Archive for December, 2010

Time’s Bending Sickle

December 24, 2010

For previous chapters, scroll down or go to the archives.

10. In War with Time

Toby leaned on the rail of a ship, watching a boat being rowed from another ship not far away. The boat came alongside, and Sir Roger Williams and the Earl of Essex climbed aboard. The earl was bouyant, Sir Roger was glum. Toby stood at respectful attention as the two paced the deck, the earl almost a head taller than the old soldier.
“Be of good cheer, Sir Roger,” said the earl. “All will be well.”
“All may be well, my lord, if we do well. But I take seriously the Queen’s determination to have my life. We must do better than Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Norris did at Coruna.”
“We had good information of Spanish shipping there.”
“By your leave, my lord, good as it was, it was wrong.”
“But Sir Roger, think on this. Sir Francis and Sir John do not send us home, as the Queen commanded. When we land with Don Antonio, the Portuguese will rise to aid their rightful prince, and together we shall drive the Spanish from Lisbon. And I doubt not we shall be richly rewarded.”
“It will take a rich reward indeed to blunt the Queen’s anger at us both. My lord, I share your hopes, but I am concerned by two things. The first being that most of the biggest ships from the Armada is in Santander. It is a dangerous harbor, but the Queen’s orders is to destroy the ships.” The earl made as if to speak, but Sir Roger went on. “The second thing is that the Portuguese may not love Don Antonio enough to rise against the Spanish. But if the Portuguese should rise and help us, we may not plunder them. Can we get enough Spanish booty?”
“Surely we will take Spanish ships in Lisbon, and then we may take more in the Azores. And Coruna was no failure. Six Spanish ships destroyed, the town sacked–”
“And the troops sickened by too much conquered wine.”
The earl seemed slightly irritated by this interruption, but he had probably come to accept Williams’s bluntness, for he merely continued: “And Sir John’s and Sir Edward’s battle on the bridge; now that was a noble fight. I would I had been there.” His eyes sparkled, and he gripped his sword hilt.
“Indeed they are gallant gentlemen.” Sir Roger spoke with apparent sincerity. The young earl and the old knight strolled away, both gesturing with excitement. Toby watched as the sailors hauled up the boat.

Armed and excited soldiers scrambled from the ships into boats while guns from a castle on the shore puffed fire and smoke, then banged as shot splashed into the sea. The day was clear but windy, and the surf was high. Toby swung down into a boat holding a dozen other men, stowed his pike, and shipped an oar. Soon his boat was bucking and swooping through the surf. The cannon boomed. A boat a few lengths ahead swerved, the men shouted, and the boat capsized in a tangle of oars. As they swept past, Toby tried to extend his oar to one of the men struggling in the waves, but his armor dragged him down. “Row, damn you!” shouted the sergeant commanding Toby’s boat, and Toby fit his stroke to the others. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the earl in the lead boat, a great tangerine-colored plume waving from his helmet. When Toby looked again, the earl was wading through the surf, which washed around his shoulders. Sir Roger waited until the water was shallower, then vaulted from the boat himself. Toby and his companions continued rowing until their oars scraped sand; then they leaped out and dragged the boat onto the beach between two Portuguese fishing boats. One of these was still hitched to a pair of oxen that had been pulling the boat above the tide line; the fishermen and drovers had abandoned them when the fighting began. The English troops assembled around Sir Roger, who was wet and cursing. Soon several hundred men had gathered on the sand, and they began to move even before all had landed. The musketeers were busy sharing out dry powder and trying to relight damp matchcord as they marched. The earl led half of the forces toward the town; Toby followed Sir Roger and his regiment through the dunes.
Toby and his fellow pikemen kept their weapons low, and the men moved as quietly as their equipment would permit. They wound through the valleys, responding to Sir Roger’s signals from higher points on the dunes. After a while they heard shouts and firing off to their right. Sir Roger scrambled to the top of a dune, then waved the men on with an emphasis urging speed. They emerged from the dunes onto a plain before the town walls where the earl’s forces were engaged with the garrison from the town. Sir Roger’s men appeared on the flank of the Spaniards, and charged toward the gap between the soldiers and the town gates. Those musketeers who had dry powder stopped, rested their weapons on their forked staffs, and fired. Then a rank of pikemen advanced in front while the musketeers began the painfully slow process of reloading. Some Spanish pikemen were running to cover their flank, but for the moment Toby and his fellows faced only a rank of men loading calivers. Toby raised his pike to shoulder level, his extended right hand holding the butt; men pressed close to his sides and behind him. Before him a young Spaniard with a big nose and protruding front teeth knocked at the advancing pikes with his discharged caliver. He turned to run, but Toby, compelled by the press of men behind him, caught him in the side, just under the buckle of his chest armor. The man dropped his caliver and looked down in surprise as the red stream spread down his leg. Toby and his pike continued to push forward, forcing the man down, and Toby let the pike ride up as he stepped over the body, pulling out the dripping tip as he passed. The man behind Toby, pushed by those behind him, stepped on the dying Spaniard’s arm, the man behind him kicked his groin, and the next jabbed him in the neck with the butt of his pike. After the ranks of pikemen passed, a musketeer finished him off with his sword. Toby had charged his pike again, and was pressing forward with his rank into the fleeing Spaniards. One turned and discharged a pistol, and the man next to Toby dropped in a gush of blood. Toby continued wide-eyed, lips grimly set.
Shouts on the right changed in pitch as the English closed on the Spanish, surrounding the main body on three sides. Some small arms fire from the town walls annoyed the fringes of the English forces, but most were out of range. A number of the Spanish were able to run from the tightening bite of the English pincers, but many were enclosed in its grip. Finally the press was so tight that only swords and daggers were of use. It was chaotic, frantic, scrabbling, and the air was filled with high-pitched shouts. The heat of the day matched that of the battle, and sweat flowed more freely than blood.
It seemed a long time, but it was less than an hour before the Spanish had either fled or been killed. The town surrendered, and the English marched in. At the head of the troop was a stout man in elegant black who waved his plumed hat at the people, some of whom gave a diplomatic cheer. This must have been Don Antonio, the Portuguese prince, and the town Peniche, north of Lisbon, which fell May 17, 1589. Alongside Don Antonio was the Earl of Essex, his flamboyant plume broken, but his face radiating fierce joy. Some nervous shopkeepers came out with bread, cakes, and bottles for the troops, who were barely constrained by their officers from taking more. Sir Roger ran up and down the ranks shouting and encouraging them, promising them more and better booty later and threatening those who appeared on the verge of breaking rank.
Detatchments were sent on various errands, while Toby and many of the soldiers assembled in the town square. Some clustered around the fountain in the center of the square, and others dropped in exhaustion, but several soldiers slipped away and were briefly seen on one of the balconies overlooking the square, waving at their fellows while embracing some florid-looking women in low-cut gowns.
Toby drank deeply at the fountain and then sat staring into space. There was blood on his shoes and breeches, but he seemed to be unhurt. The man next to him, sitting awkwardly in a pair of padded Dutch breeches, was binding up a slight wound on his upper arm. He still had on his head a morion with a tall white plume, and wore a short black goatee and a large moustache that curled at the ends. He was struggling awkwardly with the bandage, and muttering. Something about him broke through Toby’s abstraction, and he turned to help with the bandage. The man turned toward Toby, and both started. Toby made a strangled noise.
“Toby!” the other exclaimed hoarsely. It was Felix.
Toby embraced his old teacher and wept. He tried, but could not speak for several minutes. Felix spoke comfortingly, assured him that his arm was not badly hurt, only the old wound he received from his former master had reopened.
“Hush, friend Toby. Do not try to talk. Pocas palabras. I am most curious to learn your story. But while you recover your tongue, I shall tell mine.
“I shall emulate the noble Roman in brevity. I was conquered, I came, I saw; I was hurt, I ran to London, I saw the army. I became a soldier. I followed Sir John Norris, first to the Low Countries, then here. I have adorned my learning with experience. Now am I ancient to Captain Carr.”
“I killed a man,” Toby whispered.
“Ah, you are fleshed.”
“His piece was discharged. He couldn’t have hurt me.”
“Think you he would not had his piece been charged?”
“I may have killed another.” Toby gave a convulsive sob. “God have mercy on me.”
“Amen. Did none try to kill you?”
“I cannot tell.” Toby shook his head. “Yes.”
“We cannot live well unless we live. Could we have lived had we not joined the army? And could we have lived had we not fought off our enemies?”
“I cannot tell. I am too sore and weary to play the philosopher.”
“I too. But all the world agrees that the soldier’s profession is honorable.”
“Perhaps. If it be lived honorably.”
“Ah,” said Felix, “then you must needs play the philosopher.”
At this point they were distracted by the victuallers arriving with baskets of bread and cheese, and barrels of wine, which they diluted with water from the fountain before serving. As they ate, Toby told Felix of his adventures in love and war.

Toby marched in the heat with his troop. Felix was presumably with his own company. Like his fellows, Toby had opened or removed a good bit of his heavy English clothing, and carried his helmet and other bits of armor strung together on his back. He sweated profusely, and frequently sipped at his water bottle. A man in the rank ahead looked very ill, and did not seem to be sweating. Soon he staggered and fell.
“Keep rank!” shouted an officer from his horse in the rear. Toby kept marching.
The tile roofs and steeples of a town appeared ahead. Shouts and a shot brought the captain of Toby’s company, a short, thick, pockmarked man, to stand in his stirrups. He spurred forward, shouting, “First rank of pikes, follow me!” Toby and three others trotted after the captain as he clattered into the square. In front of the church a dozen Spanish pikemen stood, pale with fright, while a group of townspeople huddled together under an arcade. One Spanish soldier lay bleeding on the pavement. Facing the Spaniards were four of the English advance guard reining in their restive horses; one man was reloading his pistol. When Toby and the other pikemen caught up with the captain and joined the advance guard, the Spaniards broke and fled down an alley. The townspeople melted away as more English soldiers entered the square.
The captain sent two of the pikemen around the right of the church, and called Toby to come with him as he hurried around the left side. Turning the corner of the transept, they stopped a priest who was carrying out a gold reliquary. Toby held his pike on the priest while the captain took the reliquary; the frightened priest jabbered in Portuguese and Latin, and as the captain carried the treasure back into the church, the priest’s expression changed from fear to anger, and I’m sure the Latin he was shouting was a curse. Toby followed the captain, banging his long pike on the doorframe. Inside the church, other English troops were gathering jeweled crucifixes, chalices, and other treasures. The captain handed Toby the reliquary and picked up a pair of silver candlesticks. Toby saw a viol in a choir stall, its case open nearby. He put down his pike and the candlesticks and ran his fingers over the strings, making a soft, orderly chord under the shouts and curses of the soldiers. He looked around, put the viol in its case, and awkwardly dragged viol, pike, and reliquary toward the main door. In the square in front of the church Sir Roger Williams was supervising the packing of the loot. Another officer was standing by with pen and inkhorn, making an inventory. The Earl of Essex sat his horse next to Don Antonio, who was grave and silent. Toby put his candlesticks in the pile, and addressed Sir Roger.
“Pray, sir, may I have this viol for myself?”
“This booty is the Queen’s.”
Essex interrupted. “Can you play the instrument?”
“Yes, my lord.”
Essex and Sir Roger exchanged glances. Essex asked the man taking inventory what it would be worth. He opened the case, pulled it out, glanced at the back, and sniffed. “A twelve-shilling matter, my lord.”
“I think the Queen could spare it, Sir Roger.” Sir Roger shrugged, and turned to the silver. Essex said to Toby, “I may have room for it on my wagon. Will you come and play for me when we make camp tonight?”
Toby bowed. “An it please your lordship. Thanks to your lordship.” Unfortunately, I never saw this recital, if it took place.

Toby and the army camped outside the walls of a large city which must have been Lisbon. Most of the men seemed sick and exhausted. There were few signs of food preparation except among the officers and the immediate followers of the Earl of Essex.
That night Toby awoke to shouts in English and Spanish and cries of wounded men. Toby jumped up and grabbed his pike just as two Spanish soldiers wearing white shirts over their armor came into the circle dimly lit by the dying campfire. One took a cut at a dazed Englishman raised on one elbow. Toby shouted, “Up! The Spanish!” The first two Spaniards were joined by two more, as more English scrambled to grab weapons and gain their feet. Toby thrust his pike at the second Spaniard, who parried expertly and whacked at the wood of the pike, almost cutting it in two. Toby parried the Spaniard’s next cut with the shaft of his pike, the metal point swinging with the broken end. Toby just had time to reach down for his own sword and parry another cut. Meanwhile the camp was in a turmoil of shouts and clanging and flashes of weapons in the darkness. It was almost as hard for me to figure out what was going on as it must have been for the men, but apparently the exhausted sentries had dozed off and let a Spanish force slip into the camp and attack the sleeping English. Toby was holding his own with his sword when a drum and trumpet sounded from the Earl of Essex’s camp, and his better fed and rested followers rallied and moved into the thick of the fighting. After a few minutes, another trumpet sounded from the direction of the town, and the Spanish began to withdraw.
Toby’s opponent backed away, then turned and ran. Groans were coming from several quarters, but the only language heard was English. Toby stirred up the fire and waved a branch around to make it flame. With this torch he could see that two of his immediate company were dead and three more wounded. Felix appeared, bareheaded and carrying a bloody sword.
“Are you whole, then, Toby?”
“I think so.”
“Good. Then get your pike and morion and stand a watch. And pray you sleep not, or Captain Cosbie will make you sleep eternally.”
“Let me see to Standish’s wounds first.”
“Nay, the slightly wounded will see to the sore wounded. Off with you to that bank with the low tree.”

Daylight. Toby and others were outside the city walls, burning every shed and building not in musket range. Some small shot flew back and forth, and some buildings close to the walls were torched with flaming arrows.
Sir Roger, Essex, and the other officers, standing at a little distance from the troops, were consulting with a rider who had just arrived. Soon Toby’s captain left the group and strode toward the company, blowing a whistle which hung on a cord around his neck. The men gathered around.
“The cowardly Spanish will not come out and fight in the day, and we have not the force for a siege, so we are ordered to withdraw to Cascais near the shore. Gather your arms and form up when I whistle next.”
The soldiers dispersed and moved toward the camp, and other companies began to prepare for the march. But there was still activity around the tent occupied by the Earl of Essex. Toby watched as grooms saddled his horse, while servants went in and out of the tent. Then the earl emerged in full armor, shining like a storybook St. George with a tangerine plume in his helmet. With the help of his grooms, he mounted the horse, set a lance by his stirrup, and galloped off toward the gates of the city. The soldiers stopped their preparations and watched his glittering figure pass the smoking buildings. The sporadic small arms fire from the city stopped. The earl reined in before the gate, and seemed to be calling out to those inside. He paused a few moments, his horse stamping restlessly. Then he balanced his lance, stood in his stirrups, and launched it at the gate, where it stuck quivering in the heavy wood. He rode back and forth a few more times, then turned and cantered away. The soldiers cheered as he returned.
Felix came up to Toby as he gathered his arms and water bottle. “Well, Toby,” he said, “our honor is safe. We may be withdrawing, but my lord of Essex has left the papists with an unanswered challenge. None would break a lance with him in honor of his mistress, as my lord offered to do for her majesty.”
“My lord seems a gallant warrior.”
“Aye, but more in the style of Guy of Warwick than of the duke of Parma. It is a wonder that some good Spanish musketeer did not buy fame at the price of a bullet.”
A group of horsemen rode by, stirring the dust. Among them was Don Antonio, who cast a lingering look at the city he was turning away from. A few Portuguese horsemen followed him, but I saw no other evidence of the promised rising of the population in his support.

The wormholes closed and opened again on a harbor scene. Soldiers were gathered on the beach as boats ferried them out to ships anchored in the harbor. Most were sick, some unable to move without assistance. I was distressed to see that Toby and Felix were among them. Both were lying on the sand, shivering under cloaks, though the sun was bright and the sailors at the oars were sweating. The Earl of Essex walked along the shore, looking at the men, and occasionally stopped to speak to one. He bent down over Toby and told him to have courage, and that he would pray for him. A boat scraped up on the sand and two soldiers waded into the knee-deep surf to haul it in further. Toby’s pock-faced captain gave an order, and Toby staggered to his feet, but immediately sat with a jolt. Two soldiers grabbed him under the arms and carried him to the boat, where sailors dragged him in without much concern. Two other soldiers bore Felix on a litter of pikestaves and tumbled him into the boat. When the boat was full, the soldiers shoved it free of the sand. At the first swell, Toby turned his head and vomited dryly.

I didn’t feel so good myself when the plane landed in Dallas, and I felt even worse the next day. I was feverish, and dreamed and hallucinated a lot. I must have babbled, for Jean told me I talked a lot of nonsense. To cover any possible delierious references to Toby and other visionary folk, I volunteered that a historical romance I read on the flight seemed to be affecting my dreams.
I was too weak to go to the office for the next five days. For some reason I was especially sensitive to noise: the cycling of the refrigerator, the heels of our upstairs neighbor, Jean turning the pages of a magazine, all irritated me beyond reason. Jean fed me and brought me lots of water, but generally left me alone, which is what I wanted. Although she was solicitous, I got the feeling that she was having to say to herself, over and over, that I couldn’t help being sick, that it was not a failure of will or morals. She played the role of nurse, but her heart wasn’t in it.
During my illness, I yielded to a number of visions, some of which may have been produced by my own fever–but some must have come via the usual pipeline.

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Time’s Bending Sickle, by Edward Doughtie

December 19, 2010

For previous chapters, scroll down or go to the archives.

9. Time’s Tyranny

“I would have picked you up if you had called,” said Jean, rising and giving me a cool, domestic kiss. She sat back down on the sofa and tucked her feet under her denim skirt.
“I ran into Mike at the airport and he gave me a ride. Howell.”
Howell picked up a glass holding what looked like icewater, raised it in a toasting gesture, and sat in a chair. He was wearing shorts, sweatshirt, and running shoes. “I was jogging in the neighborhood, thought I’d see if you were back. Our Pacific consultant can’t make it. Think we can do Tokyo and Hong Kong without him?”
I shed my suit coat and plopped down beside Jean. “How about taking Hiro?”
“Who?”
“Hiro Watanabe. In programming. He went to Cal Tech, speaks Japanese. He would do better than some translator out of the book.”
“I’ll think about it. Send him by tomorrow. Did you enjoy your London break?”
“Yeah, I straightened out the bank, and I got some music in.”
“Well, I got in eighteen holes yesterday. Enough R and R for you? I’m ready to go on the attack again, score some bread.”
“I’d like to get reacquainted with Jean first.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” He rose and chugged his water. I saw him out. Jean waved.
“That’s a long jog for him,” I said, returning to Jean.
“I think he’s training for a marathon.”
I snuggled up. “I missed you.”
“Hmp. I’ll bet.” She sipped her wine.
“Are you pissed that I took two days in London?”
She shrugged. “I guess so. A bit.”
“I spared you the trials of my recovery. I slept, played some music, and got my batteries recharged; aside from a bit of jet lag, I’m at your service, no longer a zombie pushing stock.”
She gave a small smile, but didn’t relax.
“Was there any problem? Is your mother OK?”
She sighed and looked at me. “No. Howell just hinted–nothing more–that you have a girlfriend there.”
“What?” I was truly surprised. “No such luck.”
Jean didn’t respond to my light answer. She just kept looking at me, waiting for more.
“I have some musical acquaintences. A couple are women. I have no interest in other women. I haven’t even flirted with another woman, much less touched one. What’s the matter with Howell?” I was getting angry.
“He was just joking around. I don’t think he takes that sort of thing seriously.”
“Well, I do.”
“I guess I’ll have to trust you.”
“As I trust you.”
Jean leaned on me. “Just don’t stay away so long again.”
I put my arm around her and gave her a squeeze. “I’ll have to go to Tokyo and Hong Kong; but I won’t enjoy it, if that’ll help.”
We both relaxed into a familiar warmth. Then Jean asked, out of the blue: “What was your father like?”
“My father? It’s hard to remember. I was pretty young when he died. I remember he wore a hat, a fedora. He worked for the railroad, and would go off to work every day in his hat. I thought when you got to be a man, you had to wear a hat.”
“But what was he like? Would he play with you?”
“He didn’t wrestle with me or play catch. He was older. But he would read to me–I learned to read by watching over his shoulder while he read me the funny papers. And he would play checkers with me.”
“But was he nice to you? Did he spank you or anything?”
“Yeah, he was nice. I remember that even when he looked worried while he read the paper, he would smile when he looked at me; and he would bring me little trinkets from town–plastic cars, you know. I remember he spanked me once, for taking some firecrackers he was saving for the fourth, shooting them off with the neighbor boys, and then lying about it.”
“Were you sorry when he died?”
“Oh yeah. I cried a lot.” I said this before remembering that Jean had not cried, not that I know of. She didn’t ask any more questions, so I didn’t say anything else. I just kissed her. She returned my kiss, but remained sad and quiet as she pulled my hand and led me off to bed.

Still waiting for my biological clock to catch up with my travels, I lay awake a long time after Jean fell asleep. Toby appeared to me among a mob of soldiers. He was with the army at what I assumed, from Prothero’s words, to be Tilbury, on the north bank of the Thames, waiting for the Armada to invade. The camp was on top of a low hill with very steep sides overlooking the river valley. A number of men were at work reinforcing an older earthwork at the edge of the hill. On the river in the distance, I could see men at work on a bridge of boats. Captain Hall’s company, now about one hundred and thirty strong, was drilling in an open area among the tents on the northern edge of the camp. Almost all now seemed to have a weapon of some sort. Many had similar coats, but none could be said to be in uniform. Nor was drill like that of a modern military unit; it was more like a bad high school band. The main maneuver seemed to be getting the company to move into a tight circle around the captain, who was yelling and waving his sword, his nose bright red.
“God’s tiny earlobes! How are you going to hear me if you can’t get closer? And make less noise! Now attend the drum!” He signaled to the drummer, who started beating a pattern. The men scrambled to get into a kind of formation, which eventually had a group of men with calivers and muskets in front of a group with pikes, then the ensign bearer and the drummer surrounded by men with the shorter halberds and bills, followed by another band of pikemen and another group with firearms. There were some tangles and collisions in the process, and one of the billmen tried one side of the ensign, then the other, finally returning sheepishly to the first side. Captain Hall watched, shaking his head and muttering.
Other companies assembled on the field also drilled, and some were practiced and snappy; but other groups of men lay on the grass, cooked over small fires in front of the tents, knelt over dice, or milled about. There was some grumbling about poor food and lack of pay, there was singing and laughing, there were fights. Some went to a clump of trees to relieve themselves, but others peed where they stood. There may have been twelve or thirteen thousand all told. There were many tents, but there were more crude shelters of green branches, and it was clear that many men had been sleeping in the open. The ground seemed dry. I noticed at one end of the field some men digging. Then I saw three bodies laid out for burial.
From the far north end of the field a murmur arose, a stir surrounding an approaching company. In the general motliness, this company was a brilliant sight. Two hundred horsemen and around sixty musketeers on foot, all in tangerine-colored cloaks and white breeches, moved in good order to a spot marked by an ensign in the same colors. A tall young man riding at the head of the troop was clearly the leader, and an aristocrat. One of Toby’s company, one of the young farm boys, asked Ancient Prothero who they might be.
The ancient gave him a look of pity, and said, “That, my lad, is the Earl of Essex and his men. Which is to say, look you, that some men is born to wear better clothes than others. The earl promises to be a right valiant commander, for all that. He fought most gallantly in the Low Countries, in that skirmish wherein Sir Philip Sidney got his mortal wound.”
Captain Hall then ordered the pikemen and musketeers to separate and work on arms drill. He and the lieutenant took the gunners, for their drill was more complex. Prothero took the pikemen, and had them do several exercises to make them more confident in handling this weapon, which was nearly nineteen feet long. They had to take several stances, holding the pike in the same position using different hands. Toby seemed at ease tossing his pike around, always seeming to find the right balance. Prothero called out, “Charge your pike!” and the men on the front rank pointed their pikes stright out, holding the ends in their extended right hands, guiding them with their left, bracing their left elbows against their sides. “Order your pike!” Then, “Charge your pike against your foot and draw your sword!” This time they braced the butts of the pikes against their right feet, holding the shafts with their left hands, and reaching across with their right hands to draw their swords. This was the stance taken against horsemen. The other ranks had been standing with the butts of their pikes in the palms of their right hands; when Toby’s rank moved to the rear, the next rank went through the movements.
All this time Captain Hall could be heard shouting at the calivers and muskets. “Steaton! God’s holy netherstocks, man! If you don’t blow your pan clean, you will set off your touchbox and blow off your hand. Now once more, after you fire: uncock your match, put it betwixt your fingers, blow your pan, prime your pan, close your pan.” In a moment he groaned, “Nooo! God’s buskins, Trewman, blow off your pan cover, or your match will set off your piece and kill neighbor Tyttensore instead of the Spaniard!”
As these exercises were going on, a group of men who seemed to be officers rode by Toby’s company. Ancient Prothero saluted them, and one, beaming in recognition, reached down to grasp his hand. He was a compact, weathered, dark man of about fifty, with an intelligent and determined look.
“Dai Prothero, bless my soul, are you not yet hanged?”
“Nay, Sir Roger, I would not be so bold as to precede you; I know my place.”
“And who commands this fine-looking company?”
“Captain Hall, Sir Roger.”
“They will surely frighten off the Spanish. I must go, but I hope to see you again before we die.”
“Farewell, Sir Roger.”
The group of officers rode on, and Ancient Prothero turned to Toby, who happened to be nearby, and said, “That is the one officer I would follow into hell.”
“Pray, sir,” asked Toby, “who is he?”
“Why, Marshal of the Horse, Sir Roger Williams. I fought with him in the Low Countries.” He scratched his patchy chin. “I remember when we assaulted Doesburg, we were under fire in our trenches, and much distressed. Sir Roger was wearing a gilt morion with a great plume of feathers, and was running up and down the trench putting heart in the men, daring the Spaniard to shoot him.” He smiled grimly. “They did hit him in the arm. But as you see, he saved the arm. Any other man would have been hit so that his morion would have been fit for a colander.” Suddenly Prothero saw Hall looking at him quizzically, and turned to the pikemen. “Next rank! Order your pikes!”
Rumors seemed to be as plentiful as soldiers. Any scrap of news was gulped eagerly. The Spanish fleet had destroyed the English. No, the English had destroyed the Spanish. No, there was still fighting off the coast; indeed, one could sometimes hear the cannon fire like distant thunder. But nothing was definite.
During what must have been the middle of August the rumors and excitement seemed especially evident. The news from the fleet was still uncertain, but the Queen was coming. Two of the most expert companies drilled with particular fervor. Captain Hall was heard grumbling to the young lieutenant about being stuck with raw recruits and being disadvantaged from obtaining the Queen’s notice.
Then one morning from the side of the camp near the Thames came the sound of cannon, then the sound of drums and fifes followed by a ripple of cheering, and a group on horseback bearing flags and banners gradually came into view. Elegantly dressed men with red sashes over their left shoulders surrounded three ladies. One of these rode a white horse; she wore a silver breastplate over her ornate white velvet dress, and carried a commander’s truncheon. Her hair, or rather the wig in her elaborate hairdo, was auburn. The Queen. They stopped on the edge of the camp, and after some discussion among them, the Queen and a much smaller party began making their way through the army. As they came closer, I could see a man on foot bearing a large, ornate sword, followed by two boys, then the Queen on her big white horse between two other riders. One of these was the Earl of Essex in his tangerine cloak, the other a stout, graybearded man with a red face I learned was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. A man on foot brought up the rear. As the Queen and her company rode through the army, the men cheered and knelt in waves, dipping their ensigns; it was as if she were reaping a field of grain.
The next morning the companies formed and waited while the two expert companies performed a mock battle before the Queen as she sat on her horse, holding her truncheon. Then they all marched past her in review. Toby marched smartly, his face rapt. I could see the Queen’s face as he passed, an unnatural blend of pale and rosy makeup drying in the sun and breeze. All available banners and colors, all the most presentable clothes, and the shiniest weapons were on view.
After the review, the Queen, the Earl of Leicester, and a few other officers, rode around the army, eventually halting in a central elevated spot. Toby’s company was nearby, so he was one of the few hundred close enough to hear some of the words the Queen delivered.
“My loving people,” she began, “we have been warned by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we present ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery. . . . I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear–” Here a horse shook its head, jingling its harness and drowning out the words. “I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that the minions of the king of Spain, or any prince of Europe should dare to invade. . . .” The wind blew away some words. “I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you.”
She finished, and those around her began a cheer that spread through the crowd. Several of Toby’s fellow soldiers called out, “God save your majesty!” Toby fervently shouted “Amen!”
The lieutenant turned to Prothero, saying, “Fine words, and wise, too. Let the Spaniard beware.”
“Aye, indeed. Very wise to promise pay for the soldiers. Words is cheap and coins is dear, so let the captains look to it.”
In another day the news became widespread that the Armada had been effectively defeated the previous week. Although some cautious souls worried about the Spanish troops on the continent, others argued that without the fleet, they could not cross the channel without being destroyed. The mood of the soldiers became increasingly more celebratory. But the camp smelled a lot stronger than it had at first, and the number of graves on the edge of the field had multiplied.
The next day it was raining heavily, but Captain Hall assembled the company. “Our company has been dismissed,” he began; “we are ordered to return home.”
Several soldiers cheered. A few murmured, “When are we to be paid?”
The captain continued. “You have deported yourselves like true and valiant Englishmen. I regret that we had no opportunity to show the Spanish your mettle. In time I doubt not that you could have been made wise and well-taught soldiers. But for now, we are free to return to our homes. The company will march back to Lincolnshire together. I have money to pay you lendings now, and I expect to have your full pay when we reach home.”
This news brought more murmurings, and a concealed raspberry.
The captain reddened. “God’s holy nosehairs! I would pay you had I the money. I am in debt myself for your victual, and have taken none of my own lawful pay. Other captains have cheated their troops I know, but I will defend my honor. Dares any man here give me the lie?” He put his hand on his sword. The troops were silent.
“Well, then. If perchance your pay is not forthcoming when we reach home, I shall plead your cause to the Lord Treasurer myself. The Queen has pledged her word, and I for one do not doubt of her. When your pay arrives, I shall post a notice on the door of the parish church, and the clerk will be there to read it to you. Are you satisfied?”
“Yea.” The answer was half-hearted and not universal. One soldier muttered to Toby, “I’ll be paid–I’ll sell my musket.”
“Stand at your ease,” said Hall. “Hume!” Toby started and looked up. “A word with you.”
The others went about their business. Toby stood before the captain, and Prothero approached. The captain looked on Toby sternly, but not unkindly. Rain dripped off his hat.
“Hume, you must know that if you return home you return to jail.” Toby winced. “Now, I know somewhat of your situation, and I think that such a fate would be a waste of a promising young man who could do the queen some service. Ancient Prothero tells me there is something that likes him in the way you handle your pike. Will you be ruled by us, or will you return to jail?”
Toby clearly experienced conflicting emotions. “Sirs both, I am grateful for your good opinion, and shall study to deserve it. What would you have me do?”
Hall nodded to Prothero, who said, “Do you recall meeting Sir Roger Williams? Aye? I might be able to prefer you to him if you vow to serve him well.”
“I should think it an honor. I have heard him praised by many since he spoke to you. But sirs–” Toby looked around desperately and spoke with intense appeal in his expression, “I have strong reasons for returning home, if only for a short time.”
Hall and Prothero looked at one another. The captain spoke. “It cannot be. Sir James is very potent, and will not be crossed.”
Prothero smiled tightly and said, “No doubt one in the company can be found to be your messenger if you wish to send letters.”
“I should be in his debt and yours,” Toby said, looking relieved.
“Well, we are agreed, then.” Captain Hall clapped Toby on the shoulder. “Ready your letters for tomorrow, and we shall bring you to Sir Roger. Perhaps we may see you again in Sir Roger’s company before the year is out.”
Toby borrowed some paper and ink from Prothero, and sat scribbling in a corner of his tent as the rain continued to fall. One letter was to Jane.

I must not hope that you can forgive me, and I doe not flatter myself that you will believe my protestations of Love when my actes have proved my infidelitie. I cannot defend or excuse what I myself doe not understand in my hart or in my deedes. But I must say what I feel to be true, that I loved, and still love you entirelie. I am forced to be joined to another, and I have vowed before God and man to do my duty and be faithfull to that union. But though my Soule be in peril for it, I cannot do other than love you. Believe, pray believe, that I never wished you harme or suffering but only happiness. That I have caused you unhappiness is my daylie punishment, worse than the bodilie imprisonment I endured. I now goe with the army, perhaps to fight over the seas. If I live, I may yet do you some good service and earn a crumb of your pardon. Any news of you will help keep my Soule from despayringe utterlie; word sent to Sir Roger Williams will reach me. For the rest of my unworthie Life, I remain yours to command.
Tobias Hume

The other letter was to his wife Joan, which was rather different in tone and substance:

Dear Wife, I hope you are well. To my regret, I may not return and give you the support and comfort that are your due. Rather than goe back to prison, I am to serve under Sir Roger Williams, I know not where, perhaps over the seas. But my libertie gives me hope of one daie returning to you and performing the duties of a good and faithfull husband. With this letter I send all the Monie I have. And if the parish clerk posts a bill on the door of the Church saying that Captain Hall has the rest of our pay, show him this letter under my hand and demand my pay for yourself as my lawfull Wife. If I should be so fortunate as to come by any more monie, you shall have it. I hartilie miss the sweet comforts we had of one another, but that is my punishment for the suffering I have inflicted on you. Yet be of good cheer, dear Wife, for I live and am in health, and may finde a means to provide for my familie as I ought. God’s blessings on you. From your loving Husband,
Tobias Hume

Toby carefully sealed up the few pitiful coins he had with this letter, no doubt hoping that the messenger would be honest.
It was still raining the next day. Toby met Prothero, who asked if he had any preference for the messenger. Toby mentioned one of the farm lads who, he said, was honest and good-natured, though not clever. Prothero went with Toby to lend authority to his instructions to the messenger, who was trussing up his gear for the march home. Rafe was a sturdy man of Toby’s age, with only a light brown fuzz on his chin, and empty blue eyes.
“Rafe, I shall be most in your debt for this service. These letters are for Joan, whom you know.” He handed over a small wax-covered packet. “She will be living at her mother’s, in the cottage by the miller’s farm. These letters are for Mistress Jane, my former pupil, at the manor. Now you must take care to give this packet to no one but her. You may need to devise some secret shift–you may put it in the bottom of a basket of apples or somewhat.” Rafe grinned, and Toby looked embarrassed. “Both will reward you according to their abilities and means. God protect you on your journey.” Rafe tucked the letters into his bundle, while Toby watched with some anxiety. They shook hands, and Toby followed Prothero to his meeting with Sir Roger Williams and the unknown.

The trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong did not appeal to me. I was angry with Howell for gossiping about me, and did not look forward to spending more time in his company. Nor did I look forward to the crowds and business types I expected in those cities. We decided to take Hiro, and spent many of the hours crossing the Pacific bringing him up to speed. He, in turn, gave us some good tips on cultural differences, without which one of us whitebread boys would surely have caused offense.
Hiro turned out to be a bright spot: he was smart, quick, and funny. When we got to Tokyo and finished our meetings for the day, he suggested we leave the heavy hitters to their Scotch and CNN in the hotel. He took me under his wing and showed me some of the sights I might have missed otherwise, and talked about them in a way that gave them meaning. I would almost have enjoyed the expedition if it hadn’t been for the incredible noise and crowding. One especially memorable novelty for me was a shop full of netsuke, the whimsical, imaginative little carvings that helped secure the pouches Japanese men used to wear with their kimonos. One of the traditional themes for these carvings was a pumpkin full of rats. There was a modern variation that amused me; it was a little computer full of mice and bugs. It was clearly not an antique, and was reasonably priced, so I bought it.
It felt odd to observe an alien culture that had so many familiar elements in it, yet one which felt stranger in some ways than the one I had been observing in my visions which was three hundred years older.
Hong Kong was worse than Tokyo; it was as noisy and crowded, and Hiro was almost as foreign there as I. At least there was more English about, so I didn’t feel quite so crippled linguistically. And we ate some great Chinese food. But I was more than ready to get home, and glad to agree with the decision not to continue to Sydney. During the long plane trip back I kept to myself, and worried a good bit about my future, my job, my marriage, my sanity. The noise and altitude irritated my ears. With the familiar mixture of curiosity and unease, I allowed myself to have some especially long visions of Toby and his adventures. I must confess that I may have merely dreamed some details.

Time’s Bending Sickle

December 12, 2010

For previous chapters, scroll down or go to the archives.

8. Sluttish Time

One of the visions I had on the stock-touting tour was of Tobias Hume rehearsing a trio with his two female students. The boy, Simon, sat by listening closely. I later identified it as a piece for three viols he published in the 1605 volume. I had been scoring Hume’s music–translating the tablature and bringing the parts together in score–for some time, but I didn’t have much of it in my head at that point.
They reached the end of the piece, and Toby smiled and spoke. “I am pleased you liked your surprise well enough to learn it so well. Perhaps your honorable parents will be pleased with it as well. I’m sure they will be proud of your skill.”
Jane, the older, blushed and smiled. Audrey, the younger, avoided looking at her sister, but allowed herself a small twitch of pleasure. Then she frowned at her music.
“Master Toby, please, is this note right? It sounds false.”
Toby looked at the place in her part, then checked his own. “Well done, Mistress Audrey. You have caught me in a fault. That should be a b in the tablature.” He reached for a pen, dipped it into an inkhorn, and wrote in the correction. While his attention, and Audrey’s, were focused on the music, I noticed Jane gazing at Toby with wide eyes and slightly parted lips.
They played the passage again, and Toby and Audrey agreed that the revision sounded better. Glancing at the sun through the window, Toby announced the end of the session. Simon hopped to the table to look at the music, and Audrey began to put away her viol. Jane sat looking at Toby, and when he looked up at her, she began.
“Master Toby.” She hesitated, then shook her hair, catching sunlight and scattering gold and copper lights. “How do you think of music?”
Toby smiled, but wrinkled his brow. “Do you mean how do I compose it?”
“Yes.”
“It is difficult to explain. I have a thought, an idea. Then I make it grow. My own master taught me ways to make thoughts grow. For example, if I should choose to make divisions on ‘Carman’s Whistle,’ I listen for the way the air rises and falls, and then I make faster notes flow around that rising and falling.”
“But how if you do not use an air we know? How do you make your own air?” Toby must have found the intense interest on the part of this beauty most flattering. He smiled and hesitated.
“How do you make the sentences you speak? You have learned language from your mother and nurse. When you learn language well you can make it say what you will. When you learn the language of music well, you can make it say what music says.” Audrey was now paying close attention, and Jane was concentrating fiercely. “I have heard you tell Master Simon tales about dragons and monsters you have never seen; but you have imagined them–you have pictured them in your mind. Then you use words to describe what you have imagined. When I imagine music, I use musical language to describe what I hear in my mind. But it takes study, just as mastery of language requires us to study rhetoric. Just as we shape language into sentences and learn how to make a good sentence move to a conclusion, so we make music into periods that move to a cadence. Of course if the music is fitted to a ditty, it must follow the words; and if it is for a dance, it must follow the steps.”
“Must we study geometry today, Master Toby?” It was Simon, looking out the window.
Toby laughed and looked out the window also. “Tomorrow we will study twice. You are like a foxhound, and need your run.” Simon bolted for the door.
Audrey also moved toward the door, but Jane lingered. “Master Toby, please, would you help me with this strain?” Audrey stopped and turned back sharply. Then she left, twitching her shoulders.
Toby turned to Jane, keeping his eyes on her music. “Of course. Play the strain for me.” Jane played, making an awkward shift and losing the beat. “Try moving your hand before you cross the string. Play the g with your first finger.” Jane tried again, but without improvement. Toby reached over and guided her hand to the proper position. Jane gave a slight intake of breath. “Now try again.” She tried again, but made a new mistake. “Once more.” It was some better. “Again.” Another new mistake.
Jane’s face wrinkled and she choked out a sob.
“Mistress Jane?”
She dropped her head and the tears flowed. “I’ll never learn to play as you do.”
“Pray do not weep.”
“I can do nothing.”
Toby spoke with concern. “You are a very accomplished lady. You should scorn a mechanic’s skill as unsuitable for your station. You will never have to serve as a music master.”
“But I–I love music–extremely. I want to make it properly.”
Toby smiled. “You want to serve the Muse. She is very forgiving of her devotees. If you love her and pay her homage in that spirit, she will favor you.” Toby reached out and patted the hand resting on the strings. Jane gave another intake of breath or after-sob.
Toby withdrew his hand and looked at it briefly. “Practice the strain by yourself tomorrow. Take some exercise now and clear your head.”
Jane sniffed and smiled at Toby. “I wish I could go run like Simon.”
“It is almost time for supper.” Toby smiled and looked away. “Pray excuse me.” He rose and walked out.
Toby went outside and strode through the geometrical paths of the garden. At the far end, he stopped and stared into the field beyond. He raised an imaginary musket, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger. “Bang!” he whispered.

From time to time Toby would meet Jane, apparently by chance, in the garden or in the hallway. Toby would seem nervous and deferential, but Jane would ask him some question, usually about music, and Toby would relax as he spoke. Jane would attend with her full lips slightly open and her gaze fixed on Toby’s occasionally blushing face. They were never alone for long. A servant, Audrey, or Simon would either be with Jane or appear shortly after they met.
After observing the life on the estate for some time, it seemed to me that no one had much privacy except the lord and lady, and then only at night. Toby had his small chamber, but other servants were always scurrying around nearby.
Toby continued the group lessons for his three pupils, but he also instituted private lessons. He was usually alone with them during this period, but various members of the household would pop in from time to time without warning. It seemed that these interruptions came more frequently when Toby and Jane were talking, and less so when they were actually making music.
His sessions with Jane seemed to grow more and more tense. The subtext of their private lessons seemed to be less and less about music. They sometimes fell silent and cast intense glances at each other. When Toby would touch her hand or arm to correct her position, she would close her eyes, inhale sharply, or flare her nostrils. Toby would let his hand rest on hers longer than was absolutely necessary. Often both their hands would tremble noticeably. Once he had taken her viol to demonstrate a fingering. He had been speaking quietly about the music and demonstrating the hand position, when the door was opened abruptly by the bustling steward. Both jumped at the noise and blushed. The steward gave them a sharp glance, picked up a basket, and left. Toby handed back the viol and ended the lesson. He dashed up the stairs and shut himself in his chamber. He collapsed on the bed and tossed about with an agonized expression. When I saw that he was about to relieve himself in the time-honored fashion of adolescent males, I ended the vision.

One evening Jean was watching TV and I was attempting to transcribe a particular piece of Hume’s, “The Prince’s Almaine,” from the 1605 volume. It is mentioned on the title page as an “Invention for two to play on one Viole.” I had come across four-handed keyboard music from this time, and I knew that Dowland published a piece for two to play on one lute at the end of his 1597 songbook. I was curious about just how such a piece could be played, and was transcribing the music when the vision came.
Toby entered the room and found Jane tuning her viol. Both smiled and blushed. Toby placed two sheets of fresh manuscript on the table. His hand left damp spots on the paper.
“I have made a new duet for us.”
Jane smiled. “Oh, good. Will you play Audrey’s viol, or is your own now repaired?”
“The glue is not yet dry. I don’t like Mistress Audrey’s, or Master Simon’s. We’ll play it on yours.”
“How?” Jane frowned at the music.
“I’ll show you in a moment. First, try your part. Yes, here.”
Jane played the part. It began with the left hand in a high position; after a while it switched to a low position. Toby made her stop and try some of the chords again. At one point he suggested another fingering. It was not very difficult, and after a few tries, Jane played it fairly smoothly.
“Now let’s try it together,” said Toby visibly nervous, wiping his hands on his sleeves, and picking up a bow.
“I still don’t see how . . .”
“Stand up.” Jane stood obediently, looking puzzled. “Now sit on my lap.” He smiled, but his eyes pleaded. Jane hesitated with open lips, but then sat gingerly on his knees. Toby reached around her shoulder and waist, grasping the viol and touching the bow to the strings. “Now count,” he said, with a pedagogical inflection. He began playing. His left hand moved to a low position, and his bow to the lower strings, as she began playing on the top string in high position. Then he played the notes she had played, and she played what he had played, their hands brushing as they exchanged positions. Their hands and bows then got into a tangle; they giggled nervously and started over. They played on. Toby’s arms could not help but squeeze her a bit here and a bit there as he reached for the notes, and he could not help brushing her breasts now and then. His mouth, his breath, now touched the back of her neck, now her right ear. Jane slid back along his knees as they played until she was leaning against his chest. Once, as she moved her hips back, he moved his forward, and Jane jerked upright in wide-eyed surprise, missing several notes. They both breathed in heavy rasps. At the end of the piece, Jane leaned forward on the viol, her eyes closed. Toby gently put down his bow, took hers and put it beside his own. Carefully lowering the viol to the floor, he put his arms around Jane, who turned and kissed him, her hands pressing into the back of his head and neck. They kissed for some time. Then Toby tentatively touched her breast, and Jane gasped.
At this point the vision faded, despite my efforts to keep it going. But another time I was able to bring back a similar scene. It must have been some time later. Jane eagerly sat on Toby’s knees. They played the duet, with similar results. But this time, when they reached the end, Jane kept playing. Toby put down his bow and began to make adjustments to their clothing. While Jane continued to play, I could see Toby’s hand at work on a more sensitive and subtle instrument. As Jane’s breath became more labored, and her body moved to another rhythm, her playing deteriorated. Soon she was playing only shaky scales. Finally she stopped altogether and her body arched back in a series of convulsive spasms. Toby joined her in their harmonious finale, their moans descending in a glissando of parallel thirds.
After a moment of panting recovery, they quickly readjusted their clothes, and Toby took up the viol. They were looking over the music on the table when the steward opened the door.

In the hayloft of a barn, moonlight played over the naked bodies of a young man and woman. They lay facing each other, the hands and eyes of each exploring the other. After a time, they kissed, they embraced, and the young man–Toby–rolled on top of the young woman, whose face was now visible over his shoulder. Much to my surprise, I could see that she was not Jane, but rather the pretty young girl who worked in the kitchen. I had seen her flirt with Toby, but did not expect this development. Perhaps Toby’s sexual frustration with Jane before the duet had prompted him to take advantange of an outlet which his culture would have found less intolerable than an affair with a person of higher rank. An old Latin proverb I had run across came to me: “Penis erectus non habet conscientiam.”

Toby and the kitchen girl–whose name was Joan–both pale and weeping, were standing before Sir James, Jane’s father, a well-knit, forceful man in his forties, who was now flushed with controlled rage. Now and then, someone, presumably Jane, could be heard weeping upstairs. Audrey lurked near the door and listened to her father’s strangled words to Toby and Joan.
“Damned lecher! No better than a goat, a town bull.” Sir James paced back and forth, his heels ringing on the floor. “All wenches should wear iron belts from twelve to fifty, and all such young stallions should have bridles on their ballocks.” Sir James stopped his pacing and jerked Toby’s head up by the hair. “You may have cost me an alliance worth five hundred a year,” he growled in Toby’s face. Then he resumed pacing, pulling on his short dark beard. Joan pulled up her apron and rubbed her eyes and cheeks, leaving a sooty smear on the white cloth. Sir James stopped, faced the couple, and grasped his hands behind his back. “Well, someone must be married, but I’ll not have my blood linked to a penniless Scotch bastard. Diggory!” A large servant entered and bowed. “Lock this miscreant in the cellar, and see that his whore is kept close by the cook. Then fetch the curate, post haste.”
Diggory dragged the couple away, holding each by an arm. He left the girl with a stout woman in the kitchen, and shoved Toby down the stairs to the cellar. Toby stumbled into the cool, dark room, redolent of cheese, wine, and grain dust. He sat on a barrel and sighed despondently. Eventually Diggory returned and brought him back upstairs where a skinny, disheveled man in a worn black gown stood by in respectful silence, yawning discreetly while Sir James paced. Then Diggory returned with Joan, and stood as witness while the curate rattled through the prayerbook marriage service. Joan tried a wan smile in Toby’s direction as she repeated her vows, but could not catch his eye. Toby repeated his vows mechanically, his eyes on the floor. During a moment of silence, a muffled wail could be heard from upstairs.
Sir James then turned to Joan, speaking sternly. “Prepare yourself to leave in the morning. I have made sure your child will not be another bastard, therefore I deem the obligation of this house to you is finished. With luck, you may find yourself a widow soon, and able to make a better match.” Joan burst out in a fresh fit of weeping.
Sir James spoke to Diggory. “Take our proud ram here to the jail, there to remain at my pleasure.”

Toby was sweating in a stinking cell in what must have been the village jail, eagerly eating from a bowl of something that made me gag to see. He was thinner, and his clothes were beginning to show wear. Voices and steps punctuated by metallic jangles made Toby look up to the door. It opened, admitting a thin, balding man carrying a bunch of keys and a big, full-bearded man in a short orange-colored cloak, sword, feathered hat, and boots with spurs. He stood in the door a moment, looking Toby over. Toby rose.
“Tobias Hume, is it?” His voice was deep and rough. I could see the veins in his bulbous nose.
“Aye, sir.”
“Well, sirrah, you have the honor to serve her majesty, whose constable has been pleased to have you released into my custody for the musters. I am Captain Hall.”
“Thank you sir. Am I to be in the army, then, sir?”
“Well concluded,” he answered with sarcasm. “God’s holy buskins, man, don’t stand agape. Pull yourself together and come along.”
“Yes sir. I am ready, sir.”
Toby straightened, put on his hat, and draped his cloak over his arm. Captain Hall turned and strode out, and Toby followed. As they stepped outside, Toby blinked at the bright sun of an early July noon, and blinked again at a ragged troop of about two dozen men standing in a rough column. A few were sturdy farm boys, but some looked like beggars in their thirties or forties. A few had swords or poles tipped with rusty heads that looked like a combination of spear and axe. One had a very long spear or pike; two had bows and bundles of arrows. One had a dented, ridged helmet. There were no firearms.
“Hume! Fall in and keep up,” bellowed Captain Hall, as he mounted his large black horse.
Toby looked up and asked, “An it please you, sir, where are we going?”
Captain Hall’s dark brows came together and he puffed out his lips. “God’s eyelids! Do as you are told, or you’ll be whipped! Don’t presume to speak unless I ask you a question! Now fall in!”
The captain spurred his horse, and Toby fell in at the end of the column, which moved off at a brisk walk. Another man on horseback rode nearby. He was not so well dressed as the captain, and his bay horse was bonier. Besides a sword, he carried a long spear, the butt in a rest by his stirrup, and a banner or ensign near the tip. He glanced at Toby and a smile of amused contempt curled his thin lips. He was lean, rather stooped, and had short dark hair and a patchy goatee growing through old acne scars.
“Your name, young gentleman?”
Toby looked up. “Tobias Hume, sir.”
“And are you from Scotland, then?” There was a lilt to his speech that was not familiar to me.
“Newcastle, sir.”
“Bit of trouble with the wenches?” His b’s sounded like p’s.
Toby looked up, surprised. “How did you know?”
“A mere guess. Look you, a good gentleman steward would have paid another to go to musters. You have no money, then?”
“No, sir.”
The horseman sniffed, jerking his chin. They went on in silence for a time. Toby looked up at the horseman, who still seemed amused by something.
“Sir, may I ask you a question?”
The horseman glanced down and frowned. Then he looked up toward the head of the column. “Yes, but only one, look you.”
“Where are we going?”
“South.” He looked straight ahead, smiling slightly.
After a while, the horseman added “Essex.”
They marched on. After another long pause the horseman said “Tilbury.”
The afternoon grew warmer, and the troops were sweating. Toby begged a drink of water from a bottle carried by the man in front of him; there was only a swallow left.
Toby hesitantly addressed the horseman. “Good sir, may I speak?”
“You may address me as Ancient Prothero.”
“Ancient Prothero, sir. May we have some water to drink?”
“You may drink it if you have it.”
“I was not so provided. Tis very hot and thirsty work, sir.”
“In good time and in good order.”
After a time they passed through a village with a well in the central green. The troops broke ranks and rushed for the well. Toby hung back and looked at Prothero. The ancient rose in his stirrups and shouted, “Keep rank! Keep rank!” The captain looked around and saw the mob around the well, wheeled his horse, and drew his sword. He rode into the crowd, beating the men with the flat of his sword and shouting for order. Finally the men fell back into line under the blows of the captain and ancient. “Now stand!” shouted the captain. “Now follow!” He led the troop down one side of the green, watching to be sure they came. Toby and the others glanced back longingly as they left the well behind. But when they came to the far corner of the green, instead of going on down the road, the captain led them in a turn. They went completely around the green. Then they circled it twice more, and halted by the well. The captain indicated two men with his sword. “You two! Bingley and Steaton! Draw water.” The two men eagerly ran to the well, dropped the bucket and hauled up the water, and started to drink. “Hold!” the captain bellowed, and the men froze. “By file! Approach and drink!” The outside line of men stepped hesitantly forward, and the first man took a hearty drink. Others followed. When the bucket was empty, the first two men drew another. Finally all had a turn. “Now all with a bottle step forward and fill. By file!” When all had done so, the captain filled his own bottle and turned to address the column. “We shall henceforth proceed in good order by command. Any man who breaks rank without permission will be flogged. Now march.”
By evening the troop had reached a fairly large market town where more soldiers–or rather potential soldiers–had assembled. Some arrived under the leadership of a younger officer, who seemed to be the lieutenant; he rode a fine horse and wore expensive-looking clothes and a jewelled ring. Men were queued up before several clumsy-looking carts at one end of the market square, walking away with a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese, a bag–or hat–full of dried peas, and beer in any vessel that would hold liquid. Captain Hall was passing among the troops, handing each a small coin, while the ancient followed and ticked off names on a list. Toby, finishing the last crumbs of his bread and cheese, took his coin and bought a leather bottle with a strap from a stall at the edge of the square and filled it with water from a nearby well.
Near sunset, the lines in front of the supply carts diminished. Captain Hall mounted one of the carts, and blew a shrill whistle. A minister with a round red face climbed up beside him. A young drummer standing by beat a loud pattern on his drum. The crowd grew silent. The mininster prayed for a few minutes, and the soldiers murmured “Amen.” Then the captain stepped forward.
“Loyal Englishmen!” began the captain. “Tomorrow we must march hard and fast, harder than today. And why? Even now, very now, the Spaniard is sailing a vast fleet toward our shores. The Spaniard intends to invade our lands, rape our wives, slaughter our babes, and murder our most gracious Queen. Who among you would be so base as to permit such crimes? Who among you would be so cowardly that he would not be a shield to protect her most sacred majesty? Who among you would be such a limb of the devil that you would permit the pope’s false priests to put true Christian Englishmen to the sword and the fire? Do I hear any?” Here he cocked his head to one side and squinted.
Several voices in the crowd–one being Ancient Prothero’s–shouted “None!” and “No!”
“Then you will march hard, obey your officers, and fight to defend this sacred realm?”
“Yes!”
“Aye!”
“So let it be shown in proof. Rest you well.” Captain Hall stepped down to a general cheer of “God save the Queen!”
The troops, now over a hundred, marched out the next morning. More were now carrying pikes –Toby among them–and matchlock calivers, and there were a few new-looking muskets, but a number still had no weapons. As the square emptied, I noticed some old women of the town bending over the still form of one of the men, searching through his clothes. Across the square another man lay shivering under his ragged cloak and calling weakly for water; no one paid him any attention.

I got off the plane from London and found myself behind my next door neighbor, a lawyer, in the customs line. He had been gone only a few days, so he had left his car at the airport; I naturally accepted his offer of a ride home. Jean would not have to meet me at the limo stop. I heard voices as I put my key in the door of our apartment. Jean was sitting on the sofa holding a glass of wine. Howell was standing nearby. It was the first time I had seen him without a tie.

Time’s Bending Sickle

December 5, 2010

For previous chapters, scroll down or go to the archives.

7. Time’s Spoils

Tillie Cullen had been an old-fashioned navy wife. She took orders without question, for when her husband received his own orders, he never questioned them. She had packed and moved on short notice many times, and had made do with what she found. Although she had enjoyed the changes her husband’s business success had brought to her life, especially the entry into the social circles her Mississippi upbringing had taught her were important, she had no more curiosity about the nature of the business than she had had about the operation of the navy’s ships. She was satisfied if the ships brought her husband home, and the business bought them membership in the country club.
Nevertheless, she had a lot of curiosity about people, and this led to interesting insights about them. In our conversations about the business–always initiated by Jean–it became clear that she liked and trusted Howell Drew, but only up to a point. She admired his size, strength, and looks, and enjoyed a bantering, almost flirting relationship with him. He kept up his end expertly, calling her “Miss Tillie.” She also seemed confident in his ability to manage the company, and often expressed her gratitude that he had been there to keep things going when her husband died. But when she perceived that his ambitions for the company and his role in it were moving too fast for her, she dragged her feet with surprising stubborness. She was uneasy with the prospect of complicating the ownership of the company, and couldn’t understand why she and Jean shouldn’t retain control and pay Howell, like the rest of the help, to keep things running as they had been. Howell and Jean tried to explain to her that the business had to change as the world changed, or it would no longer bring in the money that bought her the life she enjoyed. She would accept the principle in the abstract, but would balk at many of the specific changes that followed from it. Why do we need more money? Aren’t we making a profit? Yes, but we need to invest in development, new products. Why? Because the business is very competitive, and changes rapidly. Couldn’t we borrow it? Yes, but it wouldn’t be wise, because interest is too high. If you sold all that stock, how could you keep strangers from taking over? You would still keep a controlling interest. And so on. Finally, when they thought they had answered all questions, Jean would say:
“So you agree that going public is a good idea?”
“I still just don’t like it.”
Once when they got to this point in a discussion, Jean got up, hands clenched in frustration, and said with a bitterness that seemed more intense than the situation demanded, “You never see what you don’t want to see.”
“I’m tired of talking about it. It’s time for my beauty parlor appointment.”
One Sunday when we were visiting Tillie for dinner, Jean went up to her old room to find some photos. Tillie and I were left alone over coffee. After some silent sipping, Tillie spoke quietly. “What do you think about this selling stock, Tony?”
I was surprised. Aside from the advice I had given Jean–which she had not acted on, as far as I knew–I had kept quiet. I knew that Tillie still held a grudge against me because we had deprived her of a wedding, though her daughter was just as responsible as I for that loss. But I think maybe she had come to trust me without really liking me.
“I think you should get some good professional advice from someone who is not involved. That’s what I told Jean.”
“But what do you think?”
“I’m no expert, but I think you need to do something to keep the company competitive. When I’m out selling, I find a lot of people trying to come up with new things. Some of them are ahead of us.”
She sipped her coffee, her lips making a pout as she swallowed. “I guess I’d better talk to Howard Peebles.” He was her lawyer.
Later the next week, Jean came into the office after lunching with her mother. “I really will have to make you vice president, but not just of good ideas.”
There were people around, so I moved my lips to say “Orgasms?”
She smiled. “In addition to that. Sales. What did you say to Mom?”
“About what?” I couldn’t think for a moment.
“Going public, of course.”
“Just what I told you. Get some professional advice.”
“Well, she did. She talked to Howard Peebles, who got one of the business school profs to meet with her. He told her more than she wanted to know, but the bottom line is that he convinced her that Cullen ought to go public.”
“Well, good. I hope it works out.”
“Why wouldn’t it? Come with me to tell Howell.”
Howell already knew. He had given some information to the business school professor, so he knew a decision was possible. Peebles had told him what Tillie had been told, and he had just talked to Tillie on the phone himself. He was as excited as a ten-year-old at Christmas.
“Isn’t it great? Now we can kick some butt out there, bring in some real boodle.” He noticed me and grabbed my hand in the beartrap at the end of his sleeve. “Tony, I hear that you talked Miss Tillie off the fence. Thanks.”
Jean said, “I think he should be a vice-president.”
Howell was too pleased to hedge much. “Who knows? Why not?” He squeezed my hand again. “Fein told me about the package you’re working on. That’s good, too. Sell a few of those, that’ll set off some bombs at EDS. Make us some moolarooney.”
“What next?” asked Jean, catching some of Howell’s excitement.
“Well, I haven’t been just sucking my thumb while Miss Tillie kept us in suspense. I’ve been getting accounting to gather the figures for the SEC registration, and two really first-class investment banking firms have already told us they would be interested in underwriting us if we ever went public. So there are a lot of things to be done, but this isn’t day one. We’re on the way.”
“I’d like to participate in this process, if I may,” I said, surprising myself as well as Jean and Howell.
Howell looked doubtful as well as surprised. “Everybody in the company will contribute to the process at one time or another. Did you have something particular in mind?”
“No, just interest.”
“Well, Tony,” he began somewhat patronizingly, “I’d be glad to have you on the team if you had some law or business training, but –”
“Have you ever taken a company public before?” I broke in.
“No, but I know how it’s done.”
“I could learn. I could help.”
“There won’t be time for you to learn on the job. I suppose we could use you on the dog and pony show after we file the registration.”
“Whatever. I’ll work hard, and I won’t slow you down.”
“Well, we’ll see. You could start by helping Abner get all the sales data together.” Abner Cross, my boss, needed the help; his records were often imaginative reconstructions based on other data.
The next six months were incredibly busy. When I wasn’t on the road, Howell let me hang around and watch some of the many steps in the arcane process of going public, and occasionally let me fetch and carry. Along the way, I learned a lot about the company. I also did a lot of reading in trying to understand what I was seeing. I even read the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934; they were not page-turners.
During this busy time, I hardly noticed the approaching election of 1980. Howell would now and then curse Carter for some insufficiency in the economy, and express hope that Reagan would win, and Jean and her mother also voiced approval of Reagan. I was too busy to argue with them, and they were too preoccupied to take my barely voiced support of Carter as seriously as they might have. Perry Fein and Myron Fish were the only people I knew who admitted they would vote for Carter, and to tell the truth, I had my reservations. But Reagan was such a palpable absurdity. However, as we struggled to prepare material for the SEC, Reagan’s pledge to “get the government off people’s backs” began to sound good to me.
The meetings with the investment bankers went very well. There were questions about drift in the management after Cullen’s death, but Howell and Adam Furman, our poker-faced chief accountant, did a skillful job of defending what had been done despite the restraints imposed by Tillie Cullen’s lack of involvement. The bankers then began to put together purchasing and marketing syndicates that looked very promising–lots of big names.
Jean and I attended, as observers, the “all hands” meeting. Howell, Abner Cross, Adam Furman, technical head Steve Keller, and other Cullen management people, the outside accountants, lawyers, and representatives of the bankers thrashed out a timetable and a target date for the public offering. Veterans of the process warned us repeatedly of the need to stick to the timetable.
“The time between the day you file registration and the day it becomes effective is especially crucial.” This was from J. C. Attwell, the head representative from Barnes Knecht Frain, our main investment banker. He was balding, rosy-cheeked, paunchy man, always with the knowing smile of a central casting rich uncle. “If you aren’t ready to make your offering within a short time of your target date, the SEC might think your financial numbers are outdated and make you do them over. Think of your offering as a carton of milk, and your offering date as the expiration date. It may still be OK, but nobody will want to taste it.”
Howell assigned various people different chores to get ready for writing the prospectus. Once all the material was assembled, he wanted the teams to write it in a week. I had somehow earned a reputation for clear writing, so I was made preliminary general editor. Of course I wasn’t to muck about with the content, and the lawyers had final say-so on the language, but I was supposed to catch split infinitives and poor agreement–that sort of thing. That position gave me a good vantage point from which to see what went on.
Since the prospectus was written not by one committee but several, my job as editor turned out to be a big one. But there were opportunities for making brownie points along the way. Not only did I extract them from whichmires and rescue them from precariously dangling participles, I was able to catch several inconsistencies. I even caught a few mathematical errors and a couple of misleading statements that the SEC would surely have called us on. One of these involved pretty delicate diplomacy.
Rather than tangle with exalted management figures over their prose, I would bring my corrections in the form of queries to Howell. But one of the worst slips came from my own immediate boss, Abner Cross. I knew he was wrong because I had helped compile the sales figures. He had included as a completed sale a large possible purchase by one of the university branches; they wanted the equipment, but it was contingent on their getting a grant, and it was by no means certain that they would get it. We wouldn’t know for months, and Abner had managed to obscure the contingency clause in the contract. Abner, a good ol’ boy from Wichita Falls, used to sell adding machines and cash registers. He would not or could not acquire more information about the services he sold than his customers already knew. But he had a lot of old contacts and could be very persuasive–sometimes too persuasive. More than once our designers and programmers had to work overtime to make a system he sold do not what it was supposed to do, but what Abner had told the customer it would do.
I took the draft of that part of the prospectus to Abner’s office and knocked on the frame of the open door. In repose, Abner’s face looked like a melancholy hound dog. But in the presence of almost any other human being, his beefy features took on a glow and a flickering parade of almost every kind of smile, grin, or smirk one could imagine. When he saw me, he leaned back in his chair, rested his hands on his beer belly, and squinted at me in amused anticipation of some office joke. When he saw I was more serious than usual, the smile changed to one of innocent inquiry. I shut the door.
“Did I write ‘ain’t’ in my section, perfesser?”
“Nope. But I did find something I thought you might want to change before I show it to Howell.”
I showed him the passage and explained my concern as tactfully as I could.
“Shit, Tony, that system is as good as delivered. You know them boys are gonna get that grant.”
“But if they don’t, the underwriters and the SEC will come down on us hard. If they discover that this figure isn’t firm, even if the sale goes through, we’ll be in trouble.”
“How are they going to discover it?”
“They sure as hell will if the profs don’t get that grant.”
Abner still had his mouth stretched, but he was frowning. “They’ll get the grant, and nobody’ll know ‘less you tell them.”
“Why are you so reluctant to fix this?”
Abner looked around, sighed, and turned his most ingratiating smile on me. “Tony, that figure brought me my last bonus; if it goes, so does my bonus, and that’s already spent. My ass would be on the street an hour after that number changes.”
“Not necessarily.”
“Oh, yeah. Howell has been looking for a reason to can me. Old Oren would have worked it out, but not Howell, the son of a bitch.” He got serious, his smile almost pleading. “Look Tony, it’s my head on the block. No one would hold you responsible or expect you to discover this or to do anything. I’m willing to take the risk. Just drop it.”
“I’ll have to think about it.”
“Think about this. Where am I going to get another job? How am I going to live until social security kicks in?”
I left. Although I felt any number of qualms, I knew what I had to do. Abner could have made it easier.
Although I tried to soften the impact of my discovery, Abner was gone not long after I told Howell about the figures. Abner passed me in the hall on his last day. He grinned malevolently at me.
“You self-righteous little pissant. You’d better watch your own candy ass.”
I tried confessing to Jean. She was impatient with my guilt. “You don’t think he would have done the same thing if the situation were reversed?”
“I don’t know. He might have taken the chance that they would get the grant and the sale would go through. It might have been all right. He might have done that for me.”
“But you should not have taken that risk,” she said, “and I’m glad you didn’t. It could have jeopardized the company’s future.”
“Maybe.”
I was soon rewarded–and punished–for Howell offered me the job of sales manager. At the time I rationalized my promotion over several senior salespeople by saying to myself that I knew more about the whole operation of the company than they did, that I knew more about the technical possibilities of new products, and that I did have some ideas about increasing sales in universities. But I know now that my family connection and maybe some other factors were even more important. It took a while for morale to recover after my appointment, and one of our best older salesmen got another job as soon as he could.
In the meantime the process of preparing to go public was grinding away. I was soon involved in planning for the “dog and pony show,” a travelling series of presentations for potential investors. We had hired a filmmaker to do a video. It looked good and was informative, but it was afflicted with irritating, dorky music. I made them cut it, and found some fresh, public domain music that went much better–some of the seventeenth-century dances from Michael Praetorius’ Terpsichore. The exotic combinations of instruments like shawms, recorders, lutes, viols, and sackbuts gave these cheerful pieces a special piquancy. Even Howell tapped his foot when he watched the video, but didn’t notice the music enough to be distracted from the message.
Jean seemed pleased with most of these developments, but was curiously ambivalent about my promotion; she congratulated me, but then would accuse me of letting it go to my head on the slimmest of occasions. She herself was so caught up in following the preparations for going public that she seemed to forget the baby-making project. In a way that was good–at least there was a change in her obsessions. But it was not good in that she seemed to lose interest in our sex life. And that old distance between us seemed to reassert itself. The change was not abrupt or overtly hostile. It was just that Jean stopped inviting me to make love, and treated my own advances with a kind of impatience, as if I were a dog who needed to be taken for a walk. And she still had periods when she was withdrawn and brooding, when she would even forget about the company for a short time.
So I had mixed feelings when it came time to get on the road with J. C. Atwell of our underwriters, Howell, and the technical head, Steve Keller, for the promotional tour. I was concerned about Jean, even though she recently seemed cheerful and self-possessed. One thing I was looking forward to was that London would be our last stop in Europe, and I could take a day or two off there. I had to visit my banker client and work through a few minor details with his staff. But I could also play some music with Ian and his friends, maybe have a chat with Arthur. Maybe sneak in a bit of research on Hume. I was not looking forward to a number of intense, tiring days traveling and making presentations and answering questions. I was especially not looking forward to being with Howell and Steve Keller all that time. At least Howell could be lively, but Steve was cold and silent, rarely showing any emotion other than boredom and a kind of predatory intensity when money or technology was involved. He was thin-faced, thin-haired, and had pale blue eyes behind rimless glasses. But he knew our sevices, and could explain them with clarity and efficiency. I had never seen him stumped by a question. Atwell I didn’t know, but he seemed pleasant enough; perhaps I could learn some things from him.
Finally, after many weeks of hard work, we filed our registration statement with the SEC. Although we had to travel to conduct our meetings, we also had to phone the office frequently to keep up with the questions the SEC would inevitably start asking. It was a relief to me as we set off that the sales figures were as honest as I could make them. Nevertheless, thinking of Abner Cross still made me grind my teeth and wish that some other course of action had been possible.
Our itenerary began with a western hop to Los Angeles, and continued to Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and New York; then to Paris, Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, and finally to London. We would regroup in Dallas, rest a bit, add an Asian specialist, then make a last-minute run to Tokyo and Hong Kong. By then we would have decided whether it would be worth the effort to go on to Sydney.
The American part of the tour was a real marathon, with several meetings a day in most cities, and two in Boston and New York the same day. I was able to answer most questions directed to me, and Howell and Steve smoothly stepped in when they could see I was in trouble. Much of the time between meetings was taken up with critiques and attempts to polish answers to frequent questions and anticipate new ones. But there were times, especially on planes, when visions would come to me; in fact, they seemed to be especially frequent on this trip. When they came, I was usually too tired to resist. There were also moments of leisure on planes and over meals when J. C. Atwell would regale us with Wall Street stories. One was a long saga about a legendary raider and stripper, Connie Poser, who bought a succession of companies on borrowed money, inflated his compensation, laid off employees, then sold the assets. He financed his deals with a form of risky but high-yield securities Atwell disdainfully called “junk bonds.” Atwell spoke of how interest in these bonds was growing, especially among supposedly respectable businessmen. “I worry about them. The whole thing smells like a Ponzi scheme to me.” I kept quiet and listened.
The video got a generally favorable response from the investors, and I know of at least one in Hamburg who was sold by the music. As soon as he heard the first bit, the investor, an elegantly dressed man in his forties, smiled in recognition. After the meeting broke up, he asked Howell about the video. Howell remembered I had something to do with the music, and pointed me out. The man shook my hand vigorously.
“I congratulate you on your taste. Your company looks good, but so do many others.” His English was fluent, but he still said “ossers.” “The Praetorius made it a little different.”
“Thank you. I hope you’ll remember us when we make our offering.”
“I shall indeed.”
J. C. Atwell observed this exchange, and took a bit more notice of me. Once he sat by me on the plane and told some especially choice Wall Street stories, including one about how Connie Poser paid off his mistress so that she would supply him with her own daughter as her replacement.
At last we came to London, and had our last set of meetings. Howell and the others poured themselves onto the plane for home, and I collapsed in my old Bloomsbury hotel for a ten-hour nap. In the afternoon I rummaged around the British Museum, had an especially rich vision of Tobias Hume–it took about five minutes, but I spent an hour writing up my notes on it–and set off for Arthur Reed-Noble’s after another Indian dinner. I would meet with my banker the next morning.
I was disappointed to find Ian was not able to come, and that Marina had finished her study and returned to the States. We played piano quartets, with Cecelia playing viola. Cecelia had mangaged to borrow one of Ian’s cellos for me. We played the two Mozart quartets, and, despite Arthur’s grumbling about “getting indigestion from all this thick Viennese strudel,” the Brahms C-minor, the one with the juicy cello in the slow movement. Despite Arthur’s expressed distaste, he played well. As a sort of left-handed recompense, I played some of the cello transcriptions I had made of Hume’s pieces for solo viol. Arthur insisted that much was lost in the change from the softer, more subtle viol to the fuller-sounding cello, but he grudgingly admitted that they might bring viol music to a wider audience.
I returned Arthur’s copy of the Child ballads, but didn’t tell him of their effect on me. When he offered to sing “The Death of Parcy Reed” again for me, I joined the others in pretending to have urgent business elsewhere. We had a good-natured laugh, and, instead of depleting Arthur’s supply of Scotch, dragged him out to a neighborhood pub. After some friendly chat, Cecelia surprised me by saying slyly that Marina was disappointed that I hadn’t come back to London earlier. Derek also smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, you seemed to have made a favorable impression on our quiet little mathematician. Rang a bell, as it were.” I was surprised by this, but I won’t deny that I was pleased.
Cecelia, a little more seriously, said, “She wanted to be sure you knew her last name was Casberian, and that she was at Hopkins finishing her degree.”
“That’s interesting, but I don’t think I’ll have any reason to make use of that information. I don’t get to Baltimore much, and don’t know any string players there.” They all laughed, and we changed the subject.