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


faith and betrayal in the time of Queen Elizabeth I

Part 2. THE CONTINENT (1583-1587)



"My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done."
-- Chidiock Tichbourne

Sharrock took up a tomato, absently, and squeezed it; its juice spurted forth and ran down his leg like blood.

He tied his horse to a post near at hand and ran out of the markets to a stand of trees in the middle of St. Anthony’s Great Street. In the distance, seven dark towers of the Bastille blocked the highway to the east. Ahead, in the square near the top of the rue du Peau Diable, the men were dining upon fruit in the open air, standing by their horses. Since leaving the Bastille, they had walked casually to this spot, as if aiming for no place in particular, with no program at all in view, as if marking time to some appointed hour.

In the early morning, these men had sat together in Paget’s chambers. There they had been met quite accidentally by Fitzherbert and Arundell, who had come to inquire for news of Lord Paget. Charles Paget had replied with the same cold civility that had marked his attitude throughout the spring. Reluctantly, he’d had to introduce his visitors, all newly out of England: Gilbert Gifford, whom they knew, another priest named John Ballard, and a third man named Bernard Maude.

Maude, Paget had said, had just been released from the English prisons; he’d left the cause of imprisonment to be inferred--doubtless another heroic soldier in the war against the heretics’ persecution. But the knowledge of his crime had preceded him: he had slipped an innkeeper’s wife naked into the archbishop of York’s bed at the inn, and then with the innkeeper had proceeded to blackmail the old prelate for two full years, until in 1583 he had drawn a term in the northern prisons for the deed.

Fitzherbert had congratulated Gifford on his success in the queen of Scots’s business – the reopening of her correspondence had been the great news since March, when her first letters in eighteen months’ time had reached Paris. The man had acknowledged the comment with little grace and seemed indisposed to discuss the matter. All four of them had made outrageously inconsequential small talk until Arundell and Fitzherbert had frowned at each other, shrugged, and departed. Arundell’s sense, growing upon him throughout the spring, that some desperate evil was in progress seemed almost to be confirmed by their behavior. He had discussed his doubts with Fitzherbert in the street, and then had asked Sharrock to dog the men’s steps.

Sharrock had seen the four men mount and ride for the island at a comfortable pace. He had followed them all the way out to the Bastille, where assuredly they were conferring with Morgan in his cell, and had picked them up again when they descended. Now he stood behind the trees and watched them resume their westerly progress.

Sharrock left his horse behind and followed them. The four men strolled across the square, then turned up the lane and knocked at the house of Don Bernardino de Mendoza. They were shown in at once; while they remained there, Jamie sauntered up to their tethered horses and went quickly through their saddlebags, finding nothing of interest.

He took the opportunity to run back to the market carts and retrieve his horse. By the time the party left the ambassador’s house, he was ready for them, hidden at the head of an alley that ran out from the rear of the Hôtel de Ville. He followed them again across the bridges and further south along the rue St. Jacques. There they stopped before a brothel that peeked half concealed from behind a row of houses; here had been Father Gifford’s home when he’d lived in Paris, here he returned now for the night, and here Maude joined him. Paget parted from them and conducted Father Ballard back to his own house, where Sharrock, watching them putting up their horses for the night, concluded that his mission was completed.

Arundell, Berden, and Fitzherbert, receiving these reports in their own rooms, found themselves perplexed, distressed by the secrecy with which the thing was being handled. No doubt, the four men had been holding something back. They scarcely expected the confidence of Paget or Morgan or any of their friends--including young Throgmorton, who increasingly showed himself a party to their counsels and had moved out of Fitzherbert’s rooms--for with every month the rifts between the factions grew still wider. Nevertheless, this present reticence was excessive. Here was the man who after a year’s work by all had succeeded in getting through to the queen of Scots, whose happiness was their common goal; here was that man himself arrived in Paris, and Arundell had learned of it by chance.

As they spoke, the woman from downstairs, Madame Lacour, came in with dinner for all three of them. Formerly it had been Sharrock’s task to bring in their meals. The woman’s husband, however, had fallen ill, and they gave her the work as a form of aid. She was a frowzy woman of something more than thirty, worn out with too much work, too many children, her dark eyes once bright now obtunded by penury to a lifeless stare. She came in two trips up the stairs, carrying in each hand a slab of board with a few pans of stew from the inn across the road, with bread, wine, and cheese, bowing mechanically without meeting the eyes of anyone.

When she had descended again, they resumed their conversation. All three had come to the same conclusion, that something unsavory was afoot about which they were being deliberately kept in the dark. Arundell remembered that Stafford had inquired after Ballard by name and linked the priest to the name of Babington in England. Sir Edward had heard some whisper of a plot or enterprise of some kind, but had said no more about it. That bare mention, and hints heard elsewhere about the readiness for action of some gentlemen at court, had prompted Arundell to make inquiries of his own and figuratively to hold his breath throughout the spring, half expecting any day to have word of some maniacs’ raid upon Chartley or another shot taken at the queen of England. His inquiries had turned up nothing. No raid had been launched. The queen of England carried on as durably as ever.

Early the next morning, Arundell went round to see Mendoza. The ambassador greeted him politely and led him into the study, where he inquired immediately what urgent news brought Charles out at such an hour. Arundell replied that he had no news on this occasion; a shadow of discomfiture passed across Don Bernardino’s face, for he hastened to the conclusion that his agent was in want again and had appeared to press for payment of his pension. Arundell’s allowance, unlike those of most of the refugees, was not paid out of the army’s fund but directly from Mendoza’s embassy accounts; these accounts were seldom kept up, however, so the pensions were seldom paid out either. For most of the men whom Mendoza carried, this tardiness was a minor inconvenience to him, however great a hardship to the pensioners. His inability to keep Arundell paid up, however, caused him some embarrassment. His only remedy was to keep granting bonuses for special merit, which the king of Spain was disposed to approve, though to pay out no more promptly; at least, if it cured no hunger, the method prevented questions of ingratitude.

Arundell guessed the problem and assured the ambassador that gold was not in present question. Mendoza revived markedly at the news. But he wondered the more at Charles’s urgency and begged politely to know how he might serve.

Arundell told him straight out that he was troubled about the sudden appearance of Gifford, Ballard, and Maude and desired to know what their business had been with the ambassador. Mendoza expressed himself as mildly surprised at Arundell’s importunity, for their interview had been nothing at all out of the way. Mr. Paget, he said, had introduced the others as men bearing a message from the Catholic nobility of England. These noblemen and gentlemen for whom they spoke (especially Ballard, who had visited in England from house to house throughout the country), these men wished to carry out an uprising against the heretical regime, and they wished for the ambassador’s promise of an invasion force in aid of their godly enterprise.

Arundell was scowling as he heard the report, and he muttered darkly that he had feared as much. The ambassador spread his hands in deprecation. It was nothing, he said, that he had not heard a thousand times before; such schemes were as common as fruit flies in summer and invariably ended nowhere. They had made all of the venerable arguments to him, how the invasion of England would resolve King Philip’s differences with his own Dutch rebels, how the time was never more propitious, the earl of Leicester being out of England with all the chief captains and the discontentment of the Catholics at home no longer restrainable. Only two proposals (if that were the best word) were fresh and new, the one that the Lord Claude Hamilton, now in Scotland, would seize the king of Scots and deliver him to the king of Spain’s hands, and the other, that Charles Paget had said that the whole designment would not prevail as long as the queen of England lived. Arundell groaned aloud, which caused Mendoza to chuckle a bit uncomfortably.

To Charles’s next question the ambassador replied that he had been, as always, politely noncommittal, mildly receptive but hardly encouraging in any way. He was only too aware of the harm to be sustained by any premature actions, and he had advised Ballard to continue his preparations and to come to him again when he had irrefragable evidence of a Catholic force in England, sufficiently strong, reliably prepared to make its move. Then he would call upon his king for such a promise of assistance. This was his wonted strategy, he said; it had never failed to keep the isolated braggart, who claimed tens of thousands at his back, from troubling him again. The plot, he insisted, was an empty one, "like the thousands that had gone before". Arundell made no comment in reply.

Later in the day he talked over the business with Berden and Fitzherbert. They shared feelingly the premonition that the present intrigue was not quite like the thousands that had gone before.

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On Whitsunday, the 22nd of May 1586, the seminary priest John Ballard and his colleague Bernard Maude arrived in London. Ballard sought out some of the young gentlemen of the court who were devoted to Queen Mary’s cause. With the help of Mr. Edward Windsor, he arranged a meeting for a few days hence at the London house of Anthony Babington.

Mr. Babington, who was but twenty-five years old, was a handsome boy more than a little blessed by fortune. His young wife resided very comfortably on his wide lands in Derbyshire, joined by her husband on those rare occasions when he was not following the court. As an adolescent he had been placed as a page in the household of the earl of Shrewsbury; he had at that time been won wholly to the service of the earl’s great prisoner, the queen of Scots, and had become a Catholic, too, in consequence. Since that time, through his social position, his fortune, his good looks, his familiarity with the captive queen, not least his romantic fervor, he had become informally the head of her partisans at court, almost none of whom were much older than himself.

All of the gentlemen were anxious for the opportunity to do their patron lady some great good. When told by Mr. Windsor that Ballard had returned from France with news of moment, they gathered eagerly in Babington’s rooms in Westminster to hear what the priest could say. The brothers Habington arrived first, Edward and Thomas, sons of the queen of England’s cofferer. Edward Windsor, whose brother Henry was the new Lord Windsor of Stanwell, came in with Henry Donne and Mr. Salusbury. Maude came, too, and John Savage came, and young Chidiock Tichbourne came up later, bringing with him the mysterious Captain Jacques. Robert Poley was already present, for in recent months he had become quite friendly with Babington and often stayed in his rooms; since he was in the employment of Sir Philip Sidney’s wife while that knight served in the Low Countries with the earl of Leicester, Poley was forced to dwell in the house of her father, Secretary Walsingham, and he was very grateful for the opportunity to stay with men of his own persuasion when his services were not required by her ladyship.

For a full year the gentlemen had been tormenting themselves to devise a gallant and worthy enterprise for the faith. They had courage in abundance but so far no ideas. They listened receptively as Fr. Ballard, who bore letters to the same effect from Morgan and Paget, recounted the substance of his conference with Don Bernardino de Mendoza. The ambassador, he said, had promised sixty thousand soldiers by the end of summer, but had charged them also to accomplish heroic deeds of their own. To assure that the invaders might land unimpeded, the gentlemen must arouse that great nobility so ripe for rebellion; they must draw up lists of the best ports for landing in, and appoint that armed bands should meet the invading parties there. And they must free the queen of Scots from Chartley, neither so soon as to raise an alarm nor too late after the invasion to have her out of reach before the government made her away to a surer prison. Good planning and sufficient resolution, said Father Ballard, were all that were required. After long awaiting, the moment for action had arrived.

Mr. Babington, seconded by several others, including Maude and Poley, wondered whether the whole enterprise were not doomed to failure as long as the queen of England lived. Some others in the room stiffened at the suggestion. Ballard said not to worry, for his friend John Savage had taken an oath in Rheims, before coming over the previous year, to kill the heretical queen mercilessly as soon as the occasion was offered to do so. Savage nodded in grim affirmation. From young Tichbourne, in the back of the chamber, came the reflection that the murder of anointed monarchs was not universally held to be a worthy act for religious men to undertake. Some discussion of the point ensued, with acknowledgement of the fact that dry philosophers still debated the issue in their books, but the general view was that heretical monarchs who had been lawfully excommunicated and deposed ruled only as tyrants, to be rid of whom was a meritorious deed in the Lord’s eyes, not to mention in the king of Spain’s. But it was also the general view that Mr. Savage, however celebrated for his military prowess, was insufficient to the task himself, for in a properly timed enterprise, nothing so crucial as bringing in chaos to the seat of government could be suffered to go awry. Accordingly, it was decided that he should have help.

What remained then was only for the details to be supplied. The men present, and their friends absent, must construct a likely plan and then swear a solemn oath before God to carry it out faithfully. Then the whole device had to be communicated to Mendoza and, of course, to the queen of Scots herself, for their approvals. The end seemed almost to be in sight.

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A few weeks earlier, roundabout the first of May, Mendoza had learned from his contacts in the French court that the king of France was secretly seeking a separate peace with the Huguenot enemy. Marshal Biron had been instructed to strike a truce with the king of Navarre, the rebel leader. Such a truce might very well unite those two great forces against the duke of Guise and his Spanish friends. Mendoza naturally sought the counsel of his own king, but the duke of Guise also wished to have a trusted man of his own to go to Spain, in order to learn reliably whether King Philip would support him against the Protestants even if his own king would not. The man he wished to send was Charles Arundell.

Mendoza was amenable to the idea, and he thought he might well put the journey to an ancillary use of his own. Impatient with the men who increasingly spoke for the English exiles, Morgan and Paget and men of their stripe, the ambassador wished to have Arundell report personally on the condition of English affairs to Idiaquez, the Spanish Secretary of State, as a balance to the representations continually being made by briefs and brochures from the others. Thomas Lord Paget, who had intended to leave Rome anyway, was asked by Fr. Parsons to go to Spain as well, where he should meet Arundell and offer together with him a proper assessment of the English situation, to aid the king’s deliberations on the question of invasion.

Very quickly the word got round in Paris that Arundell was soon to depart. Promptly Don Bernardino began receiving unsigned messages advising him that Arundell was a spy for the English government, that he made the journey with money provided for the purpose by the English queen, and that his real intention was to scout the Spanish coast and cities in his way for signs of naval preparations. It was still widely suspected that with secret festination some great armada, scrambled together all hugger-mugger, might be got under way before the summer ended. Arundell, they wrote, was to report any evidence of this intention to the queen of England herself.

These wild charges, coming whence they came, rather served to confirm Mendoza’s trust in Arundell than to derogate from it. Coincidentally, they were true. Stafford too had approved the journey and had given Arundell just such an errand to perform, though with none of the money the informants had claimed went with it. The English queen herself, of course, if she remembered Arundell at all, knew him as that kinsman of hers who had so awkwardly got himself into hot water and had gone away somewhere.

Arundell was exceedingly reluctant to go anywhere. He knew that some monstrous evil was on foot, but had been unable to discover what it was. Ballard had disappeared from Paris; he may have gone to Rheims, to Rome, with his crackbrained plots, but Arundell feared he’d gone back into England. Once there what mischief he might work bore no contemplation. Gifford, so far, remained in Paris; Arundell and Berden spent fruitless hours following the man everywhere, and following Charles Paget too and as many of his visitors as they could, but they had learned nothing at all for their pains. Nor could Arundell ask Sir Edward Stafford’s help, for the ambassador would be bound to report his suspicions as news and might unwittingly precipitate precisely the catastrophe Charles feared, if Walsingham should be put on the scent of some crazy plot involving the queen of Scots.

There was nothing to be done but to persist in trying to find out what was going on and who principally was behind it, and then to invent some way of undermining the business before it came to light. In no other way could Queen Mary be saved from these busy schemers, some mad, some foolish, some downright pernicious, who if they went the whole way might bring her to the block. He could hardly persist from the highway towards Madrid. He had to go the journey, however, for to refuse now would arouse suspicion indeed. If matters would hold off for the present, he should be back in Paris by September. Perhaps, if necessary, he might try a journey into England at that time. For the moment there was nothing he could do. Almost his only alternative was to trust in providence to bring everything to the best issue. His experience with providence did not conduce to peace of mind.

One possibility presented itself just before his departure, when he had returned to Paris from the duke of Guise with his instructions. Nicholas Berden, who had meant to accompany Arundell into Spain, offered instead to return to England, at considerable danger to himself, in order to track this Babington down and learn the depth of the intrigue. Arundell was hesitant to expose his friend to that peril, but at the last he acquiesced and hastened to arrange for the man’s crossing and safe reception in London.

That done, Arundell met secretly once more with Sir Edward and took his leave of Lady Douglass. He met again with Mendoza, then made his farewells with Berden and Fitzherbert, charging both of them to have care of themselves and keep an eye open for any sign of change.

Then he and Jamie Sharrock purchased two extra horses and a new brace of pistols, supplied themselves with the necessary provisions, and set out on the very long road to Spain.

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Gilbert Gifford closed his pouchy lids and listened carefully. He sat in Anthony Babington’s rooms, within sight of Whitehall Palace, and his host was reading over for him and his other guests the letter they had just written. Robert Poley, pale and thin, sat by the window near young Mr. Tichbourne, both likewise listening. Mr. Savage paced nervously behind them.

For the past month these men and more than a dozen others, lately joined by Gifford, had argued, cajoled, threatened the renitent among them, restrained the over eager, thought as hard as any of them was able to do, to conclude this plan for their enterprise. What was required now was the guidance of the queen of Scots herself. Only she could tell them what would be the best and safest method of effecting her escape. Only she could approve their designs and give them the authority to proceed. In any case, the general plans had been drawn up. The assignments had been made. It remained but to finish drafting the letter in Babington’s name, for the queen already had Babington in her confidence, and then to deliver it to one Barnaby, the man whom Gifford had appointed in his place to carry packets from Châteauneuf to the brewer of Burton and back again.

Babington read aloud the draft as they had jointly written it.

Most mighty, most excellent, my dread sovereign lady and queen, unto whom only I owe all fidelity and obedience. It may please your gracious majesty: I held the hope of our country’s weal to be desperate, and thereupon had resolved to depart the land, determining to spend the remainder of my life in such solitary sort as the wretched and miserable state of my country did require, daily expecting (according to the just judgment of God) the deserved confusion thereof. The which my purpose being in execution, and standing upon my departure, there was addressed unto me from the parts beyond the seas one Ballard, a man of virtue and learning and of singular zeal to the Catholic cause and your majesty’s service.

This man informed me of great preparation by the Christian princes for the deliverance of our country from the extreme and miserable state wherein it hath too long remained, which when I understood, my especial desire was to advise by what means with the hazard of my life I might do your sacred majesty one good day’s service. Whereupon, most dear sovereign, according to the great care which those princes have of the safe delivering of your majesty’s sacred person, I advised of means according to the weight of the affair, and after long consideration and conference with so many of the wisest and most trusty as with secrecy I might recommend the safety thereof unto, I do find (by the assistance of the Lord Jesus) assurance of good effect and desired fruit of our travails.

These things are first to be advised, in this great and honorable action, upon the issue of which depends not only the life of your excellent majesty but also the honor and weal of our country, and the last hope ever to recover the faith of our forefathers and to redeem ourselves from the servitude and bondage which heresy has imposed upon us, with the loss of thousands of souls. First, assuring of invasion of sufficient strength in the invader; then, ports to arrive at, appointed with a strong party at every place to join with them and warrant their landing; the deliverance of your majesty; and the dispatch of the usurping competitor; for the effecting of all which (if it may please your excellency to rely upon my service) I vow and protest before the face of Almighty God that what I have said shall be performed, or all our lives happily lost in the execution thereof, which same vow all the chief actors herein have taken solemnly and are, upon assurance by your majesty’s letters unto me, to receive the blessed sacrament thereupon, either to prevail in your majesty’s behalf or to die for that cause.

Now, for as much as delay is extreme dangerous, it may please your most excellent majesty by your wisdom to direct us, and by your princely authority to authorize those of us who may advance the affair to be leaders therein; for which necessary regard I would recommend some persons unto your majesty as fittest in my knowledge to be your lieutenants in the west parts, in the north parts, South Wales, North Wales, the counties of Lancaster, Derby, and Stafford, all which countries I hold as most assured and of undoubted fidelity to your majesty.

Myself with ten gentlemen and a hundred of our fellows will undertake the delivery of your royal person from the hands of your enemies. For the dispatch of the usurper, that English Jezebel, from the obedience of whom (by the excommunication of her) we are made free, there be six noble gentlemen, all my private friends, who for the zeal they bear to the Catholic cause and your majesty’s service will undertake that tragical execution. It resteth that according to their infinite good deserts and your majesty’s bounty, their heroical attempt may be honorably rewarded in them (if they escape with life) or in their posterity, and that so much I may be able to assure them. Now it remaineth only that by your majesty’s wisdom it be reduced into method, that your happy deliverance come first, for thereupon dependeth our only good, and that all the other circumstances so concur that the untimely beginning of one do not overthrow the rest. All which your majesty’s wonderful experience and wisdom will dispose of in so good manner that I doubt not through God’s good assistance all shall come to desired effect, for the obtaining of which every one of us shall think his life most happily spent.

From this present, I will be expecting your majesty’s answer and letters, in readiness to execute what by them shall be commanded. From London, this six of July 1586, your majesty’s most faithful subject and sworn servant,

Anthony Babington.

When the others had approved the thing, nodded solemnly to one another, and departed, Poley also having returned to Lady Sidney’s apartments in Walsingham’s house, Babington penned another note to accompany the first. This shorter one was intended only for the eyes of M. Claude Nau, the queen of Scots’s secretary, and would go with Barnaby’s whole packet down to Chartley.

Mr. Nau, I would gladly understand what opinion you hold of one Robert Poley, whom I find to have intelligence with her majesty’s occasions, recommended to me long ago by Mr. Morgan. I am private with the man and by means thereof doubt somewhat, but fear more. I pray you deliver your opinion of him.

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To another man, perhaps to the same man in different circumstances, less riven by doubts, less preoccupied by his fears, less ashamed secretly of the achievements he was honored for publicly, in short, to another man, the experience would have been exhilarating. To some men, it might have seemed the happy fruition of a life’s work. To Charles Arundell, it was a terrible ordeal.

The days and weeks preceding it, the great event itself, passed timelessly in a phantasmagoria of absurdly petty concerns of propriety and formality, of niceties of dress and phrase, passed also in a bewildering round of interrogations and conferences of state, of state dinners and conducted tours of cathedrals and colleges, great libraries, palaces and markets. Arundell, though he moved and spoke automatically just as he was expected to do, passed them all as if in a daze.

Having accompanied a merchants’ party which (to avoid the Huguenots) had descended the Loire to sail from Nantes and land at Santander, Arundell, Sharrock, and Pierre Blanchet, Mendoza’s courier, had crossed the northern mountains just as the first fruits of summer had been coming in. Across the steppes of the Castilian interior they proceeded at more than a comfortable pace, leaving the merchants behind them in pursuing the courier’s reflexive haste. In Valladolid, the Englishmen passed two days with the English students of the university, leaving Blanchet to finish his journey alone. Then on they travelled to Segovia, over the Penalara, and finally down into Madrid, the new capital city, a fortnight and a day after having left Paris.

Arundell had been made welcome by the Englishmen who dwelt there, principally by old, blind Sir Francis Englefield, who knew Arundell very well, he said, from Fr. Parsons’s good reports. The aged knight, who had been the Principal Secretary in the days of Queen Mary I, served now thirty years later as a spokesman for the English petitioners to the Spanish court; about him had gathered the few men of his nation, besides the handful of students and religious, who were able to support themselves in this alien land. In conversation with Sir Francis, Arundell returned persistently to the subject that occupied his thoughts, dropping one hint after another in the attempt to learn whether the man, with his vast reticulum of correspondence across the continent, had caught wind of a new project in aid of the queen of Scots. Englefield, however, responded to none of those suggestions.

In the palace, too, Arundell received a more formal welcome from King Philip’s under-officers of state. The king himself and the entire court had already removed to the Escorial, whither it was proposed that Arundell should follow as soon as the Lord Paget arrived. In the meantime, the Spanish officials kept him altogether occupied with a proud display of the city’s sights. A few days later, happily, Lord Paget did arrive.

Then had begun what for Arundell seemed an ascent into some magical realm of dreams and allegory. He and Paget set out upon a day’s ride back to the northwest, up into the Guadarrama, to the king’s new edifice, the Escorial. Already distracted by his conviction that events of the greatest moment were unfolding elsewhere, he found himself disoriented by the incredible Spanish court. From the plains below the great building, ascending the plateau, they were dazzled by the dome of San Lorenzo, which caught the afternoon sun upon the mountains to the west. When they emerged from the hills above the western front, they paused astonished before the vision that confronted them.

King Philip’s new establishment was as different from the Italianate châteaux of France as the windy steppes upon which he had built it were different from the valley of the Loire. At the center of a bustling town of sheds and shops, markets and corrals, rose a monstrous quadrangle of gray granite, square towers with peaked tegular roofs ascending from each corner, twin belfries in the center flanking the enormous dome of the church of San Lorenzo el Real. The entire complex might have been laid out in the figure of St. Lawrence’s gridiron, the emblem of his martyrdom; the after-end of the church itself protruded out behind for its handle, and the long buildings within were broken up by square yards of various sizes interspersed with geometric regularity. El Escorial resembled no church Arundell had ever seen, nor any palace, nor any monastery, nor college, nor city, yet it was all of these, a great stark block, unrelieved by a single curve, squatting ponderously atop the plateau, as if prepared against the last assault of the demons in the final battle for the world.

The great western façade, in the center of which opened the main doors, flanked by eight immense Doric half-columns and surmounted by the king’s heraldic arms and by a high niche, soon to be occupied by some statue, was fronted by a wide paved plain bustling with traffic now that the court was in residence. Troops of schoolboys marched smartly by almost in formation. From beneath tents and umbrellas, steatopygous matrons offered food stuffs and ornaments for sale. Soldiers strolled idly together, or singly made love to admiring maidens. Long files of Hieronymite monks passed solemnly out of one small door and in at another as if on some sacred patrol. Prelates, in brilliant orphrey, bent their ears to suppliant clerks and artists requiring patronage. Having come up only moments earlier from the silent, vacant steppes, Arundell found this frightful concourse of people almost daunting.

Passing through the west gate and dismounting just within the portico, the travellers were accosted by keepers who received their messages and bid them wait. In moments one of the clerks of Secretary Idiaquez ran out to bring them into the palace. In a group they traversed the Patio of the Kings, a rectangular courtyard some seventy meters long, closed in entirely by flat white walls rising four stories high on either side. At the farther end, up a low flight of steps running the width of the court, stood the face of the great church, five deep, black arches capped by a row of pedestals, four of which still stood empty, but two of which bore gilt and marble statues of Solomon and Jehoshaphat, two of the kings who had built the temple of Jerusalem. Courtiers and soldiers, monks with breviaries and clerks with ledgers, hurried back and forth across the pavement quickly enough to suggest some emergency befallen when there was none.

Having been brought into the northeastern quadrant, the offices of the government when the king dwelt there, Arundell scarcely left it for ten days’ time. When he did, it was only for a recreational ride in the orchards, following which he was back immediately to the palace. Part of each day he spent idly in the chambers given him, waiting to be called out, but once each morning and again each afternoon he was summoned to appear in some other part of the palace. Often enough it was merely to the presence of some English- or French-speaking clerk, usually an elderly monk in white robes and brown hood, who put to him an open question and then without another word took down his reply at length.

Several of these dictations Charles made concerning the duke of Guise’s message and questions for the king, several more he made, as Lord Paget did, on the state of English preparedness for defense, the terrain and port facilities, the number and disposition of the Catholics of account. In these matters, Charles replied in very general terms, and he was surprised to observe that, when sometimes in the afternoons he was called before the eristic noblemen of the Council of War, amid their quarrelling among themselves and their disinterest in the matter itself, he was never pursued any more particularly about the imprecision of his depositions. The questions put to him there were usually in the form of sweeping propositions made by some councillors for the benefit of the others, then more by the latter for the former, and he was merely required to assent or deny. Only when closeted alone with Don Juan de Idiaquez was he cross-examined with embarrassing specificity over his remarks.

In the evenings there were less onerous duties, or at least so Lord Thomas found them, for he regarded his introduction to the life of the Spanish court as a medieval explorer might have done the anthropophagi of the far antipodes. The long festival of Saint John had passed in June, but there were still a perplexing variety of religious exercises in which the entire court participated. Beyond that there were almost nightly balls, in which the great lords and ladies, in finery worth thousands of acres, paced solemnly about to epicedian music and put themselves through such a fantastic array of ceremonial niceties that, to a blunt Englishman at least, this play seemed far more demanding than any form of work. Lord Paget threw himself into the business with a hearty will and spent his spare hours bowing hispanically to Twinyho, prancing a bit to indicate mirth, trying to reduce the infinitude of forms of address to a mnemonic jingle. His health seemed never better. In the evenings he exhibited his new skills so perfectly that the courtiers, who had seemed disposed politely to ignore the foreigners among them, began to mark him out as a figure of fun.

Arundell had no facility for the crazy ritual of the court. He had had little enough for the ritual of the English court and there he had thought such things proper and important. Here, among the bows and curtsies, the whole dictionary of meanings to each attitude of the body, to every tilt of one’s hat, he felt more useless than a fletcher in a company of shot. But it was one of the more fixed expectations that a guest of the king might not decently retire until a certain hour, quite late. Consequently, nearly every evening, after a day spent with Idiaquez or the Council, his thoughts still turned almost entirely to the queen of Scots, he stood by the wall in the palace courtyard or the great hall, speaking polite inanities to those gentlemen who knew sufficient French to try a compliment or two in passing with the respected stranger, managing uncomfortable smiles for the ladies who batted their eyes curiously and coyly in his direction.

Certainly it was true that Arundell was being treated, if not with the deference owed to the great nobility, at least with noticeable respect. He was sure he was making himself of absolutely no use to the Spanish statesmen, but notwithstanding that, Idiaquez himself, many (though not all) of the councillors, and every one of the servants behaved towards him as to a valuable and trusted friend of the monarch. As a consequence, the courtiers and ladies, too, who missed very little, likewise looked upon him almost as a social equal, which for the Spanish nobility was a difficult thing to do. Arundell, in his lucid moments, when he was not thoroughly bemused by it all beneath his mask of equanimity, noticed this treatment with great surprise, for he came after all in very nearly the habit of the common courier. And Lord Thomas remarked upon it also, somewhat resentfully. It seemed that, for one reason or another, Idiaquez genuinely liked Arundell, and on several occasions before the Council the Secretary spoke up for him to some of the more hostile officials.

When the Englishmen had lived at court for more than three weeks of depositions, examinations, tours of the public walks of church and college, library and galleries, balls, and masses said daily, Idiaquez came to Arundell’s chamber very early in the morning. Charles, who to distract his busy brain had stayed late before the candle with a book, was still abed, and with Sharrock’s help he dressed himself from cap to boots in fewer than five minutes. The Secretary led him out and walked with him across the church porch and through the empty cloisters. After thanking Arundell for the time he had spent in making his advices to the Council, he presented him with a purse, which he hoped would make a partial token of King Philip’s gratitude for his loyal service. Then Idiaquez said that at the end of the week, Charles should meet the king directly. Arundell stared stupidly at the news. Thrice in as many weeks he had seen the king, each time from a great distance, kneeling in his stall far back in the high-choir during the church services; at no other time, so far as he knew, had his Catholic majesty left the royal apartments behind the basilica.

If he was speechless upon hearing this, the next news rendered him insensible. Arundell, along with a few captains from the army, two civic officials from Aragon, and one impecunious poet, was going to be knighted.

The rest of the week passed feverishly. The ritual involved in an investiture of Spanish knighthood was so intricate and extensive as to make learning it seem a lifetime’s profession in itself. Arundell spent each day from morning to night with a herald specifically trained in the art, engaged in an elaborate propaedeutic in order to fit himself for the task of being honored. He got himself knighted countless times by the herald, trying to remember when to stand and when to kneel, what to say for his parts of the responsio, each time by not adverting to the Latin cues or by transposing elements of the service making some oafish blunder which, if committed on the big day, would scandalize the Spanish empire spread around the globe.

At last the big day arrived. To Arundell, the thing was perfectly lunatic. To have devoted the great part of his life to trying to win honors from Elizabeth, and then to be raised to an order of knighthood by her worst enemy; it was almost more preposterous than he could bear. He suspected a joke. Perhaps because he’d already worried himself half to madness over the queen of Scots’s situation, he found himself now, as he dressed, breaking into short fits of laughter at this jumbled heap of ironies. Wherever he had tried to give good service he had brought ignominy to his name and trouble to his house; when deliberately he gave bad service, dukes and kings vied who should reward him the more liberally. He sat alone in his chamber, very close to tears.

When finally he was fully dressed, with all that that implies, considering the quantity of black and silver regalia he’d been required to buy, he pressed Sharrock’s hand and left the room. Sharrock’s eyes were glistening, as if he could have wished for nothing more devoutly than to have lived to see this day. In the church porch, Arundell met his herald-mentor, who led him across the nave up into the high altar, backed by a beautiful retable, with three tiers of paintings and gilded statuary, rising ninety feet nearly into the dome. Gathered on the dais they met the other candidates, all looking as abashed as Arundell must have looked, each with his own herald, and Idiaquez standing among a number of noble lords and brown-hooded monks.

To the right of the altar, along a gleaming rail above red marble, a small door opened, and King Philip came out of his bedchamber with several attendants. He looked extremely old. In telling contrast to all of his subjects nearby, he wore a stark black doublet, relieved only by his emblem of the Golden Fleece depending from a chain, with an unadorned black cape, hose, and boots; even his sword hilts were black. The king’s white beard had thinned to a few wisps over his protruding jaw, and his eyes were red-rimmed, as if from insomnia or overwork. He ascended the steps tiredly, like an old peasant home from the fields, his thin frame slightly bent and his hands shaking as he held them out for his noblemen to kiss.

King Philip acknowledged the presence first of a few grandees who knelt near the altar. As they rose, he turned to the candidates; the herald introduced each of them by turn, and each, as his name was spoken, without looking up shifted from one knee to the other. Philip bid them rise and welcomed them in a thin, hesitant voice. Then he calmly bid them again to rise, and they all stood up together. He inquired whether they found themselves comfortable in their apartments--they did not reply--and then when he asked again, they all bowed and assured him they were very comfortable. The king looked upon them all with a vague, benign smile. His eyes fell upon each of the men in turn in such a way that he seemed to be speaking directly and specially to him, but at the same time something in his gaze seemed abstracted from the situation, as if part of him were elsewhere, praying or reading or reflecting upon policy.

He wished they might all stay long at El Escorial, though he would not presume, he said, to interfere with their plans; he knew that they were busy men. Still, if they might just stay a fortnight longer. . . . For the peaches had not come in yet; they were already more than a week overdue. Spring had come late. He had had some peaches served him only the night before, he said, but one would not have known what they were if the gardener had not come along to identify them.

He had not been able even to eat them, let alone enjoy them.

He laughed gently at this, and they all smiled politely. Turning half round to look up at the altar, his majesty remarked in a loud, thin voice that he was bold to claim that his peaches were worth waiting a few days for.

His majesty paused for several long seconds, staring at the altar, all of jasper and red marble. The gentlemen and ladies of the palace were entering the nave behind and taking seats. Philip turned slowly and with a subtle twinkle in his eye asked the candidates to follow him; they walked behind him as he left the dais and entered a corridor behind the retable, the noblemen and his attendants close to him and the others farther back.

Secretary Idiaquez approached very near to Arundell as they waited to pass through the door. He leant over and whispered in French, "His majesty is very pleased with you. I told him that you were named in honor of his father."

Charles smiled and whispered back that as a matter of fact he had been. For indeed, at the time of his birth, his own father had been much taken with the great Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, the enemy of heresy, and had named his second son after him. Idiaquez laughed quietly at the coincidence.

They crowded into a tiny vault behind the altar. On gleaming ornamental tables all about stood scores of precious boxes, reliquaries each of which was worth a small kingdom, of chryselephantine, with intricate enamel work, some of delicately carved fine wood or golden, encrusted with glyptic emeralds and lapis lazuli. The king went to several set together in a corner, where evidently they had newly arrived and not found permanent arrangement. Gently he took one up and placed it before them. A small handle on the side was turned and the lid raised. Inside, in deep blue velvet, lay a greenish yellow anklebone with a crimson ribbon tied about it.

Arundell looked up quickly to the king. His majesty’s eyes swept slowly over them all; there was unmistakably a lambent glow of pride in them.

"San Lorenzo," he said.

Carefully the king reclosed the box and replaced it on its table. He then tried to lift another receptacle, but found it too heavy for him; besides its greater size, it bore a massive base upon pedestal legs. Philip paused and tried again, decorously, but with no more success. Then one of the noblemen standing near him moved to lend his aid, but very gracefully, as if he had not noticed, his majesty glided sideways and stepped in front of the man, who drew back sharply with the air of having been caught playing out of turn.

"Fray Sigüenza," the king called out.

A guardsman outside the chamber called the name again more loudly, and as they waited they heard it repeated several times further and further off. Moments passed, as the king gazed kindly upon them all one after another, without the slightest hint of impatience. Everyone stood silently with not a muscle moving.

At length, King Philip, as if it had occurred to him that to explain might be a pleasant duty, smiled courteously again at the candidates and said in Spanish, "Keeper of our relics."

After a short while, footsteps were heard running down the gallery. They stopped suddenly just outside the door, and then a monk, Fray Sigüenza, entered with the firmest composure. He was a very handsome man, with steady, intelligent brown eyes over strong cheekbones and a well-groomed goatee, his brown hood thrown back from a circle of gray hair fringing his tonsured pate.

The monk, finding his master with his hand upon the reliquary, saw instantly what was the matter. He moved promptly, but with ceremonial dignity, to take up the case and transfer it to the table before the visitors. Then he touched a spring in its base and the lid lifted very slightly.

King Philip took the keeper’s place over the box and looked from one man to the next. Fray Sigüenza, taking his cue, stepped forward again and announced, "Hermenegildo the Martyr"; and the king swept back the cover, and there in red cloth was a dreadful ancient brown head, not much larger than a big apple, rugose leathery skin stretched over features collapsed upon themselves, bleared soupy sockets below long tufts of gray and dirty white hair, the lips drawn back in a hideous yawn.

Some of those in the room gave a gasp of veneration. Nearly everyone gasped. Arundell, who had never even heard of Hermenegildo, never mind the miraculous virtues of his earthly shell, began to weave on his feet; his blood-drained face felt heavy and slack, as the mahogany chaps danced before his eyes. King Philip beamed, as if by the performance of a simple miracle he had converted a tribe of heathen.

After the holy head had been carefully replaced, the candidates followed the king into the corridor. There they parted and passed into the church.

Arundell filed into a row of benches among his fellows, feeling somewhat revived but not much more at ease. At the proper place in the proceedings, he rose mechanically and followed the others onto the dais. There he knelt before the king and a bishop, with Idiaquez behind him as his sponsor, receiving the questions he had learned so well and answering solemnly in each place that he swore upon everything nominable to uphold to death the pope, the king, the blessed host, the cruciform gonfalon, and a legion of other sacred knickknacks. He stood at the proper times and knelt and stood again, knelt and received communion, individually professed his faith in words prescribed and memorized, and at the last, after more than an hour of it, his majesty the king of Spain laid a black-hilted sword upon each of his shoulders and named him miles hispanicus, a knight of Spain. On a rolled charter given him then were lettered precisely those words, with his own name, subscribed with the quavering signature, "Yo, el Rey."

Arundell had his reward, the fruition of his labors.

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When Anthony Babington’s letter had gone to the queen of Scots, Secretary Walsingham, through whose hands it had passed, dispatched Tom Phelippes to Chartley to await her reply. On the 18th of July 1586, her answer, written a day earlier, came out in the kegs.

In it the queen thanked Mr. Babington for his labors and wrote that she could not but greatly praise his heroism. She advised him before proceeding with his scheme to examine what forces he and his friends could raise in England; what towns and ports he could make safe for the landings; what foreign troops could be relied upon and where they would land; how much money and armor would be required--what would be the surest means to compass the death of the English queen. How best he might free the queen of Scots herself and promptly make her secure. Lest she find herself in worse case then she already was, she instructed Babington to set her liberating party in place and to establish several routes of post, by which her deliverers should infallibly be alerted the moment that Queen Elizabeth was dead, before her keepers could learn of it by couriers; and she described three several methods by which her guards might be diverted and overcome, and herself extricated from the house. Finally, she warned him not to proceed in freeing her until all other elements of the plan were assured, for if any part misfired and she herself were retaken, "it were sufficient cause given to that queen, in catching me again, to enclose me forever in some hole forth of the which I should never escape, if she did use me no worse."

It was a moment for which Phelippes had long waited. He sat in his chamber in the far wing of Chartley, rereading his deciphered copy of the letter which had travelled out of the house to the honest brewer of Burton and back in again to his own hands, and would now travel straight on to Walsingham. He could imagine the Secretary’s feelings when he should see it. At last, after nearly two decades, the sure means presented itself to be rid of the most dangerous enemy by which England and the pure gospel had ever been menaced. For Walsingham and Leicester it would be the fulfillment of a dream, a triumph over those of the Privy Council who were less careful of their sovereign’s happiness--the fruit of their long travail.

Phelippes bundled the letter and copy into a pouch and set out at once for the court at Greenwich. He arrived there the following evening and burst in upon the Secretary with the news. A slow smile spread over Walsingham’s face as he read the missive. He finished it and sat back, speechless.

Phelippes was quite ready to proceed to the arrest of all the plotters who were known, but Walsingham disagreed. Instead, he directed his man to add a postscript to the letter in the handwriting of the Scottish queen’s secretary, telling Babington in the queen’s voice that she could advise him the better if she were informed of the names of all the participants, especially those of the six gentlemen "which are to accomplish the designment." As Phelippes pointed out at once, the risk was great that so unsubtle a device might arouse suspicion, but Mr. Secretary was adamant, for he would have more than enough evidence against everyone involved; he would have the names in writing, he would have the very lives, of everyone who had any part in it. Phelippes added the passage, artfully resealed the letter, and passed it on to Barnaby for delivery to Mr. Babington.

A few days later, Fr. Gilbert Gifford stopped at an inn in Holborn and retired to one of the upper rooms. There came to him Mr. Francis Milles, Walsingham’s secretary, whom Gifford informed that the priest John Ballard had told him he knew of all Tom Phelippes’s deceitfulness and that the queen of Scots’s letters had been tampered with. Ballard had acquired an open passport for all ports, and he meant to use it; Gifford believed the man may already have flown. Milles returned to Walsingham with the news. The Secretary sent word at once to Gifford commanding him to find out Fr. Ballard and bring him to the hands of Francis Milles who should arrest him immediately. Gifford observed to himself, in some agitation, that the trap was beginning to spring shut.

Since having written his letter to the queen of Scots, Mr. Babington had been having tepid second thoughts. Earlier, before Ballard’s first coming, he had been trying through Robert Poley’s good offices to obtain a passport from the Secretary; in early June he had decided several times to try again. Twice Poley, by virtue of his employment in the Secretary’s house, had been able to arrange interviews for Babington, who had offered in return for passage over the Channel to do good service in sending intelligence of foreign matters. Walsingham, on these occasions, had expressed himself as moderately interested in furthering the suit, if he might know more particularly what service, what intelligence, Babington could offer. Recently he had sent Mr. Secretary word that he might soon send reports of the whereabouts of two priests who had just entered the realm, as a token of his honest meaning. Walsingham had returned him some encouragement.

Young Mr. Babington was diffident.

Deep, deep within himself, he doubted whether when the moment came he would find the resolution to make any raid upon Chartley, to signal the assassins when to perform their deed. Sometimes he knew that he was made of the genuine stuff of heroes; he could imagine himself with equally great pleasure standing by the queen of Scots at her coronation in Whitehall or dying gloriously of a hundred wounds, murmuring to the enemy who had been too many for him, "J’ai les mains nettes," as the assassins missed their aim, the invaders never came, and he expired in a muddy field in Derbyshire. At other times, however, he trembled violently even to recollect some of the words he’d uttered in other men’s hearing. Recollecting to himself the public executions he had seen, his bowels deliquesced and his perspiration spoiled his shirts. When he read over the queen of Scots’s letter to him, he felt a sensation of suction whirling him down into some dark pool.

It was two days before he even showed the queen’s missive to any of his friends. The postscript did not put him on his guard, as Phelippes had feared it would; rather, the whole import of the queen’s acceptance of his plan, her cold-blooded expectations of him and her marked tone of urgency, brought every fear he’d harbored marching out in regiments to daunt him. Some of his friends seemed now to be acting strangely; he wondered at the sudden absence of Bernard Maude, who had gone away into Scotland; he remembered that he knew nothing of Captain Jacques, who had become inseparable from Mr. Salusbury; it seemed odd to him that Robert Poley found so little difficulty in arranging his interviews with Walsingham, and he wondered why he had received no reply from Nau about Poley’s acquaintance with Queen Mary’s people. Everything, indeed, began to seem strange to him. The very air of London began to seem thicker, harder to breathe somehow, and everyone, merchants and seamen, courtiers and housewives, seemed to be staring at him when he was turned away. For four days consecutively he went round to Gilbert Gifford’s dwelling for consultation, but never found the man at home. He thought at last that if he could find no comfort or assurance very soon, he would do best to get clean out of it, before someone’s powderflask ignited and he went with the rest of them into a billow of black smoke and a terrible boom.

Accordingly, Babington resolved, alone, with a crazy grin, to leave the realm if he could. Ballard held a blank passport, he remembered, but he soon discovered that the priest was nowhere to be found. Savage he had not seen in weeks. He communicated to a few of the other gentlemen his fears of some mischance, but as the month of July drew to a close, nothing changed; he seemed thoroughly cut off. He was afraid to reply to the queen of Scots. He was afraid to try passing the ports without a warrant. He sent another note to Secretary Walsingham, requesting a safe passage, but he received in reply only a message from Phelippes inquiring what particular service he might render. Anxiety told upon him. On Monday, the 31st of July, Babington met Robert Poley and instructed him to tell Walsingham that he, Babington, knew of a horrible great plot to murder the queen of England, that an unsavory priest named Ballard was the setter on of it, and that he meant to do his duty to reveal it entirely.

In his tiny room in Greenwich Palace, Thomas Phelippes remained of the opinion that the business should be ended before the hour grew too late. Mr. Secretary delayed still, bearing the young gentlemen in hand, persisting in the hope that any day a reply might come from Babington to the queen, listing the names of all the conspirators in his own handwriting, making confessions hard wrung or special eloquence of the attorneys altogether superfluous. No reply came, however, Phelippes was growing still more nervous, and Walsingham too had begun to lose patience. Mr. Milles had sent Gifford after Ballard, but that had been almost a week ago; Ballard’s whereabouts remained unknown, and Gifford himself seemed to have preferred caution over the strictest loyalty--he had never come back. Ballard’s passport, however he had obtained it, if once he reached the coast would see him safely to sea without a second glance from the port-searchers. It was essential that he be found and laid in custody at once.

Phelippes and Milles descended into the forecourt to confer with one of the Secretary’s best agents, a man who had newly returned from assignment in France, the man most able of any they could think of to track Ballard down and lay him by the heels. Together they crossed to the guardroom of the western gatehouse, where they had appointed to meet him.

Nicholas Berden rose as Walsingham’s men entered the little room. Quietly he received his instructions and made to leave. He refused their offer of a description of the priest, for he knew the man already. By late the following morning, though he’d not yet found Ballard himself, Berden had learned where the man was expected in a few days’ time and had settled down to wait.

Anthony Babington received, by Poley’s means, a note from Walsingham inviting him to visit him on Thursday, the third of August, and tell him all he knew of any plot. He was surprised by the Secretary’s apparently casual attitude towards the thing, but supposed that the press of state business prevented greater promptness; there had been rumors of French and Spanish fleets off the coast, and all the militia were being got out, all the coastal beacons being put back into order. On the morning of the third, however, he received another note, requiring him to put off his interview until Saturday the fifth. It dawned upon him suddenly that he was being strung along. Something told him inwardly that everything had come out and that he was being held in hand while the bushes were beat for others. His first thought fell upon Maude, who had disappeared into Scotland; he drew out a sheet of paper and penned a hasty note to the queen of Scots, apologizing for his silence and warning her that through the treachery of Bernard Maude the complot was broken off, but only for the moment: for "dismay not," he conjured her, "neither doubt of happy issue. We have vowed and we will perform or die."

He spent a sleepless night and felt himself becoming ill. The next morning he hurried round again to Ballard’s rooms. This time he found the priest returned, but accompanied by a man who was introduced as Mr. Berden. He felt quite relieved to be in Ballard’s presence once again, for the priest seemed always to know just where he was going, but he became alarmed at the insistence with which Berden pressed him to remain for companionship’s sake. In consequence of that, he took his leave as soon as with civility he could. As he left the house and started away, he saw Francis Milles and two other men enter at the main doors and run bounding up the stairs. Moments later they reappeared with Ballard, his arms bound, fair-haired Berden following behind, smoothing his doublet down.

Babington dashed the whole distance home and with furious haste wrote a letter of complaint to the Secretary, remonstrating with him for having arrested Ballard before he, Babington, had had a chance to lay the whole situation before him. He demanded to know the meaning of it. Two hours later his boy brought back a reply. Walsingham informed him that Ballard had been arrested without his knowledge, but because he was a seminary priest, rather than as any plotter. The Secretary’s great fear now was that Babington too should be arrested as a harborer of priests unless he took refuge instantly in Walsingham’s own house, where the common pursuivants could not touch him.

Babington, without troubling to put on his hat, ran down into the street. There he met Robert Poley coming up, and he shouted as he passed, "Nay, it is all out. We must flee for our lives!"

Poley, instead of fleeing, overtook his friend and tried to stop him. Babington tried to explain that he had a safe place to run to, not to fear for him. But little Poley was not listening; he was simply trying to hold Babington down, almost as if trying to capture him. Babington shrieked when he realized that Poley was arresting him, and he shrieked again as he threw the man into a cart standing near and dashed away in terror.

Walsingham’s servants admitted him and informed him that the master was expected shortly. Sitting with his legs bouncing in the Secretary’s sideroom, Babington tried to calm himself, and belatedly he took thought. It occurred to him that he had arrested himself. He slapped his forehead. Quickly, he darted to the door and saw that two of the servingmen were sitting by the front entrance, obviously stationed there to guard him.

Babington thought for a long moment. Then he adjusted his clothing and forced onto his face, rather painfully, an expression of nonchalance. He re-entered the hall and stretched himself before the servingmen, then swore that he was damnably hungry and wondered whether they, while awaiting the Secretary, would like to join him for an early supper at his expense. The servants looked at each other, shrugged, and agreed. They called a third man forward from the rear of the house, and together they strolled across to the tavern three doors down the way.

The men, in kindly regard for their new friend’s generosity, dined simply, and Babington, laughing at their amiable stories, almost forgot the circumstances he was in. At length, however, they finished their meal, and all three of his guests began trying to persuade him to let them contribute to the paying. He refused in the grand manner; pulling out his purse he walked back to settle with the host. Quickly he counted the coins into the man’s hand, then stepped into the stores chamber in the back. There were no other doors, but a window stood open. Babington bounded through it.

Appropriating a horse that stood at the farther end of the garden, the fugitive dashed away from town up Hampstead Road to the northwest, collecting Windsor and Donne as he progressed. They hid themselves in St. John’s Wood and there remained for a considerable time, looked for but unfound. Finally, almost overcome by hunger, they emerged from the forest at the western edge and made for Mr. Bellamy’s house in Harrow, where they found the pursuivants waiting to take them to the Tower.

The brothers Habington were taken in a haymow on their father’s estate in Worcestershire. Captain Jacques brought in Mr. Salusbury and Mr. Tichbourne and then disappeared. Robert Poley and Nicholas Berden ran down the elusive Mr. Savage, and Mr. Milles had the man attached. Bernard Maude returned to hunt up two more gentlemen who’d fled southward, turned them over to the sheriff of the county, then he too disappeared discreetly. Barnaby Macgeogan, the courier between London and Chartley, simply disappeared. Gilbert Gifford was discovered to have slipped away to France in disguise, bearing a license obtained from the French ambassador. His friends among the exiles there congratulated him for having escaped out of Walsingham’s net.

Mr. William Waad, Clerk of the Privy Council, had gone to Chartley to consult with Sir Amias Paulet. They met in the open fields to preclude being noticed by anyone in the queen of Scots’s household. Paulet made some pertinent suggestions, and Waad bore them hurriedly back to Walsingham. When Ballard was arrested, the Secretary believed he had sufficient matter in hand to convince even Queen Elizabeth of the gravity of the moment, and he sought and won her permission. On the ninth of August, Mary, queen of Scots, was invited to chase deer on Sir Walter Aston’s grounds at Tixall. To her delight, Sir Amias let himself be persuaded to allow her to attend. She rode with her party and guards to Tixall and hunted quite enjoyably till she tired of it. Then she decided to return to Chartley, but was forbidden from doing so. She realized at once what the meaning of it was, and she screamed.

In her absence, Mr. Waad, some other agents of the court, and a few of the local officials, had entered her apartments at Chartley, arrested her secretaries, and seized all of her papers from their cunning hiding-places. Her papers, along with the letters intercepted and the gentlemen’s copious confessions, would prove finally to be capital.

In his cell in Beauchamp Tower, Anthony Babington was still troubled by waking nightmares. He saw his friends being disembowelled on Tower Hill. He saw himself, hanging from a gibbet before a mob howling execrations and hurling filth. He saw the executioner swinging his bright axe down to sever the queen of Scots’s head, which rolled away and bounced along the scaffolding like a giant piece of fruit.

goback.gif (2185 bytes)Go back to the Preface and Table of Contents
gonext.gif (2192 bytes)Go ahead to Chapter XX. Julio and the Third Party (1587)

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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