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Chapter 2

  • During the time that had ensued between January and that month of March, i_ad been proved to Katharine Howard how well Throckmorton, the spy, voiced th_en folk of their day. He had left her alone, but she seemed to feel hi_resence in all the air. He passed her in corridors, and she knew from hi_ery silence that he was carrying on a fumbling game with her uncle Norfolk, and with Gardiner of Winchester. He had not induced her to play his game—bu_e seemed to have made her see that every man else in the world was playing _ame like his. It was not, precisely, any more a world of black and white tha_he saw, but a world of men who did one thing in order that something ver_ifferent might happen a long time afterwards.
  • The main Court had moved from Greenwich to Hampton towards the end of January, but the Lady Mary, with her ladies, came to a manor house at Isleworth; an_hut in as she was with a grim mistress—who assuredly was all white o_lack—Katharine found herself like one with ears strained to catch sounds fro_ distance, listening for the smallest rumours that could come from the othe_reat house up stream.
  • The other ladies each had their men, as Cicely Elliott had the old knight. On_f them had even six, who one day fought a _mêlée_ for her favours on an eyo_efore the manor windows. These men came by barge in the evenings, or rod_ver the flats with a spare horse to take their mistresses a-hawking after th_erons in the swampy places. So that each of them had her channel by whic_rue gossip might reach her. But Katharine had none. Till the opening of Marc_he magister came to whisper with Margot Poins—then he was sent again to Pari_o set his pen at the service of Sir Thomas Wyatt, who had so many letters t_rite. Thus she heard much women's tattle, but knew nothing of what passed.
  • Only it seemed certain that Gardiner of Winchester was seeing fit—God know_hy—to be hot in favour of the Old Faith. It was certain, from six severa_ccounts, that at Paul's Cross he had preached a sermon full of a very violen_nd acceptable doctrine. She wondered what move in the game this was: it wa_ssuredly not for the love of God. No doubt it was part of Throckmorton'_lan. The Lutherans were to be stirred to outrages in order to prove to th_ing how insolent were they upon whom Privy Seal relied.
  • It gratified her to see how acute her prescience had been when Dr Barnes mad_is furious reply to the bishop. For Dr Barnes was one of Privy Seal's mos_oted men: an insolent fool whom he had taken out of the gutter to sen_mbassador to the Schmalkaldners. And it was on the day when Gardiner made hi_omplaint to the King about Dr Barnes, that her uncle Norfolk sent to her t_ome to him at Hampton.
  • He awaited her, grim and jaundiced, in the centre of a great, empty room, where, shivering with cold, he did not let his voice exceed a croaking whispe_hough there was panelling and no arras on the dim walls. But, to his queries, she answered clearly:
  • 'Nay, I serve the Lady Mary with her Latin. I hear no tales and I bear none t_ny man.' And again:
  • 'Three times I have spoken with the King's Highness, the Lady Mary being by.
  • And once it was of the Islands of the Blest, and once of the Latin books _ead, and once of indifferent matters—such as of how apple trees may b_lanted against a wall in Lincolnshire.'
  • Her uncle gazed at her: his dark eyes were motionless and malignant by habit; he opened his lips to speak; closed them again without a word spoken. H_ooked at a rose, carved in a far corner of the ceiling, looked at her again, and muttered:
  • 'The French are making great works at Ardres.'
  • 'Oh, aye,' she answered, 'my cousin Tom wrote me as much. He is commanded t_tay at Calais.'
  • 'Tell me,' he said, 'will they go against Calais town in good earnest?'
  • 'If I knew that,' she answered, 'I should have had it in private words from m_ady whom I serve. And, if I had it in private words I would tell it neithe_o you nor to any man.'
  • He scowled patiently and muttered:
  • 'Then tell in private words back again this: That if the French King or th_mperor do war upon us now Privy Seal will sit upon the King's back for ever.'
  • 'Ah, I know who hath talked with you,' she answered. 'Uncle, give me your han_o kiss, for I must back to my mistress.'
  • He put his thin hand grimly behind his back.
  • 'Ye spy, then, for others,' he said. 'Go kiss their feet.'
  • She laughed in a nettled voice:
  • 'If the others get no more from me than your Grace of Norfolk… .'
  • He frowned ominously, pivoted stiffly round on his heels, and said over hi_houlder:
  • 'Then I will have thy cousin clapped up the first time he is found in _runken brawl at Calais.'
  • She was after him beseechingly, with her hands held out:
  • 'Oh no, uncle,' and 'Oh, dear uncle. Let poor fool Tom be drunken when drunke_rawls work no manner of ill.'
  • 'Then get you sent to the King of France, through the channel that you wot of, the message I have given you to convey.' He kept his back to her and spoke a_f to the distant door.
  • 'Why must I mull in these matters?' she asked him piteously, 'or why must poo_om? God help him, he found me bread when you had left me to starve.' It cam_o her as pitiful that her cousin, swaggering and unconscious, at a grea_istance, should be undone because these men quarrelled near her. He move_tiffly round again—he was so bolstered over with clothes against the cold.
  • 'It is not you that must meddle here,' he said. 'It is your mistress. Only sh_ill be believed by those you wot of.'
  • 'Speak you yourself,' she said.
  • He scowled hatefully.
  • 'Who of the French would believe _me_ ,' he snarled. He had been so made _ool of by Privy Seal in times past that he had lost all hope of credence.
  • 'If I may come to it, I will do it,' she said suddenly.
  • After all, it seemed to her, this action might bring about the downfall o_rivy Seal—and she desired his downfall. It would be a folly to refuse her ai_erely because her uncle was a craven man or Throckmorton a knave. It was _rue thing that she was to ask the Lady Mary to say—that if France and Spai_hould molest England together the Cleves alliance must stand for good—an_ith it Privy Seal.
  • 'But, a' God's name, let poor Tom be,' she added.
  • He stood perfectly motionless for a moment, shrugged his shoulders straight u_nd down, stood motionless for another moment, and then held out his hand. Sh_ouched it with her lips.
  • There was a certain cate, or small cake, made of a paste sweetened with hone_nd flavoured with cinnamon, that Katharine Howard very much loved. She ha_ever tasted them till one day the King had come to visit his daughter, bearing with his own hands a great box of them. He had had the receipt fro_homas Cromwell, who had had it of a Jew in Italy. Mary so much disaffecte_er father that, taking them from his hands with one knee nearly upon th_round, she had said that her birth ill-fitted her to eat these princel_iands, and she had placed them on a ledge of her writing-pulpit. Heaving _eavy sigh, he glanced at her book and said that he would not have her spoi_er eyes with too much of study; let her bid Lady Katharine to read and writ_or her.
  • 'She will have greater need of her eyes than ever I of mine,' Mary answere_ith her passionless voice.
  • 'I will not have you spoil your eyes,' he said heavily, and she gave him bac_he reply:
  • 'My eyes are your Highness'.'
  • He made with his shoulders a slow movement of exasperation, and, turning t_atharine Howard, he began once more to talk of the Islands of the Blest. H_as dressed all in black furs that day, so that his face appeared less palli_han when he had worn scarlet, and it seemed to her suddenly that he was _ery pitiful man—a man who could do nothing; and one who, as Throckmorton ha_aid, was nothing but a doubt. There beside him, between the two of them, stood his daughter—pale, straight, silent, her hands clasped before her. An_er father had come to placate her. He had brought her cates to eat, or h_ould have beaten her into loving him. Yet Mary of England stood as rigid as _nife-blade; you could move her neither by love nor by threats. This man ha_inned against this daughter; here he was brought up against an implacability.
  • He was omnipotent in everything else; this was his Pillars of Hercules. So sh_xerted herself to be pleasant with him, and at one moment of the afternoon h_tretched out a great hand to the cinnamon cakes and placed one in his ow_outh. He sat still, and, his great jaws moving slowly, he said that h_carcely doubted that, if he himself could set sail with a great armada an_any men, he should find a calm region of tranquil husbandry and a pure faith.
  • 'It might be found,' he said; then he sighed heavily, and, looking earnestl_t her, brushed the crumbs from the furs about his neck.
  • 'One day, doubtless, your Highness shall find them,' Katharine answered, 'i_our Highness shall apply yourself to the task.' She was impatient with hi_or his sighs. Let him, if he would, abandon his kingdom and his daughter t_et out upon a quest, or let him stay where he was and set to work at an_ther task.
  • 'But whether your Highness shall find them beyond the Western Isles or hidde_n this realm of England… .'
  • He shrugged his great shoulders right up till the furs on them were brushed b_he feathers that fell from his bonnet.
  • 'God, wench!' he said gloomily, 'that is a question you are main happy to hav_ime to dally with. I have wife and child, and kith and kin, and a plague_asket of rotten apples to make cider from.'
  • He pulled himself out of his chair with both hands on the arms, stretched hi_egs as if they were cramped, and rolled towards the door.
  • 'Why, read of this matter in old books,' he said, 'and if you find the plac_ou shall take me there.' Then he spoke bitterly to the Lady Mary, who ha_ever moved.
  • 'Since your eyes are mine, I bid you not spoil them,' he said. 'Let this lad_id you. She has ten times more of learning than you have.' But, taking hi_ewelled walking-stick from beside the door, he added, 'God, wench! you are m_hild. I have read your commentary, and I, a man who have as much of goo_etters as any man in Christendom, am well content to father you.'
  • 'Did your Highness mark—this book being my child—which side of the paper i_as written on?' his daughter asked.
  • Katharine Howard sighed, for it was the Lady Mary's bitter jest that she wrot_n the rough side of the paper, having been born on the wrong side of th_lanket.
  • 'Madam Howard,' she said to Katharine with a cold sneer, as of a very age_oman, 'my father, who has taken many things from me to give to other women, takes now my commentary to give to you. Pray you finish it, and I will sav_ine eyes.'
  • As the King closed the door behind him she moved across to the chair and sa_erself down to gaze at the coals. Katharine knelt at her feet and stretche_ut her hands. She was, she said, her mistress's woman. But the Lady Mar_urned obdurately the side of her face to her suppliant; only her finger_icked at her black dress.
  • 'I am your woman,' Katharine said. 'Before God and St Anthony, the King i_aught to me! Before God and the Mother of God, no man is aught to me! I swea_hat I am your woman. I swear that I will speak as you bid me speak, or b_ilent. May God do so to me if in aught I act other than may be of service t_ou!'
  • 'Then you may sit motionless till the green mould is over your cheeks,' Mar_nswered.
  • But two days later, in the afternoon, Katharine Howard came upon her mistres_ith her jaws moving voraciously. Half of the cinnamon cates were eaten fro_he box on the writing-pulpit. A convulsion of rage passed over the girl'_ark figure; her eyes dilated and appeared to blaze with a hot and threatenin_ury.
  • 'If I could have thy head, before God I would shorten thee by the neck!' sh_aid. 'Stay now; go not. Take thy hand from the door-latch.'
  • Sudden sobs shook her, and tears dropped down her furrowed and pallid cheeks.
  • She was tormented always by a gnawing and terrible hunger that no meat and n_read might satisfy, so that, being alone with the cates in the cold sprin_fternoon, she had, in spite of the donor, been forced always nearer an_earer to them.
  • 'God help me!' she said at last. 'Udal is gone, and the scullion that supplie_e in secret has the small-pox. How may I get me things to eat?'
  • 'To have stayed to ask me!' Katharine cried. 'What a folly was here!' For, a_ daughter of the King, the Lady Mary was little more than herself; bu_ecause she was daughter to a queen that was at once a saint and martyr, Katharine was ready to spend her life in her service.
  • 'I would stay to ask a service of any man or woman,' Mary answered, 'save onl_hat I have this great hunger.' She clutched angrily at her skirt, and s_almed herself.
  • 'How may you help me?' she asked grimly. 'There are many that would put poiso_n my food. My mother was poisoned.'
  • 'I would eat myself of all the food that I bring you,' said Katharine.
  • 'And if thou wast poisoned, I must get me another, and yet another after that.
  • You know who it is that would have me away.'
  • At that hint of the presence of Cromwell, Katharine grew more serious.
  • 'I will save of my own food,' she answered simply.
  • 'Till your bones stick through your skin!' Mary sneered. 'See you, do you kno_ne man you could trust?'
  • The shadow fell the more deeply upon Katharine, because her cousin—as sh_emembered every day—the one man that she could trust, was in Calais town.
  • 'I know of two women,' she said; 'my maid Margot and Cicely Elliott.'
  • Mary of England reflected for a long time. Her eyes sunk deep in her head, grey and baleful, had the look of her father's.
  • 'Cicely Elliott is too well known for my woman,' she said. 'Thy maid Margot i_ great lump, too. Hath she no lover?'
  • The magister was in Paris.
  • 'But a brother she hath,' Katharine said; 'one set upon advancement.'
  • Mary said moodily:
  • 'Advancement, then, may be in this. God knoweth his own good time. But yo_ight tell him; or it were better you should bid her tell him… . In shor_ords, and fur … wait.'
  • She had a certain snake-like eagerness and vehemence in her motions. Sh_pened swiftly an aumbry in which there stood a tankard of milk. She took _lean pen, and then turned upon Katharine.
  • 'Before thou goest upon this errand,' she said, 'I would have thee know that, for thee, there may be a traitor's death in this—and some glory in Heaven.'
  • 'You write to the Empress,' Katharine cried.
  • 'I write to a man,' the Lady Mary said. 'Might you speak with clear eyes to m_ather if you knew more than that?'
  • 'I do not believe that you would bring your father down,' Katharine said.
  • 'Why, you have a very comfortable habit of belief,' Mary sneered at her. 'I_wo words! Will you carry this treasonable letter or no?'
  • 'God help me,' Katharine cried.
  • 'Well, God help you,' her mistress jeered. 'Two nights agone you swore to b_y woman and no other man's. Here you are in a taking. Think upon it.'
  • She dipped her white pen in the milk and began to write upon a great sheet o_aper, holding her head aslant to see the shine of the fluid.
  • Katharine fought a battle within herself. Here was treason to the King—bu_hat was a little thing to her. Yet the King was a father whom she would brin_ack to this daughter, and the traitor was a daughter whom she was sworn t_erve and pledged to bring back to this father. If then she conveyed thi_etter… .
  • 'Tell me,' she asked of the intent figure above the paper, 'when, if ever, this plot shall burst?'
  • 'Madam Howard,' the other answered, 'I heard thee not.'
  • 'I say I will convey your Highness' letter if the plot shall not burst fo_any days. If it be to come soon I will forswear myself and be no longer you_oman.'
  • 'Why, what a pax is here?' her mistress faced round on her. 'What muddles th_lear head? I doubt, knowing the craven kings that are of my party, no plo_hall burst for ten years. And so?'
  • 'Before then thou mayest be brought back to thy father,' Katharine said.
  • Mary of England burst into a hoarse laughter.
  • 'As God's my life,' she cried, 'that may well be. And you may find a chast_hore before either.'
  • Whilst she was finishing her letter, Katharine Howard prayed that Mary th_other of Mercy might soften the hatred of this daughter, even as, of ol_imes, she had turned the heart of Lucius the Syracusan. Then there should b_n end to plotting and this letter might work no ill.
  • Having waved the sheet of paper in the air to dry it, Mary crumpled it into _all.
  • 'See you,' she said, 'if this miscarry I run a scant risk. For, if this be _reason, this treason is well enough known already to them you wot of. The_ight have had my head this six years on one shift or another had they s_ared. So to me it matters little.—But for thee—and for thy maid Margot an_his maid's brother and his house and his father and his leman—death may fal_n ye all if this ball of paper miscarry.'
  • Katharine made no answer and her mistress spoke on.
  • 'Take now this paper ball, give it to thy maid Margot, bid thy maid Margo_ear it to her brother Ned.' Her brother Ned should place it in his sleeve an_alk with it to Herring Lane at Hampton. There, over against the house of th_ieur Chapuys, who was the Emperor's ambassador to this Christian nation—ove_gainst that house there was a cookshop to which resorted the servants of th_mbassador. Passing it by, Katharine's maid's brother should thrust his han_n at the door and cry 'a pox on all stinking Kaiserliks and Papists,'—and h_hould cast the paper at that cook's head. Then out would come master cook t_is door and claim reparation. And for reparation Margot's brother Ned shoul_uy such viands as the cook should offer him. These viands he was to bring, a_ good brother should, to his hungry sister, and these viands his siste_hould take to her room—which was Katharine's room. 'And, of an evening,' sh_inished, 'I shall come to thy room to commune with thee of the writers tha_e dead and yet beloved. Hast thou the lesson by heart? I will say it again.'