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Chapter 4

  • 'Men shall make us cry, in the end, steel our hearts how we will,' she said t_argot Poins, who found her weeping with her head down upon the table above _iece of paper.
  • 'I would weep for no man,' Margot answered.
  • Large, florid, fair, and slow speaking, she gave way to one of her impulses o_aring that covered her afterwards with immense blushes and left her buried i_peechless confusion. 'I could never weep for such an oaf as your cousin. H_eats good men.'
  • 'Once he sold a farm to buy me a gown,' Katharine said, 'and he goes to a sur_eath if I may not stay him.'
  • 'It is even the province of men—to die,' Margot answered. Her voice, gruf_ith emotion, astonished herself. She covered her mouth with the back of he_reat white hand as if she wished to wipe the word away.
  • 'Beseech you, spoil not your eyes with sitting to write at this hour for th_ake of this roaring boy.'
  • Katharine sat to the table: a gentle knocking came at the door. 'Let no on_ome, I have told the serving knave as much.' She sank into a pondering ove_he wording of her letter to Bishop Gardiner. It was not to be thought of tha_er cousin should murder a Prince of the Church; therefore the bishop mus_arn the Catholics in Paris that Cromwell had this in mind. And Bisho_ardiner must stay her cousin on his journey: by a false message if need_ere. It would be an easy matter to send him such a message as that she la_ying and must see him, or anything that should delay him until this cardina_ad left Paris.
  • The great maid behind her back was fetching from the clothes-prop a waterglob_pon its stand; she set it down on the table before the rush-light, moving o_iptoe, for to her the writing of a letter was a sort of necromancy, and sh_as distressed for Katharine's sake. She had heard that to write at nigh_ould make a woman blind before thirty. The light grew immense behind th_lobe; watery rays flickered broad upon the ceiling and on the hangings, an_he paper shone with a mellow radiance. The gentle knocking was repeated, an_atharine frowned. For before she was half way through with the humble word_f greeting to the bishop it had come to her that this was a very dangerou_atter to meddle in, and she had no one by whom to send the letter. Margo_ould not go, for it was perilous for her maid to be seen near the bishop'_uarters with all Cromwell's men spying about.
  • Behind her was the pleasant and authoritative voice of old Sir Nichola_ochford talking to Margot Poins. Katharine caught the name of Cicely Elliott, the dark maid of honour who had flouted her a week ago, and had pinned up he_leeve that day in Privy Seal's house.
  • The old man stood, grey and sturdy, his hand upon her doorpost. His pleasan_een eyes blinked upon her in the strong light from her globe as if he wer_efore a good fire.
  • 'Why, you are as fair as a saint with a halo, in front of that jigamaree,' h_aid. 'I am sent to offer you the friendship of Cicely Elliott.' When h_oved, the golden collar of his knighthood shone upon his chest; his croppe_rey beard glistened on his chin, and he shaded his eyes with his hand.
  • 'I was writing of a letter,' Katharine said. She turned her face towards him: the stray rays from the globe outlined her red curved lips, her swellin_hest, her low forehead; and it shone like the moon rising over a hill, yello_nd fiery in the hair above her brow. The lines of her face drooped with he_erplexities, and her eyes were large and shadowed, because she had bee_hedding many tears.
  • 'Cicely Elliott shall make you a good friend,' he said, with a modest pride o_is property; 'she shall marry me, therefore I do her such services.'
  • 'You are old for her,' Katharine said.
  • He laughed.
  • 'Since I have neither chick nor child and am main rich for a subject.'
  • 'Why, she is happy in her servant,' Katharine said abstractedly. 'You are _ery famous knight.'
  • 'There are ballads of me,' he answered complacently. 'I pray to die in a goo_ulzie yet.'
  • 'If Cicely Elliott have her scarf in your helmet,' Katharine said, 'I may no_ive you mine.' She was considering of her messenger to the bishop. 'Will yo_o me a service?'
  • 'Why,' he answered, with a gentle mockery, 'you have one tricksy swordsman t_ear your goodly colours.'
  • Katharine turned clean about to him and looked at him with attention, to mak_ut whether he might be such a man as would carry her letter for her.
  • He returned her gaze directly, for he was proud of himself and of his fame. H_ad fought in all the wars that a man might fight in since he had bee_ighteen, and for fifteen years he had been captain of a troop employed by th_ouncil in keeping back the Scots of the Borders. It was before Flodden Fiel_hat he had done his most famous deed, about which there were many ballads.
  • Being fallen upon by a bevy of Scotsmen near a tall hedge, after he had bee_nhorsed, he had set his back into a thorn bush, and had fought for many hour_n the rear of the Scottish troop, alone and with only his sword. The balla_hat had been made about him said that seventeen corpses lay in front of th_ush after the English won through to him. But since Cromwell had broken u_he Northern Councils, and filled them again with his own men of no birth, th_ld man had come away from the Borders, disdaining to serve at the orders o_naves that had been butchers' sons and worse. He owned much land and was ver_ealthy, and, having been very abstemious, because he came of an old time whe_nighthood had still some of the sacredness and austerity of a religion, h_as a man very sound in limb and peaceable of disposition. In his day he ha_een esteemed the most graceful whiffler in the world: now he used only th_eavy sword, because he was himself grown heavy.
  • Katharine answered his gentle sneer at her cousin:
  • 'It is true that I have a servant, but he is gone and may not serve me.' Ye_he knight would find it in the books of chivalry that certain occasions o_reat quests allowed of a knight's doing the errands of more than one lady: but one lady, as for instance the celebrated Dorinda, might have her claim_sserted by an illimitable number of knights, and she begged him to do her _ervice.
  • 'I have heard of these Errantry books,' he said. 'In my day there were non_uch, and now I have no letters.'
  • 'How, then, do you pass the long days of peace,' Katharine asked, 'if yo_either drink nor dice?'
  • He answered: 'In telling of old tales and teaching their paces to the King'_orses.'
  • He drew himself up a little. He would have her understand that he was not _orse leech: but there was in these four-footed beasts a certain love for him, so that Richmond, the King's favourite gelding, would stand still to be ble_f he but laid his hand on the great creature's withers to calm him. Thes_nimals he loved, since he grew old and might not follow arguments an_isputations of _hic_ and _hoc_. 'There were none such in my day. But a goo_orse is the same from year's end to year's end… .'
  • 'Will you carry a letter for me?' Katharine asked.
  • 'I would have you let me show you some of his Highness' beasts,' he added. '_reed them to the manage myself. You shall find none that step more proudly i_hristendom or Heathenasse.'
  • 'Why, I believe you,' she answered. Suddenly she asked: 'You have ridden a_night errant?'
  • He said: 'For three weeks only. Then the Scots came on too thick and fast t_aste time.' His dark eyes blinked and his broad lips moved humorously wit_is beard. 'I swore to do service to any lady; pray you let me serve you.'
  • 'You can do me a service,' she said.
  • He moved his hand to silence her.
  • 'Pray you take it not amiss. But there is one that hates you.'
  • She said:
  • 'Perhaps there are a many; but do me a service if you will.'
  • 'Look you,' he said, 'these times are no times of mine. But I know it i_rudent to have servitors that love one. I saw yours shake a fist at you_oor.'
  • Katharine said:
  • 'A man?' She looked at Margot, who, big, silent and flushed, was devouring th_elebrated hero of ballads with adoring eyes. He laughed.
  • 'That maid would kiss your feet. But, in these days, it is well to mak_riends with them that keep doors. The fellow at yours would spit upon you i_e dared.'
  • Katharine said carelessly:
  • 'Let him even spit in his imagination, and I shall whip him.'
  • The old knight looked out of the door. He left it wide open, so that no ma_ight listen.
  • 'Why, he is still gone,' he said. He cleared his throat. 'See you,' he began.
  • 'So I should have said in the old days. These fellows then we could slush ope_o bathe our feet in their warm blood when we came tired-foot from hunting.
  • Now it is otherwise. Such a loon may be a spy set upon one.'
  • He turned stiffly and majestically to move back her new hangings that onl_hat day, in her absence at Privy Seal's, had been set in place. He tappe_pots in the wall with his broad and gentle fingers, talking all the time wit_is broad back to her.
  • 'See you, you have had here workmen to hang you a new arras. There be trick_f boring ear-holes through walls in hanging these things. So that if you hav_ cousin who shall catch a scullion by the throat… .'
  • Katharine said hastily:
  • 'He hath heard little to harm me.'
  • 'It is what a man swears he hath heard that shall harm one,' the old knigh_nswered. 'I meddle in no matters of statecraft, but I am sent to you b_ertain ladies; one shall wed me and I am her servant; one bears my name an_edded a good cousin of mine, now dead for his treasons.'
  • Katharine said:
  • 'I am beholden to Cicely Elliott and the Lady Rochford… .'
  • He silenced her with one of his small gestures of old-fashioned dignity an_istinction.
  • 'I meddle in none of these matters,' he said again. 'But these ladies kno_hat you hate one they hate.'
  • He said suddenly, 'Ah!' a little grunt of satisfaction. His fingers tappin_ently made what seemed a stone of the wall quiver and let drop small flake_f plaster. He turned gravely upon Katharine:
  • 'I do not ask what you spoke of with that worshipful swordsman,' he said. 'Bu_our servitor is gone to tell upon you. A stone is gone from here and there i_is ear-hole, like a drum of canvas.'
  • Katharine said swiftly:
  • 'Take, then, a letter for me—to the Bishop of Winchester!'
  • He started back with a little exaggerated pantomime of horror.
  • 'Must I go into your plots?' he asked, blinking and amused, as if he ha_xpected the errand.
  • She said urgently:
  • 'I would have you tell me what Englishman now wears a red hat and is like t_e in Paris. I am very ignorant in these matters.'
  • 'Then meddle not in them,' he said, 'for that man is even Cardinal Pole; on_hat the King's Highness would very willingly know to be dead.'
  • 'God forbid that my cousin should murder a Prince of the Church, and be slai_n that quarrel,' she answered.
  • He started back and held his hands over his head.
  • 'Why, God help you, child! Is that your errand?' he said, deep from his chest.
  • 'I meddle not in this matter.'
  • She answered obstinately:
  • 'Pray you—by your early vows—consent to carry me my letter.'
  • He shook his head bodingly.
  • 'I thought it had been a matter of a masque at the Bishop of Winchester's; o_ had never come nigh you. Cicely Elliott hath copied out the part you shoul_peak. Pray you ask me no more of the other errand.'
  • She said:
  • 'For a great knight you are a friend only in little matters!'
  • He uttered reproachfully:
  • 'Child: it is no little matter to act as go-between for the Bishop o_inchester, even if it be for no more than a masque. How otherwise does he no_end to you direct? So much I was ready to do for you, a stranger, who am _an that has no party.'
  • She uttered maliciously:
  • 'Well, well. I thought you came of the better times before our day.'
  • 'I have shewn myself a good enough man,' he said composedly. He pointed one o_is fingers at her.
  • 'Pole is not one that shall be easily slain. He is like to have in his pay th_efter spadassins of the two. I have known him since he was a child till whe_e fled abroad.'
  • 'But my cousin!' Katharine pleaded.
  • 'For the sake of your own little neck, let that gallant be hanged,' he sai_martly. 'You have need of many friends; I can see it in your complexion, which is of a hasty loyalty. But I tell you, I had never come near you, s_our cousin miscalled me, a man of worth and credit, had these ladies no_rayed me to come to you.'
  • She raised herself to her full height.
  • 'It is not in the books of your knight-errantry,' she cried, 'that one shoul_eave one's friends to the hangman of Paris.'
  • The large figure of Margot Poins thrust itself upon them.
  • 'A' God's name,' said her gruff voice of great emotion, 'hear the words o_his valiant soldier. Your cousin shall ruin you. It is true that he wil_rive from you all your good friends… .' She faltered, and her impulse carrie_er no further. Rochford tapped her flushed cheek gently with his glove, but _ight and hushing step in the corridor made them all silent.
  • The Magister Udal stood before the door blinking his eyes at the light; Katharine addressed him imperiously—
  • 'You will carry a letter for me to save my cousin from death.'
  • He started, and leered at Margot, who was ready to sink into the ground.
  • 'Why, I had rather carry a bull to the temple of Jupiter, as Macrobius ha_t,' he said, 'meaning that… .'
  • 'Yet you have drunk with him,' Katharine interrupted him hotly, 'you have gon_urling through the night with him. You have shamed me together.'
  • 'Yet I cannot forget Tully,' he answered sardonically, 'who warns me that _rudent man should be able to moderate the course of his friendship, even a_e reins his horse. _Est prudentis sustinere ut cursum_ … .'
  • 'Mark you that!' the old knight said to Katharine. 'I will get my boy to rea_o me out of Tully, for that is excellent wisdom.'
  • 'God help me, this is Christendom!' Katharine said, bitterly. 'Shall on_bandon one that lay in the same cradle with one?'
  • 'Your ladyship hath borne with him a day too long,' Udal said. 'He beat m_ike a dog five days since. Have you heard of the city called Ponceropolis, founded by the King Philip? Your good cousin should be ruler of that city, fo_he Great King peopled it with all the brawlers, cut-throats, and roaring boy_f his dominions, to be rid of them.' She became aware that he was very angry, for his whisper shook like the neigh of a horse.
  • The old knight winked at Margot.
  • 'Why this is a monstrous wise man,' he said, 'who yet speaks some sense.'
  • 'In short,' the magister said, 'If you will stick to this man, you shall los_e. For I have taken beatings and borne no malice—as in the case of men wit_hose loves or wives I have prospered better than themselves. But that thi_an should miscall me and beat me for the pure frenzy of his mind, causelessly, and for the love of blows! That is unbearable. To-night I wal_or the first time after five days since he did beat me. And I ask you who_ou shall here find the better servant?'
  • His thin figure was suddenly shaking with rage.
  • 'Why, this is conspiracy!' Katharine cried.
  • 'A conspiracy!' Udal's voice rose up into a shriek. 'If your ladyship were _ueen I would not be a Queen's cousin's whipping post.' His arms jerked wit_he spasms of his rage like those of a marionette.
  • 'A shame that learned men should be so beaten!' Margot's gruff voice uttered.
  • Katharine turned upon her.
  • 'That is what made you speak e'ennow. You have been with thi_libbertigibbet.'
  • 'This is a free land,' the girl mumbled, her mild eyes sparkling with th_ontagious anger of her lover.
  • The old knight stood blinking upon Katharine.
  • 'You are like to lose all your servants in this quarrel,' he said.
  • Katharine wrung her hands, and then turned her back upon them and drummed upo_he table with her fingers. Udal caught Margot's large hand and fumbled i_eneath the furs of his robe: the old knight kept his smiling eyes upo_atharine's back. Her voice came at last:
  • 'Why, I will not have Tom killed upon this occasion into which I brought him.'
  • Rochford shrugged his shoulders up to his ears.
  • 'Oh marvellous infatuation,' he said.
  • Katharine spoke, still with her back turned and her shoulders heaving:
  • 'A marvellous infatuation!' she said, her voice coming softly and deeply i_er chest. 'Why, after his fashion this man loved me. God help us, what othe_en have I seen here that would strike a straight blow? Here it is moving i_he dark, listening at pierced walls, swearing of false treasons——'
  • She swept round upon the old man, her face moved, her eyes tender and angry.
  • She stretched out her hand, and her voice was pitiful and urgent.
  • 'Sir! Sir! What counsel do you give me, who are a knight of honour? Would yo_et a man who lay in the cradle with you go to a shameful death in an erran_ou had made for him?'
  • She leaned back upon the table with her eyes upon his face. 'No you would not.
  • How then could you give me such counsel?'
  • He said: 'Well, well. You are in the right.'
  • 'Nearly I went with him to another place,' she answered, 'but half an hou_go. Would to God I had! for here it is all treacheries.'
  • 'Write your letter, child,' he answered. 'You shall give it to Cicely Elliot_o-morrow in the morning. I will have it conveyed, but I will not be seen t_andle it, for I am too young to be hanged.'
  • 'Why, God help you, knight,' Udal whispered urgently from the doorway, 'carr_o letter in this affair—if you escape, assuredly this mad pupil of mine shal_ie. For the King——?' Suddenly he raised his voice to a high nasal drawl tha_ang out like a jackdaw's: 'That is very true; and, in this matter of Deat_ou may read in Socrates' Apology. Nevertheless we may believe that if Deat_e a transmigration from one place into another, there is certainly amendmen_n going whither so many great men have already passed, and to be subtracte_rom the way of so many judges that be iniquitous and corrupt.'
  • 'Why, what a plague… .' Katharine began.
  • He interrupted her quickly.
  • 'Here is your serving man back at last if you would rate him for leaving you_oor unkept.'
  • The man stood in the doorway, his lanthorn dangling in his hand, his cudge_tuck through his belt, his shock of hair rough like an old thatch, and hi_yes upon the ground. He mumbled, feeling at his throat:
  • 'A man must eat. I was gone to my supper.'
  • 'You are like to have the nightmare, friend,' the old knight said pleasantly.
  • 'It is ill to eat when most of the world sleeps.'