It was in that way, however sorely against her liking, that Katharine Howar_ame into a plot. It subdued her, it seemed to age her, it was as if she ha_arted with some virtue. When again she spoke with the King, who came to lol_n his daughter's armed chair one day out of every week, it troubled her t_ind that she could speak to him with her old tranquillity. She was ashamed a_eeling no shame, since all the while these letters were passing behind hi_ack. Once even he had been talking to her of how they nailed pear tree_gainst the walls in her Lincolnshire home.
'Our garden man would say … ' she began a sentence. Her eye fell upon one o_hese very crumpled balls of paper. It lay upon the table and it confused he_o think that it appeared like an apple. 'Would say … would say … ' sh_altered.
He looked at her with enquiring eyes, round in his great head.
'It is too late,' she finished.
'Even too late for what?' he asked.
'Too late in the year to set the trees back,' she answered and her fit o_ervousness had passed. 'For there is a fluid in trees that runneth upward i_he spring of the year to greet the blessed sun.'
'Why, what a wise lady is this!' he said, half earnest. 'I would I had such a_dviser as thou hast,' he continued to his daughter.
He frowned for a moment, remembering that, being who he was, he should stan_n need of no advice.
'See you,' he said to Katharine. 'You have spoken of many things and wisely, after a woman's fashion of book-learning. Now I am minded that you should hea_e speak upon the Word of God which is a man's matter and a King's. This da_ennight I am to have brought to my closet a heretic, Dr Barnes. If ye will y_ay hear me confound him with goodly doctrines.'
He raised both his eyebrows heavily and looked first at the Lady Mary.
'You, I am minded, shall hear a word of true doctrine.'
And to Katharine, 'I would hear how you think that I can manage a disputation.
For the fellow is the sturdiest rogue with a yard of tongue to wag.'
Katharine maintained a duteous silence; the Lady Mary stood with her hand_lasped before her. Upon Katharine he smiled suddenly and heavily.
'I grow too old to be a match for thee in the learning of this world. Th_ongue has outstripped me since I am become stale… . But hear me in the othe_ake of talk.'
'I ask no better,' Katharine said.
'Therefore,' he finished, 'I am minded that you, Mog, and your ladies all, d_ove your residences from here to my house at Hampton. This is an old and dar_lace; there you shall be better honoured.'
He lay back in his chair and was pleased with the care that he took of hi_aughter. Katharine glided intently across the smooth bare floor and took th_all of paper in her hand. His eyes followed her and he moved his head roun_fter her movements, heavily, and without any motion of his great body. He wa_n a comfortable mood, having slept well the night before, and havin_onversed agreeably in the bosom of a family where pleasant conversation was _are thing. For the Lady Mary had forborne to utter biting speeches, since he_yes too had been upon that ball of paper. The King did not stay for man_inutes after Katharine had gone.
She was excited, troubled and amused—and, indeed, the passing of those letter_eld her thoughts in those few days. Thus it was easy to give the paper to he_aid Margot, and easy to give Margot the directions. But she knew very well b_hat shift Margot persuaded her scarlet-clothed springald of a brother to tak_he ball and to throw it into the cookshop. For the young Poins was set upo_dvancement, and Margot, buxom, substantial and honest-faced, stood before hi_nd said: 'Here is your chance for advancement made … ' if he could carr_hese missives very secretly.
'For, brother Poins,' she said, 'thou knowest these great folks rewar_reatly—and these things pass between folks very great. If I tell thee n_ames it is because thou canst see more through a stone wall than commo_olk.'
So the young Poins cocked his bonnet more jauntily, and, setting out up rive_o Hampton, changed his scarlet clothes for a grey coat and puritan hose, an_n the dark did his errand very well. He carried a large poke in which he pu_he larded capons and the round loaves that the cook sold to him. Later, following a reed path along the river, he came swiftly down to Isleworth wit_is bag on a cord and, in the darkness from beneath the walls, he slung ba_nd cord in at Katharine Howard's open window. For several times this happene_efore the Lady Mary's court was moved to Hampton. At first, Katharine had he_remors to put up with—and it was only when, each evening, with a thump an_wish, the bag, sweeping out of the darkness, sped across her floor—it wa_nly then that Katharine's heart ceased from pulsing with a flutter. All th_hile the letters were out of her own hands she moved on tiptoe, as if sh_ere a hunter intent on surprising a coy quarry. Nevertheless, it wa_mpossible for her to believe that this was a dangerous game; it wa_mpossible to believe that the heavy, unsuspicious and benevolent man wh_ried clumsily to gain his daughter's love with bribes of cakes an_erchiefs—that this man could be roused to order her to her death because sh_onveyed from one place to another a ball of paper. It was more like a game o_assing a ring from hand to hand behind the players' backs, for kisses fo_orfeits if the ring were caught. Nevertheless, this was treason-felony; ye_t was furthering the dear cause of the saints.
It was on the day on which her uncle Norfolk had sent for her that the Kin_ad his interview with the heretical Dr Barnes—nicknamed Antoninus Anglicanus.
The Lady Mary and Katharine Howard and her maid, Margot, were set in a tin_loset in which there was, in a hole in the wall, a niche for the King'_onfessor. The King's own chamber was empty when they passed through, and the_eft the door between ajar. There came a burst of voices, and swiftly th_ishop of Winchester himself entered their closet. He lifted his blac_yebrows at sight of them, and rubbed his thin hands with satisfaction.
'Now we shall hear one of Crummock's henchmen swinged,' he whispered. H_aised a finger for them to lend ear and gazed through the crack of the door.
They heard a harsh voice, like a dog's bay, utter clearly:
'Now goodly goodman Doctor, thou hast spoken certain words at Paul's Cross.
They touched on Justification; thou shalt justify them to me now.' There cam_ sound of a man who cleared his throat—and then again the heavy voice:
'Why, be not cast down; we spoke as doctor to doctor. Without a doubt thou ar_earned. Show then thy learning. Wast brave at Paul's Cross. Justify now!'
Gardiner, turning from gazing through the door-crack, grinned at the thre_omen.
'He rated _me_ at Paul's Cross!' he said. 'He thumped me as I had been _hrashing floor.' They missed the Doctor's voice—but the King's came again.
'Why, this is a folly. I am Supreme Head, but I bid thee to speak.'
There was a long pause till they caught the words.
'Your Highness, I do surrender my learning to your Highness'.' Then, indeed, there was a great roar:
'Unworthy knave; surrender thyself to none but God. He is above me as abov_hee. To none but God.'
There was another long silence, and then the King's voice again:
'Why, get thee gone. Shalt to gaol for a craven… .' And then came a hissin_ound of vexation, a dull thud, and other noises.
The King's bonnet lay on the floor, and the King himself alone was paddin_own the room when they opened their door. His face was red with rage.
'Why, what a clever fiend is this Cromwell!' the Lady Mary said; but th_ishop of Winchester was laughing. He pushed Margot Poins from the closet, bu_aught Katharine Howard tightly by the arm.
'Thou shalt write what thy uncle asked of thee!' he commanded in a low voice,
'an thou do it not, thy cousin shall to gaol! I have a letter thou didst writ_e.'
A black despair settled for a moment upon Katharine, but the King was standin_efore her. He had walked with inaudible swiftness up from the other end o_he room.
'Didst not hear me argue!' he said, with the vexation of a great child. 'Tha_oxy knave out-marched me!'
'Why,' the Lady Mary sniggered at him, 'thy brewer's son is too many for you_ighness.'
Henry snarled round at her; but she folded her hands before her and uttered:
'The brewer's son made your Highness Supreme Head of the Church. Therefore, the brewer's son hath tied your Highness' tongue. For who may argue with you_ighness?'
He looked at her for a moment with a bemused face.
'Very well,' he said.
'The brewer's son should have made your Highness the lowest suppliant at th_hurch doors. Then, if, for the astounding of certain beholders, your Highnes_ere minded to argue, your Highness should find adversaries.'
The bitter irony of her words made Katharine Howard angry. This poor, heav_an had other matters for misgiving than to be badgered by a woman. But th_rony was lost upon the King. He said very simply:
'Why, that is true. If I be the Head, the Tail shall fear to bandy words wit_e.' He addressed himself again to Katharine: 'I am sorry that you did no_ear me argue. I am main good at these arguments.' He looked reflectively a_ardiner and said: 'Friend Winchester, one day I will cast a main at argument_ith thee, and Kat Howard shall hear. But I doubt thou art little skilled wit_hy tongue.'
'Why, I will make a better shift with my tongue than Privy Seal's men dare,'
the bishop said. He glanced under his brows at Henry, as if he were measurin_he ground for a leap.
'The Lady Mary is in the right,' he ventured.
The King, who was thinking out a speech to Katharine, said, 'Anan?' an_ardiner ventured further:
'I hold it for true that this man held his peace, because Cromwell s_ommanded it. He is Cromwell's creature, and Cromwell is minded to escape fro_he business with a whole skin.'
The King bent him an attentive ear.
'It is to me, in the end, that Privy Seal owes amends,' Gardiner sai_ancorously. 'Since it was at me that this man, by Cromwell's orders, did hur_is foul words at Paul's Cross.'
The King said:
'Why, it is true that thou art more sound in doctrine than is Privy Seal. Wha_ouldst thou have?'
Gardiner made an immense gesture, as if he would have embraced the whol_orld.
Katharine Howard trembled. Here they were, all the three of them Cromwell'_nemies. They were all alone with the King in a favouring mood, and she was o_he point of crying out:
'Give us Privy Seal's head.'
But, in this very moment of his opportunity, Gardiner faltered. Even th_lackness of his hatred could not make him bold.
'That he should make me amends in public for the foul words that knav_ttered. That they should both sue to me for pardon: that it should be showe_o the world what manner of man it is that they have dared to flout.'
'Why, goodman Bishop, it shall be done,' the King said, and Katharine groane_loud. A clock with two quarter boys beside the large fireplace chimed th_our of four.
'Aye!' the King commented to Katharine. 'I thought to have had a pleasante_our of it. Now you see what manner of life is mine: I must go to a plaguin_ouncil!'
'An I were your Highness,' Katharine cried, 'I would be avenged on them tha_arred my pleasures.'
He touched her benevolently upon the cheek.
'Sweetheart,' he said, 'an thou wert me thou'dst do great things.' He rolle_owards the door, heavy and mountainous: with the latch in his hand, he crie_ver his shoulder: 'But thou shalt yet hear me argue!'
'What a morning you have made of this!' Katharine threw at the bishop. Th_ady Mary shrugged her shoulders to her ears and turned away. Gardiner said:
'Oh, well your Holiness knows,' Katharine said. 'You might have come within a_ce of having Cromwell down.'
His eyes flashed, and he swallowed with a bitter delight.
'I have him at my feet,' he said. 'He shall do public reparation to me. Yo_ave heard the King say so.'
There were tears of vexation in Katharine's eyes.
'Well I know how it is that this brewer's son has king'd it so long!' sh_aid. 'An I had been a man it had been his head or mine.'
Gardiner shook himself like a dog that is newly out of the water.
'Madam Howard,' he said, 'you are mighty high. I have observed how the Kin_poke all his words for your ear. His passions are beyond words and beyon_hame.'
The Lady Mary was almost out of the room, and he came close enough to speak i_atharine's ears.
'But be you certain that his Highness' passions are not beyond the reverse o_assion, which is jealousy. You have a cousin at Calais… .'
Katharine moved away from him.
'Why, God help you, priest,' she said. 'Do you think you are the only man tha_nows that?'
He laughed melodiously, with a great anger.
'But I am the man that knoweth best how to use my knowledge. Therefore yo_hall do my will.'
Katharine Howard laughed back at him:
'Where your lordship's will marches with mine I will do it,' she said. 'But _m main weary of your lordship's threats. You know the words of Artemidorus?'
Gardiner contained his rage.
'You will write the letter we have asked you to write?'
She laughed again, and faced him, radiant, fair and flushed in the cheeks.
'In so far as you beg me to write a letter praying the King of France and th_mperor to abstain from war upon this land, I will write the letter. But, i_o far as that helps forward the plotting of you and a knave calle_hrockmorton, I am main sorry that I must write it.'
The bishop drew back, and uttered:
'Madam Howard, ye are forward.'
'Why, God help your lordship,' she said. 'Where I see little course fo_espect I show little. You see I am friends with the King—therefore leave yo_y cousin be. Because I am friends with the King, who is a man among wolves, _ill pray my mistress to indite a letter that shall save this King som_roubles. But, if you threaten me with my cousin, or my cousin with me, I wil_se my friendship with the King as well against you as against any other.'
Gardiner swallowed in his throat, winked his eyes, and muttered:
'Why, so you do what we will, it matters little in what spirit you shall d_t.'
'So you and my uncle and Throckmorton keep your feet from my paths, you ma_ave my leavings,' she said. 'And they will be the larger part, since I as_ittle for myself.'
He gave her his episcopal blessing as she followed the Lady Mary to her rooms.
Her mind was made up—and she knew that it had been made up hastily, but sh_as never one to give much time to doubting. She wished these men to leave he_ut of their plots—but four men are stronger than one woman. Yet, as he_hilosophy had it, you may make a woman your tool, but she will bend in you_and and strike where she will, for all that. Therefore she must plot, but no_ith them.
As soon as she could she found the Lady Mary alone, and, setting her valour u_gainst the other's dark and rigid figure, she spoke rapidly:
She would have her lady write to her friends across the sea that, if Cromwel_ere ever to fall, they must now stay their hands against the King: they mus_iminish their bands, discontinue their fortifyings and feign even to quarre_mongst themselves. Otherwise the King must rest firm in his alliance wit_leves, to counterbalance them.
The Lady Mary raised her eyebrows with a show of insolent astonishment tha_as for all the world like the King's.
'You affect my father!' she said. 'Is it not a dainty plan?'
Katharine brushed past her words with:
'It matters little who affects what thing. The main is that Privy Seal must b_ast down.'
'Carthage must be destroyed, O Cato,' the Lady Mary sneered. 'Ye ar_eremptory.'
'I am as God made me,' Katharine answered. 'I am for God's Church… .' She ha_ sharp spasm of impatience. 'Here is a thing to do, and the one and the othe_narl like dogs, each for his separate ends.'
'Oh, la, la,' the Lady Mary laughed.
'A Howard is as good as any man,' Katharine said. Her ingenuous face flushed, and she moved her hand to her throat. 'God help me: it is true that I swore t_e your woman. But it is the true province of your woman to lead you to wor_or justice and the truth.'
A black malignancy settled upon the face of the princess.
'I have been called bastard,' she said. 'My mother was done to death.'
'No true man believes you misbegotten,' Katharine answered hotly.
'Well, it is proclaimed treason, to speak thus,' the Lady Mary sneered.
'Neither can you give your sainted mother her life again.' Katharine ignore_er words. 'But these actions were not your father's. It was an ill man force_im to them. The saints be good to you; is it not time to forgive a sad ma_hat would make amends? I would have you to write this letter.'
The Lady Mary's lips moved into the curves of a tormenting smile.
'You plead your lover's cause main well,' she uttered.
Katharine had another motion of impatience.
'Your cause I plead main better,' she said. 'It is certain that, this man onc_own, your bastardy should be reversed.'
'I do not ask it,' the Lady Mary said.
'But I ask that you give us peace here, so that the King may make amends t_any that he hath sorely wronged. Do you not see that the King inclineth t_he Church of God? Do you not see… .'
'I see very plainly that I needs must thank you for better housing,' Mar_nswered. 'It is certain that my father had never brought me from that well a_sleworth, had it not been that he desireth converse with thee at his ease.'
Katharine's lips parted with a hot anger, but before she could speak th_itter girl said calmly:
'Oh, I have not said thou art his leman. I know my father. His blood is no_ot—but his ears crave tickling. Tickle them whilst thou mayest. Have I staye_hee? Have I sent thee from my room when he did come?'
Katharine cast back the purple hood from over her forehead, she brushed he_and across her brow, and made herself calm.
'This is a trifling folly,' she said. 'In two words: will your Highness writ_e this letter?'
'Then, in four words,' Mary answered, 'my Highness cares not.'
The mobile brows above Katharine's blue eyes made a hard straight line.
'An you will not,' she brought out, 'I will leave your Highness' service. _ill get me away to Calais, where my father is.'
'Why, you will never do that,' the Lady Mary said; 'you have tasted bloo_ere.'
Katharine hung her head and meditated for a space.
'No, before God,' she said earnestly, 'I think you judge me wrong. I think _m not as you think me. I think that I do seek no ends of my own.'
The Lady Mary raised her eyebrows and snickered ironically.
'But of this I am very certain,' Katharine said. She spoke more earnestly, seeming to plead: 'If I thought that I were grown a self-seeker, by Mars wh_hanged Alectryon to a cock, and by Pallas Athene who changed Arachne to _pider—if I were so changed, I would get me gone from this place. But here i_ thing that I may do. If you will aid me to do it I will stay. If you wil_ot I will get me gone.'
'Good wench,' Mary answered, 'let us say for the sake of peace that thou ar_onest… . Yet I have sworn by other gods than thine that never will I do augh_hat shall be of aid, comfort or succour to my father's cause.'
'Take back your oaths!' Katharine cried.
'For thee!' Mary said. 'Wench, thou hast brought me food: thou hast served m_n the matter of letters. I might only with great trouble get another so t_erve me. But, by Mars and Pallas and all the constellation of the deities, thou mightest get thee to Hell's flames or ever I would take back an oath.'
'Oh, madness,' Katharine cried out. 'Oh, mad frenzy of one whom the gods woul_estroy.' Three times before she had reined in her anger: now she stretche_ut her hands with her habitual gesture of pitiful despair. Her eyes looke_traight before her, and, as she inclined her knees, the folds of her gre_ress bent round her on the floor.
'Here I have pleaded with you, and you have gibed me with the love of th_ing. Here I have been earnest with you, and you have mocked. God help me!'
she sobbed, with a catch in her throat. 'Here is rest, peace and the blessin_f God offered to this land. Here is a province that is offered back to th_other of God and the dear hosts of heaven. Here might we bring an erring Kin_ack to the right way, a sinful man back unto his God. But you, for a parce_f wrongs of your own… .'
'Now hold thy peace,' Mary said, between anger and irony. 'Here is a matter o_ farthing or two. Be the letter written, and kiss upon it.'
Katharine stayed herself in the tremor of her emotions, and the Lady Mary sai_rily:
'Be the letter written. But thou shalt write it. I have sworn that I will d_othing to give this King ease.'
'But my writing… .' Katharine began.
'Thou shalt write,' Mary interrupted her harshly. 'If thou wilt have this Kin_t peace for a space that Cromwell may fall, why I am at one with thee. Fo_his King is such a palterer that without this knave at his back I might hav_ad him down ten years ago. Therefore, thou shalt write, and I wil_ountersign the words.'
'That were to write thyself,' Katharine said.
'Good wench,' the Lady Mary said. 'I am thy slave: but take what thou cans_et.'
Towards six of the next day young Poins clambered in at Katharine Howard'_indow and stood, pale, dripping with rain and his teeth chattering, betwee_icely Elliott and her old knight.
'The letter,' he said. 'They have taken thy letter. My advancement is at a_nd!' And he fell upon the floor.
Going jauntily along the Hampton Street, he had been filled, that afternoon, with visions of advancement. Drifts of rain hid the osiers across the rive_nd made the mud ooze in over the laces of his shoes. The tall white and blac_ouse, where the Emperor's ambassador had his lodgings, leaned in all it_ewness over the path, and the water from its gutters fell right into th_iver, making a bridge above a passer's head. The little cookshop, with it_eet, as it were, in the water, made a small hut nestling down beneath th_hadow of the great house. It was much used by Chapuys' grooms, trencher boy_nd javelin men, because the cook was a Fleming, and had a comfortable hand i_tewing eels.
Ned Poins must pass the ambassador's house in his walk, but in under the dar_rchway there stood four men sheltering, in grey cloaks that reached to thei_eet. Stepping gingerly on the brick causeway that led down to the barge- steps, they came and stood before the young man, three being in a lin_ogether and one a little to the side. He hardly looked at them because he wa_hinking: 'This afternoon I will say to my sister Margot: "Fifteen letters _ave carried for thy great persons. I have carried them with secrecy an_peed. Now, by Cock, I will be advanced to ancient."' He had imagined hi_ister pleading with him to be patient, and himself stamping with his foot an_wearing that he would be advanced instantly.
The solitary one of the four men barred his way, and said:
'No further! You go back with us!'
Poins swung his cape back and touched his sword-hilt.
'You will have your neck stretched if you stay me,' he said.
The other loosened his cloak which had covered him up to the nose. He showed _ocking mouth, a long red beard that blew aside in a wild gust of the weather, and displayed on his breast the lion badge of the Lord Privy Seal.
'An you will not come you shall be carried!' he said.
'Nick Throckmorton,' Poins answered, 'I will slit thy weazand! I am on _reater errand than thine.'
It was strong in his mind that he was bearing a letter for the King'_ighness. The other three laid hands swiftly upon him, and a wet cloak flappe_ver his head. They had his elbows bound together behind his back before hi_yes again had the river and the muddy path to look upon. Throckmorton grinne_ardonically, and they forced him along in the mud. The rain fell down; hi_loak was gone. And then a great dread entered into his simple mind. It kep_unning through his head:
'I was carrying a letter for the King—I was carrying a letter for the King!'
but his addled brains would bear his thoughts no further until he was cas_oose in the very room of Privy Seal himself. They had used him very roughly, and he staggered back against the wall, gasping for breath and weeping wit_age and fear.
Privy Seal stood before the fire; his eyes lifted a little but he said nothin_t all. Throckmorton took a dagger from the chain round his neck, and cut th_ag from the boy's girdle. Still smiling sardonically, he placed it in Priv_eal's fat hands.
'Here is the great secret,' he said. 'I took it even in the gates of Chapuys.'
Privy Seal started a little and cried, 'Ah!' The boy would have spoken, but h_eared even to cry out; his eyes were starting from his head, and his breat_ame in great gusts that shook him. Privy Seal sat down in a large chair b_he fire and considered for a moment. Then he slowly drew out the crumple_all of paper. Here at last he held the Lady Mary utterly in his power; her_t last, at the eleventh hour, he had a new opportunity to show to the Kin_is vigilance, his power, and how necessary he was to the safety of the realm.
He had been beginning to despair; Winchester was to confess the King tha_ight. Now he held them… .
'I have been diligent,' Throckmorton said. 'I had had the Lady Mary set in th_oom that has a spy-hole beside a rose in the ceiling. So I saw the writing o_his letter.'
Cromwell said, 'Ah!' He had pulled the paper apart, smoothed it across hi_nee, and looked at it attentively. Then he held it close to the fire, for n_lank paper could trouble the Privy Seal. This was a child's trick at best.
In the warmth faint lines became visible on the paper; they darkened an_arkened beneath his intent eyes. Behind his back Throckmorton, with hi_mmense beard and sardonic eyes, rubbed his hands and smiled. Privy Seal'_ingers trembled, but he gave no further sign.
Suddenly he cried, 'What!' and then, 'Both women! both… .'
He fell back in the chair, and the sudden quaver of his face, the deep breat_hat he drew, showed his immense joy.
'God of my heart! Both women!' he said again.
The rain hurled itself with a great rustling against the casement. Though i_as so early, it was already nearly dark. Cromwell sat up suddenly and pointe_t the boy.
'Take that rat away!' he said. 'Set him in irons, and come back here.'
Throckmorton caught the quivering boy by the ear and led him out at the door.
He took him down a small stair that opened behind a curtain. At the stair-foo_e pulled open a small, heavy door. He still held his dagger, and he cut th_opes that tied Poins' elbows. With a sudden alacrity and a grin of malice h_icked him violently.
'Get you gone to your mistress,' he said.
Poins stood for a moment, wavering on his feet. He slipped miserably in th_ud of the park, and suddenly he ran. His grey, straining form disappeare_ound the end of the dark buildings, and then Throckmorton waved a hand at th_rey sky and laughed noiselessly. Thomas Cromwell was making notes in hi_ablets when his spy re-entered the room, with the rain-drops glistening i_is beard.
'Here are some notes for you,' Cromwell said. He rose to his feet with a swif_nd intense energy. 'I have given you five farms. Now I go to the King.'
Throckmorton spoke gently.
'You are over-eager,' he said. 'It is early to go to the King's Highness. W_ay find much more yet.'
'It is already late,' Cromwell said.
'Sir,' Throckmorton urged, 'consider that the King is much affected to thi_ady. Consider that this letter contains nothing that is treasonable; rathe_t urges peace upon the King's enemies.'
'Aye,' said Cromwell; 'but it is written covertly to the King's enemies.'
'That, it is true, is a treason,' Throckmorton said; 'but it is very certai_hat the Lady Mary hath written letters very much more hateful. By questionin_his boy that we have in gaol, by gaoling this Lady Katharine—why, we shal_ut her to the thumbscrews!—by gaol and by thumbscrew, we shall gar her to se_er hand to another make of confession. Then you may go to the King'_ighness.'
'Sir,' Throckmorton answered, and a tremble in his calm voice showed hi_agerness, 'I beseech you to give my words your thoughts. Winchester hath th_ing's ear for the moment; but I will get you letters wherein these ladie_hall reveal Winchester for the traitor that we know him to be. Listen to me… .' He paused and let his crafty eyes run over his master's face. 'Let thi_atter be for an hour. See you, you shall make a warrant to take this Lad_atharine.'
He paused and appeared to reflect.
'In an hour she shall be here. Give me leave to use my thumbscrews… .'
'Aye, but Winchester,' Cromwell said.
'Why,' Throckmorton answered confidently, 'in an hour, too, Winchester shal_e with the King in the King's Privy Chapel. There will be a make of prayers; ten minutes to that. There shall be Gardiner talking to the King against you_ordship; ten minutes to that. And, Winchester being craven, it shall cost hi_wice ten minutes to come to begging your lordship's head of the King, if eve_e dare to beg it. But he never shall.'
Cromwell said, 'Well, well!'
'There we have forty minutes,' Throckmorton said. He licked his lips and hel_is long beard in his hand carefully, as if it had been a bird. 'But give m_en minutes to do my will upon this lady's body, and ten to write down wha_he shall confess. Then, if it take your lordship ten minutes to dres_ourself finely, you shall have still ten in which you shall show the King ho_is Winchester is traitor to him.'
Cromwell considered for a minute; his lips twitched cautiously the one abov_he other.
'This is a great matter,' he said. He paused again. 'If this lady should no_onfess! And it is very certain that the King affects her.'
'Give me ten minutes of her company,' the spy answered.
Cromwell considered again.
'You are very certain,' he said; and then:
'Wilt thou stake thy head upon it?'
Throckmorton wagged his beard slowly up and down.
'Thy head and beard!' Cromwell repeated. He struck his hands briskly together.
'It is thine own asking. God help thee if thou failest!'
'I will lay nothing to your lordship's door,' Throckmorton said eagerly.
'God knows!' Cromwell said. 'No man that hath served me have I deserted. So i_s that no one hath betrayed me. But thou shalt take this lady without warran_rom my hand.'
'If thou shalt wring avowal from her thou shalt be the wealthiest commoner o_ngland,' Cromwell said. 'But I will not be here. Nay, thou shalt take her t_hine own rooms. I will not be seen in this matter. And if thou fail… .'
'Sir, I stand more sure of my succeeding than ever your lordship stood,'
Throckmorton answered him.
'It is not I that shall betray thee if thou fail,' Cromwell answered. 'Ge_hee gone swiftly… .' He took the jewelled badge from his cap that lay on th_able. 'Thou hast served me well,' he said; 'take this in case I never see th_ace again.'
'Oh, you shall see my triumph!' Throckmorton answered.
He bent himself nearly double as he passed through the door.
Cromwell sat down in his great chair, and his eyes gazed at nothing throug_he tapestry of his room.