Time’s Bending Sickle

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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.”
“Flushing.”
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.”

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