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 is my choice; for why I find
No wealth is like the quiet mind."

The queen of Scots was dead. Her friends the young gentlemen, Babington and Savage, Ballard and Donne, twelve of them in all, had perished pitiably, in barbaric manner, on the public scaffold in September 1586. The lady herself had been tried at Fotheringay by a commission made of English peers (not, as she had pointed out, her peers), and she had been convicted of complicity in their attempt. She was sentenced to death, but the queen of England, anxious at the prospect of executing a fellow monarch, hesitant to let slip her reputation for clemency and compassion, refrained from signing the warrant.

The French king sent envoys to the English court to plead for mercy. So too did the Scottish king, and supplications and threats arrived daily from all over Europe. Walsingham and Leicester and all their friends worked just as hard to persuade her majesty of the need for firmness, lest misplaced kindness be mistaken for weakness and breed further plots. Still Elizabeth hesitated. The Parliament petitioned in November for the execution of Mary’s sentence; Elizabeth thanked the members for their care and returned them the answer answerless. The earl of Leicester, newly home from the Netherlands, suggested to Walsingham that the queen of Scots be quietly poisoned, but Walsingham was shocked by the idea. Queen Elizabeth hinted to Sir Amias Paulet that his prisoner might be quietly poisoned, but Sir Amias indignantly refused. December passed, and nothing was done.

Then still another plot rose belly-upward to the surface. Mr. William Stafford, Sir Edward’s younger brother, confessed that des Trappes, secretary to the French ambassador, had suborned him to enter a design upon the queen of England’s life. Châteauneuf himself had approved it, he said, and Stafford had arranged des Trappes’s meetings with Michael Moody, formerly a spy in Sir Edward’s household, then a prisoner for debt in Newgate--Moody had offered to be the man to set a bag of gunpowder under the queen’s bed and blow the thing up with her sleeping majesty in it. Des Trappes was arrested in his flight to the coast; Châteauneuf was ordered by the Council to confine himself to his house, and his correspondence was shut off. Walsingham laid before Elizabeth the awful reach of this horrible scheme to save the one queen by disposing of the other one, and Elizabeth took fright, shed tears, and signed the warrant for Queen Mary’s execution. Mr. Davison, the second Secretary, carried it to Fotheringay.

On the 8th of February 1587, Mary, the queen of Scots, putative heir to the English throne, was decapitated. The Council apologized to Ch>teauneuf for what appeared to have been a mistaken suspicion and released des Trappes. Stafford was accused of having invented the tale of conspiracy for the purpose of extorting money; he was reprimanded and imprisoned, quietly to be released a year later, having presumably learned his lesson. The twenty years’ duel was finished. The queen of Scots would no more trouble either England or Walsingham by inciting the young bloods to insurrection and desperate deeds.

Charles Arundell was scarcely surprised by the news, when finally it reached him. For him, the queen of Scots, to whom he had dedicated the greater part of his adult life, had died the moment he had heard of Babington’s arrest. The autumn passed slowly for him. On three occasions he was told that her execution had already been accomplished, only to find soon afterward, from a man he had suborned in the entourage of Pomponne de Bellièvre, King Henri’s emissary to Elizabeth, that the matter still hung in the balance. When at odd times, late at night, he began to feel a small, lingering hope for her, his intuition of disaster suppressed it, and he continued on his way by a sort of blind inertia, with neither purpose nor reflection in his actions. As too often happens, despair proved the best prophet of events.

The month of January had seemed uneventful to his dulled imagination, awaiting daily the report of her death. But it was not so in fact. Many things had occurred, none of them good, which should have kept his mind from morbid dalliance. The wars in France had been resumed once more, and the king of Navarre was gathering in the south his greatest army yet. The queen of England had now come in on the Protestant part; on the 11th of January, her commissioners had signed a compact with Prince Casimir and the Protestant mercenaries of the German states, who, at England’s expense, were to invade French lands in the summer, there to link up with Navarre and crush the Holy League in a concerted campaign. The League captains were preparing for the worst and, distrustful of their king’s intentions, the duke of Guise and his fellows had increased the volume of their propaganda against the king and his minions. The pulpits of Paris rang with exhortations.

In the Low Countries, the stalemate of the last campaigning season had been broken belatedly with no blood shed. The earl of Leicester, who had shown a genius for alienating his commanders and refusing sound advice, had installed at the head of garrisons two men whom he professed to trust above all of the quarrelsome veterans who made themselves so troublesome to him. Sir William Stanley was a proven soldier of great ability who was, however, a known Catholic; him the earl, before returning to England in November, had placed in command of the city of Deventer, which had successfully held out against Parma throughout the preceding summer. Rowland Yorke, formerly a friend of Arundell’s at the English court, was both a Catholic and a man deeply in debt; him, despite the protests (possibly because of the protests) of his own advisers and the representatives of the States, Leicester had placed in charge of the Zutphen sconce, in relief of which Sir Philip Sidney had lost his life a few months earlier. On the 28th of January 1587, both of these men, one for conscience, the other for pay, turned their positions over to the Spanish. All over Europe the question was debated: what part of loyalty did the soldier owe to his nation and what part to his faith? In the Catholic regions, their decision was generally held to have been correct.

Nearer to home, something else of consequence occurred as well. Sir Edward, despite having been forbidden many times from using such tactics, decided that the moment had come to approach Mendoza directly, instead of continuing to deal with him only distantly through the League. He feared that now the great threat to England had shifted so conclusively from the duke of Guise’s military whims to the king of Spain’s armada, he would lose valuable time unless he were in proximate contact with the Spaniard himself. He had devised a plan for establishing himself with Don Bernardino directly: Arundell was to report that he, Stafford, had intercepted a special post from the king of Navarre to his own queen. In it, "Bearn," Navarre’s code name, had inveighed against Stafford odiously as a traitor for having supplied vital information to the duchess of Guise. (That Bearn had written such a letter, as a matter of fact, was true.) Arundell was to represent Stafford as having flown into a desperate rage, swearing that he should never be satisfied until he had been revenged upon both Navarre, for meddling, and Queen Elizabeth, for having invited such reports to his derogation.

Arundell was also to make the point that he knew the ambassador to be financially on the wrong side of his ledgerbook, in consequence of his unrepented habits of gambling. Stafford had laughed uncomfortably while concocting this part of it, probably because this too was quite true. In any case, he was to urge upon Mendoza the suggestion that, Stafford’s present disaffection and his debts considered, there would be no time like the present for suborning him and bringing him in to the service of the king of Spain.

In earnest of his future usefulness, Sir Edward gave Arundell a first piece of information to bear along with him, which was that a fleet was being prepared in English ports for use later in the spring in aid of the Portuguese pretender, Don Antonio, against his enemy King Philip. Arundell questioned the wisdom of this fabrication, for, he thought, only a few months’ time would suffice to prove it false.

Pursuing his instructions, in late January Arundell made his nocturnal way to Mendoza’s house and delivered his message. The Spaniard was grateful for the suggestion, and though he demanded the opportunity to consult with his master, he bade Charles continue to play upon Stafford and to hold out the possibility of some two thousand crowns or such a sum to come his way in short time. Arundell departed with the feeling that affairs were taking still another nasty turn. The game he played between Guise and Stafford seemed desperate enough--now to be involved in the sale of embassy secrets directly to the Spanish enemy seemed beyond the possibility of any explanation, should it ever come out. Nearly everything seemed eventually to come out.

Likewise in January, prompted perhaps by his resignation to the final defeat of the queen of Scots’s cause, perhaps also by his fear that, as war with Spain became more inevitable, his own ambiguous role should become untenable at last, Arundell began once again to give thought to retirement. He wondered to Stafford whether if Sir Edward were to write home a full explanation of his service, Walsingham might not agree to procure him a free passage to enable him to live quietly on his own lands in the country. Stafford looked at him soberly. Such a thing was out of all question, he said, now and possibly forever, since his oath would probably be insufficient even to clear himself from suspicion, let alone a wanted man like Arundell. He bade Arundell sadly to put the thought of pardon altogether from his mind, certainly until after the approaching conflict with Spain had been resolved, probably until after both Leicester and Walsingham were under the ground.

Simultaneously, however, Arundell was investigating another idea. He had sent a message to his friend Nicholas Berden in London, inquiring whether it might be possible someday to arrange some very rural hideaway for him in the back rooms of some quiet Catholic household, where he might spin out his last years in wooded walks and pious contemplation. So far had he descended from his dreams of returning one day in triumph that now he was half prepared to spend the remainder of his life in hiding, just so that it was quietly in England that he hid.

Berden replied with alacrity. He wrote that the thing was as good as done, that he had arranged a suitable retreat for Arundell’s habitation (and he had, too), and he urged Arundell earnestly to come across on such and such a day, when he should meet him personally upon his landing and convey him to safety. Arundell was tempted, and very nearly acceded to the plan, and might have done except that he was unprepared to act in such haste without longer time for reflection. There were many factors which had first to be well weighed; there always are. He wrote to express his hearty gratitude to Berden, but asked him to defer the idea to a future date.

As a matter of chance, Arundell was dining with the Staffords on the night of 17 February 1587 (the 27th by the new calendar), when the official post brought the news of Mary’s execution. Earlier in the evening, for once there had been no talk of policy, nothing of espionage or war, only a rather desultory reminiscing over a mutual past grown hazy with time and alteration. The weather without was frightfully cold, but the fire was high, and the four of them--the Staffords, Arundell, and a pleasant French lady whom Lady Douglass had brought along to complete the party--sat comfortably before the hearth to a late hour. The bearer summoned Sir Edward out to hear the news. In short time he returned, noticeably out of countenance, and announced the awful tidings to his friends. Lady Douglass swore an oath. Charles continued gazing into the flames with no change of expression. He seemed more disturbed, indeed, when he learned the rest of it, that Stafford’s brother William and his folly had been the final agency of the queen’s dispatch.

Arundell then excused himself and rode round in the early hours to Mendoza’s house. Thence the news travelled swiftly, to the Spaniard’s friends in France, in Rome, in his own country, and soon afterward to all the courts of Europe. The principals of the Holy League lost no time in fixing upon their own version of events. The English Jezebel had committed her blackest crime in a black career, and she had been abetted by that secret Calvinist, King Henri III, who (acting with Huguenot counsel) had dispatched Bellièvre not to save the martyred queen but to hasten her death. Once again the pulpits rang out. Portraits of the royal victim, draped in black, hung from nearly all the windows in Paris. The League version was the one the bishop of Bourges chose to thunder out in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in the presence of the timid king himself, at Queen Mary’s obsequies a fortnight later. Mendoza’s letters ensured that much the same interpretation would be communicated both to the pope and to his own sovereign, and the call for holy vengeance against England sounded loudly and insistently in many parts of the long, wide world. Stafford was advised to keep indoors.

The English promulgated their own version. The queen of England had been pressed by the importunity of events to sign the warrant of death, but had never meant it to be carried out. That had been done without her consent by the immoderate hardihood of one man, a busy Puritan, her second Secretary Mr. Davison, who on his own initiative had transported the warrant to Fotheringay and had the execution (nay the murder) committed with neither Elizabeth’s knowledge nor her wishes. She was as surprised by it, indeed as deeply grieved, as was anybody else, and accordingly she had had Mr. Davison clapt up in prison for his labors. There he would remain forever. But, alas, the past could never be undone. (Davison was released eighteen months later, had his fine remitted, and drew his salary for many years after.)

This interpretation found little credence in Paris, Rome, Madrid, or anywhere, but at least it spared King James of Scotland, who had little taste for giving up his English pension, the necessity of using anything more than harsh words in retaliation for the death of his troublesome mother.

Arundell watched thereafter almost stupidly as the climate of anxiety continued everywhere to worsen. From Spain and through the English Catholics in Rome came incessant rumors that the Spanish king had finally made up his mind. Whether in the selfless spirit of divine vengeance, as was frequently claimed, or as more commonly believed because the queen of Scots’s death finally freed him to conquer England without having to turn it over to her, Philip was said at last to be resolved, finally to have ordered hurried preparations for his great Armada to set its sails in the spring.

In the Low Countries, there was new activity in Parma’s camps. In Paris, King Henri found the streets unsafe, and retired to the country, where he and Joyeuse his minion were preparing to venture an army to the south. In the south, Navarre prepared to receive them. In the east, the German and Swiss scouts were seen investigating the convenient routes into France, and the League was preparing to take the field once again.

And in England, there really was a fleet being fitted out by Drake.

But Arundell watched stupidly, for he seemed almost not to care. Sharrock worried about him; he observed his master dwelling long hours by the east window, gazing absently down upon the muddy street. Few others saw much of him at all, because with one thing and another most of his friends stayed away from him. Most of them were gravitating surely into Morgan’s and Paget’s closet, and whatever their private feelings they believed it unwise to be seen too much in Arundell’s company. The strong-minded among them considered Arundell too shallow in his dedication to the causes of war and revenge; the opportunists, the time-servers, believed that the times were not opportune to be counted among his circle. Fr. Parsons, from Rome, took the trouble to write a special letter of condolence, kindly remembering how devoted he had been to Mary’s welfare, and in it he advised Charles to continue placing his whole confidence in God’s provision for them all.

As the month of March drew on, Arundell pursued his business listlessly. Mendoza informed him that his king was prepared to accept Sir Edward’s service, and he wished an initial meeting to be arranged. Henceforth, he said, Stafford would be known in his dispatches as "Julio," also as "the new friend" or "the new confidant," whereas Arundell was to be designated "the third party." He looked forward to an amiable association with Sir Edward, whom heretofore he had known only in chilly passages in the corridors of various palaces; but, after their first meeting, he would work with him, he said, only with Arundell and no one else as intermediary.

Late in the month, Arundell was knocked up from his morning sleep by one of Stafford’s stableboys. The message, in a hastily scribbled note, was that there were lately rumors that Arundell might be in some new danger. Two days later Sharrock, returning to their rooms, found a crudely lettered note beneath the door. It warned Arundell to look to himself, because some of those mayhap he best trusted were preparing to do him a wrong. Neither message in itself much frightened Arundell, for there had been such threats before. The two coming almost together, however, and from opposite directions as it were, made him uneasy, as well as to feel somewhat isolated and exposed.

The following day was a Sunday. In the evening, Arundell and Sharrock attended the vespertinal services at the quiet church near the Hôtel de Nevers a short way up the road, and were returning down St. Andrew’s street to their rooms. The day had been warm but the dusk was coming over chilly, and a fog had begun gathering along the cobbled avenue. At ground level and in all the alleys a deep shadow obscured everything.

The street was broad in this place, since St. Andrew’s was the major route of market travel between the Porte de Buci and the bridges in the center of the town. The two men walked unhurriedly down it, past a few horses standing idly before an inn. Casually they discussed the preacher they had heard, a man noteworthy in the fact that he had confined himself to speaking upon theology and holiness, with not a word of political exhortation.

As one proceeded westward toward the city gate, one came first to a sizable street meeting St. Andrew’s perpendicularly on the left, and passing that came almost at once to the rue des Augustins running obliquely away to the river on the right. Just beyond that lay the Hôtel of St. Denis, the fronts of which dominated the right side of the street for some distance further. In the center of the intersection lay the only patch of daylight still penetrating to the floor of the city. The two men, conversing at their ease, strolled out of the dull shadow of the avenue into the square.

As they reached the center of the light, a round detonation sounded out of the leftward street, quite close at hand. They stood in astonishment. Briefly they glimpsed a ball of gray smoke rolling upward past the windows of the first story. Another explosion came out of the rue des Augustins, from one of the alleys flanking the St. Denis, and they heard the missile slashing the air between them.

Arundell and Sharrock turned and dashed eastward along the way they had come, angling to the southern side of the street to avoid the center. Almost at once came another loud shot from directly before them. The smoke spumed out of a darkened doorway not ten meters off. Sharrock, his legs still travelling forward, spun off the ground with his left shoulder following the flight of the ball.

Arundell stood amazed. The image came to his mind of an angry bull encompassed about by snarling dogs in the pit, and he saw at once, what the bull knew too, that he must break out of the circle and find the means to face all of his assailants at once.

He drew his rapier and knelt quickly to see his servant’s wound. Just as he did so, another shot came from the St. Denis, and he felt a smart tug at his high cap.

Sharrock rose unsteadily to his feet, supported by Arundell’s free arm round his chest, both turned back to the west. In an instant their decision was forced upon them; they must traverse the square toward the man who had fired off both of his pistols.

Arundell clasped Sharrock and jogged a short step to his right. His timing was luckily accurate, for the eastward man had drawn another aim and fired harmlessly to the place where they had stood an instant earlier. With Sharrock leaning heavily upon him, running in a kind of huddled gallop, he rushed across the stones toward the Augustins.

A bright flash and a splash of powdersmoke came again from the left, and the same rolling explosion reverberated from the house fronts. Arundell ran on. In another second he was past the angle of the southward street.

In a small service door of the front flanking upon the St. Denis he saw a short, pale man half exposed, working furiously with his tamper at the barrel of his dag. From an alley a few feet away, two men ran out and stared about in perplexity. Arundell dashed straight ahead, still dragging his friend, brandishing his rapier in great sweeps above his head.

The man threw down his tamping rod and grabbed at the butt of the pistol. Arundell ran straight at him. The man, his mouth and eyes agape, made a step forward, raised the pistol and tried to take an aim. Bobbing and weaving, Arundell swung his rapier and began screaming in a high-pitched cry, dashing on like the god Mars drunk upon blood. The assassin quailed, staring with his gun raised to just below level, and then, in something like a paroxysm, he stuck the thing out, turned his head away, and jerked it.

There was a light thud and a flash of powder in the pan, and an instant later an enormous roar came out, white and gray smoke spewed forth in a cloud that enveloped the man entirely. In a second Arundell reached him. The man stood slumped against the stone wall – the dag had disappeared – his arm hung in streaming shreds from his shoulder, and the right half of his head had been blown almost cleanly away upon the masonry. As Arundell and Sharrock, and now from a few meters off several servingmen and citizens, watched him in horror, the assassin, amid his drifting smoke, sat slowly down upon the street, and then lay over in a heap.

Across the square, the gunman from the southward street had come out of the row and stood staring at them. Here and there heads were thrust out of upper windows to see what was the matter. Then the man from the far doorway and his accomplice from the bystreet set out trotting towards them across the intersection, into the light, each with two pistols held out before him. A woman just above let out a scream. Turning away, Arundell and Sharrock entered the doorway and found themselves in a black passage between two buildings.

In short space they debouched from the alley into a dark courtyard at the center of the block of the St. Denis. The main doors of the house were closed and unlighted. From behind came shouts of anger and dismay, as if the citizens had played turnabout and caught the assassins in a crossfire of their own, but a verbal one. Arundell stared about frantically.

Footsteps sounded from the passage behind him. Arundell hoisted Sharrock upright and lumbered him forward along the courtyard wall, staying in the shadows as far as possible. Then he bolted into the yard towards the main gate, which lay open upon St. Andrew’s street. From behind, near the mouth of the alley, there came another detonation, deafening within the high courtyard. A glass window directly across the avenue came shattering out of its frame.

He ducked round the gate and tugged Sharrock obliquely westward across the street. On his left he saw the citizens running round the corner of the square, stopping when they saw him and holding off at a cautious distance. He called up nearly his last strength and bounded the final feet into the tenebrous depths of the ruelle du Foi. There, but a few doors down, he reached his own house and threw Sharrock up the steps. Pausing for breath inside, he heard more tumult from the street. Then he lurched forward and made his way up the staircase, stumbling as he dragged his man behind him.

Bursting into his chambers, Arundell bustled Jamie through the darkness across the morning room. Into the back room, he heaved his burden behind the door and bade him lie still, then ran to his locker and threw back the lid. At length he found his pistol and powdercase and bore them, with his rapier in the other hand, back into the morning room, where he squatted low behind the chiffonier in the darkest corner. As quickly and evenly as he could, he pinched powder into the barrel and pan, tamped it down. He expected momently to hear his pursuers come crashing up the stairs.

Arundell dropped in the shot and held his pistol up to prevent its rolling out again. Long seconds passed. His breath came spasmodically. The muscles in his aging legs jerked and twisted still, as if even now he were dashing down benighted streets. Crouching behind his slender cover began soon to seem intolerable to him. Even the weight of his weapon, held aloft before him, had become unbearable, and his wind came so brokenly that he feared he should lose consciousness. He prayed that, though he had only one ball for two of them, they would hurry and come ahead.

But no one came.

Arundell went to the northern windows and peeked out from behind the wall. He could hear faintly the continued shouts of the neighborhood, but was unable to see what transpired in the street. At some distance, flickering candlelights arose in the upper stories of the St. Denis and danced from room to room.

Cautiously, Arundell hunted up a light and set it on a small table that he pulled into the center of the morning room. Then he retreated down the passage, keeping his eyes upon the chamber door. He found Sharrock sitting up with his injured arm held tenderly across his lap.

With some effort, he induced Sharrock to crawl to a place before the passage. He fumbled with a linen shirt he found on the floor, tore a strip from it and, with eyes upon the morning room, endeavored to bind Sharrock’s wound high on the upper arm. Then he gave his man the dag and bade him keep the watch. From his bed-desk and writing table he gathered up his papers and stuffed them into a cloth bag. Behind the table he found his purse, which he shoved into his doublet, slinging the bag over his shoulder. Then, with some solicitude, he helped Jamie to his feet and relieved him of the weapon.

On the stairs, he waited, both of them listening carefully. With the pistol before them, Arundell eased noiselessly down the steps, pausing frequently to listen. As they opened the street door, they heard again the noise of a crowd on St. Andrew’s street, but they turned away from it and made a rapid pace southward.

Some time later, having pursued alleys and black byways in a confusion of routes, they fetched up at the house of a doctor they knew of. The old man was still up. He pronounced at first sight that Sharrock’s wound was far from mortal, and as he applied himself to it, Arundell slept fitfully, still in his clothes.

The next morning brought occasion for taking thought. He could not return again to his old flat. Henceforward he should have to live in hiding. Especially because he had no idea who had hired the assault upon him, he must restrict his acquaintance to men whom he knew he could trust--these were very few. It looked to be a hard life in prospect, skulking in alleyways and popping up unannounced, stealing away again just as mysteriously. If he had had plenty to surfeit of this work before yesterday, he was sick nearly to death with it now.

While Sharrock remained the next morning in the doctor’s bed, Arundell searched about and took out new rooms for them. All he found, since he confined himself to crowded houses away from the avenues, were a bleak pair of chambers in a high story, with only one large window facing northward. They were really not more than two hundred meters distant from the ruelle du Foi, in a diseased old house in the ironically named passage du Bonheur, but through the tortured maze of ancient buildings and narrow alleyways, so far as finding went they might as well have been in Samarkand.

Over the next five or six days, Arundell and his servant contrived more or less to settle into their new existence. Sharrock, after a few days’ rest, discovered his health to be as sound as it had been. Only his arm had suffered; he pampered it now, at the surgeon’s direction, wearing it in a linen sling, but seemed otherwise hale. Generally, they stayed indoors. By hired messengers Arundell communicated his whereabouts to Stafford and Mendoza, and both expressed concern for his mischance.

The spring came on steadily, as March gave way to April, and the Easter season was happily blessed by a succession of warm, clear days. Arundell and Sharrock slipped out of the city on one of them and rode into the country to pass a pleasant holiday in the western forest, by the river Seine. Only one connection with the old house did they put themselves in hazard to renew. Sharrock had encountered Madame Lacour in the market square near St. Elizabeth’s by-the-wall, quite by accident. She had seemed as glazed over and lifeless as ever, but he had learned from her that her husband’s condition had not improved, that they were destitute still, that she had no work save a little washing to take in and felt the loss of the gentlemen’s kindness very sorely. Sharrock, with no affection for the woman herself, little wondering that she found so little work, still felt touched by her condition, and appointed to meet her in the market on the following day. At that time, he offered her their custom again, for their cleaning and meals, if she would now walk through a few streets to come to them. With neither gratitude nor any sign of interest, she accepted, and thereafter turned up almost daily.

Early in April, a note came round from the Spanish ambassador. In coy, cryptic French, it inquired whether "the third party" were now ready to effect an interview with "Julio." Arundell sent off to Stafford, who replied signifying his approval of a meeting for a week hence, leaving the arrangements to Arundell’s discretion. He rode into the suburbs and reconnoitered the territory near an unfrequented inn to the south.

He picked his day and had replies from both men. At about three o’clock on the ninth, Arundell took horse and rode out southward, coming up to the inn some three quarters of an hour later. He went directly to an upper room that overlooked the innyard. Discounting a few farmers, there was no one else about. Charles threw open the painted shutters and sat in the breeze through the windows. In a short while, Stafford rode up with Lilly and another man, but, as laid down, he left his companions in the public room below and came up alone. The ambassador seemed nervous, as if he too sensed the extraordinary character of the interview, but he made light conversation so successfully that he put Arundell much more at ease.

Some time later, Mendoza arrived. Hans Oberholtzer and two other men accompanied him up the stairs and settled him comfortably into a chair, and then they too retired to the rooms below.

Arundell made a formal introduction of the two diplomats, one to another. Though the two principals greeted one another civilly, they did it with considerable chilliness, for they had a long accumulated enmity for each other that they were now determined to suppress.

The discussion began by Don Bernardino’s presenting his king’s compliments to Stafford, assuring him that whatever deplorable misunderstandings might now and then arise between their nations his majesty had always looked upon Sir Edward as a trustworthy man and a fair-minded one. Stafford replied that he for his part had long honored King Philip for his uprightness and magnanimity and learning, and for his extraordinary patience in the face of many provocations. The other then said that his king, knowing of Stafford’s devotion to the international cause of peace, had long wished for a way in which he might express his good opinion tangibly, and Stafford answered that he had long sought a way in which he might better deserve those gracious words.

The conversation continued, carefully, in just this manner: Don Bernardino expressed his sadness that Stafford, simply for pursuing the best interests of his country and Christianity generally, seemed to be subject to unkind judgments from his own superiors. This permitted Sir Edward to rehearse the injustices done him by Walsingham and Leicester, who in their Puritan zealotry and to gain power for themselves were forcing his peace-loving queen into a belligerent policy, and who despised him personally for refusing to join them in their game. Mendoza took up the burden of the song and railed against the war party in the Privy Council, against the pirates like Drake and Hawkins they encouraged to prey on other nations’ shipping, the soldiers they sent out to trouble the king’s possessions.

Logically this sort of thing might have gone on all day. When enough had been said, however, to fill the air with grumbling, Stafford began circling to the point. He said that he had come to the opinion, by careful study, that King Philip was now the undoubted heir to the English throne by right, following the present monarch. Though he meant always to serve his mistress faithfully while she lived, he considered that this relationship made it imperative that their two nations should never be disjoined by war. It was his hope that he might serve both his present queen and his future king by trying to prevent bad men from having it all their own way. He was the more willing to thwart these bad men, he added, because through their malevolence he had personally been reduced to a state of miserable poverty, doubtless deliberately, so that he should not be able to serve her majesty as well as she deserved.

Mendoza was then able to say that he encouraged Stafford in his Christian irenism and quite sympathized, and furthermore that he was prepared in his king’s name, considering that they were really allies in the fight for peace, to help relieve his want brought on him by their mutual enemies.

Stafford expressed his gratitude at the suggestion and promised solemnly that he would study to deserve that favor. Mendoza then produced a whacking great purse, which he said contained two thousand crowns that he should like very much to bestow upon Stafford right away, confident that his master should never have cause to be sorry for the charitable deed. If anything could be done to frustrate these warmongers in their foreign meddling, he knew Sir Edward would be the man to do it.

Stafford thanked him and received the purse. He sat quietly for several moments, with no expression on his face, evidently thinking something over. Then he informed the Spaniard that he had just learned, the previous evening, that Sir Francis Drake had sailed from England on the second instant, at the head of some thirty ships.

Mendoza sighed. Ah, that Drake, he said, eyeing Stafford closely. Someday his preying upon innocent American carracks must drive his king to some impatience.

Sir Edward replied that on this occasion he was sailing, not to the Indies, but against the Spanish coast.

Mendoza appeared to be surprised. He straightened noticeably and exclaimed that this was too bad. Such an attack upon the homeland would surely drive matters to extremity. But alas, he cried, there were so many towns and ports, from Corunna to Gibraltar; however should they all be defended against this madman?

Stafford stared at the man levelly.

"The mark he shoots at is Cadiz," he said.

The Spaniard appeared satisfied by this news. If the fleet should take a normal journey to its target, his warning might precede it, and Cadiz should be ready. If Drake’s thrust could be parried, and no harm taken, the hot bloods of Spain should have no occasion to force his nation into war. Already Stafford had done much, he said, for the work of peace.

Here the conference ended. There was some discussion of the manner in which Arundell would travel between them as needful, since it was out of the question for them to meet again personally. It was agreed that any information, whether from rumors or from official dispatches, that might prove invidious to one or the other party was to be communicated promptly through Arundell’s medium. Mendoza affected a new fondness for Sir Edward and swore that for his part he intended to see that a friend of his should no longer have to go disgracefully in want.

Then Stafford bowed his way from the room, gathered his men, and rode away. The Spaniard, after presenting Arundell with a small jewel in honor of the occasion, was helped to his horse and rode off likewise, and Charles was left alone to ponder what he had witnessed. He stared from the high window until the trees became dark across the windy road.

Ten days later, on Wednesday, the 19th (or 29th) of April, Mendoza’s report reached his king at Aranjuez. At 4 o’clock on the same afternoon, even as Philip may have been perusing the dispatch, a sentry atop the castle of Cadiz observed a line of ships entering the channel in a long file, making their way into the lower bay. He called some of his colleagues to look with him. For some weeks ships had been arriving, albeit smaller ones usually and fewer at a time, Spanish and Portuguese ships, merchantmen from the Italian cities newly pressed into service, all bound ultimately for the Armada assembling under Lisbon Rock. While the sentries argued over the question whose contingent these new additions might be joining, Sir Francis Drake led twenty-six English warships into Cadiz harbor.

In the queen’s own galleons, the Elizabeth Bonaventure, the Rainbow, the Dreadnought, and the Golden Lion, in the Merchant Royal and others belonging to the London trading companies, in a few ships of his own, in men-of-war, pinnaces, and a captured caravel, Drake and his captains came straight on. When the alarm was finally raised, the fort shot off a few of its guns harmlessly and the Spaniards came out in a line of Mediterranean galleys to slow the invaders’ progress. The galleons raised their English banners, crashed through the tiny galleys and sent them scuttling away from their giant guns. The ships at anchor did whatever their crews could devise to save themselves; the tiniest ones slipped across the bay into the shoals, where the galleons could not follow them, some ran successfully into the upper bay; most could not move at all, for the impressed foreign ships had had their sails impounded on shore to prevent their defecting.

Without suffering a loss, while the garrison danced about trying to anticipate his place of landing, while his own fleet gradually caught up with him, Drake scattered the galleys and set about burning up the captured shipping. Throughout the night his men worked at the job, putting to torch everything they could not sail away with them. At dawn, as the Spanish brought up more soldiers and worried about his place of landing, he ventured into the upper bay and destroyed the great Armada-bound ships that had taken refuge there. At noon on Thursday, preparing to depart, the English found themselves becalmed; for twelve hours their ships lay idle, as they worked energetically to fend off galleys and fireships, and then the wind came up and they sailed away, with scarcely a man lost, with no landing even contemplated. The castle’s governor swore that if the Sea Dogs had tried to come ashore, he would have made them very sorry for it. The Spanish naval commander sent after Drake a basket of fine wines as a token of his esteem.

Word of the attack reached Paris a fortnight later, and was followed by the news that Sir Francis remained ranging unopposed along the Spanish coast, preying upon stragglers. Many a heart sank. It was recognized by everyone that there would be no great Enterprise of England to sail this season, that there might never be unless this damage could be made up. Arundell’s distress was as great as theirs, but had another cause. The raid, against all probability, had been against Cadiz indeed. Stafford’s intelligence had been genuine.

He burned all of his papers, wrapped up his money, packed up his saddlebags, summoned Sharrock, and rode out of Paris without a word to anyone.

niceline.gif (4513 bytes)

In the sun-drenched valley of the Loire, birds sang. Small animals scampered under hedges. Shimmering heat rose from a meadow that descended a gentle hill. Along the dusty road, just where it ran in upon the banks of the river, an elderly hedge-priest and his boy went rounds on tiny ponies. Near a one-room cottage by the stream, in a grove of trees, a peasant woman hung out washing.

On the highest hill, the castle shone almost pink in the sunlight, its corner towers rising upward as if pointing to where cooling clouds ought to have been, but, today, were not. Nearer at hand, the sound of insects, with the birds, made the only intrusion upon noontime silence.

Arundell had carried a book with him to read from on the riverbank. The beauty of the mid-summer’s day, however, made him place it near him on the turf. For two hours or more he sat still, shirtless, hatless, with a vacant mind, and with a faint smile. Beads of perspiration stood out all over his chest and shoulders. The broad, cool river began to look so inviting that he stripped off the rest of his clothing and waded into the water. There for another hour he paddled lazily about, emerging only when the sun began westering down the valley.

He dressed unhurriedly and sat down again upon the bank, taking up the book and leafing through it. It was Quod nihil scitur, a new work by Sanchez, the professor at Toulouse. His friend had given it to him as his next assignment, as it were, in his little course of study. It made in an urbane Latin style the classic Academic arguments that certainty about the world is quite impossible, and demonstrated this conclusion, though sometimes very wittily, yet rather too dogmatically for Arundell’s taste. Nonetheless, he enjoyed reading it, but only in the evenings, when the light remained after supper, or on inclement days. His Latin was too slow and the matter far too weighty, and the problems of Aristotelian science sometimes too remote, for him much to relish laboring over the thing on golden afternoons. He greatly preferred tennis with his friend, or the hunt, sleeping or paddling in the slow waters by the riverbanks or punting out in the current, and seemed always to find sufficient excuses for carrying his books unopened.

At length he walked back to the house. Jean de Simier spied him from the doorway and called to him to hurry on for supper. They dined simply but well, and then adjourned to the lawn, where archery butts had been erected against the wall of a crib. Sharrock brought out longbows and shafts and joined his master in challenging their host and one of his men to a contest. Shooting in turns from stands increasingly distant from the butts, they tallied points at each flight and made nominal wagers on the next one. Sharrock, despite his bad arm, shot well, and Arundell succeeded at least in avoiding disgrace, but Simier and his man were both such excellent marksmen that it was a contest only insofar as gave form to their exercise.

After the game, two of Simier’s servants carried Sharrock off with them to the nearby village, where since his arrival three months earlier Jamie had become quite a favorite. Simier took Arundell’s arm and led him in a leisurely turn through the garden. This residence, in the Loire valley district of Orléanais, near the castle of Sully, made a gracious home, though a small one. The Frenchman owned bigger houses on manors in several parts of the realm, some come to him with his patrimony, two given him by his former patron the duke of Anjou, and one bestowed upon him by the king; but into this one he had gathered the best of his furniture and hangings, servants and service, pictures and books, and here he lived virtually all the year round. He preferred the modest exterior and remote location of this house for one reason only; it made him inconspicuous. In a larger place, where what wealth he owned would have been more obvious, he would have drawn, as flies to honey, any of the bands of ranging troopers that passed through the valley from time to time. In a castle, had he possessed one, he might have drawn whole armies, whose commanders might have believed its destruction stone by stone to be a military necessity. As it was, though armed bands passed sometimes weekly and butchered one another virtually in his back yard, he lived undisturbed.

It was to this peaceful retirement that Simier was trying to convert his companion. Arundell had come to him in the spring, much dismayed by the events of that time, and, calming his old friend by trying to show him these events sub specie aeternitatis, Simier had opened his house to him. His hospitality alone had gone a long way to win Charles to what Simier considered a healthier attitude towards all political and religious struggles--to avoid them utterly--but he tried to supplement the summer’s peacefulness by tendentious conversation and selected readings.

Simier too had once been much entangled in the vicissitudes of politics. He had tried both body and brain sorely in the interests of Anjou and his king, he had suffered the ingratitude, perfidy, risk, and losses that go with political service; he had suffered, too, the frustrations and still greater uncertainties that go with religious partisanship. Always he had returned to the battle, hopeful again, shortly to have ample evidence thrust upon him of the futility of public endeavors. And then, while on an errand in Bordeaux, he had had the fortune to be introduced to Magistrate Montaigne, the mayor, and soon afterward to read some of his essays. For Simier, meeting Montaigne had been like Simon and Andrew running into the Lord by Galilee water. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from him. Likewise, the Apologie de Raimond Sebond began to serve him almost as a bible. Before long he could cite it chapter and verse, and he quoted it sententiously for every occasion. Montaigne’s essay had led him back to its sources, and he had sought out a copy of Estienne’s edition of Sextus, the Pyrrhoniarum hypotyposeon. Before long, he should have described himself as a thorough Pyrrhonist, had there been such a word at that time, or rather one of what soon would be called the nouveaux Pyrrhoniens, since he was still a Catholic by inclination. He purchased or borrowed from his friends other works in a similar vein, skeptical works like the recent one by Francisco Sanchez that Arundell had in hand, or older books against the Academicians, which could not conceal the strength of the positions they described in order to refute. And in order to read all of these and because he had read some of them, he had gone into retirement, no longer able to pursue causes or follow banners that he had no more confidence in than any others. Doubtless Dante would have found a place for him in the vestibule.

This was Simier as Sir Charles Arundell found him. The genial skeptic had recognized the symptoms of Arundell’s malady. The men who followed the active political life in these tormented times had either (in his opinion) dangerously too much confidence in their opinions or contemptibly too little conscience in their actions. Arundell was one of the few Simier would have hated to see paying the price of engagement in the foolish causes of this time. Not only had he opened his house to Arundell, he had undertaken to free his mind of troubles as well.

Carefully, Simier had described to Arundell the Pyrrhonist habits of mind, that in matters of the adela, the hidden realities of things, there seemed to be no sure knowledge apparent to us, and that indeed the truths over which dogmatists seemed most inclined to go to war seemed often to defy all common sense. He counselled therefore that one did best to suspend judgment, and maintain aphasia, a kindly silence about metaphysical realities, and try living a normal, peaceful, and dispassionate life, infused with that tranquility of soul, that serenity of mind and absence of fanaticism, that ataraxia, that comes when once one ceases disputation.

He had explicated the formulaic sayings of the Pyrrhonists, like "no more" ("no more" reason to believe this than to believe that) and "to every argument an equal argument is opposed," and the symbol of the balanced scales. And he had explained the Practical Criterion for living one’s life: following the guidance of nature, the compulsion of the feelings, the traditions of laws and customs, and the instruction of the arts. This gentle rule, of doing what one’s better nature dictates, what one’s fellows do, in the absence of any good reason for defying them, saved one from, as Montaigne had written, "rolling constantly," removed the necessity of chasing after every novel notion, every new construction of a passage of scripture.

Luckily Simier was no preacher. Like a Pyrrhonist by temperament he would never have insisted even that one cannot know the truth of the adela, saying only that it appeared to him, in his present circumstances, that he did not. But over the weeks of Arundell’s residence with him, their conversations gave shape to many of Charles’s own misgivings, some of them lifelong. Certainly he found himself feeling much less guilty when he was uncertain of where final loyalties ought to lie, with pope or queen, church or nation, much less the freak for not having ready answers always upon his lips. The disposition which had grown in him, to let matters take their course, work themselves out if they meant to, without any more of his stumbling interference, found a color of justification in this gentle, kindly philosophizing. If he did not attain immediately to ataraxia, he felt much improved just for having stepped out of the arena of intrigue and war, for having taken the opportunity to gaze upon it dispassionately, from a distance, as if it were rather an intellectual puzzle than a perilous and bloody battle.

Contemplating matters dispassionately was not always easy to do. In August came word of Parma’s success at Sluys, the coastal town in Flanders, which evidently he had invested with a view to procuring a staging port for a journey into England. For two months the prince had kept the town cut off from all relief, and had made ridiculous all of the earl of Leicester’s inept attempts to come to its aid. Now it had surrendered at the last. Arundell grew into a mild agitation over the event. Simier made light of it, and wondered how Arundell could so exercise himself over the fact that the worst enemy he had on the wide earth had suffered a reverse, and Charles had no answer to give him.

As the lazy summer progressed, at ease in the warm meadows on the hillside, Simier pressed upon Arundell the virtues of retirement. Really he could see no obstacle, he said; there was no cause in the world worthy of the pains Arundell had taken already. He had done enough; let those who care only for advancement, of their religion, their nation, or themselves, carry on henceforward--and may they eat each other up! Arundell could not deny that age was creeping upon him. The great hope of his career, the queen of Scots, was now past mourning for. Simier knew nothing of Arundell’s private dealings, though he may have suspected somewhat; as a matter of fact, he could not have cared any less which side Arundell was on, but he knew enough of recent occurrences to say frankly that Arundell had outlived his usefulness to anyone and could not return in any hope of safety.

Arundell agreed. With his rational mind, he cared no longer for the ideologies of creed or nation. But this he was well aware was only part of it; beneath his logic, when he had exercised it to its fullest reach, he discovered a reservoir of plain feeling, an irrational feeling that, despite everything else, he ought to be doing his part. It was a very strong feeling, which recurred frequently, and would not be dispelled. But everything conspired to make him overrule it--his confusion about where his duty actually lay, what his part ought to be; the fact that he had no idea how next he should proceed in any case; the fact that, after all, he badly needed a rest of long duration. This was not the English countryside but it was countryside nonetheless.

Into that same countryside Arundell walked out the following morning. From the meadows, the river made a blue and silver quilt flung westward in long, narrow folds. Arundell, having made his decision, gave himself the chance to recede from it. Every consideration he brought before his consciousness conjured him to remain here at his ease. The zealots and the ambidexters might carry on very well without him. Only one thing weighed heavily in the other tray, that this next year would almost certainly be the climactic one, towards which all the foregoing years had pointed; in the spring the Armada would sail, and when it did, England would become Spanish virtually overnight or remain English for a very long time to come. The thought of British militiamen, carrying bare staves and half in undress, ranged across the Kentish farmlands before los sacristanes and the Black Riders of Germany in close order, brought pain to Arundell’s heart. He could visualize the Spanish tercios formed in ranks in Fleet Street; he could see the officers of the Inquisition addressing trembling crowds near the burning heretics in Smithfield.

One more thought, however, made it all conclusive. His only means of doing his part had been helping Stafford in his intelligence, and Stafford had now gone over. Despite this elegant self-torture of deciding, in one sense his decision was made for him. The idea of duty remained with him, but he turned away from it and returned it to store.

When he had walked back to the house, Arundell told Simier that he would accept his hospitality for as long as he wished to have him. Only this did Arundell insist upon, that he must return once more to Paris and, as it were, resign from service, inform Mendoza and Stafford and the duke of Guise’s agents that he would no longer be available. Simier inquired crossly what he thought he owed these people, who had used him so ungraciously and would toss him away when his usefulness to them had ended. Arundell replied merely that he had engaged himself to act for them and must end his service properly. His friend wondered grimly how these gentlemen would greet him after four months’ absence without leave.

A few days later then, as August neared its end, Arundell and Sharrock mounted their horses and rode out northward. They followed the river as far as Sully and crossed it there, then followed it on the other side to Orléans. Circumventing that city, they struck overland towards Paris, passing the night in Artenay. The next morning, near Etampes, they began encountering large concentrations of the king’s troops in bivouac, but avoided running afoul of them. The next evening found them back in their beastly rooms in the Bonheur.

niceline.gif (4513 bytes)

Charles Arundell stood grimly before the repugnant green door in la Monnaie. Stealth in coming to the English house would no longer be necessary. The door stood open in the heat, and through the relative darkness of the hall he could see Lilly hurrying out to answer his knock. Lilly’s face betrayed a measure of surprise, but he ushered him in with a greeting and ran upstairs to announce him.

A moment later Stafford came bounding down the staircase, so quickly indeed that he cracked his head smartly on the crossbeam. He sat down upon the bottom stair, clutching his poor poll and moaning vicious epithets. Arundell pulled his hands away and looked at the blue egg growing before his eyes, and began laughing, praising Sir Edward’s verbal ingenuity. The other, swearing still, began laughing too, despite himself, with tears in his eyes. He staggered to his feet.

Abruptly he let go his head and clutched Arundell to his breast. Charles squirmed weakly, but Stafford held on to him for several seconds, slapping him on the back. Then, just as abruptly, he pushed him away again, felt his forehead gingerly, and wiped his eyes with his shirt.

"Sir Ned, you funny old thing," Arundell said; "whence all this?"

Stafford sat down in a chair nearby and stared up at him. "You revolting person, I thought ye had been killed. Where ha’ ye been hiding these four months or more, when I believed y’to be under the waters of river Seine?"

Arundell gazed at him in mild incredulity. "Do you not know why I went away, then?"

"Certain I do not. I thought ye were dead, assuredly. Scarce a week after I saw ye last, that awful man Sledd, with his boot-heel for an eyeball, came up grinning in my face before the church of St. Eustache. Not a word spoken, just this filthy heathen grin. Whatever was I to think, by olly Cock’s bones, but that he had done ye t’death? My dear fellow, I ha’ been praying for your black soul every service."

"Well, thanks. That’s all to the good." Arundell was touched by this unaccustomed sentimentality, and he found that it made his task much more difficult. But it was as well to come roundly to it.

"Ned," he began, "I departed this town because of the notion I took of your good faith with me. You know you gave the Spaniard a true service in warning him of Drake."

Stafford’s red face grew round and redder still. He stood up. Then he turned suddenly and marched up the staircase, Arundell following.

Stafford closed the door of his study and brusquely gestured towards a chair. Charles sat down silently, while Sir Edward paced back and forth across the room.

"I will tell you somewhat, Sir Charles Arundell, if y’will but listen a slender moment without jumping out o’ my window to avoid me."

"Say away, Ned," Arundell answered. A painful depression was settling down upon him.

"I had only one thought in m’poor head when I said that thing about Cadiz," Stafford began, "and that was to deflect the Spaniard from the care of Lisbon. I had no dispatches, not a word come to me from the Secretary, nor nearly ever does; nor any way o’ knowing the damned pirate would descend upon Cadiz. Only I heard rumors from Plymouth harbor that Drake was fitting out, that Drake was to sail, that Drake had sailed indeed, and that he meant surely to sail to Lisbon. Charles, y’know yourself ‘twas at Lisbon the fleet was gathering, every noddy knew it."

Arundell nodded.

"Ah well, might not then that wily Spaniard hear the same as I heard, and warn them of Lisbon to be waiting for him? O’course he might! And I bent all my pains to take me in his trust, to tell him from my dispatches that it was certain to be Cadiz."

"But, Ned, he would have known within the month you played him falsely."

"So he would, so he would," Stafford exclaimed. "But too late then for Lisbon, what? My dear boy, Drake has returned from the Azores now. You write to any o’ your favorers there to find out his seamen and they shall tell you the same thing I say to ye now. That damned Drake changed his mind at the last minute! He always does so. Great God, he threw his admiral in irons for insisting upon Lisbon as in his orders, and the man stands trial for defying him, even as we speak!"

Arundell was impressed by this, for it had the ring of truth to it. He said so.

"Well, right then, and look you now," Sir Edward continued; "what could be better? The intelligence came too tardy and Cadiz paid a merry price for it. What is more, the Spaniard finds me honest with him and will trust me like his mother. But then, just when we might o’ had the use of him, you dance the coranto away down the street and I am left naked in his presence. He won’t deal with anyone but with you, do you know? I sent Lilly to him and he thrust the fellow out o’ doors. He sends to me once in a fortnight or a month and says me Where is Sir Charles? I would have Sir Charles! ‘Sir Charles’ my arse, y’black-hearted Spanish knight."

This brought Arundell almost to laughter, and he replied that at least he had got his knighthood for his merit, not merely to ornament his office. Stafford pretended to fumble excitedly for his rapier.

After some moments, Stafford spoke again.

"So where were ye, then?"

"I have been reposing in the country," Arundell answered, "where for the matter of that, Ned, I mean to return me. I’m done with this, I am."

"God damn me, you cannot! This is the time now, Charles. This is the year a mighty kingdom shall fall, the soothsayers spread it everywhere. The stars and planets are all in a conjunction, or what d’ye call it, and so is Don Spaniard’s fleet. Y’cannot leave me now when I ha’ the most need of ye. This is the very hour, man!"

"I can, Ned, I’m shut of it. I have found the place to spin out my last threads and play my lute till night comes on. Don’t dissuade me, Ned."

"Oh, don’t dissuade you. Do not break my heart, then. The Spaniard will not speak with anyone but yourself; you’re his Third Party, his darling, you’re the Intermediary. Just the winter and spring, that’s all I am asking of ye. In nine months’ time ye can go play your foul lute and be damned, for by then we’ll have won or lost the whole table. Stick with us, man, for God’s sake, just for the winter. After all this, don’t give us up now."

Arundell was swayed powerfully by this rhapsody of supplication. Walsingham’s travellers in the Portuguese ports, his merchants in the Spanish camps in Flanders, would learn far more about the fleet’s preparations than he could from Mendoza, but he saw how valuable it would be to have someone in contact with the Spanish here, and how valuable it would be to have someone in the duke of Guise’s confidence. For the matters in France, this exploding crisis between the king and the Holy League, might finally have more to do with England’s survival than would how many ships left Lisbon port, and when.

His thoughts turned to the sunny hillsides of the Loire valley, to rising late to go riding after game in the forests of Gien. A vision of the blue river rose in his mind, and it occurred to him how he should like to see it in the autumn, when the leaves turned all along its banks.

Stafford was still talking; he explained that he understood how much Arundell must wish to rest, and swore that he deserved it, but came back again and again to that one more winter, one more winter and his job of work would have been finished. Arundell dragged himself out of his reverie and said at last, "One more winter, then."

He thought of how much he should have liked to see the leaves turning along the Loire, in the autumn.

The ambassador grabbed his hand and shook it. Nothing could express his gratitude, he said, for this service. He would not presume to speak of duty, but when it was over he should see that no one ever said that Arundell had failed in his. But his danger would be no less now than it had been. In the first place, the man with one eye had returned to the scene, whomever he now worked for. Stafford had never stumbled upon anything more about him, only that such a man had once been in service to one of Walsingham’s cronies, and that he had lately been in Milan or Florence with the English there. In the second place, Morgan had been released at last and reigned still at the head of his faction, the more dangerous now that he could come and go as he pleased. According to Fitzherbert, the Welshman had been inquiring after Arundell many times throughout the summer. Gilbert Gifford, the dissolute priest, resided now in Paris and was making a spectacle of himself, living openly with his whore and speaking wildly of delicate matter wherever he came. Stafford had been warned by something Lilly had overheard that Gifford had been ordered by the English Council to spy upon Stafford himself.

The last bit of news was less disagreeable but in its way just as foreboding. William Allen had been elevated to cardinal, the first Englishman in forty years to have that honor. Arundell thought the great man perfectly worthy of that office, but he recognized that it would not have been granted without the expectation that he would soon be cardinal of the Roman church in England. It was done to make the English Catholics the more eager to rise up when their liberators should come in the spring.

At last, Arundell departed and hurried back by boat across the river to his room in the Bonheur. Once there, he bid Sharrock go back to bed and sleep the clock round, for on the morrow he must return to Jean de Simier. The message was simply that Pyrrho and Sextus and Cicero and all must sit upon edge of chairs for nine months more, when he should infallibly appear for the summer revelries. Then they should hunt and fish, shoot, talk, and play at cards from dawn to twilight for the rest of the century, God willing, with no man to interrupt them. But for the present, duty called. (He could imagine what Simier’s response to that would be.)

In the afternoon he went round to Mendoza’s house. The ambassador greeted him warmly. He refrained from inquiring too closely into the reasons for Arundell’s absence, only trusting that he felt refreshed. Having ascertained that Arundell meant to take up where he had left off, he thanked him for his good service in the unhappy matter of Cadiz and in bringing the two residents together, and proceeded to tick off a list of unimportant questions he would have Stafford answer if he could. None of them were urgent, but he should like Arundell to attend to them soon, for afterward he had another errand in which Charles might help him hugely.

Accordingly, the following day, Arundell brought the queries round to Stafford and waited while the Englishman devised answers to them. He returned to Mendoza with the replies and then set off on the errand, which as it turned out was to the duke of Guise.

The duke of Guise took some trouble to find. Arundell rode first to Châlons-sur-Marne, only to discover that the duke and his brothers had travelled on into the heart of Lorraine. Even as Arundell, the following morning, made his way towards Nancy and St. Nicholas du Port, he heard excited rumors everywhere that the duke and his army were proceeding southward, following the German Protestants in hot pursuit.

The estimates he heard were unreliable and varied widely, but as nearly as he could learn, the Baron von Dohna, hired by Queen Elizabeth and bound ultimately for a junction with Navarre, had led in some eight thousand of his own reiters, or heavy cavalry, as well as an equal number of landsknechts afoot. With these Germans came some eighteen thousand Protestant Swiss, commanded by the duke of Bouillon, and another six thousand Huguenots under the prince de Conti. They had struck northwestward into Lorraine, and the duke of Guise and his family had sprung to the defense of their home domains. For some reason, however, the Germans and Swiss had changed their minds, ignoring the tiny Guisard force, and were moving slowly southward towards the sources of the Loire.

Arundell overtook the duke near St. Dizier, where he found him in camp. Henri of Guise welcomed him and received the Spaniard’s notices with gratitude. He seemed in a state of great excitement, and with his brother Mayenne he paced from one end of the camp to the other, constantly sending out new patrols and attending to the reports of the ones that returned. Mayneville was with him, and he sought Arundell out as soon as he heard of his arrival.

As they were crossing to Mayneville’s tent, a squadron of horse came in bearing a few wounded and several prisoners, hands bound behind the high backs of their saddles. Mayneville explained that the duke’s men were fighting skirmishes all along the route, harassing the German force and taking prisoners where they could, but keeping well out of the way of a pitched field, since they were only four thousand strong. It had been expected that the invaders would strike hard into Lorraine, and no doubt, he said, that would have been as the king of France wished it. It was the common opinion that Henri III had desired to have the League forces annihilated at one blow, following which he would have come in himself, lamentably too late to save his "allies," and routed the invaders with the army of some forty thousand that he had gathered round Etampes and the Loire valley. Then, relieved of the constant pressure from the League and its Spanish friends, conceived a hero by his people for having driven out the foreign hosts, the king might easily have come to some arrangement with the Huguenots, the promise of a peaceful succession to Navarre, perhaps, in return for obedience during his lifetime. Thus would the realm have been betrayed to the Calvinist Bourbon--as if blood lineage were sufficient to inherit a kingdom, he said, while the house of Guise, defenders of the true faith, of the true line of Charlemagne, were more ancient a family and just as good in blood for the throne as any heretical Bourbon might claim to be. If not, for the matter of that, with a truer claim than the present king himself had! And in any case, Mayneville insisted, had not Navarre and his whole line been disinherited by the pope for their heresy and unholy intransigence?

But God had provided. The Germans and Swiss had swerved southwestward and left the Guisard army in possession of its own. The duke continued to follow them on their journey, taking prisoners when he could and sending them back to be paraded before the Parisians, while the preachers undertook to keep the citizens informed of how the family of Guise wagered everything to protect the city’s safety, while their king cowered behind the Loire, doubtless plotting with Navarre.

Dohna appeared to be marching his mercenary troops to rendezvous with Navarre in the mountains to the south. The duke of Guise bid Arundell ride with his headquarters staff as he tagged along behind the Germans; he hoped any day to have an extraordinary message for Mendoza. For more than a week they kept a distant contact with the German force. There were frequent skirmishes among the outriding patrols, but never did Dohna consider Guise sufficiently a threat to meet him directly.

More weeks passed. The mercenary army seemed to move more and more slowly, and it left behind stragglers in greater numbers, sick men and deserters whom the duke’s riders attached if they could get to them before the angry peasants did. Then, abruptly, instead of continuing southward into the uplands, where Navarre would be, Dohna and his various bands, less and less well organized, began swinging westward into the valley of the Loire, where the travelling was easier, the harvests more bountiful, and the villages closer together. Avoiding the fortified towns and castles, the ponderous animal lumbered westward, past Briare and Gien, Sully and Châteauneuf, plundering and burning and taking whatever was not buried underground or hidden in the treetops.

Then Guise’s riders returned with the news that the German pickets had not moved on for a full day. Patrols were sent round to investigate, and they discovered that Dohna’s host had struck up against advance elements of King Henri’s army of the Loire. The king’s commander, Epernon, was giving battle in isolated places and preventing the mercenaries from moving ahead towards Orléans.

The following day, in late October, they received the report of a fearful battle at Coutras. The king’s southern army under the duke of Joyeuse had cornered Navarre at a little river crossing near Bordeaux; Navarre had outwitted the duke, however, and had very nearly exterminated his whole force. If he came northward at once, the king’s army would be trapped on the Loire between the two Protestant multitudes.

That same afternoon, doubtless reacting to the same news, Dohna’s host began moving northward towards the open ground near Chartres. It was evident that he meant to interpose himself between Henri III and his capital. Guise’s men raced ahead of him, anxious to keep touch with the German force and guard the roads to Paris. Arundell just missed his chance to see the Loire in autumn, when the leaves turned all along its banks.

But everywhere the view was spoiled by the smoke of burning estates.

Near Montargis, Dohna’s bands spread out among the villages to pass the night. Arundell watched as the dukes of Guise and Mayenne assembled their cavalry in the darkness and set out to make an assault. They had discovered that the Germans and Swiss, in negligence and weariness, had settled down in camps too distantly spread out to support one another. In a short while, from the nearest hamlet the sound of gunfire rang out sharply. When it was over, Arundell learned that Guise had entered the town without warning, the German pickets having been found asleep, and had captured Dohna’s banners and headquarters staff. The baron himself had rallied his men and escaped more or less successfully. As it sounded to Arundell the little battle (the flying raid rather) had been fought virtually to a draw, with special honor for no one involved in it. Guise was inclined to see it differently. The banners and prisoners were to be conveyed immediately to Paris, as symbols to the citizenry of the glorious victory the League had won for them, while their king stood idly by. This was the occasion for which the duke had kept Arundell waiting. He put Charles at the head of the returning party, with a message to Mendoza, intent upon demonstrating to the Spanish king how great were the triumphs of Guise-Lorraine – how worthy were the members of that house to negotiate as equals with King Philip and the pope for the salvation of Catholic Christendom – how well spent would be any gold that might be sent them for the purpose of consolidating this great victory.

Arundell rode off gladly. While following the duke’s military ventures, he had been held virtually a prisoner, for it had not occurred to the busy Guise that Arundell was not perfectly happy to remain at his beck, and he was not the martyr who would tell him he was not. Two months had been lost in this disagreeable and unsalutary camp life, and his only gain had been to keep the duke of Guise pleased with his service. If matters were as bad as the reports indicated they were, circumstances in France would soon be altered so radically that such things could make no difference now.

In Paris, when Guise’s pronouncements had been transmitted to the crowds, there was widespread relief and thanksgiving. Arundell knew better, however, for he had seen enough to know that Dohna’s losses near Montargis, by the most sanguine estimates, would have amounted to less than his daily sick call. Reports continued to arrive. Inexplicably, Navarre had disbanded his army after Coutras and was not riding northward as he should have been. Possibly this was no mistake; if Navarre and the king were to fight a great battle at the Loire, the only winner should be the house of Guise, the true enemies of the Huguenot cause, who would come all the more thoroughly thereafter to dominate the king.

In any case, Navarre did not appear, and the mercenary host was beginning to break up in earnest. Already the Swiss had marched away homeward under a guarantee of safe passage. In late November, Stafford learned from Secretary Villeroy at court that Dohna was being bought off as well; unpaid by the English queen, his army degenerating into a rabble all about him, the baron had struck a bargain with Henri III and was preparing to withdraw through Franche-Comté in as orderly fashion as he still could. Then, at Auneau, ten miles east of Chartres, Guise and Mayenne once again caught the Germans napping. The baron and a few friends escaped, but a large number of his troops were virtually massacred by the Leaguers. Thereupon the Germans applied to the king of France and gave him their complete surrender. Henri sent the demoralized landsknechts scurrying back into the German states, accompanied by Epernon and the royal army to protect them from the duke of Guise, who followed all the way, nipping at their heels.

Momentarily, at any rate, the Calvinist threat had passed. Stafford was constrained to report the failure of his queen’s international adventure, for her troops of purchased German allies, those surviving, had all gone home. The duke of Guise was the hero of the day, and the streets of Paris displayed his portrait from nearly every window; from the pulpits were offered prayers of thanksgiving to the names of Guise and Jesus, and the citizens were unrestrainable in their joy.

Arundell stepped into the Normandie in the rue de la Huchette. He found a number of Frenchmen with whom he was acquainted, dining together in a corner in company with the priest Gilbert Gifford. He asked if he might join them, and the Parisians willingly made a place for him. Gifford stood abruptly.

"I will not dine with an English spy," he exclaimed, and abandoning his meal he stalked from the room.

The others looked at Arundell curiously.

goback.gif (2185 bytes)Go back to the Preface and Table of Contents
gonext.gif (2192 bytes)Go ahead to Chapter XXI. "My Lute, Be Still" (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.


16th Century reprints

Other stuff