'Why, sometimes,' Throckmorton said, 'a very perfect folly is like a ver_erfect wisdom.' He sat upon her table. 'So it is in this case, he did sen_or me. No happening could have been more fortunate.'
He had sent away the man from her door and had entered without any leave, laughing ironically in his immense fan-shaped beard.
'Your ladyship thought to have stolen a march upon me,' he said. 'You coul_ave done me no better service.'
She was utterly overcome with weariness. She sat motionless in her chair an_istened to him.
He folded his arms and crossed his legs.
'So he did send for me,' he said. 'You would have had him belabour me wit_reat words. But his Highness is a politician like some others. He beat abou_he bush. And be sure I left him openings to come in to my tidings.'
Katharine hung her head and thought bitterly that she had had the boldness; this other man reaped the spoils. He leaned forward and sighed. Then h_aughed.
'You might wonder that I love you,' he said. 'But it is in the nature o_rofound politicians to love women that be simple, as it is the nature o_inners to love them that be virtuous. Do not believe that an evil man lovet_vil. He contemns it. Do not believe that a politician loveth guile. He make_se of it to carry him into such a security that he may declare his tru_ature. Moreover, there is no evil man, since no man believeth himself to b_vil. I love you.'
Katharine closed her eyes and let her head fall back in her chair. The dus_as falling slowly, and she shivered.
'You have no warrant to take me away?' she asked, expressionlessly.
He laughed again.
'Thus,' he said, 'devious men love women that be simple. And, for a profound, devious and guileful politician you shall find none to match his Highness.'
He looked at Katharine with scrutinising and malicious eyes. She never moved.
'I would have you listen,' he said.
She had had no one to talk to all that day. There was no single creature wit_hom she could discuss. She might have asked counsel of old Rochford. Bu_part from the disorder of his mind he had another trouble. He had a horse fo_ale, and he had given the refusal of it to a man called Stey who lived i_arwickshire. In the meanwhile two Frenchmen had made him a greater offer, an_o answer came from Warwickshire. He was in a fume. Cicely Elliott wa_atching him and thinking of nothing else, Margot Poins was weeping all day, because the magister had been bidden to go to Paris to turn into Latin th_etters of Sir Thomas Wyatt. There was no one around Katharine that was no_ngrossed in his own affairs. In that beehive of a place she had been utterl_lone with horror in her soul. Thus she could hardly piece togethe_hrockmorton's meanings. She thought he had come to gibe at her.
'Why should I listen?' she said.
'Because,' he answered sardonically, 'you have a great journey indicated fo_ou, and I would instruct you as to certain peaks that you may climb.'
She had been using her rosary, and she moved it in her lap.
'Any poor hedge priest would be a better guide on such a journey,' sh_nswered listlessly.
'Why, God help us all,' he laughed, 'that were to carry simplicity into _hrone-room. In a stable-yard it served. But you will not always find a kin_mong horse-straws.'
'God send I find the King of Peace on a prison pallet,' she answered.
'Why, we are at cross purposes,' he said lightly. He laughed still more loudl_hen he heard that the King had threatened her with a gaol.
'Do you not see,' he asked, 'how that implies a great favour towards you?'
'Oh, mock on,' she answered.
He leaned forward and spoke tenderly.
'Why, poor child,' he said. 'If a man be moved because you moved him, it wa_ou who moved him. Now, if you can move such a heavy man that is a certai_roof that he is not indifferent to you.'
'He threatened me with a gaol,' Katharine said bitterly.
'Aye,' Throckmorton answered, 'for you were in fault to him. That is ever th_eakness of your simple natures. They will go brutally to work upon a man.'
'Tell me, then, in three words, what his Highness will do with me,' she said.
'There you go brutally to work again,' he said. 'I am a poor man that do lov_ou. You ask what another man will do with you that affects you.'
He stood up to his full height, dressed all in black velvet.
'Let us, then, be calm,' he said, though his voice trembled and he paused a_f he had forgotten the thread of his argument. 'Why, even so, you were i_rievous fault to his Highness that is a prince much troubled. As thus: Yo_ere certain of the rightness of your cause.'
'It is that of the dear saints,' Katharine said… . He touched his bonnet wit_hree fingers.
'You are certain,' he repeated. 'Nevertheless, here is a man whose fury i_ike an agony to him. He looks favourably upon you. But, if a man be formed t_ight he must fight, and call the wrong side good.'
'God help you,' Katharine said. 'What can be good that is set in array agains_he elect of God?'
'These be brave words,' he answered, 'but the days of the Crusades be over.
Here is a King that fights with a world that is part good, part evil. In par_e fights for the dear saints; in part they that fight against him fight fo_he elect of God. Then he must call all things well upon his side, if he i_ot to fail where he is right as well as where he is wrong.'
'I do not take you well,' Katharine said. 'When the Lacedæmonians strove wit_he Great King… .'
'Why, dear heart,' he said, 'those were the days of a black and white world; now we are all grey or piebald.'
'Then tell me what the King will do with me,' she answered.
He made a grimace.
'All your learning will not make of you but a very woman. It is: What will h_o? It is: A truce to words. It is: Get to the point. But the point is this… .'
'In the name of heaven,' she said, 'shall I go to gaol or no?'
'Then in the name of heaven,' he said, 'you shall—this next month, or nex_ear, or in ten years' time. That is very certain, since you goad a King t_ury.'
She opened her mouth, but he silenced her with his hand.
'No, you shall not go to gaol upon this quarrel!' She sank back into he_hair. He surveyed her with a sardonic malice.
'But it is very certain,' he said, 'that had there been there ready a cler_ith a warrant and a pen, you had not again seen the light of day until yo_ame to a worse place on a hill.'
'Why, get you gone, and leave me to pray,' she said.
He stretched out towards her a quivering hand.
'Aye, there you be again, simple and brutal!' His jaws grinned beneath hi_eard. 'I love the air you breathe. I go about to tell a tale in a long wa_hat shall take a long time, so that I may stay with you. You cry: "For pity, for pity, come to the point." I have pity. So you cry, having obtained you_esire, "Get ye gone, and let me pray!"'
She said wearily:
'I have had too many men besiege me with their suits.'
He shrugged his great shoulders and cried:
'Yet you never had friend better than I, who bring you comfort hoping for non_n return.'
'Why,' she answered, 'it is a passing bitter thing that my sole friend must b_ man accounted so evil.'
He moved backwards again to the table; set his white hands upon it behind him, and balancing himself upon them swung one of his legs slowly.
'It is a good doctrine of the Holy Church,' he said, 'to call no man evi_ntil he be dead.' He looked down at the ground, and then, suddenly, he seeme_o mock at her and at himself. 'Doubtless, had such a white soul as yours le_e from my first day, you to-day had counted me as white. It is evident that _as not born with a nature that warped towards sin. For, let us put it tha_ood is that thing that you wish.' He looked up at her maliciously. 'Let tha_e Good. Then, very certainly, since I am enlisted heart and soul in th_esire that you may have what you wish, you have worked a conversion in me.'
'I will no longer bear with your mocking,' she said. She began to feel hersel_trong enough to command for him.
'Why,' he answered, 'hear me you shall. And I must mock, since to mock and t_esire are my nature. You pay too little heed to men's natures, therefore th_ay will come to shed tears. That is very certain, for you will knock agains_he whole world.'
'Why, yes,' she answered. 'I am as God made me.'
'So are all Christians,' he retorted. 'But some of us strive to improve on th_attern.' She made an impatient movement with her hands, and he seemed t_orce himself to come to a point. 'It may be that you will never hear me spea_gain,' he said quickly. 'Both for you and for me these times are full o_anger. Let me then leave you this legacy of advice… . Here is a picture o_he King's Highness.'
'I shall never go near his Highness again,' Katharine said.
'Aye, but you will,' he answered, 'for 'tis your nature to meddle; or 'ti_our nature to work for the blessed saints. Put it which way you will. But hi_ighness meditateth to come near you.'
'Why, you are mad,' Katharine said wearily. 'This is that maggot of Magiste_dal's.'
He lifted one finger in an affected, philosophic gesture.
'Oh, nay,' he laughed. 'That his Highness meditateth more speech with you I a_ssured. For he did ask me where you usually resorted.'
'He would know if I be a traitor.'
'Aye, but from your own word of mouth he would know it.' He grinned once mor_t her. 'Do you think that I would forbear to court you if I were not afrai_f another than you?'
She shrugged her shoulders up to her ears, and he sniggered, stroking hi_eard.
'You may take that as a proof very certain,' he said. 'None of your hatre_hould have prevented me, for I am a very likeworthy man. Ladies that hav_ated afore now, I have won to love me. With you, too, I would essay th_dventure. You are most fair, most virtuous, most simple—aye, and mos_ovable. But for the moment I am afraid. From now on, for many months, I shal_ot be seen to frequent you. For I have known such matters of old. A great ne_s cast: many fish—smaller than I be, who am a proper man—are taken up.'
'It is good hearing that you will no more frequent me,' Katharine said.
He nodded his great head.
'Why, I speak of what is in my mind,' he answered. 'Think upon it, and it wil_row clear when it is too late. But here I will draw you a picture of th_ing.'
'I have seen his Highness with mine own eyes,' she caught him up.
'But your eyes are so clear,' he sighed. 'They see the black and the white o_ man. The grey they miss. And you are slow to learn. Nevertheless, alread_ou have learned that here we have no yea-nay world of evil and good… .'
'No,' she said, 'that I have not learned, nor never shall.'
'Oh, aye,' he mocked at her. 'You have learned that the Bishop of Winchester, who is on the side of your hosts of heaven, is a knave and a fool. You hav_earned that I, whom you have accounted a villain, am for you, and a very wis_an. You have learned that Privy Seal, for whose fall you have prayed thes_en years, is, his deeds apart, the only good man in this quaking place.'
'His acts are most hateful,' Katharine said stoutly.
'But these are not the days of Plutarch,' he answered. 'And I doubt the day_f Plutarch never were. For already you have learned that a man may act mos_villy, even as Privy Seal, and yet be the best man in the world. And … ' h_ucked his great head sardonically at her, 'you have learned that a man may b_ost evil and yet act passing well for your good. So I will draw the pictur_f the King for you… .'
Something seductive in his voice, and the good humour with which he calle_imself villain, made Katharine say no more than:
'Why, you are an incorrigible babbler!'
Whilst he had talked she had grown assured that the King meditated n_mprisoning of her. The conviction had come so gradually that it had merel_hanged her terrified weariness into a soft languor. She lay back in her chai_nd felt a comfortable limpness in all her limbs.
'His Highness,' Throckmorton said, 'God preserve him and send him goo_ortune—is a great and formidable club. His Highness is a most great and mos_ajestic bull. He is a thunderbolt and a glorious light; he is a storm of hai_nd a beneficent sun. There are few men more certain than he when he i_ertain. There is no one so full of doubts when he doubteth. There is no win_o mighty as he when he is inspired to blow; but God alone, who directeth th_ind in its flight, knoweth when he will storm through the world. His Highnes_s a balance of a pair of scales. Now he is up, now down. Those who have rule_im have taken account of this. If you had known the Sieur Cromwell as I have, you would have known this very well. The excellent the Privy Seal hath bee_eknaved by the hour, and hath borne it with a great composure. For, well h_new that the King, standing in midst of a world of doubts, would, in the nex_our, the next week, or the next month, come in the midst of doubts to be o_rivy Seal's mind. Then Privy Seal hath pushed him to action. Now his Highnes_s a good lover, and being himself a great doubter, he loveth a simple an_onvinced nature. Therefore he hath loved Privy Seal… .'
'In the name of the saints,' Katharine laughed, 'call you Privy Seal's _imple nature?'
He answered imperturbably:
'Call you Cato's a complex one? He who for days and days and years and year_aid always one thing alone: "Carthage must be destroyed!"'
'But this man is no noble Roman,' Katharine cried indignantly.
'There was never a nature more Roman,' Throckmorton mocked at her. 'For i_ato cried for years: _Delenda est Carthago_ , Cromwell hath contrived fo_ears: _Floreat rex meus._ Cato stuck at no means. Privy Seal hath stuck a_one. Madam Howard: Privy Seal wrote to the King in his first letter, when h_as but a simple servant of the Cardinal, "I, Thomas Cromwell, if you wil_ive ear to me, will make your Grace the richest and most puissant king eve_here was." So he wrote ten years agone; so he hath said and written daily fo_ll those years. This it is to have a simple nature… .'
'But the vile deeds!' Katharine said.
'Madam Howard,' Throckmorton laughed, 'I would ask you how many broke_reaties, how many deeds of treachery, went to the making of the Roman state, since Sinon a traitor brought about the fall of Troy, since Aeneas betraye_ueen Dido and brought the Romans into Italy, until Sylla played false wit_arius, Cæsar with the friends of Sylla, Brutus with Cæsar, Antony wit_rutus, Octavius with Antony—aye, and until the Blessed Constantine playe_alse to Rome herself.'
'Foul man, ye blaspheme,' Katharine cried.
'God keep me from that sin,' he answered gravely.
'—And of all these traitors,' she continued, 'not one but fell.'
'Aye, by another traitor,' he caught her up. 'It was then as now. Men fell, but treachery prospered—aye, and Rome prospered. So may this realm of Englan_rosper exceedingly. For it is very certain that Cromwell hath brought it to _reat pitch, yet Cromwell made himself by betraying the great Cardinal.'
Katharine protested too ardently to let him continue. The land was brought t_ low and vile estate. And it was known that Cromwell had been, before al_hings, and to his own peril, faithful to the great Cardinal's cause.
Throckmorton shrugged his shoulders.
'Without doubt you know these histories better than I,' he answered. 'Bu_udge them how you will, it is very certain that the King, who loveth simpl_atures, loveth Privy Seal.'
'Yet you have said that he lay under a great shadow,' Katharine convicted him.
'Well,' he said composedly, 'the balance is down against him. This league wit_leves hath brought him into disfavour. But well he knoweth that, and it wil_e but a short time ere he will work again, and many years shall pass er_gain he shall misjudge. Such mistakes hath he made before this. But ther_ath never been one to strike at him in the right way and at the right time.
Here then is an opening.'
Katharine regarded him with a curiosity that was friendly and awakened: h_aught her expression and laughed.
'Why, you begin to learn,' he said.
'When you speak clearly I can take your meaning,' she answered.
'Then believe me,' he said earnestly. 'Tell all with whom you may com_ogether. And you may come to your uncle very easily. Tell him that if he ma_ind France and Spain embroiled within this five months, Privy Seal and Cleve_ay fall together. But, if he delay till Privy Seal hath shaken him clear o_leves, Cromwell shall be our over-king for twenty years.'
He paused and then continued:
'Believe me again. Every word that is spoken against Privy Seal shall tell it_ale—until he hath shaken himself clear of this Cleves coil. His Highnes_hall rave, but the words will rankle. His Highness shall threaten you—but h_hall not strike—for he will doubt. It is by his doubts that you may tak_im.'
'God help me,' Katharine said. 'What is this of "you" to me?'
He did not heed her, but continued:
'You may speak what you will against Privy Seal—but speak never a word agains_he glory of the land. It is when you do call this realm the Fortunate Lan_hat at once you make his Highness incline towards you—and doubt. "Island o_he Blest," say you. This his Highness rejoices, saying to himself: "M_overning appeareth Fortunate to the World." But his Highness knoweth ful_ell the flaws that be in his Fortunate Island. And specially will he se_imself to redress wrongs, assuage tears, set up chantries, and make his peac_ith God. But if you come to him saying: "This land is torn with dissent. Her_eresies breed and despair stalks abroad"; if you say all is not well, hi_ighness getteth enraged. "All is well," he will swear. "All is well, for _ade it"—and he would throw his cap into the face of Almighty God rather tha_hange one jot of his work. In short, if you will praise him you make hi_umble, for at bottom the man is humble; if you will blame him you will rende_im rigid as steel and more proud than the lightning. For, before the world'_yes, this man must be proud, else he would die.'
Katharine had her hand upon her cheek. She said musingly:
'His Highness did threaten me with a gaol. But you say he will not strike. I_ should pray him to restore the Church of God, would he not strike then?'
'Child,' Throckmorton answered, 'it will lie with the way you ask it. If yo_ay: "This land is heathen, your Grace hath so made it," his Highness will b_ore than terrible. But if you say: "This land prospereth exceedingly and i_eloved of the Mother of God," his Highness will begin to doubt that he hat_one little to pleasure God's Mother—or to pleasure you who love that Heavenl_ose. Say how all good people rejoice that his Highness hath given them _aith pure and acceptable. And very shortly his Highness will begin to wonde_f his Faith.'
'But that were an ignoble flattery,' Katharine said.
He answered quietly:
'No! no! For indeed his Highness hath given all he could give. It is the har_orld that hath pushed him against you and against his good will. Believe me, his Highness loveth good doctrine better than you, I, or the Bishop of Rome.
So that… .'
He paused, and concluded:
'This Lord Cromwell moves in the shadow of a little thing that casts hardl_ny shadow. You have seen it?'
She shook her head negligently, and he laughed:
'Why, you will see it yet. A small, square thing upon a green hill. Th_oblest of our land kneel before it, by his Highness' orders. Yet the worshi_f idols is contemned now.' He let his malicious eyes wander over her relaxed, utterly resting figure.
'I would ye would suffer me to kiss you on the mouth,' he sighed.
'Why, get you gone,' she said, without anger.
'Oh, aye,' he said, with some feeling. 'It is pleasant to be desired as _esire you. But it is true that ye be meat for my masters.'
'I will take help from none of your lies.' She returned to her main position.
He removed his bonnet, and bowed so low to her that his great and shinin_eard hung far away from his chest.
'Madam Howard,' he mocked, 'my lies will help you well when the time comes.'