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20. Time’s Best Jewel
The Houston hospital sent back all but nine of the forty Ramforce computers, saying that they did not work properly. When Howell found out about it, I could hear his shouted curses all the way down the hall, followed by the crash of broken glass. Steve Keller came hurrying by my door. The shouting picked up, then gradually became intermittent and declined in volume. A few days later Perry Fein told me that the technical department had been ordered to run a few basic tests on every Ramforce unit before it was shipped, but that if repairs would take more than a certain amount of time or money, the unit should be scrapped.
“That’s going to take a lot of our time,” griped Perry. “I may be able to talk them into hiring a few schoolkids to test the units, but dealing with that crappy hardware at any level is a big mistake–it keeps us from doing the productive work that will keep us up with the business. Besides, even the ones that pass a test here will likely crash in a few weeks or months.”
I didn’t tell anyone about the anonymous suggestion I sent the hospital, and as far as I could tell, no one suspected what I had done. I didn’t even tell Jean.
Several times in the next few weeks I saw the foxy Mr. Tedesco slipping in and out of Howell’s office. Howell never mentioned him, and he talked to no one but Howell. Perhaps Howell was consulting with him about possible ways to get our stock over the twenty dollar mark, where it had been stuck for a long time. Whatever he suggested didn’t seem to be working, however. I asked Jean what the board said about the stock price.
“Howell seems to be the only one that’s bothered,” Jean said. But she was bothered. “All those old guys care about is sales volume and profits.”
“I’ll be curious as to how they react to the report of the quarter since we got Ramforce.”
She frowned at me. “I guess you expect it to be down. Can’t you give Howell any credit? We’ll get the bugs out.”
Jean’s moods in the last weeks still swung up and down, but within a tolerable range. The therapy may have been helping; she wouldn’t discuss it with me, but I could tell that she was intensely preoccupied at times. She spent a lot of time with her notebook in her lap, staring into space, then scribbling rapidly with great concentration. I did what I could to please her. We went out to movies, we went to dinner with some of her old friends and their husbands or boyfriends. I took her with me on sales trips to Denver and San Francisco, but she complained that I had to work too much, and she didn’t like sightseeing on her own. Nevertheless, she agreed to go with me to Washington.
“Good. You can meet my Washington mistresses.”
“What?” She missed my joking tone.
“The women I play music with. The Hopkins prof and her friends. They always play at the home of that artist. You know, Clio Novak, whose work we saw at the Artemisia Gallery. She’s got a great cello that belonged to her father.”
She looked at me for a minute without expression. “Oh. Yeah, I didn’t much like her work.” Then she thought a moment. “It might be interesting to meet them, though. Do you all squeak much?”
“Not much. They’re good players and nice people.”
“Maybe I can poke around the National Gallery and the Smithsonian while you work.”
Marina seemed glad to hear that I was coming, and set up a music session at Clio’s. We flew in to Washington, I made my calls, and Jean went exploring. When we met for dinner, Jean said she sat in the Senate gallery for a while.
“That old gasbag Kimmel was there, going on about yielding to the gentleman from Georgia. I wish he had been worth working for. I kind of enjoyed that job.”
“Maybe you could find a similar one if you looked.” Jean had been out of her last job for months.
“In Dallas? I doubt it.”
“There are politicians and pollsters there, too.”
“It would be hard to find one that I could respect.”
“Maybe you could just find ones you didn’t respect, and I could sell Ramforce computers to them.”
Jean didn’t like to be teased. She frowned and said nothing.
We pulled up in front of Clio’s wedge-shaped studio, and went to the door. “Interesting house,” said Jean, not quite approving. Clio and Jean, on meeting, seemed to focus very closely on each other. Jean was very polite, but a little guarded. She made well-mannered admiring remarks about the house and various pieces of furniture and art. Clio was humorous, welcoming, natural–but alert. She pulled out the cello, saying “This is the only thing here that interests Tony.” I probably proved her right by getting it out of the case and warming up. But I didn’t get too absorbed; when Alice and Doreen arrived, I let them in and made the introductions. They too were friendly and at ease. But when Marina arrived, she seemed nervous and a bit too eager to please Jean, who seemed to withdraw into a more formal politeness.
“Tony tells me that you were a math major,” Marina said, “and that you did some work with statistics.”
“I worked for a political pollster for a while, but he was less interested in what the statistics said than in what they could be made to say.”
“I know the type, especially in this neighborhood,” Marina said with a laugh, and went on at great length about a consulting job she had had. After a while, Doreen grabbed her by the shoulders and gently pushed her toward her chair; the rest of us had our instruments ready to play. Clio offered Jean a choice of books and magazines, saying, “I’m in the habit of painting while they play–I hope you don’t mind. They won’t let us talk anyhow.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Jean sat on the sofa with some magazines and art books. Clio began mixing paint. We started with the cheerful “Hunt” quartet of Mozart. Marina didn’t get some of her sixteenth-note bits and grace notes quite as cleanly as she might, but otherwise it went pretty well. Between movements, I could see Jean absorbed in her book, and Clio in her painting. We went on to the minuet without much talk, and then to the slow movement. This is a fine lyrical piece, with many beautiful moments, including a poignant theme stated first by the violin and then by the cello. It’s just a few bars, but it’s one of my favorite passages. Everybody had warmed up by then, and was paying attention to dynamics, intonation, and each other. Suddenly we realized that we were having a rare experience. Everything jelled. We were not just playing, we were making music. It was like the moment a pitcher realizes he really is going to pull off a no-hitter. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck prickle. We all felt it, and when we finished we sat quietly for a few seconds, until Clio called out, “Wow! That was something!” Then we all burst out in happy self-congratulation.
“Great tone, Doreen.”
“Thanks for feeling that rubato with me.”
“Really sweet, Tony.”
Jean looked up, almost startled. She glanced from one glowing face to the other, as Clio and the quartet tried to cling to the moment. We eventually settled down and started the finale, our euphoria causing us to set an optimistically fast tempo. But we kept it up, laughing with the pleasure of a kid racing downhill in a wagon with no brakes. We came to the bottom of the hill without crashing, and just sat there giggling and grinning. I noticed that Jean was staring at us.
“What can we play to keep this mood up?” asked Doreen.
“How about the ‘Emperor’?” said Alice.
“We did that the last time Tony was here,” said Marina. “How about opus eighteen, number three?”
So we dug out Beethoven. Jean stared at the page of her book, but she was not reading. We played two movements, when Jean put down her book and stood. I thought I heard her say, “I’ve got to get out of here.” She came toward me. “Tony, give me the keys.”
“Give me the keys. I–I’m not feeling too good.”
“If you’re sick, I’ll take you.” Clio had stopped painting, and the other women were looking concerned.
“No, you finish playing. I’ll get back OK.”
Clio had come forward. “Not if you don’t know this area. Do you want to lie down in the bedroom?”
Jean began to cry. “No, I just want to go. I’m sorry.”
I put down the golden Goffriller. “I’m sorry. We’d better go.” Jean protested, but I left Clio to put up the cello, and helped Jean out to the car. We got in and started off.
“Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”
“No,” she sniffed. “Just go back to the hotel.”
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
“I can’t talk now.”
So we rode in silence back to the hotel, where Jean quickly undressed and went to bed. By the next morning, she seemed better, but still refused to talk about what bothered her the night before. She was quiet, but talked about ordinary things, the time of our flight, whether we should stop somewhere for dinner when we got to Dallas.
I took a chance. “How did you like the quartet?”
“They seemed very nice.” After a moment of silence, she said, “Marina’s gay.”
“She’s gay, a lesbian.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I can tell.”
“Was that what was bothering you?”
Jean looked genuinely surprised. “Oh no, not at all. It’s just something I noticed.” Then she smiled slightly. “If you didn’t know, I guess you never made a pass.”
“That’s right. I don’t make passes.”
Jean smiled to herself and stopped talking.
My visions had taken on the quality of an old serial, like the “Perils of Pauline” my father used to talk about. Felix had come back from the dead, and I had been left dangling and curious. With Jean along on the Washington trip, I couldn’t time-travel on the plane as I often did. But after we returned to Dallas, I resumed my “meditating.”
“Are you truly alive?” Toby stood in the dark street, clutching Felix’s shoulders and staring intently at his face. “I saw you shot and fall into the water.”
“Neither of which was fatal, happily. But I lost my eye in that assault. Come, out of the street. Let me but dup the giger.”
“Pardon. Open the door, I should say.” He drew out a key and opened the door behind them, drawing Toby into a narrow hallway. The went past several doors, stopping at one at the end of the hall. This one took two keys to unlock. Inside, Felix fumbled in the dark with a tinderbox and struck a light. As the candles drove the darkness into the corners, Toby looked around to see a modest room filled with a variety of goods–bolts of cloth, garments, silverware, dishes and cups of pewter and pottery, rapiers, pistols, a musket, even a saddle and a bundle of feathers. A chest with a heavy lock may have held more valuable items.
“You may conclude,” said Felix, waving his hand at the hoard, “that I have taken up a new trade. In the cant or language of that trade, this is a stuling ken, where I give rufflers and hookers a few win for a fambling chete worth a few bordes. In the vulgar, this is a place where I receive stolen goods, where I give robbers and thieves a few pence for a ring worth a few shillings.”
“I know not what to say.”
“Friend Toby,” said Felix, setting the candle on a table and drawing up a stool, “you are an honest man, and what I hope is your content at finding your old tutor alive is curdled by finding him a . . . an outlaw.”
Toby looked away. “I have many questions. Why, if you have escaped death in battle, must you tempt death on the gallows?”
“Need, need, old friend. Tis a long story. Will you hear it?”
“Of course. What happened to you at Deventer?”
“I hardly know. I was told that another soldier who had fallen in the water felt me under him and dragged me to shore. Since the shot that took my eye knocked off my heavy morion, and since another knocked the wind out of me, I was neither too burdensome to haul out, nor choked by breathing in water. The Dutch surgeons healed me as best they could, and I was sent back to England. My beloved countrymen treated me worse than the Dutch. I was robbed of my money in Dover. Though I had a passport to London, where I hoped to find a place as a tutor, when I tried to make my way there, the magistrates in Canterbury arrested me. It seems that many sturdy rogues have been abroad under forged passports, pretending to be soldiers. And some soldiers, unable to provide for themselves otherwise, have taken to robbing and stealing.”
“Magistrates made my travels difficult as well.”
“You, too? I will hear your tale by and by. Well, twas in Canterbury jail that a fellow prisoner offered me help. He knew I would be released sooner than he, so he proposed that I should call for a sealed box at a certain inn in Canterbury, using some words of this same cant. If I would deliver this box to a man in London, I would earn thirty shillings for my pains. I could not refuse to be a carrier for such a wage, though I suspected some knavery was involved. After a week, the magistrates did release me, having no proof of any particular crime to blame me with. I took the box to London, earned my thirty shillings, and more besides.”
“Did you learn what was in the box?”
“Aye. Do you remember the great carrack, the Madre de Dios, captured in the Azores in the summer before the plague?”
“I have heard of it.”
“Well, many of its treasures, gold and rich jewels, were carried off by the sailors. It had been landed at Dartmouth, and when the pillage became known, the Queen’s officers stopped every man with a bag going from Devon and Dorset to London. My fellow prisoner had taken ship to Dover with his bit of the loot, jewels worth, I dare guess, a thousand pound.”
“He got not that for them, trust me. Well, my quest for a tutor’s place was fruitless. The gentlemen would praise my service in the wars, and express satisfaction with my learning, but the wives found me disgusting. My wounds were yet green, and my patch did not add to my beauty. There may have been other reasons, but the upshot was that my poverty grew. I could not teach fencing, for though my one eye is quick enough, I cannot judge distance as well as before. I tried scribbling a few pamphlets, and staved off starvation by that and fiddling in taverns.”
“I, too. I never wish to hear ‘Turkeyloney’ again.”
“Amen to that. To continue. A wench who worked in the Three Crowns did not find me as disgusting as the gentlewomen. After we had known one another for a while, and enjoyed some niggling in her libbege in the darkmans–I need not translate, I trust–she employed me as my fellow prisoner in Canterbury had done, for she was a skillful foist, a picker of pockets. And so by degrees, I crept into the profession in which you now find me.”
Toby recounted some of his own recent past. Both were moved to tears at his account of the fate of Captain Hall’s company at Steenwyk. Felix seemed intrigued by Toby’s theatrical experience. “Had I not been disfigured, I might have tried the stage myself,” he said. “I may yet try my hand at writing a play.”
Felix stared thoughtfully into the candle. Toby yawned and shook his head. Felix smiled. “I am a kind of actor in my current trade. You too, to judge by what you tell me.”
“Would twere only acting,” said Toby ruefully. “Signor Saviolo is dead in sooth. He cheated and insulted me, but I would I had not killed him. If only I could find a quiet place as a music master.”
They sat quietly for a time. Then Felix glanced at Toby and quickly looked away. “Not all captains were as honest as Captain Hall.”
“True. I knew good men to go hungry because of their captain’s greed.”
“Such a captain now lives in London, whoring, drinking, and wearing fine clothes bought with the money he gulled from his poor men.”
Toby looked interested. “One you knew from the Low Countries?”
“Aye. Captain Pricket. I see him at the Cardinal’s Hat, the Crown, the Serpent, and the Boar’s Head.” Felix gave a slow smile. “Would it not be just that such a guller be gulled?”
Toby yawned again. “Indeed. Your thief’s wine has made me sleepy. What do you intend?”
“I may turn playwright sooner than I thought. Rest your head on that bundle of cloaks, and when you wake we shall rehearse your part.”
“My part? Good Felix, I am poor but yet honest.”
“Sleep, now, talk later.”
Outside the Devil tavern near Temple Bar, Felix stood holding a staff from which waved a number of long strips of paper. He was singing, in a high, strident voice, to a crowd of two dozen people. In the audience were Toby and a red-faced man in boots and rapier, lean except for a pot belly partially hidden by a peascod doublet, who was leaning familiarly on a fleshy young woman wearing a lot of rouge.
And when he had been seven long years
And his love he had not seen,
‘Many a tear have I shed for her sake
When she little thought of me.’
When Felix sang these lines, Toby staggered, gasped, and fell to the ground. The audience turned and watched as Toby’s eyes rolled up, his back bowed, his lips foamed, his hands clenched, and his legs twitched. Felix broke off singing and moved toward Toby, brushing the florid young woman as he passed. “Give him room, good people, do not try to hold him. Tis but a fit–I’ve seen the like before. Give him room, twill pass.” Felix unbuttoned Toby’s collar, thrusting his hand briefly down his shirt. “Some kind soul step inside and get the poor man a drop of aqua vitae or sack.”
Gradually Toby’s convulsions ceased, and he was able to sip from the cup offered by a young journeyman from the audience. Toby thanked them all, assured them he was recovered, and said that he would go to his lodging and rest. He walked slowly down the street, his hand grazing the wall to steady him.
“Now, good people,” said Felix, shaking the papers on his staff, “who’ll buy my ballads? I have that sweet song of the daughter of Islington. I have a new and true ballad of a foul murder done in Reading. I have another true ballad of a monstrous fish, like that that swallowed Jonah, that washed ashore near Penzance. Who’ll buy?”
The red-faced man began to fumble around his waist, then looked at his empty hand. “Body o’ me! My purse! Ho, thieves, thieves!”
Toby pulled up a stool to the table in Felix’s room, and smiled at Felix and the fleshy young woman. He reached in his shirt, drew out and opened a purse and poured out several coins, some silver, some gold. The woman squealed. Felix began sorting them and counting. “Five, and six. Three pound, six shillings, and fourpence. Each a pound, two shillings, and a penny–there’s for you, Moll, and you, Toby–with a penny for the poor box.”
Toby frowned. “A penny? No more? Are there none of Pricket’s poor soldiers we could relieve?”
“You and I are both such. You may give your share to any of the poor men in Paul’s walk.”
Moll smiled sweetly at Toby. “You played your fit well.”
Felix agreed. “Aye, so well that we should take our play to the provinces.”
Toby frowned skeptically. “Are we like to find greedy captains there?”
“Very like. Friend Toby,” Felix changed from jocular to earnest. “If we are to live well, we must first live. We will gull no widows of their mite, nor orphans of their bread.”
“Why must we travel?”
“Why, we must have a fresh audience. Those who know our play may not be amused at seeing it twice, and their censure may prove painful to us.”
Felix poured wine and toasted Moll. Toby thoughtfully clinked his coins.
Thirty or more people–women, children, farmers in smocks, and two substantial-looking country gentlemen–were gathered around Felix as he sang and hawked his ballads in front of an old, half-timbered, thatched house with a fading sign depicting a bell. Moll demurely cast sheeps-eyes at the younger of the squires, whose eyes and attention flicked back and forth between her and Felix. Toby arrived well after the performance had begun. He appeared to be the most prosperous person present, a travelling gentleman in a silk-lined cloak. He stood on the edge of the crowd for a while, then edged in closer, just enough to be noticed by those standing by. Felix reached the climax of a ballad about a gruesome murder, when Toby began his fit. Felix stopped singing, came forward admonishing the bystanders, brushing by Moll. But before he could reach Toby, a large, calloused hand fell on Felix’s shoulder, and another grasped his arm. The hands belonged to a stout farmer in leather breeches and smock.
“This one has sommat,” he said, reaching into Felix’s sleeve and producing a purse. The farmer looked at the younger squire, whose eyes widened as he groped for his missing purse. The members of the crowd exclaimed, Toby’s eyes flickered for an instant before returning to their epileptic position, and Moll gasped.
“A thief!” she exclaimed. “Why, he might have taken my own purse.” She looked appealingly at the young squire, who managed to make a calming and protective gesture in her direction before turning an angry glare at Felix and recovering his purse. Toby maintained his fit. Felix stood absolutely still, without expression.
A toothless old man chuckled. “Handy Harry! ‘E can catch an eel with his bare fingers.” Several neighbors murmured assent.
“Quickest eye in the parish.”
“Nay, in all Essex!”
“Hang up the thief!”
“Aye, call the magistrate!”
“Here I be,” said the older squire. “Bring him into the Bell. Happily, the assize is tomorrow, and we’ll hang him by sundown Wednesday. Fetch the smith and his irons.” All trooped into the inn, except Toby, Moll, and the younger squire. The squire cast a suspicious eye on Toby, who was pretending to recover from his fit.
“Oh, I have had such a turn,” said Moll, dabbing at her cheeks with her handkerchief.
The squire turned his attention toward her. “By your leave, madam, step inside and allow me to fetch you a cordial.”
“Thank you, kind sir.”
Toby, alone, kept up his act. He sat up, shook his head, recovered his hat, and got unsteadily to his feet. Then he walked slowly to a horse tethered to a tree, mounted, and rode off. When he reached the edge of the village, he spurred to a trot, wiping his eyes.
That night, Toby stepped cautiously around the Bell. A flickering light drew him to a crack in a shutter, and he looked in. Felix, his eyes closed, sat in a corner by the fire, his wrists and legs in chains. On a bench nearby sat Handy Harry with a big rusty sword on his lap, and across from him the young squire sat at a table on which lay two long pistols. Two other men with stout staves sat close by. One of these was sleeping, but the others seemed alert. Toby no doubt thought about Hobie Noble, as I did; but he must have considered the odds too risky, for he fingered his sword hilt but eventually withdrew.
The next afternoon, Toby, in different clothes and a shady hat, stood in a crowd of about a hundred people gathered around a large tree. A wide ladder leaned against the trunk, and a noose dangled from a limb. From the Bell came the old squire, followed by Felix in his fetters, the young squire, and Harry. The old squire made a short speech stating the cirumstances of the crime, concluding that the thief’s just punishment should serve as a warning and example.
Two men assisted Felix up the ladder and fitted the noose around his neck. Felix leaned inward toward the tree as much as he could to keep his balance on the ladder. One of the two men descended, and the other, the toothless old man who had praised Harry, whispered something to Felix, who shook his head vigorously. Then the old man, with a deft nudge, turned Felix off the ladder. Toby flinched as Felix swung out into space; Felix twitched at the end of the rope, his eye beginning to bulge, his tongue to protrude. His breeches swelled visibly at his crotch, and a dark wet stain appeared. Toby turned and hurried away. A woman called out, and the crowd began shouting, but Toby did not look back.
London. Toby sat in an attic room, playing his viol by a small window open to the air. The inner shutter of the window had no glass, but a piece of parchment, oiled to admit some light. The only furniture was a narrow bed, a stool, and a battered chest. Some worn fencing masks and foils were heaped in a corner. His gentleman’s clothes were carefully folded on his bed; he wore the threadbare remains of his military clothing. He played a version of a piece he published in the 1605 book called “My hope is decayed.” His naturally drooping eyebrows sagged even further in an expression of profound melancholy. He stopped playing in mid-phrase and put the viol in its case. The latch was broken, so he tied the case shut with a string. He looked out the window, then at the clothes on the bed. Taking a key, he unlocked the chest and put the clothes inside, then locked it carefully, testing the lid. He left the room, went down several dark and smelly flights of stairs, and made his way through the shadowed and smelly streets until he reached St. Paul’s.
The old gothic cathedral had a number of stalls thrown up between its butresses, like a poor mangy bitch nursing a litter of scrawny pups. Booksellers seemed to predominate, and some of the stalls had the solidity of long occupation. Toby browsed among them for a while, picking up a book of music–Thomas Morley’s First Booke of Balletts to Five Voices (1595)–and leafing through a new poem–Sir John Davies’ Orchestra, or a Poem of Dancing (1596). He read several pages of the latter, then sighed and put it down. Passing into the cathedral, he strolled down the crowded aisle, observing faces and listening to snatches of conversation. I heard little prayer, but much of this sort of thing:
From a young woman: “I assure you sir, I keep company with no gentleman for under two shillings.”
From a tough-looking man in a patched doublet and a cap pulled over to hide one ear: “Sir, my oath is good as any man’s here; tell me your tale and I’ll swear to’t.”
From one silk-and-velvet doublet to another: “Tell me not of importunate tailors, Ned; my bill is but a quarter old, and bailiffs. . . .”
Toby approached a pair of men in leather jerkins, one of whom, a man in a tangerine cloak, greeted him with some cordiality. They discussed the recent victory of Prince Maurice in capturing Turnhout. Toby listened eagerly as the man in the tangerine cloak told how Count Hollocke, Sir Robert Sidney, and Sir Francis Vere cut off a troop of Germans and Neopolitans fighting for the Spanish; they killed over two thousand there on a heath near Turnhout, while losing only twenty men. Toby asked his acquaintance if the earl of Essex might entertain a suit to help him find a place.
“It is a bad time for the earl, Lieutenant Hume. He is sick.”
The other man, out of the view of his fellow, gave a skeptical smile, but said nothing. Toby thanked them and continued his walk.
Toby stopped abruptly, staring at a man of about his age wearing a plain but clean and well-cut gown, which he had thrown open to rest his hands on his hips while studying a monument. Nearby, Moll was sizing him up along with the purse tucked in his belt. The man turned and looked up at another monument, his mouth slightly agape. Moll glided forward, but Toby moved quickly in her path, hissing “Bing a wast, Moll!” She frowned and sniffed at her handkerchief as if he had made an offensive proposition, but moved away. Toby turned to the man, who was still absorbed in the monument.
The man addressed stared at Toby, then smiled and grasped his extended hand. “Toby! I am glad to see you alive. I heard that you had gone to the Low Countries.”
“Aye, I am back whole, but no richer, as you see.”
“You are rich to have your life. My father, I am sorry to say, is the poorer for his.”
“I grieve to hear it,” Toby said in a choked voice. “He was almost a father to me. I hope your mother is well.”
“She is, thank God.”
“I must hear of what you have been doing. Have you dined?”
“No–tonight I dine with Duke Humphrey.”
“Oh. Well, I was about to offer you my poor company.”
Toby smiled wanly. “Davie, we London sinners say that we dine with the Duke when we have no dinner and walk here by the Duke’s tomb in Paul’s. He is a most cold and niggardly host. I accept your hospitality most gratefully, and regret that I cannot be your host myself.”
They walked to an ordinary, where Fenwick ordered a large meal of bread, cheese, cold beef, a meat pie, and various boiled vegetables. Toby ate rapidly and with concentration. Fenwick sampled the pie, but concentrated on the bread, cheese, and beef. After mopping his plate clean with the last of the bread, Toby gave Fenwick an edited version of his adventures. Fenwick in turn said that he was continuing with his father’s coal trade in Newcastle, which occasioned his first visit to London. He was staying with a respectable family of long acquaintance.
“Would I had friends here of substance and respect,” said Toby. “Most soldiers of my acquaintance are ruffling companions, and I desire to leave that life.”
“What would you do?”
“I would return to teaching music could I but find a place.”
Fenwick thought a moment. “Would it provide you a sufficient living? I would I had a place in my giving.”
“I care not for wealth, so it be honest and peaceable.”
After some further discussion, Fenwick promised to consult his London friends, who might possibly provide an introduction to a suitable family. Toby thanked him, and promised to wait on him at their house the next day.
Wearing his gentleman’s clothes, Toby presented himself at the door of a large but unpretentious house in the city. He identified himself to the servant as a friend of Master Fenwick, and was conducted to a parlor on the second floor. There Fenwick introduced him to his friends, Roger Clarke, a merchant in his fifties; his wife; and their son, a clergyman. Clarke was rectangular–his graying beard was cut square, his head a block in a flat cloth cap, his plain black gown hanging straight down from angular shoulders. His son was made along the same lines, but was slimmer, and his square chin was beardless. Mistress Clarke was small and leathery, and sat perfectly still, as if the hard work of her younger years could be compensated for in prosperity only by total inactivity.
They welcomed Toby cordially, gave him wine, and a chair by the fire with a footstool. With few other preliminaries Master Clarke kindly but straightforwardly questioned him about his life and qualifications as a teacher. It became clear that Fenwick had told them of the circumstances of his birth, for Clarke never asked about his family. Clarke did press closely about the circumstances under which Toby left the employ of Sir James.
Toby appeared to be forthcoming without telling quite the whole story. “Sir James,” he said, with an appropriately rueful expression, “is not likely to give me as good a character as I might wish. I was dismissed from his service when I contracted a marriage with one of my fellow servants.”
“You did not obtain his permission?”
“In my youthful folly, I confess I did not. But he knew of the marriage.”
“And where is your wife now?”
“Dead in the plague, along with our son.” His voice cracked slightly, and he touched the corner of his eye with a finger.
Clarke looked toward his wife, who moved her eyes to meet his. He may have noticed some softening in her expression, but it was not visible to me.
Clarke continued. “And you then went to fight in the Low Countries, rising to the rank of lieutenant.”
“Aye, sir. I met a learned merchant there, Master Jan van Meergen, who could speak to my musical ability.”
The son spoke up. “And did you meet Prince Maurice there?”
“I had that honor, sir, a most perfect Christian prince.” Here Toby drew out a much handled piece of paper that had broken along the folds, and handed it to the elder Clarke. He moved to the light, drew out a pair of spectacles, and read the paper.
“This is the prince’s hand?”
“Aye, sir. He had me deliver letters to my lord Burghley, who favored me with this passport.” He handed over another worn piece of paper. Both Clarke men examined it closely.
The elder Clarke returned the papers. “Master Hume, you have the marks of a capable man who could do her majesty some service. Why do wish the quiet life of a poor teacher?”
Toby looked gravely at both men, settling on the younger as he spoke. “I have lived the active life, and have seen the death of many of my friends. I have also taken the life of enemies, God forgive me.”
“Amen,” said the minister.
“Now I need the contemplative life for the good of my soul. I may also be of service to others by imparting some knowledge of the divine art of music to my pupils, as well as giving them instruction in letters and mathematics.”
“Well spoken,” said the minister.
“Master David,” the elder Clark said, rising and turning to Fenwick. “Show Master Hume our gallery. We have some rare examples of the painters’ and sculptors’ arts.”
The two young men left the room and paced the long gallery along the back of the house. One wall contained a number of glass windows looking out over a garden. The other contained a number of paintings, mainly portraits of solemn men and women in black. There was also a Last Judgment, in which a stern Trinity sat among a few more sober persons, clearly the kin of the people in the portraits, and oversaw the punishment of a much larger number of vainly dressed and underdressed sinners. Toby and Fenwick spoke quietly, Toby thanking Fenwick for the introduction, even if nothing should come of the visit, and Fenwick offering hope and encouragement.
After a few minutes, the younger Clarke appeared and brought them back to the parlor. Master Clarke shook Toby’s hand benignly, and Mistress Clarke allowed herself a slight upward movement of her lips.
Master Clarke spoke. “Master Hume, I hope I may be able to help you find a suitable place. Your old connection to Master David and his family obligates me to do no less. You should hear from us soon.” Fenwick and Toby made polite speeches and took their leave.
Toby, in plain but sound clothes, stood before two boys of about eight and ten. He did not look happy, and the boys showed a mixture of fear, sheepishness, and defiance. A viol lay on the floor, lacking about half its strings. Toby held a broken bow which had had the horsehair replaced by a gut string. Another bow was stuck through a sheet of music and into a cushion, like an arrow into a target. It seemed that the boys had been more interested in archery than music, and had played at Robin Hood instead of practicing.
“Master Robert, Master John,” said Toby sternly. “Your honorable father has given me the authority to punish you if necessary. You have broken a bow worth three shillings, and have ruined some fourpence worth of strings. When I tell your father of this expense, I shall recommend to him that I give you lessons in archery, since you show such love of the art.”
The boys looked puzzled, not knowing whether to be more afraid of their father’s anger over the expensive bows or pleased at the prospect of learning archery. Toby dismissed them with admonitions about the necessity of discipline and practice in any art. The boys ran off, and Toby restrung the viol and straightened up some of the music and horsehair. He opened his own viol case and looked relieved to find it undisturbed. He picked up his case and left, going from a small parlor with a window looking out into a garden to a shop full of bolts of cloth.
The merchant and his wife, a handsome, ruddy couple in their thirties, were chatting with a young gentleman as they showed him samples of cloth. The gentleman was dressed like a courtier, with a sparkling white ruff over a rich red doublet and a black velvet short cloak. His pointed beard was carefully trimmed, and his hair curled. He glanced at Toby’s viol case, and then at Toby.
“Who is your musical friend, Master Case?”
The merchant smiled and said proudly, “This is our music master, Sir Andrew. Master Hume, we have the honor to serve Sir Andrew Monmouth.”
Toby bowed. Mistress Case spoke up. “We should say Lieutenant Hume, Master Case.”
Sir Andrew raised an eyebrow, and addressed Toby. “So you served in the army, Lieutenant? In France?”
“Aye, sir, and in the Low Countries.”
“And now you give lessons on the viol de gamboy?”
“Aye, sir, and in singing to pricksong, and the lute.”
“How did you come to find such a martial music master, Master Case?”
“Why, Master Roger Clarke found him for us, Sir Andrew.”
“Master Clarke, you say? Indeed. Well. Master Case, do your two young pupils occupy all of Lieutenant Hume’s day?”
“Why, no, Sir Andrew.” He looked puzzled, but continued to smile at his valued customer.
“If you could spare the good lieutenant for two hours on–say, Tuesdays and Fridays, I think I might give him more employment. If you are sure you have no objection.”
“None at all, Sir Andrew.”
“And you, Lieutenant?”
“I should think it an honor to serve you, sir.”
“Very well. Be so good as to call at my house in the Strand, near York house, on Friday next at two o’clock.” Toby bowed, and Sir Andrew turned to go. “Oh,” said Sir Andrew, stopping in the door, “you shall have four shillings the week.”
Toby watched him leave, then turned to the Cases. “I do hope you have no objection, Master Case. I shall find time to make up any lessons Masters Robert and John may miss.”
“No objection at all, Master–Lieutenant Hume. We value Sir Andrew’s custom. See that you please him, and you will please us.”
Toby then spoke of the archery practiced by the boys, and of his plan to teach them the real thing, explaining his reasons. Case was angered by the expensive damage, but thought Toby’s plan might have merit.
Toby, viol case on his back, was admitted to an elegant house on the Strand by a dignified servant in a well-cut blue coat. He was ushered into a well-lit secondary parlor. Before the servant left, Toby asked him politely what the names and ages of his pupils might be.
“I understand that your pupil is Lady Monmouth, sir. Sir Andrew has no children as yet.”
The servant left, and Toby frowned, then shrugged. He took out his viol and began tuning it. The door opened, and a handsome young woman with blonde hair under a lace cap entered. Toby started to rise, then dropped his bow and sat down heavily. The young woman caught her breath, and clasped both hands over her mouth. It was Jane.