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Chapter 9

  • '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.'
  • Katharine shivered.
  • '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.'