Archive for April, 2011

Time’s Bending Sickle

April 24, 2011


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


25.  Time Decays


            Jean was absorbed in a book when I got home from work.  There had been a board meeting that afternoon, the first in which Jean had independent power to vote the Cullen stock.

            “What’s that?”

            She looked up.  “Howell gave it to us.  He’s going to make a formal bid to buy the company.”  The book was a large-format paperback with a title suggesting that leveraged buyouts were a good thing.

            “So he’s really going to go for it.  How did the board take it?”

            “Well, there were a lot of questions.”  She smiled wryly.  “Some I’d already been through with you.  You should have been there.  I think Howell would have made you change your mind.”

            “I doubt it.”

            “Howell is very persuasive.”

            I knew that, but I still couldn’t believe that the board would, on sober reflection, think it a good idea.  There were several bankers and a college president on the board–surely they wouldn’t be swayed. 

            “What’s he offering?”

            Jean frowned.  “I’m not supposed to say.  But it’s more than double the current price.”

            The stock was selling at nineteen and an eighth.  He must be offering forty dollars a share.

            “Are you going to vote for it?”

            She looked me in the eye and lifted her chin.  “I think so.”  I started to speak, but she interrupted.  “I know what you’re going to say.  I’ve heard all your arguments.  But I’ve got to think of the company.”

            “I want you to think of the company.  The company is the people.”

            “It’ll be better for them in the long run.”

            “With all that debt?  For Howell, efficiency will mean firing people.”

            “Then they’ll work harder.”

            “They’re not bolting parts together.  They’re thinking, and it’s hard to do that if you’re worried about your job.”

            “There are lots of cases of buyouts that worked well.  Gibson Greeting Cards–“

            “For whom?  The buyout artists make a bundle, but there are always losers, usually the employees.”

            Jean looked away.  “Just read this book when I’m done.  I’m tired of arguing.”


            There was a fairly big story in the local business pages, and a small one in the Wall Street Journal.  Howell, along with Steve Keller, had put together a group of backers and investment bankers, one of whom was a strong supporter of junk bonds, for the buyout bid.  What struck me as curious was that I didn’t see Tedesco’s name mentioned at all.  My curiosity surged when, a few days later, a bigger story in both papers talked about how the company was now “in play,” and that “LBO shark Tedesco” was preparing to make a competing bid. 

            I suppose that Howell could have been negotiating with Tedesco about helping with the buyout, but couldn’t agree on terms, which may have started Tedesco thinking about the possibility of outbidding Howell.  Why Tedesco would want the company, I couldn’t say.  The physical assets were not great, so I wouldn’t think them tempting to a stripper.  But what puzzled me even more was that the file I found, Howell’s “wopkraut” file, didn’t jibe with what was going on.  What did those names and numbers under Howell’s and Tedesco’s initials have to do with the buyout?

            The papers reported a rumor that Tedesco was going to bid $42 a share.  I checked the stock market; CuCpS had closed the day before at twenty-one and a quarter.  Well, Howell should be happy that we had got over the twenty-dollar hurdle.

            J. C. Atwell got on the elevator with me, and started shaking his head as soon as he saw me.  “Don’t ask!” he said.  He had been asked by the board to determine whether Howell’s bid was fair.

            “Aw, come on,” I teased.  “I’m family.”

            He continued shaking his head.  “I don’t know why Jean seems to favor this.  The bid would get nowhere without her.”  He looked up, a question in his eyes.

            “She thinks it’s a good idea.  She’s read a book.”

            He sighed.  “Don’t quote me, but I have to say, from the stockholder’s point of view, that the bid is fair.  But I still think it’s a bad idea.”

            “What about Tedesco?”

            “We haven’t got his bid yet.  But if it’s more than Howell’s, it has to be fair too.”

            “Even if it involves junk bonds?”

            “That could be a problem for the company or the new owners, but not for the stockholders.”  He moved closer and lowered his voice as the elevator slowed to a stop.  “Can’t you use some friendly persuasion?”

            The door opened and I escaped, answering only with a sheepish shrug.  I chewed on the implication that my opinion didn’t carry much weight with my wife.  But I had made my arguments, and felt inhibited about pressing them.  After all, it was her father’s company, and now it’s hers, and I’m–what, not a parasite exactly, but I wouldn’t be involved if I were not Jean’s husband.

            The market, after the rumor of Tedesco’s bid, pushed Cullen’s stock up to twenty-three and an eighth.  It kept going up every day for almost a week.  Then some people started taking profits and it dipped.  But a new rumor that Howell was going to top Tedesco’s bid started making the rounds, and the stock took off again.  Soon it was twenty-eight and three quarters.

            Jean had become increasingly preoccupied.  She read the papers and watched the market, but never raised the buyout with me or had much to say when I brought it up.  I think she must have talked to Howell on the phone when I wasn’t around.  She saw her therapist at least twice a week, and sometimes went in for extra sessions.  She wrote a lot in her journal.  She clearly wanted space, and I tried to give it to her, but I always left an opening for some kind of renewal of intimacy.  We made love a few times, or tried to, but Jean was unresponsive and remote.  The unspoken deal seemed to be that if I got my rocks off I would leave her alone.  I played music when I could.  I also “meditated.”


            Tobias Hume and James Hill were celebrating.  From the log walls of the tavern room and the sound of the language being spoken by the tapsters bringing in cups, jugs, and plates of bread and dried fish, I gathered that they were back in Sweden.

            Toby raised his cup.  “Your health, Colonel!”

            Hill smiled and returned the salute.  “And yours, good Captain!”

            They drank.  “Perhaps we shall soon celebrate your promotion,” said Hill, leaning foward across the table.  “Once more, my hearty thanks for your help in the matter of that rogue Tucker.”

            Toby smiled and waved his hand.  “I am content to celebrate my pay.  Forty Swedish daler fatten my lean purse gratifyingly.”

            “Are you prepared for the campaign in Livonia?”

            “Almost,” said Toby, frowning thoughtfully.  “I lack a good, stout horse.”

            “Ah, there I may be able to help.  I know a man who has a gelding not three years old, a fine, sturdy mount.  He owes me a favor.  If the horse pleases you, I may be able to get it for ten daler.”

            “I would be glad to see this horse, and would be in your debt if it could be had for that price.”

            “We shall see it tomorrow.”


            Toby was playing the viol for Duke Charles and a company of ladies and gentlemen. They appeared to be in the hall of a castle–I think it must have been at Reval–a fire was burning in a large fireplace at one end.  Hill exchanged smiles with one of the ladies, who then said quiet word to a somewhat better dressed lady next to her.  A boy of about six, with striking blond hair, sat on the floor and watched Toby’s movements intently for a while.  Then, when Toby struck up the little march tune at the end of “A Soldier’s Resolution,”  the boy hopped up and strutted about, producing smiles from all, even the duke.  When Toby finished, the company rose and began saying their goodnights.  The boy grasped the hand of one lady, very pregnant, and obviously his mother.  She continued to speak to Hill’s lady and her friend. 

            Another boy, this one about twelve, thin and sleepy-eyed, approached Toby and languidly asked questions about his viol in Swedish ; Toby answered in respectful tones, thanking “his grace” for his interest.  I later gathered that this was Duke John of Östergötland, half-brother of King Sigismund of Poland, and hence the dedicatee of Hume’s “Duke John of Polland his Galliard.”  The object of Hill’s attention was his new wife, Elizabeth, who had been a lady in waiting to the princess of Mecklenburg, who was at that moment kissing her on both cheeks.  The pregnant lady was Kristina, the wife of Duke Charles and the mother of young Gustavus Adolphus.


            Toby was in a small church or chapel, carefully dressed.  Hill  and his wife, along with Henry Francklin, sat in the pew beside him, while the princess of Mecklenburg, Duke Charles and his wife, several other ladies and gentlemen, and a restless Gustavus Adolphus stood near the font.  A baby was being christened.  The minister repeated his blessing, placed his wet hand on the baby’s head, and the baby cried.  The duke smiled and the boy made a face.  The minister handed the baby to its mother, pronounced another blessing, and the company began to move toward the exit, talking quietly.  Two of the other gentlemen spoke English.  Toby bowed as the duke passed his pew, and he followed the group outside.  It turned out that the chapel was in the castle I had seen earlier.   A modest feast was served in the hall, during which Henry Francklin approached several of the guests, holding out a small volume to them.  Soon he came up to Hill and Toby at the lower end of the long table.

            “Colonel Hill, a happy occasion.  And Captain Hume.  As you see, I am at my album amicorum again.  You both did me the honor to write therein.  Captain Hume, you seem less melancholy, if I may say so.”  He smiled.

            “Your kindness and hospitality was very helpful to me, I thank your honor.”            As Toby was chatting with Francklin, a high-booted messenger entered, bowed, and handed a packet to a gentleman, who immediately handed it to the duke.  The duke moved to a window, opened the packet with his dagger, and read, with increasing agitation and anger.

            “Colonel!” barked the duke.  Hill jumped up and strode over, followed by Toby.  The duke spoke rapid Swedish to Hill, whose expression grew more and more somber.  Toby listened intently, but I couldn’t tell from his expression if he understood.  Finally, Hill responded and bowed, then turned, gesturing to Toby to follow.  Outside, in the courtyard, they called for horses.

            “So?” asked Toby.

            “That fool Gyllenhieln has let the Polonians beat him at Kokenhusen.  We must go help pick up the pieces.”

            “These Swedes need good Dutch training.  They fight like bears, not men.”

            Hill looked at Toby thoughtfully.  “Aye, you fought with Prince Maurice.  And you tried the Dutch drill at Sand Haven, but to little effect.”

            “I had no authority, and was ill understood.”

            Grooms trotted up leading their horses.  As they mounted, Hill said, “We will speak more of this.”


             Duke Charles, in armor, was speaking to Toby, Hill, Prothero, and other officers in a tent illuminated by three candles.  He spoke quietly, but with the inflection, gestures, and eye contact of a persuasive orator.  Now and then he paused while Hill translated for Toby and the other foreign officers. 

            “His Grace says that he will personally lead our forces.  We attack just before dawn.  The town will surely fall quickly, and the castle must follow.  Colonel Prothero’s company will follow his Grace, my company will take the left flank, and Captain Hume’s the right.”

            The duke spoke again, but Hill did not bother to translate, for the duke strode out of the tent shouting orders, the other officers close behind.  Squires ran to help the duke mount his horse, and the officers hurried to join their units.  Toby ran to where his sergeant waited with his company in a grove of tall firs.  He glanced at his lieutenant, a tough old Viking with a butter-colored beard who barely tolerated Toby’s attempts at Dutch discipline, and his ancient, an aristocratic young man whose chin was trembling visibly.  The soldiers fingered their swords, while those with firearms–mainly old arquebuses–blew on their matches.  All, including Toby and the other officers, wore a strip of blue cloth around their left arms.

            “Tell them to keep their pikes,” Toby said to the sergeant.  “Pikemen must protect the shot.  Any man who loses his pike will be flogged.”  Several of the pikemen looked displeased when this command was translated.  Of all the units, only Toby’s had a significant number of pikes.

            The duke, on horseback a hundred yards away, raised his sword and pointed forward.  As Toby’s company emerged from the woods, I could see the old walls of a town ahead, and beyond it a glimmer of a river.  Peasants in cottages outside the walls ran inside and barred doors and shutters when they heard the clank of arms and saw the woods streaming with soldiers.  The duke and a company of a hundred or so horse now began to gallop toward the main gate, two wooden leaves reinforced with iron, but looking old and vulnerable. 

            Toby’s company broke into a jog toward a part of the wall to the right of the gate.  Toby had a pistol in his left hand and a sword in his right, with which he pointed toward a low place in the wall under which several market stalls were thrown up.  Small arms fire could now be heard all along the wall, and the soldiers, who had been surprisingly quiet during the first part of the charge, now yelled with abandon.  Toby reached the stalls, dodging under the roof just as a defender leaned forward and snapped his arquebus.  It failed to fire.  Toby climbed on the roof of the stall, stuck his pistol in his belt and his sword in his teeth, and grabbed the top of the wall.  His company hesitated a moment, but the old lieutenant gave a deep-throated yell and leaped up himself.  Soon they were all scrambling onto the stalls and over the wall. 

            As Toby dropped onto the platform on the other side, two defenders attacked with swords.  Toby parried both thrusts and drew his pistol.  The man on his left ducked out of the line of fire behind a guard booth, and the man on his right was skewered by the lieutenant as he jumped from the top of the wall.  The other defender broke from the cover of the guard booth, jumped from the platform, and ran toward a cluster of soldiers just inside the main gate.  Most of Toby’s company was now over the wall, with no enemy to resist them for maybe twenty yards.  The sergeant, flushed, ran up.

            “Men leave goddam pikes.  Dey climb mit on vall.”

            Toby shook his head.  The noise grew outside the main gate as chopping and banging was added to the shouting and firing. “We must open the gate.  Have the shot follow along the wall and fire at those men on command.”  He pointed at the defenders on the ground.  Toby then led his men around the inner platform until they were almost over the gate, driving a few of the defenders before them.  Then Toby stopped.  “All shot.  Fire at once.  Now!”  The arquebusers, about twenty of them, fired a ragged volley at the fifty or so men protecting the gate.  Three or four fell, but the rest, instead of engaging the attackers sword to sword, scattered. 

            Toby leaped down from the platform, and his men followed.  A lone defender held his ground by the enormous bars on the inside of the gate.  Toby raised his pistol and fired.  Blood gushed from the man’s neck.  He grasped his throat and leaned back against the gate, his sword slowly falling; then he slid down to a sitting position.  Toby’s men wrestled the bars from the gate and began pulling it open.  The dying defender slumped to his side and was dragged by the gate, leaving a smear of blood on the paving stones. 

            With a burst of shouting, the duke’s troops crowded through the opened gates.  Toby’s men waved and called out, some pointing to their blue armbands.  They swept forward through the streets toward the castle, which was protected by the river and a moat. Although now and then a sniper would fire from the upper window of a house, most of the defenders seemed to have retreated into the castle, for as Toby’s men approached it, the drawbridge was hastily raised. 


            The castle did not hold out long; I next saw Toby calmly walking across the lowered drawbridge, his hat and cloak in his hand, for it was warm.  On the wall above, impaled on three of the spikes that lined the top, were three human heads.  Seabirds fluttered around them, sometimes lighting long enough to tear off bits of flesh.  In the castle courtyard, Hill and Prothero were seated at a table under a tree, poring over papers and maps, sweating and arguing.

            “Swedish fighting won this town, did it not?” insisted Hill, jabbing the table with his forefinger.

            Prothero jerked his chin.  “And a great prize it is, valued so much that the Poles garrisoned it with a vast army of fourscore.”  He nodded at Toby.  “And that poor fourscore would have held you longer if it had not been for Toby.  Having his shot fire all at once, though it killed but four, seemed to break the enemy quickly.  You put much in adventure, my friend.”

            “I wanted to give us a chance at the gate.  It seemed to serve.  But my men had dropped their pikes climbing the wall.  We would have been hard put to reload.”

            “And our small success here must be weighed with the rout elsewhere,” said Prothero.  “When King Sigismund’s cavalry is in the field, the duke’s army is helpless.”  Prothero mopped his brow, and Hill shook his head.

            “And they will not use their pikes as they should,” added Toby.  “Perhaps Count John will help.  He has been much in the service of his cousin, Prince Maurice, and knows all the Dutch drill and tactics.”  Prothero nodded thoughtfully, but Hill continued to shake his head.


            I learned from history books that John of Nassau had come in the summer of 1601 to warn Duke Charles that King Philip of Spain might send naval aid to Sigismund, and that he was persuaded to stay and reform the Swedish army.  I also learned that he had little success, and left in frustration a few months later with the army only half-reformed.  I saw a montage of this period which seemed to confirm this: young Count John supervising the drilling of Swedish troops, arguing vehemently with Duke Charles and his officers, talking despondently with Toby and Prothero, who were of course sympathetic.   I also saw Swedish soldiers shedding their heavy body armor and throwing away their pikes to meet Polish cavalry charges with swords and shouting, then being cut down by the horsemen.   I saw Toby weeping over the body of his old lieutenant, his Viking beard stiff with blood.  I saw many other things I’d like to forget: devastated fields, thin and ragged troops of peasant refugees trudging toward Sweden, mutinous Swedish soldiers shaking their swords at Toby, demanding pay and food.


            Toby and Hill, leading a somewhat less ragged company of soldiers, moved across a flat landscape and entered a town.  The battered walls had been partially rebuilt into modern defensive fortifications.  But several of the buildings were damaged, and some looked newly built.  Some were brick, some timber and plaster, some were logs, but not so many as in Sweden.  Toby’s band was greeted by a young Swedish officer who seemed very glad to see them, mainly because they were to relieve him and he was eager to be off.  After sorting through some papers, the officers toured the town.  It was on a peninsula formed by a river and the sea.  There were seabirds and a salt tang in the air, occasionally relieving the stench of a seventeenth-century town.  The river was fairly broad, and not much activity could be seen on the opposite bank; three ships stood at anchor in the harbor, and a number of smaller vessels were clustered around piers or drawn up on the beach.  This was Parnu or Pernau, a port town north of Riga, “Parno in List-land.”

            The next morning the young Swedish officer and two lieutenants rode out the gates and headed north.  Soldiers from their garrison who were on the walls called out insults and curses to their backs.


            Jean was up before me, dressing for the board meeting.  The stock had gone to thirty-six and a half, and Howell’s latest bid, according to the rumors, was forty-six dollars.  Tedesco had, apparently, not tried to cap it. 

            Jean was grimacing in the mirror, checking for lipstick on her teeth.  I dodged behind her, combing my hair.  “I don’t suppose anything will change your mind at this point.”


            “What if Howell, in a burst of entrepreneurial efficiency, fires me?”

            Jean looked at me levelly.  “I guess you’d have to look for another job.”

            “Maybe I’ll go work for the competition.  Tell them all our trade secrets.”

            “Then we’ll sue you.  Or enjoin you.  Whatever.”  She was not joking, and didn’t see my joke.

            “Do you think I can get a job on my own?”

            “We’d find out, wouldn’t we?”

            “Call me after the vote and let me know how it goes.”

            “I can tell you right now.  We’ll accept Howell’s bid.”  She clicked the top on her lipstick, patted her hair in a gesture that reminded me of Tillie, and walked out, her heels cracking on the bathroom tiles.

            Jean was right.  That afternoon, Howell stepped out of his office and gave a kind of Tarzan yell.  Then he called to his secretary, “Wynona!  Get your butt in here!  We got to move some moola.”

            For days Howell never moved at less than a lope.  Steve Keller and the various bankers and junk bond people were in and out.  The papers, after the initial story of the buyout, published interviews with Howell and Tedesco.  Tedesco said that he simply reached the end of his resoruces, and felt that the value of the company did not justify going further.  They couldn’t get much more out of him, except that he was now going to “focus on other projects.”  Howell, however, was voluble about sharpening Cullen’s technological edge, moving forward, getting lean and mean, and so on. 

            One thing I found interesting: Howell said that some of the workers at Ramforce were trying to raise enough money to buy their company.  Poor schmucks.  “If they can come up with a reasonable offer, I think we can do business,” said Howell.  “We would hate to lose them, but I think having our own hardware is something of an indulgence.  In the interests of efficiency and the future growth of the company, we will have to make some initial sacrifices.”




Time’s Bending Sickle

April 17, 2011

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

24. Dear Time’s Waste

I had a little time to kill before my plane the next day. I had read about another museum, a place called the “Museum of Jurassic Technology.” The cognitive dissonance in the title alone intrigued me, so I soon found myself at a storefront in a rather grubby commercial district. Inside was a series of dim rooms with lights focused on glass display cases; these were accompanied by recordings of serious-sounding educational voices explaining the contents. An ant with a kind of horn protruding from its head was identified as Megaloponera foetens, or stink ant, which sometimes inhales a spore from a fungus that grows in the head of the ant and eventually erupts into a horn. Other horns were on display, but these purported to have grown from human heads. A stuffed duck head, its bill in the mouth of a sculped human face, illustrated duck’s breath as a remedy for thrush and other diseases. A diorama showed where one Wilhelm Sonnabend attempted to build a bridge across Iguazú Falls near the Argentinian-Brazilian border. The bridge was not in the model, but if you looked through a viewer, you could see the bridge as it might have been. Other displays illustrated the wierd memory theories of Geoffrey Sonnabend, son of Wilhelm and author of Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter. A small room was dedicated to a collection of letters received by the Mount Wilson Observatory from a number of crackpots. Another display concerned art and artifacts from mobile home parks. And so on. The whole place seemed to hover between the bizarre but possibly true and the plausible but possibly bogus–a museum of fact and fiction slipping into each other’s garments, always keeping a straight face. Of course I thought about Van Meergen’s Wunderkammer. The old Dutchman would probably have admired the display and the exotic material, but would have missed the irony. I had some interesting visions on the plane home.

Toby looked out his small window in the Boar’s Head. Light steps rattled up the stairs, and someone knocked on the door. Toby opened it to find the boy, John.
“Lady to see you, sir.”
“Thank you, laddie. Please send her up.” Toby waited outside his door at the head of the stairs. A lady ascended, a dark, broad hat obscuring her face. Toby smiled anxiously, twisting his hands together. He stood aside and gestured to the lady to enter; she did, the hat still blocking his and my view. He closed the door behind him. The lady, facing the window, removed her hat and turned around.
“I regret that I must disappoint you, Master Toby. Yes, I received the advertisement and the message, and thought it best to come.”
Toby looked confused and embarrassed. “I–I am pleased to see you. I hope your father is well?”
“Yes, thank God, and my sister too.”
“I am glad to hear it.” Toby’s response was probably to Audrey’s inclusion of her sister. After the father had had him beaten and shanghaied, I doubt that Toby wished him well. Toby paused a beat, then went on. “And do you still attend to your music?”
“Master Toby, you are very courteous, but we both know other matters are of more interest to us than my music. I must tell you that my sister has a child.”
Toby sat abruptly on the edge of his bed. Audrey came to rest on a stool by the window. Her foot twitched under her long skirt. Toby recovered enough to say, “I wish my lady and Sir Andrew much joy of their child. A son?”
“Yes, Sir Andrew is pleased, for it is a son. His name is Charles.” Audrey’s voice took on an ironic tone. “I say it favors him, even if this hatchling is a cuckoo.”
Toby’s concern and confusion grew. “Mistress Audrey–”
“My sister is persuaded the child is yours.”
“Oh, Lord!”
Audrey leaned forward. “Now attend me carefully. Your past actions make me doubt that you truly wish my sister well; but if you do, and if you wish this child to thrive, you will stay away and let them be. Jane is not in love with her husband, but he is fond of her, and they have been more content with one another since she was got with child. If they’re left alone, they may rub along as well as most married folks, and their child, if he live, will be well brought up and come into a handsome property.”
Toby stared miserably at his hands. He nodded.
Audrey went on. “Put the case that she were to run off with you; what life could you give her? Winters in a cold house in a foreign country, summers following you from one battle to another, as like to perish from disease or hunger as you from a wound?”
“Please stop.” Toby wiped his eyes. “You are right, and I am a villain for not thinking of these things. But it is hard to give up hope for–for. . . .” He broke off and rested his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees.
Audrey spoke more softly. “I know tis hard. Tis hard for Jane, too. Tis hard for all who cannot marry where they would. That is why I have determined never to marry.”
Toby looked up, curiosity seeming to infringe slightly on his misery. “Never?”
“No, never. I fear it a sin of pride in me, but I cannot give over my life to the will of another, even were I to choose him myself.”
“Why, what will you do? Will not your father–”
“Aye,” she interrupted, “he will find me a suitor, and I shall entertain him most properly, but he shall not marry me. I have learned much from our wise Queen.”
“But if you should love?” Toby’s curiosity seemed to take on a personal edge.
“I love many people. But you mean poet’s love.” She made only a slight wrinkle of her nose. “Marriage and that love, as you should know, do not often keep company, or if they do, they wear down to a comfortable friendliness at best, or sour hatred at worst. I may love–”
“One cannot choose to love or not.” Toby’s eyes drooped mournfully.
“So I understand. If I should love, I shall remember Cupid’s wings and Vulcan’s net. I mean to fly, and not be fettered. Even the best husband is yet a husband, and the law will have him my master, and give him leave to wear me away with childbearing.”
“But how will you live?”
“That is the misfortune of too many of my sex. We must drudge or whore, one way or another. After a long siege, I cajoled my father into conveying to me a small plot of land, enough to maintain me in a very humble state. But I shall be queen of it, and it will seem as vast as the Spanish empire to me.” She smiled. “I begged it as I would a kitten or a hound, or some jeweller’s toy. I could not be as open with him as I am with you, old friend.”
“Your friendship is somewhat hard, mistress,” said Toby ruefully, “yet I am grateful for it.”
Audrey relaxed. “To answer a question you asked before, yes, I keep up my music. And like you, Master Toby, I sometimes compose.”
Toby managed a smile. “And does your father enjoy your music?”
“Yes, because he knows not that it is mine. I make music for my own contentment, and I am pleased if it pleases others for itself. But I wish neither to be flattered nor condescended to. Momus mocks women with more asperity than men.” Audrey glanced out the window, then rose. “I must go. I have your promise to leave my sister in peace?”
Toby twisted in anguish. “You have my word that I will not seek her out or send to her. But if she finds me, by chance or diligence, I cannot promise what I will do. I cannot think I could deny her to her face.”
“Well, I must be content with that. Fare you well, Master Toby.” She moved toward the door. Toby rose, opened it, and followed her in silence down the stairs. She nodded to Toby, put on her hat, and went out the street door. Toby looked after her with profound sadness.

Toby turned over bolts of heavy blue wool in a warehouse packed tight with cloth. A stout, well-dressed older man stood by and pointed out the virtues of the weave. Toby fingered the end of a bolt critically. The room was hot and stuffy, and the older man was sweating.
“Would the weave were closer. Sweden is very cold.”
“Trust me, captain. Twill serve, twill serve.”
“Well, Master Ives, I am content. But I must see every several bolt before it is shipped. The duke trusts me only so far as I serve him well.”
After some further skeptical inspection of cloth and obsequious assurances by Ives, Toby left and wadered through the crowded London streets until he entered the familiar house under the sign of the boar’s head. Edgcoke met him at the foot of the stairs.
“Gentleman to see you, Master Hume. He waits in my shop.”
Toby thanked Edgcoke and entered the shop to meet a young man holding a packet. Seeing Toby, he doffed his hat. “Captain Hume? My master’s compliments, and begs that you be his guest for dinner at the Angel. He also sends this packet from friends in Nicopen.”
“Your master is from Sweden, then?”
“Yes, sir. Oh, I beg your pardon. My master is Henry Francklin.”
“Your master is known to me as a valued servant of Duke Charles. It will be an honor to wait on him. Please give him my thanks and compliments.”
“Gladly, sir. He expects you in an hour, and advises you to read your letters in the interval.”
Toby thanked the young man, who politely refused the offered tip and took his leave. Toby took the packet to his room. Cutting the outer wrapping with his penknife, Toby opened a letter and began reading.
I saw that it was a long letter, in English, from “Nicopen,” dated May 4, 1600. It was signed by several men who testified that Leonard Tucker had called James Hill a “shellom,” “which is in these partes the greatest name of infamie that can be spoken to the meanest or vilest person,” and that Tucker had accused Hill of stealing clothing from players in England, of being a tailor in Ipswich, and of buggering his pageboy. The packet contained another letter from James Hill himself, telling how he had written Queen Elizabeth asking for help in countering the slander Tucker had spread about him in Sweden; Hill begged the Queen for some sort of certificate of confidence and some statement about Tucker’s reputation in England. Hill asked Toby to find out what else he could about Tucker and to write as soon as possible.
When he finished the letter, Toby put it on the windowsill and stared out the window with a thoughtful frown. After a while, he sighed heavily, stood, picked up his hat, and left the room.

Henry Francklin was in his fifties, richly but not flashily dressed in a long sleeveless coat thrown open so that fashion and dignity were maintained despite the heat. He smiled and greeted Toby warmly. “Good Captain Hume! I have heard much good of you and rejoice that we meet at last.” He grasped Toby’s hand, then took his arm and led him into a private room in the inn where a table was set with silver and very white linen. He kept up a steady stream of friendly conversation as a generous dinner was served. Toby’s polite but melancholy air gradually warmed.
“Good Captain, I too was a soldier. I served with the first earl of Essex in Ireland, and then came to Poland to serve King Sigismund, and then to Sweden and Duke Charles–though at my age, I am glad his grace has found other uses for me than in the field. I hear that you fought under Prince Maurice–ah, a prince without peer. So many famous victories. Were you at Deventer? Nijmegen? Steenwijk? Twas your company that was blown up? Alas, alas–a great loss.” Francklin’s brow knit in deep sympathy. “You have cause to be melacholy. But you have life–God saw fit to spare you, no doubt for some good purpose.” He cast about for a change of subject. “Do have another glass of this wine. I also hear that you are a lover of music. I, too–I used to sing as a boy, but now I croak like an old frog.”
Toby and Francklin eventually came to discuss the affair between Tucker and James Hill, agreeing that Hill was a good man who was villainously wronged. Francklin added what little information he had, and Toby recounted what he had observed on the ship returning from Finland. Francklin briefly described his own mission, a more diplomatic one. As the wineglasses were refilled, Toby hinted that he had another cause for melancholy, one that involved a lady. He gave no details, but Francklin appeared to understand the seriousness of matters of the heart, and offered still more of his avuncular sympathy.
Then Francklin produced a small leather-bound book. “Good captain, when I was in Germany I took up the custom of keeping an album amicorum. You see I have entries from many of the noblemen and gentlemen I have had the pleasure to meet in my travels. I should be glad if you would add your name.”
“It would be an honor, sir.” Toby took the book and leafed through it. He stopped at a page that contained only a few lines at the top. “Here?” Francklin nodded. “What must I write?”
“Your name, at least. As you see, others have inscribed their arms, or a motto, or some sentence. What you will.”
The page already had this inscription: “Patience and Constancy overcomes tyranny. Johannes Powntes Anglus. 1588.” Toby hesitated a moment, shook his head–perhaps to clear out some of the effects of wine–and wrote an H. Then he stopped, and wrote in italic script:

Love is lost, but now love is found
For Francklin hath turned it upsee down.

He went back and inserted “me” after “For” and then added “Hold fast when that ye claspe.” He drew lines bracketing this last line, under which he wrote “Tobias Hume” and a flourish. He returned the book to Francklin, who smiled and nodded. Finally, after warm thanks on both sides, Toby rose, steadied himself, and took his leave.

I saw a montage of Toby talking to various people around London. Some I recognized–the grave Roger Clarke, Case the cloth merchant, Burbage the actor, and Moll the prostitute and pickpocket–but there were many I didn’t, though the same range of social classes was represented. Some shook their heads, some sent Toby to talk to others, and some–notably Moll–gave him an earful. After talking a good while with Moll, pouring her generous amounts of wine and giving her a coin as he left, Toby called on a man in a small chamber of the Middle Temple. This thin and threadbare man was at the end of his youth, and seemed reluctant to speak. But eventually he did, even signing a bit of paper on which Toby had made notes as they talked.
A morning after this meeting, probably the next day, Toby sat writing in his chamber. “This Tucker,” he wrote,

was a Devon man, recommended to Sir Walter Ralegh by his friends in that country. Sir Walter got him a pettie office in the Queen’s majesty’s service, where he soon found meanes to line his purse. Having heard of a man who had two children with his own Daughter, Tucker wrote himself a letter in the Queen’s name and stole a seal for it, this letter giving him authoritie to investigate the matter. He found the incestuous father, presented his commission, and offered to arrest him, saying he surelie would be hanged for his crime. The father was mightilie penitent, and offered this Tucker an hundred Pounds in gold to let him go free, which he did. The father then found meanes to let a magistrate know of Tucker’s act without bewraying himself. Tucker got winde of this, and knowing he could lose both Eares and be whipped and pilloried, begged a place abroad from Sir Walter before he could be discovered. It is also saide of Tucker that he is a notorious Paederast and sodomite.

Toby put down his pen and stared gloomily out the window; the light lit up the swirls in the glass. The colors began to move, and the flashing lights became the jumpy images of MTV on the silent television set in my hotel room.

Howell was not pleased with my account of the meeting with Tom Backscheider, in particular my inability to persuade Tom to use Ramforce. I thought about asking him if I should have blacked Tom’s eye, using the method of persuasion he had used on Bonnie. But instead I tried to make Howell see Tom’s point of view. The best I could do was to get Howell to agree, grudgingly, to wait and read Tom’s report before taking any further steps.
Bonnie’s warning about some stunt Howell might pull was nagging at my memory, and I kept my antennae out for anything suspicious or unusual. The presence of Tedesco, although explainable by the possible leveraged buyout, still had more mystery about it than anything else. Something didn’t smell right whenever he came around. So I resolved to find out what I could about the man and his business.
The usual sources produced little of interest: I learned that he went to Northeastern and Harvard Business School, that he had worked for several investment bankers before settling in with his current firm five years before. Newspapers began discussing his role in buyouts about two years ago, and recent stories identified him as “LBO impresario Tedesco,” and “Tedesco, conjuror of unlikely LBOs.”
I turned to the Cullen computer files to see what I could find. Nothing appeared under any straightforward headings, nor did I expect it to. Howell would have hidden anything to do with Tedesco under some impenetrable code name. So, as a kind of lunch hour game, I began playing with passwords. I tried LBO, I tried buyout, I tried leverage, lever, fulcrum, Archimedes. I tried Ted, Tico, desko, and other free-association possibilities. Knowing Howell’s thesaurus of terms for money, I tried bread, loot, dinero, gelt, stash, and a number of others. Anyone observing me would think me a scrabble fanatic fallen off the deep end.
One night around this time I was reading madrigals with some Dallas friends. We did the famous one by Orlando di Lasso, “Matona mia cara.” Perry Fein, singing tenor instead of playing violin, asked, “Who’s this Matona?”
I had no idea. The name of the lady? I hadn’t given it much thought. But Carla Beasley, our soprano and resident trivia expert, smiled. “It’s ‘Madonna’.”
“What? Why?” I knew that a lot of poems were addressed to “madonna,” my lady. But why the misspelling?
“This is one of a bunch of songs making fun of the German mercenaries in Italy at the time. It’s supposed to sound like Italian with a German accent. They called these songs tedeschi.”
A bell went off in my head. “So a guy named Tedesco would be from a German family that settled in Italy?”
This information set off a new line of inquiry. Back at work, I tried German, Italian. Think like Howell, I told myself. I tried lira, mark, DM. I tried kraut, hun, eyetie, dago, wop, krautwop, wopkraut–
Bingo! A file appeared. A list of names and companies, none of whom I had ever heard of, each followed by a number. The list was divided into two parts, one headed “HD” followed by a number, and another headed “JT” and another number. Nothing else. I printed it out–two single-spaced pages–and exited the file. I committed a few of the names to memory, samples I could check, and then considered what I should do with the list. I knew it was important, and I knew if anything happened it would not be good for Howell to find it on me. My eye lit on one of the few personal items in my office, a radio-cassette player. I had it plugged in, but I knew it had a space for batteries so it could be used as a portable. The battery compartment was empty, and the folded sheets fit inside neatly.
I checked the phone book for the names I remembered from the list. Nothing. They didn’t appear in any of the other references I looked at, nor were they in the phonebooks of Houston, Washington, New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. I also drew a blank with Who’s Who and other resources and indexes I could think of.
I soon had to put my investigation on hold, for other matters began to occupy my attention. About two weeks after my visit with Backscheider, his written report came in. Without telling Howell, Tom sent me a copy, so I knew what it contained. It managed to be devastating in its evaluation of Ramforce, but with a degree of tact I hadn’t expected Tom to be capable of. To soften the blow of his irrefutable demonstration of the impossibility of writing games on Ramforce, he included several games designed to run with minimal trouble on the machine. Howell called me in, cursed a lot while giving a highly selective version of Tom’s report, and concluded by giving in while doing his best to appear that he was standing firm. “They’d better come up with some good, fast-selling games, and damned pronto.”
At home there were also unsettling developments. When I got to the apartment after this last meeting with Howell, I found Jean gone. She had left a hasty note saying only “At Mother’s.” There was no answer when I called. So I got busy in the kitchen and put together one of the elementary casseroles I had learned to make, and stuck it in the oven. I was having a glass of wine with the news when Jean called.
“Tony.” She sounded anxious.
“What’s up? Are you all right?”
“Yeah, it’s Mother. You know I finally got her to the doctor yesterday. They called and want her to come to the hospital right now for surgery in the morning. I can’t get her to go.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure. She won’t say. Can you come?”
“I’ll be there in a minute. Why don’t you call her doctor in the meantime? Maybe he can persuade her.”
“OK. But you come too.”
“I’m on my way.” I bareley remembered to turn the oven off. When I got to the Cullen house, Tillie was frowning at the local newscaster on the TV, her mouth set in a stubborn pout. Jean was on the phone, twisting the cord nervously.
“Just a minute, doctor. Mother, please come to the phone.”
Tillie sat as if she had not heard. Jean spoke into the phone: “Please hold on a little longer.” She carried the phone to her mother’s chair. I turned off the TV. Tillie scowled at me, but didn’t move or speak. Jean said, “Go ahead, doctor,” and held the phone to Tillie’s ear. She listened for a while, the lines around her mouth deepening. Then she shook her head and would not allow the phone near her ear.
Jean said, “She heard you, doctor, but she won’t listen any more. Yes. Yes, I understand. Thank you for trying. I’ll do what I can.” She hung up and turned to her mother looking worried and exasperated.
“Mother. You can’t just sit there and pretend this will go away.” She looked at me. “The doctor says she has breast cancer. They need to operate immediately to stop it from spreading.” Out of Tillie’s line of vision, she silently mouthed, “If it hasn’t already.”
I squatted down in front of the sullen woman. Her eyelids, jowls, and mouth were drooping, but her eyes shone defiantly. “Miss Tillie,” I began in my best Tennessee gentleman accents, “please help us out here. We don’t want you to be sick. We don’t want you to hurt. The doctor seems to think it’s serious enough to hurry, but nobody’s giving up on you.”
Her mouth tightened further. “Everybody’s pushing,” she said, biting off the words. “Somebody’s always pushing. Do this. Do that. I’m sick of it. Mother. Oren. Howell. Now Jean and you.” She looked around the room. “I’m going to die. Why can’t I stay home instead of going to that awful hospital? When Oren was there you couldn’t even get a decent cup of coffee.”
“You don’t have to die yet, Miss Tillie. You’re not an old lady.” Jean sat down on the sofa behind me with a sigh and let me talk. “Plenty of people catch this trouble in time and enjoy life for many more years.” I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I looked at Jean, who only gave her head a slight shake. “Don’t give up, please, for Jean’s sake.”
She sniffed. “I’ve done about all I can for Jean. You take care of her and let me take care of myself.” Tillie resumed her stubborn stare.
I groped for another tack. “Don’t you want to see your grandchild?” Jean jerked, but Tillie, giving me a hard look, didn’t seem to notice.
“How much longer will that be?” Tillie tried to hide her interest behind a skeptical tone.
“I honestly don’t know. But we’ll keep trying if you will.” Tillie’s mouth relaxed a bit, and her gaze wandered toward the window. “Miss Tillie, you go on and go to the hospital, and I promise you I’ll bring you a fresh thermos of my best coffee every day.”
Jean finally thought of something. “Mother, I’ll bring Mavis to the hospital to do your hair just as soon as the doctor will let me.” She leaned forward. “And I’ll get you that satin bed-jacket we saw at Nieman’s.”
Tillie patted her hair. “Don’t patronize me, Jean. Just let me think. You two go for a walk and leave me alone. Now go. Shoo!” She fluttered her fingers at us. We left the room, walked through the sun porch and out around the pool. The little mechanical pool cleaner swam on its tether along the edge.
“You and your precious male seed,” said Jean with some bitterness. “Is reproducing yourself all you can think of?”
“Good God. That wasn’t the point. I was just trying to get Tillie interested in a possible future.”
“But now if she makes it for a while but relapses because I can’t come up with a baby, don’t you think that will make me feel real good?”
“I admit I didn’t think that far ahead. But why do you assume it would be your fault?”
“She would.”
I couldn’t keep this up. “Let’s just get her to the hospital now and straighten out our family life later.” We circled the pool in silence three more times. A jay heckled us briefly, and the pool cleaner hummed. Without speaking, we turned back toward the house at the same time.
Tillie was not in the family room, but we heard her heels on the upstairs bathroom tiles. Soon she came downstairs with a small bag. “Let’s go,” she said.

Tillie went to the hospital and submitted to its many indignities: mutilation of her body, loss of her hair, her appetite, and finally her life. There had been metastases, and the chemical and radiation treatments only drew out the process. But it seemed as if Tillie, nagged and pushed by death, had stubbornly resisted until she herself had decided to go. I duly brought her coffee, which she accepted with grave courtesy even when she had no taste for any food or drink; Jean brought her the satin bed-jacket, as well as a pathetic turban when she lost her hair. She wore both with as much dignity as she could muster.
Jean cried little, mainly out of fatigue and frustration, but mourned in her own way. I regret that this way involved arming herself against any sympathy or comfort I tried to offer. Neither Jean nor her mother ever referred to a possible grandchild after Tillie entered the hospital.
After the funeral, Jean made arrangements to sell the big University Park house; she didn’t even mention the possibility of moving into it. I certainly wouldn’t have suggested it. But Jean said nothing about getting a place of our own, even though she had come into a good bit of money, not to mention stock and other assets. Although I was content enough with our modest apartment, since it was convenient and comfortable, I was surprised that Jean seemed to have no interest in making any changes. She continued to read, write in her journal, see a few acquaintances, and visit her therapist; except for giving up any pretence of finding work, she resumed her usual habits.
Howell, though still a bear at work, made several gestures of sympathy and support during Tillie’s illness and after her death. I have to give him credit, for he managed to show interest without intrusiveness. He visited Tillie several times, pulling out all his reserves of good-old-boy charm, and giving her moments of real pleasure. But after the funeral, the rumors of the leveraged buyout became more frequent and persistent.

Time’s Bending Sickle

April 10, 2011

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

23. May Time Disgrace

As I had expected, Tom Backscheider found the idea of using Ramforce computers laughable. “No way! I’d as soon play Bach on Shroeder’s toy piano.” When he realized that Howell meant the proposal to be taken seriously, he became angry. “Howell’s got his head up his ass. Doesn’t he ever consult anyone who knows anything?” He pulled on his frizzy ponytail.
“Yes,” I said, “but I think there were other considerations in this case.”
“What considerations? Shit, man, everybody knew Ramforce was on the way out.”
“What would have to happen for them to be competitive?”
Tom sighed in exasperation, as if there was so much as not to be worth the effort. “They’d have to overcome their shitty reputation. They might do that if they had a real technical breakthrough, such as a new and better operating system or a cheap way to expand memory, and they upgraded their materials and manufacturing standards. You’re talking a big capital investment just to catch up with Apple as they are now, and who knows how far ahead they’ll be by then.” He made a global gesture with both arms.
“You couldn’t customize some units for your use?”
“What is the fucking point?” His good-natured squint had vanished in wide-eyed indignation. “Why blow time and money on a souped-up V-8 in an Escort when you can get a faster and better Porsche for less? It would be deceptive, too. If I fixed a Ramforce so I could write a game on it, it wouldn’t be like any other Ramforce you could buy.”
“OK, I’m just doing what I was told. Would you be a good guy and write up what you’ve told me in a little technical detail so I can show it to Howell?”
Tom looked pained. “Write? That’s the shit I wanted to avoid when I sold out to you guys. Why can’t you just let me hack?”
“I know, if it were up to me, this never would have come up. Just tell someone else what to say. But please help me out here.”
Tom groaned. “Aw, man. OK, I’ll try to come up with something.” I followed Tom as he kicked away some pizza boxes and roamed back to the cells to see who was hacking. We found a long-haired fat kid who couldn’t have been more than sixteen; he was playing a game. When Tom asked him to write up a critique of Ramforce and come up with a list of needed improvements, the kid grinned maliciously.
“He’ll give us all the dirt, and I can calm it down for Howell.” Tom was still not happy. “I need a soak after this. Come on back to the house and we’ll mellow out in the hot tub.”
I declined, and returned to Los Angeles, where I had to see some clients and prospects. Since I had to stay over the weekend for a Monday meeting, I decided to mellow out by going to San Marino on Sunday and visiting the Huntington.
I enjoyed browsing in the library exhibit and in the museum. Although I didn’t share old Henry Huntington’s love for eighteenth-century portraits, I had to give him credit for using his wealth to collect books and art and to make them available to the public. The day was especially pleasant–the smog had lifted enough to allow the mountains to be seen, and the Huntington grounds were full of blooms. I found a bench in the Shakespeare Garden and mulled over my problems as the bees murmured and the sun turned my blood into viscous honey.
Howell’s treatment of Bonnie did not bode well for Cullen and those who worked there. Could there be another Ramforce in the future? What else might he be planning that had Bonnie worried? What would happen if Howell goes through with the buyout? How divided is the board? Jean had not been consulting her mother, but Tillie, characteristically, had not shown much interest. If Jean is right and something is seriously wrong with Tillie, more complications for the business and my life with Jean might be on the horizon. What I should or shouldn’t do was not easy to see. I wondered how Toby liked Sweden.

“I think it to be the coldest country in the world,” said James Hill to Toby as they looked back toward Stockholm from their ship, shivering in their cloaks.
“And tis only September,” said Toby. They went below to the small saloon below the quarterdeck, and sat at the table. It must have still been cold, for they kept their cloaks on, but they were out of the wind. Dim light filtered in from the swirling glass in the stern windows.
Hill spoke Swedish to a boy of ten or eleven who, wrapped in a cloak, had been dozing on a bench. He rose, and briskly fetched a bottle and two cups, turning away with a yawn. “Thank you, Nils. Now what say you?”
“You are velcome, sir,” said Nils.
“He learns English faster than I learned Swedish,” said Hill to Toby.
“I understand that Duke Charles is a good Protestant,” said Toby.
“Aye, thank God. So are most of the Finns, but many do not see the danger of the alliance with the papist king of Poland.”
Toby looked confused. “But the king of Poland is the king of Sweden and Finland, is he not?”
“Aye. But Duke Charles has been regent for Sweden while King Sigismund has stayed in Poland among the papists. The king is the duke’s nephew, but he defied his uncle and led an army against him just before you arrived. Thanks to God, the duke prevailed at Stangebro and at Linkoping, and even now a treaty is being negotiated at Linkoping.”
Toby looked troubled. “Are the Finns then loyal to the king?”
“There are some who would put the king before God and his true religion. We must watch and see that they do not rebel. Old Sootnose, the king’s Marshal Fleming, was a stiff opponent, but he is dead.” Hill paused and laughed. “When the duke captured the castle at Abo last year, this Fleming was still in his coffin in the chapel. The story goes that the duke ordered dame Ebba, Sootnose’s widow, to open the coffin. The duke pulled the corpse’s beard, and said that if he were alive, his head would not stay long on his shoulders. Well, old Ebba had some of her husband’s mettle, and a man must admire it even in a stubborn papist. She said to the duke, if her husband had been alive, the duke’s grace would never have entered this castle.”
Toby smiled. “Who commands the castle now? The duke is in Sweden.”
“The duke left the castle with a man who proved a traitor, and Fleming’s successor, Governor Stalarm, now commands. He has fed the duke fair words, but we trust him not. Too many of his friends came to help the king when he invaded.”
“We sail for Abo, then?”
Hill looked away with an embarassed grimace. “Nay, we go to Sand Haven for now.”
“Will Colonel Prothero be there?”
“I know not. He may be; if not, we shall await him.”

Sand Haven turned out to be an island not far from the new town of Helsingfors, the name the Swedes gave to Helsinki. There were a few log houses on the island, but most of the duke’s Swedish troops were quartered in tents. Prothero was not there, and Hill busied himself writing letters. Small boats occasionally went in to Helsinki and back, bringing food. From time to time a larger ship would anchor off the island, stay a few days, then sail away, presumably back to Sweden.
Toby at first seemed to have no duties. After a few days of wandering around the island and trying to talk to the soldiers, he attempted to give a company a taste of Dutch drill. With the help of a Swedish sergeant who professed to know some English, he taught them some pike exercises and some simple movements. At first, the soldiers treated it as a sort of game or dance, and went along good-humoredly. But Toby’s explanations about the military value of drill did not seem to survive translation, for when a cold mist blew in, the men flatly refused to leave their tents. Toby complained to Hill.
“Good Captain Hume, let them be. Tis too wet and cold, and the Dutch drill does not suit the Swedish style of fighting.”
Toby did not press the issue, but spent his time with the Swedish sergeant in mutual language instruction. The sergeant, a young man with white-blond hair, square jaw, and stocky build, had been a sailor on a ship with a number of Englishmen. His vocabulary was rich in scatology, blasphemy, and malediction, but weak in grammar and common nouns. “Bugger de bishop” was his favorite exclamation.

The weather grew colder, and the mist and rain more frequent. The next time one of the larger ships arrived, the longboat that brought the officers and messengers to shore was met by a noisy crowd of soldiers. I couldn’t understand them, but I heard them say “Sverige” many times and guessed that they wanted to go home. What followed seemed to confirm my guess, for after much shouting and arm-waving, four of the soldiers grabbed the two sailors who sat at the oars, pulled them from the boat, and shoved off. Toby shouted and waved his sword, but to no effect. Several other soldiers splashed out and tumbled into the boat. Others followed, enough to overload and sink the boat, but they were persuaded to wait by those already aboard. Persuasion in two instances consisted of blows from an oar. After a time, the officers and messengers returned to find their boat gone, and the gang of soldiers shouting and waving at the ship. Toby and the sergeant tried to disperse them, but were not successful.
Suddenly a puff of smoke appeared on the deck of the ship, followed by a sharp bang. Those on shore could see two figures swinging out from the deck, suspended by their necks from the yards of the two main masts. Two others were pushed from the deck and splashed in the frigid water. Toby and the soldiers on shore breathed in sharply and fell silent. Soon the longboat made its way to the shore. The two sailors who rowed it were accompanied by four soldiers with muskets at the ready, and two figures in dark cloaks and plumed hats.
As the boat drew to shore, the soldiers trained their muskets on the crowd. Those on shore fell back, though there were some who shouted threateningly. The prow of the boat ground on the sand, and the two men in plumes stepped ashore. One, in a heavy black cloak with a fur-lined cowl, was Prothero. His companion, a shorter, red-faced man, began speaking in Swedish in an oratorical manner. From time to time, Prothero would speak softly to him. The mob of soldiers listened; many scowled and grumbled, but none shouted. The red-faced man finished and waved his arms in a dismissing gesture. The men began to walk back toward their tents. Toby approached Prothero.
“Colonel, Captain Tobias Hume. How might I do you service?”
“Well, Hume! You got my letters at last. Well met!” They shook hands. Then Prothero’s smile turned into a frown. “You might have done us all a service by keeping this rabble in some order.”
“Alas, colonel, I tried, but could not make myself understood.”
“They understand your sword. They understood our rope. Fools, we come to fetch them home, but only in good time and order. Where’s Hill?”
“I’ll take you.”
Hill was warming his hands over a fire in front of his tent. Nils, his page, was poking sticks of wood into the flames. “Pack your traps, captain,” shouted Prothero, “we’re for Nykoping.”
“Thank God,” said Hill.

Toby and Hill were on a ship tossed by a wintry sea, apparently en route to Sweden. They paced the deck, grabbing at ropes and rails to keep their balance, shivering under their cloaks. Finally they took deep breaths and plunged down the companionway to the saloon. It was only slightly warmer, but the air was close and foul. Another man and a boy of about ten looked up as they entered. They were seated side by side on a bench under the stern window. Hill’s boy, Nils, rose from another bench in the opposite corner.
“Blows the wind as cold as it did?” asked the man. He was short and plump, with pink cheeks and thin, brown beard. His voice was high and nasal.
“Aye, Master Tucker,” said Hill. “Cold and wet. But tis in our favor, so we should make land the sooner.”
The boy seated by Tucker, a thin boy with brown hair and large brown eyes, rose and bowed, bending his knees, before his master. “Please, sir, may Nils and I go see the cook’s cat?” His accent identified him as English.
“Very well. Take care of falling overboard.”
The boys pulled their cloaks on and ran up the steps, letting in the roar of the wind as they opened the hatch. Hill turned politely to Tucker. “What news from Sir Walter Ralegh, Master Tucker?”
“Nothing of late. I suppose he lives quietly at home, the ships for Guiana not appearing.”
Hill looked pained. “I regret not being able to help Sir Walter more. His grace the duke could not spare the ships, contrary to his expectation.”
Tucker looked skeptical. Then, squeezing his eyes almost shut, he asked Hill, “And what news have you from Ipswich?”
Hill blushed and frowned. “I know not what I should hear from that town.”
“Cry you mercy. I thought you had kinsmen there.”
“A distant cousin, an honest tailor. I was able to do him a small service once, but I do not keep up the acquaintance.”
“Well. So. I think I shall also go see the cook’s cat and air my lungs.” He rose with a smirk, rolled to the hatch, and went out.
Hill shook his head. “Sir Walter recommended this man for service with the duke, but I like him not. He has heard some twisted tale about my cousin in Ipswich, but will not lay it out like an honest man.”
“What was the service you did your cousin?”
“Ah, twas just before I came to Sweden. I was visiting friends in Thetford, and cast some business his way, making apparel for my journey. As he fit me, he complained of some players travelling in the county. He had made them fine garments for their shows, and they had paid him only in fine speeches. I gave some help to the bailiff with my sword, and recovered the garments. Mayhap they have slandered me out of spite.”
Nils banged open the hatch and hurried to Hill, speaking Swedish to him with both urgency and hesitation, as if he did not know how to tell about something he sensed was important. Hill listened with frowning intensity. When the boy finished, Hill spoke to him with some emphasis. The boy nodded and ran off.
“Now I have cause for my dislike. Nils tells me that this Tucker is abusing his boy. I must say nothing, however, or the boy may suffer more for telling. We must watch and speak only of what we see.”

Toby stood near the prow of the ship, looking toward the coastline ahead. He glanced back and saw Hill and Tucker in conversation by the mainmast. Tucker’s complacent smile vanished suddenly, and he turned very red in the face. He put his hand on the hilt of his sword, as did Hill. Hill leaned forward, speaking more forcefully. Tucker, still red, released his sword, and turned both palms out, shaking his head. They exchanged a few more words, then Hill turned and entered the hatchway. Tucker staggered to the rail. He looked out over the water, scowling and beating his fist on the rail. The wind hummed in the rigging.
Someone touched my shoulder. “Closing time.” It was one of the Huntington guards. I sat for a moment and listened to the humming of the bees in the Shakespeare Garden.

The visions I had of this time skipped over weeks and months, and some were so brief I had few clues to place them. In one, Toby was playing the viol for a group of well-dressed men in a room with large tapestries and a blazing fire. He played a piece he called “A Soldier’s March” in his 1605 collection, music that triggered this particular vision after my Huntington visit. Hill sat on a stool near a lean middle-aged man in a large chair by the fire, who listened with attention. He was balding, his high forehead shining above a prominent nose with a hook at the upper part of the bridge; his eyes were hooded and pouched, but bright and mobile. Toby finished, and the important personage led the company in applause. Toby bowed deeply. When the important man rose, the company stood and bowed. He spoke briefly to Hill and smiled; Hill smiled and nodded deferentially. Then with courteous words and gestures to the company, he left the room.
Hill rushed toward Toby, smiling and rubbing his hands. “Ah, Captain Hume, very good. His Grace was pleased to tell me that while the king of Denmark has a very fine English musician, Master Dowland, he doubts that he can lead a company or do the Dutch drill as well as make music.”
“I am glad the duke was pleased.”

Toby, his cloak and hat pulled tight against a chill breeze, approached a stone building. He entered a doorway and climbed a winding stair to a room where Prothero sat by a fire, writing. He glanced up, wrote a few more words, threw down his pen, and rose.
“You sent for me, Colonel?”
“Aye, Toby. Come warm yourself.” His pockmarked cheek twitched with a fleeting smile. “Do you tire of your winter’s music-making?”
Toby moved close to Prothero by the fire and smiled wearily.
“Well. I confess to be somewhat weary of the headsman’s axe. Tis one thing to kill a man in battle, and another to chop off his head like a capon. I am glad to have a little music to sweeten my imagination.”
“Well, sugar your mind with this: the duke may have you go to England with Captain Hill this spring.” Toby brightened, and Prothero smiled slyly. “The duke needs cloth and horses. I perceive that you need something you may find there too. Some London honey, mayhap?”
Toby turned his distracted attention back to Prothero. “Aye, if the bees and bears keep me not away.”

In a large hall hung with tapestries and lighted by many-paned windows, James Hill knelt before Queen Elizabeth, who gestured for him to rise. She herself remained standing. Toby stood to the side among a group of a dozen courtiers. The Queen showed her age more clearly than at Tilbury. The cords and folds of her neck were more prominent, and her teeth–those she still had–were blue and black.
“Most gracious Majesty,” began Hill. “Be pleased to accept the words of my master, Duke Charles, by the Grace of God hereditary prince of Sweden, the Goths, and Vandals. My master begs your most gracious Majesty to aid him in curbing a most vile slander. Be assured, your Majesty, that, contrary to that slander, my master the duke has no intention to usurp the throne from his newphew, Sigismund, king of Poland and Sweden. My master asks that you refuse to believe those who slander him thus, and that you support with word and deed his efforts to defend the true religion founded on the word of God. So says my master.”
The Queen spoke seconds after it was clear that Hill had finished. Her voice had some of the gravel of age, but was firm and audible. “God forbid that your master the duke should do otherwise than what he has sworn. Say to Duke Charles that it is my hope that he honestly keep the oath of allegiance to his nephew, for if he should do otherwise, he would go against nature, justice, and the laws of kinship. And”–here the Queen leaned forward and gestured in a way that reminded me, however inappropriately, of one of my grade-school teachers–“the duke should do his duty faithfully from the heart and not out of courtesy only. So say you to Duke Charles.”
Hill bowed and moved to Toby’s side. The Queen heard another suit, then left the room.

After dinner, I sat in my hotel room watching MTV with the sound off. The images flashed by, swirling and pulsing. Soon I saw the flash of colored silks in Edgcoke’s shop at the sign of the Boar’s Head. Edgcoke smiled benignly as Toby put a gold coin in his hand.
“Again I must thank you, Master Edgcoke, for caring for my instrument and papers, though they overstayed my rent.”
“Thank you, Captain; a pleasure to serve you, sir.”
“Now must I ask you another favor. I should like to send a message to a certain lady to inform her of the fine new silk you have here.”
“Very kind of you, sir.”
“Your boy is a good messenger?”
“Tolerable, sir; he can read a little and he has good legs.”
“Good. May I?” asked Toby and indicated a pen and paper on the shop counter.
“With all my heart, sir; here is ink.”
Toby wrote, reading aloud as he wrote: “Master Edward Edgcoke begs to advertise to Lady Monmouth that he is in receipt of fine new silks from overseas. He trusts them to be worthy of her attention at the sign of the Boar’s Head hard by Cheapside Cross.” He looked up at Edgcoke. “Do you find anything amiss?”
“Not at all, good Captain. John!” The boy appeared from a back room. “Attend the captain.”
Toby gave John a coin. “A good lad. Take this paper to Sir Andrew Monmouth’s house in the Strand, near York House. You may give the paper to any servant, but if you should see the lady herself, tell her that the silk merchant from overseas has some excellent new songs as well. Can you do that?”
“Aye, sir.”
“Be off, then.” The boy tugged at his cap and ran out the door. Toby turned to the smiling Edgcoke. “I shall be here for some months on the business of Duke Charles of Sweden. I have letters to some merchants here who will see that I do not fall into debt, as I did before”–Toby smiled–“and I hope not to have such uncivil visitors. I shall no doubt receive letters here; any reward you extend to such messengers as seek me will be repaid you.”
“Thank you, sir; happy to serve you, sir.”
“I shall go rest in my old chamber. Please inform me if I have any visitors.”
“Most assuredly, sir.”

Time’s Bending Sickle

April 3, 2011

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

22. Inviting Time

In a montage of visions I had on the flight to California and in idle moments during my visit, I saw Toby teaching archery and music to the sons of Master Case and music to Lady Jane Monmouth. With the boys he was relaxed but dignified, and they made progress with both viol and archery bows. He had a plain but comfortable room in the Case house, and an increasingly friendly relationship with the master and mistress. They seemed pleased whenever he set off for Sir Andrew’s house, and urged him on several occasions to inform Sir Andrew or Lady Jane of an especially fine bolt of cloth they had recently acquired and were saving for their approval.
But Toby always seemed tense and nervous on those days he was appointed to teach Jane. Before every lesson he would carefully brush his clothes and chew a handful of seeds–anise, from the whiff I got–but often, when he got to the door, he would turn around and walk away, pacing back and forth around the corner for some minutes before bringing himself to knock.
The lessons continued in a nervously formal mode. Jane would play, and Toby would politely correct her. After several lessons, Jane began to ask questions, which Toby answered very briefly. But Jane managed to learn that Toby had fought in France and in the Low Countries, that he had met the earl of Essex and Prince Maurice, and that he had had no private moment with his wife Joan between their marriage and her death. Toby managed to avoid mentioning his employment as an actor, a fencing instructor, and a pickpocket’s accomplice. Toby learned that Lady Jane had no children, that Mistress Audrey visited her from the country every two months or so, and that Sir Andrew had killed two men in duels.
One day Sir Andrew took Toby aside after a lesson, and very cordially asked about his wife’s progress in music.
“My lady has a most elegant touch, Sir Andrew. Does she not please you with her playing?”
“I have no ear for music, Lieutenant. A good pack of hounds stirs me more than a noise of fiddles. But I had hoped that music, which gave her pleasure in her youth, might bring her some contentment now. I have read that music can ease our troubled spirits. Have you not heard of such?”
“Aye, Sir Andrew, and believe it to be helpful to all spirits.”
“Well, it passes the time for her if it does nothing else. Perhaps you could find some especially salubrious lessons for her to play?”
“I shall do my best to content you both, Sir Andrew.”
But at the next lesson, Jane frowned at the piece she was playing, a solemn pavan, and broke off. “Master Hume, this lesson is exceedingly tedious.”
“I have some brawls and jigs, if you prefer, my lady.”
“Have you no duets? Music in parts has more interest to me.” Suddenly Jane blushed deeply, as did Toby.
After a moment, Toby recovered. “I have several lessons for two viols, my lady. Shall we try this one?” Jane nodded silently, and they played on two viols, seated at a chaste distance. They played for a while, until Jane miscounted a rest, and they had to stop and start again. Jane looked distracted. She made another error, sighed in exasperation, and stood.
“I can play no more today, Master Hume.”
Toby also stood. “Very well, my lady. I shall try to find out some lessons that will give you more pleasure.”
“And I shall try to pay better attention.” Still looking preoccupied, she left the room. Toby started to pack up his viol, when he heard Sir Andrew in the hall. Toby stopped and listened.
“Well, Mistress Mope, does your music make you melancholy?”
“Sometimes, my lord.”
“Do you wish to continue with it? I should be glad to be relieved of my charges for your lessons if your spirits are not improved.”
“Sometimes it does help; I should like to continue if you will allow it.” Then more softly: “I shall endeavor to please you better, my lord.”
“I wish I knew what would please you, mouse.”
The voices ceased and steps echoed down the hall. Toby resumed his packing, worry creasing his forehead.

Toby, after some hesitation, approached Sir Andrew’s door. As he was about to knock, the door opened and Sir Andrew hurried out, looking irritated. He gave the bowing Toby a glance, but swept by without speaking and strode down the street.
Toby entered and went to the parlor where the lessons took place. Jane was there, crying softly.
“I beg pardon, my lady. I shall return at a more convenient time.”
“No, stay.” She wiped her eyes and nose. Toby stood uneasily. “Please sit, good Toby. Be my friend.”
Toby sat on the edge of a chair. Jane sniffed and shook her head. Not looking at Toby, she spoke very softly. “Why did you never write or send word after my father drove you away?”
“But I did! My letters must have miscarried.” Jane looked up, her eyes wide. Toby looked down, and said hesitantly, “I heard that Mistress Audrey received the first, but I know not of the others.”
“Audrey!” She looked surprised, then angry, then hurt.
“Perhaps she knew that such a letter would only make you unhappy. God forgive me, I had made you unhappy enough already.”
“Surely you know that I share that blame equally.” She looked directly at Toby. “Then I obeyed only my own will. Ever since, I have obeyed my father and my husband–as I should.” There was bitterness in the last phrase. They sat silently for a moment.
“Why did you betray me with our kitchen wench?”
Toby winced. “I can give no excuse other than to liken what I did to the poor slave, who, not able to beat his cruel master, beats his horse.” His voice sank to a whisper. “Before we–we came to know each other, poor Joan offered me the comfort I had no hope of obtaining from you. God rest her soul and forgive me, I held you in my heart while I held her in my arms.”
“Poor Toby.” Both sighed and sat silent.
“Shall we turn to our lesson, my lady?”
Jane made no move. “Once I could talk to my sister about anything. No more. Now there is no one.”
“Your minister?”
“He is a mere vassal of my husband’s. What could I tell him?” She spoke with abandoned desperation. “What I want to tell someone is that my husband disgusts me. Who can I say that to now but you?”
Toby looked toward the door uneasily. “My lady, please do not put yourself in danger.”
“We are both in danger already.”
Toby rose. “Perhaps I should go.”
“My father visits us next month. You can see the danger in that? Audrey has tried to discourage him, but to no avail.”
“I shall be sick on the days of your lesson.”
“Pray no one speaks your name.” Jane sighed with resignation. “Perhaps we should play.”
“I have some lessons for two viols.”
“There is only one lesson I should like to play now,” she said, looking boldly at Toby.
Toby blushed and looked away. “Please, my lady, I beg you.”
“Very well.” Jane picked up her viol and began tuning. Toby got out his viol and put music on the table, and they began to play. Sir Andrew opened the door, looked at Jane a few seconds, and quietly closed the door.

Another day Toby sat warily in the parlor, tuning his viol. Jane entered. Toby rose. Without speaking, Jane crossed the room and kissed Toby hard on the lips, pressing against him, arms around his neck. Toby held his viol in one hand, his bow in the other; he stood unable to respond or resist. After a moment, she released him and stepped back, smiling. He looked dazed and worried.
“That brings no pleasant memories? I confess that in my memory, your kiss was sweeter.”
“My dear lady, I fear for our souls and our lives.”
“The life I now have is killing my soul.”
“Say not so, dear lady.”
“My father comes next week. If he should mention your name in my husband’s presence, we shall both suffer. If we are to hang, let us deserve it–let us enjoy our crimes before we are punished.”
“Dear lady, I cannot, for both our sakes.”
Jane’s look hardened. “There is one way I can be safe–I may suffer, but I shall be no worse than I am. You, however, will be in great danger if I tell my husband that you offered to insult me.”
Toby blanched.
Jane bowed her head. “I am not proud–I have no pride. I know I act the part of Potiphar’s wife. But I am resolute.”
“Jane!” Toby whispered.
Jane sat and took up her viol. “You must find another lodging. Tell Master Case that Sir Andrew has offered your services to a gentleman in Westminster, and that it would be more convenient for you to live there and visit here and in–where is Master Case’s house?”
“In Blackfriars.”
“Aye, Blackfriars. But see that you find lodging in the City, near some respectable tradesman.”
“What can I say? Will you force me to act against you?”
Jane smiled. “I once needed no force to have you act against me.” She leaned on the words, giving them another meaning. Then, briskly: “Have the address with you at our next lesson. I wish to play my favorite duet with you at your new lodging. Now let us play one of these lesser duets.”

Toby, looking stressed, walked down Cheapside and entered a house with the sign of a Boar’s Head over the door. He wound his way through several rooms, some containing lounging and drinking men, some serving as shops for glovers and jewelers. He reached a large room with a bar, behind which a fat man in his fifties was making tally marks on a board. Toby waited until he looked up.
“How may I serve you, sir?”
“I am in need of lodging, host. Can you tell me of a small, clean chamber to let?”
“Indeed, sir, there is a very fair chamber above Master Edgcoke’s silk shop, just across.” He pointed to an open door through which could be seen bolts of cloth. “Master Edgcoke will show you.”
Toby thanked the host, crossed the hall to the shop, and asked Edgcoke to show him the room. The shop owner was a short, graying man in black gown and very white linen sleeves and collar. He had a permanent smirk for all potential customers, which he relaxed somewhat as he led Toby up a narrow set of stairs just outside his door. At the top were two doors; opening one with a key, he let Toby into a room almost filled by a large bed with a canopy, a small table and two stools, and an empty chest with the lid propped open. A window about a foot square with four wavy panes of glass opened above a littered courtyard.
Toby gave Edgcoke a coin in exchange for a key. Alone in the room, Toby pulled back the bedclothes and searched them carefully, probably for insect life. Satisfied, he remade the bed and sat by the window, looking very glum.

Toby sat in his chamber, now domesticated somewhat by his viol, some music and books on a shelf by the window, and a cloak and hat hanging on a peg. A pitcher and two cups sat on the table. At every step or creaking board, he looked up. He was brought to his feet by the sound of light steps running up the stairs, followed by a knock. Toby opened the door to a boy of seven or eight. “Lady to see you below, sir.”
“Thank you.” He followed more slowly as the boy rattled down the steps. Jane stood by the shop door in a cloak with a high collar and a hat with a veil.
“I have come for my music lesson, sir.”
“Thank you, madam. Up these stairs, if you please. Watch your step.”
Toby closed the door behind them. Jane took off her veil and cloak; Toby took them and hung them on a peg. They stood looking at each other nervously. Then they embraced. Toby held Jane even more tightly than she held him and kissed her on the lips, eyes, throat. Her eyes were closed and her lips open and panting; between kisses Toby grimaced as if in pain. His eyebrows pointed down even more acutely than usual.
“Believe me,” he whispered, “I have wanted you thus, whatever I have done or said.”
“I know. I’m sorry that I had to threaten you as an enemy to get you to act as a lover.”
They kissed several more times. Then Jane drew back and looked up at Toby. “Let us play our duet. Tune your viol.” She stepped away and began to untie laces and undo buttons. Not taking his eyes off her, Toby got out his viol, tightened the bow, and tuned it. Jane had stepped out of her heavy gown, and was untying her petticoat. Toby began unlacing his points. They reached full nakedness at about the same time. Jane was shorter-legged and rounder than a modern pinup, but a beautiful young woman. Toby was throbbingly erect. They embraced again, both with sharp intakes of breath. Toby sat and took up the viol, and Jane sat on his thighs. He handed her a bow, and they began the duet. They did not get far.

Toby’s room was lit by a single candle. He sat alone, his viol in his left hand, a stylus in his right, a wax tablet on the table. He read over what he had written, then put down the stylus and picked up his bow. He played and sang softly, “Fain would I change that note.” I recalled the vision that came the first time I encountered this song. He finished singing, put down the viol, and began copying what he had written on the tablet onto a sheet of paper. After a time, he finished, blew on the ink, and put the sheet of paper on the shelf. As soon as he finished putting the viol away, he heard heavy steps on the stair followed by a knock. With a puzzled frown, he opened the door.
Three large men pushed in, the first striking Toby a heavy blow with a club. He fell backward, stunned. The second clapped his hand over Toby’s mouth, while the third punched him in the stomach. When he doubled over from this blow, the first man hit him on the back of the head with the club. The second man released his grip, and Toby fell to the floor unconscious. I now recognized the first man as Diggory, Sir James’s servant, and a witness at Toby’s wedding. While Diggory stood ready with his club, the other men rifled Toby’s chest and purse, pocketing a few coins. Then they pulled Toby to his feet, one man under each arm. Diggory clapped Toby’s hat on his head, and threw his cloak around his shoulders. They dragged him out the door and his toes bumped on the stairs.

Toby woke in a dark, stinking, moving space. He vomited, lay back down on the curved floor and gingerly felt his head. After a while, he pulled himself up and staggered toward a light. He emerged, blinking, onto the deck of a small, single-masted, lateen-rigged boat, which was tossing violently in a heavy sea. Rubbing his eyes, he breathed deeply, then looked around again. A sailor approached the hatchway where Toby clung.
“Out of the way, man!”
“I’m sorry–I’m hurt.” He tried to step out of the way, but lost his balance and collapsed in the hatchway.
“You are like to be hurt more if you don’t clear the way.” The sailor grabbed his arm and roughly pulled him from the hatch. Toby lurched across the deck and grabbed the rail of the quarterdeck ladder. Another man, probably an officer, looked down and saw Toby’s bruised and miserable face.
“You are awake, then.”
“Aye, sir. Pray be kind enough to tell me where we are bound, sir.”
Toby shook his head, wincing. “Thank you, sir. Do you–do you know what is to happen to me there?”
“You are Hume, are you not?”
“Aye, sir.”
“We are to put you ashore and let you fend for yourself.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Toby shivered, flung himself toward the hatch, and fell down it. Below, he felt in what appeared to be a pile of rags, until he pulled out a torn, stained cloak and crumpled hat. He struggled back on deck, shook out the hat and cloak, and put them on. Finding a spot near the mast where he would be out of the wind and the way of the sailors, he huddled down and endured the crossing.

A flat landscape out of Ruysdael, ragged clouds blowing overhead. The leaves on the trees were turning red and yellow. Toby trudged along a canal, his hat only partly hiding a yellow and purple bruise on his forehead. Near the horizon several spires marked the presence of a town. When Toby reached a tree by the path, he sat down heavily and leaned against the trunk. A few yards further along was a small house with a thatched roof covered in cracking plaster. Toby watched as a woman came out of the house carrying a bucket. She filled this from the canal by means of another bucket attached to a long pole balancing on a fulcrum. She stared at Toby a moment, then went into the house. Toby closed his eyes. A man leading a horse that pulled a canal boat came along the path from the direction Toby had come. When he saw Toby he said a few words in Dutch. Toby answered, also in Dutch. Without halting his steady pace, the Dutchman beckoned Toby, speaking encouragingly. Toby heaved to his feet and walked to the bank. As the canal boat passed, he jumped aboard, waving to the man with the horse after he landed.

In the streets of the town, Toby approached a familiar house with a stepped façade. He knocked at the door, which was opened by Van Meergen’s sleepy servant, now relatively alert. He gave Toby’s worn figure a quick once-over, said a few curt words, and tried to close the door. Toby spoke rapidly, mentioning his name and Van Meergen’s. The servant looked at him more closely and changed his demeanor, opening the door wide and ushering him in.
Van Meergen found Toby shedding his cloak and hat, and fluttered between pleasure at seeing him and concern for his condition.
“My dear Hoom, how now, how now? Were you robbed? Bad, bad, bad! Dirk, a basin and water! Ach!” Here he spoke to the servant in Dutch, apparently repeating what he had said in English.
“Kind sir,” said Toby, shaking Van Meergen’s hand, “forgive me for this intrusion, but I was indeed beaten, robbed, and flung ashore at Flushing with nothing. I knew not where to turn.”
“Please, please, please,” said Van Meergen, waving Toby into the parlor. Dirk and a plump, ruddy older woman entered with a basin of water and clean towels. Toby sat at a table and submitted to the clucking ministrations of the woman while telling Van Meergen an edited version of his story.
“You shall have food and rest soon,” said Van Meergen, pouring a clear liquid into a small glass, “but take this for your spirits.” Toby drank and coughed. “What do you intend now, my dear Hoom? How may I help?”
“If Prince Maurice will have me, I suppose I shall rejoin his army. God forgive me, I thought never to fight again.”
Van Meergen said, “I understand, but tis a just cause, and the prince is a most worthy man.” Then his eyebrows shot up. “I had forgot! Letters came here for you some months ago. I kept them until I could learn your address. Wait.” He bustled out of the room and returned with a packet.
“By your leave, sir,” said Toby to Van Meergen, who gestured that he should read the letter. Toby broke open the seals, and smiled when he saw the signature. “Tis from my old comrade, Prothero.”

Good Toby,
I hope these letters find you, and that they find you well. The newes of the end of Captain Hall and our fellows greeved me to the hart, but I rejoiced to hear that you yet live. I have found service with the most gracious Duke Charles in Swethen, and nowe command three companies with the rank of Colonel. The pay is good, and we have business enough to drive away dulnesse, but not so much as to keep us alwaies on the march at hard rations. The Duke is not so averse to a soldier collecting his rightfull spoil as was the Prince. The weather is colde, but the wenches is warm and the food and drink plentifull. The Duke has much need of experimented soldiers. His men have spirit, but are pitifully wanting in dissipline and good order. If you grow weary of diking and ditching in the Low Countries, I can promise you a Captaincy at leaste in the Duke’s army. I have spoken of you to the Duke, who has graciously given me this passeport for your use. You are assured of a good place and a warm welcome from
Your assured friend,
Dai Prothero, colonel
from Nicopen in Swethen, this fifth of April 1598

Another paper in the packet, one bearing a heavy seal, must have been the passport.
“This may direct my road,” said Toby to Van Meergen, and summarized its contents.
“I have heard good things of the duke. Tis said he could be king, but will not usurp his newphew.”
“I am torn, Master Jan. I love and honor Prince Maurice, and if I am to return to the wars, I had as lief serve him as any man. Yet the promise of a captaincy, and the thought that in some way I could help a good Protestant duke with the prince’s discipline–that calls me too.”
“I may not advise you, friend. It pleases me that you have two such happy choices. But for now, eat and sleep. We will talk more on this matter tomorrow.”
“If I go,” said Toby, “I must beg of you a loan in order to equip myself. I must make a good show.”

Toby stood on the deck of another small sailing vessel. The clouds were low and gray; the sea was gray-green, swelling gently. Toby, his bruises almost gone, wearing a thick new black cloak, high-crowned hat, silver-hilted rapier, and high dark boots, looked back at what must have been Elsinore castle. The boat moved slowly across the water toward a dark body of land. Soon buildings and a few small ships at anchor became visible, and the boat entered a harbor.
Toby climbed out onto a dock. A soldier emerged from a guardhouse and intercepted him as he walked toward the street leading to the town. They exchanged a few words. Toby spoke English, Dutch, French, Latin. The guard shook his head. Toby showed him the passport. The guard came to attention, presented his halberd, and with great courtesy escorted him to a larger building nearby. Other officers glanced at the passport, bowed to Toby, and led him to a comfortable room warmed by a large fire. One officer brought him a small glass of clear liquid, which he swallowed with a shiver and a smack. He warmed himself by the fire.
An officer with a starched ruff and silk-trimmed doublet entered with a smile, speaking good English. “Captain Hume! You are right welcome! Colonel Prothero told me some months ago you might honor us with your service. I am James Hill, captain in his excellency’s army.” Hill had sly gray eyes and bad teeth; he appeared to be in his forties, but was trim and moved like an active man.
Toby shook the proffered hand. “I shall study to be deserving of your good opinion, sir. Is Colonel Prothero here?”
“No, he is in Stockholm, preparing for our campaign in Finland. We ride to meet him tomorrow.”