hut smiling.

At last Sharrock produced the money he had so long carried with him; Arundell received it with a cry of pleasure and conducted him within. There Jamie was introduced to Thomas Throgmorton and to a short, blocky Welshman of nearly fifty with close-cropped hair, whose name was Hugh Owen. Owen, though he was paid out of the army pagaduria at the rank of cabo de escuadra, or corporal, was the chief of the English branch of Parma's intelligence service. Arundell passed over one of his new coins to Throgmorton, who laughed delightedly and ran out. A fortnight earlier Arundell had been waylaid by some desperate soldiers between camps and robbed of all their funds, lucky indeed to have escaped with his life. Since that time, like most of the army unable to buy even the most basic necessities, he and Throgmorton had been forced to subsist on the army ration, a three pound loaf of bad bread every other day, in the quantity fixed as just sufficient to prevent starvation, and boiled water from the river.

Most of the soldiers lived similarly, for though the Spanish troops were assigned nearly the best wage in Europe, they were almost never paid it. The arrearages were reliably paid to the beneficiaries of dead men's wills, that is, when the chaplains had not got themselves written into the testaments as the price of the last rites. But for living men, the pay came either to their captains' pockets or not at all. If Antwerp did not surrender, they might eventually get rich plunder, but if it were finally to come to terms, they would never even see within the walls--the conciliatory Parma, unlike his predecessors, would occupy the town with Walloon troops, to avoid ill-feeling, and proscribe upon death all their hard-earned looting. The only real hope most soldiers had was that they might be maimed, when they would be pronounced unfit, paid up, and sent home on a litter.

At length, as the four men dined with grinning faces that these days seldom grinned, and as outside the hot sun quietly disappeared, Sharrock was plumbed for news of home. Word of Arundel's seizure and of Northumberland's death had preceded him; he knew nothing of Lord Harry Howard's treatment, about which he was particularly queried. But as Sharrock was about to come to the message he had borne, a scattering of shots was heard from not far off. The men scrambled out into the darkness, joining those from the other huts, and stared about.

From the dikes across the river came occasional flashes of musketry and lighter arms, with an irregular tattoo of reports, and the much fainter sounds of men yelling. The alferez came running through the camp calling the men to arms. The former sleepers stepped within to don their shirts; they put on their steel morions and their plated jackets or corselets if they had them, and began readying their guns. Both drummers turned out to begin beating out the call to make a front, and similar sounds came from other companies up and down the bank and across the bridge. Cooking fires went out all through the camp. Women darted out of the huts with long cloaks hastily thrown over themselves and scurried off to the rear.

Since the prince's unit was a company of shot, the men prepared by loading arquebuses and setting the matches to smoldering. They lay down upon the embankment with their weapons pointing out across the water. Two men carried old curriers, long firearms that discharged not shot but short arrows. Arundell and his friends rummaged for their pistols, which they loaded carefully, and Hugh Owen drew out a long petronel that he carried with both hands. They lay among the rest behind the low bank by the water's edge.

After a long moment of comparative silence, the crepitation of gunfire on the farther side diminished. Behind them, in the middle of their camp, they could hear a company of pikemen arriving from farther to the rear and rapidly forming up. The soldiers wore corselets which with their morions seemed to hang disembodied in the darkness in two dim lines above the ground. Hugh Owen gestured towards the black formation.

"Los sacristanes," he murmured. The famous Tercio of the Sexton, the pikemen who went all in black. The Gravediggers.

Except for the lessening fire afar off, there was scarcely any sound. Occasionally feet were heard hurrying through the camp behind them, or a piece of plate jangled against another, or a muffled lapping came from out on the river, but the silence was heavy and increased the time of waiting. Everyone lay silently, all peering with full concentration, all hoping that the brief engagement was over.

Suddenly a dark, square form ran into the mud not ten meters before their eyes. Glints of armor appeared above it, then came the sounds of wood knocking and feet splashing into the water. The matches were blown to glowing and applied, great booming explosions began up and down the bank, to grow instantly into a single, long deafening roar. Men cried out and were heard tumbling into the river. Powdersmoke billowed out from the bank and made a ghastly white fog just at weapons' ends. Acrid fumes burned into eyes and throats.

Then several guns on the barge started up, cacophonous, throwing tiny orange flashes through the haze. A cabo came running down behind the line of gunners, shouting orders. Arundell and Throgmorton, despairing of finding anything to shoot at, discharged their pistols in the proper direction and joined the arquebusiers who were packing up their weapons and scrambling away from the embankment. The yelling and shooting from the river continued. Owen set off his petronel and grabbed Sharrock's arm, hauling him back with him.

A few steps to the rear of the embankment, they passed through stiff ranks of black-clad pikemen moving up to take their places. Owen and Sharrock, and a few musketeers who gave up trying to run with their accoutrements and dropped them in the dirt, just made it through the lines, for the Sacristans were already lowering their long pikes to the horizontal, fifteen foot pikes in the first rank and those of eighteen feet just behind, preparing to receive the shock of a charge. Immediately behind the pikes came a line of men in leather jackets carrying short swords and javelins, ready to dart among the locked pikes and stab away at close quarters.

Firing began from the bridge, and from the flashes it was evident that another barge had struck the pilings below. A few short screams came from atop the structure, but from the sound of it, the Anversmen in the exposed boat were having very much the worst of it. The arquebusiers roundabout were busily reloading their weapons in the dark, and the Englishmen did the same. Arundell had lost his powder, so he dropped his pistols and drew out his rapier instead, a meaningless gesture that at least relieved him from having to stand emptyhanded. A few feet away a man's powder exploded as he was tamping it in, sparing him but killing the soldier standing next to him.

The thin shooting from the barge at the pilings could now be seen moving back up the stream. Another volley burst out from the top of the bridge. On the embankment near at hand a few pikemen were thrusting and shouting, but most were still standing at the ready. The barge had drawn off; there were furious splashes that sounded like armored men left behind, trying desperately to swim after it, and a few guns discharged from farther out in the current. The arquebusiers from the Sacristans' pike company, several men set on either flank, fired off together in a last stunning roar.

Thereafter, there was nothing to be heard but the cries of the wounded and the boats being rowed and poled back up to the city. From time to time, from further up along the embankment a single shot or two rang out, but the action was over, as abruptly as it had begun. After the loud melee but a moment past, the silence that lay behind the occasional cries and groans seemed exceptionally queer; the men stared at one another blankly through the darkness. Smoke hung heavily in the air.

The pikemen ran down into the water and began hauling out the fallen wounded, whom they dragged roughly back onto land and away towards their own camp. Some of the enemy had to be carried, but it was done willingly, for as long as they were alive they had value. The prince's company, deprived of prisoners by the Sacristans' promptness, raised up the campfires and set about picking up the Spanish wounded. One of them was a drummer who sat holding his bleeding forehead and mooing like a cow; another was the man who had set off his gun while reloading it, and would lose his tattered arm. There were two Spanish dead from Parma's camp. One of the arquebusiers lay just behind the embankment not four meters from Arundell's hut; evidently caught while withdrawing, he had a small, clean hole in the back of his morion which only mocked the destruction of his face on the other side.

Arundell stared at the man who had been killed by the reloader. He lay as if sleeping, chest downward with his face to one side, with a dark stain smeared across the back-plate of his corselet. He seemed quite young. He might have been some Catalonian peasant boy who had joined up to escape the plow; who had survived the sea voyage to Genoa or Savona, and the murderous marches over the Alps, round the Swiss cantons or through the Grisons, through Franche-Comté and Luxembourg into this field; who had weathered one winter, or three or five, with no pay and very little food, with disease all around; and had been shot through the back, accidentally, by one of his friends.

One of the dead Anversmen lay on the inner side of the embankment. None of the raiders had made it so far ashore under his own power; he must have died while being dragged off for ransom, and had been dropped on the spot, owing to the abrupt devaluation of his worth.

The purpose of the attack was far from clear. It was unlikely to have been a surprise attack upon the bridge, for the Spanish call to arms would easily have been heard across the water. Hugh Owen's theory was that the raid here had been planned as a diversionary prelude to the attempt upon the Kouwenstein dike across the river, that the timing had gone awry and the dike had been assaulted first, but that inexplicably the diversionary force had kept on anyway. Arundell's theory was that there was no explanation--the Anversmen had come out to kill or be killed, rather than starve indoors.

Far up the river, a few cannon boomed out from a camp opposite the city. The barges were regaining the New Town quays, and the Italian artillerymen were paying their respects. Arundell went out searching for his pistols, expensive machines he knew he should have difficulty replacing. He turned up one of them straight off, but never found the other, nor could he find his silver powdercase. He satisfied himself with finding all his limbs.

Round the fires, the soldiers were eating and conversing, not yet ready to return to their beds. Those who had wives had gone out to retrieve them from wherever they had been bustled to out of the way, and were returning now in little groups. The Englishmen crawled up on the black embankment near the riverside, from which they could now see a bright, glittering streak across the water from the newly rising moon. The smell of spent powder still hung faintly in wisps in the soft air, and black objects floated in the water some distance from the shore. Behind them, the camp settled down to dull fires, low whispers, and snores from nearby huts.

After nervous exclamations and partly accurate rehearsals of the action just fought, Sharrock took up his narration of his interview with Mendoza and the duke of Guise. The message committed to him was in English, though it was no more comprehensible to him than if it had been in Spanish or Turkish or the jabber of Cathay: "God has a new great friend. The wicked will soon be punished. Come home at leisure."

Throgmorton threw up his hands and barked an oath. Owen smiled grimly. Arundell explained the message to its bearer: evidently the French king and his mother had come to terms with the Holy League and struck a deal; his majesty would henceforth be God's new friend. A renewed war against the Huguenots would be inevitable, and the duke of Guise and his friends would be preoccupied with punishing the "wicked" in France. Arundell's present mission was therefore unnecessary, and he was to give it over.

"I shouldn't think the prince will be sorry at the news," Owen remarked.

The others agreed somewhat dourly. Arundell explained that he and Throgmorton had been sent to discuss with Parma some new plan for the invasion of England. As it had stood in Guise's mind and in Mendoza's, the prince of Parma was to lead a main force, a fifth or a quarter of his veteran Army of Flanders, perhaps ten or fifteen thousand of his best, against England itself. Simultaneously, the king of Spain was to send a large force against southern Ireland, larger than the last one five years earlier, which had perished to a man at Smerwick. The duke of Guise was to lead the League's troops against Scotland, where the young king James would be replaced under Catholic tutelage and all three realms might be united under his mother, the queen of Scots. It was but a variation upon the other schemes that regularly appeared and disappeared, all so far foundering upon King Philip's procrastination, Guise's other business, Parma's other war already in progress.

Those Englishmen who lived for the day when they might lead or follow a liberating army into their homeland chafed and stammered at Philip's irresolution and at Guise's shifting moods, but Parma they despaired of. The prince discussed the invasion when commanded to, and would invade if directly ordered to--or so everyone hoped--but he thought the idea of a sally against England foolishly premature and he told his king so, for he liked no distraction from his present task in hand. When the Low Countries had been reduced once again to their Spanish obedience, then, he said, then was the time for opening new wars. One job of work at a time.

As a consequence of the prince's impatience with such schemes, Arundell had been admitted to speak with him only once in a month in camp. Twice or thrice he had had sessions with high officers, and once with de Tassis, the new Veedor General of the army, who had come out from Tournai to hold the regular musters. The rest of the time the Englishmen had spent bubbling idly in the camp, playing cards and fishing, on three occasions forced to take a small part in the fighting, a task Arundell found unpleasant in principle and terrifying in the event.

Throgmorton spoke heatedly of the new delay. Somehow he had convinced himself, perhaps because it was the first time he had been personally involved in the planning, that this time the schemes would come to some fruition. He was of opinion that the duke of Guise was the key to the enterprise; as he argued it, if once Guise decided to move, the Spanish would have to come in to prevent the duke from annexing England to the French. Arundell, though he never said so, knew that this was not so. Guise was insufficient to try the invasion without Parma's aid, and knew it very well.

Similarly, Arundell dissented from the common view that the answer lay with the new pope, whoever might be elected to replace the late Pope Gregory. Already Parsons and Dr. Allen were preparing to transfer themselves to Rome, where they hoped to persuade the Papal Curia to sanction, indeed in large part to finance, the liberation of England, and to draw all of the other princes into undertaking the thing as a new crusade against the infidel. Arundell reckoned that Rome would never take the lead in an expedition that if successful would only increase the power of Spain. Nor did he trust the Spanish king himself, simply because King Philip had shown himself incapable of any large decisions. Charles believed, indeed, that the final answer lay solely with Parma. The prince commanded the greatest army in Europe, the only army fully mobilized. When Parma wished to make the invasion, the others, including his royal master, would be bound to help him; but as long as he discouraged it, they would not risk commanding him against his will.

And this suited Arundell's book perfectly. Just at present the prince was preoccupied with his Dutch wars, which he seemed finally on the verge of pushing to a successful end. When he had won here, in five years, in ten, perhaps by the end of the next season, then he would look naturally to England, the Protestant nation that had given so much covert aid to his enemy. At least there would be time for preparation.

Whatever lay behind the mists of future time, the present plan was gone the way of all the others. When morning came, Arundell, Throgmorton, and Sharrock arose with the rest of the camp and, after a hasty meal, walked over to the prince's headquarters, where they were referred to an adjutant in a field tent nearby. This officer wrote out the warrant for their journey and stamped it with the prince's camp-seal. He then proposed to provide them a small escort until they had come more safely distant from the front, and thoughtfully called up four men from an English squadron of light cavalry.

An hour or so later, the English lancers appeared before Arundell's hut, and Sharrock was sent off to bring in the horses. When they'd been loaded, the party spurred off across the western marsh, skirting the camp spread along the river by a road constructed of earth and rubble.

The soldiers escorting them were only partly fitted out; only one wore his morion, though another had his bumping behind him on his saddle pack. One trooper had no pistols, only a saber and dagger at either side. Another, with an enormous russet beard, held propped across his horse's neck a homemade weapon like a javelin in length, but cut from a broken pike, with its original head and blades intact. All four looked rather old, and they seemed to resent the men they were conveying, as they muttered amongst themselves from time to time, but kept together just behind and showed no inclination toward conversation. Probably they were veterans of many years' service here, men of no particular religion who had come over when this was the only war to follow; men who considered themselves to be soldiers of fortune, professionals without politics who did a job and made a small living from it, and disdained the exiles for religion whom they considered rather to be traitors to their country. When England should enter the war officially on the other side, their choice would be a hard one, whether to make war upon their own queen's troops or give themselves up to her law. For in the interval since their coming over, such service for the Spanish had been prohibited by law to all English subjects.

Some time since, they had passed the docks on the Scheldt where Sharrock had alighted. They continued now up the western side. The day was coming on excessively warm. For some time, they rode southward not far from the riverbank on their left, observing the stragglers and small detachments on the farther side and, on this side, rebel sentries atop hillocks some way off. Eventually, however, as they were approaching their crossing, they saw bearing down upon them a squadron of light horse numbering twenty or more men from the States, all in leather jacks and evidently well armed.

The trooper with the demi-pike observed them first and gave the warning, and the party, finding a crossing impossible at this place, galloped towards the fordable stretch ahead. It turned immediately into a sporting race, for the distance each party had to traverse was nearly equal, and both rode hard to beat the other to the ford. Everyone who had them drew out and cocked one of his pistols, as the horses thundered over the turf where it was dry and splashed uncertainly where it was not. The rebel squadron was succeeding in heading them off, advancing on them gradually from the right angle, for the others were pursuing a roadway or track directly to the ford, while Arundell's party rode over open ground, more often sodden than dry.

Arundell felt desperation rising within him. The patrol would come upon them just before the ford and, with such numbers, would stop their charge with a single volley. Sharrock's face was blanched, his mouth hung open as if gobbling up the wind. They could not retreat the way they'd come, for they'd be run to earth long before they could regain the Antwerp sconces. In a skirmish of horse, it is the fatal sin once to turn one's back upon the enemy.

Had he had the necessary leisure, Arundell would have been kissing his soul up to God. As it was, his mind was blank of consequences. His fear was suppressed in him by the speed of the event. With a cold eye he scanned the column already almost crossing his path. He saw every plate in the jacks, every light cuisse upon every thigh, every dag held cocked and ready. From the ensign's lance streamed a bright red pennoncel, embroidered with a variant of the sign of George.

Beside him, the trooper with the short pike looked over and made a gesture with his head. Abruptly, when they struck a patch of solid earth, the man wheeled his horse to the right, precisely opposite to the direction of their enemies. Arundell leaned hard over and pulled his mount around, and glanced back to see that his comrades were doing likewise, though Sharrock's horse narrowly missed going down in the tight turn. Again the leading trooper angled right, fleeing from the patrol almost in the direction they had come. The patrol reined to a stop as suddenly as it could; several of the men fired off their pistols, though close, still too far away for accuracy, and then the whole troop set off in pursuit.

Meanwhile, the demi-piker leaned again to his right and persisted, inflecting his ostensible about-face into what became a tightening circle. The pursuers, having seen their prey turn to flight, reacted too slowly. Arundell, following his trooper, found himself galloping hard again straight for the ford, the patrol passing by his right side not twenty or thirty meters off spurring at full pace in the wrong direction. More shots were fired at them, but though they heard the balls whistling past, they took no harm. They made the ford almost at full gallop. Springing from the low bank, the horses reacted by lifting their hooves high over the shallow flats. By the time they'd reached a depth sufficient to slow them to a walk, the party was nearly out of range and hastening again to the farther side before the patrol had reached midstream.

A half mile off, across the meadow, a convoy of Spanish wagons was stopped in the road, its drivers and escorting cavalry observing the adventure. The escort came round and formed up into a skirmish line. Perceiving this, the rebel patrol came to a halt in the shallows, stared and muttered for a while, then turned about and rode slowly away in the direction whence they'd come, disconsolate.

Arundell's escort had been ordered to protect him only to this point, near the confluence of the Scheldt and the Dyle. When the men departed, Arundell bestowed upon them the money he had promised them and the same again, considering that but for their aid he would be unable to put the money to any better use than he did.

Sharrock rode on apparently dazed by the harshness and immediacy of the action. Throgmorton looked rather grim. It was impossible to discern whether they had seen the pennants of St. George and recognized their pursuers as Englishmen. That was what took hold of Arundell. He had never got used to that order of violence--skirmishes, volleys of weapons fire, bodies of men dashing all about--but had seen it often enough to keep his head during it and to some extent his spirits afterward. Here, however, he had gone within hours from shooting at men against whom he bore no ill will to facing death at the hands of his own countrymen in someone else's war. Probably they had been Protestants, or something like, and he a Catholic, but he could prize no cause for enmity out of that. This great killing for creed which so roused all sides, always strange to him, seemed less and less comprehensible, began indeed to seem positively zany, as if these men on both sides had been rustic puppets battering one another with tiny brickbats over ridiculous epithets exchanged.

Not many years ago, Arundell had been sojourning on holiday in the English countryside, and at a market fair he had come upon some puppet players in a booth by the road. The piece they offered had been a truncated version of the story of Orestes, a tragical stageplay he had seen years still earlier performed at court by Lord Rich's men. In the original there had been much talking, shouting sometimes, some of it quite moving, as many there had testified. But in the puppets' version nearly all of the human speech was gone, and what remained of those ennobling passages had been only the insult and the obloquy, sufficient as a ready frame from which to hang the fustigations and stabado. The poetry had been excised to make space for brutish violence, and the farce had been hilarious at that time. Now the memory of those versions troubled his thoughts; the meaning was gone, and only the farcical violence remained. Arundell worried lest he and his friends and his enemies were becoming merely laughable.

Having passed the night in Brussels, the three men rode on the next day. They crossed the Sambre at Namur and ascended the rising ground eventually into the territory of Champagne, where they deflected their course from the valley of the Meuse and made westward towards Paris. When, the day following, they struck the Aisne and began making a better pace along the river path, they found themselves encircled by another armed patrol.

The ambushers were in irregular dress, but wore upon their shirts the arms of Mayenne. Since the exiles' papers proved their connection with the League's business, the leader of the troop at once left off his official coldness and became amiable. He advised them to accompany him to Rheims, there to await the formation of a convoy. By the agreement struck between the League and the king at Nemours a fortnight past, the royal patrols had ceased to disturb loyal Catholic subjects in their business. The present danger arose, he said, from certain mercenary bands the king had called in during the spring, Swiss and German adventurers who had neither good will nor a good faith and killed for mere pay. The holy duke of Mayenne had been forced pro bono publico to deal with these invaders smartly, but many squadrons of mercenary horse had escaped the League's vigilance and remained still in France, roaming about in open banditry and preying upon citizens' wealth and lives, their captains claiming to have the king's warrant still in force. The Englishmen quickly thanked the man for his courtesy and joined his troop.

Parting from the soldiers near the northern gate of Rheims, Arundell and his friends entered the town and made their way towards the great cathedral. The streets before they reached the central square were so narrow that they were obliged to dismount and lead their horses through the crowds. They entered a dark alley that issued after a long, arcuate course in the vicinity of the English College. Once there, they were enrolled as visitors and made tolerably comfortable at the collegial board.

Among the refugees frequenting the inn in the English quarter were Lilly and Moody, two of Stafford's men. The latter of these Arundell had been warned against, but he took Lilly aside and gave him a message for Stafford. Then the three Englishmen settled down for a rest in Rheims, joined by Godfrey Foljambe, now a courier for the prince of Parma's Council of War. Several times, too, Arundell spoke at length with Father Parsons. The Jesuit had quit Rouen but recently and was marking time at the college whilst Dr. Allen brought matters to a state where he could leave them. Thereafter the two were to travel on to Rome, hoping to gain the ear of Sixtus V, the newly chosen pope, in behalf of the English Catholics' plight. In conversation Parsons descanted long upon the theme of retribution and seemed to have progressed over the past year from dreaming of England's liberation to relishing the thought of her destruction.

When they'd been a week in the city, Arundell and Throgmorton arose one morning to find everyone abuzz with the news of a great victory for Spain. Antwerp had fallen, and the prince of Parma was master of the cynosure of urban Europe. The disarmed garrison had been sent on its way peacefully, the Calvinists within the town had been given a period of years to sell their properties and retire; the prince's lenity would no doubt encourage still more towns to open up their doors to him. An English column had been coming in relief, under the command of Black Jack Norris, but failing to arrive in time, had turned away again. All of the southern Low Countries had now been reclaimed; no one believed otherwise than that from this base Parma would have completed his reconquest by the end of another few seasons' campaigns.

The next news came a week later, as August was drawing to a close, the tidings which for months everyone had looked for. England had come in for the rebel States. The terms of the treaty signed by the queen at Nonesuch were garbled and unsure here; no one knew clearly how many men of foot and how many of horse she would send, or when, nor quite what she would have in return; but these were immaterial. To Arundell this news seemed to proclaim all but the final victory of the earl of Leicester, to have at long last won his niggardly, timorous mistress to join an open war, as for years he had striven to do, against the Catholic part. Certainly, when the English force came over, whenever that should be, the Great Bear would be riding in command of it, splendid in his trappings all of silver and of gold.

Arundell and Throgmorton were dining in The Cut Horse, the college food having been found monotonous, a bit "religious," for their layman's taste. The host was entertaining the inquiries of a priest and another man near his own great chair, while a sprinkling of guests were spread in twos and threes about the room, and a general quiet pervaded the place above the murmuring voices. The second man, a stocky fellow of middle height with a settled air of indolence, wore a quasi-military style of dress instead of a gentleman's doublet and ruff, breeches and hose, as if he had lately come from the wars. Throgmorton gestured instead towards the priest, who was a heavyset and rather fleshy man of early middle age with a coarse expression, pouchy lids and thick lips. With them stood another man whom Charles well recognized: he was my Lord Paget's man, who had come over to him soon after their flight from England. Walklate was his name.

Arundell followed his friend's direction and observed the priest looking directly at him while attending to the innkeeper's remarks.

"He is an Englishman," Thomas said, "but a' goes by the name of Jacques Colderin. I was in his company in Lyons a half year since."

Obeying the host's instruction, the priest and the soldier, and Walklate behind them, were making their way toward the diners. Arundell rose as they approached, but they motioned him to stay seated.

"Pray, resume your supper, Mr. Arundell," the smaller man said. The heavyset priest took up a stool and made a place for himself at the inglebench upon which Arundell dined. The other two did likewise.

"This is John Savage, Mr. Arundell," he said, inclining his head towards the military man, "and my name is Gilbert Gifford. I find not a little astonishment, sir, that we have not met till now."

At the mention of his name, Gifford instead of Colderin, Arundell smiled to see Throgmorton shrugging almost imperceptibly next to him. He nodded somewhat guardedly, but with the appearance of welcome.

"My worthy cousin is one you are acquainted with, I think," the man continued. Arundell began again to nod, a bit uncertainly. "My cousin William, who is professor in the seminary in this town."

Arundell had met Dr. William Gifford several times and had found him a temperate, bright young man. He said that for his cousin's sake he greeted the priest well, and he asked if he bore kinship as well to the Giffords of Chillington, who suffered for the faith at this day. The priest signified that Mr. Gifford was his esteemed father. A few more words passed upon the poor old man's trials in and out of English prisons. Then Gifford introduced Mr. Walklate to them; Arundell, wondering silently at the addition of the gentleman's title of "master," nodded politely to Walklate and asked pointedly how was the man's own master.

Walklate stiffened but replied courteously that he was no longer in Lord Paget's service, that his lordship, now once again remaining in Milan, did very well indeed.

After some other conversation about England's entry into the rebellion of the States, Fr. Gilbert came to his business, which was that he and Savage meant soon to enter England on the queen of Scots's errand and, having heard that Mr. Arundell kept excellent contacts in London, they wished to have his advice for coming into the realm and finding a place of hiding in the capital. Arundell expressed a dutiful concern for their danger in such a course, however great their holy zeal, for which they thanked him, and then he inquired what precisely was their business there. Savage replied vaguely that it had to do with reopening her majesty's correspondence, but both were disinclined to say much more. Arundell said that he believed he might be able to help them to a man in London who would see them on their way, but for entering the realm they must make their own arrangements; it was Fr. Parsons, if he were still in town, or Charles Paget in Paris who might best aid them in that. He gave them the name of the man he used as his own contact in London.

Whereupon they thanked him for his generous care of them and made to leave. As they rose, Arundell asked Walklate if he might remain, to which the man assented, and accordingly the two others made farewells and left the inn to return to the seminary.

Arundell took on an air of casual conviviality as he resumed eating, and asked Walklate how he had been occupying his days since having left his lordship. Walklate would say only that he had been making his way amongst the English in Savoy and Italy, doing good where he could find the means. Gradually, Arundell worked round to his object, having asked incidentally of several other Englishmen residing in the south, and inquired whether Walklate knew of a man who bore only one good eye.

Walklate's naturally sullen mien narrowed a bit more, but he replied that he could call no such man to mind. Charles pursued the point, describing the fellow's bad eye, that opaque, milky orb that rested motionless in his ugly face, to which Walklate protested his unfamiliarity with such an unfortunate creature. Arundell then suggested that a friend had claimed to have seen Walklate travelling in the man's company in Paris but five months past, and besought him again to try his memory in out of the way nooks.

Walklate sat back in exaggerated show of recollection, and then ventured to say that he did imperfectly recall meeting such a man about that time, but he knew no more of him but that he had lately come out of England for conscience's sake, like most other men, and that he lived quietly amongst the Englishmen of Spain or northern Italy. His name, or so Walklate recalled it, had been given out as Sledd, or, as some others said, as Stinter, though Walklate believed the latter name to be a nom de guerre. Both names Arundell recognized as having come up in conversation in times past, though he'd had no reason to think they applied to the same person.

Arundell and Throgmorton, having stood Walklate to a stoup of wine, now took their leave of him, thanking him congenially for his companionship. He bowed slightly in return, as one who mistrusted whether his fellowship had been the object sought, but not knowing what the object had been could neither be rude nor, for dignity's sake, overly friendly. They left him eyeing the remains of their dinner.

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A few days later, as the weather began to change, Throgmorton and Arundell tired of their idleness and began inquiring about returning to Paris. They learned that a party was being made up of merchants and religious that would depart in another day's time under guard of a column of League horsemen. Joining the convoy, they took their slow journey with some impatience.

In the streets of Paris, they came upon the residue of the recent controversies. Before the king's new compact with the Holy League, the bitterness throughout northern France, but especially in Paris, had nearly flamed into violence. The citizens, excited by the preachers of the League, had met in public squares to howl out the king's shortcomings. Here, pasted up on walls and hung from columns everywhere, one still met pasquinades decrying the king's effeminacy and calling for the heads of his pretty mignons, those new-born dukes and counts with curled locks and perfumed cheeks. Cartoons depicted Henri III mincing in a maid's attire being wooed by a slavering Calvinist cleric, while behind him on the one side his courtiers struck bargains with a whole diablerie; on the other side lurked Huguenots in dark streets, full-armed, clearly labelled, poised to massacre the good citizens in their beds. In other scenes appeared the dukes of Guise and Mayenne (the Scipios of France), feet resting upon the accumbent figure of Navarre, each with a hand supporting the shining oriflamme of St. Denis, and the Huguenot chief howling in frustration.

Returning to their old lodgings off St. Andrew's, they found the rooms occupied by Thomas Fitzherbert, who had brought with him from Rouen a new acquaintance. Nicholas Berden, for it was he, greeted Sharrock warmly, and Sharrock related to his master how Berden's aid had been invaluable to him at a time when he'd had no one else to turn to. Berden had but recently arrived, equipped with recommendations from some priests in the London jails, and had put himself at their disposal. He and Fitzherbert had departed Rouen a week earlier on the rumor, found to have been false, that the English government intended a military thrust into Normandy in aid of the Huguenot cause.

The two men gave Arundell the latest news in Paris, that upon the new pope's bull against the king of Navarre, prohibiting him as a heretic from succeeding to the throne of France, a new war was thought soon to begin in earnest. As was well known, by rightful blood Navarre should succeed the present king when death came to him, and his Huguenot friends should then reign ascendant in the firmament; but the Holy League had argued, ever since the death of Anjou the former heir, that just as a monarch was bound to uphold true religion, a heretic must be excluded, and now the pope had come out in favor of their conclusions. So a peaceful succession no longer being possible, a new struggle in arms must shortly take place.

Arundell insisted upon having his old bed, and Throgmorton his, so Berden affably removed himself to a pallet in the morning room, where they had to shift hundreds of copies of the French version of Leicester's Commonwealth to make him space. So pleased was he to be at home again, insofar as this was home, that Arundell declined to dine out, and he and Sharrock ran downstairs to bring in a supper for all of them.

A boy had been coming daily for some time to seek them out. Promptly at dawn the next day, he appeared again and asked the gentlemen to hold themselves in readiness. During the day, another boy came up to ask Fitzherbert, Throgmorton, and Arundell to come round on urgent business to the house of the papal nuncio, Frangipani, the archbishop of Nazareth, on the morrow at such and such an hour. The gentlemen discussed the meeting long into the evening, at a loss to understand its purpose.

At the appointed time they rode round to the nuncio's house in the university quarter. As they neared the place, they came upon the Lord Claude Hamilton approaching from the other direction, and found a few more exiles awaiting them at the door, Mr. Tunstead and Mr. Foljambe, and one Clitheroe from Rouen. Some rigid men in ordinary dress, who looked as if they longed to be in the uniform of some Italian tyrant, relieved the gentlemen of their horses and bid them enter.

They were shown into a large, darkened hall, a beautiful panelled room with chryselephantine ornaments reposing here and there on slender tables and costly hangings on the walls. Enormous blackened beams ran across the half-ceiled roof not a foot above Arundell's head. In one corner sat Ambassador Mendoza, staring into nothingness, flanked on either side by his secretary Oberholtzer and a Spanish Jesuit squatting upon stools. Gilbert Gifford stood near the windows with Mr. Turberville and the priest Edmund Gratley from Rouen, and with them was an unfamiliar man whom Sharrock would have known as Captain Jacques. Standing elsewhere about the room were a number of other Englishmen and a few foreigners, and at a long table several of the archbishop's clerks were scribbling out notes from a set of papers before them. In a few moments, two of the guardsmen appeared to show everyone to a chair or stool, and Arundell and Fitzherbert were placed by the great table near his excellency's own chair.

After a brief interval, a page hopped in and announced the Most Reverend Fabio Mirto Frangipani, the archbishop of Nazareth, the nuncio of the holy see. His excellency appeared and strode swiftly to his seat. He was an energetic old man with clear, intelligent eyes and rapid movements of head and hand; but for the habiliments of his ecclesiastical place he might have been a captain renowned for his courage and ingenuity. He began by welcoming everyone and explaining that as he came to his new office, he was glad of the opportunity of meeting many of those devoted men concerned for the welfare of the faith in England. He bowed to Mendoza and then to Lord Hamilton, and then begged Fitzherbert to look round the room and introduce him to the others. There were only a few whom Fitzherbert knew imperfectly well, and these men called out their own names.

When Arundell's name was spoken, his excellency bowed slightly. Then he resumed his introduction by remarking that the Holy Father wished him to express the great interest his holiness took in the affairs of the English, and said that he intended to make it his business to understand the English situation to the best of his poor ability. One matter, he said, had recently come to his attention; upon his arrival here, he had been greeted by several missives that wanted looking into without delay, and so he had undertaken to lose no time in coming to an understanding of the circumstances of the Englishmen in sanctuary here for faith. He had already made some inquiries, he said, but wished to sound the matter further at this time.

His excellency paused and signalled to one of his clerks, who passed over a handful of papers.

"Mr. Arundell," he said at last; "may I inquire the name of the man to whom your correspondence is addressed in London?"

Arundell started at hearing his name, but made a ready answer. He said that the man who now received such of their writings as he himself sent over was one Taylor, a grocer in East Cheap, though there were others used by others, he believed.

The nuncio looked across towards Gilbert Gifford, who stood up and tried to speak, but caught his voice from nervousness, then said, "That is he, most reverend."

Nazareth turned back to Arundell and said, "Fr. Gilbert has informed me that not long since, Mr. Arundell, you of kind care of him in a journey he wishes to make recommended to him this man Taylor, whom he hears by other means is an unwholesome man, unfit to be trusted in that place."

Arundell replied without delay.

"I think not so, your excellency. I have ever found him faithful."

The archbishop asked whether anyone else had knowledge of the man. Only a few did, and they all spoke up to say that they knew no evil in him, but always found him a trusted servant of the cause. Nazareth turned again to Gifford, but the fellow declined to follow his suggestion by further details, and murmured that he was very glad to find his information to be in error. Arundell gazed at Gifford quizzically.

Then the nuncio took up another paper, and speaking quickly he asked Arundell whether he knew one Hert.

Arundell sat still. His heart began beating more rapidly, and feeling his face flush he wondered whether this were visible.

"I do," he said.

"What do you know of him?"

The chamber door opened and one of the guardsmen ducked in, followed by François de Mayneville, who silently took a seat and observed the proceedings.

"Almost nothing, most reverend. Only sometimes he has written me in the business of the queen of Scots her welfare, and I have answered him. I know not where he stays, for in each letter he has told me to address my next to him in such and such a place, sometimes in Paris or hereabouts, Tournai, Dijon, Milan or Venice, seldom twice the same. I have never met the man."

"And his matter is?"

"But bits of news, your excellency, small word of princes and great causes in various parts, and occasionally he asks of this or that man or the state of our hopes for the queen's freedom and success."

The nuncio held Arundell's eyes for a long moment.

"And is there nothing else at all then?" he asked.

Arundell clasped his hands together to prevent their trembling. He took a deep breath.

"There is one other thing, sir, which I did not mention to avoid giving scandal to any man."

"I pray you, tell it now, Mr. Arundell."

"It is that about Whitsuntide past this Hert sent one letter to me, wherein he wrote that he had a mind to go to England straightaway, and begged my voice in gaining the duke of Guise his passport through Normandy, whence he might take ship at Dieppe towards London." Arundell paused, and then committed himself. "His reason was, most reverend, that he had matters of greatest moment to impart to the Privy Council of England, and must use no delay."

The room remained utterly quiet. The nuncio had betrayed not the slightest perturbation. When he spoke again, he asked:

"Why, think you, did he make such a request of yourself, not of some other?"

"Because, your excellency--." Arundell cleared his throat. "Because, your excellency, he said he had learned from them of England that I was, like him, a friend of the Council, and would be content to do this for love of the English queen."

Some in the chamber began murmuring excitedly to one another.

"How came he to that strange opinion, Mr. Arundell?" asked the nuncio.

"I do not know an answer, your excellency."

"And pray tell us, what was your reply to this man Hert?"

Arundell cleared his throat again. He saw Mendoza sitting quietly in the corner shadows, staring expressionlessly ahead of him.

"I informed him that gladly would I do his wish, and I sent to him in Milan to say that I had written both to his grace the duke of Guise and also to the English Council to expedite his journey thither."

"And what then?"

"I heard no more from him, most reverend, and thought no more upon the man."

The nuncio sat back in his chair and read over several papers. On the back of one of them, Charles observed the broken half of his own waxen seal. A few feet away, Thomas Throgmorton was regarding him with a puzzled eye. Arundell smiled faintly at him, and shrugged.

"Well, Mr. Arundell, I am very glad to have heard you say these things," the archbishop said.

He held up another paper and addressed the whole assembly.

"I have notice here, addressed to my predecessor in this place, which was sent from one of the gentlemen among you whose name is Charles Paget. Posing as one by name of Hert, in a godly zeal to ferret out traitors from our midst, he cunningly represented to Mr. Arundell, whom for some causes he suspected, he says, that he sought his aid in coming to the Council of England, as before you have heard. He sends us also Mr. Arundell's reply to him, which is just as he himself has now rehearsed it. Let us penetrate to the bottom of this sore wound, and apply what medicines are needful."

Arundell had finally realized that the purpose of the entire colloquy was this suspicion of himself. Gradually, his nervousness began to leave him. The nuncio was speaking once again.

"---friendly terms with the English Council."

"No, your excellency, I am not."

"I ask you too, as you love God and hope for the reward of his Son's pain, whether you are friends or are in any friendly terms particularly with the Principal Secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham, or with Phelippes his man?"

"No, your excellency, as I love God."

"Or do you write unto them?"

"No, your excellency."

The secretaries scratched away at the papers spread before them.

"And now I ask you, Mr. Arundell, as you love God, what for then did you write to this Hert and say in your letter to Hert that you would procure for him from the duke of Guise and from Secretary Walsingham these passports to bring him to the Council?"

"I wrote so to Hert, your excellency, because he had confessed himself a traitor to me and I wished him to be taken up."

"But did you not inform those in Milan where he lay to take him up, as in duty you ought to have done?"

"No, most reverend, because I did not know his name to be Hert truly."

"But did you not inform his grace the duke of this?"

"I did, your excellency. I informed his grace of all I had done and received from him in June his passport for this Hert, to be shown the port master in Dieppe."

"Well, Mr. Arundell, I am pleased again to hear you say so much. We have sent to his grace inquiring his knowledge of these matters. I trust his grace will bear you out."

Mayneville rose from his stool near the door.

"Your excellency," he said, "if I may . . ."

He introduced himself as the duke's emissary and handed across to the nuncio's clerk a warrant to that effect. Arundell, who had not seen Mayneville arrive, smiled.

The duke's agent then made his statement publicly to all, which was that in June Mr. Arundell had written to the duke of Guise explaining all that had been said here, and in reply his grace had sent him a passport for this Hert, to be called for in Paris, and had at the same time put his men in Dieppe on the qui vive, with orders to arrest the man who should show that paper there. It was the duke's expressed wish that no shadow of infamy should attach to Mr. Arundell, for he had acted honorably in everything he did.

The archbishop spoke again to say that he considered this question well settled, and he was very glad of it. To sift the matter to the bottom, however, he must now mention a thing or two more, unpleasant to him personally, but necessary in duty. The thing he had to mention, which had been for Mr. Paget the first cause of his suspicion, was that Mr. Arundell was known to come very often to the English ambassador's house, who should in reason be no welcome guest in the house of the English Jezebel's own trusted agent here.

Arundell gave another pause. The explanation he must give was obvious, and would suffice. But some there might be in this room who could report his words in England, which might make much to Sir Edward's disadvantage there.

The nuncio was asking whether he did in fact frequent the ambassador's house in la Monnaie and occasionally meet Sir Edward elsewhere. Arundell replied that he did.

"The reason is, most reverend, because I have been entrusted to bring Sir Edward Stafford, who is my kinsman and wellwisher, to the use of his grace the duke of Guise and my lord Don Bernardino, by supply of money to him."

"For what purpose, Mr. Arundell."

"For the sight of his dispatches, your excellency."

"And has he shown you his dispatches in return for gold?"

"He has not yet done so."

"Then why do you persist, for this may give scandal to your friends?"

"I continue to resort to him because his grace bids me to do so, your excellency, and because in the mean space I may learn much of use to my lords while I am with him."

Mayneville stood again and in the duke's name confirmed Arundell's account in strenuous language. He pointed out that Stafford was known to have said to others, too, after Arundell's persuasion, that though he would serve his own queen loyally while she lived, for the afterdays he knew where the right lay, and in the meantime he would have in heart the welfare and care of the queen of Scots insofar as with due loyalty he could.

The archbishop received this testimonial quietly, and then turned to the ambassador of Spain. In slow, measured language, Don Bernardino said that what Mr. Arundell had said, so far as he could verify it, was quite true; he had bid Mr. Arundell resort to the English house and turn to good use any trust he might enjoy among its occupants. Neither had he any cause to doubt of Mr. Arundell's honesty. On the other hand, he said, though he knew very well what lay in his own mind when he sent Arundell to that house, he could never say certainly what lay in Arundell's mind when he arrived. With a hint of habitual irony in his voice, he said that he trusted God knew what lay in both minds, and would reward them accordingly.

The archbishop offered his own pious addition to Mendoza's sentiments. Then he turned again to Arundell and asked in bland tones whether he had not communicated to Sir Edward Stafford the particulars of the League manifesto of March ultima, before its promulgation. Charles answered quickly, as before, that he had been instructed to do so by his grace the duke--Mayneville, in the back of the chamber, waved his hand to signify confirmation; but how could such knowledge could have come to the archbishop?

The nuncio was proceeding to the last question on his docket. Had not Arundell informed Stafford in May that the English merchant ships in Spain were instantly to be confiscated, in reprisal for the raids of the privateers in America? If he had done so, for what reason had he done so, since it could only have served to warn the merchants away and so deprive his Catholic majesty of just reparations due him; and in any case, whence had he the news of that intent?

Arundell dared not hesitate. He said that just as in the other objections made against him his innocence was proved by the event. For in fact the English ships had not been warned away, but had been timely seized; he had, he said, carefully let drop the news of that intent only when it should be too late to avail the English Council, and could not be deleterious to his majesty's cause one jot. His purpose had been, as ever, to wind himself into Sir Edward's good opinion, the better and the sooner to have his confidence. They might all see very easily, he said again, that the ships had not been warned away in time, for he had been very careful in that matter, as he had been instructed to do. And in any case, he said, it was widely conjectured everywhere that such an attempt should soon be made, so that what he had offered had been but a kind of common knowledge. Hard it was, when a man should be called in question only for the performance of his duty.

The nuncio accepted his reply and moved to conclude the interview. He pronouned himself well satisfied of Mr. Arundell's innocence and good meaning and regretted that, Hélas! from time to time such investigations should be necessary even among the dedicated faithful, such were the times they lived in. He desired his listeners to accept his own contentment as their judgment in this case. If any remained indurate or held any doubt residual, he wished them now to speak. None spoke. His excellency expressed his gratitude for their coming and dismissed them all, with only the afterthought that neither had he any wish that Mr. Charles Paget should in any way be blamed for his advices. The gentleman had only been doing his duty, just as Mr. Arundell was now well seen to have been doing his. Some men murmured their agreement with his sentiments as the nuncio gracefully left the room. The auditors made their departure unhurriedly, some greeting or conversing with one another, most of them passing over to greet Arundell or at least saluting him from across the room. Mendoza bowed to Charles as he passed towards the door, evidently congratulating him also but peering at him closely enough with his nearly blind old eyes to make Arundell look away.

As Arundell, Fitzherbert, and Throgmorton retraced their route to their chambers, not much was said, only passing remarks about some of those present or about their impressions of the new nuncio. Rejoining Berden and Sharrock in their rooms, they all descended to the Inn of Alemains, where they purchased a meal and carried it out to the sward by the water. The evening was a fine, cool one, with a gentle westerly breeze, and they dined spread out upon the green. Both Sharrock and Berden proved very interested in what had passed, and Throgmorton related all of the details, dwelling at length upon the encomia sent from the duke of Guise, a magnificent testimonial of that great man's trust in their friend. Truly, it had been a touching moment for Arundell, and he caught himself wishing he were worthy of it. Throgmorton betrayed a little hurt that Charles had never let his friends into his confidence, for they had had no inkling of how deeply he had entered himself into the duke's breast, but he mollified them by saying he had wished to spare them unnecessary perils. Again, they gratulated with him for having come away with so much credit.

"Fennel is for flattery . . ." Arundell quoted.

But one thing remained. He had explained all the actions laid to him – but one thing remained. The meaning to seize the ships at Cadiz and Santander he had not got upon instructions; he had learned of it in papers from the king's own pouch, found in the false table in Mendoza's study when Oberholtzer had thoughtlessly left him alone. The information had proved worthless; the ships had been confiscated before Stafford's courier could ever have reached the coast. But Mendoza was shrewd, too shrewd to believe entirely that Charles had made it up from common rumor--there had been no common rumor—or to fail to notice that Arundell had given no source any more precisely than that.

What proved still more worrisome, during the long night ensuing, was again the fact that the knowledge of his intelligence had come this way at all. There were many other bits of news he had reported to Sir Edward, some as it happened true, others as the event showed unreliable, but all found out without the duke's or Mendoza's knowledge. Unless he could learn how his activities came to be reported here, out of England or from Sir Edward's house, he could never be certain that any news he brought would not be traced home to him again, and he might not always prove so lucky.

But there was no help for it. He had no choice but to continue as he had begun; rather he allowed himself no choice. England, in this worsening climate of violence, remained in jeopardy. The queen of Scots lay in greater peril now than she had ever done, and for her safety it was essential that no crimes be committed in her name, no invasions be launched ostensibly to free her. For he had no doubt that if such a moment ever came she would be the first to die. Her safety lay in patience, in a careful vigilance to protect her from the Leicestrians at home and both the zealots and the traitors abroad. In time, if she lived, she would come to the throne peacefully. The captive queen was all his hope. When she succeeded to the crown of England, she would remember her friends, and she would thank Arundell then for his seeming perfidy now. He hoped still, now it was almost all he hoped for, to spend his last years in a tranquil country house in the midlands; it was his only dream--at war with no one, fighting in no cause, fearing no man, espousing only his original creed of a kindly faith and a good table, an open door to friends, uncontentious men with no more ear for the quillets of dogma nor the quarrels of state than he had.

The other gentlemen lay asleep. Through the open window came distant sounds of night business and the sound of a soft river breeze sweeping past the house. Arundell dreamed of the house he would inhabit when that time should come. The waking mind dispelled his constant fear that it would never come, as the somnolent mind constructed his house of the best features of the houses he had owned or visited over nearly half a century. From the broad terrace of his father's estate in Cornwall, which he had not seen these three decades or more, he could gaze into the gentle hills, golden in the summer sun, that rose about Paget's house of Beaudesert. He easily saw himself ascending a broad lawn from the stables towards his terrace of a warm evening; Mistress Anne Lee stood in the windows smiling down at him. Her white dress shone before the whited wall, and made her radiant. Her face took on the features, unexpectedly, of Kate, who was dead.

goback.gif (2185 bytes)Go back to the Preface and Table of Contents
gonext.gif (2192 bytes)Go ahead to Chapter XVIII. The Reign of Ambidexter (1585-1586)

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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