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Title: Privy Seal - His Last Venture
Author: Ford, Ford Madox, 1873-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Privy Seal - His Last Venture" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note.

     This is the Second book of the trilogy, The Fifth Queen, by
     Ford Madox Ford. The other books are The Fifth Queen and The
     Fifth Queen Crowned.



                              PRIVY SEAL

                          _His Last Venture_



    _"Ille potens ... et lætus cui licet in diem
    Dixisse: Vixi!..."_

       *       *       *       *       *



PART ONE
The Rising Sun,       1

PART TWO
The Distant Cloud,   75

PART THREE
The Sunburst,       153

       *       *       *       *       *



To

Frau Laura Schmedding

who has so often combated
my prejudices and corrected
my assertions
this with affection

       *       *       *       *       *



PART ONE

THE RISING SUN

I


The Magister Udal sat in the room of his inn in Paris, where
customarily the King of France lodged such envoys as came at his
expense. He had been sent there to Latinise the letters that passed
between Sir Thomas Wyatt and the King's Ministers of France, for he
was esteemed the most learned man in these islands. He had groaned
much at being sent there, for he must leave in England so many
loves--the great, blonde Margot Poins, that was maid to Katharine
Howard; the tall, swaying Katharine Howard herself; Judge Cantre's
wife that had fed him well; and two other women, with all of whom he
had succeeded easily or succeeded in no wise at all. But the mission
was so well paid--with as many crowns the day as he had had groats for
teaching the Lady Mary of England--that fain he had been to go.
Moreover, it was by way of being a favour of Privy Seal's. The
magister had written for him a play in English; the rich post was the
reward--and it was an ill thing, a thing the magister dreaded, to
refuse the favours of Privy Seal. He consoled himself with the thought
that the writing of letters in Latin might wash from his mouth the
savour of the play he had written in the vulgar tongue.

But his work in Paris was ended--for with the flight of Cardinal Pole,
who had left Paris precipitately upon news that the King of England
had sent a drunken roisterer to assassinate him, it was imagined that
soon now more concord between Francis and England might ensue, and the
magister sat in his room planning his voyage back to Dover. The room
was great in size, panelled mostly in wood, lit with lampwicks that
floated in oil dishes and heated with a sea-coal fire, for though it
was April the magister was of a cold disposition of the hands and
shins. The inn--of the Golden Astrolabe--was kept by an Englishwoman,
a masterful widow with a broad face and a great mouth that smiled. She
stood beside him there. Forty-seven she might have been, and she
called herself the Widow Annot.

The magister sat over his fire with his gown parted from his legs to
warm his shins, but his hands waved angrily and his face was
crestfallen.

'Oh, keeper of a tavern,' he said. 'It is set down in holy writ that
it is not good for a man to be alone.'

'That a hostess shall keep her tavern clean is writ in the books of
the provost of Paris town,' the Widow Annot answered, and the shadow
of her great white hood, which she wore in the older English fashion,
danced over the brown wooden beams of the ceiling.

'Nay, nay,' he answered, 'it is written there that it is the enjoined
devoir of every hotelier to provide things fitting for the sojourners'
ease, pleasure and recreation.'

'The maid is locked in another house,' the hostess answered, 'and
should have been this three week.' She swung her keys on a black
riband and gazed at him masterfully. 'Will your magistership eat capon
or young goat?'

'Capon will have a savour like sawdust, and young goat like the dust
of the road,' the magister moaned. 'Give me the girl to wait upon me
again.'

'No maid will wait upon thee,' she answered.

'Even thou thyself?' he asked. He glanced across his shoulder and his
eyes measured her, hers him. She had large shoulders, a high, full
stomacher, and her cheeks were an apple-red. 'The maiden was a fair
piece,' he tittered.

'Therefore you must spoil the ring of the coin,' she answered.

He sighed: 'Then eat you with me. "_Soli cantare periti Arcades._" But
it is cold here alone of nights.'

They ate goat and green leeks sweetened with honey, and wood thrushes
pickled in wine, and salt fish from the mouth of the Beauce. And
because this gave the magister a great thirst he drank much of a
warmed wine from Burgundy that the hostess brought herself. They sat,
byside, on cushions on a couch before the warm fire.

'_Filia pulchra mater pulchrior!_' the magister muttered, and he cast
his arms about her soft and plump waist. 'The maid was a fair skewer,
the hostess is a plumper roasting bit.' She took his kisses on her
fire-warmed cheeks, but in the end she thrust him mightily from her
with a large elbow.

He gasped with the strength of her thrust, and she said:

'Greedy dogs getten them hard cuffs,' and rearranged her neckercher.
When he tried to come nearer her she laughed and thrust him aback.

'You have tried and tasted,' she said. 'A fuller meal you must pay
for.'

He stood before her, lean and lank, his gown flapping about his
calves, his eyes smiling humorously, his lips twitching.

'Oh soft and warm woman,' he cried, 'payment shall be yours'; and
whilst he fumbled furiously in his clothes-press, he quoted from
Tully: '_Haec civitas mulieri redimiculum praebuit._' He pulled out
one small bag: '_Haec in collum._' She took another. '_Haec in
crines!_' and he added a third, saying: 'Here is all I have,' and cast
the three into her lap. Whilst she counted the coins composedly on the
table before her he added: 'Leave me nevertheless the price to come to
England with.'

'Sir Magister,' she said, turning her large face to him. 'This is not
one-tenth enough. You have tasted an ensample. Will you have the whole
meal?'

'Oh, unconscionable,' he cried. 'More I have not!' He began to wave
his hands. 'Consider what you do do,' he uttered. 'Think of what a
pest is love. How many have died of it. Pyramus, Thisbe, Dido, Medea,
Croesus, Callirhoe, Theagines the philosopher ... Consider what writes
Gordonius: "_Prognosticatio est talis: si non succuratur iis aut in
maniam cadunt: aut moriuntur._" Unless lovers be succoured either they
fall into a madness, either they die or grow mad. And Fabian
Montaltus: "If this passion be not assuaged, the inflammation cometh
to the brain. It drieth up the blood. Then followeth madness or men
make themselves away." I would have you ponder of what saith
Parthenium and what Plutarch in his tales of lovers.'

Her face appeared comely and smooth in his eyes, but she shook her
head at him.

'These be woeful and pretty stories,' she said. 'I would have you to
tell me many of them.'

'All through the night,' he said eagerly, and made to clasp her in his
arms. But she pushed him back again with her hand on his chest.

'All through the night an you will,' she said. 'But first you shall
tell a prettier tale before a man in a frock.'

He sprang full four feet back at one spring.

'I have wedded no woman, yet,' he said.

'Then it is time you wed one now,' she answered.

'Oh widow, bethink you,' he pleaded. 'Would you spoil so pretty a
tale? Would you humble so goodly a man's pride?'

'Why, it were a pity,' she said. 'But I am minded to take a husband.'

'You have done well this ten years without one,' he cried out.

Her face seemed to set like adamant as she turned her cheek to him.

'Call it a woman's mad freak,' she said.

'Six and twenty pupils in the fair game of love I have had,' he said.
'You shall be the seven and twentieth. Twenty and seven are seven and
two. Seven and two are nine. Now nine is the luckiest of numbers. Be
you that one.'

'Nay,' she answered. 'It is time you learned husbandry who have taught
so many and earned so little.'

He slipped himself softly into the cushions beside her.

'Would you spoil so fair a tale?' he said. 'Would you have me to break
so many vows? I have promised a mort of women marriage, and so long as
I be not wed I may keep faith with any one of them.'

She held her face away from him and laughed.

'That is as it may be,' she said. 'But when you wed with me to-night
you will keep faith with one woman.'

'Woman,' he pleaded. 'I am a great scholar.'

'Ay,' she answered, 'and great scholars have climbed to great
estates.'

She continued to count the coins that came from his little money-bags;
the shadow of her hood upon the great beams grew more portentous.

'It is thought that your magistership may rise to be Chancellor of the
Realm of England,' she added.

He clutched his forehead.

'Eheu!' he said. 'If you have heard men say that, you know that wedded
to thee I could never climb.'

'Then I shall very comfortably keep my inn here in Paris town,' she
answered. 'You have here fourteen pounds and eleven shillings.'

He stretched forth his lean hands:

'Why, I will marry thee in the morning,' he said, and he moistened his
lips with the tip of his tongue. Outside the door there was a
shuffling of several feet.

'I knew not other guests were in the house,' he uttered, and fell
again to kissing her.

'Knew you not an envoy was come from Cleves?' she whispered.

Her head fell back and he supported it with one trembling hand. He
shook like a leaf when her voice rang out:

'_Au secours! Au secours!_'

There was a great jangle, light fell into the dusky room through the
doorhole, and he found himself beneath the eyes of many scullions with
spits, cooks with carving forks, and kitchenmaids with sharpened
distaffs of steel.

'Now I will be wed this night,' she laughed.

He moved to the end of the couch and blinked at her in the strong
light.

'I will be wed this night,' she said again, and rearranged her
head-dress, revealing, as her sleeves fell open, her white, plump
arms.

'Why, no!' he answered irresolutely.

She said in French to her aids:

'Come near him with the spits!'

They moved towards him, a white-clad body with their pointed things
glittering in the light of torches. He sprang behind the great table
against the window and seized the heavy-leaden sandarach. The French
scullions knew, tho' he had no French, that he would cleave one of
their skulls, and they stood, a knot of seven--four men and three
maids--in blue hoods, in the centre of the room.

'By Mars and by Apollo!' he said, 'I was minded to wed with thee if I
could no other way. But now, like Phaeton, I will cast myself from the
window and die, or like the wretches thrown from the rock, called
Tarpeian. I was minded to a folly: now I am minded rather for death.'

'How nobly thy tongue doth wag, husband,' she said, and cried in
French for the rogues to be gone. When the door closed upon the lights
she said in the comfortable gloom: 'I dote upon thy words. My first
was tongue-tied.' She beckoned him to her and folded her arms. 'Let us
discourse upon this matter,' she said comfortably. 'Thus I will put
it: you wed with me or spring from the window.'

'I am even trapped?' he asked.

'So it comes to all foxes that too long seek for capons,' she
answered.

'But consider,' he said. He sat himself by the fireside upon a stool,
being minded to avoid temptation.

'I would have your magistership forget the rogues that be without,'
she said.

'They were a nightmare's tale,' he said.

'Yet forget them not too utterly,' she answered. 'For I am of some
birth. My father had seven horses and never followed the plough.'

'Oh buxom one!' he answered. 'Of a comfortable birth and girth thou
art. Yet with thee around my neck I might not easily climb.'

'Magister,' she said, 'whilst thou climbest in London town thy wife
will bide in Paris.'

'Consider!' he said. 'There is in London town a fair, large maid
called Margot Poins.'

'Is she more fair than I?' she asked. 'I will swear she is.'

He tilted his stool forward.

'No; no, I swear it,' he said eagerly.

'Then I will swear she is more large.'

'No; not one half so bounteous is her form,' he answered, and moved
across to the couch.

'Then if you can bear her weight up you can bear mine,' she said, and
moved away from him.

'Nay,' he answered. 'She would help me on,' and he fumbled in the
shadows for her hand. She drew herself together into a small space.

'You affect her more than me,' she said, with a swift motion
simulating jealousy.

'By the breasts of Venus, no!' he answered.

'Oh, once more use such words,' she murmured, and surrendered to him
her soft hand. He rubbed it between both of his cold ones and uttered:

'By the Paphian Queen: by her teams of doves and sparrows! By the
bower of Phyllis and the girdle of Egypt's self! I love thee!'

She gurgled 'oh's' of pleasure.

'But this Margot Poins is tirewoman to the Lady Katharine Howard.'

'I am tirewoman to mine own self alone,' she said. 'Therefore you love
her better.'

'Nay, oh nay,' he said gently. 'But this Lady Katharine Howard is
mistress to the King's self.'

'And I have been mistress to no married man save my husbands,' she
answered. 'Therefore you love this Margot Poins better.'

He fingered her soft palm and rubbed it across his own neck.

'Nay, nay,' he said. 'But I must wed with Margot Poins.'

'Why with her more than with me or any other of your score and seven?'
she said softly.

'Since the Lady Katharine will be Queen,' he answered, and once again
he was close against her side. She sighed softly.

'Thus if you wed with me you will never be Chancellor,' she said.

'I would not anger the Queen,' he answered. She nestled bountifully
and warmly against him.

'Swear even again that you like me more than the fair, large wench in
London town,' she whispered against his ear.

'Even as Jove prized Danaë above the Queen of Heaven, even as
Narcissus prized his shadow above all the nymphs, even as Hercules
placed Omphale above his strength, or even as David the King of the
Jews Bathsheba above....'

She murmured 'Oh, oh,' and placed her arms around his shoulders.

'How I love thy brave words!'

'And being Chancellor,' he swore, 'I will come back to thee, oh woman
of the sweet smiles, honey of Hymettus, Cypriote wine....'

She moved herself a little from him in the darkness.

'And if you do not wed with Margot Poins....'

'I pray a plague may fall upon her, but I must wed with her,' he
answered. 'Come now; come now!'

'Else the Lady Katharine shall be displeased with your magistership?'

He sought to draw her to him, but she stiffened herself a little.

'And this Lady Katharine is mistress to the King of England's realm?'

His hands moved tremblingly towards her in the darkness.

'And this Lady Katharine shall be Queen?'

A hiss of exasperation came upon his lips, for she had slipped from
beneath his hands into the darkness.

'Why, then, I will not stay your climbing,' she said. 'Good-night,'
and in the darkness he heard her sob.

The couch fell backwards as he swore and sprang towards her voice.

'Magister!' she said. 'Hands off! Unwed thou shalt not have me, for I
have sworn it.'

'I have sworn to wed seven and twenty women,' he said, 'and have
wedded with none.'

'Nay, nay,' she sobbed. 'Hands off. Henceforth I will make no
vows--but no one but thee shall wed me.'

'Then wed me, in God's name!' he cried, and, screaming:

'_Ho là! Apportez le prestre!_' she softened herself in his arms.

The magister confronted the lights, the leering scullions and the
grinning maids with their great mantles; his brown, woodpecker-like
face was alike crestfallen and thirsty with desire. A lean Dominican,
with his brown cowl back and spectacles of horn, gabbled over his
missal and took a crown's fee--then asked another by way of penitence
for the sin with the maid locked up in another house. When they
brought the bride favours of pink to pin into her gorget she said:

'I long had loved thee for thy great words, husband. Therefore all
these I had in readiness.'

With that knot fast upon him, the magister, clasping his gown upon his
shins, looked askance at the floor. Whilst they made ready the bride,
with great lights and laughter, she said:

'I was minded to have a comfortable husband. And a comfortable husband
is a husband much absent. What more comfortable than me in Paris town
and thee in London city? I keep my inn here, thou mindest thy book
there. Thou shalt here find a goodly capon upon occasion, and when
thou hast a better house in London I will come share it.'

'Trapped! Trapped!' the magister muttered to himself. 'Even as was Sir
Launcelot!'

He considered of the fair and resentful Margot Poins whom it was
incumbent indeed that he should wed: that Katharine Howard loved her
well and was in these matters strait-laced. When his eyes measured his
wife he licked his lips; when his eyes were on the floor his jaw fell.
At best the new Mistress Udal would be in Paris. He looked at the rope
tied round the thin middle of the brown priest, and suddenly he leered
and cast off his cloak.

'Let me remember to keep an equal mind in these hard matters,' he
quoted, and fell to laughing.

For he remembered that in England no marriage by a friar or monk held
good in those years. Therefore he was the winner. And the long, square
room, with the cave bed behind its shutter in the hollow of the wall,
the light-coloured, square beams, and the foaming basin of bride-ale
that a fat-armed girl in a blue kerseymere gown served out to scullion
after scullion; the open windows from which a little knave was casting
bride-pennies to some screaming beggars and women in the street; the
blind hornman whose unseeing eyes glanced along the reed of his
bassoon that he played before the open door; the two saucy maids
striving to wrest the bride's stockings one from the other--all these
things appeared friendly and jovial in his eyes. So that, when one of
the maids, wresting the stocking, fell hard against him, he clasped
her in his arms and kissed her till she struggled from him to drink a
mug of bride-ale.

'_Hodie mihi: mihi atque cras!_' he said. For it was in his mind a
goodly thing to pay a usuress with base coins.


II


It was three days later, in the morning, that his captress said to the
Magister Udal:

'Husband, it is time that I gave thee the bridal gift.'

The magister, happy with a bellyful of carp, bread and breakfast ale,
muttered 'Anan?' from above his copy of Lucretius. He sat in the
window-seat of the great stone kitchen. Upon one long iron spit before
the fire fourteen trussed capons turned in unison; the wooden shoes of
the basting-maid clattered industriously; and from the chimney came
the clank of the invisible smoke-vanes and the be-sooted chains. The
magister, who loved above all things warmth, a full stomach, a
comfortable woman and a good book, had all these things; he was well
minded to stay in Paris town for fourteen days, when they were to slay
a brown pig from the Ardennes, against whose death he had written an
elegy in Sapphics.

'For,' said his better half, standing before him with a great loaf
clasped to her bosom, 'if you turn a horse from the stable between
full and half full, like as not he will return of fair will to the
crib.'

'Oh Venus and Hebe in one body,' the magister said, 'I am minded to
end here my scholarly days.'

'I am minded that ye shall travel far erstwhile,' she answered.

He laid down his book upon a clean chopping-board.

'I know a good harbourage,' he said.

She sat down beside him in the window and fingered the fur on his long
gown, saying that, in this light, it showed ill-favouredly worm-eaten;
and he answered that he never had wishes nor money for gowning
himself, who cultivated the muses upon short commons. She turned
rightway to the front the medal upon his chest, and folded her arms.

'Whilst ye have no better house to harbour us,' she said, 'this shall
serve. Let us talk of the to-come.'

He groaned a little.

'Let us love to-day that's here,' he said. 'I will read thee a verse
from Lucretius, and you shall tell me the history of that fourth
capon'--he pointed to a browned carcase that, upon the spit, whirled
its elbows a full third longer than any of the line.

'That is the master roasting-piece,' she said, 'so he browns there not
too far, nor too close, for the envoy's own eating.'

He considered the chicken with his head to one side.

'It is the place of a wife to be subject to her lord,' he said.

'It is the place of a husband that he fendeth for 's wife,' she
answered him. She tapped her fingers determinedly upon her elbows.

'So it is,' she continued. 'To-morrow you shall set out for London
city to make road towards becoming Sir Chancellor.' Whilst he groaned
she laid down for him her law. He was to go to England, he was to
strive for great posts: if he gained, she would come share them; if he
failed, he might at odd moments come back to her fireside. 'Have done
with groaning now,' she said, stilling his lamentations.' 'Keep them
even for the next wench that you shall sue to--of me you have had all
you asked.'

He considered for five seconds, his elbow upon his crossed knees and
his wrist supporting his lean brown face.

'It is in the essence of it a good bargain,' he said. 'You put against
the chance of being, you a chancellor's madam, mine of having for
certain a capon in Paris town.'

He tapped his long nose. 'Nevertheless, for your stake you have cast
down a very little: three nights of bed and board against the chaining
me up.'

'Husband,' she answered. 'More than that you shall have.'

He wriggled a little beneath his furs.

'Husband is an ill name,'he commented. 'It smarts.'

'But it fills the belly.'

'Aye,'he said. 'Therefore I am minded to bide here and take with the
sourness the sweet of it.'

She laughed a little, and, with a great knife, cut a large manchet
from the loaf between them.

'Nay,' she said, 'to-morrow my army with their spits and forks shall
drive thee from the door.'

He grinned with his lips. She was fair and fat beneath her hood, but
she was resolute. 'I have it in me greatly to advance you,' she said.

A boy brought her a trencher filled with chopped things, and a man in
a blue jerkin came to her side bearing a middling pig, seared to a
pale clear pinkness. The boy held the slit stomach carefully apart,
and she lined it with slices of bread, dropping into the hollow
chives, nutmegs, lumps of salt, the buds of bergamot, and marigold
seeds with their acrid perfume, and balls of honied suet. She bound
round it a fair linen cloth that she stitched with a great bone
needle.

'Oh ingenuous countenance,' the magister mused above the pig's mild
face. 'Is it not even the spit of the Cleves envoy's? And the Cleves
envoy shall eat this adorable monster. Oh, cruel anthropophagist!'

She resigned her burden to the spit and gave the loaf to the boy,
wiped her fingers upon her apron, and said:

'That pig shall help thee far upon thy road.'

'Goes it into my wallet?' he asked joyfully.

She answered: 'Nay; into the Cleves envoy's weam.'

'You speak in hard riddles,' he uttered.

'Nay,' she laughed, 'a baby could unriddle it.' She looked at him for
a moment to enjoy her triumph of mystery. 'Husband mine, a pig thus
stuffed is good eating for Cleves men. I have not kept a hostel for
twelve years for envoys and secretaries without learning what each
eats with pleasure. And long have I thought that if I wed a man it
should be such a man as could thrive by learning of envoys' secrets.'

He leaned towards her earnestly.

'You know wherefore the man from Cleves is come?'

'You are, even as I have heard it said, a spy of Thomas Cromwell?' she
asked in return.

He looked suddenly abashed, but she held to her question.

'I pass for Privy Seal's man,' he answered at last.

'But you have played him false,' she said. He grew pale, glanced over
his shoulder, and put his finger on his lips.

'I'll wager it was for a woman,' she accused him. She wiped her lips
with her apron and dropped her hands upon her lap.

'Why, keep troth to Cromwell if you can,' she said.

'I do think his sun sets,' he whispered.

'Why, I am sorry for it,' she answered. 'I have always loved him for a
brewer's son. My father was a brewer.'

'Cromwell was begotten even by the devil,' Udal answered. 'He made me
write a comedy in the vulgar tongue.'

'Be it as you will,' she answered. 'You shall know on which side to
bite your cake better than I.'

He was still a little shaken at the thought of Privy Seal.

'If you know wherefore cometh Cleves' envoy, much it shall help me to
share the knowledge,' he said at last, 'for by that I may know whether
Cromwell or we do rise or fall.'

'If you have made a pact with a woman, have very great cares,' she
answered dispassionately. 'Doubtless you know how the dog wags its
tail; but you are always a fool with a woman.'

'This woman shall be Queen if Cromwell fall,' the magister said, 'and
I shall rise with her.'

'But is no woman from Cleves' Queen there now?' she asked.

'Cicely,' he answered highly, 'you know much of capons and beeves, but
there are queens that are none and do not queen it, and queans that
are no queens and queen it.'

'And so 'twill be whilst men are men,' she retorted. 'But neither my
first nor my second had his doxies ruling within my house, do what
they might beyond the door.'

He tried to impart to her some of the adoration he had for Katharine
Howard--her learning, her faith, her tallness, her wit, and the
deserved empiry that she had over King Henry VIII; but she only
answered:

'Why, kiss the wench all you will, but do not come to tell me how she
smells!'--and to his new protests: 'Aye, you may well be right and she
may well be Queen--for I know you will sacrifice your ease for no
wench that shall not help you somewhere forwards.'

The magister held his hands above his head in shocked negation of this
injustice--but there came from the street the thin wail of a trumpet;
another joined it, and a third; the three sounds executed a triple
convolution and died away one by one. Holding his thin hand out for
silence and better hearing, he muttered:

'Norfolk's tucket! Then it is true that Norfolk comes to Paris.'

His wife slipped down from her seat.

'Gave I you not the ostler's gossip from Calais three days since?' she
said, and went towards her roastings.

'But wherefore comes the yellow dog to Paris?' Udal persisted.

'That you may go seek,' she answered. 'But believe always what an
innkeeper says of who are on the road.'

Udal too slipped down from the window-seat; he buttoned his gown down
to his shins, pulled his hat over his ears and hurried through the
galleried courtyard into the comfortless shadows of the street. There
was no doubt that Norfolk was coming; round the tiny crack that, two
houses away, served for all the space that the road had between the
towering housefronts, two men in scarlet and yellow, with leopards and
lions and fleurs-de-lis on their chests, walked between two in white,
tabarded with the great lilies of France. They crushed round the
corner, for there was scarce space for four men abreast; behind them
squeezed men in purple with the Howard knot, bearing pikes, and men in
mustard yellow with the eagle's wing and ship badge of the Provost of
Paris. In the broader space before the arch of Udal's courtyard they
stayed to wait for the horsemen to disentangle themselves from the
alley; the Englishmen looked glumly at the tall housefronts; the
French loosened the mouthplates of their helmets to breathe the air
for a minute. Hostlers, packmen and pedlars began to fill the space
behind Udal, and he heard his wife's voice calling shrilly to a cook
who had run across the yard.

The crowd a little shielded him from the draught which came through
the arch, and he waited with more contentment. Undoubtedly there was
Norfolk upon a great yellow horse, so high that it made his bonnet
almost touch the overhanging storey of the third house; behind him the
white and gold litter of the provost, who, having three weeks before
broken his leg at tennis-play, was still unable to sit in a saddle.
The duke rode as if implacably rigid, his yellow, long face set,
listening as if with a sour deafness to something that the provost
from below called to him with a great, laughing voice.

The provost's litter, too, came up alongside the duke's horse in the
open space, then they all moved forward at the slow processional:
three steps and a halt for the trumpets to blow a tucket; three more
and another tucket; the great yellow horse stepping high and casting
up his head, from which flew many flakes of white foam. With its slow,
regularly interrupted gait, dominated by the impassive yellow face of
Norfolk, the whole band had an air of performing a solemn dance, and
Udal shivered for a long time, till amidst the train of mules bearing
leathern sacks, cupboards, chests and commodes, he saw come riding a
familiar figure in a scholar's gown--the young pedagogue and companion
of the Earl of Surrey. He was a fair, bearded youth with blue eyes,
riding a restless colt that embroiled itself and plunged amongst the
mules' legs. The young man leaned forward in the saddle and craned to
avoid a clothes chest.

The magister called to him:

'Ho, Longstaffe!' and having caught his pleased eyes: _'Ecce quis sto
in arce plenitatis. Veni atque bibe! Magister sum. Udal sum.
Longstaffe ave.'_

Longstaffe slipped from his horse, which he left to be rescued by whom
it might from amongst the hard-angled cases.

'Assuredly,' he said, 'there is no love between that beast and me as
there was betwixt his lord and Bucephalus,' and he followed Udal into
the galleried courtyard, where their two gowned figures alone sought
shelter from the March showers.

'News from overseas there is none,' he said. 'Privy Seal ruleth still
about the King; the German astronomers have put forth a tract _De
Quadratura Circuli_; the lost continent of Atlantis is a lost
continent still--and my bones ache.'

'But your mission?' Udal asked.

The doctor, his hard blue eyes spinning with sardonic humour beneath
his black beretta, said that his mission, even as Udal's had been, was
to gain some crowns by setting into the learned language letters that
should pass between his ambassador and the King's men of France. Udal
grinned disconcertedly.

'Be certified in your mind,' he said, 'that I am not here a spy or
informer of Privy Seal's.'

'Forbid it, God,' Doctor Longstaffe answered good-humouredly. None the
less his jaw hardened beneath his fair beard and he answered, 'I have
as yet written no letters--_litteras nullas scripsi: argal nihil
scio_.'

'Why, ye shall drink a warmed draught and eat a drippinged soppet,'
Udal said, 'and you shall tell me what in England is said of this
mission.'

He led the fair doctor into the great kitchen, and felt a great stab
of dislike when the young man set his arm round the hostess's waist
and kissed her on the red cheeks. The young man laughed:

'Aye indeed; I am _mancipium paucae lectionis_ set beside so learned a
man as the magister.'

The hostess received him with a bridling favour, rubbing her cheek
pleasantly, whilst Udal was seeking to persuade himself that, since
the woman was in law no wife of his, he had no need to fear.
Nevertheless rage tore him when the doctor, leaning his back against
the window-side, talked to the woman. She stood between them holding a
pewter flagon of mulled hypocras upon a salver of burnished pewter.

'Who I be,' he said, gazing complacently at her, 'is a poor student of
good letters; how I be here is as one of the amanuenses of the Duke of
Norfolk. Origen, Eusebius telleth, had seven, given him by Ambrosius
to do his behest. The duke hath but two, given him by the grace of God
and of the King's high mercy.'

'I make no doubt,' she answered, 'ye be as learned as the seven were.'

'I be twice as hungry,' he laughed; 'but with me it has always been
"_Quid scribam non quemadmodum_," wherein I follow Seneca.'

'Doctor,' the magister uttered, quivering, 'you shall tell me why this
mission--which is a very special embassy--at this time cometh to this
town of Paris.'

'Magister,' the doctor answered, wagging his beard upon his poor
collar to signify that he desired to keep his neck where it was, 'I
know not.'

'Injurious man,' Udal fulminated, 'I be no spy.'

The doctor surveyed his perturbation with cross-legged calmness.

'An ye were,' he said--'and it is renowned that ye are--ye could get
no knowledge from where none is.'

'Why, tell me of a woman,' the hostess said. 'Who is Kat Howard?'

The doctor's blue eyes shot a hard glance at her, and he let his head
sink down.

'I have copied to her eyes a sonnet or twain,' he said, 'and they were
writ by my master, Surrey, the Duke o' Norfolk's son.'

'Then these rave upon her as doth the magister?' she asked.

'Why, an ye be jealous of the magister here,' the doctor clipped his
words precisely, 'cast him away and take me who am a proper
sweetheart.'

'I be wed,' she answered pleasantly.

'What matters that,' he said, 'when husbands are not near?'

The magister, torn between his unaccustomed gust of jealousy and the
desire to hide his marriage from a disastrous discovery in England,
clutched with straining fingers at his gown.

'Tell wherefore cometh your mission,' he said.

'We spoke of a fair woman,' the doctor answered. 'Shame it were before
Apollo and Priapus that men's missions should come before kings'
mistresses.'

'It is true, then, that she shall be queen?' Udal's wife asked.

The fall of a great dish in the rear of the tall kitchen gave the
scholar time to collect his suspicions--for he took it for an easy
thing that this woman, if she were Udal's leman, might be, she too, a
spy in the service of Privy Seal.

'Forbid it, God,' he said, 'that ye take my words as other than
allegorical. The lady Katharine may be spoken of as a king's mistress
since in truth she were a fit mistress for a king, being fair, devout,
learned, courteous, tall and sweet-voiced. But that she hath been kind
to the King, God forbid that I should say it.'

'Aye,' Udal said, 'but if she hath sent this mission?'

Panic rose in the heart of the doctor; he beheld himself there, in
what seemed a spy's kitchen, asked disastrous questions by a man and
woman and pinned into a window-seat. For there was no doubt that the
rumour ran in England that this mission had been sent by the King
because Katharine Howard so wished it sent. In that age of spies and
treacheries no man's head was safe on his shoulders--and here were
Cromwell's spies asking news of Cromwell's chief enemy.

He stretched out a calm hand and spoke slowly:

'Madam hostess,' he said, 'if ye be jealous of the magister ye may
well be jealous, for great beauty and worship hath this lady.' Yet she
need be little jealous, for this lady was nowadays prized so high that
she might marry any man in the land--and learned men were little
prized. Any man in the land of England she might wed--saving only such
as were wed, amongst whom was their lord the King, who was happily
wed to the gracious lady whom my Lord Privy Seal did bring from Cleves
to be their very virtuous Queen.

Here, it seemed to him, he had cleared himself very handsomely of
suspicion of ill will to Privy Seal or of wishing ill to Anne of
Cleves.

'For the rest,' he said, sighing with relief to be away from dangerous
grounds, 'your magister is safe from the toils of marriage with the
Lady Katharine.' Still it might be held that jealousy is aroused by
the loving and not by the returning of that love; for it was very
certain that the magister much had loved this lady. Many did hold it a
treachery in him, till now, to the Privy Seal whom he served. But now
he might love her duteously, since our lord the King had commanded the
Lady Katharine to join hands with Privy Seal, and Privy Seal to cement
a friendly edifice in his heart towards the lady. Thus it was no
treason to Privy Seal in him to love her. But to her it was a treason
great and not to be comprehended.

He ogled Udal's wife in the gallant manner and prayed her to prepare a
bed for him in that hostelry. He had been minded to lodge with a
Frenchman named Clement; but having seen her ...

'Learned sir,' she answered, 'a good bed I have for you.' But if he
sought to go beyond her lips she had a body-guard of spitmen that the
magister's self had seen.

The doctor kissed her agreeably and, with a great sigh of relief,
hurried from the door.

'May Bacchus who maketh mad, and the Furies that pursued Orestes,
defile the day when I cross this step again,' he muttered as he swung
under the arch and ran to follow the mule train.

For the magister, by playing with his reputation of being Cromwell's
spy, had so effectually caused terror of himself to pervade those who
supported the old faith that he had much ado at times to find company
even amongst the lovers of good letters.


III


In the kitchen the spits had ceased turning, the dishes had been borne
upstairs to the envoy from Cleves, the scullions were wiping knives,
the maids were rubbing pieces of bread in the dripping pans and
licking their fingers after the succulent morsels. The magister stood,
a long crimson blot in the window-way; the hostess was setting flagons
carefully into the great armoury.

'Madam wife,' the magister said to her at last, when she came near,
'ye see how weighty it is that I bide here.'

'Husband,' she said, 'I see how weighty it is that ye hasten to
London.'

His rage broke--he whirled his arms above his head.

'Naughty woman!' he screamed harshly. 'Shalt be beaten.' He strode
across to the basting range and gripped a great ladle, his brown eyes
glinting, and stood caressing his thin chin passionately.

She folded her arms complacently.

'Husband,' she said, 'it is well that wives be beaten when they have
merited it. But, till I have, I have seven cooks and five knaves to
bear my part.'

Udal's hand fell suddenly and dispiritedly to his side. What indeed
could he do? He could not beat this woman unless she would be
beaten--and she stood there, square, buxom, solid and composed. He had
indeed that sense that all scholars must have in presence of assured
wives, that she was the better man. Moreover, the rage that had filled
him in presence of Doctor Longstaffe had cooled down to nothing in
Longstaffe's absence.

He folded his arms and tried impatiently to think where, in this
pickle, his feet had landed him. His wife turned once more to place
flagons in the armoury.

'Woman,' he said at last, in a tone half of majesty, half of appeal,
'see ye not how weighty it is that I bide here?'

'Husband,' she answered with her tranquil nonchalance, 'see ye not
how weighty it is that ye waste here no more days?'

'But very well you know,' and he stretched out to her a thin hand,
'that here be two embassies of mystery: you have had, these three
days, the Cleves envoy in the house. You have seen that the Duke of
Norfolk comes here as ambassador.'

She took a stool and sat near his feet to listen to him.

'Now,' he began again, 'if I be in truth a spy for Thomas Cromwell,
Lord Privy Seal, where can I spy better for him than here? For the
Cleves people are befriended with Privy Seal; then why come they to
France, where bide only Privy Seal's enemies? Now Norfolk is the
chiefest enemy of Privy Seal; then wherefore cometh Norfolk to this
land, where abide only these foes of Privy Seal?'

She set her elbows on her knees and her knuckles below her chin, and
gazed up at him like a child.

'Tell me, husband,' she said; 'be ye a true spy for Thomas Cromwell?'

He glanced round him with terror--but no man stood nearer than the
meat boards across the kitchen, so far out of earshot that they could
not hear feet upon the bricks.

'Nay, ye may tell me the very truth of the very truth,' she said.
'These be false days--but my kitchen gear is thine, and nothing doth
so bind folks together.'

'But other listeners--' he said.

'Hosts and hostesses are listeners,' she answered. ''Tis their trade.
And their trade it is, too, to fend from them all other listeners.
Here you may speak. Tell me then, if I may serve you, very truly
whether ye be a true spy for Thomas Cromwell or against him.'

Her round face, beneath the great white hood, had a childish
earnestness.

'Why, you are a fair doxy,' he said. He hung his head for some more
minutes, then he spoke again.

'It is a folly to speak of me as Privy Seal's spy, though I have so
spoken of myself. For why? It gaineth me worship, maketh men to fear
me and women to be dazzled by my power. But in truth, I have little
power.'

'That is the very truth?' she asked.

He nodded nonchalantly and waited again to find very clear words for
her understanding.

'But, though it be true that I am no spy of Cromwell's, true it is
also that I am a very poor man who craves very much for money. For I
love good books that cost much gold; comely women that cost far more;
succulent meats, sweet wines, high piled fires and warm furs.'

He smacked his lips thinking of these same things.

'I am, in short, no stoic,' he said, 'the stoics being ancient
curmudgeons that were low-stomached.' Now, he continued, the Old Faith
he loved well, but not over well; the Protestants he called busy
knaves, but the New Learning he loved beyond life. Cromwell thwacked
the Old Faith; he loved him not for that. Cromwell upheld in a sort
the Protestants; he little loved him for that. 'But the New Learning
he loveth, and, oh fair sharer of my dreams o' nights, Cromwell
holdeth the strings of the money-bags.'

She scratched her cheek meditatively, and then unfolded her arms.

'How then ha' ye come by his broad pieces?'

'It is three years since,' he answered, 'that Privy Seal sent for me.
I had been cast out of my mastership at Eton College, for they
said--foul liars said--that I had stolen the silver salt-cellars.' He
had been teaching, for his sins, in the house of the Lord Edmund
Howard, where he had had his best pupil, but no more salary than what
his belly could hold of poor mutton. 'So Privy Seal did send for
me----'

'Kat Howard was thy best pupil?' his wife asked meditatively.

'By the shrine of Saint Eloi--' he commenced to swear.

'Nay, lie not,' she cut him short. 'You love Kat Howard and six other
wenches. I know it well. What said Privy Seal?'

He meditated again to protest that he loved not Katharine, but her
quiet stolidity set him to change his mind.

'It was that the Lady Mary of England needed a preceptor, an
amanuensis, an aid for her studies in the learned language.' For the
King's Highness' daughter had a great learning and was agate of
writing a commentary of Plautus his plays. But the Lady Mary hated
also virulently--and with what cause all men know--the King her
father. And for years long, since the death of the Queen her
mother--whom God preserve in Paradise!--for years long the Lady Mary
had maintained a treasonable correspondence with the King's enemies,
with the Emperor, with the Bishop of Rome----

'Our Holy Father the Pope,' his wife said, and crossed herself.

'And with this King here of France,' Udal continued, whilst he too
crossed himself with graceful waves of his brown hand. He continued to
report that the way in which the Lady Mary sent her letters abroad had
never been found; that Cromwell had appointed three tutors in
succession to be aid to the Lady Mary in her studies. Each of these
three she had broken and cast out from her doors, she being by far the
more learned, so that, though Privy Seal in his might had seven
thousand spies throughout the realm of England, he had among them no
man learned enough to take this place and to spy out the things that
he would learn.

'Therefore Privy Seal did send for thee, who art accounted the most
learned doctor in Christendom.' His wife's eyes glowed and her face
became ruddy with pride in her husband's fame.

The magister waved his hand pleasantly.

'Therefore he did send for me.' Privy Seal had promised him seven
hundred pounds, farms with sixty pounds by the year, or the headship
of New College if the magister could discover how the Lady Mary wrote
her letters abroad.

'So I have stayed three years with the Lady Mary,' Udal said. 'But
before God,' he asseverated, 'though I have known these twenty-nine
months that she sent away her letters in the crusts of pudding pies,
never hath cur Crummock had word of it.'

'A fool he, to set thee to spy upon a petticoat,' she answered
pleasantly.

'Woman,' he answered hotly, 'crowns I have made by making reports to
Privy Seal. I have set his men to watch doors and windows where none
came in or entered; I have reported treasons of men whose heads had
already fallen by the axe; I have told him of words uttered by maids
of honour whom he knew full well already miscalled him. Sometimes I
have had a crown or two from him, sometimes more; but no good man hath
been hurt by my spying.'

'Husband,' she uttered, with her face set expressionlessly, 'knew ye
that the Frenchman's cook that made the pudding pies had been taken
and cast into the Tower gaol?'

Udal's arms flew above his head; his eyes started from their sockets;
his tongue came forth from his pale mouth to lick his dry lips, and
his legs failed him so that he sat himself down, wavering from side to
side in the window-seat.

'Then the commentary of Plautus shall never be written,' he wailed. He
wrung his hands. 'Whom have they taken else?' he said. 'How knew ye
these things when I nothing knew? What make of house is this where
such things be known?'

'Husband,' she answered, 'this house is even an inn. Where many
travellers pass through, many secrets are known. I know of this cook's
fate since the fate of cooks is much spoken of in kitchens, and this
was the cook of a Frenchman, and this is France.'

'Save us, oh pitiful saints!' the magister whispered. 'Who else is
taken? What more do ye know? Many others have aided. I too. And there
be friends I love.'

'Husband,' she answered, 'I know no more than this: three days ago the
cook stood where now you stand----'

He clasped his hair so that his cap fell to the ground.

'Here!' he said. 'But he was in the Tower!'

'He was in the Tower, but stood here free,' she answered. Udal
groaned.

'Then he hath blabbed. We are lost.'

She answered:

'That may be the truth. But I think it is not. For so the matter is
that the cook told me.' He was taken and set in the Tower by the men
of Privy Seal. Yet within ten hours came the men of the King; these
took him aboard a cogger, the cogger took them to Calais, and at the
gate of Calais town the King's men kicked him into the country of
France, he having sworn on oath never more to tread on English soil.

Udal groaned.

'Aye! But what others were taken? What others shall be?'

She shook her head.

The report ran: a boy called Poins, a lady called Elliott, and a lady
called Howard. Yet all three drank the free air before that day at
nightfall.

Udal, huddled against the wall, took these blows of fate with a quiver
for each. In the back of the kitchen the servers, come down from the
meal of the Cleves envoy, made a great clatter with their dishes of
pewter and alloy. The hostess, working with her comfortable sway of
the hips, drove them gently through the door to let a silence fall;
but gradually Udal's jaw closed, his eyes grew smaller, he started
suddenly and the muscles of his knees regained their tension. The
hostess, swishing her many petticoats beneath her, sat down again on
the stool.

'_Insipiens et infacetus quin sum!_' the magister mused. 'Fool that I
am! Wherefore see I no clue?' He hung his head; frowned; then started
anew with his hand on his side.

'Wherefore shall I not read pure joy in this?' he said, 'save that
Austin waileth: "_Inter delicias semper aliquid saevi nos
strangulat_." I would be joyful--but that I fear.' Norfolk had come
upon an embassy here; then assuredly Cromwell's power waned, or never
had this foe of his been sent in this office of honour. The cook was
cast in the Tower, but set free by the King's men; young Poins was
cast too, but set free--the Lady Elliott--and the Lady Howard. What
then? What then?

'Husband,' she said, 'have you naught forgotten?'

Udal, musing with his hand upon his chin, shook his head negligently.

'I keep more track of the King's leman than thou, then,' she said.
'What was it Longstaffe said of her?'

'Nay,' Udal answered, 'so turned my bowels were with jealousy that
little I noted.'

'Why, you are a fine spy,' she said. And she repeated to him that
Longstaffe had reported the King's commanding Katharine and Privy Seal
to join hands and be friends. Udal shook his head gloomily.

'I would not have my best pupil friends with Cromwell,' he said.

'Oh, magister,' she retorted, with a first touch of scorn in her
voice; 'have you, who have had so much truck with women, yet to learn
that you may command a woman to be friends with a man, yet no power on
earth shall make her love him. Nevertheless, well might Cromwell seek
to win her love, and thence these pardons.'

Udal started forward upon his tiptoes.

'I must to London!' he cried. She smiled at him as at a child.

'You are come to be of my advice,' she said.

Udal gazed at her with a wondering patronage.

'Why, what a wench it is,' he said, and he crooked his arm around her
ample waist. His face shone with pleasure. 'Angel!' he uttered; 'for
Angelos is the Greek for messenger, and signifieth more especially one
that bringeth good tidings.' Out of all this holus bolus of envoys,
ambassadors, cooks and prisoners one thing appeared plain to view:
that, for the first time, _a solis ortus cardine_, Cromwell had
loosened his grip of some that he held. 'And if Crummock looseneth
grip, Crummock's power in the land waneth.'

She looked up at him with a coy pleasure.

'Hatest Cromwell then full fell-ly?' she asked.

He put his hands upon her shoulders and solemnly regarded her.

'Woman,' he said; 'this man rideth England with seven thousand spies;
these three years I have lived in terror of my life. I have had no
bliss that fear hath not entered into--in very truth _inter delicias
semper aliquid saevi nos strangulavit_.' His lugubrious tones grew
higher with hatred; he raised one hand above his head and one gripped
tight her fat shoulder. 'Terror hath bestridden our realm of England;
no man dares to whisper his hate even to the rushes. Me! Me! Me!' he
reached a pitch of high-voiced fury. 'Me! _Virum doctissimum!_ Me, the
first learned man in Britain, he did force to write a play in the
vulgar tongue. Me, a master of Latin, to write in English! I had
pardoned him my terror. I had pardoned him the heads of the good men
he hath struck off. For that princes should inspire terror is just,
and that the great ones of the earth should prey one upon the other is
a thing all history giveth precedent for since the days when Sylla
hunted to death Marius that sat amidst the ruins of Carthage. But that
the learned should be put to shame! that good letters should be cast
into the mire! History showeth no ensample of a man so vile since the
Emperor Alexander removed his shadow from before the tub of Diogenes.'

'In truth,' she said, blenching a little before his fury, 'I was ever
one that loved the rolling sound of your Greek and your Roman.'

'Give me my journey money,' he said, 'let me begone to England. For,
if indeed the Lady Katharine hath the King's ear, much may I aid her
with my counsels.'

She began to fumble in beneath her apron, and then, as if she
suddenly remembered herself, she placed her finger upon her lips.

'Husband,' she said, 'I have for you a gift. How it shall value itself
to you I little know, but I have before been much besought and offered
high payment for that which now I offer thee. Come.'

The finger still upon her plump lips, she led him to a small door
behind the chimney stack. They climbed up through cobwebs, ham,
flitches of smoked beef, and darkness, and the reek of wood-smoke,
until they came, high up, to a store-room in the slope of a mansard
roof. Light filtered dimly between the tiles, and many bales and sacks
lay upon the raftered floor like huge monsters in a huge, dim cave.

'Hearken! make no sound,' she whispered, and in the intense gloom they
heard a sullen, stertorous, intermittent rumble.

'The envoy sleeps,' she said. She set her eye to a knot-hole in the
planked wall. ''A sleeps!' she whispered. 'My pigling made a great
thirst in him. Much wine he drank. Set your eye to the knot-hole.'

With his face glued against the rough wood, the magister could see in
the large room a great fair man, in a great blue chair behind a
littered table. His head hung forward, shewed only a pink bald spot in
the thin hair, and brilliant red ears. A slow rumble of snoring came
for a long minute, then ceased for as long.

From behind Udal's back came a crash, and he started back to see the
large woman, who had overturned a chest.

'That is to test how he sleeps,' she said. 'See if he have moved.' The
man, plain to see through the knot-hole, had stirred no muscle; again
the heavy rumble of the snore came to them. She spoke quite loudly
now. 'Why, naught shall wake him these five hours. 'A hath bolted the
door; thus his secretaries shall not come to him. See now.'

She slid back a board in the wall, and Udal could see into what
appeared to be a cupboard filled with a litter of papers and of
parchments. Udal's heart began to beat so that he noted it there; his
eyes searched hers with a glittering excitement--nevertheless a half
fear of awakening the envoy kept him from speaking.

'Take them! Take them!' she nudged him with her elbow. 'Six hours ye
have to read and to copy.'

'What papers are these?' he muttered, his voice thick betwixt
incredulous joy and fear.

'They be the envoy's papers,' she said; 'doubtless these be his
letters to the king of this land.... What there may be I know not
else.'

Udal's hands were in at the hole with the swift clutch of a miser
visiting his treasure-chest. The woman surveyed him with pleasure and
with pride in her achievement, and with the calmness of routine she
fitted a bar across the door of the cupboard where it opened into the
envoy's room. Udal was fumbling already with the strings of a packet,
his eyes searching the superscription in the gloom.

'Six hours ye have to read and to copy,' she said happily, 'for, for
six hours the poppy seed in his wine that he drank shall surely keep
him snoring.' And, whilst they went again down the stairway, the
papers secreted beneath the magister's gown, she explained with her
pride and happiness. The aumbry was so contrived that any envoy or
secretary sleeping in her best room must needs put his papers therein,
since there was in the room no other chest that locked. And the King
of France's chancellors allotted to all envoys her hostelry for a
lodging; and once there, she made them heavy with wine and poppy seed
after a receipt she had from an Egyptian, and at the appointed time
the King of France's men came to read through the papers and to pay
her much money and many kisses.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was six hours later that the magister stood in his own room
crushing a fillet of papers into the breast of his brown jerkin. The
hostess, walking always calmly as if disorder of the mind were a thing
she were a stranger to, had reclimbed the narrow stairway, replaced
the papers in the envoy's cupboard and returned to her husband. She
sought, mutely, for commendations, and he gave her them.

'Y'have made me the man that holds the secret of England's future,' he
said. 'All England that groans beneath Cromwell awaiteth to hear how
the cat jumps in Cleves. Now I know how the cat jumps in Cleves.'

She wiped the dust from her hands upon her apron.

'See that ye make good use of the knowledge,' she said. She considered
for a moment whilst he ferreted amongst his clothes in the great black
press beside the great white bed. 'I have long thought,' she said,
'that greatly might I be of service to a man of laws and of policies.
But I have long known that to serve a man is to have little reward
unless a woman tie him up in fast bonds----' He made one of his broad
gestures of negation, but she cut in upon his words: 'Aye, so it is. A
gossip may serve a man how she will, but once his occasion is past he
shall leave her in the ditch for the first fairer face. So I made
resolve to make such a man my husband, that his being advanced might
advance me. For, for sure this shall not be the last spying service I
shall do thee. Many envoys more shall be lodged in this house and many
more secrets ye shall learn.'

'Oh beloved Pandora!' he cried; 'opener of all secret places, caskets,
aumbries, caves of the winds, thrice blessed Sibyl of the keyhole!'
She nodded her head with grave contentment.

'I chose thee for thy resounding speeches,' she said. Her tranquillity
and her buxom pleasantness overcame him with sudden affection. He was
minded to tell her--because indeed she had made his fortunes for
him--that her marriage to him did not hold good since a friar had read
the rites.

'I chose thee for thy resounding speeches,' she said, 'and because art
so ill-clothed i' the ribs. Give me a thin man of policies to move my
bowels of compassion, say I.' For with her secret closets she might
make him stand well among the princes, and with her goodly capons set
grease upon his ribs, poor soul!

'Oh Guenevere!' he said; 'for was it not the queen of Arthur that made
bag-puddings for his starving knights?'

'Aye,' she said; 'great learning you possess.' A little moisture
bedewed her blue eyes. 'It grieves me that you must begone. I love to
hear thy broad o's and a's!'

'Then by all that is fattest in the land hight Cokaigne I will stay
here, thy dutiful goodman,' he said, and tears filled his own eyes.

'Oh nay,' she answered; 'you shall get yourself into the Chancellery,
and merry will we feast and devise beneath the gilded roofs.' Her eyes
sought the brown beams that ceiled the long room. 'I have heard that
chancellors have always gilded roofs.'

Again the tenderness overcame him for the touch of simple pride in her
voice. And the confession slipped from his lips:

'Poor befooled soul! Shalt never be a chancellor's dame.'

She was sobbing a little.

'Oh aye,' she said; 'thou shalt yet be chancellor, and I will baste
thy cooks' ribs an they baste not thy meat full well.' Such a man as
he would find favour with princes for his glosing tongue--aye, and
with queens too. At that she covered her face with her apron, and from
beneath it her voice came forth:

'If this Kat Howard come to be queen, shall not the old faith be
restored?'

The recollection of this particular certainty affected the magister
like a stab, for, if the old faith came back, then assuredly marriages
by friars should again be acknowledged. He cursed himself beneath his
breath: he was loath to leave the woman in the ditch, her trusting
face and pleasing ways stirred the strings of his heart. But he was
more than loath that the wedding should hold a wedding. He shook his
perplexity from him with starting towards the door.

'Time to be gone!' he said, and added, 'Be certain and take care that
no Englishman heareth of wedding betwixt thee and me.' It must in
England work his sure undoing.

She removed her apron and nodded gravely.

'Aye,' she said, 'that is certain enow with Court ladies, such as they
be to-day.' But she asked that when he went among women she should
hear nothing of it. For she had had three husbands and several
courtiers to prove it upon, that it is better to be lied to than to
know truth.

'There is in the world no woman like to thee!' he said with a great
sincerity. Once more she nodded.

'Aye, that is the lie that I would hear,' she said. On his part, he
started suddenly with pain.

'But thee!' he uttered.

'Aye,' she cried again, 'that too is needed. But be very certain of
this, that not easily will I plant upon thy brow that which most
husbands wear!' She paused, and once more rubbed her hands. Courteous
she must be, since her calling called therefor. But assuredly, having
had three husbands, she had had embraces enow to crave little for men.
And, if she did that which few good women have a need to--save very
piteous women in ballads--she would suffer him to belabour her;--she
nodded again--'And that to a man is a great solace.'

He fled with precipitancy from the thought of this solace, brushing
through the narrow passages, stalking across the great guest-chamber
and the greater kitchen where, in the falling dusk, the fires glowed
red upon the maids' faces and the cooks' aprons, the smoke rose
unctuously upward tended with rich smells of meat, and the windjacks
clanked in the chimneys. She trotted behind him, weeping in the
gloaming.

'If you come to be chancellor in five years,' she whimpered, 'I shall
come across the seas to ye. If ye fail, this shall be your plenteous
house.'

Whilst she hung round his neck in the shadowy courtyard and he had
already one foot in the stirrup, she begged for one more great speech.

'Before Jupiter!' he said, 'I can think of none for crying!'

The big black horse, with its bags before and behind the saddle,
stirred, so that, standing upon one foot, he fell away from her. But
he swung astride the saddle, his cloak flying, his long legs clasping
round the belly. It reared and pawed the twilight mists, but he smote
it over one ear with his palm, and it stood trembling.

'This is a fine beast y'have given me,' he said, pleasure thrilling
his limbs.

'I have given it a fine rider!' she cried. He wheeled it near her and
stooped right down to kiss her face. He was very sure in his saddle,
having learned the trick of the stirrup from old Rowfant, that had
taught the King.

'Wife,' he said, 'I have bethought me of this: _Post equitem
sedet_----' He faltered--'_sedet--Behind the rider sitteth_--But for
the life of me I know not whether it be _atra cura_ or no.'

And, as he left Paris gates behind him and speeded towards the black
hills, bending low to face the cold wind of night, for the life of him
he knew not whether black care sat behind him or no. Only, as night
came down and he sped forward, he knew that he was speeding for
England with the great news that the Duke of Cleves was seeking to
make his peace with the Emperor and the Pope through the mediancy of
the king of that land and, on the soft road, the hoofs of the horse
seemed to beat out the rhythm of the words:

'Crummock is down: Cromwell is down. Crummock is down: Cromwell is
down.'

He rode all through the night thinking of these things, for, because
he carried letters from the English ambassador to the King of England,
the gates of no small town could stay his passing through.


IV


Five men talked in the long gallery overlooking the River Thames. It
was in the Lord Cromwell's house, upon which the April showers fell
like handsful of peas, with a sifting sound, between showers of
sunshine that fell themselves like rain, so that at times all the long
empty gallery was gilded with light and at times it was all saddened
and frosty. They were talking all, and all with earnestness and
concern, as all the Court and the city were talking now, of Katharine
Howard whom the King loved.

The Archbishop leant against one side of a window, close beside him
his spy Lascelles; the Archbishop's face was round but worn, his large
eyes bore the trace of sleeplessness, his plump hands were a little
tremulous within his lawn sleeves.

'Sir,' he said, 'we must bow to the breeze. In time to come we may
stand straight enow.' His eyes seemed to plead with Privy Seal, who
paced the gallery in short, pursy strides, his plump hands hidden in
the furs behind his back. Lascelles, the Archbishop's spy, nodded his
head sagaciously; his yellow hair came from high on his crown and was
brushed forward towards his brows. He did not speak, being in such
high company, but looking at him, the Archbishop gained confidence
from the support of his nod.

'If we needs must go with the Lady Katharine towards Rome,' he pleaded
again, 'consider that it is but for a short time.' Cromwell passed him
in his pacing and, unsure of having caught his ear, Cranmer addressed
himself to Throckmorton and Wriothesley, the two men of forty who
stood gravely, side by side, fingering their long beards. 'For sure,'
Cranmer appealed to the three silent men, 'what we must avoid is
crossing the King's Highness. For his Highness, crossed, hath a swift
and sudden habit of action.' Wriothesley nodded, and: 'Very sudden,'
Lascelles allowed himself utterance, in a low voice. Throckmorton's
eyes alone danced and span; he neither nodded nor spoke, and, because
he was thought to have a great say in the councils of Privy Seal, it
was to him that Cranmer once more addressed himself urgently:

'Full-bodied men who are come upon failing years are very prone to
women. 'Tis a condition of the body, a humour, a malady that passeth.
But, while it lasteth, it must be bowed to.'

Cromwell, with his deaf face, passed once more before them. He
addressed himself in brief, sharp tones to Wriothesley:

'You say, in Paris an envoy from Cleves was come a week agone?' and
passed on.

'It must be bowed to,' Cranmer continued his speech. 'I do maintain
it. There is no way but to divorce the Queen.' Again Lascelles nodded;
it was Wriothesley this time who spoke.

'It is a lamentable thing!' and there was a heavy sincerity in his
utterance, his pose, with his foot weightily upon the ground, being
that of an honest man. 'But I do think you have the right of it. We,
and the new faith with us, are between Scylla and Charybdis. For
certain, our two paths do lie between divorcing the Queen and seeing
you, great lords, who so well defend us, cast down.'

Coming up behind him, Cromwell placed a hand upon his shoulder.

'Goodly knight,' he said, 'let us hear thy thoughts. His Grace's of
Canterbury we do know very well. He is for keeping a whole skin!'

Cranmer threw up his hands, and Lascelles looked at the ground.
Throckmorton's eyes were filled with admiration of this master of his
that he was betraying now. He muttered in his long, golden beard.

'Pity we must have thy head.'

Wriothesley cleared his throat, and having considered, spoke
earnestly.

'It is before all things expedient and necessary,' he said, 'that we
do keep you, my Lord Privy Seal, and you, my Lord of Canterbury, at
the head of the State.' That was above all necessary. For assuredly
this land, though these two had brought it to a great pitch of wealth,
clean living, true faith and prosperity, this land needed my Lord
Privy Seal before all men to shield it from the treason of the old
faith. There were many lands now, bringing wealth and commodity to
the republic, that should soon again revert towards and pay all their
fruits to Rome; there were many cleaned and whitened churches that
should again hear the old nasty songs and again be tricked with
gewgaws of the idolaters. Therefore, before all things, my Lord Privy
Seal must retain the love of the King's Highness---- Cromwell, who had
resumed his pacing, stayed for a moment to listen.

'Wherefore brought ye not news of why Cleves' envoy came to Paris
town?' he said pleasantly. 'All the door turneth upon that hinge.'

Wriothesley stuttered and reddened.

'What gold could purchase, I purchased of news,' he said. 'But this
envoy would not speak; his knaves took my gold and had no news. The
King of France's men----'

'Oh aye,' Cromwell continued; 'speak on about the other matter.'

Wriothesley turned his slow mind from his vexation in Paris, whence he
had come a special journey to report of the envoy from Cleves. He
spoke again swiftly, turning right round to Cromwell.

'Sir,' he said, 'study above all to please the King. For unless you
guide us we are lost indeed.'

Cromwell worked his lips one upon another and moved a hand.

'Aye,' Wriothesley continued; 'it can be done only by bringing the
King's Highness and the Lady Katharine to a marriage.'

'Only by that?' Cromwell asked enigmatically.

Throckmorton spoke at last:

'Your lordship jests,' he said; 'since the King is not a man, but a
high and beneficent prince with a noble stomach.'

Cromwell tapped him upon the cheek.

'That you do see through a millstone I know,' he said. 'But I was
minded to hear how these men do think. You and I do think alike.'

'Aye, my lord,' Throckmorton answered boldly. 'But in ten minutes I
must be with the Lady Katharine, and I am minded to hear the upshot of
this conference.'

Cromwell laughed at him sunnily:

'Go and do your message with the lady. An you hasten, you may return
ere ever this conference ends, since slow wits like ours need a store
of words to speak their minds with.'

Lascelles, the silent spy of the archbishop, devoured with envious
eyes Throckmorton's great back and golden beard. For his life he dared
not speak three words unbidden in this company. But Throckmorton being
gone the discussion renewed itself, Wriothesley speaking again.

He voiced always the same ideas, for the same motives: Cromwell must
maintain his place at the cost of all things, for the sake of all
these men who leaned upon him. And it was certain that the King loved
this lady. If he had sent her few gifts and given her no titles nor
farms, it was because--either of nature or to enhance the King's
appetite--she shewed a prudish disposition. But day by day and week in
week out the King went with his little son in his times of ease to the
rooms of the Lady Mary. And there he went, assuredly, not to see the
glum face of the daughter that hated him, but to converse in Latin
with his daughter's waiting-maid of honour. All the Court knew this.
Who there had not seen how the King smiled when he came new from the
Lady Mary's rooms? He was heavy enow at all other times. This fair
woman that hated alike the new faith and all its ways had utterly
bewitched and enslaved the King's eyes, ears and understanding. If the
King would have Katharine Howard his wife the King must have her. Anne
of Cleves must be sent back to Germany; Cromwell must sue for peace
with the Howard wench; a way must be found to bribe her till the King
tired of her; then Katharine must go in her turn, once more Cromwell
would have his own, and the Protestants be reinstated. Cromwell
retained his silence; at the last he uttered his unfailing words with
which he closed all these discussions:

'Well, it is a great matter.'

The gusts of rain and showers of sun pursued each other down the
river; the lights and shadows succeeded upon the cloaked and capped
shapes of the men who huddled their figures together in the tall
window. At last the Archbishop lost his patience and cried out:

'What will you _do_? What will you _do_?'

Cromwell swung his figure round before him.

'I will discover what Cleves will do in this matter,' he said. 'All
dependeth therefrom.'

'Nay; make a peace with Rome,' Cranmer uttered suddenly. 'I am weary
of these strivings.'

But Wriothesley clenched his fist.

'Before ye shall do that I will die, and twenty thousand others!'

Cranmer quailed.

'Sir,' he temporised. 'We will give back to the Bishop of Rome nothing
that we have taken of property. But the Bishop of Rome may have
Peter's Pence and the deciding of doctrines.'

'Canterbury,' Wriothesley said, 'I had rather Antichrist had his old
goods and gear in this realm than the handling of our faith.'

Cromwell drew in the air through his nostrils, and still smiled.

'Be sure the Bishop of Rome shall have no more gear and no more
guidance of this realm than his Highness and I need give,' he said.
'No stranger shall have any say in the councils of this realm.' He
smiled noiselessly again. 'Still and still, all turneth upon Cleves.'

For the first time Lascelles spoke:

'All turneth upon Cleves,' he said.

Cromwell surveyed him, narrowing his eyes.

'Speak you now of your wisdom,' he uttered with neither friendliness
nor contempt. Lascelles caressed his shaven chin and spoke:

'The King's Highness I have observed to be a man for women--a man who
will give all his goods and all his gear to a woman. Assuredly he will
not take this woman to his leman; his princely stomach revolteth
against an easy won mastership. He will pay dear, he will pay his
crown to win her. Yet the King would not give his policies. Neither
would he retrace his steps for a woman's sake unless Fate too cried
out that he must.'

Cromwell nodded his head. It pleased him that this young man set a
virtue sufficiently high upon his prince.

'Sirs,' he said, 'daily have I seen this King in ten years, and I do
tell ye no man knoweth how the King loves kingcraft as I know.' He
nodded again to Lascelles, whose small stature seemed to gain bulk,
whose thin voice seemed to gain volume from this approval and from his
'Speak on. About Cleves.'

'Sirs,' Lascelles spoke again, 'whiles there remains the shade of a
chance that Cleves' Duke shall lead the princes of Germany against the
Emperor and France, assuredly the King shall stay his longing for the
Lady Katharine. He shall stay firm in his marriage with the Queen.'
Again Cromwell nodded. 'Till then it booteth little to move towards a
divorce; but if that day should come, then our Lord Privy Seal must
bethink himself. That is in our lord's mind.'

'By Bacchus!' Cromwell said, 'your Grace of Canterbury hath a jewel in
your crony and helper. And again I say, we must wait upon Cleves.' He
seemed to pursue the sunbeams along the gallery, then returned to say:

'I know ye know I love little to speak my mind. What I think or how I
will act I keep to myself. But this I will tell you:' Cleves might
have two minds in sending to France an envoy. On the one hand, he
might be minded to abandon Henry and make submission to the Emperor
and to Rome. For, in the end, was not the Duke of Cleves a vassal of
the Emperor? It might be that. Or it might be that he was sending
merely to ask the King of France to intercede betwixt him and his
offended lord. The Emperor was preparing to wage war upon Cleves. That
was known. And doubtless Cleves, desiring to retain his friendship
with Henry, might have it in mind to keep friends with both. There
the matter hinged, Cromwell repeated. For, if Cleves remained loyal to
the King of England, Henry would hear nothing of divorcing Cleves'
sister, and would master his desire for Katharine.

'Believe me when I speak,' Cromwell added earnestly. 'Ye do wrong to
think of this King as a lecher after the common report. He is a man
very continent for a king. His kingcraft cometh before all women. If
the Duke of Cleves be firm friend to him, firm friend he will be to
the Duke's sister. The Lady Howard will be his friend, but the Lady
Howard will be neither his leman nor his guide to Rome. He will please
her if he may. But his kingcraft. Never!' He broke off and laughed
noiselessly at the Archbishop's face of dismay. 'Your Grace would make
a pact with Rome?' he asked.

'Why, these are very evil times,' Cranmer answered. 'And if the Bishop
of Rome will give way to us, why may we not give pence to the Bishop
of Rome?'

'Goodman,' Cromwell answered, 'these are evil times because we men are
evil.' He pulled a paper from his belt. 'Sirs,' he said, 'will ye know
what manner of woman this Katharine Howard is?' and to their murmurs
of assent: 'This lady hath asked to speak with me. Will ye hear her
speak? Then bide ye here. Throckmorton is gone to seek her.'


V


Katharine Howard sat in her own room; it had in it little of
sumptuousness, for all the King so much affected her. It was the room
she had first had at Hampton after coming to be maid to the King's
daughter, and it had the old, green hangings that had always been
round the walls, the long oak table, the box-bed set in the wall, the
high chair and the three stools round the fire. The only thing she had
taken of the King was a curtain in red cloth to hang on a rod before
the door where was a great draught, the leading of the windows being
rotted. She had lived so poor a life, her father having been a very
poor lord with many children--she was so attuned to flaws of the wind,
ill-feeding and harsh clothes, that such a tall room as she there had
seemed goodly enough for her. Barely three months ago she had come to
the palace of Greenwich riding upon a mule. Now accident, or maybe the
design of the dear saints, had set her so high in the King's esteem
that she might well try a fall with Privy Seal.

She sat there dressed, awaiting the summons to go to him. She wore a
long dress of red velvet, worked around the breast-lines with little
silver anchors and hearts, and her hood was of black lawn and fell
near to her hips behind. And she had read and learned by heart
passages from Plutarch, from Tacitus, from Diodorus Siculus, from
Seneca and from Tully, each one inculcating how salutary a thing in a
man was the love of justice. Therefore she felt herself well prepared
to try a fall with the chief enemy of her faith, and awaited with
impatience his summons to speak with him. For she was anxious, now at
last, to speak out her mind, and Privy Seal's agents had worked upon
the religious of a poor little convent near her father's house a wrong
so baleful that she could no longer contain herself. Either Privy Seal
must redress or she must go to the King for justice to these poor
women that had taught her the very elements of virtue and lay now in
gaol.

So she spoke to her two chief friends, her that had been Cicely
Elliott and her old husband Rochford, the knight of Bosworth Hedge.
They happened in upon her just after she was attired and had sent her
maid to fetch her dinner from the buttery.

'Three months agone,' she said, 'the King's Highness did bid me cease
from crying out upon Privy Seal; and not the King's Highness' self can
say that in that time I have spoken word against the Lord Cromwell.'

Cicely Elliott, who dressed, in spite of her new wedding, all in black
for the sake of some dead men, laughed round at her from her little
stool by the fire.

'God help you! that must have been hard, to keep thy tongue from the
flail of all Papists.'

The old knight, who was habited like Katharine, all in red, because at
that season the King favoured that colour, pulled nervously at his
little goat's beard, for all conversations that savoured of politics
and religion were to him very fearful. He stood back against the green
hangings and fidgeted with his feet.

But Katharine, who for the love of the King had been silent, was now
set to speak her mind.

'It is Seneca,' she said, 'who tells us to have a check upon our
tongues, but only till the moment approaches to speak.'

'Aye, goodman Seneca!' Cicely laughed round at her. Katharine smoothed
her hair, but her eyes gleamed deeply.

'The moment approaches,' she said; 'I do like my King, but better I
like my Church.' She swallowed in her throat. 'I had thought,' she
said, 'that Privy Seal would stay his harryings of the goodly nuns in
this land.' But now she had a petition, come that day from Lincoln
gaol. Cromwell's servants were more bitter still than ever against the
religious. Here was a false accusation of treason against her
foster-mother's self. 'I will soon end it or mend it, or lose mine own
head,' Katharine ended.

'Aye, pull down Cur Crummock,' Cicely said. 'I think the King shall
not long stay away from thy desires.'

The old knight burst in:

'I take it ill that ye speak of these things. I take it ill. I will
not have 'ee lose thy head in these quarrels.'

'Husband,' Cicely laughed round at him, 'three years ago Cur Crummock
had the heads of all my menfolk, having sworn they were traitors.'

'The more reason that he have not mine and thine now,' the old knight
answered grimly. 'I am not for these meddlings in things that concern
neither me nor thee.'

Cicely Elliott set her elbows upon her knees and her chin upon her
knuckles. She gazed into the fire and grew moody, as was her wont
when she had chanced to think of her menfolk that Cromwell had
executed.

'He might have had my head any day this four years,' she said. 'And
had you lost my head and me you might have had any other maid any day
that se'nnight.'

'Nay, I grow too old,' the knight answered. 'A week ago I dropped my
lance.'

Cicely continued to gaze at nothings in the fire.

'For thee,' she said scornfully to Katharine, 'it were better thou
hadst never been born than have meddled between kings and ministers
and faiths and nuns. You are not made for this world. You talk too
much. Get you across the seas to a nunnery.'

Katharine looked at her pitifully.

'Child,' she said, 'it was not I that spoke of thy menfolk.'

'Get thyself mewed up,' Cicely repeated more hotly; 'thou wilt set all
this world by the ears. This is no place for virtues learned from
learned books. This is an ill world where only evil men flourish.'

The old knight still fidgeted to be gone.

'Nay,' Katharine said seriously, 'ye think I will work mine own
advantage with the King. But I do swear to thee I have it not in my
mind.'

'Oh, swear not,' Cicely mumbled, 'all the world knoweth thee to be
that make of fool.'

'I would well to get me made a nun--but first I will bring nunneries
back from across the seas to this dear land.'

Cicely laughed again--for a long and strident while.

'You will come to no nunnery if you wait till then,' she said. 'Nuns
without their heads have no vocation.'

'When Cromwell is down, no woman again shall lose her head,' Katharine
answered hotly.

Cicely only laughed.

'No woman again!' Katharine repeated.

'Blood was tasted when first a queen fell on Tower Hill.' Cicely
pointed her little finger at her. 'And the taste of blood, even as the
taste of wine, ensureth a certain oblivion.'

'You miscall your King,' Katharine said.

Cicely laughed and answered: 'I speak of my world.'

Katharine's blood came hot to her cheeks.

'It is a new world from now on,' she answered proudly.

'Till a new queen's blood seal it an old one,' Cicely mocked her
earnestness. 'Hadst best get thee to a nunnery across the seas.'

'The King did bid me bide here.' Katharine faltered in the least.

'You have spoken of it with him?' Cicely said. 'Why, God help you!'

Katharine sat quietly, her fair hair gilded by the pale light of the
gusty day, her lips parted a little, her eyelids drooping. It behoved
her to move little, for her scarlet dress was very nice in its
equipoise, and fain she was to seem fine in Privy Seal's eyes.

'This King hath a wife to his tail,' Cicely mocked her.

The old knight had recovered his quiet; he had his hand upon his
haunch, and spoke with his air of wisdom:

'I would have you to cease these talkings of dangerous things,' he
said. 'I am Rochford of Bosworth Hedge. I have kept my head and my
lands, and my legs from chains--and how but by leaving to talk of
dangerous things?'

Katharine moved suddenly in her chair. This speech, though she had
heard it a hundred times before, struck her now as so craven that she
forgot alike her desire to keep fine and her friendship for the old
man's new wife.

'Aye, you have been a coward all your life,' she said: for were not
her dear nuns in Lincoln gaol, and this was a knight that should have
redressed wrongs!

Old Rochford smiled with his air of tranquil wisdom and corpulent age.

'I have struck good blows,' he said. 'There have been thirteen ballads
writ of me.'

'You have kept so close a tongue,' Katharine said to him hotly, 'that
I know not what you love. Be you for the old faith, or for this Church
of devils that Cromwell hath set up in the land? Did you love Queen
Katharine or Queen Anne Boleyn? Were you glad when More died, or did
you weep? Are you for the Statute of Users, or would you end it? Are
you for having the Lady Mary called bastard--God pardon me the
word!--or would you defend her with your life?--I do not know. I have
spoken with you many times--but I do not know.'

Old Rochford smiled contentedly.

'I have saved my head and my lands in these perilous times by letting
no man know,' he said.

'Aye,' Katharine met his words with scorn and appeal. 'You have kept
your head on your shoulders and the rent from your lands in your poke.
But oh, sir, it is certain that, being a man, you love either the new
ways or the old; it is certain that, being a spurred knight, you
should love the old ways. Sir, bethink you and take heed of this: that
the angels of God weep above England, that the Mother of God weeps
above England; that the saints of God do weep--and you, a spurred
knight, do wield a good sword. Sir, when you stand before the gates of
Heaven, what shall you answer the warders thereof?'

'Please God,' the old knight answered, 'that I have struck some good
blows.'

'Aye; you have struck blows against the Scots,' Katharine said. 'But
the beasts of the field strike as well against the foes of their
kind--the bull of the herd against lions; the Hyrcanian tiger against
the troglodytes; the basilisk against many beasts. It is the province
of a man to smite not only against the foes of his kind but--and how
much the more?--against the foes of his God.'

In the full flow of her speaking there came in the great, blonde
Margot Poins, her body-maid. She led by the hand the Magister Udal,
and behind them followed, with his foxy eyes and long, smooth beard,
the spy Throckmorton, vivid in his coat of green and scarlet
stockings. And, at the antipathy of his approach, Katharine's emotions
grew the more harrowing--as if she were determined to shew this evil
supporter of her cause how a pure fight should be waged. They moved
on tiptoe and stood against the hangings at the back.

She stretched out her hands to the old knight.

'Here you be in a pitiful and afflicted land from which the saints
have been driven out; have you struck one blow for the saints of God?
Nay, you have held your peace. Here you be where good men have been
sent to the block: have you decried their fates? You have seen noble
and beloved women, holy priests, blessed nuns defiled and martyred;
you have seen the poor despoiled; you have seen that knaves ruled by
aid of the devil about a goodly king. Have you struck one blow? Have
you whispered one word?'

The colour rushed into Margot Poins' huge cheeks. She kept her mouth
open to drink in her mistress's words, and Throckmorton waved his
hands in applause. Only Udal shuffled in his broken-toed shoes, and
old Rochford smiled benignly and tapped his chest above the chains.

'I have struck good blows in the quarrels that were mine,' he
answered.

Katharine wrung her hands.

'Sir, I have read it in books of chivalry, the province of a knight is
to succour the Church of God, to defend the body of God, to set his
lance in rest for the Mother of God; to defend noble men cast down,
and noble women; to aid holy priests and blessed nuns; to succour the
despoiled poor.'

'Nay, I have read no books of chivalry,' the old man answered; 'I
cannot read.'

'Ah, there be pitiful things in this world,' Katharine said, and her
chest was troubled.

'You should quote Hesiodus,' Cicely mocked her suddenly from her
stool. 'I marked this text when all my menfolk were slain: [Greek:
pleiê men gar gaia, pleiê de thalassa] so I have laughed ever since.'

Upon her, too, Katharine turned.

'You also,' she said; 'you also.'

'No, before God, I am no coward,' Cicely Elliott said. 'When all my
menfolk were slain by the headsman something broke in my head, and
ever since I have laughed. But before God, in my way I have tried to
plague Cromwell. If he would have had my head he might have.'

'Yet what hast thou done for the Church of God?' Katharine said.

Cicely Elliott sprang to the floor and raised her hands with such
violence that Throckmorton moved swiftly forward.

'What did the Church of God for me?' she cried. 'Guard your face from
my nails ere you ask me that again. I had a father; I had two
brothers; I had two men I loved passing well. They all died upon one
day upon the one block. Did the saints of God save them? Go see their
heads upon the gates of York?'

'But if they died for God His pitiful sake,' Katharine said--'if they
did die in the quarrel of God's wounds----'

Cicely Elliott screamed, with her hands above her head.

'Is that not enow? Is that not enow?'

'Then it is I, not thou, that love them,' Katharine said; 'for I, not
thou, shall carry on the work for which they died.'

'Oh gaping, pink-faced fool!' Cicely Elliott sneered at her.

She began to laugh, holding her black sides in, her face thrown back.
Then she closed her mouth and stood smiling.

'You were made for a preacher, coney,' she said. 'Fine to hear thee
belabouring my old, good knight with doughty words.'

'Gibe as thou wilt; scream as thou wilt----' Katharine began. Cicely
Elliott tossed in on her words:

'My head ached so. I had the right of it to scream. I cannot be minded
of my menfolk but my head will ache. But I love thy fine preaching.
Preach on.'

Katharine raised herself from her chair.

'Words there must be that will move thee,' she said, 'if God will give
them to me.'

'God hath withdrawn Himself from this world,' Cicely answered. 'All
mankind goeth a-mumming.'

'It was another thing that Polycrates said.' Katharine, in spite of
her emotion, was quick to catch the misquotation.

'Coney,' Cicely Elliott answered, 'all men wear masks; all men lie;
all men desire the goods of all men and seek how they may get them.'

'But Cromwell being down, these things shall change,' Katharine
answered. '_Res, aetas, usus, semper aliquid apportent novi._'

Cicely Elliott fell back into her chair and laughed.

'What are we amongst that multitude?' she said. 'Listen to me: When my
menfolk were cast to die, I flew to Gardiner to save them. Gardiner
would not speak. Now is he Bishop of Winchester--for he had goods of
my father's, and greased with them the way to his bishop's throne.
Fanshawe is a goodly Papist; but Cromwell hath let him have goods of
the Abbey of Bright. Will Fanshawe help thee to bring back the Church?
Then he must give up his lands. Will Cranmer help thee? Will Miners?
Coney, I loved Federan, a true man: Miners hath his land to-day, and
Federan's mother starves. Will Miners help thee to gar the King do
right? Then the mother of my love Federan must have Miners' land and
the rents for seven years. Will Cranmer serve thee to bring back the
Bishop of Rome? Why, Cranmer would burn.'

'But the poorer sort----' Katharine said.

'There is no man will help thee whose help will avail,' Cicely mocked
at her. 'For hear me: No man now is up in the land that hath not goods
of the Church; fields of the abbeys; spoons made of the parcel gilt
from the shrines. There is no rich man now but is rich with stolen
riches; there is no man now up that was not so set up. And the men
that be down have lost their heads. Go dig in graves to find men that
shall help thee.'

'Cromwell shall fall ere May goeth out,' Katharine said.

'Well, the King dotes upon thy sweet face. But Cromwell being down,
there will remain the men he hath set up. Be they lovers of the old
faith, or thee? Now, thy pranks will ruin all alike.'

'The King is minded to right these wrongs,' Katharine protested hotly.

'The King! The King!' Cicely laughed. 'Thou lovest the King.... Nay an
thou lovest the King.... But to be enamoured of the King.... And the
King enamoured of thee ... why, this pair of lovers cast adrift upon
the land----'

Katharine said:

'Belike I am enamoured of the King: belike the King of me, I do not
know. But this I know: he and I are minded to right the wrongs of
God.'

Cicely Elliott opened her eyes wide.

'Why, thou art a very infectious fanatic!' she said. 'You may well do
these things. But you must shed much blood. You must widow many men's
wives. Body of God! I believe thou wouldst.'

'God forbid it!' Katharine said. 'But if He so willeth it, _fiat
voluntas_.'

'Why, spare no man,' Cicely answered. 'Thou shalt not very easily
escape.'

It was at this point that the magister was moved to keep no longer
silence.

'Now, by all the gods of high Olympus!' he cried out, 'such things
shall not be alleged against me. For I do swear, before Venus and all
the saints, that I am your man.'

Nevertheless, it was Margot Poins, wavering between her love for her
magister and her love for her mistress, that most truly was carried
away by Katharine's eloquence.

'Mistress,' she said, and she indicated both the magister and his tall
and bearded companion, 'these two have made up a pretty plot upon the
stairs. There are in it papers from Cleves and a matter of deceiving
Privy Seal and thou shouldst be kept in ignorance asking to--to----'

Her gruff voice failed and her blushes overcame her, so that she
wanted for a word. But upon the mention of papers and Privy Seal the
old knight fidgeted and faltered:

'Why, let us begone.' Cicely Elliott glanced from one to the other of
them with a malicious glee, and Throckmorton's eyes blinked
sardonically above his beard.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been actually upon the stairs that he had come upon the
magister, newly down from his horse, and both stiff and bruised, with
Margot Poins hanging about his neck and begging him to spare her a
moment. Throckmorton crept up the dark stairway with his shoes soled
with velvet. The magister was seeking to disengage himself from the
girl with the words that he had a treaty form of the Duke of Cleves in
his bosom and must hasten on the minute to give it to her mistress.

'Before God!' Throckmorton had said behind his back, 'ye will do no
such thing,' and Udal had shrieked out like a rabbit caught by a
ferret in its bury. For here he had seemed to find himself caught by
the chief spy of Privy Seal upon a direct treason against Privy Seal's
self.

But, dragging alike the terrified magister and the heavy, blonde girl
who clung to him out from the dark stairhead into the corridor, where,
since no one could come upon them unseen or unheard, it was the safest
place in the palace to speak, Throckmorton had whispered into his ear
a long, swift speech in which he minced no matters at all.

The time, he said, was ripe to bring down Privy Seal. He
himself--Throckmorton himself--loved Kat Howard with a love compared
to which the magister's was a rushlight such as you bought fifty for a
halfpenny. Privy Seal was ravening for a report of that treaty. They
must, before all things, bring him a report that was false. For, for
sure, upon that report Privy Seal would act, and, if they brought him
a false report, Privy Seal would act falsely.

Udal stood perfectly still, looking at nothing, his thin brown hand
clasped round his thin brown chin.

'But, above all,' Throckmorton had concluded, 'show ye no papers to
Kat Howard. For it is very certain that she will have no falsehoods
employed to bring down Privy Seal, though she hate him as the
Assyrian cockatrice hateth the symbol of the Cross.'

'Sir Throckmorton,' Margot Poins had uttered, 'though ye be a paid
spy, ye speak true words there.'

He pulled his beard and blinked at her.

'I am minded to reform,' he said. 'Your mistress hath worked a miracle
of conversion in me.'

She shrugged her great fair shoulders at this, and spoke to the
magister:

'It is very true,' she said, 'that this spying knight affects my
mistress. But whether it be for the love of virtue, or for the love of
her body, or because the cat jumps that way and there he observeth
fortune to rise, I leave to God who reads all hearts.'

'There speaks a wench brought up and taught by Protestants,'
Throckmorton gibed pleasantly at her; 'or ye have caught the trick of
Kat Howard, who, though she be a Papist as good as I, yet prates
virtue like a Lutheran.'

'Ye lie!' Margot said; 'my mistress getteth her virtue from good
letters.'

Throckmorton smiled at her again.

'Wench,' he said, 'in all save doctrine, this Kat Howard and her
learning are nearer Lutheran than of the old faith.'

With his malice he set himself to bewilder Margot. They made a little,
shadowy knot in the long corridor. For he wished to give Udal, who in
his long gown stood deaf-faced, like a statue of contemplation, the
time to come to a conclusion.

'Why, you are a very mean wag,' Margot said. 'I have heard my
uncle--who is, as ye wot, a Protestant and a printer--I have heard him
speak of Luther and of Bucer and of the word of God and suchlike
canting books, but never once of Seneca and Tully, that my mistress
loves.'

'Why, ye are learning the trick of tongues,' Throckmorton mocked.
'Please God, when your mistress cometh to be Queen--may He send it
soon!--there shall be such a fashion and contagion of talking----'

Having his eyes on Udal, he broke off suddenly, and said with a harsh
sharpness:

'I have given you time to make a resolution. Speak quickly. Will you
come into our boat with us that will bring down Privy Seal?'

Udal winced, but Throckmorton held him by the wrist.

'Then unpouch quickly thy Cleves papers,' he said; 'we have but a
little time to turn them round.'

Udal's thin hand sought nervously the opening of his jerkin beneath
his gown: he drew it back, moved it forward again, and stood quivering
with doubt.

Throckmorton stood vaingloriously back upon his feet and combed his
great beard with his white fingers.

'Magister,' he uttered triumphantly, 'well you wot that such a man as
you cannot plot for himself alone; you will make naught of your
treasure trove save a cleft neck!'

And, furtively, cringing back into the dark hangings, a bent, broken
figure like a miser unpouching his gold, Udal undid his breast
lacings.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was hot from this colloquy that Margot Poins had led the two men in
upon her mistress in her large dim room. Because she hated the great
spy, since he loved Kat Howard and had undone many good men with false
tales, she had not been able to keep her tongue from seeking to wound
him.

'Ye are too true to mix in plots,' she brought out gruffly.

Cicely Rochford came close to Katharine and measured her neck with the
span of her small hand.

'There is room!' she said. 'Hast a long and a straight neck.'

Her husband muttered that he liked not these talkings. By diligent
avoidance of such, he had kept his own hair and neck uncut in
troublesome times.

'I will take thee to another place,' Cicely threw at him over her
shoulder. 'Shalt kiss me in a dark room. It is very certain maids'
talk is no fit hearing for thy jolly old ears.'

She took him delicately at the end of his short white beard between
her long finger and thumb, and, with her high and mincing step, led
him through the door.

'God save this room, where all the virtues bide!' she cried out, and
drew her overskirt closer to her as she passed near the great, bearded
spy.

Katharine turned and faced Throckmorton.

It is even as the maid saith,' she uttered. 'I am too true to mix in
plots.'

'Neither will ye give us to death!' Throckmorton faced her back so
that she paused for breath, and the pause lasted a full minute.

'Sir,' she said, 'I do give you a fair and a full warning that, if you
do plot against Privy Seal, and if knowledge of your plotting cometh
to mine ears--though I ask not to know of them--I will tell of your
plottings----'

'Oh, before God!' Udal cried out, 'I have suckled you with learned
writers; I have carried letters for you; will you give me to die?' and
Margot wailed from a deep chest: 'The magister so well hath loved
thee. Give him not into die hands of Cur Crummock!--would I had never
told thee that they plotted!'

'Fool!' Throckmorton said; 'it is to the King she will go with her
tales.' He sat down upon her yellow-wood table and swung one crimson
leg before the other, laughing gleefully at Katharine's astonished
face.

'Sir,' she said at last; 'it is true that I will go, not to my lord
Privy Seal, but to the King.'

Throckmorton held up one of his white hands to the light and, with the
other, smoothed down its little finger.

'See you?' he gibed softly at Margot. 'How better I guess this thing,
mistress, than thou. For I do know her better.'

Katharine looked at him with a soft glance and said pitifully:

'Nevertheless, what shall it profit thee if I take a tale of thy
treasons to the King's Highness?'

Throckmorton sprang from the table and clapped his heels together on
the floor.

'It shall get me made an earl,' he said. 'The King will do that much
for the man that shall rid him of his minister.' He reflected foxily
and for a quick moment. 'Before God!' he said,'take this tale to the
King, for it is the true tale: That the Duke of Cleves seeks, in
France, to have done with his alliance. He will no more cleave to his
brother-in-law, but will make submission to the Emperor and to Rome!'

He paused, and then finished:

'For that news the King shall love you much more than before. But God
help me! it takes thee the more out of my reach!'

As they left the room to go to the audience with Cromwell, Katharine,
squaring the frills of her hood behind her back, could hear Margot
Poins grumbling to the magister:

'After these long days ye ha' time for five minutes to hold my hand,'
and the magister, perturbed and fumbling in his bosom, muttered:

'Nay, I have no minutes now. I must write much in Latin ere thy
mistress return.'


VI


'By God,' Wriothesley said when she entered the long gallery where the
men were. 'This is a fair woman!'

She had command of her features, and her eyes were upon the ground; it
was a part of a woman's upbringing to walk well, and her masters had
so taught her when she had lived with her grandmother, the old
duchess. Not the tips of her shoes shewed beneath the zigzag folds of
her russet-brown underskirt; the tips of her scarlet sleeves netted
with gold touched the waxed wood of the floor; her hood fell behind to
the ground, and her fair hair was golden where the sunlight fell on it
with a last, watery ray.

Upon Privy Seal she raised her eyes; she bent her knees so that her
gown spread out all around her when she curtsied, and, having arranged
it with a slow hand, she came to her height again, rustling as if she
rose from a wave.

'Sir,' she said, 'I come to pray you to right a great wrong done by
your servants.'

'By God!' Wriothesley said, 'she speaks high words.'

'Madam Howard,' Cromwell answered--and his eyes graciously dwelt upon
her tall form. She had clasped her hands before her lap and looked
into his face. 'Madam Howard, you are more learned in the better
letters than I; but I would have you call to memory one Pancrates, of
whom telleth Lucian. Being in a desert or elsewhere, this magician
could turn sticks, stocks and stakes into servants that did his will.
Mark you, they did his will--no more and no less.'

'Sir,' Katharine said, 'ye have better servants than ever had
Pancrates. They do more than your behests.'

Cromwell bent his back, stretched aside his white hand and smiled
still.

'Ye trow truth,' he said. 'Yet ye do me wrong; for had I the servants
of Pancrates, assuredly he should hear no groans of injustice from men
of good will.'

'It is too good hearing,' Katharine said gravely. 'This is my
tale----'

Once before she had trembled in this man's presence, and still she had
a catching in the throat as her eyes measured his face. She was mad to
do right and to right wrongs, yet in his presence the doing of the
right, the righting of wrongs, seemed less easy than when she stood
before any other man. 'Sir,' she uttered, 'I have thought ye have done
ill afore now. I am nowise certain that ye thought your ill-doing an
evil. I beseech you for a patient hearing.'

But, though she told her story well--and it was an old story that she
had learned by heart--she could not be rid of the feeling that this
was a less easy matter than it had seemed to her, to call Cromwell
accursed. She had a moving tale of wrongs done by Cromwell's servant,
Dr Barnes, a visitor of a church in Lincolnshire near where her home
had been. For the lands had been taken from a little priory upon an
excuse that the nuns lived a lewd life; and so well had she known the
nuns, going in and out of the convent every week-day, that well she
knew the falseness of Cromwell's servant's tale.

'Sir,' she said to Cromwell, 'mine own foster-sister had the veil
there; mine own mother's sister was there the abbess.' She stretched
out a hand. 'Sir, they dwelled there simply and godly, withdrawn from
the world; succouring the poor; weaving of fine linens, for much flax
grew upon those lands by there; and praying God and the saints that
blessings fall upon this land.'

Wriothesley spoke to her slowly and heavily:

'Such little abbeys ate up the substance of this land in the old days.
Well have we prospered since they were done away who ate up the
fatness of this realm. Now husbandmen till their idle soil and cattle
are in their buildings.'

'Gentleman whose name I know not,' she turned upon him, 'more wealth
and prosperity God granted us in answer to their prayers than could be
won by all the husbandmen of Arcadia and all the kine of Cacus. God
standeth above all men's labours.' But Cromwell's servants had sworn
away the lands of the small abbey, and now the abbess and her nuns lay
in gaol accused--and falsely--of having secreted an image of Saint
Hugh to pray against the King's fortunes.

'Before God,' she said, 'and as Christ is my Saviour, I saw and make
deposition that these poor simple women did no such thing but loved
the King as he had been their good father. I have seen them at their
prayers. Before God, I say to you that they were as folk astonished
and dismayed; knowing so little of the world that ne one ne other knew
whence came the word that had bared them to the skies. I have seen
them--I.'

'Where went they?' Wriothesley said; 'what worked they?'

'Gentleman,' she answered; 'being cast out of their houses and their
veils, they knew nowhither to go; homes they had none; they lived with
their own hinds in hovels, like frightened lambs, the saints their
pastors being driven from their folds.'

'Aye,' Wriothesley said grimly, 'they cumbered the ground; they did
meet in knots for mutinies.'

'God had appointed them the duty of prayer,' Katharine answered him.
'They met and prayed in sheds and lodges of the house that had been
theirs, poor ghosts revisiting and bewailing their earthly homes. I
have prayed with them.'

'Ye have done a treason in that day,' Wriothesley answered.

'I have done the best that ever I did for this land,' she met him
fully. 'I prayed naught against the King and the republic. I have
prayed you and your like might be cast down. So do I still. I stand
here to avow it. But they never did, and they do lie in gaol.' She
turned again upon Cromwell and spoke piteously from her full throat.
'My lord,' she cried. 'Soften your heart and let the wax in your ears
melt so that ye hear. Your servants swore falsely when they said these
women lived lewdly; your men swore falsely when they said that these
women prayed treasonably. For the one count they took their lands and
houses; for the other they lay them in the gaols. Sir, my lord, your
servants go up and down this land; sir, my lord, they ride rich men
with boots of steel and do strangle the poor with gloves of iron. I do
think ye know they do it; I do pray ye know not. But, sir, if ye will
right this wrong I will kiss your hands; if you will set up again
these homes of prayer I will take a veil, and in one of them spend my
days praying that good befall you and yours.' She paused in her
speaking and then began again: 'Before I came here I had made me a
fair speech. I have forgot it, and words come haltingly to me. Sirs,
ye think I seek mine own aggrandisement; ye think I do wish ye cast
down. Before God, I wish ye were cast down if ye continue in these
ways; but I have prayed to God who sent the Pentecostal fires, to
give me the gift of tongues that shall soften your hearts----'

Cromwell interrupted her, smiling that Venus, who made her so fair,
gave her no need of a gift of tongues, and Minerva, who made her so
learned, gave her no need of fairness. For the sake of the one and the
other, he would very diligently enquire into these women's courses. If
they ha been guiltless, they should be richly repaid; if they ha been
guilty, they should be pardoned.

Katharine flushed with a hot anger.

'Ye are a very craven lord,' she said. 'If you may find them guilty,
you shall have my head. But if you do find them innocent and shield
them not, I swear I will strive to have thine.' Anger made her blue
eyes dilate. 'Have you no bowels of compassion for the right? Ye treat
me as a fair woman--but I speak as a messenger of the King's, that is
God's, to men who too long have hardened their hearts.'

Throckmorton laid back his head and laughed suddenly at the ceiling;
Cranmer crossed himself; Wriothesley beat his heel upon the floor and
shrugged his shoulders bitterly--but Lascelles, the Archbishop's spy,
kept his eyes upon Throckmorton's face with a puzzled scrutiny.

'Why now does that man laugh?' he asked himself. For it seemed to him
that by laughing Throckmorton applauded Katharine Howard. And indeed,
Throckmorton applauded Katharine Howard. As policy her speech was
neither here nor there, but as voicing a spirit, infectious and
winning to men's hearts, he saw that such speaking should carry her
very far. And, if it should embroil her more than ever with Cromwell,
it would the further serve his adventures. He was already conspiring
to betray Cromwell, and he knew that, very soon now, Cromwell must
pierce his mask of loyalty; and the more Katharine should have cast
down her glove to Cromwell, the more he could shelter behind her; and
the more men she could have made her friends with her beauty and her
fine speeches, the more friends he too should have to his back when
the day of discovery came. In the meantime he had in his sleeve a
trick that he would speedily play upon Cromwell, the most dangerous of
any that he had played. For below the stairs he had Udal, with his
news of the envoy from Cleves to France, and with his copies of the
envoy's letters. But, in her turn, Katharine played him, unwittingly
enough, a trick that puzzled him.

'Bones of St Nairn!' he said; 'she has him to herself. What mad prank
will she play now?'

Katharine had drawn Cromwell to the very end of the gallery.

'As I pray that Christ will listen to my pleas when at the last I come
to Him for pardon and comfort,' she said, 'I swear that I will speak
true words to you.'

He surveyed her, plump, alert, his lips moving one upon the other. He
brought one white soft hand from behind his back to play with the furs
upon his chest.

'Why, I believe you are a very earnest woman,' he said.

'Then, sir,' she said, 'understand that your sun is near its setting.
We rise, we wane; our little days do run their course. But I do
believe you love your King his cause more than most men.'

'Madam Howard,' he said, 'you have been my foremost foe.'

'Till five minutes agone I was,' she said.

He wondered for a moment if she were minded to beg him to aid her in
growing to be Queen; and he wondered too how that might serve his
turn. But she spoke again:

'You have very well served the King,' she said. 'You have made him
rich and potent. I believe ye have none other desire so great as that
desire to make him potent and high in this world's gear.'

'Madam Howard,' he said calmly, 'I desire that--and next to found for
myself a great house that always shall serve the throne as well as I.'

She gave him the right to that with a lowering of her eyebrows.

'I too would see him a most high prince,' she said. 'I would see him
shed lustre upon his friends, terror upon his foes, and a great light
upon this realm and age.'

She paused to touch him earnestly with one long hand, and to brush
back a strand of her hair. Down the gallery she saw Lascelles moving
to speak with Throckmorton and Wriothesley holding the Archbishop
earnestly by the sleeve.

'See,' she said, 'you are surrounded now by traitors that will bring
you down. In foreign lands your cause wavers. I tell you, five minutes
agone I wished you swept away.'

Cromwell raised his eyebrows.

'Why, I knew that this was difficult fighting,' he said. 'But I know
not what giveth me your good wishes.'

'My lord,' she answered, 'it came to me in my mind: What man is there
in the land save Privy Seal that so loveth his master's cause?'

Cromwell laughed.

'How well do you love this King,' he said.

'I love this King; I love this land,' she said, 'as Cato loved Rome or
Leonidas his realm of Sparta.'

Cromwell pondered, looking down at his foot; his lips moved furtively,
he folded his hand inside his sleeves; and he shook his head when
again she made to speak. He desired another minute for thought.

'This I perceive to be the pact you have it in your mind to make,' he
said at last, 'that if you come to sway the King towards Rome I shall
still stay his man and yours?'

She looked at him, her lips parted with a slight surprise that he
should so well have voiced thoughts that she had hardly put into
words. Then her faith rose in her again and moved her to pitiful
earnestness.

'My lord,' she uttered, and stretched out one hand. 'Come over to us.
'Tis such great pity else--'tis such pity else.'

She looked again at Throckmorton, who, in the distance, was surveying
the Archbishop's spy with a sardonic amusement, and a great
mournfulness went through her. For there was the traitor and here
before her was the betrayed. Throckmorton had told her enough to know
that he was conspiring against his master, and Cromwell trusted
Throckmorton before any man in the land; and it was as if she saw one
man with a dagger hovering behind another. With her woman's instinct
she felt that the man about to die was the better man, though he were
her foe. She was minded--she was filled with a great desire to say:
'Believe no word that Throckmorton shall tell you. The Duke of Cleves
is now abandoning your cause.' That much she had learnt from Udal five
minutes before. But she could not bring herself to betray
Throckmorton, who was a traitor for the sake of her cause. ''Tis such
pity,' she repeated again.

'Good wench,' Cromwell said, 'you are indifferent honest; but never
while I am the King's man shall the Bishop of Rome take toll again in
the King's land.'

She threw up her hands.

'Alack!' she said, 'shall not God and His Son our Saviour have their
part of the King's glory?'

'God is above us all,' he answered. 'But there is no room for two
heads of a State, and in a State is room but for one army. I will have
my King so strong that ne Pope ne priest ne noble ne people shall here
have speech or power. So it is now; I have so made it, the King
helping me. Before I came this was a distracted State; the King's writ
ran not in the east, not in the west, not in the north, and hardly in
the south parts. Now no lord nor no bishop nor no Pope raises head
against him here. And, God willing, in all the world no prince shall
stand but by grace of this King's Highness. This land shall have the
wealth of all the world; this King shall guide this land. There shall
be rich husbandmen paying no toll to priests, but to the King alone;
there shall be wealthy merchants paying no tax to any prince nor
emperor, but only to this King. The King's court shall redress all
wrongs; the King's voice shall be omnipotent in the council of the
princes.'

'Ye speak no word of God,' she said pitifully.

'God is very far away,' he answered.

'Sir, my lord,' she cried, and brushed again the tress from her
forehead. 'Ye have made this King rich with gear of the Church: if ye
will be friends with me ye shall make this King a pauper to repay; ye
have made this King stiffen his neck against God's Vicegerent: if you
and I shall work together ye shall make him re-humble himself. Christ
the King of all the world was a pauper; Christ the Saviour of all
mankind humbled Himself before God that was His Saviour.'

Cromwell said 'Amen.'

'Sir,' she said again; 'ye have made this King rich, but I will give
to him again his power to sleep at night; ye have made this realm
subject to this King, but, by the help of God, I will make it subject
again to God. You have set up here a great State, but oh, the children
of God do weep since ye came. Where is a town where lamentation is not
heard? Where is a town where no orphan or widow bewails the day that
saw your birth?' She had sobs in her voice and she wrung her hands.
'Sir,' she cried, 'I say you are as a dead man already--your day of
pride is past, whether ye aid us or no. Set yourself then to redress
as heartily as ye have set yourself in the past to make sad. That land
is blest whose people are happy; that State is aggrandised whence
there arise songs praising God for His blessings. You have built up a
great city of groans; set yourself now to build a kingdom where
"Praise God" shall be sung. It is a contented people that makes a
State great; it is the love of God that maketh a people rich.'

Cromwell laughed mirthlessly:

'There are forty thousand men like Wriothesley in England,' he said.
'God help you if you come against them; there are forty times forty
thousand and forty times that that pray you not again to set disorder
loose in this land. I have broken all stiff necks in this realm. See
you that you come not against some yet.' He stopped, and added: 'Your
greatest foes should be your own friends if I be a dead man as you
say.' And he smiled at her bewilderment when he had added: 'I am your
bulwark and your safeguard.'

... 'For, listen to me,' he took up again his parable. 'Whilst I be
here I bear the rancour of your friends' hatred. When I am gone you
shall inherit it.'

'Sir,' she said, 'I am not here to hear riddles, but here I am to pray
you seek the right.'

'Wench,' he said pleasantly, 'there are in this world many rights--you
have yours; I mine. But mine can never be yours nor yours mine. I am
not yet so dead as ye say; but if I be dead, I wish you so well that I
will send you a phial of poison ere I send to take you to the stake.
For it is certain that if you have not my head I shall have yours.'

She looked at him seriously, though the tears ran down her cheeks.

'Sir,' she uttered, 'I do take you to be a man of your word. Swear to
me, then, that if upon the fatal hill I do save you your life and your
estates, you will nowise work the undoing of the Church in time to
come.'

'Madam Queen that shall be,' he said, 'an ye gave me my life this day,
to-morrow I would work as I worked yesterday. If ye have faith of your
cause I have the like of mine.'

She hung her head, and said at last:

'Sir, an ye have a little door here at the gallery end I will go out
by it'; for she would not again face the men who made the little knot
before the window. He moved the hangings aside and stood before the
aperture smiling.

'Ye came to ask a boon of me,' he said. 'Is it your will still that I
grant it?'

'Sir,' she answered, 'I asked a boon of you that I thought you would
not grant, so that I might go to the King and shew him your evil
dealings with his lieges.'

'I knew it well,' he said. 'But the King will not cast me down till
the King hath had full use of me.'

'You have a very great sight into men's minds,' she uttered, and he
laughed noiselessly once again.

'I am as God made me,' he said. Then he spoke once more. 'I will read
your mind if you will. Ye came to me in this crisis, thinking with
yourself: _Liars go unto the King saying, "This Cromwell is a traitor;
cast him down, for he seeks your ill." I will go unto the King saying,
"This Cromwell grindeth the faces of the poor and beareth false
witness. Cast him down, though he serve you well, since he maketh your
name to stink to heaven."_ So I read my fellow-men.'

'Sir,' she said, 'it is very true that I will not be linked with
liars. And it is very true that men do so speak of you to the King's
Highness.'

'Why,' he answered her debonairly, 'the King shall listen neither to
them nor to you till the day be come. Then he will act in his own good
way--upon the pretext that I be a traitor, or upon the pretext that I
have borne false witness, or upon no pretext at all.'

'Nevertheless will I speak for the truth that shall prevail,' she
answered.

'Why, God help you!' was his rejoinder.

       *       *       *       *       *

Going back to his friends in the window Cromwell meditated that it was
possible to imagine a woman that thought so simply; yet it was
impossible to imagine one that should be able to act with so great a
simplicity. On the one hand, if she stayed about the King she should
be his safeguard, for it was very certain that she should not tell the
King that he was a traitor. And that above all was what Cromwell had
to fear. He had, for his own purposes, so filled the King with the
belief that treachery overran his land, that the King saw treachery in
every man. And Cromwell was aware, well enough, that such of his
adherents as were Protestant--such men as Wriothesley--had indeed
boasted that they were twenty thousand swords ready to fall upon even
the King if he set against the re-forming religion in England. This
was the greatest danger that he had--that an enemy of his should tell
the King that Privy Seal had behind his back twenty thousand swords.
For that side of the matter Katharine Howard was even a safeguard,
since with her love of truth she would assuredly combat these liars
with the King.

But, on the other hand, the King had his superstitious fears; only
that night, pale, red-eyed and heavy, and being unable to sleep, he
had sent to rouse Cromwell and had furiously rated him, calling him
knave and shaking him by the shoulder, telling him for the twentieth
time to find a way to make a peace with the Bishop of Rome. These were
only night-fears--but, if Cleves should desert Henry and
Protestantism, if all Europe should stand solid for the Pope, Henry's
night-fears might eat up his day as well. Then indeed Katharine would
be dangerous. So that she was indeed half foe, half friend.

It hinged all upon Cleves; for if Cleves stood friend to Protestantism
the King would fear no treason; if Cleves sued for pardon to the
Emperor and Rome, Henry must swing towards Katharine. Therefore, if
Cleves stood firm to Protestantism and defied the Emperor, it would be
safe to work at destroying Katharine; if not, he must leave her by the
King to defend his very loyalty.

The Archbishop challenged him with uplifted questioning eyebrows, and
he answered his gaze with:

'God help ye, goodman Bishop; it were easier for thee to deal with
this maid than for me. She would take thee to her friend if thou
wouldst curry with Rome.'

'Aye,' Cranmer answered. 'But would Rome have truck with me?' and he
shook his head bitterly. He had been made Archbishop with no sanction
from Rome.

Cromwell turned upon Wriothesley; the debonair smile was gone from his
face; the friendly contempt that he had for the Archbishop was gone
too; his eyes were hard, cruel and red, his lips hardened.

'Ye have done me a very evil turn,' he said. 'Ye spoke stiff-necked
folly to this lady. Ye shall learn, Protestants that ye are, that if I
be the flail of the monks I may be a hail, a lightning, a bolt from
heaven upon Lutherans that cross the King.'

The hard malice of his glance made Wriothesley quail and flush
heavily.

'I thought ye had been our friend,' he said.

'Wriothesley,' Cromwell answered, 'I tell thee, silly knave, that I be
friend only to them that love the order and peace I have made, under
the King's Highness, in this realm. If it be the King's will to
stablish again the old faith, a hammer of iron will I be upon such as
do raise their heads against it. It were better ye had never been
born, it were better ye were dead and asleep, than that ye raised your
heads against me.' He turned, then he swung back with the sharpness of
a viper's spring.

'What help have I had of thee and thy friends? I have bolstered up
Cleves and his Lutherans for ye. What have he and ye done for me and
my King? Your friend the Duke of Cleves has an envoy in Paris. Have ye
found for why he comes there? Ye could not. Ye have botched your
errand to Paris; ye have spoken naughtily in my house to a friend of
the King's that came friendlily to me.' He shook a fat finger an inch
from Wriothesley's eyes. 'Have a care! I did send my visitors to smell
out treason among the convents and abbeys. Wait ye till I send them to
your conventicles! Ye shall not scape. Body of God! ye shall not
scape.'

He placed a heavy hand upon Throckmorton's shoulder.

'I would I had sent thee to Paris,' he said. 'No envoy had come there
whose papers ye had not seen. I warrant thou wouldst have ferreted
them through.'

Throckmorton's eyes never moved; his mouth opened and he spoke with
neither triumph nor malice:

'In very truth, Privy Seal,' he said, 'I have ferreted through enow of
them to know why the envoy came to Paris.'

Cromwell kept his hands still firm upon his spy's shoulder whilst the
swift thoughts ran through his mind. He scowled still upon
Wriothesley.

'Sir,' he said, 'ye see how I be served. What ye could not find in
Paris my man found for me in London town.' He moved his face round
towards the great golden beard of his spy. 'Ye shall have the farms ye
asked me for in Suffolk,' he said. 'Tell me now wherefore came the
Cleves envoy to France. Will Cleves stay our ally, or will he send
like a coward to his Emperor?'

'Privy Seal,' Throckmorton answered expressionlessly--he fingered his
beard for a moment and felt at the medal depending upon his
chest--'Cleves will stay your friend and the King's ally.'

A great sigh went up from his three hearers at Throckmorton's lie; and
impassive as he was, Throckmorton sighed too, imperceptibly beneath
the mantle of his beard. He had burned his boats. But for the others
the sigh was of a great contentment. With Cleves to lead the German
Protestant confederation, the King felt himself strong enough to make
headway against the Pope, the Emperor and France. So long as the Duke
of Cleves remained a rebel against his lord the Emperor, the King
would hold over Protestantism the mantle of his protection.

Cromwell broke in upon their thoughts with his swift speech.

'Sirs,' he uttered, 'then what ye will shall come to pass.
Wriothesley, I pardon thee; get thee back to Paris to thy mission.
Archbishop, I trow thou shalt have the head of that wench. Her cousin
shall be brought here again from France.'

Lascelles, the Archbishop's spy, who kept his gaze upon
Throckmorton's, saw the large man's eyes shift suddenly from one board
of the floor to another.

'That man is not true,' he said to himself, and fell into a train of
musing. But from the others Cromwell had secured the meed of wonder
that he desired. He had closed the interview with a dramatic speech;
he had given them something to talk of.


VII


He held Throckmorton in the small room that contained upon its high
stand the Privy Seal of England in an embroidered purse. All red and
gold, this symbol of power held the eye away from the dark-green
tapestry and from the pigeon-holes filled with parchment scrolls
wherefrom there depended so many seals each like a gout of blood. The
room was so high that it appeared small, but there was room for
Cromwell to pace about, and here, walking from wall to wall, he
evolved those schemes that so fast held down the realm. He paced
always, his hands behind his back, his lips moving one upon the other
as if he ruminated--(His foes said that he talked thus with his
familiar fiend that had the form of a bee.)--and his black cap with
ear-flaps always upon his head, for he suffered much with the earache.

He walked now, up and down and up and down, saying nothing, whilst
from time to time Throckmorton spoke a word or two. Throckmorton
himself had his doubts--doubts as to how the time when it would be
safe to let it be known that he had betrayed his master might be found
to fit in with the time when his master must find that he had betrayed
him. He had, as he saw it, to gain time for Katharine Howard so she
might finally enslave the King's desires. That there was one weak spot
in her armour he thought he knew, and that was her cousin that was
said to be her lover. That Cromwell knew of her weak spot he knew too;
that Cromwell through that would strike at her he knew too. All
depended upon whether he could gain time so that Cromwell should be
down before he could use his knowledge.

For that reason he had devised the scheme of making Cromwell feel a
safety about the affairs of Cleves. Udal fortunately wrote a very
swift Latin. Thus, when going to fetch Katharine to her interview with
Privy Seal he had found Udal bursting with news of the Cleves embassy
and with the letters of the Duke of Cleves actually copied on papers
in his poke, Throckmorton had very swiftly advised with himself how to
act. He had set Udal very earnestly to writing a false letter from
Cleves to France--such a letter as Cleves might have written--and this
false letter, in the magister's Latin, he had placed now in his
master's hands, and, pacing up and down, Cromwell read from time to
time from the scrap of paper.

What Cleves had written was that he was fain to make submission to the
Emperor, and leave the King's alliance. What Cromwell read was this:
That the high and mighty Prince, the Duke of Cleves, was firmly minded
to adhere in his allegiance with the King of England: that he feared
the wrath of the Emperor Charles, who was his very good suzerain and
over-lord: that if by taxes and tributes he might keep away from his
territory the armies of the Emperor he would be well content to pay a
store of gold: that he begged his friend and uncle, King of France, to
intercede betwixt himself and the Emperor to the end that the Emperor
might take these taxes and tributes; for that, if the Emperor would
none of this, come peace, come war, he, the high and mighty Prince,
Duke of Cleves, Elector of the Empire, was minded to protect in
Germany the Protestant confession and to raise against the Emperor the
Princes and Electors of Almain, being Protestants. With the aid of his
brother-in-law the King of England he would drive the Emperor Charles
from the German lands together with the heresies of the Romish Bishop
and all things that pertained to the Emperor Charles and his religion.

Cromwell had listened to the reading of this letter in silence; in
silence he re-perused it himself, pacing up and down, and in between
phrases of his thoughts he read passages from it and nodded his head.

That this was a very dangerous enterprise Throckmorton was assured; it
was the first overt act of his that Privy Seal could discover in him
as a treachery. In a month or six weeks he must know the truth; but in
a month or six weeks Katharine must have so enslaved the King that
all danger from Cromwell would be past. And he trusted that the
security that Cromwell must feel would gar him delay striking at
Katharine by means of her cousin.

Cromwell said suddenly:

'How got the magister these papers?' and Throckmorton answered that it
was through the widow that kept the tavern. Cromwell said negligently:

'Let the magister be rewarded with ten crowns a quarter to his fees.
Set it down in my tables'; and then like lightning came the query:

'Do ye believe of her cousin and the Lady Katharine?'

Craving a respite for thought and daring to take none for fear
Cromwell should read him, Throckmorton answered:

'Ye know I think yes.'

'I have said I think no,' Cromwell answered in turn, but
dispassionately as though it were a matter of the courses of stars;
'though it is very certain that her cousin is so mad with love for her
that we had much ado to send him from her to Paris.' He paced three
times from wall to wall and then spoke again:

'Men enow have said she was too fond with her cousin?'

With despair in his heart Throckmorton answered:

'It is the common talk in Lincolnshire where her home is. I have seen
a cub in a cowherd's that was said to be her child by him.'

It was useless to speak otherwise to Privy Seal; if he did not report
these things, twenty others would. But, beneath his impassive face and
his great beard, despair filled him. He might swear treason against
Cromwell to the King; but the King would not hear him alone, and
without the King and Katharine he was a sparrow in Cromwell's hawk's
talons.

'Why,' Cromwell said, 'since Cleves is true to us we will have this
woman down. An he had played us false I would have kept her near the
King.'

This saying, that ran so counter to Throckmorton's schemes, caused him
such dismay that he cried out:

'God forgive us, why?'

Cromwell smiled at him as one who smiles from a great height, and
pointed a finger.

'This is a hard fight,' he said; 'we are in some straits. I trow ye
would have voiced it otherwise.' And then he voiced his own idea--that
so long as Cleves was friends with him Katharine was an enemy; if
Cleves fell away she was none the less an enemy, but she would, from
her love of justice, bear witness to the King that Cromwell was no
traitor. 'And ye shall be very certain,' he added pleasantly, 'that
once men see the King so inclined, they will go to the King saying I
be a traitor, with Protestants like Wriothesley ready to rise and aid
me. In that pass the Lady Katharine should stay by me, in the King's
ear.'

A deep and intolerable dejection overcame Throckmorton and forced from
his lips the words:

'Ye reason most justly.' And again he cursed himself, for he had
forced Cromwell to this reasoning and action. Yet he dared not say
that his news of the Cleves embassy was false, that Cleves indeed was
minded to turn traitor, and that it most would serve Privy Seal's turn
to stay Katharine Howard up. He dared not say the words, yet he saw
his safety crumbling, and he saw Privy Seal set to ruin both himself
and Katharine Howard. For in his heart he could not believe that the
woman was virtuous, since he believed that no woman was virtuous who
had been given the opportunity for joyment. As a spy, he had gone
nosing about in Lincolnshire where Katharine's home had been near her
cousin's. He had heard many tales against her such as rustics will
tell against the daughters of poor lords like Katharine's father. And
these tales, before ever he had come to love her, he had set down in
Privy Seal's private registers. Now they were like to undo him and
her. And in truth, according to his premonitions, Cromwell spoke:

'We shall bring very quickly Thomas Culpepper, her cousin, back from
France. We shall inflame his mind with jealousy of the King. We shall
find a place where he shall burst upon the King and her together. We
shall bring witnesses enow from Lincolnshire to swear against her.'

He crossed his hands behind his back.

'This work of fetching her cousin from Paris I will put into the hands
of Viridus,' he said. 'I believe her to be virtuous, therefore do you
bring many witnesses, and some that shall swear to have seen her in
the act. That shall be your employment. For I tell you she hath so
great a power of pleading that, being innocent, she will with
difficulty be proved unchaste.'

Throckmorton's head hung upon his shoulders.

'Remember,' Privy Seal said again, 'you and Viridus shall send to find
her cousin in France. Fill him with tales that his cousin plays the
leman with the King. He shall burst here like a bolt from heaven. You
will find him betwixt Calais and Paris town, dallying in evil places
without a doubt. We sent him thither to frighten Cardinal Pole.'

'Aye,' Throckmorton said, his mind filled with other and bitter
thoughts. 'He hath frightened the Cardinal from Paris by the mere
renown of his violence.'

'Then let him do some frighting in our goodly town of London,'
Cromwell said.



PART TWO

THE DISTANT CLOUD

I


The young Poins, once an ensign of the King's guard, habited now in
grey, stood awaiting Thomas Culpepper, Katharine Howard's cousin,
beneath the new gateway towards the east of Calais. Four days he had
waited already and never had he dared to stir, save when the gates
were closed for the night. But it had chanced that one of the
gatewardens was a man from Lincolnshire--a man, once a follower of the
plough, whose father had held a farm in the having of Culpepper
himself.

'----But he sold 'un,' Nicholas Hogben said, 'sold 'un clear away.' He
made a wry face, winked one eye, and drawing up the right corner of
his mouth, displayed square, huge teeth. The young Poins making no
question, he repeated twice: 'Clear away. Right clear away.'

Poins, however, could hold but one thing of a time in his head. And,
by that striving, dangerous servant of Lord Privy Seal, Throckmorton,
it had been firmly enjoined upon him that he must not fail to meet
Thomas Culpepper and stay him upon his road to England. Throckmorton,
with his great beard and cruel snake's eyes, had said: 'I hold thy
head in fee. If ye would save it, meet Thomas Culpepper in Calais and
give him this letter.' The letter he had in his poke. It carried with
it a deed making Culpepper lieutenant of the stone barges in Calais.
But he had it too, by word of mouth, that if Thomas Culpepper would
not be stayed by the letter, he, Hal Poins, must stay him--with the
sword, with a stab in the back, or by being stabbed himself and
calling in the guard to lay Thomas Culpepper's self by the heels.

'You will enjoin upon him,' Throckmorton had said, 'how goodly a thing
is the lieutenancy of stone lighters that in this letter is proffered
him. You will tell him that, if a barge of stone go astray, it is yet
a fair way to London, and stone fetches good money from townsmen
building in Calais. If he will gainsay this you will pick a quarrel
with him, as by saying he gives you the lie. In short,' Throckmorton
had finished, earnestly and with a sinuous grace of gesture in his
long and narrow hands, 'you will stay him.'

It was a desperate measure, yet it was the best he could compass. If
Culpepper came to London, if he came to the King, Katharine's fortunes
were not worth a rushlight such as were sold at twenty for a farthing.
He knew, too, that Viridus had Cromwell's earnest injunctions to send
a messenger that should hasten Culpepper's return; and, though he had
seven hundred of Cromwell's spies that he could trust to do Privy
Seal's errand, he had not one that he could trust to do his own. There
was no one of them that he could trust. If he took a spy and said: 'At
all costs stay Culpepper, but observe very strict secrecy from Privy
Seal's men all,' the spy would very certainly let the news come to
Privy Seal.

It was in this pass that the thought of the young Poins had come to
him. Here was a fellow absolutely stupid. He was a brother of
Katharine Howard's tiring maid who had already come near to losing his
head in a former intrigue in the Court. He had, at the instigation of
his sister, carried two Papist letters of Katharine Howard. And, if it
was the King who pardoned him, it was Throckmorton who first had taken
him prisoner; it was Throckmorton who had advised him to lie hidden in
his grandfather's house for a month or two. At the time Throckmorton
had had no immediate reason to give the boy this counsel. Poins had
been so small a tool in the past embroilment of Katharine's letter
that, had he gone straight back to his post in the yeomanry of the
King's guard, no man would have noticed him. But it had always been
part of the devious and great bearded man's policy--it had been part
of his very nature--to play upon people's fears, to trouble them with
apprehensions. It was part of the tradition that Cromwell had given
all his men. He ruled England by such fears.

Thus Throckmorton had sent Poins trembling to hide in the old
printer's his grandfather's house in the wilds of Austin Friars. And
Throckmorton had impressed upon him that he alone had really saved
him. It was in his grandfather's mean house that Poins had remained
for a brace of months, grumbled at by his Protestant uncle and sneered
at by his malicious Papist grandfather. And it was here that
Throckmorton had found him, dressed in grey, humbled from his pride
and raging for things to do.

The boy would be of little service--yet he was all that Throckmorton
had. If he could hardly be expected to trick Culpepper with his
tongue, he might wound him with his sword; if he could not kill him he
might at least scotch him, cause a brawl in Calais town, where,
because the place was an outpost, brawling was treason, and Culpepper
might be had by the heels for long enough to let Cromwell fall.
Therefore, in the low room with the black presses, in the very shadow
of Cromwell's own walls, Throckmorton--who was given the privacy of
the place by the Lutheran printer because he was Cromwell's
man--large, golden-bearded and speaking in meaning whispers, with
lifting of his eyebrows, had held a long conference with the lad.

       *       *       *       *       *

His dangerous and terrifying presence seemed to dominate, for the
young Poins, even the dusty archway of the Calais gate--and, even
though he saw the flat, green and sunny levels of the French
marshland, with the town of Ardres rising grey and turreted six miles
away, the young Poins felt that he was still beneath the eyes of
Throckmorton, the spy who had sought him out in his grandfather's
house in Austin Friars to send him here across the seas to Calais. Up
above in the archway the stonemasons who came from Lydd sang their
Kentish songs as hammers clinked on chisels and the fine dust filtered
through the scaffold boards. But the young Poins kept his eyes upon
the dusty and winding road that threaded the dykes from Ardres, and
thought only that when Thomas Culpepper came he must be stayed. He had
oiled his sword that had been his father's so that it would slip
smoothly from the scabbard; he had filed his dagger so that it would
pierce through thin coat of mail. It was well to be armed, though he
could not see why Thomas Culpepper should not stay willingly at Calais
to be lieutenant of the stone lighters and steal stone to fill his
pockets, since such were the privileges of the post that Throckmorton
offered him.

'Mayhap, if I stay him, it will get me advancement,' he grumbled
between his teeth. He was enraged in his slow, fierce way. For
Throckmorton had promised him only to save his neck if he succeeded.
There had been no hint of further rewards. He did not speculate upon
why Thomas Culpepper was to be held in Calais; he did not speculate
upon why he should wish to come to England; but again and again he
muttered between his teeth, 'A curst business! a curst business!'

In the mysterious embroilment in which formerly he had taken part, his
sister had told him that he was carrying letters between the King and
Kat Howard. Yes; his large, slow sister had promised him great
advancement for carrying certain letters. And still, in spite of the
fact that he had been told it was a treason, he believed that the
letters he had carried for Kat Howard were love letters to the King.
Nevertheless, for his services he had received no advancement; he had,
on the contrary, been bidden to leave his comrades of the guard and to
hide himself. Throckmorton had bidden him do this. And instead of
advancement, he had received kicks, curses, cords on his wrists, an
interview with the Lord Privy Seal that still in the remembrance set
him shivering, and this chance, offered him by Throckmorton, that if
he stayed Thomas Culpepper he might save his neck.

'Why, then,' he grumbled to himself, 'is it treason to carry the
King's letters to a wench? Helping the King is no treason. I should be
advanced, not threatened with a halter. Letters between the King and
Kat Howard!' He even attempted to himself a clumsy joke, polishing it
and repolishing it till it came out: 'A King may write to a Kat. A Kat
may write to a King. But my neck's in danger!'

Beside him, whitened by the dust that fell from above, the gatewarden
wandered in speech round _his_ grievance.

'You ask me, young lad, if I know Tom Culpepper. Well I know Tom
Culpepper. Y' ask me if he have passed this way going for England.
Well I know he have not. For if Tom Culpepper, squire that was of
Durford and Maintree and Sallowford that was my father's farm--if so
be Tom Culpepper had passed this way, I had spat in the dust behind
him as he passed.'

He made his wry face, winked his eye and showed his teeth once more.
'Spat in the dust--I should ha' spat in the dust,' he remarked again.
'Or maybe I'd have cast my hat on high wi' "Huzzay, Squahre Tom!"
according as the mood I was in,' he said. He winked again and waited.

'For sure,' he affirmed after a pause, 'that will move 'ee to ask why
I du spit in the dust or for why--the thing being contrary--I'd ha'
cast up my cap.'

The young Poins pulled an onion from his poke.

'If you are so main sure he have not passed the gate,' he said, 'I may
take my ease.' He sat him down against the gate wall where the April
sun fell warm through the arch of shadows. He stripped the outer peel
from the onion and bit into it. 'Good, warming eating,' he said, 'when
your stomach's astir from the sea.'

'Young lad,' the gatewarden said, 'I'm as fain to swear my mother bore
me--though God forbid I should swear who my father was, woman being
woman--as that Thomas Culpepper have not passed this way. For why: I'd
have cast my hat on high or spat on the ground. And such things done
mark other things that have passed in the mind of a man. And I have
done no such thing.'

But because the young Poins sat always silent with his eyes on the
road to Ardres and slept--being privileged because he was yeoman of
the King's guard--always in the little stone guard cell of the gateway
at nights; because, in fact, the young man's whole faculties were set
upon seeing that Thomas Culpepper did not pass unseen through the
gate, it was four days before the gatewarden contrived to get himself
asked why he would have spat in the dust or cast his hat on high. It
was, as it were, a point of honour that he should be asked for all the
information that he gave; and he thirsted to tell his tale.

His tale had it that he had been ruined by a wench who had thrown her
shoe over the mill and married a horse-smith, after having many times
tickled the rough chin of Nicholas Hogben. Therefore, he had it that
all women were to be humbled and held down--for all women were
traitors, praters, liars, worms and vermin. (He made a great play of
words between wermen, meaning worms, and wermin and wummin.) He had
been ruined by this woman who had tickled him under the chin--that
being an ingratiating act, fit to bewitch and muddle a man, like as if
she had promised him marriage. And then she had married a horse-smith!
So he was ready and willing, and prayed every night that God would
send him the chance, to ruin and hold down every woman who walked the
earth or lay in a bed.

But he had been ruined, too, by Thomas Culpepper, who had sold Durford
and Maintree and Sallowford--which last was Hogben's father's farm.
For why? Selling the farm had let in a Lincoln lawyer, and the Lincoln
lawyer had set the farm to sheep, which last had turned old Hogben,
the father, out from his furrows to die in a ditch--there being no
room for farmers and for sheep upon one land. It had sent old Hogben,
the father, to die in a ditch; it had sent his daughters to the stews
and his sons to the road for sturdy beggars. So that, but for
Wallop's band passing that way when Hogben was grinning through the
rope beneath Lincoln town tree--but for the fact that men were needed
for Wallop's work in Calais, by the holy blood of Hailes! Hogben would
have been rating the angel's head in Paradise.

But there had been great call for men to man the walls there in
Calais, so Wallop's ancient had written his name down on the list,
beneath the gallows tree, and had taken him away from the Sheriff of
Lincoln's man.

'So here a be,' he drawled, 'cutting little holes in my pikehead.'

''Tis a folly,' the young Poins said.

'Sir,' the Lincolnshire man answered, 'you say 'tis a folly to make
small holes in a pikehead. But for me 'tis the greatest of ornaments.
Give you, it weakens the pikehead; but 'tis a gradely ornament.'

'Ornaments be folly,' the young Poins reiterated.

'Sir,' the Lincolnshire man answered again, 'there is the goodliest
folly that ever was. For if I weaken my eyes and tire my wrists with
small tappers and little files, and if I weaken the steel with small
holes, each hole represents a woman I have known undone and cast down
in her pride by a man. Here be sixty-and-four holes round and firm in
a pattern. Sixty-and-four women I have known undone.'

He paused and surveyed, winking and moving the scroll that the little
holes made in the tough steel of his axehead. Where a perforation was
not quite round, he touched it with his file.

'Hum! ha!' he gloated. 'In the centre of the head is the master hole
of all, planned out for being cut. But not yet cut! Mark you, 'tis not
yet cut. That is for the woman I hate most of all women. She is not
yet cast down that I have heard tell on, though some have said "Aye,"
some "Nay." Tell me, have you heard yet of a Kat Howard in the stews?'

'There is a Kat Howard is like to be----' the young Poins began. But
his slow cunning was aroused before he had the sentence out. Who could
tell what trick was this?

'Like to be what?' the Lincolnshire man badgered him. 'Like to be
what? To be what?'

'Nay, I know not,' Poins answered.

'Like to be what?' Hogben persisted.

'I know no Kat Howard,' Poins muttered sulkily. For he knew well that
the Lady Katharine's name was up in the taverns along of Thomas
Culpepper. And this Lincolnshire cow-dog was a knave too of Thomas's;
therefore the one Kat Howard who was like to be the King's wench and
the other Kat Howard known to Hogben might well be one and the same.

'Nay; if you will not, neither even will I,' Hogben said. 'You shall
have no more of my tale.'

Poins kept his blue eyes along the road. Far away, with an odd leap,
waving its arms abroad and coming by fits and starts, as a hare
gambols along a path--a figure was tiny to see, coming from Ardres way
towards Calais. It passed a load of hay on an ox-cart, and Poins could
see the peasants beside it scatter, leap the dyke and fly to stand
panting in the fields. The figure was clenching its fists; then it
fell to kicking the oxen; when they had overset the cart into the
dyke, it came dancing along with the same hare's gait.

'That is too like the repute of Thomas Culpepper to be other than
Thomas Culpepper,' the young Poins said. 'I will go meet him.'

He started to his feet, loosed the sword in its scabbard; but the
Lincolnshire man had his halberd across the gateway.

'Pass! Shew thy pass!' he said vindictively.

'I go but to meet him,' Poins snarled.

'A good lie; thou goest not,' Hogben answered. 'No Englishman goes
into the French lands without a pass from the lord controller. An thou
keepest a shut head I can e'en keep a shut gate.'

None the less he must needs talk or stifle.

'Thee, with thy Kat Howard,' he snarled. 'Would 'ee have me think thy
Kat was my kitten whose name stunk in our nostrils?'

He shook his finger in Poins' face.

'Here be three of us know Kat Howard,' he said. 'For I know her, since
for her I must leave home and take the road. And _he_ knoweth her over
well or over ill, since, to buy her a gown, he sold the three farms,
Maintree, Durford and Sallowford--which last was my father's farm. And
_thee_ knowest her. Thee knowest her. To no good, I'se awarned. For
thou stoppedst in thy speech like a colt before a wood snake. God
bring down all women, I pray!'

He went on to tell, as if it had been a rosary, the names of the
ruined women that the holes in his pikehead represented. There was one
left by the wayside with her child; there was one hung for stealing
cloth to cover her; there was one whipped for her naughty ways. He
reached the square mark in the centre as the figure on the road
reached the gateway.

'Huzzay, Squahre Tom! Here bay three kennath Kat Howard. Let us three
tak part to kick her down.'

Thomas Culpepper like a green cat flew at his throat, clutched him
above the steel breastplate, and shook three times, the gatewarden's
uncovered, dun-coloured head swaying back and forward as if it were a
loose bundle of clouts on a mop. When they parted company, because he
could no longer keep his fingers clenched, Hogben fell back; he fell
back, and they lay with their heels touching each other and their arms
stretched out in the dust.


II


Nicholas Hogben was the first to rise. He felt at his neck, swallowed
as though a piece of apple were stuck in his throat, brushed his
leather breeches, and picked up his pike.

'Why,' he said, 'you may hold it for main and certain that he have not
had Kat Howard down. For, having had her down, a would never have
thrown a man by the throat for miscalling of her. Therefore Kat Howard
is up for all of he, and I may loosen my feelings.'

He spat gravely at Culpepper's feet. Culpepper lay in the dust, his
arms stretched out to form a cross, his face dead white and his beard
of brilliant red pointing at the keystone of the arch of Calais gate.
Poins lifted his hand, but the pulse still beat, and he dropped it
moodily in the dust.

'Not dead,' he muttered.

'Dead!' Hogben laughed at him. 'Hath been in a boosing ken. There they
drug the wine with simples, and the women--may pox fall on all
women--perfume themselves so that a man goeth stark raving. I warrant
he had silver buttons to his Lincoln green, but they be torn off. I
warrant he had gold buckles to his shoen, but they be gone. His sword
is away, the leather hangers being cut.'

'Wilt not stick him with thy pike, having, as he hath, so mishandled
thee?'

'O aye,' the Lincolnshire man shewed his strong teeth. 'Thee wouldst
have Kat Howard from him. But he may live for me, being more like to
bring her to dismay than ever thee wilt be!'

He looked into the narrow street of the town that the dawn pierced
into through the gateway. Two skinny men in jerkins drawn tight with
belts were yawning in a hovel's low doorway. Under his eyes, still
stretching their arms abroad, they made to slink between the mud walls
of the next alley.

'Oh, hi! _Arrestez. Vesnez!_' he hailed. '_Cestui à comforter!_' The
thin men made to break away, halted, hesitated, and then with dragging
feet made through the pools and filth to the gateway.

'_Tombé! Voleurs! Secourez!_' Hogben pointed at the prostrate figure
in green. They rubbed their shins on their thin calves and appeared
bewildered and uncertain.

'_Portez à lous maisons!_' Hogben commanded.

They stood one on each side and bent down, extending skinny arms to
lift him. Thomas Culpepper sat up and spat in their faces--they fled
like scared wolves, noiselessly, gazing behind them in trepidation.

'Stay them; thieves ho! Stay them!' Culpepper panted. He scrambled to
his feet, and stood reeling, his face like death, when he tried to
make after them.

'God!' he said. 'Give me to drink.'

The young Poins mused under his breath because the man had neither
sword nor dagger. Therefore it would be impossible to have sword play
with him. He had, the young man, no ferocity--but he was set there to
stay Thomas Culpepper's going on to England; he was to stay him by
word or by deed. Deeds came so much easier than words.

'Squahre Tom!' the Lincolnshire man grunted. 'Reckon you have no
money. Without groats and more ye shall get nowt to drink in Calais
town, save water. Water you may have in plenty.'

With a sigh the young Poins unbuckled his belt to get his papers.

'Money I have for you,' he said. 'A main of money.' He was engaged now
to pass words with this man--and he sighed again.

But Thomas Culpepper disregarded his words and his sigh. He was more
in the mood to talk Lincolnshire than Kent, for his fever had given
him a touch of homesickness and the young Poins to him was a very
foreigner. He shut his eyes to let the Lincolnshire gatewarden's words
go down to his brain; then with sudden violence he spat out:

'Give me water! What do ah ask but water! Pig! brood of a sow! gi'e me
water and choke!'

Nicholas Hogben fetched a leather bottle as long as his leg, dusty and
dinted, but nevertheless bedight with the arms of England, from the
stone recess where the guard sheltered at nights. He fitted it on to
the crook of his pike by the handle, and, craning over the drawbridge,
first smoothed away the leaf-green duck-weed on the moat and then sank
the bottle in the black water.

'I have money: a main of money for ye,' the young Poins said to Thomas
Culpepper; but the man, with his red beard and white face, swayed on
his legs and had ears only for the gurgling and gulping of the water
as it entered the bottle neck. The black jack swayed and jumped below
the bridge like a glistening water-beast.

He had little green spangles of duck-weed in his orange beard when he
took the bottle away, empty, from his mouth. He drew deep gasps of
breath, and suddenly sat down upon a squared block of stone that the
masons above were waiting to hoist into place over the archway.

'Good water!' he grunted to Hogben--grunting as all the Lincolnshire
men did, in those days, like a two-year hog.

'Bean't but that good in all Calais town!' Hogben grunted back to him.
'Curses on the two wurmen that sent me here.' And indeed, to
Lincolnshire men the water tasted good, since it reminded them of
their dyke water, tasting of marshweed and smelling of eggs.

'Tü wurmen!' Culpepper said lazily. 'Hast thou been jigging with _tü_
puticotties to wunst? One is enow to undo seven men. Who be 'hee?'

The young Poins, with a sulky sense of his importance, uttered:

'I have money for thee--a main of money!'

Culpepper looked at him with sleepy blue eyes.

'Thrice y' ha' told me that,' he said. 'And money is a goodly thing in
its place--but not to a man with a bellyful of water. Y' shall feel my
fist when I be rested. Meanwhile wait and, being a cub, hear how _men_
talk.' He slapped his chest and repeated to Hogben: 'Who be 'ee?'

Hogben, delighted to be asked at last a question, shewed his
formidable teeth and beneath his familiar contortion of the eyelids
brought out the words that one of the women who had brought him down
was her that had brought Squahre Culpepper to sit on a squared stone
before Calais gate.

'Why, I am a made man, for all you see me sit here,' Culpepper
answered indolently. 'I ha' done a piece of work for which I am to be
seised of seven farms in Kent land. See yo'--they send me messengers
with money to Calais gate.' He pointed his thumb at the young Poins.

The boy, to prove that he was no common messenger, drew his right leg
up and said:

'Nay, goodman Squire; an ye had slain the Cardinal the farms should
have been yours. As it lies, ye are no more than lieutenant of Calais
stone barges.'

'Thou liest,' Culpepper answered negligently, not turning his gaze
from the gatewarden to whom he addressed a friendly question of, Who
was the woman that had brought the two of them down.

'Now, Squahre!' the Lincolnshire man grinned delightedly; 'thu hast
askëd me tü questions. Answer me one: Did _thee_ lie upon her when
thee put her name up in the township of Stamford?'

'Stamford in Lincolnshire was thy townplace?' Culpepper asked. 'But
who was thy woman? I ha' had so many women and lied about so many more
that I never had!'

The Lincolnshire man threw his leather cap to the keystone of the
archway, caught it again and set it upon his thatch of hair, having
the solemnity of one who performs his rituals.

'Goodly squahre that thee art!' he said; 'thou has harmed a many
wenches in truth and in lies.'

Culpepper spied a down feather on his knee.

'Curse the mattress that I lay upon this night,' he said amiably.

He set his head back and blew the feather high into the air so that it
floated out towards the tranquil and sunny pasture fields of France.

'Cub!' he said to Hal Poins, 'take this as a lesson of the death that
lies about the pilgrim's path. For why am I not a pilgrim? I was sent
to rid Paris of a Cardinal Pole, who, being in league with the devil,
hath a magic tongue. Mark this story well, cub, who art sent me with
money and gifts from the King in his glory to me that sit upon a
stone. Now mark--' He extended his white hand. 'This hand, o'
yestereen, had a ring with a great green stone. Now no ring is here.
It was given me by my seventeenth leman, who had two eyes that looked
not together. No twelve robbers had taken it from me by force, since I
had made a pact with the devil that these wall eyes should never look
across my face whilst that ring was there. Now, God knows, I may find
her in Calais. So mark well----' He had been sent to Paris to rid
France of the Cardinal Pole; for the Cardinal Pole, being a succubus
of the fiend, had a magical tongue and had been inducing the French
King to levy arms, in the name of that arch-devil, the Bishop of Rome,
against their goodly King Henry, upon whom God shed His peace.
Culpepper raised his bonnet at the Deity's name, stuck it far back on
his red head, and continued: Therefore the mouth of Cardinal Pole was
to be stayed in Paris town.

Culpepper smote his breast ferociously and with a black pride.

'And I have stayed it!' he peacocked. 'I and no other. I--T.
Culpepper--a made man!'

'Not so,' Poins answered stubbornly. 'Thou wast sent to Paris to slay,
and thou hast not slain!'

'Thou liest!' Culpepper asseverated. 'I was sent to purge Paris town,
and I ha' purged un. No pothicary had done it better nor Hercules that
was a stall groom and cleaned stables in antick days.' For, at the
first breath of news that Culpepper was in the town, at the first
rumour that the king's assassin was in Paris, Cardinal Pole had
gathered his purple skirts about his knees; at the second sound he had
cast them off altogether and, arrayed as a woman or a barber's leech,
had fled hot foot to Brescia and thence to Rome.

'That was a nothing!' Culpepper asseverated. 'Though I ha' heard said
that Hercules was made a god for cleaning stables that he found no
easy task. But I will grant that it was no task for me to cleanse a
whole town. For I needed no besoms, nor even no dagger, but the mere
shadow of my beard upon the cobbly stones of Paris sufficed. I say
nothing of that which befel in the day's journey; but mark this! mark
what follows!' He had set out from Paris upon a high horse, with a
high heart; he had frighted off all robbers and all sturdy rogues upon
the road; he had slept at good inns as became a made man, and had
bought himself a goodly pair of embroidered gloves which he could well
pay for out of his superfluity. Being in haste to reach England, where
he had that that called for him, he had ridden through the town of
Ardres at nightfall, being minded to ride his horse dead, reach Calais
gates in the hour, and beat down the gate if the warder would not
suffer him to enter, it being dark. But outside the town of Ardres
upon a make of no man's ground, being neither French nor English, he
had espied a hut, and in the dark hut a lighted window hole that
sparkled bravely, and, within, a big, fair woman drinking wine between
candles with the light in her hair and a white tablecloth. And,
feeling goodly, and Calais gate being shut, whether he broke it down
one hour or three hours later was all one to him. He had gone into the
hut to take by force or for payment a glass of wine from the black
jacks, a kiss from the woman's mouth, and what else of ease the place
afforded.

'Now I will have you mark, cub,' he said--'cub that shall have to
learn many wiles if thy throat be not cut by me within the next two
hours. Mark this, cub: these were no Egyptians!' They were not
Bohemians, not swearers, not subtle cozeners, not even black a-vised,
or he would have been on his guard against them; but they were plain,
fair folks of Normandy. So he had drunk his wine, and cast a main or
two at dice with the woman and two men, losing no more and no less
than was decent. And he had drunk more wine and had taken his
kisses--since it was all one whether he came three hours or four hours
later to Calais gate. And there had been candles on the table and
stuffs upon the wall, and a crock on the fire for mulling the wine,
and a sheet upon the feather bed. But when he awoke in the morning he
had lain upon the hard earth, between the bare walls. And all that was
his was gone that was worth the taking.

'Now mark, cub,' he said. 'It was a simple thing this flitting with
the hangings and the clothes and the pot rolled in bales and hung upon
my horse. Upon my horse! But what is not simple is that simple folk of
Normandy should have learned the arts of subtlety and drugging of
wines. Mark that!' He pointed a finger at Poins.

'Had God been good to you you might have been as good a warring boy as
Thomas Culpepper, who with the shadow of his hand held back the
galleons of France and France's knights from the goodly realm of
England. For this I have done by frighting from Paris, Cardinal Pole
that was moving the French King to war on us. Had God been good to you
you might have been as brave. But marvel and consider and humble you
in the dust to think that a man with my brain pan and all it holds
could have been so cozened. For sure, a dolt like you would have been
stripped more clean till you had neither nails to your toes nor hair
to your eyebrows.'

Hal Poins snarled that Culpepper would have been shaved too but that
red hair stunk in the nostrils even of cozeners and thieves.

Culpepper wagged his head from side to side.

'This is a main soft stone,' he said; 'I am main weary. When the stone
grows hard, which is a sign that I shall no longer be minded to rest,
I will break thy back with a cudgel.'

Poins stamped his foot with rage and tears filled his eyes.

'An thou had a sword!' he said. 'An only thou had a sword!'

'A year-old carrot to baste thee with!' Culpepper answered. 'Swords
are for men!' He turned to Hogben, who was sitting on the ground
furbishing his pikehead. 'Heard you the like of my tale?' he asked
lazily.

'Oh aye!' the Lincolnshire man answered. 'The simple folk of Normandy
are simple only because they have no suitors. But they ha' learned
that marlock from the sailors of Rye town. For in Rye town, which is
the sinkhole of Sussex, you will meet every morning ten travellers
travelling to France in the livery of Father Adam. Normans can learn,'
he added sententiously, 'as the beasts of the field can learn from a
man. My father had a ewe lamb that danced a pavane to my pipe on the
farm of Sallowford that you sold to buy a woman the third part of a
gown.'

'Why! Art Nick Hogben?' Culpepper said.

'Hast that question answered,' Hogben said. 'Now answer me one. Liedst
thou when saidst what thou saidst of that wurman?'

Culpepper on the stone swung his legs vaingloriously:

'I sold three farms to buy her a gown,' he said.

'Aye!' Nick Hogben answered. 'So thou saidst in Stamford town three
years gone by. And thou saidst more and the manner of it. But betwixt
the buying the gowns and the more of it lie many things. As this: Did
she take the gown of thee? Or as this: Having taken the gown of thee,
did she pay thee in the kind payment should be made in?'

Culpepper looked up at him with a sharp snarl.

'For--' and Nick Hogben shook his head sagaciously, 'Stamford town
believed the more and the manner of it, and Kat Howard's name is up in
the town of Stamford. But I have not yet chiselled out the great piece
that shall come from my pike when certain sure I am that Kat Howard is
down under a man's foot.'

Culpepper rose suddenly to his feet and wagged a finger at Hogben.

'Now I am minded to wed Kat Howard!' he said. 'Therefore I will say I
lied then. But as for what you shall think, consider that I had her
alone many days and nights; consider that though she be over learned
in the Latin tongues that set a woman against joyment, I have a proper
person and a strong wrist, a pleasant tongue but a hot and virulent
purpose. Consider that she welly starved in her father, the Lord
Edmund's, house and I had pies and gowns for her. Consider these
things and make a hole or no hole as thou wilt----'

Nicholas Hogben considered with his eyes on the ground; he scratched
his head with a black finger.

'I can make nowt out,' he said. 'But I will curse thee for a
lily-livered hoggit an thou marry Kat Howard.'

'Why, I am minded to marry her,' Culpepper answered, 'over here in
France,' and he stretched a hand towards the long white road where in
the distance the French peasants were driving lean beasts for a true
Englishman's provender in Calais. 'Over here in France. Body of
God!--Body of God!----' He wavered, being still fevered. 'In England
it had been otherwise. But here, shivering across plains and
seas--why, I will wed with her.'

'Talkest like a Blind God Boy,' Hogben said sarcastically. 'How
knowest she be thine to take?' He pointed at the young Poins. 'Here be
another hath had doings with a Kat Howard, though I cannot well
discern if she be thine or whose.'

Culpepper sprang, a flash of green, straight at the callow boy. But
Poins had sprung too, back and to the left, and his oiled sword was
from its scabbard and warring in the air.

'Holy Sepulchre! I will spit thee--Holy Sepulchre! I will spit thee!'
he cried.

'Ass!' Culpepper answered. 'In God's time I will break thy back across
my knee. But God's time is not yet.'

He poured out a flood of questions about the Kat Howard Poins had
seen.

'Squahre Thomas,' Nicholas Hogben interrupted him maliciously, 'that
young man of Kent saith e'ennow: "Kat Howard is like to----" and then
he chokes upon his words. Now even what make of thing is it that Kat
Howard is like to do or be done by?'

With his sword whiffling before him the young Poins could think
rapidly--nay, upon any matter that concerned his advancement he could
think rapidly always.

'Goodman Thomas Culpepper,' he said in a high voice, 'the mistress
Katharine Howard I spoke of is thin and dark and small, and married
to Edward Howard of Biggleswade. She is like to die of a quinsy.'

For well he knew that his advancement depended on his keeping Thomas
Culpepper on the hither side of the water; and if it muddled his brain
to have been so usefully mishandled for carrying letters betwixt the
King's Grace and the Lady Katharine Howard, he knew enough of a
jealous man to know that that was no news to keep Thomas Culpepper in
Calais.

Culpepper's animation dropped like the light of a torch that is
dowsed.

'Put up thy pot skewer,' he said; 'my Kat is tall and fairish and
unwed. Ha' ye not seen her with the Lady Mary of England's women?'

The young Poins, zealous to be rid of the matter, answered fervently:

'Never. She is not talked of in the Court.'

'That is the best hearing,' Thomas Culpepper said. 'I do absolve thee
of five kicks for being the messenger of that.'


III


They were a-walking in the little garden below the windows of the late
Cardinal's house at Hampton; the April sun shone, for May came on
apace, and in that sheltered spot the light lay warm and no breezes
came. They took great pleasure there beneath the windows. One girl
kept three golden balls flying in the air, whilst three others and two
lords sought to distract her by inducing her little hound to bark
shrilly below her hands up at the flying balls that caught in them the
light of the sun, the blue of the sky, and the red and grey of the
warm palace walls. Down the nut walk, where the trees that the dead
Cardinal had set were already fifteen years old and dark with young
green leaves as bright as little flowers, they had set up archery
targets. Cicely Elliott, in black and white, flashing like a magpie in
the alleys, ran races with the Earl of Surrey beneath the blinking
eyes of her old knight; the Lady Mary, herself habited all in black,
moved like a dark shadow upon a dial between the little beds upon
paths of red brick between box hedges as high as your ankles. She
spoke to none save once when she asked the name of a flower. But
laughter went up, and it seemed as if, in this first day out of doors,
all the Court opened its lungs to drink the new air; and they were
making plans for May Day already.

They asked, too, a riddle: 'An a nutshell from Candlemas loved a merry
bud in March, how should it come to pleasure and content?' and men who
had the answer looked wise and shook their sides at guessing faces.

In a bower at the south end of the small garden Katharine Howard sat
to play cat's-cradle with the old lady of Rochford. This foolish game
and this foolish old woman, with her unceasing tales of the Queen Anne
Boleyn--who had been her cousin--gave to Katharine a great feeling of
ease. With her troubled eyes and weary expression, her occasional
groans as the rheumatism gnawed at her joints, the old lady minded her
of the mother she had so seldom seen. She had always been somewhere
away, all through Katharine's young years, planning and helping her
father to advancement that never came, and hopeless to control her
wild children. Thus Katharine had come to love this poor old woman and
consorted much with her, for she was utterly bewildered to control the
Lady Mary's maids that were beneath her care.

Katharine held out her hands, parallel, as if she were praying, with
the strand of blue wool and silver cord criss-cross and diagonal
betwixt her fingers. The old lady bent above them, silent and puzzled,
to get the key to the strings. Twice she protruded her gouty fingers,
with swollen ends; and twice she drew them back to stroke her brows.

'I mind,' she said suddenly, 'that I played cat's-cradle with my
cousin Anne, that was a sinful queen.' She bent again and puzzled
about the strings. 'In those days I had a great skill, I mind. We
revised it to the eleventh change many times before her death.' Again
she leant forward and again back. 'I did come near my death, too,' she
added.

Katharine's eyes had been gazing past her; suddenly she asked:

'Was Anne Boleyn loved after she grew to be Queen?'

The old woman's face took on a palsied and haunted look.

'God help you!' she said; 'do you ask that?' and she glanced round her
furtively in an agony of apprehension. Something had drawn all the gay
gowns and embroidered stomachers towards the higher terrace. They were
all alone in the arbour.

'Why,' Katharine said, 'so many innocent creatures have been done to
death since Cromwell came, that, though she was lewd before and a
heretic all her days, I think doubts may be.'

The old lady pressed her hand upon her bosom where her heart beat.

'Madam Howard,' she said, 'for my life I know not the truth of the
matter. There was much trickery; God knoweth the truth.'

Katharine mused for a moment above the cat's-cradle on her fingers.
Near the joint at the end of the little one there was a small mole.

'Take you the fifth and third strings,' she said. 'The king string
holds your wrist,' and whilst the old face was still intent upon the
problem she said:

'I think that if a woman come to be Queen it is odds that she will
live chastely, how lewd soever she ha' been aforetime.'

Lady Rochford set her fingers in between Katharine's, but when she
drew them back with the strings upon them, they wavered, lost their
straightness, knotted and then resolved themselves into a single loop
as in a swift wind a cloud dies away beneath the eyes of the beholder.

'Why, 'tis pity,' Katharine said.

All the lords and all the ladies were now upon the terrace above. The
old lady had the string in her broad lap. Suddenly she bent forward,
her eyes opened.

'She was the enemy of your Church,' she said. 'But this I will tell
you: upon occasions when men swore she had been with other men o'
nights, the Queen was in my bed with me!'

Katharine nodded silently.

'Who was I that I dare speak?' the old woman sobbed; and Katharine
nodded again.

Lady Rochford rubbed together her fat hands as she were ringing them.

'Before God,' she moaned, 'and by the blessed blood of Hailes that
cured ever my pains, if a soul know a soul I knew Anne. If she was a
woman like other women before she wedded the King, she was minded to
be chaste after. Madam Howard,'--and she rocked her fat body to and
fro upon the seat--'they came to me from both sides, your Papists and
her heretics; they threatened me to keep silence of what I knew. I was
to keep silence. I name no names. But they came o' both sides, Papists
and heretics; though she was middling true to the heretics they could
not be true to her.'

Katharine answered her own thoughts with:

'Ay; but my cause is the good cause. Men shall be true to it.'

The old lady leaned forward and stroked her hands.

'Dearie,' she said, 'dandling piece, sweet bit, there are no true
men.' She had an entreaty in her tone, and her large blue eyes gazed
fixedly. 'Say that my cousin Anne was a heretic. I know naught of it
save that my bones have ached always since the holy blood of Hailes
was done away with that was wont to cure me. But the Queen Anne was
hard driven because of a plotting; and no man stood her friend.' With
her large and tear-filled eyes she gazed at the palace, where the pear
trees upon the walls shewed new, pale leaves in the sunlight. 'The
great Cardinal was hard driven because of a plot, and no man was true
to him. There is no true man. Hope not for one. Hope not for any one.
The great Cardinal builded those walls and that palace--and where is
he?'

'Yet,' Katharine said, 'Privy Seal that is was true to him and
profited exceedingly.'

Lady Rochford shook her head.

'For a little while truth may help you,' she said; 'but your name in
the end shall be but a stink.'

'Ay,' Katharine answered her; 'but ye shall gain at the end of all.
For I hold it for certain that because, to the uttermost dregs of his
cup, Cromwell was true to his master Wolsey, before the throne of God
much shall be pardoned him.'

The old woman answered bitterly:

'The throne of God is a long way from here.'

'Please it Mary and the saints,' Katharine said, 'the ten years to
come shall bring Heaven a thousand leagues nearer to this land.' But
her words died away because the Lady Rochford's mouth fell open.

From the terrace a great square man led down a tiny, small man, giving
the child his finger to help him down the steps. It clung to him, the
little, squared replica of himself, sturdily and with a blonde, small
face laughing up into his father's that laughed down past a huge
shoulder. Henry was dressed all in black, and his son too; the boy's
callow head shone in the sunshine, and they came dallying down the
little path, many faces and shoulders peering over the terrace wall at
them. Once the child stumbled, loosed his hold of his father's finger
and came down upon all fours. He crawled to the pathside, filled his
little hands with leaves, and held them up towards his sire; and they
could hear the King say:

'Who-hoop, Ned! Princes walk not like quadrumanes,' as he bent to take
the leaves. The child twisted himself, gripping his little fingers
into Henry's garter, and, catching again at his finger, pulled his
father towards their bower.

The Lady Rochford rose, but Katharine sat where she was to smile upon
the child and brush his head with a pink tassel of her sleeve. The
little prince hid his face in the voluminous velvet of his father's
vast thighs. The King, diffusing a great and embracing pride, laughed
to Lady Rochford.

'Ye played cat's-cradle,' he said. 'I warrant ye brought it not beyond
seven changes. Time was when I have done fourteen with a lady if her
hands were white enough.'

He threw away the green leaves of the clove pinks that his son had
given him, and took the blue and silver loop from the old woman's
hands. He sat himself heavily on the bench facing Katharine, and
crying, 'See you, silly Ned,' held his son's hands apart and fitted
the cord over the little wrists.

Suddenly he bent clumsily forward and picked up again the carnation
leaves that lay in green strands upon the floor of the arbour,
grunting a little with the effort.

'This is the first offering my son ever made me,' he said, and he drew
a pocket purse from his breast to lay them in. 'Please God he shall
yet lay at my feet a province or two of our heritage of France.' He
touched his cap at the Deity's name, and called gruffly at his son:
'See you, forget not ever that we be Kings of France too, you and I,'
and the little boy with his cropped head uttered:

'_Rex Angliae, Galliae, Franciae et Hiberniae!_'

'Aye, I ha' learned ye that,' the King said, and roared with laughter.
Of a sudden he turned his head, without moving his body, towards
Katharine.

'I ha' news from Norfolk in France,' he said, and, as the Lady
Rochford made to move, he uttered good-naturedly: 'Aye, avoid. But ye
may buss my son.'

He stretched back his head, laid an arm along the back of his seat,
put out his feet and pushed at the child, who played with his
shoe-tags.

'The boy grows,' he said, and motioned for Katharine to sit beside
him. Then his face shewed a quick dissatisfaction. 'A brave boy, but a
should be braver,' and looking down, 'see you not blue lines about 's
gills?' He caught at her hand with a masterful grip.

'Here we're a picture,' he said: 'a lusty husbandman, his lusty son,
his lusty wife, resting all beneath his goodly vine.' His face clouded
again. 'I--I am not lusty; my son, he is not lusty.' He touched her
cheek. 'Thou art lusty enow--hast such pink cheeks.'

'Aye, we were always lusty at home when we had enow to eat,' Katharine
said. She took the child upon her knee and blew lightly in his face.
'I will wager you I will guess his weight within a pound,' she added,
and began to play a game with the tiny fingers. 'Wherefore do ye habit
little children in black?'

'Why,' the King answered, 'I know not if I myself appear less
monstrous in black or red, and my son shall be habited as I be. 'Tis
to make the trial.'

'Aye,' Katharine said, 'ye think first of yourself. But dress the
child in white and go in white yourself. And set up a chantry of
priests to pray the child grow sturdy. It was thus my cousin Surrey's
life was saved that was erst a weakling.'

'Be Queen,' he said suddenly. 'Marry me. I came here to ask it.'

Her lips parted; she left her hand in his. The expected words had
come.

'I have thought on it,' she said. 'I knew ye could not long hold to
child and sire as ye sware ye would.'

'Kat,' he said, 'ye shall do my will. I ha' news from France. Ye gave
me good rede. I ha' news from Cleves: the Cleves woman shall no more
be queen of mine. Thee I will have.'

She raised herself from the bench and turned in the entrance of the
arbour to look at him.

'Give me leave to walk on the path,' she said. 'I have thought on
this--for I was sure I gave you good advice, and well I knew Cleves
would sever from ye.' She faltered: 'I ha' thought on it. But 'tis
different to think on it and to ha' the thing in your face.'

He uttered, 'Make haste,' and she walked down the path. He saw her,
tall, fair, swaying a little in the wind, raise her face to the
skies; her long fingers made the sign of the cross, her hood fell
back. Her lips moved; the fringes of her lashes came down over her
blue eyes, and she seemed to wrestle with her hands.

'Aye,' he muttered to himself half earnest, half sardonic, 'prayer is
better than thoughts. God strike with palsy them that made me afraid
to pray.... Aye, pray on, pray on,' he said again. 'But by God and His
wounds! ye shall be my queen.'

By the time she came back he laughed at her tempestuously, and pushing
the little prince tenderly with his huge foot, watched him roll on the
floor catching at the air.

'Why,' he said to her, 'what's the whimsy now? Shalt be the queen.
'Tis the sole way. 'Tis the way to the light.' He leant forward.
'Cleves has gone to the bastard called Charles to sue for mercy. Ye
led me so well to set Francis against Charles that I may snap my
fingers against both. None but thee could ha' forged that bolt. Child,
I will make a league with the Pope against Charles or Francis, with
Francis or Charles. Anne may go hang herself.' He rose to his feet and
stretched out both his hands, his eyes glowing beneath his deep brows.
'Body o' God! thou art a very fair woman; and now I will be such a
king as never was, and take France for mine own and set up Holy Church
again, and say good prayers and sleep in a warm bed. Body o' God! Body
o' God!'

'God and the saints save the issue!' she said. 'I am thy servant and
slave.'

But her tone made him recoil.

'What whimsy's here?' he muttered heavily, and his eyes became
suffused with red. 'Speak, wench!' He pulled at the stuff round his
throat. 'I will have peace,' he said. 'I will at last have peace.'

'God send you have it,' she said, and trembled a little, half in fear,
half in sheer pity at the thought of thwarting him.

'Speak thy fool whimsy,' he muttered huskily. 'Speak!'

'My lord,' she said, 'where is the Queen that is?'

He flared suddenly at her as if she had reproved him.

'At Windsor. 'Tis a better palace than this of mine here.' He shook
his finger heavily and uttered with a boastful defiance: 'Shalt not
say I shower no gifts on her. Shalt not say she has no state. I ha'
sent her seven jennets this day. I shall go bring her golden apples on
the morrow. Scents she has had o' me; French gowns, Southern fruits.
No man nor wench shall say I be not princely----' His boasting bluster
died away before her silence. To please a mute desire in her, he had
showered more gifts on Anne of Cleves than on any other woman he had
ever seen; and thinking that she used him ill not to praise him for
this, he could not hold his tongue: 'What is't to thee what she hath?
What she hath thou losest. 'Tis a folly.'

'My lord,' she said, 'I will myself to see the Queen that is.'

'And whysomever?' he voiced his astonishment.

'My lord,' she said, 'I have a tickly conscience in divorces. I will
ask her mine own self.'

He roared out suddenly indistinguishable words, stamped his feet,
waved his hands at the skies, and lost his voice altogether.

'Aye,' she said, catching at some of his speech, 'I ha' read your
Highness' depositions. I ha' read depositions of the Archbishop's. But
I will be satisfied of her own mouth that she be not your wife.'

And when he swore that Anne would lie:

'Nay,' she answered; 'if she will lie to keep her queenship, keep it
she shall. I am upon the point of honour.'

'Before God!'--and his voice had a sneering haughtiness--'ye will not
be long of this world if ye steer by the point of honour.'

'Sir,' she cried out and stretched forth her hands; 'for the love of
Mary who guides the starry counsels and of the saints who sit in
conclave, speak not in that wise.'

He shrugged his shoulders and said, with a touch of angry shame:

'God send the world were another world; I would it were other. But I
am a prince in this one.'

'My lord,' she said; 'if the world so is, kings and princes are here
to be above the world. In your greatness ye shall change it; with your
justice ye shall purify it; with your clemencies ye should it chasten
and amerce. Ye ask me to be a queen. Shall I be a queen and not such a
queen? No, I tell you; if a woman may swear a great oath, I swear by
Leonidas that saved Sparta and by Christ Jesus that saved this world,
so will I come by my queenship and so act in it that, if God give me
strength the whole world never shall find speck upon mine honour--or
upon thine if I may sway thee.'

'Why,' he said, 'thy voice is like little flutes.'

He considered, patting his square, soft-shod feet upon the bricks of
the arbour floor.

'By Guy! I will have thee,' he said; 'though ye twist my senses as
never woman twisted them--and it is not good for a man to be swayed by
his women.'

'My lord,' she said, 'in naught would I sway a man save in where my
conscience pricks and impels me.' She rubbed her hand across her eyes.
'It is difficult to see the right in these matters. The only way is to
be firm for God and for the cause of the saints.' She looked down at
her feet. 'I will be ceaseless in my entreaties to you for them,' she
uttered. Suddenly again she stretched forth both her hands that had
sunk to her sides:

'Dear lord,' and her voice was full of pity for herself and for
entreaty; 'let me go to a convent to pray unceasing for thee.'

He shook his head.

'Dear lord,' she repeated; 'use me as thou wilt and I will stay beside
thee and urge thee to the cause of God.'

Again he shook his head.

'The saints would pardon me it,' she whispered; 'or if I even be
damned to save England, it were a good burnt-offering.'

'Wench,' he said; 'I was never a man to go a-whoring. I ha' done it,
but had no savour with it.' His boastfulness returned to the heavy
voice. 'I am a king that will give. I will give a crown, a realm,
jewels, honours, monies. All I have I will give; but thou shalt wed
me.' He threw out his chest and gazed down at her. 'I was ever thus,'
he said.

'And I ever thus,' she answered him swiftly. 'Mary hath put this thing
in my mind; and though ye scourge me, ye shall not have it otherwise.'

'Even how?' he said.

'My lord,' she answered; 'if the Queen, so it be true, will say she be
no wife of thine, I will wed thee. If the Queen, seeing that it is for
the good of this suffering realm, will give to me her crown, I will
wed with thee. I wot ye may get for yourself another woman with
another gear of conscience to bear t'ee children. All the ills of this
realm came with a divorce of a queen. I do hate the word as I hate
Judas, and will have no truck with the deed.'

'Ye speak me hard,' he said; 'but no man shall say I could not bear
with the truth at odd moments.'

A great and hasty eagerness came into her voice.

'Ye say that it is truth?' she cried. 'God hath softened thy heart.'

'God or thee,' he said, and muttered, 'I do not make this avowal to
the world.' Suddenly he smote his thigh. 'Body o' God!' he called out;
'the day shall soon come. Cleves falls away, France and Spain are
sundering. I will sue for peace with the Pope, and set up a chapel to
Kat's memory.' He breathed as if a weight had fallen from his chest,
and suddenly laughed: 'But ye must wed me to keep me in the right
way.'

He changed his tone again.

'Why, go to Anne,' he said; 'she is such a fool she will not lie to
thee; and, before God, she is no wife of mine.'

'God send ye speak the truth,' she answered; 'but I think few men be
found that will speak truth in these matters.'


IV


But it was with Throckmorton that the real pull of the rope came.
Henry was by then so full of love for her that, save when she crossed
his purpose, he would have given her her way to the bitter end of
things. But Throckmorton bewailed her lack of loyalty. He came to her
on the morning of the next day, having heard that, if the rain held
off, a cavalcade of seventeen lords, twelve ladies and their
bodyguards were commanded to ride with her in one train to Windsor,
where the Queen was.

'I am main sure 'tis for Madam Howard that this cavalcade is ordered,'
he said; 'for there is none other person in Court to whom his Highness
would work this honour. And I am main sure that if Madam Howard goeth,
she goeth with some mad maggot of a purpose.'

His foxy, laughing eyes surveyed her, and he stroked his great beard
deliberately.

'I ha' not been near ye this two month,' he said, 'but God knows that
I ha' worked for ye.'

Save to take her to Privy Seal the day before, when Privy Seal had
sent him, he had in truth not spoken with her for many weeks. He had
deemed it wise to keep from her.

'Nevertheless,' he said earnestly, 'I know well that thy cause is my
cause, and that thou wilt spread upon me the mantle of thy favour and
protection.'

They were in her old room with the green hangings, the high fireplace,
and before the door the red curtain worked with gold that the King had
sent her, and Cromwell had given orders that the spy outside should be
removed, for he was useless. Thus Throckmorton could speak with a
measure of freedom.

'Madam Howard,' he said; 'ye use me not well in this. Ye are not so
stable nor so safe in your place as that ye may, without counsel or
guidance, risk all our necks with these mad pranks.'

'Goodman,' she said, 'I asked ye not to come into my barque. If ye
hang to the gunwale, is it my fault an ye be drowned in my foundering
if I founder?'

'Tell me why ye go to Windsor,' he urged.

'Goodman,' she answered, 'to ask the Queen if she be the King's wife.'

'Oh, folly!' he cried out, and added softly, 'Madam Howard, ye be
monstrous fair. I do think ye be the fairest woman in the world. I
cannot sleep for thinking on thee.'

'Poor soul!' she mocked him.

'But, bethink you,' he said; 'the Queen is a woman, not a man. All
your fairness shall not help you with her. Neither yet your sweet
tongue nor your specious reasons. Nor yet your faith, for she is half
a Protestant.'

'If she be the King's wife,' Katharine said, 'I will not be Queen. If
she care enow for her queenship to lie over it, I will not be Queen
either. For I will not be in any quarrel where lies are--either of my
side or of another's.'

'God help us all!' Throckmorton mocked her. 'Here is my neck engaged
on your quarrel--and by now a dozen others. Udal hath lied for you in
the Cleves matter; so have I. If ye be not Queen to save us ere
Cromwell's teeth be drawn, our days are over and past.'

He spoke with so much earnestness that Katharine was moved to consider
her speaking.

'Knight,' she said at last, 'I never asked ye to lie to Cromwell over
the Cleves matter. I never asked Udal. God knows, I had the rather be
dead than ye had done it. I flush and grow hot each time I think this
was done for me. I never asked ye to be of my quarrel--nay, I take
shame that I have not ere this sent to Privy Seal to say that ye have
lied, and Cleves is false to him.' She pointed an accusing finger at
him: 'I take shame; ye have shamed me.'

He laughed a little, but he bent a leg to her.

'Some man must save thee from thy folly's fruits,' he said. 'For some
men love thee. And I love thee so my head aches.'

She smiled upon him faintly.

'For that, I believe, I have saved thy neck,' she said. 'My conscience
cried: "Tell Privy Seal the truth"; my heart uttered: "Hast few men
that love thee and do not pursue thee."'

Suddenly he knelt at her feet and clutched at her hand.

'Leave all this,' he said. 'Ye know not how dangerous a place this
is.' He began to whisper softly and passionately. 'Come away from
here. Well ye know that I love 'ee better than any man in land. Well
ye know. Well ye know. And well ye know no man could so well fend for
ye or jump nimbly to thy thoughts. The men here be boars and bulls.
Leave all these dangers; here is a straight issue. Ye shall not sway
the wild boar king for ever. Come with me.'

As she did not at once find words to stop his speech, he whispered on:

'I have gold enow to buy me a baron's fee in Almain. I have been
there: in castles in the thick woods, silken bowers may be built----'

But suddenly again he rose to his feet and laughed:

'Why,' he said, 'I hunger for thee: at times 'tis a madness. But 'tis
past.'

His eyes twinkled again and he waved a hand.

'Mayhap 'tis well that ye go to the Queen,' he said drily. 'If the
Queen say, "Yea," ye ha' gained all; if "Nay" ye ha' lost naught, for
ye may alway change your mind. And a true and steadfast cause, a large
and godly innocence is a thing that gaineth men's hearts and voices.'
He paused for a moment. 'Ye ha' need o' man's good words,' he said
drily; then he laughed again. 'Aye: _Nolo episcopari_ was always a
good cry,' he said.

Katharine looked at him tenderly.

'Ye know my aims are other,' she said, 'or else you would not love me.
I think ye love me better than any man ever did--though I ha' had a
store of lovers.'

'Aye,' he nodded at her gravely, 'it is pleasant to be loved.'

She was sitting by her table and leant her hand upon her cheek; she
had been sewing a white band with pearls and silken roses in red and
leaves in green, and it fell now to her feet from her lap. Suddenly he
said:

'Answer me one question of three?'

She did not move, for a feeling of languor that often overcame her in
Throckmorton's presence made her feel lazy and apt to listen. She
itched to be Queen--on the morrow or next day; she desired to have the
King for her own, to wear fair gowns and a crown; to be beloved of the
poor people and beloved of the saints. But her fate lay upon the knees
of the gods then: on the morrow the Queen would speak--betwixt then
and now there was naught for it but to rest. And to hearken to
Throckmorton was to be surprised as if she listened at a comedy.

'One question of three may be answered,' she said.

'On the forfeit of a kiss,' he added. 'I pray God ye answer none.'

He pondered for a moment, and leaning back against the chimney-piece
crossed one silk-stockinged, thin, red leg. He spoke very swiftly, so
that his words were like lightning.

'And the first is: An ye had never come here but elsewhere seen me,
had ye it in you to ha' loved me? And the second: How ye love the
King's person? And the third: Were ye your cousin's leman?'

Leaning against the table she seemed slowly to grow stiff in her pose;
her eyes dilated; the colour left her cheeks. She spoke no word.

'Privy Seal hath sent a man to hasten thy cousin back to here,' he
said at last, after his eyes had steadily surveyed her face. She sat
back in her chair, and the strip of sewing fell to wreathe, white and
red and green, round her skirts on the floor.

'I have sent a botcher to stay his coming,' he said slowly. 'Thy maid
Margot's brother.'

'I had forgotten Tom,' she said with long pauses between her words.
She had forgotten her cousin and playmate. She had given no single
thought to him since a day that she no longer remembered.

Reading the expression of her face and interpreting her slow words,
Throckmorton was satisfied in his mind that she had been her cousin's.

'He hath passed from Calais to Dover, but I swear to you that he shall
never come to you,' he said. 'I have others here.' He had none, but he
was set to comfort her.

'Poor Tom!' she uttered again almost in a whisper.

'Thus,' he uttered slowly, 'you have a great danger.'

She was silent, thinking of her Lincolnshire past, and he began again:

'Therefore ye have need of help from me as I from thee.'

'Aye,' he said, 'you shall advise with me. For at least, if I may not
have the pleasure of thy body, I will have the enjoyment of thy
converse.' His voice became husky for a moment. 'Mayhap it is a
madness in me to cling to thee; I do set in jeopardy my earthly riches
and my hope of profit. But it is Macchiavelli who says: "_If ye hoard
gold and at the end have not pleasure in what gold may pay, ye had
better have loitered in pleasing meadows and hearkened to the
madrigals of sweet singing fowls._"' He waved his hand: 'Ye see I be
still somewhat of a philosopher, though at times madness takes me.'

She was still silent--shaken into thinking of the past she had had
with her cousin when she had been very poor in Lincolnshire; she had
had leisure to read good letters there, and the time to think of them.
Now she had not held a book for four days on end.

'You are in a very great danger of your cousin,' Throckmorton was
repeating. 'Yet I will stay his coming.'

'Knight,' she said, 'this is a folly. If guards be needed to keep me
from his knife, the King shall give me guards.'

'His knife!' Throckmorton raised his hands in mock surprise. 'His
knife is a very little thing.'

'Ye would not say it an ye had come anear him when he was crossed,'
she said. 'I, who am passing brave, fear his knife more than aught
else in this world.'

'Oh, incorrigible woman,' he cried, 'thinking ever of straight things
and clear doings. It is not the knife of your cousin, but the devious
policy of Privy Seal that calleth for fear.'

'Why, or ever Privy Seal bind Tom to his policy he shall bind iron
bars to make a coil.'

He looked at her with lifted eyebrows, and then scratched with his
finger nail a tiny speck of mud from his shoe-point, balancing himself
back against the chimney piece and crossing his red legs above the
knees.

'Madam Howard,' he said, 'Privy Seal is minded to use thy cousin for a
battering-ram.' She was hardly minded to listen to him, and he uttered
stealthily, as if he were sure of moving her: 'Thy cousin shall breach
a way to the ears of the King--for thy ill fame to enter in.'

She leaned forward a little.

'Tell me of my ill fame,' she said; and at that moment Margot Poins,
her handmaid, placid still, large, fair and florid, came in to bring
her mistress an embroidery frame of oak wood painted with red stripes.
At Throckmorton's glance askance at the cow-like girl, Katharine said:
'Ye may speak afore Margot Poins. I ha' heard tales of her bringing.'

Margot kneeled at Katharine's feet to stretch a white linen cloth over
the frame on the floor.

'Privy Seal planneth thus,' Throckmorton answered Katharine's
challenge. He spoke low and level, hoping to see her twinge at every
new phrase. 'The King hath put from him every tale of thee; it is not
easy to bring him tales of those he loves, but very dangerous. But
Cromwell planneth to bring hither thy cousin and to keep him privily
till one day cometh the King to be alone with thee in thy bower or
his. Then, having removed all lets, shall Cromwell gird this cousin to
spring in upon thee and the King, screaming out and with his sword
drawn.' Still Katharine did not move, but leaned along her table of
yellow wood. 'It is not the sword ye shall fear,' he said slowly, 'but
what cometh after. For, for sure, Privy Seal holdeth, then shall be
the time to bring witnesses against thee to the hearing of the King.
And Privy Seal hath witnesses.'

'He would have witnesses,' Katharine answered.

'There be those that will swear----'

'Aye,' she caught him up, speaking very calmly. 'There be those that
will swear they ha' seen me with a dozen men. With my cousin, with
Nick Ardham, with one and another of the hinds. Why, he will bring a
hind to swear I ha' loved him. And he will bring a bastard child or
twain----' She paused, and he paused too.

At last he said: 'Anan?'

'Ye might do it against Godiva of Coventry, against the blessed
Katharine or against Caesar's helpmeet in those days,' Katharine said.
'Margot here can match all thy witnesses from the city of London--men
that never were in Lincolnshire.'

Margot's face flushed with a tide of exasperation, and, sitting
motionless, she uttered deeply:

'My uncle the printer hath a man will swear he saw ye walk with a
fiend having horns and a tail.' And indeed these things were believed
among the Lutherans that flocked still to Margot's uncle's printing
room. 'My uncle hath printed this,' she muttered, and fumbled hotly in
her bosom. She drew out a sheet with coarse black letters upon it and
cast it across the floor with a flushed disdain at Throckmorton's
feet. It bore the heading: '_Newes from Lincoln_,' Throckmorton kicked
with his toe the white scroll and scrutinised Katharine's face
dispassionately with his foxy eyes that jumped between his lids like
little beetles of blue. He thrust his cap back upon his head and
laughed.

'Before God!' he said; 'ye are the joyfullest play that ever I heard.
And how will Madam Howard act when the King heareth these things?'

Katharine opened her lips with surprise.

'For a subtile man ye are strangely blinded,' she said; 'there is one
plain way.'

'To deny it and call the saints to witness!' he laughed.

'Even that,' she answered. 'I pray the saints to give me the place and
time.'

'Ha' ye seen the King in a jealous rage?' he asked.

'Subtile man,' she answered, 'the King knows his world.'

'Aye,' he answered, 'knoweth that women be never chaste.'

Katharine bent to pick up her sewing.

'Sir,' she said, 'if the King will not have faith in me I will wed no
King.'

His jaw fell. 'Ye have so much madness?' he asked.

She stretched towards him the hand that held her sewing now.

'I swear to you,' she said--'and ye know me well--I seek a way to
bring these rumours to the King's ears.'

He said nothing, revolving these things in his mind.

'Goodly servant,' she began, and he knew from the round and silvery
sound she drew from her throat that she was minded to make one of the
long speeches that appalled and delighted him with their childish
logic and wild honour. 'If it were not that my cousin would run his
head into danger I would will that he came to the King. Sir, ye are a
wise man, can ye not see this wisdom? There is no good walking but
upon sure ground, and I will not walk where the walking is not good.
Shall I wed this King and have these lies to fear all my life? Shall I
wed this King and do him this wrong? Neither wisdom nor honour counsel
me to it. Since I have heard these lies were abroad I have at frequent
moments thought how I shall bring them before the King.'

He thrust his hands into his pockets, stretched his legs out, and
leaned back as though he were supporting the chimney-piece with his
back.

'The King knoweth how men will lie about a woman,' she began again.
'The King knoweth how ye may buy false witness as ye may buy herrings
in the market-place at so much a score. An the King were such a man as
not to know these things, I would not wed with him. An the King were
such a man as not to trust in me, I would not wed with him. I could
have no peace. I could have no rest. I am not one that ask little, but
much.'

'Why, you ask much of them that do support your cause,' he laughed
from his private thinking.

'I do ask this oath of you,' she answered: 'that neither with sword
nor stiletto, nor with provoked quarrel, nor staves, nor clubs, nor
assassins, ye do seek to stay my cousin's coming.'

He cut across her purpose with asking again: 'Ha' ye seen the King
rage jealously?'

'Knight,' she said, 'I will have your oath.' And, as he paused in
thought, she said: 'Before God! if ye swear it not, I will make the
King to send for him hither guarded and set around with an hundred
men.'

'Ye will not have him harmed?' he asked craftily. 'Ye do love him
better than another?'

She rose to her feet, her lips parted. 'Swear!' she cried.

His fingers felt around his waist, then he raised his hand and
uttered:

'I do swear that ne with sword ne stiletto, ne with staves nor with
clubs, ne with any quarrels nor violence so never will I seek thy
goodly cousin's life.'

He shook his head slowly at her.

'All the men ye have known have prayed ye to be rid of him,' he said;
'ye will live to rue.'

'Sir,' she answered him, 'I had rather live to rue the injury my
cousin should do me than live to rue the having injured him.' She
paused to think for a moment. 'When I am Queen,' she said, 'I will
have the King set him in a command of ships to sail westward over the
seas. He shall have the seeking for the Hesperides or the city of
Atalanta, where still the golden age remains to be a model and
ensample for us.' Her eyes looked past Throckmorton. 'My cousin hath a
steadfast nature to be gone on such pilgrimages. And I would the
discovery were made, this King being King and I his Queen; rather that
than the regaining of France; more good should come to Christendom.'

'Madam Howard,' Throckmorton grinned at her, 'if men of our day and
kin do come upon any city where yet remaineth the golden age, very
soon shall be shewn the miracle of the corruptibility of gold. The
rod of our corruption no golden state shall defy.'

She smiled friendlily at him.

'There we part company,' she said. 'For I do believe God made this
world to be bettered. I think, and answer your question, I could never
ha' loved you. For you be a child of the new Italians and I a disciple
of the older holders of that land, who wrote, Cato voicing it for
them, "Virtue spreadeth even as leaven leaveneth bread; a little lump
in your flour in the end shall redeem all the loaf of the Republic."'

He smiled for a moment noiselessly, his mouth open but no sound coming
out. Then he coaxed her:

'Answer my two other questions.'

'Knight,' she answered; 'for the truth of the last, ask, with
thumbscrews, the witnesses ye found in Lincolnshire, and believe them
as ye list. Or ask at the mouth of a draw-well if fishes be below in
the water before ye ask a woman if she be chaste. For the other,
consider of my actions hereafter if I do love the King's person.'

'Why, then, I shall never have kiss from mouth of thine,' he said, and
pulled his cap down over his eyes to depart.

'When the sun shall set in the east,' she retorted, and gave him her
hand to kiss.

Margot Poins raised her large, fair head from her stitching after he
was gone, and asked:

'Tell me truly how ye love the King's person. Often I ha' thought of
it; for I could love only a man more thin.'

'Child,' Katharine answered, 'his Highness distilleth from his person
a make of majesty; there is no other such a man in Christendom. His
Highness culleth from one's heart a make of pity--for, for sure, there
is not in Christendom a man more tried or more calling to be led
Godwards. The Greek writers had a myth, that the two wings of Love
were made of Awe and Pity. Flaws I may find in him; but hot anger
rises in my heart if I hear him miscalled. I will not perjure myself
at his bidding; but being with him, I will kneel to him unbidden. I
will not, to be his queen, have word in a divorce, for I have no
truck with divorces; but I will humble myself to his Queen that is to
pray her give me ease and him if the marriage be not consummated. For,
so I love him that I will humble mine own self in the dust; but so I
love love and its nobleness that, though I must live and die a
cookmaid, I will not stoop in evil ways.'

'There is no man worth that guise of love,' Margot answered, her voice
coming gruff and heavy, 'not the magister himself. I ha' smote one
kitchenmaid i' the face this noon for making eyes at him.'


V


'My mad nephew,' Master Printer Badge said to Throckmorton, 'shall
travel down from his chamber anon. When ye shall see the pickle he is
in ye shall understand wherefore it needeth ten minutes to his
downcoming.' To Throckmorton's query he shook his dark, bearded head
and muttered: 'Nay; ye used him for your own purposes. Ye should know
better than I what is like to have befallen him.'

Throckmorton swallowed his haste and leant back against the edge of a
press that was not at work. Of these presses there were four there in
the middle of the room: tall, black, compounded of iron and wood, the
square inwards of each rose and fell rhythmically above the flutter of
the printed leaves that the journeymen withdrew as they rose, and
replaced, white, unsullied and damp as they came together again. Along
the walls the apprentice setters stood before the black formes and
with abstruse, deliberate or hesitating expressions, made swift
snatches at the little leaden dice. The sifting sound of the leads
going home and the creak of the presses with the heavy wheeze of one
printer, huge and grizzled like a walrus, pulling the press-lever back
and bending forward to run his eyes across the type--wheeze, creak
and click--made a level and monotonous sound.

'Ye drill well your men,' Throckmorton said lazily, and smoothed his
white fingers, holding them up against the light, as if they of all
things most concerned him.

He had received that day at Hampton a letter from the printer here in
Austin Friars, sent hastening by the hands of the pressman whose idle
machine he now leant against. 'Sir,' the letter said, 'my nephew saith
urgently that T.C. is landed at Greenwich. He might not stay him. What
this importeth best is yknown to your worshipful self. By the swaying
of the sea which late he overpassed, being tempestive, and by other
things, my nephew is rendered incoherent. That God may save you and
guide your counsels and those of your master to the more advantaging
of the Protestant religion that now, praised be God! standeth higher
in the realm than ever it did, is the prayer of Jno. Badge the
Younger.'

Throckmorton had hastened there to the hedges of Austin Friars at the
fastest of his bargemen's oars. The printer had told him that, but
that the business was the Lord Privy Seal's and, as he understood,
went to the advantaging of Protestantism and the casting down of
Popery, never would he ha' sent with the letter his own printer
journeyman, busied as they were with printing of his great Bible in
English.

'Here is an idle press,' he said, pointing at the mute and lugubrious
instrument of black, 'and I doubt I ha' done wrong.' His moody brow
beneath the black, dishevelled hair became overcast so that it
wrinkled into great furrows like crowns. 'I doubt whether I have done
wrong,' and he folded his immense bare arms, on which the hair was
like a black boar's, and pondered. 'If I thought I had done wrong, I
might not sleep seven nights.'

A printer yawned at his loom, and the great dark man shouted at him:

'Foul knave, ye show indolence! Wot ye that ye be printing the Word of
God to send abroad in this land? Wot ye that for this ye shall stand
with the elect in Heaven?' He turned upon Throckmorton. 'Sir,' he
said, 'your master Cromwell advanceth the cause, therefore I ha'
served him in this matter of the letter. But, sir, I am doubtful that,
by losing one moment from the printing of the pure Word of God, I have
not lost more time than a year's work of thy master.'

Throckmorton rubbed gently the long hand that he still held against
the light.

'Ye fall away from Privy Seal?' he asked.

The printer gazed at him with glowering and suffused eyes, choking in
his throat. He raised an enormous hand before Throckmorton's face.

'Courtier,' he cried, 'with this hand I ha' stopped an ox, smiting it
between the eyes. Wo befal the man, traitor to Privy Seal, that I do
meet and betwixt whose eyes this hand doth fall.' The hand quivered in
the air with fury. 'I can raise a thousand 'prentices and a thousand
journeymen to save Privy Seal from any peril; I can raise ten thousand
citizens, and ten thousand to-morrow again from the shires by
pamphlets of my printing; I can raise a mighty army thus to shield him
from Papists and the devil's foul contrivances. An I were a Papist, I
would pray to him, were he dead, as he were a saint.' Throckmorton
moved his face a line or two backwards from the gesticulating ham of a
hand, and blinked his eyes. 'My gold were Privy Seal's an he needed
it; my blood were his and my prayers. Nevertheless,' and his voice
took a more exalted note, 'one letter of the Word of God, God aiding
it, is of more avail than Privy Seal, or I, and all those I can love,
or he. With his laws and his nose for treason he hath smitten the
Amalekites above the belt; but a letter of the Word of God can smite
them hip and thigh, God helping.' He seemed again to choke in his
throat, and said more quietly: 'But ye shall not think a man in land
better loveth this godly flail of the monks.'

'Why, I do think ye would stand up against the King's self,'
Throckmorton said, 'and I am glad to hear it.'

'Against all printers and temporal powers,' the printer answered.
Amongst the apprentices and journeymen a murmur arose of acclamation
or of denial, some being of opinion that the King was divine in origin
and inspiration, but for the most part they supported their master,
and Throckmorton's blue eyes travelled from one to the other.

But the printer heaved a sigh of satisfaction.

'God be thanked,' he said, 'that keepeth the hearts of princes and
guideth with His breath all temporal occurrences.' Throckmorton was
about to touch his cap at the name of Omnipotence, but remembering
that he was among Protestants changed the direction of his hand and
scratched his cheek among the little hairs of his beard; 'the signs
are favourable that our good King's Highness shall still incline to
our cause and Privy Seal's.'

Throckmorton said: 'Anan?'

'Aye,' the printer said heavily, 'good news is come of Cleves.'

'Ye ha' news from Cleves?' Throckmorton asked swiftly.

'From Cleves not,' the printer answered; 'but from the Court by way of
Paris and thence from Cleves.' And to the interested spy he related,
accurately enough, that a make of mouthing, mowing, magister of the
Latin tongues had come from Paris, having stolen copies of the Cleves
envoy's letters in that town, and that these letters said that Cleves
was fast inclined to the true Schmalkaldner league of Lutherans and
would pay tribute truly, but no more than that do fealty to the
accursed leaguer of the Pope called Charles the Emperor.

Throckmorton inclined his cap at an angle to the floor.

'How had ye that news that was so secret?' he asked.

The printer shook his dark beard with an air of heavy pleasure.

'Ye have a great organisation of spies,' he said, 'but better is the
whisper of God among the faithful.'

'Why,' Throckmorton answered, 'the magister Udal hath to his
sweetheart thy niece Margot Poins.'

At her name the printer's eyes filled with a sudden and violent heat.

'Seek another channel,' he cried, and waved his arms at the low
ceiling. 'Before the face of Almighty God I swear that I ha' no truck
with Margot my niece. Since she has been sib with the whore of the
devil called Kat Howard, never hath she told me a secret through her
paramour or elsewise. A shut head the heavy logget keepeth--let her
not come within reach of my hand.' He swayed back upon his feet. 'Let
her not come,' he said. He bent his brows upon Throckmorton. 'I
marvel,' he uttered, 'that ye who are so faithful a servant o' Privy
Seal's can have truck with the brother of my niece Margot.'

'Printer,' Throckmorton answered him, 'ye know well that when the
leaven of Protestantism hath entered in there, houses are divided
against themselves. A wench may be a foul Papist and serve, if ye
will, Kat Howard; but her brother shall yet be an indifferent good
servant for me.'

The printer, who had tolerated that his men should hear his panegyric
of the Bible and Privy Seal, scowled at them now so that again the
arms swung to and fro with the levers, the leads clicked. He put his
great head nearer Throckmorton's and muttered:

'Are ye certain my nephew serveth ye well? He was never wont to favour
our cause, and, before ye sent him on this errand, he was wont to cry
out in his cups that he was disgraced for having carried letters
betwixt Kat Howard and the King. If this were true he was no friend of
ours.'

'Why, it was true,' Throckmorton uttered negligently.

The printer caught at the spy's wrist, and the measure of his
earnestness showed the extent of his passion for Privy Seal's cause.

'Use him no more,' he said. 'Both children of my sister were ever
indifferents. They shall not serve thee well.'

'It was ever Privy Seal's motto and habit to use for his servitors
those that had their necks in his noose. Such men serve him ever the
best.'

The printer shook his head gloomily.

'I wager my nephew will yet play the traitor to Privy Seal.'

'I will do it myself ere that,' and Throckmorton yawned, throwing his
head back.

'The scaldhead is there,' the printer said; and in the doorway there
stood, supporting himself by the lintel, the young Poins. His face was
greenish white; a plaster was upon his shaven head; he held up one
foot as if it pained him to set it to the floor. Through the
house-place where sat the aged grandfather with his cap pulled over
his brows, pallid, ironical and seeming indescribably ancient, the
printer led the spy. The boy hobbled after them, neglecting the old
man's words:

'Ha' no truck with men of Privy Seal's. Privy Seal hath stolen my
ground.' In the long shed where they ate all, printer, grandfather,
apprentices and journeymen, the printer thrust open the door with a
heavy gesture, entering first and surveying the long trestles.

'Ye can speak here,' he said, and motioned away an aged woman. She
bent above a sea coal fire on the hearth where boiled, hung from a
hook, a great pot. The old thing, in short petticoats and a linsey
woolsey bodice that had been purple and green, protested shrilly. Her
crock was on the boil; she was not there to be driven away; she had
work like other folk, and had been with the printer's mother eight
years before he was born. His voice, raised to its height, was useless
to drown her words. She could not hear him; and shrugging his
shoulders, he said to Throckmorton that she heard less than the walls,
and that was the best place he had for them to talk in. He slammed the
door behind him.

Throckmorton set his foot upon the bench that ran between table and
wall. He scowled fell-ly at the boy, so that his brows came down below
his nose-top. 'Ye ha' not stayed him,' he said.

The boy burst forth in a torrent of rage and despair. He cursed
Throckmorton to his face for having sent him upon this errand.

'I ha' been beaten by a gatewarden! by a knave! by a ploughman's son
from Lincolnshire!' he cried. 'A' cracked my skull with a pikestave
and kicked me about the ribs when I lay on the ship's floor, sick like
a pig. God curse the day you sent me to Calais, a gentleman's son, to
be beat by a boor!' He broke off and began again. 'God curse you and
the day I saw you! God curse Kat Howard and the day I carried her
letter! God curse my sister Margot and the day she gar'd me carry the
letters! And may a swift death of the pox take off Kat Howard's
cousin--may he rot and stink through the earth above his grave. He
would not fight with me, but aboard a ship when I was sick set a
Lincolnshire logget to beat me, a gentleman's son!'

'Why, thy gentility shall survive it,' Throckmorton said. 'But an it
will not have more beating to its back, ye shall tell me where ye left
T. Culpepper.'

'At Greenwich,' said the young Poins, and vomited forth curses. The
old woman came from her pots to peer at the plasters on his skull, and
then returned to the fire gibbering and wailing that she was not in
that house plasters for to make.

'Knave,' Throckmorton said, 'an ye will not tell me your tale swiftly
ye shall right now to the Tower. It is life and death to a leaden
counter an I find not Culpepper ere nightfall.'

The young Poins stretched forth his arm and groaned.

'Part is bruises and part is sickness of the waves,' he muttered; 'but
if I make not shift to slit his weazand ere nightfall, pox take all my
advancement for ever. I will tell my weary tale.'

Throckmorton paused, held his head down, fingered his beard, and said:

'When left ye him at Greenwich?'

'This day at dawn,' Poins answered, and cursed again.

'Drunk or sober?'

'Drunk as a channel codfish.'

The old woman came, a sheaf of jack-knives in her arms, muttering
along the table.

'Get you to bed,' she croaked. 'I will not ha' warmed new sheets for
thee, and thee not use them. Get thee to bed.'

Throckmorton pushed her back, and caught the boy by the jacket near
the throat.

'Ye shall tell me the tale as we go,' he said, and punctuated his
words by shakes. 'But, oaf that I trusted to do a man's work, ye swing
beneath a tree this night an we find not the man ye failed to stay.'

The young Poins--he panted out the story as he trotted, wofully
keeping pace to Throckmorton's great strides between the hedges--had
stuck to Culpepper as to his shadow, in Calais town. At each turn he
had showed the warrant to be master of the lighters; he had handed
over the gold that Throckmorton had given him. But Culpepper had
turned a deaf ear to him, and, setting up a violent friendship with
the Lincolnshire gatewarden over pots of beer in a brewhouse, had
insisted on buying Hogben out of his company and taking him over the
sea to be witness of his wedding with Katharine Howard. Dogged, and
thrusting his word and his papers in at every turn, the young Poins
had pursued them aboard a ship bound for the Thames.

This story came out in jerks and with divagations, but it was evident
to Throckmorton that the young man had stuck to his task with a dogged
obtuseness enough to have given offence to a dozen Culpeppers. He had
begged him, in the inn, to take the lieutenancy of the Calais
lighters; he had trotted at Culpepper's elbow in the winding streets;
he had stood in his very path on the gangway to the ship that was to
take them to Greenwich. At every step he had pulled out of his poke
the commission for the lieutenancy--so that Throckmorton had in his
mind, by the time they sat in the stern of the swift barge, the image
of Culpepper as a savage bulldog pursued along streets and up
ship-sides by a gambolling bear cub that pulled at his ears and
danced before him. And he could credit Culpepper only with a saturnine
and drunken good humour at having very successfully driven Cardinal
Pole out of Paris. That was the only way in which he could account for
the fact that Culpepper had not spitted the boy at the first
onslaught. But for the sheer ill-luck of his sword's having been
stolen, he might have done it, and been laid by the heels for six
months in Calais. For Calais being a frontier town of the English
realm, it was an offence very serious there for English to draw sword
upon English, however molested.

It was that upon which Throckmorton had counted; and he cursed the day
when Culpepper had entered the thieves' hut outside Ardres. But for
that Culpepper must have drawn upon the boy; he must have been lying
then in irons in Calais holdfast. As it was, there was this long
chase. God knew whether they would find him in Greenwich; God knew
where they would find him. He had gone to Greenwich, doubtless,
because when he had left England the Court had been in Greenwich, and
he expected there to find his cousin Kat. He would fly to Hampton as
soon as he knew she was at Hampton; but how soon would he know it? By
Poins' account, he was too drunk to stand, and had been carried ashore
on the back of his Lincolnshire henchman. Therefore he might be lying
in the streets of Greenwich--and Greenwich was a small place. But
different men carried their liquor so differently, and Culpepper might
go ashore too drunk to stand and yet reach Hampton sober enow to be
like a raging bear by eventide.

That above all things Throckmorton dreaded. For that evening Katharine
would be come back from the interview with Anne of Cleves at Windsor;
and whether she had succeeded or not with her quest, the King was
certain to be with her in her room--to rejoice on the one hand, or
violently to plead his cause on the other. And Throckmorton knew his
King well enough--he knew, that is to say, his private image of his
King well enough--to be assured that a meeting between the King then
and Culpepper there, must lead Katharine to her death. He considered
the blind, immense body of jealousy that the King was. And, at
Hampton, Privy Seal would have all avenues open for Culpepper to come
to his cousin. Privy Seal had detailed Viridus, who had had the matter
all the while in hand, to inflame Culpepper's mind with jealousy so
that he should run shouting through the Court with a monstrous outcry.

It was because of this that Throckmorton dreaded to await Culpepper at
Hampton; there he was sure enow to find him, sooner or later, but
there would be the many spies of Privy Seal's around all the avenues
to the palace. He might himself send away the spies, but it was too
dangerous; for, say what he would, if he held Culpepper from Katharine
Howard, Cromwell would visit it mercilessly upon him.

He turned the nose of his barge down the broadening, shining grey
stream towards Greenwich. The wind blew freshly up from the sea; the
tide ran down, and Throckmorton pulled his bonnet over his eyes to
shade them from sea and breeze, and the wind that the rowers made. For
it was the swiftest barge of the kingdom: long, black, and narrow,
with eight watermen rowing, eight to relieve them, and always eight
held in reserve at all landing stages for that barge's crew. So well
Privy Seal had organised even the mutinous men of the river that his
service might be swift and sudden. Throckmorton had set down the bower
at the stern, that the wind might have less hold.

Nevertheless it blew cold, and he borrowed a cloak and a pottle of
sack to warm the young Poins, who had run with him capless and without
a coat. For, listening to the boy's disjointed tale out in the broad
reaches below London, Throckmorton recognised that if the young man
were incredibly a fool he was incredibly steadfast too, and a
steadfast fool is a good tool to retain for simple work. He had,
too--the boy--a valuable hatred for Culpepper that he allowed to
transfer itself to Katharine herself: a brooding hatred that hung in
his blue eyes as he gazed downwards at the barge floor or spat at the
planks of the side. Its ferocity was augmented by the patches of
plaster that stretched over his skull and dropped over one blonde
eyebrow.

'Cod!' he ejaculated. 'Cod! Cod! Cod!' and waved a fist ferociously at
the rushes that spiked the waters of the river in their new green.
'They waited till I was too sick of the sickness of the sea, too sick
to stand--more mortal sick than ever man was. I hung to a rope and
might not let go. And Cod! Cod! Cod! Culpepper lay under the
sterncastle in a hole and set his Lincolnshire beast to baste my
ribs.'

He spat again with gloomy quiescence into the bottom of the boat.

'In the mid of the sea,' he said, 'where the ship pointed at heaven
and then at the fiend his home, I hung to a rope and was basted! And
that whore's son lay in his hole and laughed. For I was a cub, says
he, and not fit for a man's converse or striking.'

Throckmorton's eyes glimmered a little.

'You have been used as befits no gentleman's son,' he said. 'I will
see to the righting of your wrongs.'

Poins swore with an amazing obscenity.

'Shall right 'em myself,' he said, 'so I meet T. Culpepper in this
flesh as a man.'

Throckmorton leaned gently forward and touched his arm.

'I will right thy wrongs,' he said, 'and see to thine advancement; for
if in this service you ha' failed, yet ha' you been persistent and
feal.' He dabbled one white hand in the water, 'Nevertheless,' he said
slowly, 'I would have you consider that your service in this ends
here.' He spoke still more slowly: 'I would have you to understand
this. Aforetime I gave you certain instructions as to using your sword
upon this Culpepper if you might not otherwise stay him.' He held up
one finger. 'Now mark; your commission is ceased. You shall no longer
for my service draw sword, knife or dagger, stave nor club, upon this
man.'

Poins looked at him with gloomy surprise that was changing swiftly to
hot rage.

'I am under oath to a certain one to use no violence upon this man,'
Throckmorton said, 'and to encourage no other to do violence.'

Poins thrust his round, brick-red brow out like a turkey cock's from
the boat cloak into Throckmorton's face.

'I am under no oath of yourn!' he shouted. Throckmorton shrugged his
shoulders and wagged one finger at him. 'No oath o' yourn!' the boy
repeated. 'God knows who ye be or why it is so. But I ha' heard ye ha'
my neck in a noose; I ha' heard ye be dangerous. Yet, before God, I
swear in your teeth that if I meet this man to his face, or come upon
his filthy back, drunk, awake, asleep, I will run him through the
belly and send his soul to hell. He had me, a gentleman's son, basted
by a hind!'

This long speech exhausted his breath, and he fell back panting.

'I had as soon ye had my head as not,' he muttered desperately, 'since
I have been basted.'

'Why,' Throckmorton answered, 'for your private troubles, I know
naught of them. There may be some that will thank ye or advance ye for
spitting of this gallant. But I am not one of them. Nevertheless will
I be your friend, whom ye would have served better an ye could.'

He smiled in his inward manner and went to polishing of his nails. A
little later he felt the bruises on the boy's arms, and stayed the
barge for a moment the stage where, swiftly, eight oarsmen took the
places of the eight that had rowed two shifts out of three--stayed the
barge for time enough to purchase for the boy a ham, a little ginger,
some raw eggs and sack.

The barge rushed forward, with the jar of oars and the sound, like
satin tearing, of the water at the bows, across the ruffled reaches of
the broad waters. The gilded roofs, the gabled fronts of the palace at
Greenwich called Placentia, winked in the fresh sunlight. Throckmorton
had a great fever of excitement, but having sworn to let his oarsmen
be scourged with leathern thongs if they made no more efforts, he lay
back upon the purple cushions and toyed with the strings of the yellow
ensign that floated behind them. It was his purpose to put heart in
the boy and to feed his rage, so that alternately he promised to give
him the warding of the Queen's door--a notable advancement--or
assented to the lad's gloom when he said that he was fit only for the
stables, having been beaten by a groom. So that at the quay the boy
sprang forth mightily, swaying the boat behind him. The trace of his
sea-sickness had left him; he swore to tear Culpepper's throat apart
as if it had been capon flesh.

Throckmorton swiftly quartered the gardens, sending, in his passage
beneath the tall palace arch, a dozen men to search all the paths for
any drunkards that might there lie hidden. He sent the young Poins to
search the three alehouses of the village where seamen new landed sat
to drink. But, having found the sergeant of void palaces asleep in a
small cell at the house end, he learned that two men, speaking
Lincolnshire, had been there two hours agone, questing for Master
Viridus and swearing that they had rid France of the devil and were to
be made great lords for it. The sergeant, an old, corpulent Spaniard
who had been in England forty years, having come with the dead Queen
Katharine and been given this honourable post because the queen had
loved him, folded his fat hands across his round stomach as he sat on
the floor, his legs stretched out, his head against the hangings.

'I might not make out if they were lords or what manner of cavaliers,'
he said. 'They sought some woman whom they would not name, and ran
through a score of empty rooms. God knows whither they went.'

He pulled his nightcap further over his head, nodded at Throckmorton,
and resumed his meditations.

There was no finding them in the still and empty corridors of the
palace; but at the gateway he heard that the two men had clamoured to
know where they might purchase raw shinbone of beef, and had been
directed to the house of a widow Emden. There Throckmorton found
their tracks, for the sacking that covered the window-holes was burst
outwards, beef-bones lay on the road before the door, and, within, the
widow, black, begrimed and very drunk, lay inverted on the clay of the
floor, her head beneath the three legs of the chopping block, so that
she was as if in a pillory, but too fuddled to do more than wave her
legs. A prentice who crouched, with a broken head, in a corner of the
filthy room, said that a man from Lincolnshire, all in Lincoln green,
with a red beard, had wrought this ruin of beef-bones that he had cast
through the windows, and had then comforted the screaming widow with
much strong drink from a black bottle. They had wanted raw beef to
make them valiant against some wedding, and they threw the beef-bones
through the sacking because they said the place stunk villainously.
They seemed, these two, to have visited every hovel in the damp and
squalid village that lay before the palace gates. They had kicked beds
of straw over the floors, thrown crocks at the pigs, melted pewter
plates in the fires.

For pure joy at being afoot and ashore in England again, they had cast
coins into all the houses and hovels of mud; they had brought out cans
and casks from the alehouses, and cast pies into the streets, and
caused the dismal ward to cry out: 'God save free Englishmen!' 'Curse
the sea!' and 'A plague of Frenchmen that be devils!'

And the after effects of their carnival menaced Throckmorton, for from
the miserable huts, where ragged women were rearranging the scattered
straws and wiping egg-yolk from the broken benches, there issued a
ragged crowd of men with tangled and muddy hair and boys unclothed
save for sacks that whistled about their lean hips. The liquor that
Culpepper and Hogben had distributed had rendered them curious or full
of mutiny and discontent, and they surrounded Throckmorton's brilliant
figure in its purple velvet, with the gold neck-chains and the
jewelled hat, and some of them asked for money, and some called him
'Frenchman,' and some knew him for a spy, and some caught up stones
and jawbones furtively to cast at him.

But, arrogant and with his head set high, he borrowed a whip from a
packman that shouldered his way through the street, and lashed at
their legs and ragged heads. The crowd slunk, one by one, back under
the darkness that was beneath the roofs of reeds, and the idea of a
good day that for a moment had risen in their minds at Culpepper's
legendary approach, sank down and flickered out once more in their
hungry bellies and fever-dimmed minds.

'God!' he said, 'we will have hangmen here,' and pursued his search.
He met the young Poins at the head of the village street, and learned
from him that Culpepper and his supporter had hired horses to ride to
Hampton and had galloped away three hours before, holding legs of
mutton by the feet and using them for cudgels to beat their horses.

'Before God!' the boy said, 'an I had money to hire horses I would
overtake them, if I overtook not the devil erstwhile.'

Throckmorton pulled out his purple purse that was embroidered with
silk crosses. He extracted from it four crowns of gold.

'Lad,' he said, 'I do not give thee gold to follow Kat Howard's cousin
with. This is thy wage for the service thou hast done aforetime.' He
reflected for a moment. 'If thou wilt have a horse--but I urge it
not--to go to Hampton where thy fellows of the guard are--for, having
served well ye may once more and without danger rejoin your mates--if
ye will have such a horse, go to the horseward of the palace and say I
sent you. Withouten doubt ye are mad to hasten back to your mates, a
commendable desire. And the King's horses shall hasten faster than any
hired horse--so that ye may easily overtake a man that hath but two
hours' start towards Hampton.'

Whilst Poins was already hastening towards the gateway, Throckmorton
cried to him at a distance:

'Ask at each cross-road guard-house and at all ferries and bridges if
some have passed that way; and at the landing-stage if perchance
caballeros have altered their desires and had it in their minds to
take to boats.'

He sped through the wind to the riverside, set again his oars in
motion and swept up the tide. It had turned and they made good
progress.


VI


The Queen sat in her painted gallery at Richmond, and all around her
her maids sewed and span. The gallery was long; along the panels that
faced the windows were angels painted in red and blue and gold, and in
the three centre squares St. George, whose face was the face of the
King's Highness, in one issued from a yellow city upon a green plain;
in one with a cherry-coloured lance slew a green dragon from whose
mouth issued orange-coloured flames; and in one carried away, that he
might wed her in a rose-coloured tower on a hillside, a princess in a
black gown with hair painted of real gold.

Whilst the maids sewed in silence the Queen sat still upon a stool.
Light-skinned, not very stout, with a smooth oval face, she had laid
her folded hands on the gold and pearl embroidery of her lap and gazed
away into the distance, thinking. She sat so still that not even the
lawn tips of her wide hood with its invisible, minute sewings of
white, quivered. Her gown was of cloth of gold, but since her being in
England she had learned to wear a train, and in its folds on the
ground slept a small Italian greyhound. About her neck she had a
partelet set with green jewels and with pearls. Her maids sewed; the
spinning-wheels ate away the braided flax from the spindles, and the
sunlight poured down through the high windows. She was a very fair
woman then, and many that had seen her there sit had marvelled of the
King's disfavour for her; but she was accounted wondrous still,
sitting thus by the hour with the little hounds in the folds of her
dress. Only her eyes with their half-closed lids gave to her lost
gaze the appearance of a humour and irony that she never was heard to
voice.

They turned to the opening door, a flush came into her face, spread
slowly down her white neck and was lost in the white opening of her
shoulder-pieces, and she greeted Katharine Howard, kneeling at her
feet, with an inclination of the head so tiny that you could not see
the motion. Her eyes remained motionlessly upon the girl's face; only
the lids moved suddenly when Katharine spoke to her in German.

'You speak my tongue?' the Queen asked, motionless still and speaking
very low. Katharine remained upon her knees.

'I learned to read books in German when I was a child,' Katharine
said; 'and since you came I have spoken an hour a day with a German
astronomer that I might give you pleasure if so be it chanced.'

'So it is well,' the Queen said. 'Not many have so done.'

'God has endowed me with an ease of tongues,' Katharine answered;
'many others would have ventured it for your Grace's pleasure. But
your tongue is a hard tongue.'

'I have needed to learn hard sentences in yours,' the Queen said, 'and
have had many masters many hours of the day. I will have you stand up
upon your feet.'

Katharine remained upon her knees.

'I will have you stand up upon your feet,' the Queen repeated.

'I have a prayer to make,' Katharine answered.

The Queen looked for a minute straight before her, then slowly turned
her head to one side. When her gaze rested upon her women they rose
and, with a clatter of their feet and a rustle of garments, carrying
their white sewings and their spinning-wheels stilled, went away down
the gallery. The German lord of Overstein, bearded and immense in the
then German fashion, came from behind the retreating women to stand
before the Queen signifying that he would offer his interpretership.
She dismissed him without speaking, letting her eyes rest upon him.
She was the most silent woman in the world, but all people said that
no queen had women and men servers that needed fewer words or so
discreetly did their devoirs.

The silence and the bright light of the sun swathed these two women's
figures, so that Katharine seemed to hear the flutter against the
window-glass of a brown butterfly that, having sheltered in the hall
all winter, now sought to take a part in the new brightness of the
world. Katharine kept her knees, her eyes upon the floor; the Queen,
motionless and soft, let her eyes rest upon Katharine's hood. From
time to time they travelled to her face, to the medallion that hung
from her neck, and to her dark green skirt of velvet that lay around
her upon the floor. The butterfly sought another window; the Queen
spoke at last.

'You seek my queenship'; and in her still voice there was neither
passion, nor pity, nor question, nor resignation.

Katharine raised her eyes: they saw the imprisoned butterfly, but she
found no words.

'You have more courage than I,' the Queen said.

Suddenly she made a single gesture with her hands, as if she swept
something from her lap: some invisible dust--and that was all. Still
Katharine did not move nor speak; she had prepared speeches--speeches
against the Queen's being disdainful, enraged, or dissolved in tears.
She had read in books all night from Aulus Gellius to Cicero to get
wisdom. But here there were no speeches called for; no speeches could
be made. The significance of the Queen's gesture of sweeping dust from
her lap slowly overwhelmed her.

'You have more courage than I,' the Queen repeated, as though slowly
she were making a catalogue of Katharine's qualities to set
dispassionately against her own; and again her eyes moved over
Katharine. With her first swift gesture she drew from the stool-top a
pamphlet of writing, upon which she had sat. Her face grew slowly red.

'It did not need this long writing against my person,' she said. 'I
take it grievously.'

Katharine moved upon her knees as if she had been stung by an
intolerable accusation.

'Before God!----' she began to say.

'Well, I believe you had no part in the writing,' the Queen
interrupted her. 'Yet the more I say you have courage: to wed a man
that will write lies of another woman's body and powers.'

Katharine sat still; the Queen's slow anger faded slowly away.

'I do not see why this King thinks you more fair than I be,' she said
dispassionately; 'but what draweth the love of man to woman is not yet
known.'

Again she repeated:

'There was no need of this writing against me. The King has never
played the husband's part to me; I would have you tell him, if I go in
danger from him, that, for me, he may go his ways. I have no mind to
stay him, nor to be a queen in this country. Here, it is said, they
slay queens.'

'If I will be Queen, it is that God may bless this realm and King with
the old faith again,' Katharine said. Anne's eyelids narrowed.

'It is best known to yourself why you will be Queen,' she said. 'It is
best known to God what faith he will have in this your realm. I know
not what faith he liketh best, nor yet what side of a queen's
functions most commendeth itself unto you.'

She seemed to withdraw herself more and more from any struggle, as if
she were a novice that took an invisible veil--and she uttered only
requests as to the world into which she would withdraw from this one.

'I am not minded to go back to Cleves,' she stipulated; for she had
thought much and long in her stillnesses of what she would have; 'the
Duke, my brother, is to blame for having brought me to this pass.
Moreover, he is not able to defend his lands; so that if, with a
proper establishing and revenue, I go back to Cleves, the Emperor
Charles, who hath a tooth for gold, may too easily undo me. I would
have a castle here in England; for England is an island, and well
defended in all its avenues, and its King a man of honour and his word
to such as never cross him, as never will I.'

She spoke slowly, as if in her mind she were ticking off little notes
pencilled on her tablets; for since she could not read she had a
memory that she could trust to. 'I will have a castle built me not
strong enough to withstand the King's forces, since those I make no
call to withstand, but strong enough to guard me against robber bands
and the insurrections that are ordinary. Upon a slope that shall take
the sun in winter, with trees about beneath which I may sit in the
heat of summer-time. I will have a good show of servants, because I am
a princess of noble lineage; I will have most of them Germans that I
may speak easily with them, but some English, understanding German, so
that the King may be advised I work no treasons against him. From time
to time I will have the King to visit and to talk with me courteously
and fairly as well he can: this in order to counterpart and destroy
the report that I smell foul and am so ill to see that it makes a man
ill----'

Her eyes, resting upon Katharine, closed slightly again with a tiny
malice.

'I will have you not to fear that, upon such visits, I will use wiles
to entrap the King. I do not favour him. I am not content to be queen
of this country. It is as fair as my own country. In summer it is more
cool, in the winter time more temperate. Meats here are good; cooks
are better than with us. What a woman and a princess in this world
would have is here all at the best, save only its men, and the most
dangerous of all its men is the King.'

Katharine's ready anger rose at her words, though before the Queen's
speeches had flowed above her head and left her speechless and
ashamed.

'The King is known throughout Christendom,' she said, 'for the
royallest prince, the noblest speaker, the most princely horseman, the
most munificent and the most learned in the law.'

'That he may be,' the Queen smiled faintly, 'to them that have never
crossed him. It has been my ill-destiny so to do.'

'Madam,' Katharine cried out, 'never man was so crossed, ill-served,
evilly-led, or betrayed. Ye may not mislike him if at times he be
petulant. I do the more praise him for it.'

'Why, you do love him,' the Queen said. 'I have no cause so to do.'

Katharine caught at one of her hands.

'Your Grace,' she said, 'Queen and high potentate, this realm calleth
out that some one person do lead the King aright. Before God, I think
I do not seek powers or temporal crowns. Maybe it is sweet to sit in a
painted gallery and be a queen, but I have very little considered it;
only, here is a King that crieth for the peace of God, a people that
clamoureth aloud to be led back to the ways of God, a land parched for
rain, swept by gales of wind and pestilences, bewailing the lost
favour of God, and the Holy Church devastated that standeth between
God and the realm.' The Queen listened to her as if, having made her
stipulations, she had no more personal interest in the matter and were
listening to the tale of a journey. 'Before God!' Katharine said, 'if
you were not a virgin for the King, or if the King have coerced you to
forswearing yourself in this matter, I would not be the King's wife,
but his concubine. Only, sore is his need of me; he hath sworn it many
times, and I do believe it, that I best, if anyone may, may give him
rest with my converse and lead him to peace. He hath sworn that never
woman save I made him so clearly to see his path to goodness; and
never woman save I, at convenient seasons, have made him so forget his
many cares.'

'Why, you have still more courage than I had thought,' the Queen said,
'to take a man so dangerous upon so little assurance.' She moved the
hand that Katharine touched in her lap neither forward nor away; but
at last she said:

'I am neither of your country nor for it; neither of your faith nor
against it. But, being here, here I do sojourn. I came not here of
mine own will. Men have handled me as they would, as if I had been a
doll. But, if I may have as much of the sun as shines, and as much of
comfort as the realm affords its better sort, being a princess, and to
be treated with some reverence, I care not if ye take King, crown, and
commonalty, so ye leave me the ruling of my house and the freedom to
wash my face how I will. I had as soon see England linked again with
the Papists as the Schmalkaldners; I had as lief see the King married
to you as another; I had as lief all men do what they will so they
leave me to go my ways and feed me well.'

She looked again upon Katharine, and for the first time spoke as if
she were addressing her:

'I make out that you are a woman with an itch to meddle at the
righting of the world. There have been more men than women at the
task, but such an one was I never. The King was never man of mine, nor
should have been had I any say in the matter.' She half closed her
eyes again. 'Doubtless had it been otherwise the King would have
constrained me by threats and tortures to forswear myself. I am as I
was when I came to Dover. As the King saw me so he left me. Yet do I
maintain and avow it was rather because he feared alliance with my
brother's party than for any foulness of my person.'

Katharine passed her hands over her eyes.

'I do feel myself a thief and a cozener,' she said.

'Ye be none,' the Queen said; 'ye take no more than what I least prize
of this world. Had it not been thee it might have been a worse; for
assuredly I was not made to foot it with this King.'

'Nevertheless----' Katharine began. But the Queen was no more content
to listen to her.

'Ye are as some I have known,' she said; 'they scruple to take what
they very much crave, though it hang ready to drop into their hands;
because they much crave it, therefore they scruple.' She had a small
golden bullet beneath her clasped hands, and she cast it into a basin
of silver that stood on a tripod beside her skirts. At the silvery
clash and roll of the ball's running sound on the metal, doors opened
along the gallery, and servitors came in bearing Rhenish wine in glass
flagons and, upon great salvers, cakes in the forms of hearts or
twisted into true-love-knots of pastry.

Katharine noted these things as being worthy of imitation.

'It is no more to me,' the Queen said, 'to lose the other things to
you than to lose to you the wine that you shall drink or a pile of
cakes.' Nevertheless she left Katharine upon her knees till she had
taken her cup, for it pleased her that her servitors should see her
treated with due worship.


VII


It was noon of that day when Katharine Howard set out again from
Richmond to ride back to Hampton Court; and at noon of that day
Throckmorton's barge shot dangerously beneath London Bridge, hastening
to Hampton Court. At noon Thomas Culpepper passed over London Bridge,
because a great crowd pressed across it from the south going to see a
burning at Smithfield; at noon, too, or five minutes later, the young
Poins galloped furiously past the end of the bridge and did not cross
over, but sped through Southwark towards Hampton Court. And at noon or
thereabouts the King, dressed in green as a husbandman, sat on a log
to await a gun-fire, in the forest that was near to Richmond river
path opposite Isleworth. He had given to Katharine a paper that she
was to deliver to the master gunner of Richmond Palace in case the
Queen Anne did satisfy her that the marriage was no marriage. So that,
when among the green glades where the great trees let down their
branches near the sward and shewed little tips of tender green leaves,
he heard three thuds come echoing, he sprang to his feet, and, smiting
his great, green-clothed thigh, he cried out: 'Ha! I be young again!'
He pulled to his lips the mouth of the English horn that was girdled
across his shoulder and under his arm; he set his feet wide apart,
filled his lungs with air, and blew a thin, clear call. At once there
issued from brakes, thickets and glades the figures of men, dressed
like the King in yeoman's green, bearing bows over their shoulders,
horns at their elbows, or having straining dogs in their leashes.

'Ho!' the King said to his chief verderer, a man of sixty with a grey
beard, but so that all others could hear; 'be it well understood that
I will have you shew some ladies what make of thing it is to rule over
jolly Englishmen.' He directed them how he would have them drive the
deer at the end of the glade; he saw to the setting up of white wands
of peeled willows and, taking from his yeoman-companion, that was the
Earl of Surrey, his great bow, he shot a mighty shaft along the glade,
to shew how far away he would have the deer to pass like swift ghosts
between the aisles of the trees.

But the palace of Hampton lay deserted and given up to scullions, who
lay in the sunlight and took their rare ease. For a great many lords
that could shoot well with the bow were gone to play the yeoman with
the King; and a great many that had sumptuous and gallant apparel were
gone to join the ladies riding back from Richmond; and the King's
whole council, together with many lords that were awful or reverend in
their appearance, were gone to sit in the scaffold to see the burning
of the friar that had denied the King's supremacy of the Church and
the burnings of the six Protestants that had denied the presence of
Christ's body in the Sacrament. Only Privy Seal, who had ordered these
things, was still walking in his gallery where he so often had walked
of late.

He had with him Wriothesley, whose face was utterly downcast and
abashed; he walked turning more swiftly than had been his wont ever
before. Wriothesley hung down his great bearded, honest head and
sighed three times.

'Sir,' he said at last, 'I see before us nothing but that ye make to
divorce the Queen Anne.' And the words seemed to come from him as if
they cost him his heart's blood.

Cromwell paused before him, his hands behind his back, his feet apart.

'The weighty question,' he said, 'is this: Who hath betrayed me: of
Udal; of the alewife that he should have had the papers of; or
Throckmorton?'

He had that morning received from Cleves, in the letter of his agent
there, the certain proof that the Duke had written to the Emperor
Charles making an utter submission to save his land from ruin, and as
utterly abjuring his alliance with the King his brother-in-law and
with the Schmalkaldner league and its Protestant princes. Cromwell had
immediately called to him Wriothesley that was that day ordering the
horses to take him back to Paris town. He had given him this news,
which, if it were secret then, must in a month be made known to all
the world. To Wriothesley the Protestant this blow was the falling in
of the world; here was Protestantism at an end and dead. There
remained nothing but to save the necks of some to carry on the faith
to distant days. Therefore he had brought out his reluctant words to
urge Privy Seal to the divorce of Anne of Cleves. There was no other
way; there was no other issue. Privy Seal must abjure Cleves' Queen,
and the very savour of a desire for a Protestant league.

But for Privy Seal the problem was not what to do, a thing he might
settle in a minute's swift thought, but the discovery of who had
betrayed him--for his whole life had been given to bringing together
his machine of service. You might determine an alliance or a divorce
between breath and breath; but the training of your instruments, the
weeding out of them that had flaws in their fidelities; the exhibiting
of a swift and awful vengeance upon mutineers--these were the things
that called for thinking and long furrowing of brows. He considered of
this point whilst Wriothesley spoke long and earnestly.

It was expedient before all things that Privy Seal keep the helm of
the State; it was very certain that the King should not long keep to
his marriage with the lady from Cleves; lamentable it was that Cleves
had fallen away from Protestantism and from the league that so goodly
had promised for truth in religion. But so, alas that the day had
come! so it was. The King was a man brave and royal in his degree, but
unstable, so that to keep him to Protestantism and good government a
firm man was earnestly needed. There was none other man than Privy
Seal. Let him consider earnestly that if it tasted ill with his
conscience to move this divorce, yet elsewise such great ills should
strike the kingdom, that far better it were to deaden his conscience
than to sacrifice for a queen of doubtful faith the best hope that
they had then, all of them, in the world. He spoke for many minutes in
this strain, for twice the clock struck the half-hour from the tower
above the gallery.

Finally, long-bearded, solemn, and richly attired as he was,
Wriothesley went down upon one knee, and, laying his bonnet on the
ground, stretched out a long hand.

'My lord,' he said, 'I do beseech you that you stay with us and
succour us. We are a small band, but zealous and well-caparisoned.
Bethink you that you put this land in peril if by maintaining this
Queen ye do endanger your precious neck. For I were loath to take arms
against the King's Majesty, and we are loyal and faithful subjects
all; yet sooner than ye should fall----'

Cromwell stood over him, looking at him dispassionately, his hands
still behind his back.

'Well, it is a great matter,' he uttered elusively. He moved as if to
walk off, then suddenly turned upon his heel again. 'Ye do me more ill
by speaking in that guise than ever Cleves or Gardiner or all my
enemies have done. For assuredly if rumours of your words should reach
the King when he was ill-affected, it should go hardly with me.'

He paused, and then spoke gently.

'And assuredly ye do me more wrong than ill,' he said. 'For this I
swear to you, ye have heard evil enow of me to have believed some. But
there is no man dare call me traitor in his heart of them that do know
me. And this I tell you: I had rather die a thousand deaths than that
ye should prop me up against the majesty and awe of government. By so
doing ye might, at a hazard, save my life, but for certain ye would
imperil that for which I have given my life.'

Again he paused and paced, and again came back in his traces to where
Wriothesley knelt.

'Some danger there is for me,' he said, 'but I think it a very little
one. The King knoweth too well how good a servant and how profitable I
have been to him. I do think he will not cast me away to please a
woman. Yet this is a very notable woman--ye wot of whom I speak; but I
hope very soon to have one to my hand that shall utterly cast down and
soil her in the eyes of the King's Highness.'

'Ye do think her unchaste?' Wriothesley asked. 'I have heard you
say----'

'Knight,' Cromwell answered; 'what I think will not be revealed to-day
nor to-morrow, but only at the Day of Judgment. Nevertheless, so do I
love my master's cause that--if it peril mine own upon that awful
occasion--I so will strive to tear this woman down.'

Wriothesley rose, stiff and angular.

'God keep the issue!' he said.

'Why, get you gone,' Cromwell said. 'But this I pray you gently: that
ye restrain your fellows' tongues from speaking treason and heresy.
Three of your friends, as you know, I must burn this day for such
speakings; you, too--you yourself, too--I must burn if it come to that
pass, or you shall die by the block. For I will have this land
purged.' His cold eyes flamed dangerously for a minute. 'Fool!' he
thundered, 'I will have this land purged of treasons and schisms. Get
you gone before I advise further with myself of your haughty and
stiff-necked speeches. For learn this: that before all creeds, and
before all desires, and before all women, and before all men, standeth
the good of this commonwealth, and state, and King, whose servant I
be. Get you gone and report my words ere I come terribly among ye.'

Making his desultory pacings from end to end of the gallery, Cromwell
considered that in that speech he had done a good morning's work, for
assuredly these men put him in peril. More than one of these dangerous
proclaimings of loyalty to him rather than to the King had come to his
ears. They must be put an end to.

But this issue faded from his mind. Left to himself, he let his hands
twitch as feverishly as they would. Cleves and its Duke had played him
false! His sheet anchor was gone! There remained only, then, the
device of proving to the King that Katharine Howard was a monster of
unchastity. For so strong was the witness that he had gathered against
her that he could not but try his Fate once more--to give the King, as
so often he had done, proof of how diligently his minister fended for
him and how requisite he was, as a man who had eyes in every corner of
this realm.

To do that it was necessary that he should find her cousin; he had all
the others under lock and key already in that palace. But her
cousin--he must come soon or he would come too late!

Privy Seal was a man of immense labours, that carried him to burning
his lamp into hours when all other men in land slept in their beds.
And, at that date, he had a many letters to indite, because the
choosing of burgesses for the Parliament was going forward, and he had
ado in some burghs to make the citizens choose the men that he bade
them have. He gave to each shire and burgh long thought and minute
commands. He knew the mayor of each town, and had note-books telling
him the opinions and deeds of every man that had freedom to elect all
over England. And into each man he had instilled the terror of his
vengeance. This needed anxious labours, and it was the measure of his
concern that he stayed now from this work to meditate a full ten
minutes upon this matter of bringing Thomas Culpepper before the King.

Thus, when, after he had for many hours been busy with his papers,
Lascelles, the gentleman informer of the Archbishop's, came to tell
him that he had seen Thomas Culpepper at Greenwich that dawn and had
followed him to the burning at Smithfield, whence he had hastened to
Hampton, the Lord Privy Seal took from his neck his own golden collar
of knighthood and cast it over Lascelles' neck. In part this was
because he had never before been so glad in his life, and in part
because it was his policy to reward very richly them that did him a
chance service.

'Sir,' he said, 'I grudge that ye be the Archbishop's man and not
mine, so your judgment jumps with mine.'

And indeed Lascelles' judgment had jumped with Privy Seal's. He was
the Archbishop's confidential gentleman; he swayed in many things the
Archbishop's judgments. Yet in this one thing Cranmer had been too
afraid to jump with him.

'To me,' Lascelles said, 'it appeared that the sole thing to be done
was to strike at the esteem of the King for Kat Howard, and the sole
method to strike at her was through her dealings with her cousin.'

'Sir,' Cromwell interrupted him, 'in this ye have hit upon mine own
secret judgment that I had told to no man save my private servants.'

Lascelles bent his knee to acknowledge this great praise.

'Very gracious lord,' he said, 'his Grace of Canterbury opines rather
that this woman must be propitiated. He hath sent her books to please
her tickle fancy of erudition; he hath sent her Latin chronicles and
Saxon to prove to her, if he may, that the English priesthood is older
than that of Rome. He is minded to convince her if he may, or, if he
may not, he plans to make submission to her, to commend her learning
and in all things to flatter her--for she is very approachable by
these channels, more than by any other.'

In short, as Lascelles made it appear to Cromwell's attentive brain,
the Archbishop was, as always, anxious to run with the hare and hunt
with the hounds. He was a schismatic bishop, appointed by the King and
the King's creature, not the Bishop of Rome's. So that if with his
high pen and his great gift of penning weighty sentences, he might
bring Kat Howard to acknowledging him bishop and archbishop, he was
ready so to do. If he must make submission to her judgment, he was
ready so to do.

'Yet,' Lascelles concluded, 'I have urged him against these courses;
or yet not against these courses, but to this other end in any case.'
For it was certain that Kat Howard would have no truck with Cranmer.
She would make him go on his knees to Rome and then she would burn
him; or if she did not burn him she would make him end his days with a
hair shirt in the cell of an anchorite. 'I hold it manifested,'
Lascelles said, 'that this lady is such an one as will listen to no
reason nor policy, neither will she palter, for whatever device, with
them that have not lifelong paid lip-service to the arch-devil whose
seat is in Rome.'

Cromwell nodded his head once more to commend the Archbishop's
gentleman with a perfect acquiescence.

It had chanced that that morning Lascelles had gone to Greenwich to
fetch for the Archbishop some books and tractates. The Archbishop was
minded to lend them to the Bishop Hugh Latimer of Worcester; that day
he was to dispute publicly with the friar Forest that was cast to be
burned. And, coming to Greenwich, still thinking much upon Katharine
Howard and her cousin, at the dawn, Lascelles had seen the tall,
drunken, red-bearded man in green, with his squat, broad gossip in
grey, come staggering up from the ship at the public quay.

'I did leave my burthen of books,' he said; 'for what be Bishop Hugh
Latimer's arguments from a pulpit to a burning priest to the pulling
down of this woman?' He had dogged Thomas Culpepper and his crony; he
had seen him burst open windows, cast meat about in the mud and feed
the populace of the Greenwich hamlet.

'And for sure,' he said, 'if the King's Highness should see this man's
filthiness and foul demeanour, he will not be fain to feed after such
a make of hound.'

Coming to Smithfield, where Culpepper stayed to cheer on the business,
Lascelles had very swiftly begged the Archbishop, where, behind Hugh
Larimer's pulpit, he sat to see Friar Forest corrected--had very
swiftly begged the Archbishop to give him leave to come to Hampton.

'Sir,' Lascelles said, 'with a great sigh he gave me leave; for much
he fears to have a hand in this matter.'

'Why, he shall have no hand,' Cromwell said. He clapped his hands, and
told the blonde page-boy that appeared to send him very quickly
Viridus, that had had this matter in his care.

Lascelles recounted shortly how he had set four men to watch Thomas
Culpepper till he came to Hampton, and very swiftly to send word of
when he came. Then the spy dropped his voice and pulled out a
parchment from his bosom.

'Sir,' he said, 'whilst Culpepper was in the palace of Greenwich I
made haste to go on board the ship that had brought him from Calais,
being minded if I could to discover what was discoverable concerning
his coming.'

He dropped his voice still further.

'Sir,' he began again, 'there be those in this realm, and maybe very
close to your own person, that would have stayed his coming. For upon
that ship lay a boy, sore sick of the sea and very beaten, by name
Harry Poins. Wherefore, or at whose commands, he had done this I had
no occasion to discover, since he lay like a sick dog and might not
see nor hear nor speak; but this it was told me he had done: in every
way he sought to let and hinder T. Culpepper's coming to England with
so marked an importunity that at last Culpepper did set his crony to
beat this boy.' He paused again. 'And this too I discovered, taking it
from the boy's person, for in my avocations and service to his Grace,
whom God preserve and honour! I have much practised these
abstractions.'

Lascelles held the parchment, from which fell a seal like a drop of
blood.

'Sir,' he said, 'this agreement is sealed with your own seal; it is
from one Throckmorton in your service. It maketh this T. Culpepper
lieutenant of barges and lighters in the town and port of Calais. It
enjoineth upon him to stay diligently there and zealously to
persevere in these duties.'

Cromwell neither started nor moved; he stood looking down at the floor
for a minute space; then he held out his hand for the parchment,
considered the seal and the subscription, let his eyes course over the
lines of Throckmorton's handwriting that made a black patch on the
surface soiled with sea-water and sweat, and uttered composedly:

'Why, it is well; it is monstrous well that you have saved this
parchment from coming to evil hands.'

He rolled it neatly, placed it in his belt, and four times stamped his
foot on the floor.

There came in at this signal, Viridus, the one of his secretaries that
had first instructed Katharine Howard as to her demeanour. Since then,
he had had among his duties the watching over Thomas Culpepper. Calm,
furtive, with his thin hands clasped before him, the Sieur Viridus
answered the swift, hard questions of his master. He was more attached
and did more services to the Chancellor of the Augmentations, whom he
kept mostly mindful of such farms and fields as Privy Seal intended
should be given to benefit his particular friends and servants; for he
had a mind that would hold many details of figures and directions.

Thus, he had sent two men to Calais and the road Paris-ward with
injunctions to meet Thomas Culpepper and tell him tales of Katharine
Howard's lewdness in the King's Court; to tell him, too, that the
farms in Kent, promised him as a guerdon for ridding Paris of the
Cardinal Pole, were deeded and signed to him, but that evil men sought
to have them away.

'Ye sent no boy to stay him at Calais with lieutenancy of barges?'
Cromwell asked, swiftly and hard in voice.

'No boy ne no man,' Viridus answered.

He had acted by the card of Privy Seal's injunctions; men were posted
at Calais, at Dover, at Ashford, at Maidstone, at Sandwich, at
Rochester, at Greenwich, at all the landing places of London. Each
several one was instructed to tell Thomas Culpepper some new story
that, if Culpepper were not already hastening to Hampton, should make
him mend his paces. If he were hastening to Hampton they were to leave
him be. All these things were done as Privy Seal had directed.

'What witnesses have ye here from Lincolnshire?' Cromwell asked.

In his monotonous sing-song Viridus named these people: Under lock and
key in the King's cellary house, five from Stamford that had heard
Culpepper swear Kat Howard was his leman--these had really heard this
thing, and called for no priming; under instruction in the Well Ward
gate chamber, four that should swear a certain boy was her
child--these needed to have their tales evened as to the night the
child was born, and how it had been brought from the Lord Edmund's
house wrapped in a napkin. In his own pantry, Viridus had three under
guard and admonition of his own--these should swear that whenas they
served the Lord Edmund they had seen at several times Culpepper with
her in thickets, or climbing to her window in the night, or at dawn
coming away from her chamber door. These needed to be instructed as to
all these things.

Cromwell listened with little nods, marking each item of these
instructions.

'Listen now to me,' he said; 'give attentive ear.' Viridus dropped his
eyes to the floor, as one who lends all his faculties to be
subservient to his hearing. 'At six or thereabouts T. Culpepper shall
reach this Court. Ye shall have men ready to bring him straightway to
thee. At seven or thereabouts shall come the Lady Katharine to her
room; with her shall come the King's Highness, habited as a yeoman. Be
attentive. Next Katharine Howard's door is the door of the Lady
Deedes. Her I have this day sent to other quarters. Having T.
Culpepper with you, you shall go to this room of the Lady Deedes. You
shall sit at the table with the door a little opened, so that ye may
see when the King's Highness cometh. But you shall sit opposite T.
Culpepper that he may not see.' Viridus remained like a statue carved
of wood, motionless, his head inclined to the ground. Lascelles had
his head forward, his mouth a little open. 'Whilst you wait you shall
have with you the deeds giving to T. Culpepper his farms in Kent.
These ye shall display to him. Ye shall dilate upon the goodness of
the fields, upon the commodity in barns and oasthouses, upon the
sweetness of the water wells, upon the goodliness of the air. But when
the King shall be entered into the Lady Katharine's room you shall
give T. Culpepper to drink of a certain flagon of wine that I shall
give to you. When he hath drunk you shall begin to hint that all is
ill with the lady he would wed; as thus you shall say: "Aye, your nest
is well lined, but how of the bird?" And you shall talk of her having
consorted much with a large yeoman. And when you shall observe him to
be much heated with the subtle drug and your hintings, you shall say
to him, "Lo, next this door is the door of the Lady Katharine. Go see
if perchance she have not even now this yeoman with her."'

Viridus nodded his head once up and down; Lascelles clapped his hands
twice for joy at this contrivance. Cromwell added further injunctions:
that Viridus should have in the corner of the gallery a man that
should come hastening to him, the Lord Privy Seal, where he walked in
the gallery; another who, at his own signal, should hastily bring the
witnesses prepared against Kat Howard; another who should bring the
engrossment of a command to behead T. Culpepper that night in the
King's Tower House, and yet another who should bring up guards and
captains. All these, in their separate companies, should be set in the
great room abovestairs next the King's chapel, so that they might
swiftly and without hindrance or accident come down the little stair
to the Lady Katharine's room. Again Viridus once bowed his head,
moving his lips the while repeating these commands in words as they
were uttered.

Cromwell paused again to think, then he added:

'I will set this gentleman, Lascelles, to bring T. Culpepper to you.
And because I will make very certain that this man shall not touch the
person of the King, I will have this gentleman to stay with you in the
room where you be, to follow with you T. Culpepper into the Lady
Katharine's room. He shall run with you betwixt T. Culpepper and the
King; but if T. Culpepper be minded to fall upon the Lady Katharine,
ye shall not either of you stay him. It were best if he might stab her
dead. Doubtless he shall.'

'Before God!' Lascelles cried out, 'would I were a king to have so
masterful and devising a minister as Privy Seal!'

'Get you gone,' Privy Seal said to Viridus. 'I ha' no need to tell you
that if ye do faithfully and to a good issue carry out this play, you
shall be greatly rewarded so that few shall hold their heads higher
than you in the land. Ye know how I befriend my friends. But know too
this: that if this scheme miscarry, either of your fault or another's,
either through inattention or ill chance, either through treason or
dullness of the brain of man, down to the least pin of it, ye shall
not this night sleep in your bed, nor ever more shall you be seen in
daylight above the earth.' He pointed suddenly from the window to the
low sun. 'Have a care that ye so act as ye shall see that disc again!'

Viridus spoke no word, but having waited a minute to hear if Privy
Seal had more to enjoin, noiselessly and with his hands folded before
him as they had been when he came, moved away over the shining floor.
He went to tell the old, shivering Chancellor of the Augmentations
that he must absent himself upon their common master's errands. 'I
misdoubt some heads will fall to-night,' he added as he went; 'our
lord's nose for treasons is sharpened again.' And that creature of
Privy Seal's shook beneath the furs that he wore, though it was
already April; for the Chancellor had his private reasons to dread
Privy Seal's outbursts of suspicion.

In the gallery, Privy Seal still spoke earnestly with Lascelles.

'I give this part of honour and privilege to thee,' he said; 'for
though I was well prepared in all things, I trow I may trust thee
better than another person.'

Lascelles was to watch for Culpepper, to hasten to Viridus, to attend
upon the pair of them as the pilot-fish attendeth upon the ghostly and
silent shark, not to leave them till the work was accomplished, or,
upon the least sign of treason in Viridus or another, to come
hastening as never man hastened, to Privy Seal.

'For,' Cromwell ended, 'ye have felt like me how, if this realm is to
be saved, saved it shall be by this thing alone.'

Lascelles, who had had no opening to speak, opened now his lips. Great
ferreter as he was, he had discovered former servants of the Duchess
of Norfolk, that were ready, for consideration of threats, to swear
that they had seen the Lady Katharine when a child in her
grandmother's house to be over familiar with one Francis Dearham. He
himself had these witnesses earmarked and attainable, and he was upon
the point of offering them to Privy Seal. But he recollected that
Privy Seal had witnesses enow of his own. To-morrow was also a day;
and the King, if he would not now listen to tales against Kat Howard,
might be brought to give ear to those and others added in a year's
time, or when he began to tire of his woman as all men tire of women.
Therefore he once more closed his lips. And Cromwell spoke as if his
thoughts of a truth jumped together with Lascelles'.

'Sir,' he said, 'I would willingly bribe you from the service of his
Grace of Canterbury to come into mine. But it may be that I shall not
long outlive these days. Therefore I enjoin upon you these things:
Serve well your master; guide him, for he needeth guidance, subtly as
to-day ye would have guided him. I will not take you from him for this
cause, that there is little need in one house of two that think alike.
One sufficeth. For two houses with like minds are stronger than one
that is bicephalous. Therefore serve you well Cranmer as in my day I
served well the great Cardinal; so at his death, even as I at
Wolsey's, ye may rise very high.'

He went swiftly into his little cabinet, and returning, had in his
hand a little book.

'Read well in this,' he said, 'where much I have read. You shall see
in it mine own annotations. This is "_Il Principe_" of Macchiavelli;
there is none other book like it in the world. Study of it well: read
it upon your walks. I am a simple man, yet hath it made me.'

Shadows were falling into the gallery, for the descending sun had come
behind the dark, tall elms beyond the river.

'Upon my faith,' Cromwell said, 'and as I hope to enter into Paradise
by the aid of Christ the King that commended faithful servants, I tell
you I had great joy when you told me this woman's cousin had come into
these parts. But greater joy than any were mine could I discern in
this land a disciple that could carry on my work. As yet I have seen
none; yet ponder well upon this book. God may work in thee, as in me,
great changes by its study.... Get you gone.'

He continued long to pace the gallery, his hands behind his back, his
cap pulled over his narrow eyes; it grew dusk so that his figure could
scarce be seen where it was at the further end. He looked from the
casement up into the moon, small and tenuous in the pale western
skies. He had been going over in his mind the details of how he had
commanded Culpepper to be brought before the King. And at the last
when he considered again that Culpepper might well strike his cousin
dead at his feet, and that then she would have no tongue to stand
against calumnies withal, he uttered the words:

'I think I hold them.'

And, pondering upon the wonderful destiny that had brought him up from
a trooper in Italy to these high places, he saluted the moon with his
crooked forefinger--for the moon was the president at his birth.

'Why,' he uttered aloud, 'I have survived four queens' days.'

For Katharine of Aragon he had seen die; and Anne Boleyn had died on
the scaffold; and Jane Seymour was dead in childbed; and now, with the
news from Cleves, Anne's reign was over and done with.

'Four queens,' he repeated.

And, turning swiftly to the door, he commanded that Throckmorton be
sent him at once when he came to the archway.



PART THREE

THE SUNBURST

I


In the great place of Smithfield, towards noon, Thomas Culpepper sat
his horse on the outskirts of the crowd. By his side Hogben, the
gatewarden, had much ado to hold his pikestaff across his horse's
crupper in the thick of the people.

The pavement of heads filled the place--bare some of them, some of
them covered, according as their owners had cast their caps on high
for joy at the Bishop of Worcester's words against the Papist that was
to be burned, or as they pressed their thumbs harder down in disfavour
and waited to shew their joy at the hanging of the three Protestants
that should follow. In the centre towered on high a great gallows from
which depended a chain; and at the end of the chain, half-hidden by
the people, but shewing his shoulders and his head, a man in a friar's
cowl. And, towering as high as the gallows, painted green as to its
coat and limbs, but gilt in the helmet and brandishing a great spear,
was the image called David Darvel Gatheren that the Papist Welsh
adored. This image had been brought there that, in its burning, it
might consume the friar Forest. It gazed, red-cheeked and wooden,
across the sunlight space at the pulpit of the Bishop of Worcester in
his white cassock and black hat, waving his white arms and exhorting
the man in the gallows to repent at the last moment. Some words of
Latimer might now and again be heard; the chained friar stood upon the
rungs of a ladder set against the gallows post; he hung down his head
and shook it, but no word could be heard to come from his lips.

'Damnable heretic and foul traitor!' Latimer's urgings came across the
sea of heads. 'Here sitteth his Majesty's council----' At these words
went up a little buzz of question, but sufficient from all that great
crowd to send as it were a wind that blew away the Bishop's words. For
the style 'his Majesty' was so new to the land that people were
questioning what new council this might be, or what lord's whose style
they did not know. Latimer waved his arm behind him, half turning, to
indicate the King's men. These ministers, bravely bonneted so that the
jewels sparkled, habited in brown so that the red cloth covering their
tiers of seats shewed between their arms and shoulders, sat, like a
gay bank of flowers above the lake of heads, surrounded by many other
lords and ladies in shining colours. They sat there ready to sign the
pardon that was prepared if the friar would be moved by fear or by the
Bishop's argument to hang his head and recant.

The friar, truly, hung his head, clung to the rungs of the ladder,
trembled so that all men might see, and once caught furiously at the
iron chain and shook it; but no word came from his lips. Culpepper was
bursting with pride and satisfaction because he was a made man and
would have all the world to know it. He swung his green bonnet round
his red head and called for huzzays when the friar shewed fear. Hogben
called for huzzays for Squahre Tom of Lincoln, and many men cheered.
But the silence dropped again, and the Bishop's words, raised now very
high, dominated the sunlight and eddied around the tall faces of the
house fronts behind.

'Here have sat the nobles of the realm and the King's Majesty's most
honourable council only to have granted pardon to you, wretched
creature, if but some spark of repentance would have happened in ye.'
Hanging his cowled poll beneath the beam that reached gigantic and
black across the crowd, the friar shook his head slowly. 'Declared to
you your errors I have,' cried Latimer. 'Openly and manifestly by the
scriptures of God, with many and godly exhortations have I moved you
to repentance. Yet will you neither hear nor speak----'

'Bones of St. Nairn!' Culpepper cried; 'here is too much speaking and
no work. Huzzay! e caitiffs. Burn. Burn. Burn. For the honour of
England.' And, starting from his figure at the verge of the crowd,
cries went up of 'Huzzay!' of 'Burn!' and 'St George for London!' and
unquiet rumours and struggles and waving in the crowd of heads, so
that the Bishop's voice was not heard any more that day.

But through the crowd a silence fell as the image slowly and
totteringly moved forward, ankle deep only in the crowd. Ropes from
the figure's neck ran out and tightened--some among the crowd began to
sing the song against Welsh Papists that ran--

    _'David Darvel Gatheren_
    _As sayeth the Welshmen_
    _Fetched outlaws out of hell!_'

and the burden of it rose so loud that the image swayed over and fell
unheard. At that too a silence fell, and presently there came the
sound of axes chopping. The friar, swaying on his ladder, looked down
and then made a great sign of the cross. The Bishop in his pulpit,
raising his white arms in horror and imprecation, seemed to be giving
the signal for new uproars.

Whilst he shouted with delight, Culpepper felt a man catch at his leg.
He kicked his foot loose, but his hand on the bridle was clutched.
There was a fair man at his horse's shoulder that bore Privy Seal's
lion badge upon his chest. His face was upturned, and in the clamour
he spoke indistinguishable words. Culpepper struck towards the mouth
with his fist; the man shrank back, but stood, nevertheless, close
still in the crowd. When the silence fell again, Culpepper could hear
amongst the swift chopping of the axes the words--

'I rede ye ride swiftly to Hampton. I am the Lord Cromwell's man.'

Culpepper brought his excited mind from the thought of the burning and
the joy of the day, with its crowd and its odour of men, and sunshine
and tumult.

'Ye say? Swine,' he shouted. 'Come aside!' He caught at the man's
collar and kicked his horse and pulled at its jaws till it drew them
out of the thin crowd to a street's opening.

'Sir,' the man said--he had a goodly cloth suit of dark green that
spoke to his being of weight in some house-hold--'ye are like to lose
your farms at Bromley an ye hasten not to Master Viridus, who holdeth
the deedings to you.'

Culpepper uttered an inarticulate roar and smote his patient horse on
the side of the head for two minutes of fierce blows, digging with his
heels into the girthings.

'Sir,' the man said again, 'some lord will have these lands an ye come
not to Hampton ere six of the clock. I know not the way of it that be
a servant. But Master Viridus sent me with this message.'

Already a thin swirl of blue smoke was ascending past the friar's
figure to the bright sky; it caressed the beam of the gallows and
Culpepper's bloodshot eye pursued it upwards.

'Before God!' he muttered, 'I was set to see this burning. Ye have
seen many; I never a one.' A new spasm of rage caught him: he dragged
at his horse's head, and shouting, 'Gallop! gallop!' set off into the
dark streets, his crony behind his back.

In the Poultry he knocked over a man in a red coat that had a gold
chain about his neck; on the Chepe he jumped his horse across a
pigman's booth--it brought down Hogben, horse and pike; three drunken
men were fighting in Paternoster Street--Culpepper charged above their
bodies; but very shortly he came through Temple Bar and was in the
marshes and fields. Well out between the hedgerows he was aware that
one galloped behind him. He drew a violent rein where the Cow Brook
crossed the deep muddied road and looked back.

'Sir,' he called, 'this night I will hold a mouse on a chain above a
coal fire. So I will see a burning, and my cousin Kat shall see it
with me.' He spurred on again.

By the time he was come to Brentford four men, habited like the first,
rode behind him. When he stayed to let his horse drink from the river
opposite Richmond Hill, he was aware that across the stream a pageant
with sweet music marched a little beyond the further bank. He could
see the tops of pikes and pennons amid the tree trunks.

He muttered that such a pageant he would very soon make for himself;
for, filled with the elation of his new magnificence, since Privy Seal
was his friend and Viridus was earnest to do him favour, he imagined
that no captain nor lord in that land soon should overpass him. For
that any lord should desire his new lands troubled him little; only he
hastened to cut that lord's throat and to kiss his cousin Kat.

It was a quarter before six when he drew rein in the green yard that
lay before the King's arch in Hampton. There befel the strangest
scuffle there; flaring for a moment and gone out like the gunpowder
they sometimes lit in saucers for sport. A man called Lascelles came
slowly from under the arch to meet him, and then, running over the
green grass from the little side door, came the young Poins in red
breeches, pulling off a red coat that he had had but half the time to
don and tugging at his sword whose hilt was caught in the sleeve hole.
Even as he issued, Lascelles, walking slowly, began to run and to
call. Four other men of Privy Seal's ran from under the arch, and the
four men that had followed behind him so far, closed their horses
round his. The boy had his sword out and his coat gave as he ran.
Lascelles closed near him on the grass, stretched out a foot to trip,
and the boy lay sprawling, his hands stretched out, his sword three
yards before him. The four men that had run from the arch had him up
upon his feet and held his arms when Culpepper had ridden the hundred
yards from the gate to them.

'Why,' said Culpepper, gazing upon the boy's face, 'it was thee
wouldst have my farms.' He spat in the boy's face and rode
complacently under the archway where were many men of Privy Seal's in
the side chambers and on the steps that ran steeply to the King's new
hall.

'I do conceive now,' Culpepper, in descending from his horse, spoke to
Lascelles, 'wherefore that knave would have had me stay in Calais and
be warder of barges. 'A would have my lands here.'

Word was given him that he must without delay go to the Sieur Viridus,
and in a high good humour he followed the lead of Lascelles through
the rabbit warren of small and new passages of the palace. In them it
was already nearly dark.

It was in that way that, landing at the barge stage, a little stiff
with the cold of his barge journey, Throckmorton came upon the young
Poins in his scarlet breeches, his face cut and bleeding in his
contact with the earth, his sword gone. Privy Seal's men that had
fallen upon him had kicked him out of the palace gates. They had no
warrant yet to take him; the quarrel was none of theirs. The boy was
of the King's Guard, it was true, but his company lay then at the
Tower.

Throckmorton cursed at him when he heard his news; and when he heard
that Culpepper was then in the palace where window lights already
shone before him, he ran to the archway. He had no time for reflection
save as he ran. Word was given him in the archway itself that Privy
Seal would see him instantly and with great haste and urgency. He
asked only for news where Thomas Culpepper was, and ran, upon the
disastrous hearing that Viridus had taken him up the privy stairway.
And, in that darkness, thoughts ran in his head. Disaster was here.
But what? Privy Seal called for him. He had no time for Privy Seal.
Culpepper was gone to Kat Howard's room. Viridus there had taken him.
There was no other room up the winding staircase to which he could
go. Here was disaster! For whether he stayed Culpepper or no, Privy
Seal must know that he had betrayed him. As he ran swiftly the
desperate alternative coursed in his mind. Rich, the Chancellor of the
Augmentations, and he had their tale pat, that Privy Seal was secretly
raising the realm against the King. He himself had got good matter
that morning listening to the treasonable talking of the printer
Badge.

Several men in the stair angle would have stopped him when at last he
was at foot of the winding stairs. He whispered:

'I be Throckmorton upon my master's business,' and was through and in
the darkness of the stairway.

Why was there no cresset? Why were there these men? It came into his
mind that already the King had heard Culpepper. Already Katharine was
arrested. He groaned as he mounted the stairs. For in that case, with
those men behind him, he was in a gaol already. He paused to go back;
then it came to him that, if he could win forward and find the King,
who alone, by giving ear, could save him, he would yet not know first
how Katharine had fared. He had a great stabbing at his heart with
that thought, and once more mounted.

From the door next hers there streamed a light. Hers was closed. He
ran to it and knocked, leaning his head against the panels to listen.
There was no sound, no sound at all when he knocked again. It was
intolerable. He thrust the door open. No woman was there and no man.
He went in. He thought: 'If the room be in disorder----'

He made out in the twilight that the room stood as always; the chair
loomed where it should; there was a spark on the hearth; the books
were ordered on the table; no stool was overturned. He stood amid
these things, his heart beating tumultuously, his ears pricked up,
stilling his breathing to listen, in the blue twilight, like a wild
beast.

A voice said:

'Body o' God! Throckmorton!' beneath its breath, the light of the next
door grew large and smaller again; he caught from there the words:
'It is Throckmorton.' And at the sound Throckmorton loosened his
dagger in its sheath. Some glimmering of the plan reached him; they
were awaiting Katharine's coming, and a great load fell from his mind.
She was not yet taken.

He paused to stroke his beard for fear it was disordered, pulled from
over his shoulder the medallion on the chain; it had flown there as he
ran. He pushed ajar the next door a minute later, having thought many
thoughts and appearing stately and calm.

He replaced the door at its exact angle and gazed at the three silent
men. Thomas Culpepper, his brows knotted, his lips moving, was holding
his head askew to see the measurements upon a map of his farm at
Bromley. That Lascelles had gone out and come back saying that one
Throckmorton was in the next room was nothing to him. The next room
was nothing to him; he was there to hear of his farms.

Viridus, silent, dark and enigmatic, gazed at a spot upon the table;
Lascelles, his mouth a little open, his eyes dilated, had his hands
upon it.

Without speaking, Throckmorton noted that the room was empty save for
the table and benches; the hangings had been taken down; all the
furnishings were gone. That morning the room had been well filled,
warm, and in the occupancy of the Lady Deedes. Therefore Cromwell had
worked this change. No other had this power. They waited, then, those
three, for the coming of Katharine Howard or the King. Lascelles
shewed fear and surprise at his being there; therefore Lascelles was
deeply concerned in this matter. Lascelles was in the service of
Cranmer that morning; now he sat there. Thus he, too, for certain, was
in this plan; he was a new servant to Privy Seal--and new servants are
zealous. With Viridus he had had some talk of events. Therefore
Lascelles was the greatest danger.

Throckmorton moved slowly behind Culpepper and sat down beside him; in
his left hand he had his small dagger, its blue blade protruding from
the ham; Culpepper beside him was at his right. He said very softly in
Italian to Lascelles:

'Both your hands are upon the table; if you move one my dagger pierces
your eye to the brain. So also if you speak in the English language.'

Lascelles muttered: 'Judas! _Traditore!_' Viridus sat motionless, and
Culpepper moved his finger across the plan of the farm.

'Here is the mixen,' he appealed to Viridus, who nodded.

It was as if Throckmorton, with his slow manner and low voice, was a
friend who had come in to speak to Lascelles about the weather or the
burnings. He was no concern of Culpepper's, nor was Lascelles who had
spoken no word at all.

Throckmorton kept his head turned towards Lascelles as if he were
still addressing him, and spoke in the same level voice, still in
Italian.

'Viridus, to thee I speak. This is a very great matter.' Unconsciously
he used the set form of words of Privy Seal. 'Consider well these
things. The day of our master is nigh at an end. Rich, Chancellor of
the Augmentations, thy crony and master, and my ally, hath made a plan
to go with me to the King this night with witnesses and papers
accusing Privy Seal of raising the land against his Highness. Will you
join with us, or will you be lost with Privy Seal?'

Viridus kept his eyes upon the same spot of the table.

'Tell me more,' he said. 'This matter is very weighty.' His tone was
level, monotonous and still. He too might have been saying that the
sunshine that day had been long.

'A fad to talk Latin of ye courtiers,' Culpepper said with
uninterested scorn. 'Ye will forget God's language of English.' He
slapped Throckmorton on the sleeve. 'See, what a fine farm I have for
my deserts,' he said.

'Ye shall have better,' Throckmorton said. 'I have moved the King in
your behalf.' But he kept his eyes on Lascelles.

Culpepper cast back his cap from his eyes and leant away the better to
slap Throckmorton on the back.

'Ye ha' heard o' my deeds,' he said.

'All England rings with them,' Throckmorton said. He interjected,
'Still! hound!' to Lascelles in Italian, and went on to Culpepper: 'I
ha' moved the King to come this night to thy cousin's room hard by for
I knew ye would go to her. The King is hot to speak with thee. Comport
thyself as I do bid thee and art a made man indeed.'

Culpepper laughed with hysterical delight.

'By Cock!' he shouted. 'Master Viridus, thou art naught to this. Three
farms shall not content me nor yet ten.'

Throckmorton's eyes shot a glance at Viridus and back again to
Lascelles' face.

'If you speak I slay you,' he said. Lascelles' eyes started from his
head, his mouth worked, and on the table his hands jerked
convulsively. But Throckmorton had seen that Viridus still sat
motionless.

'By Cock!' Culpepper cried. 'By Guy and Cock! let me kiss thee.'

'Sir,' Throckmorton said, 'I pray you speak no more words, not at all
till I bid you speak. I am a very great lord here; you shall observe
gravity and decorum or never will I bring you to the King. You are not
made for Courts.'

'Oh, I kiss your hands,' Culpepper answered him. 'But wherefore have
you a dagger?'

'Sir,' Throckmorton said again, 'I will have you silent, for if the
King should pass the door he will be offended by your babble.' He
interjected to Viridus, speaking in Italian, 'Speak thou to this fool
and engage him to think. I can give you no more grounds, but you must
quickly decide either to go with Rich the Chancellor and myself or to
remain the liege of the Privy Seal.'

Never once did he take his eyes from Lascelles, and the sweat stood
upon his forehead. Once when Lascelles moved he slid the dagger along
the table with a sharp motion and a gasping of breath, as a pincer
pressed to the death will make a faint. Yet his voice neither raised
itself nor fell one shade.

'And if I will aid you in this, what reward do I get?' Viridus asked.
He too spoke low and unmovedly, keeping his eyes upon the table.

'The one-half of my enrichments for five years, the one-half of those
of the Chancellor, and my voice for you with the King and with the new
Queen.'

'And if I will not go with you?'

'Then when the King passeth this door I do cry out "Treason! treason!"
and you, I, and this man, and this shall to-night sleep in the King's
prison, not in Privy Seal's. And I will have you think that I am sib
and rib with Kat Howard who shall sway the King if her cousin be
induced not to play the beast.'

Viridus spoke no word; but when Culpepper, idle and gaping, reached
out his hand to take the black flagon of wine that was between them
under the candles on the table, Viridus stretched forth his hand and
clasped the bottle.

'It is not expedient that you drink,' he said.

'Why somever then?' Culpepper asked.

'That neither do you make a beast of yourself if you come before the
King's great majesty this night,' Viridus said in his cold and
minatory voice, 'not yet smell beastly of liquors when you kiss the
King his hand.'

Culpepper said:

'By Cock! I had forgot the King's highness.'

'See that you kneel before him and speak not; see that you raise your
eyes not from the floor nor breathe loudly; see that when the King's
high and awful majesty dismisses you you go quietly.' Throckmorton
spoke. 'See that you speak not with nor of your cousin. For so
dreadful is a king, and this King more than others; and so terrible
his wrath and desire of worship--and this King's more than
others--that if ye speak above a whisper's sound, if ye act other than
as a babe before its preceptor's rod, you are cast out utterly and
undone. You shall never more have farms nor lands; you shall never
more have joyance nor gladness; you shall rot forgotten in a hole as
you had never done brave things for the King's grace.'

'By Cock!' Culpepper said, 'it seems it is easier to talk of a king
than with one.'

'See that you remember it,' Throckmorton said, 'for with great trouble
have I brought this King so far to talk with you!'

He moved his dagger yet nearer to Lascelles' form and held his finger
to his lip. Viridus had never once moved; he stayed now as still as
ever. Culpepper crammed his hand over his lips.

For from without there came the sound of voices and, in that dead
silence, the rustle of a woman's gown, swishing and soft. A deep voice
uttered heavily:

'Aye, I know your feelings. I have had my sadness.' It paused for a
moment, and mouthed on: 'I can cap your Lucretius too with "_Usque
adeo res humanas vis abdita----_"' It seemed that for a moment the
speaker stayed before the door where all three held their breaths. 'I
have read more of the Fathers, of late days, than of the writers
profane.'

They heard the breathing of a heavy man who had mounted stairs. The
voice sounded more faintly:

'Now you have naught further to think of than the goodly words of
Ecclesiastes: "_Et cognovi quod non esset melius, nisi laetare
et...._"' The voice died dead away with the closing of the door. And
as a torch passed, Throckmorton knew that the King had waited there
whilst light was being made in Katharine's room. He said softly to
Viridus:

'Whilst I go unto them you shall hold this dagger against this fool's
throat. We gain as many hours as we may hold him from blabbing to
Privy Seal. And consider that we must bring to the King Rich and Udal
and many other witnesses this night.'

'Throckmorton,' Viridus said, 'before thou goest thou shalt satisfy me
of many things. I have not yet given myself into thy hands.'


II


A weary sadness had beset Katharine Howard ever since she had knelt
before Anne of Cleves at Richmond, and it was of this the King had
spoken outside the door whilst they had waited for light to be made.

All Anne's protesting that willingly she rendered up a distasteful
crown could not make Katharine hugely glad with the manner of her own
taking it. And, when a messenger, dressed as a yeoman in green, had
come into the bright gallery to beg the Queen and that fair lady the
Lady Katharine Howard to come a-riding side by side and witness the
sports that certain poor yeomen made in the woods upon Thames-side,
she felt a sinking in her heart that no Rhenish of the Queen's could
relieve. She desired to be alone and to pray--or to be alone with
Henry and speak out her heart and devise how they might atone to the
Queen. But she must ride at the Queen's right hand with the Duke of
Suffolk at her left. It was so between their captives that the Cæsars
had ridden into Rome after the taking of barbaric kings. But she had
waged no war.

She did not, in her heart, call shame upon the King; she knew him to
be a heavy man with bitter sorrows who must in these violentnesses and
brave shows find refuge and surcease; it was her province to endure
and to find excuse for him. But to herself she quoted that phrase of
Lucretius that the King again repeated: there was a hidden destiny
that tamed the shows of the great; and she was the mutest of that
throng that upon white horses, all with little flags flying and horns
blowing, cantered to see the yeomen shoot. For the ladies and knights,
avid of these things, loved above all good bowmanry and wagered with
out-stretched hands for the marksmen that most they deemed to have
skill or that usually seemed to enjoy the fortunate favours of chance
and the winds.

But, being alone with the King--(for when the Queen rode back to
Richmond the notable bowman in green walked, holding Katharine's
stirrup, back to Hampton at her saddle-bow)--she could not stay
herself from venting her griefs.

'_Et cognovi quod non esset melius nisi laetari et facere bene in vita
sua_'--Henry finished his quotation when they were within her room. He
sat himself down in her chair and stretched his legs apart; being
tired with his long walk at her saddle bow, the more boisterous part
of his great pleasure had left him. He was no more minded to slap his
thigh, but he felt, as it was his favourite image of blessedness to
desire, like a husbandman who sat beneath his vine and knew his
harvesting prosper.

'Body of God!' he said, 'this is the best day of my life. There doth
no cloud remain. Here is the sunburst. For Cleves hath cut himself
adrift; I need have no more truck with Anne; you have no more cause
nor power to bend yourself from me; to-morrow the Parliament meets,
such a Parliament to do my will as never before met in a Republic;
therefore I have no more need of Cromwell.' He snapped his thumb and
finger as if he were throwing away a pinch of dust, and when she fell
to her knees before his chair, placed his hand upon her head and,
smiling, huge and indulgent, spoke on.

'This is such a day as seldom I have known since I was a child.' He
leaned forward to stroke her dusky and golden hair and laid his hand
upon her shoulder, his fingers touching her flushed cheek.

'On other days I have said with Horace, who is more to my taste than
your Lucretius: "_That man is great and happy who at day's end may
say: To-day I have lived, what of storms or black clouds on the morrow
betide._"'...

He crossed his great legs encased in green, set his heavy head to one
side and, though he could see she was minded to pray to him,
continued to speak like a man uttering of his memories.

'Such days as that of Horace I have known. But never yet such a day as
to-day, which, good in itself, leadeth on to goodness and fair
prospects for a certain morrow.' He smiled again. 'Why, I am no more
an old man as I had thought to be. I have walked that far path beside
thy horse.' It pleased him for two things: because he had walked with
little fatigue and because he had been enabled to show her great and
prodigal honour by so serving her for groom. 'This too I set to thy
account as my good omen. And that thou art. No woman shall have such
honours as thou in this land, save only the Mother of God.' And, after
touching his green and jewelled bonnet, he cast it from his head on to
the table.

'Sir,' she cried out, and clasping her hands uttered her words in
anguish and haste. 'Great kings and lords upon their affiancing day
have ever had the habit of granting their brides a boon or twain--as
the conferring of the revenues of a province, or the pardoning of
criminals.'

'Why, an thou come not to me to pardon Privy Seal----' he began.

'Sir,' she cut in on his words, 'I crave no pardon for Privy Seal; but
let me speak my mind.'

He said tenderly:

'Art in the mood to talk! Talk on! for I know no way to hinder thee.'

'Sir,' she said, 'I ask thee no pardon for Privy Seal, neither his
goods ne his life. I maintain this man hath well served thee and is no
traitor; but since that he hath ground the faces of the poor, hath
made thee to be hated by bringing of false witness, hath made the
thirsty earth shrink from drinking of blood, hath cast down the
Church--since that this man in this way hath brought peril upon the
republic and upon the souls of poor and witless folk, this man hath
wrought worse treasons than any that I wot of. If ye will adjudge him
to die, I am no fool to say: No!'

Henry wrinkled his brows and said:

'Grinding the faces of the poor is in law no treason. Yet I may not
slay him save upon the occasion of treason. I would a man would come
to me that could prove him traitor.'

Kneeling before the King she grasped each of his knees with one of her
hands.

'Sir,' she said, 'this is your occasion, none of mine. I would ye
would reconcile it to your conscience so to act to him as I would have
you, for his injustice to the poor and for his cogged oaths. But yet
grant me this: to cog oaths for the downfall of Privy Seal upon the
occasion of treason ye must have many other innocents implicated with
him; such men as have had no idea, no suspicion, no breath of treason
in their hearts. Grant me their lives. Sir, let me tell you a tale
that I read in Seneca.' She moved her body nearer to him upon the
floor, set her hands upon his two arms and gazed, beseeching and
piteous, up into his face.

'Sir,' she said, 'you may read it in Seneca for yourself that upon the
occasion of Cinna's treachery being made known to the Emperor
Augustus, the Emperor lay at night debating this matter in his mind.
For on the one side, says he in words like this: "_Shall I pardon this
man after that he hath assailed my life, my life that I have preserved
in so many battles by sea and by land, after I have stablished one
single peace throughout the globe into all the corners thereof? Shall
he go free who has considered with himself not only to slay me but to
slay me when I offered sacrifice, ere its consummation, so that I may
be damned as well as slain? Shall I pardon this man?_" And, upon the
other side, the Emperor Augustus, lying in the black of the night,
being a prince, even as thou art, prone to leniency, said such words
as these: "_Why dost thou, Augustus, live, if it is of import to so
many people that thou diest? Shall there never be an end to thy
vengeance and thy punishments? Is thy single life of such worth that
so much ruin shall for ever be wrought to preserve it?_"'

'Why, I have had these thoughts,' Henry said. 'Speak on. What did this
Emperor that thought like me?'

'Sir,' Katharine continued, and now she had her hands upon his
shoulders, 'the Empress Livia his wife lay beside him and was aware of
these his night sweats and his anguishes. "_And the counsels of a
woman; shall these be listened to?_" she spoke to him. "_Do thou in
this what the Physicians follow when their accustomed recipes are of
no avail to cure. They do try the contrary drugs. By severity thou
hast never, sire, profited from the beginning to this very hour that
is; Lepidus has followed to death Savidienus; Murena, Lepidus; Caepio
followed Murena; Eynatius, Caepio. Commence to essay at this pass how
clemency shall act in cure. Cinna is convicted: pardon him. Further to
harm thee he hath no power, and it shall for ever redound to thy
glory._"'

She leaned upon him with all her weight, having her arms about his
neck.

'Sir,' she said, 'the Emperor Augustus listened to his wife, and the
days that followed are styled the Golden Age of Rome, he and the
Empress having great glory.'

Henry scratched his head, holding his beard back from her face that
lay upon his chest; she drew herself from him and once more laid her
hands upon his knees. Her fair face was piteous and afraid; her lips
trembled.

'Dear lord,' she began tremulously, 'I live in this world, and, great
pity 'tis! I cannot but have seen how many have died by the block and
faggots. Yet is there no end to this. Even to-day they have burnt upon
the one part and the other. I do know thy occasions, thy trials, thy
troubles. But think, sir, upon the Empress Livia. Cromwell being dead,
find then a Cinna to pardon. Thou hast with thy great and princely
endeavourings given a Roman peace to the world. Let now a Golden Age
begin in this dear land.'

She rose to her feet and stretched out both her hands.

'These be the glories that I crave,' she said. 'I would have the glory
of advising thee to this. Before God I would escape from being thy
Queen if escape I might. I would live as the Sibyls that gave good
counsel and lived in rocky cells in sackcloth. So would I fainer. But
if you will have me, upon your oaths to me of this our affiancing, I
beseech you to give me no jewels, neither the revenue of provinces for
my dower. But grant it to me that in after ages men may conceive of me
as of such a noble woman of Rome.'

Henry leaned forward and stroked first one knee and then the other.

'Why, I will pardon some,' he said. 'It had not need of so many words
of thine. I am sick of slaughterings when you speak.' A haughty and
challenging frown came into his face; his brows wrinkled furiously; he
gazed at the opening door that moved half imperceptibly, slowly, in
the half light, after the accustomed manner, so that one within might
have time to cry out if a visitor was not welcome. For, for the most
part, in those days, ladies set bolts across their doors.

Throckmorton stood there, blinking his eyes in the candle-light, and,
slowly, he fell upon his knees.

'Majesty,' he said, 'I knew not.'

The King maintained a forbidding silence, his green bulk inert and
dangerous.

'This lady's cousin,' Throckmorton pronounced his words slowly, 'is
new come from France whence he hath driven out from Paris town the
Cardinal Pole.'

The King lifted one hand from his thigh, and, heavily, let it fall
again.

Throckmorton felt his way still further.

'This lady's cousin would speak with this lady in cousin-ship. He was
set in my care by my lord Privy Seal. I have brought him thus far in
safety. For some have made attacks upon him with swords.'

Katharine's hand went to her throat where she stood, tall and half
turning from the King to Throckmorton. The word 'Wherefore?' came from
her lips.

'Wherefore, I know not,' Throckmorton answered her steadily. His eyes
shifted for a moment from the King and rested upon her face. 'But this
I know, that I have him in my safe keeping.'

'Belike,' the King said, 'these swordsmen were friends of Pole.'

'Belike,' Throckmorton answered.

He fingered nonchalantly the rim of his cap that lay beside his knees.

'For his sake,' he said, 'it were well if your Grace, having rewarded
him princely for this deed, should send him to a distant part, or to
Edinbro' in the Kingdom of Scots, where need for men is to lie and
observe.'

'Belike,' the King said. 'Get you gone.' But Throckmorton stayed there
on his knees and the King uttered: 'Anan?'

'Majesty,' Throckmorton said, 'I would ye would see this man who is a
poor, simple swordsman. He being ill made for courts I would have you
reward him and send him from hence ere worse befall him.'

The King raised his brows.

'Ye love this man well,' he said.

'Here is too much beating about the bush,' burst from Katharine's
lips. She stood, tall, winding her hands together, swaying a little
and pale in the half light of the two candles. 'This cousin of mine
loves me well or over well. This gentleman feareth that this cousin of
mine shall cause disorders--for indeed he is of disordered intervals.
Therefore, he will have you send him from this Court to a far land.'

'Why, this is a monstrous sensible gentleman,' Henry said. 'Let us see
this yokel.' He had indeed a certain satisfaction at the interrupting,
for with Katharine in her begging moods he was never certain that he
must not grant her his shirt and go a penance to St Thomas' shrine.

Katharine stayed with her hand upon her heart, but when her cousin
came his green figure in the doorway was stiff; he trembled to pass
the sill, and looking never at her but at the King's shoes, he knelt
him down in the centre of the floor. The words coming to her in the
midst of anguishes and hot emotions, she said:

'Sire, this is my much-loved cousin, who hath bought me food and
dress in my days of poverty, selling his very farms.'

Culpepper grunted over his shoulder:

'Hold thy tongue, cousin Kat. Ye know not that ye shall observe
silence in the awful presence of kings.'

Henry threw his head back and laughed, whilst the chair creaked for a
minute's space.

'Silence!' he said. 'Before God, silence! Have ye ever heard this
lady's tongue?' He grew still and dreadful at the end of his mirth.

'Ye have done well,' he said. 'Give me your sword. I will knight you.
I hear you are a poor man. I give you a knight's fee farm of a hundred
pounds by the year. I hear you are a rough honest man. I had rather ye
were about my nephew's courts than mine. Get you to Edinbro'.' He
waved his hand to Throckmorton. 'See him disposed,' he said.

Culpepper uttered a sound of remonstrance. The King leaned forward in
his seat and thundered:

'Get you gone. Be you this night thirty miles towards the Northland. I
ha' heard ye ha' made brawls and broils here. See you be gone. By God,
I am Harry of Windsor!'

He laid the heavy flat of the sword like a blow upon the green
shoulders below him.

'Rise up, Sir Thomas Culpepper,' he said. 'Get you gone!'

Dazed and trembling still a little, Culpepper stuttered his way to the
door. When he came by her Katharine cast her arms about his shoulder.

'Poor Tom,' she cried. 'Best it is for thee and me that thou goest.
Here thou hast no place.' He shook his head like a man in a daze and
was gone.

'Art too patient with the springald,' the King said.

He thundered 'Body of God!' again when he saw Throckmorton once more
fall to his knees.

'Sire,' he said--and for the first time he faltered in his level
tones--'a very great treason has come to my ken this day!'

'Holy altar fires!' the King growled, 'let your treasons wait. Here
hath this lady been talking to me very reasonably of a golden age.'

'Sire,' Throckmorton said, and he leant one hand on the floor to
support him. 'This is a very great treason of men arming to sustain
Privy Seal against thee! I have seen it; with mine own eyes I have
seen it in thy town of London.'

Katharine cried out, 'Ah!'

The King leapt to his feet.

'Ho, I will arm,' he said, and grew pale. For, with a sword in his
hand or where fighting was, this King had middling little fear. But,
even as the lion dreads a little mouse, so he feared secret
rebellions.

'Sire,' Throckmorton said, and his face was towards Katharine as if he
challenged her:

'This is the very truth of the very truth, I call upon what man will
to gainsay me. This day I heard in the city of London, at the house of
the printer, John Badge----' and he repeated the speech of the
saturnine man--'that "_he would raise a thousand prentices and a
thousand journeymen to shield Privy Seal from peril; that he could
raise ten thousand citizens and ten thousand tenned again from the
shires!_"'

Katharine kept her eyes upon Throckmorton who, knowing her power to
sway the King, nodded gravely and looked into her eyes to assure her
that these words were true.

But the King, upon his feet, marched towards the door.

'Let us arm my guard,' he said. 'I will play Nero to London town.'

Nevertheless Throckmorton kept his knees.

'Majesty,' he said, 'I have this man in my keeping.' And indeed, at
his passing London Bridge he had sent men to take the printer and
bring him to Hampton. 'I pray your pardon that I took him lacking your
warrant, and Privy Seal's I dare not ask.'

The King stayed in his pacing.

'Thou art a jewel of a man,' he said. 'By Cock, I would I had many
like thee.' And at the news that the head of this confederacy was
taken his sudden fear fell. 'I will see this man. Bring him to me.'

'Sire,' Katharine said, 'we spoke even now of Cinna. Remember him!'

'Madam,' Throckmorton dared to speak. 'This is the man that hath
printed broadsides against you. No man more hateth you in land or hath
uttered more lewdnesses of your chastity.'

'The more I will have him pardoned,' Katharine said, 'that his
Highness and all people may see how little I fear his lyings.'

Throckmorton shrugged his shoulders right up to his ears to signify
that this was a very madness of Roman pardoning.

'God send you never rue it,' he said. 'Majesty,' he continued to the
King, 'give me some safe conduct that for half-an-hour I may go about
this palace unletted by men of Privy Seal's. For Privy Seal hath a
mighty army of men to do his bidding and I am one man unaided. Give me
half-an-hour's space and I will bring to you this captain of rebellion
to your cabinet. And I will bring to you them that shall mightily and
to the hilt against all countervail and denial prove that Privy Seal
is a false and damnable traitor to thee and this goodly realm. So I
swear: Throckmorton who am a trusty knight.'

He was not minded to utter before Katharine Howard the names of his
other witnesses. For one of them was the Chancellor of the
Augmentations, who was ready to swear that Cromwell, upon the barge
when they went in the night from Rochester to Greenwich, had said that
he would have the King down if he would not wed with Anne of Cleves.
And he had Viridus to swear that Cromwell had said, before his
armoury, to the Ambassador of the Schmalkaldners, that ne King, ne
Emperor had such another armoury, yet were there twenty score great
houses in England that had better, all ready to arm to defend the
Protestant faith and Privy Seal. These things he was minded to lay
before the King; but before Kat Howard he would not speak them. For,
with her mad fury for truth and the letter of Truth that she had
gained from reading Seneca till, he thought, her brains were turned,
she would begin a wrangle with him. And he had no time to lose; for
his ears were pricked up, even as he spoke, to catch any breaking of
the silence from the next room where Viridus held Lascelles at the
point of his dagger.

The King said:

'Go thou. If any man stay thee in going whithersoever thou wilt, say
that thou beest upon my business; and woe betide them that stay thee
if thou be not in my cabinet in the half of an hour with them ye speak
of.'

Throckmorton rose stiffly to his feet; at the door he staggered for a
moment, and closed his eyes. His cause was won; but he leant against
the door-post and gazed at Katharine with a piteous and passionate
glance, moving his fingers in his beard, as if he appealed to her in
silence as with the eyes of a faithful hound, neither to judge him
harshly nor to plead against him. This was the day of the most strain
that ever was in his life.

And gazing back at him, Katharine's eyes were filled with pity, so
sick he appeared to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Body of God!' the King said in the silence that fell upon them. 'Now
I hold Cromwell.'

Katharine cried out, 'Let me go; let me go; this is no world for me!'

He caught her masterfully in his arms.

'This is a golden world, and thou a golden Queen,' he said.

She held her head back from his lips, and struggled from him.

'I may not find any straightness here. I can see no clear way. Let me
go.'

He took her again to him, and again she tore herself free.

'Listen to me,' she cried, 'listen to me! There have been broadsides
printed against the truth of my body; there have been witnesses
prepared against me. I will have you swear that you will read of these
broadsides, and consider of these witnesses.'

'Before God,' he said, 'I will hang the printers, and slay the
witnesses with my fist. I know how these things be made.' He shook his
fist. 'I love thee so that were they true, and wert thou the woman of
Sodom, I would have thee to my Queen!'

She cried out 'Ah!'

'Child,' he calmed himself, 'I will keep my hands from thee. But I
would fain have the kisses of thy mouth.'

She went to lean upon her table, for her knees trembled.

'Let me speak,' she said.

'Why, none hinders,' he answered her kindly.

'I swear I do love thee, so that thy voice is as the blows of hammers
upon iron to me,' she said. 'I may have little rest, save when I speak
with thee, for that sustaineth thy servant. But I fear these days and
ways. This is a very crooked riddle. So much I desire thee that I am
tremulous to take thee. If it be a madness call it a madness, but
grant me this!'

She looked at him distractedly, brushing her hands across her eyes.

'It feels within my heart that I must do a penance,' she said. 'I have
been wishful to feel upon my brow the pressure of the great crown.
Therefore, grant me this: that I may not feel it. And be this the
penance!'

'Child,' he said, 'how may you be a Queen, and not crowned with pomp
and state?'

'Majesty,' she faltered, 'to prepare myself against that high office I
have been reading in chronicles of the lives of them that have been
Queens of England. It was his Grace of Canterbury that sent me these
books for another purpose. But there ye shall read--in Asser and the
Saxon Chronicles--how that the old Queens of Saxondom, when that they
were humble or were wives coming after the first, sat not upon the
throne to be crowned and sacred, but--so it was with Judith that was
stepmother to King Alfred, and with some others whose names in this
hurry I may not discover nor remember in my mind--they were, upon some
holidays, shewn to the people as being the King's wife.'

She hung her head.

'For that I am humble in truth before the world and before my mother
Mary in Heaven, and for that I am not thy first Queen, but even thy
fifth; so I would be shewn and never crowned.'

She leaned back against the table, supporting herself with her hands
against its edges; her eyes piteously devoured his face.

'Why, child,' he said, 'so thou wilt be that fifth Queen; whether thou
wilt be a Queen crowned or a Queen shewn, what care I?'

She no longer refused herself to his arms, for she had no more
strength.

'Mary be judge between me and them that speak against me,' she said,
'I can no more hold out against my joy or longings.'

'Sha't wear a hair shirt,' he said tenderly. 'Sha't go in sackcloth.
Sha't have enow to do praying for me and thee. But hast no need of
prayers.' He lulled her in his arms, swaying on his feet. 'Hast a
great tongue. Speakest many words. But art a very child. God send thee
all the joy I purpose thee. And, an thou hast sins, weight me further
down in hell therewith.'

The light of the candles threw their locked shadows along the wall and
up the ceilings. Her head fell back, her eyes closed, so that she
seemed to be dead and her listless hands were open in her skirts.

       *       *       *       *       *





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