Archive for June, 2011

Time’s Bending Sickle

June 26, 2011

Chapter one of this novel may be found in the archives under October 2010; scroll down until it appears.

34. Swift-footed Time

Toby and Mary stood on the board sidewalk of a muddy street looking at one of a number of small, low houses made of squared logs and packed close together. The stench was bad, worse than usual. The smells of the old towns and cities were among the most unpleasant things about my visions. The initial shock to my sense would eventually pass, but sometimes the smell would be so foul that I would end the vision. This time I hung on.
“Can you bear it, lass?” Toby asked.
“Oh, aye. Tis not much worse than Riga.”
They entered and saw a dark, low-ceilinged room dominated by a ceramic stove, a bed, a chest, a stool, and a stiff-looking wooden settle with a high back. There was one other room, which had an open hearth fireplace with hooks and cranes for cooking, a woodbox, a table, two benches, and a cupboard. Each room had one small window with a thick pane of wavy glass. Apparently the glass windows were a luxury feature, for Toby pointed to them with a wan smile.
“Weel, noo, husband,” said Mary, with a humorously determined tone, “dinna stand there wi’ your face hanging oot. Fetch me some wood and find a tinderbox, or ye’ll never get your dinner.”

Prothero and Toby sat in another low-ceilinged room, this one more official than domestic; Prothero was briefing Toby on current affairs.
“And then,” said Prothero, “they burned this Dmitri, charged a cannon with his ashes, and fired them off towards Poland.”
Toby shook his head in amazement. “I wonder what happened to Captain Margeret. He stayed to serve Czar Dmitri.”
“All is coil and right chaos, look you, in Russia. But our General Gardie has recovered his force and has taken Korela, all but the fortress.”
“From the Russians, not the Polonians?” Toby looked puzzled.
“Aye, for there is Russians who wish to deny the agreement Czar Basil made. And there is yet another Dmitri claiming to be Ivan’s heir. He has raised many followers in a place near Moscow called Tushino.”
“And he too is Polish?” Toby seemed to be grasping for clarity.
“I know not. But I hear that most of his followers object to the Polish Ladislaw that is now supposed to be czar.”
Toby shook his head. “Do we then go to the general in Russia?”
Prothero shrugged. “Perhaps. But the council has been urging his majesty to bring our army home. They fear Denmark is about to go to war.”
“Denmark?”
“Aye,” said Prothero. “King Christian has long wanted to unite the kingdoms, and there have been disputes about lands in the north, privateers in the Baltic sea, and fishing rights.”
Toby’s looks grew troubled as well as puzzled. “I played before the King of Denmark, and his sister, our queen, rewarded me graciously for the dedication of my book. I would we should not fight the Danes.”
“Well, we’re as likely to fight Scotsmen and Englishmen as Danes. King Christian has hired as many of our countrymen as King Charles. My prophecy is that we stay here and train recruits to meet the Danes and whoever they send.”

A cold, wet, spring day in a camp surrounded by trenches and wooden stakes. Toby was seated by a fire watching two soldiers who were squeezing grayish lumps of something. They would now and then hold the lumps out over the fire. The soldiers chattered in Swedish while Toby sat silent, glancing at the sinking sun. One soldier held up his lump for the approval of the other. It had taken the shape of a stout man with a large belly. “Christian,” he said, and both laughed. The other soldier held up his figure and said “Rantzau.” I gathered that they were wax. Toby rose and spoke in German, saying that the sun was almost gone, and that they should go. The soldiers put the images in knapsacks, adjusted their swords, and took up their muskets. They followed Toby, who limped slightly, across two rows of trenches and along a path through dense woods. They walked quietly for some time. I sometimes heard ocean sounds coming from their left, and occasionally got a whiff of salt air.
After a long while, the path rose steeply and opened out on a view of a castle by the sea. Beyond the castle, the dark shape of an island lay a few miles off the coast. The castle was under siege. It was surrounded by trenches and earthworks; clusters of tents and huts were set up out of range of the castle, and soldiers milled about. Cannon fired from earthworks or from gabions of wickerwork filled with dirt. Toby squinted into the distance at three ships that were also firing at the castle. Toby pointed and spoke in German to one of the soldiers, saying something about mining the castle wall. The soldier grunted, then patted his bag and said something in Swedish. Toby followed them down a path until they reached a road. After some cautious reconnoitering from the woods, the soldiers stepped out into the road and hurriedly dug two shallow holes with their swords. They put the wax images in the holes, chanted some sort of rhymed incantation in Swedish, then covered them up. Toby looked on, frowning in the fading light.
Back at camp, Toby entered a tent, and was greeted by a young man who stood and doffed his hat.
“Sit you down, lieutenant,” said Toby, collapsing with a sigh. “No word from Nykoping?”
“No, sir. No reinforcements, no food, no pay. No ships either, I’ll take my oath on’t.” His English tanged of the north country, and he had a red complexion and a thin brown vandyke beard on his square jaw.
“We can do no more than harass the beseigers, then. Wax babies instead of bullets!” Toby snorted. “Would our army in Russia were here! But perhaps it is best that no fresh troops come and tempt us to attack, since they are sure to be worse trained than the poor clowns we have now.”
“And if they come without food, we could not feed them,” said the lieutenant.
“Well, maybe the Danes are as hungry as we.”
“The men ate a horse last night.”
Toby rubbed his eyes wearily, then looked up with a flicker of interst. “Is there any left?”

From the point overlooking the castle, Toby and a handful of soldiers watched the scene below. The day was clear and warm, and the trees were fully leafed out. Except for an occasional shout, all was quiet. The besiegers began to form a rough line along the road leading to the castle gate. After a moment, trumpets echoed across the valley, the gates swung open, and a column of soldiers marched out to trumpets, drums, and a flash of banners. They carried their pikes and muskets, and wisps of smoke trailed from their burning matches. There may have been two hundred men, including a half-dozen in carts pulled by their comrades.
Toby shook his head. “And so goes Kalmar.”
Waving his men to follow, Toby struck out through the woods and emerged on the road, where they met the first of the emerging troops. They were plodding along, drums and trumpets silent, banners drooping, muskets weighing heavily on their thin shoulders. There could not have been a man among them who weighed more than a hundred and twenty pounds. Toby greeted them, saying, “Long live King Charles!” in German. A few echoed him wearily, but some only groaned. He asked one man if they left any provisions behind.
The soldier smiled wryly and replied, in a Scots accent, “Only a few pocks of moldy corn. But we salted ’em wi’ ratsbane.”

Toby, Prothero, and a number of people in heavy black cloaks stood in a large hall. They turned and bowed as a tall, blond young man entered. He spoke to several of the guests, not only in Swedish, but in German and Latin. I could see his breath in the chill air. He stopped before Toby and Prothero. “Gentlemen,” he said in clear but accented English, “I go south within the hour. You will attend me.”
“Yes, your majesty.” Prothero bowed.
“No time for music now, Captain,” he said to Toby.
“No, your majesty.”
The young king Gustavus Adolphus smiled slightly under a wisp of moustache. He had turned seventeen only the month before, in December 1611, as I learned from one of my landlord’s history books. He spoke gravely to a dozen more important-looking men, then followed an aide out the door and stepped into a sleigh draped in black. Toby, Prothero, and several others mounted waiting horses and followed.

The air was filled with smoke, and flames broke the monotony of gray clouds and white snow. A pig squealed as a soldier dragged it out of a rickety shed and tied a rope around its body behind the forelegs; another soldier threw a burning stick into the shed. Toby sat on a horse frowning as other soldiers carried bags and bundles out of a small log house. A couple in lumpy brown clothes stood by a tree and watched without expression as a soldier touched the thatched roof with a torch. As the flames and steam spread over the thatch, the woman grasped her husband’s arm. Nearby other houses, sheds, and a barn were also burning. Toby nodded at a soldier who blew a call on his trumpet; the soldiers began to straggle into a column, and Toby led them down a snow-covered road.
At a crossroad they met a larger force, many members of which were also carrying bundles of loot and leading livestock, and they were soon joined by the king and his well-mounted guards. The snow muffled much of the noise of hooves and harness, and the talk of the men comparing their prizes was a low murmur punctuated by a laugh or exclamation. Suddenly shots cracked from the rear of the column, followed by shouts and a trumpet. Men began to press on the part of the column where Toby rode; the king and his party moved to the side of the way and stared back with concerned expressions. The king gave an order, and two of his officers tried to move to the rear against the rush of men, who now began to scatter to the sides of the road. One of the king’s officers stood in his stirrups and pointed toward the rear, shouting something about the Danish. Another grabbed the bridle of the king’s horse and led it off the road toward a low, flat space covered in snow. As the king spurred to a gallop, the officer released the bridle, and a dozen of the mounted guard followed. Toby hesitated a moment and followed the king.
The open space proved to be a frozen lake. The king crossed the lake and turned up a path made by one of the streams that fed it. Something gave an unearthly, deep groan, the king’s horse seemed to lose his legs, and in a moment the king, his horse, and two of his guards and their horses were struggling in black water among chunks of white ice. The rest of the guard pulled to a halt and moved to the treeline; two hurriedly dismounted and rushed to help the king. Toby reined in and looked back. A troop of horsemen, some waving swords and others large pistols, were bearing down on the milling Swedes, some of whom turned to face the attackers while others continued to scatter. A pig trailing a rope slipped and scrambled across the ice.
One of the guards lay on the unbroken ice, stretching his sword out toward the king. A horse had broken a canal through the ice, and had climbed the bank where he stood shivering. Toby looked back toward the skirmishing troops and saw a Danish horseman galloping toward him, sword drawn. He wheeled his horse to meet the attacker and drew the long pistol from his saddle holster, raised it, and pulled the trigger. The wheel-lock whirred, but nothing happened. Seconds away, the horseman lifted his sword as Toby hurled the pistol at his head. The heavy pistol struck the horseman on the bridge of the nose, knocking him backwards and sideways; his right foot caught in the stirrup, and his horse dragged him away, leaving his sword and helmet in the snow.
The guards’ horses had all gained the bank, and one of the guards who had fallen through the ice had managed to get enough of a foothold to help the king reach the other guard’s extended sword. More Swedish horsemen were heading toward the frozen lake, and some of the scattered Swedes had returned and were harassing the Danish flanks. Toby retrieved his pistol and guided his horse away from the cracked ice as the king and one of the guards gained the shore. The other guard who had gone through the ice was not to be seen. When he reached the king and his party, Toby dismounted and whipped off his cloak; but one of the guards got his cloak over the king before Toby could reach him. Toby arrived just in time to hear the king thank the officer who held the sword, one Per Baner.

“Per Baner,” Prothero said to Toby, “is the son of Gustav Baner, whom the king’s father had executed at Linkoping for being loyal to King Sigismund. So old debts were forgotten, or new debts made.” They sat in Toby’s kitchen, smoking clay pipes after a meal. Mary, looking about five months pregnant, washed dishes in a tub by the fire. She patiently fanned away the smoke when it drifted by her. The men’s boots were muddy, and both looked tired.
“Tis hard to uphold a father’s acts, and tis hard not to,” said Toby.
“Aye.” They puffed a moment. “King Christian also came near to capture,” Prothero said. “As we were coming from Varberg, Christian and his army caught up with us at Kolleryd. But they were tired from the chase, and we outnumbered them. Twas not long before we had them on the run. I was close enough to see Christian’s belly bounce as he fled.”
Toby’s eyelids drooped. Prothero rose.
“Mistress Mary, I thank you for your hospitality, and that savory pottage. I must take my leave.”
Mary smiled and allowed Prothero to kiss her hand. Toby struggled to his feet.
“I was wrong in my last prophecy,” Prothero said. “But I think that we will fight no more until the weather breaks. And if our drill goes well in the meantime, the general may come to see that you are more useful teaching recruits than chasing Danes in the wood.”
“I’ll serve as his majesty pleases; but I confess that I would be loath to leave Mary as her time draws near.”
“I cannot blame you. And so goodnight.”
Toby and Mary saw Prothero to the door, and Toby fell into the settle with a sigh. “I grow old, lass.”
“Nay, y’are but weary.” Mary knelt and began pulling off his boots.
“I would we had a ploughgate in Lincolnshire, and peace to raise our babe.”
“We’ll rub along.” She chafed his feet.
“The king talks of giving his officers land since he cannot give us the money he promised. Could you abide a farm in Sweden?”
Mary sat back on her heels and looked thoughtful. “Tis colder than Scotland, but some of the land is fat and rich. If the Swedes can farm it, we can.” She looked up at Toby and smiled. “Come to bed and rest ye noo.”

A montage: Toby drilling young Swedes with pike and musket, some of whom imitate Toby’s limp, snickering; Mary sweating in her childbed and delivering a baby boy; Toby playing his viol softly by the cradle; Prothero telling of the siege and capture of Alvsborg and Goteborg by the Danes; Mary and Toby weeping at a small grave; Mary and Toby silently eating porridge at their kitchen table; Toby guiding a plow behind a small, sturdy, long-haired horse; a pregnant Mary bringing him food; Toby smiling at Mary nursing a baby with a wisp of red hair. These scenes were almost as brief as my descriptions. With some notable exceptions, larger gaps seemed to appear between events in Toby’s life in the visions I had around this time.

Toby walked toward his house reading a letter, stepping over the muddy boards with easy familiarity. He looked up sadly and wiped away a tear. The moment he entered the house, Mary asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Och, my love, my son is dead.”
“So he is,” said Mary sadly, “God give his wee soul rest. But that is no news, love, and we have a lusty babe now.”
“I mean my son in England, that was apprenticed to the printer.” He sat heavily and showed her the letter. “Master Thorpe writes that he ran away soon after we left England. He had not heard of him since, until he was taken up for theft and hanged. The letter is three months old.”
“Poor lad,” said Mary. “I mean you, not him. He had his chance and threw it away.”
“Ah, Mary, be not hard on him. If I had been present at his raising, he would not have fallen into bad company. And if I had been there to see him through his prenticeship–oh, Mary, I pray that our wee daughter be spared.”
“Amen,” said Mary, kneeling and embracing him. “But you must not flog yourself. You did all that you could. And many a man has gone bad despite his well raising.”
“It may be so. But I must grieve.”

Toby, looking glum, stood in a gathering of well-dressed people in a large room with a stone floor and impressive tapestries on the walls. A man of about thirty seemed to be the host; between the fragments of conversation I could understand and the history books I consulted, I concluded that he was Axel Oxenstierna, the king’s chancellor and right-hand man. The historians give him high marks for competence; intelligence did seem to be evident in his eyes, which alternated between quick glances that seemed to take in the shifting makeup of the conversing groups, and intense focus on whoever was speaking to him. Toby followed in his wake at some distance, desultorily sampling the talk of the groups he passed.
He lingered by a knot of men listening to the energetic voice of a young Scotsman with curly brown hair, pink cheeks, and icy blue eyes. With great earnestness, he was addressing an older man, a Swede to judge by his accent, who listened with stern skepticism.
“Och, it might be worrse. You might have Christian ruling both kingdoms, and a Dane wi’ his finger in every pie.”
“The Danes have Jamtland, Alvsborg, Goteborg, Gamla-Lodose, Nya-Lodose, and part of Vastergotland,” said the Swede bitterly.
“What could you do? Your navy was corrupt and cowardly. Smaland and Halland are destroyed, devastated, kaput. Ha’ ye been there to see? There’s scarce a house unburnt, nae a pig nor cow alive. And wi’ an army in Russia, how could you fight on here?”
“How can we pay the ransom for Alvsborg? Ten tunnor of gold?”
“Ask the Dutch,” said the Scotsman, as if the answer were obvious. “Christian has so incensed the Dutch, they might be well disposed to you. And think of this; my master, King James, by recognizing your king, casts a shadow on King Sigismund’s claim to your throne. I ken ye’ve lost much; but ye havena lost all.”
The Swede shook his head and moved on. Toby stepped forward. “Captain Spens, are you not?”
“Aye, James Spens.”
“I am Tobias Hume, captain in his majesty’s service.”
“Ah, Captain Hobble.” He smiled mischievously.
Toby leaned forward, frowning. “Cry you mercy, sir. What did you say?”
“No offence, good Captain. Tis what I have heard some of the lads call you.”
“I was wounded in the service of his late majesty King Charles.”
“No doubt bravely.” Spens looked away, seeming bored.
“Twas in the seige of Parno.”
“Parnu?”
“Aye.” Toby moved with Spens, who seemed about to walk away. He cleared his throat. “I wanted to say that you spoke well, but that tis a hard time for the Swedes now. We–they–have lost many good men and feel the loss sensibly. This peace had to come, but many Swedes think of it as a man does who has just bought a horse–he thinks he could have found a better.”
Spens answered with a note of condescension that Toby and I both noticed. “I welcome advice from a good old soldier like yoursel’. But pray pardon me. Here comes the king.”
Gustavus had entered, making a swirl in the gathering as he moved through the room, greeting various men. As Spens moved in his path and bowed, the king beckoned him. “Captain Spens! A word with you.” They moved off together, the king’s hand on Spens’s shoulder, his ear cocked to Spens’s words. Toby stood grimly still as the crowd moved by.

Toby, at home, dandled his small red-haired daughter and spoke with some asperity to Mary. “I met the famous Captain Spens today, but he had little time for the likes of me.”
“The favor of the king must weaken the humility of a saint.”
“I smelt more the odor of pride than sanctity.” He paused and kissed his gurgling daughter. “Ah, Mary, I do not get on here.”
Mary looked up from her sewing with some impatience. “Captain Spens has the favor of King James as well as King Gustavus. You are an experienced officer and ken your trade; you ha’ respect.”
“Respect? Nay. The men ca’ me Captain Hobble.”
“Wheesht! Show me three young men and I’ll show ye twa fools.”
“I must make a better show.”
The door-latch rattled, and Toby rose to admit the young English lieutenant. His squarish face was ruddy with cold and agitation.
“Your pardon for calling so late, Captain. Mistress Mary, Miss Elizabeth.”
“You are always welcome, Daniel,” said Toby. Little Elizabeth crowed and reached for the young man, who took her and swung her gently. “You have news?”
“Sad news, I fear. The word from Russia is that Colonel Prothero is dead. There has been much sickness at Piskov, and the colonel fell among many others.”
“We have lost a friend, Daniel.” Toby looked down in sorrow, and Mary rose and put her arm around his shoulder. “May God have mercy and give him good rest.”
“Amen,” said the lieutenant. “And there is more news. Our company is commanded to go to Russia. Here is the commission.” He handed Toby a paper. Mary gasped and took back her daughter, as if the lieutenant were infectious. Toby took the paper and read it gravely.
“Tis not all the company,” said Toby without looking up. “You and I and a small troop are to escort emissaries to Novgorod to help negotiate a peace.”
Mary looked somewhat relieved. “And when come ye back?”
“I know not. We stay with the emissaries at the king’s pleasure.” Toby put down the paper and looked at his family. The corners of his eyes drooped, not with innocence, but with weary melancholy. “I could do more good at Piskov, but this will be safer. I must find someone to harvest our crop.”

Toby and Daniel, the lieutenant, wrapped in fur-lined cloaks inside a tent, were trying to carve a piece of meat. “For the life of me,” Toby said, “I cannot fathom why we left Novgorod for this Diderina.”
“What I cannot fathom,” Daniel said, “is how they can talk so long and yet nothing done.” He struggled with his knife. “Look you here, sir. This joint is burnt on the outside and frozen on the inside.”
“At least it is horse. I heard that the Russians ate one of the men that died yesterday.”
“The horses, poor beasts, are eating their manes and tails.”
“Twas all Sir John Merrick could do to get them to meet in his house and not in a tent,” said Toby grimly, looking at the tent walls around him and shivering. “He pled his rheumatism; others of us have it too, but we get no house.”
Daniel sliced some of the burnt surface of the meat. “Where do Sir John’s loyalties lie, captain?”
“He wants the Muscovites’ trade. Twas he that kept the king from pressing the seige of Piskov until we were too weak to accomplish it.”
At that moment shouts and cheers broke out in the camp. Toby and Daniel emerged from the tent and asked a soldier what was the matter. He answered, in Scots, that the negotiators had agreed to a three-month truce, and that they could go home in a few days. Toby and Daniel smiled and beat each other on the back. One of the shaggy horses nearby neighed. Daniel reached out to rub his nose.
“Art eager to ride home, laddie?” he asked the horse. The horse, in answer, nuzzled his chest, then raised his head and champed. Daniel turned in surprise to Toby. “He ate the button from my coat!”
This was in February of 1616.

Toby sat in his kitchen, eating hungrily. Little Elizabeth clung to Mary’s skirt, looking shyly at her father, and getting in the way of her mother as she refilled his bowl. At last Toby leaned back with a sigh.
“Thank you, lass. Tis good to be home.” He smiled at Elizabeth, who ducked behind Mary. “Where’s my wee mousie? Don’t remember your poor father?”
“I’ve tried to keep you in her mind,” said Mary, “but she’s too sma’ to ken.”
“I know,” said Toby. He rose and drew his viol from a corner. It was out of tune, but all the strings were intact. He tuned and then began to play. Elizabeth peeped out. He played a tune I recognized as a version of “Three Blind Mice,” and when the melody repeated, he began singing in canon to his viol. Mary joined the round, and they sang and played until Elizabeth started to dance. When Toby stopped, Elizabeth ran to him and let him scoop her up and hold her tightly for a long time.
Toby looked up at Mary. “James Spens wishes me ill.”

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Time’s Bending Sickle

June 19, 2011

The beginning of this novel may be found in the archives under
October 2010; scroll down to find the first chapter.

33. Woo’d of Time

I found a garage apartment not too far from Clio’s place. It was small and sparsely furnished, but the street was quiet, the air conditioner worked, and I had use of the family’s washer and dryer. My landlords were a sixty-year-old professor of history at Hopkins and his wife, an industrious gardener. He had written a book about the “Defenstration of Prague,” an incident in 1618 in which two Catholic governors were thrown from a window by angry Protestants; this was supposed to have set off the Thirty Years’ War. The couple’s children had grown and scattered, and they seemed to lead a life of quiet contentment. It encouraged me to see that such a life was possible. They were friendly but not intrusive; the prof was amused and pleased that I was what he called “an independent scholar,” and offered me the use of his extensive library if I needed anything. I took him up on the offer several times, since it was a convenient source of historical and general reference books. Since he didn’t have much in the way of books on music, I had to count on Doreen for loans and references. Doreen had taken me on as a cross between a colleague and an informal grad student, helping me get passes to various libraries, reading my drafts, and giving me good advice.
I lived very cheaply, buying almost nothing but food, paper, xeroxes, and an occasional book. I committed one indulgence: I found a stereo at a garage sale and bought it after the owner demonstrated that it worked. He was trading up to a fancier system, and let me have it at a bargain. I was then able to play the records I had salvaged from what I had come to think of as the defenestration of Dallas. I had my little office radio and cassette player, but of course it wouldn’t play LPs. One of the first records I played happened to be one of Joan Baez singing old ballads, one of which was “Jackaroe,” about a girl who disguised herself as a man in order to follow her soldier sweetheart overseas. It didn’t trigger a vision, but there did seem to be a connection to the next one I had.

Toby sat in his room at Edgcoke’s, glumly counting coins out on the table. There were not many. He sighed heavily, knotted the coins in a rag and put them in a hole in the floor, carefully fitting a board in place and covering the spot with his chest. He then picked up a letter that he seemed to have read many times before.

Captain Toby,
Your last letters arrived safely, and his Majestie and his council found your newes of interest. But I doubt me that such newes will advance your Fortunes as muche as your presence. Things is in much uncertaintie here. His Majestie has made much recovery from his apoplexy, now a Year since, but he is still not whole. General de la Gardie is out of favour with some here after his losse of soe many men in the battle with the Polonians at Klusino. Young Prince Gustavus is doing man’s work though yet a boy, and the Queene is strong, yet all feare the Polonians and some feare the Danes. There may be Wars toward which could be the making of us both. I sorely misse your good help as well as your good companie. If his Majesty’s army is to avoid another drubbing like that at Kirchholm or at Klusino, they must submit to the Dutch drill. The General, who served with Prince Maurice, has tried, but with indifferent success. The young Prince, wise above his yeares, understandes the Dutch method and will support our efforts. The enclosed letters will ease your passage. Conclude your busines soon, an let me see your Face before I see your Hand.
Your well-wishing friend,
Dai Prothero, Colonel
Postscriptum. You may not have heard that our frende Henry Francklin died this May last.
From Stockholm, this last of September, 1610

Heaving another sigh, Toby tossed the letter on the table, picked up his viol and hat, and left the room. Soon he was seated in a richly-furnished room giving a music lesson to a boy of eleven or twelve. He seemed preoccupied, but paid enough attention to the boy’s playing to correct him and supply a fingering. A well-dressed man of about forty interrupted, and Toby immediately stood.
“Enough for now, Harry,” he said to the boy. “Go turn to your book while I have a word with Master Toby here.” The boy left, and the man frowned at Toby. “Sir Andrew Monmouth has told me a tale, Master Toby, and you are not the hero of it.”
Toby inclined his head. “My lord, ” he said, “many men, many tales. I shall tell you the truth of the matter if you wish, though it is no more to Sir Andrew’s honor than to mine.”
“Master Toby, regardless of the truth, my ties to Sir Andrew are of that nature that compels me to please him. I regret that I may no longer continue you in my service, even though I have been content with your teaching of Harry. He will miss you.”
“I regret that I may no longer serve you and your son. Thank you for your past kindnesses.” Toby bowed with some dignity, accepted his last fee, packed his viol, and limped out.
At a familar tavern, Toby plopped down at a public table and called for ale. The drawer brought him a mug.
“There’s a gentleman in the Rose was asking for music, Captain,” said the drawer, wiping a hand on his spotted apron. “Shall I tell him you will play?”
“Let him wait,” said Toby sullenly.
The drawer stood, hesitating. “Tis a handsome young gentleman, says he knows you.”
Toby looked up with a glimmer of curiosity. As he was rising, a footman entered, looked around, and then approached Toby.
“Captain Hume?” Toby nodded. “Please be so good as to step to the coach outside, sir. My mistresses wish to speak to you.”
Toby frowned in puzzlement and hesitated. “Ask the gentleman to wait,” he said to the drawer. To the footman, he said, “Lead on.”
Outside, the footman opened the door to the coach and waved Toby in. He climbed in and sat across from two veiled ladies. They lifted their veils for a moment and Toby recognized Jane and Audrey. He opened his mouth and breathed in sharply, but Audrey touched his arm. “Let her speak, Toby.” She added, “Master Edgcoke told us we might find you here.”
Jane’s voice was low and uncertain. “First I must apologize for my father and his servants. They did you wrong–is it now five years? I am glad you got no greater hurt. And now I learn that my husband has spoken against you. I–“
“I cannot entirely blame them, my lady,” said Toby.
“But you must not be deprived of means to live.” She brought out a purse. “Please take this as a small recompense. And I shall try to recommend you as a teacher among my acquaintance.”
“I want none of your money, my lady.” There was some anger in Toby’s tone.
“Tis not mine; tis his.”
Toby looked at Audrey. “Take it,” she said. Jane stuffed the purse into the wide cuff of Toby’s coat-sleeve.
“And Toby,” Jane went on, “I want you to meet my ” –she hesitated and glanced at Audrey–“our son.” Toby looked down. “You must meet us as we ride. You will be a famous soldier, a man he must remember. Until he can be told.”
Toby looked at Audrey. “So it goes no further,” she said. “I am uneasy, but the boy should have some idea of his father.”
“On Wednesday, at one o’clock, we ride in Moorfields, near the gate,” said Jane.
Toby looked grave. “I shall try to please you, my ladies. Now I must go.” He opened the door and stepped out. The footman closed it, signalled to the driver, and the coach creaked and rolled off. Toby watched it a moment, then hefted the small purse and returned to the tavern.
On his way to the room called the Rose, a slight young man met him, smiling and holding out a book.
“Will!”
“Your blessing, Father?”
“With all my heart,” said Toby, laying his hands on Will’s head. “What have you here?”
“I have been meaning to bring you this for some months. Tis my premium.” He smirked and handed Toby a small book.
Toby took it with a mixture of pleasure and chagrin. “Ah, poor Master Shakespeare! I’ll not have the heart to meet him now. But does your work go well?”
“Aye, well enough. I’m now right quick at setting type, and Mistress Thorpe feeds me well.” He gave a restless glance toward the door. “I must confess that the work often sets me a-yawning even though I have slept my fill. But I am diligent. I provide for my future.” He glanced aside and smiled, slyly, I thought. “And how are you, Father?”
“Ah, lad, I am vexed. I yet have no letters from Mary McNab, and no way of knowing if she has received mine–or even if she is alive. I have just lost my pupil as well. My money from the book is almost gone. But–” he looked earnestly at Will–“do you lack money, lad?” He squeezed Jane’s purse. “I can always find some for my son.”
“The odd shilling is always welcome, Dad.”
“Here,” said Toby, handing over two coins. “Will, if I should have to go abroad again, can you keep honest and safe from harm?”
“I did for some years before you found me.”
“But that life was not honest, Will; you dared the hangman.”
“I shall be well enough. But are you not too old to go a-soldiering?”
“True.” He smiled ruefully. I realized that Toby must be around forty by this time, though he seemed fit enough and still had a touch of youth in his manner. “If I should go, I should be training others, not fighting myself.”
Will glanced at the door again. “I must be off now, Father. Let me know if you resolve to go.”
Toby grasped his hand. “Farewell, my boy, and thank you for the book.” He watched as Will slipped out the door. He then turned to the Rose.
As he entered, a beardless youth wearing wide breeches, an old peascod doublet, a high ruff, and shoulder-length auburn hair stood to greet him. Toby stared. The youth blushed and looked down. “I didna ken if I should come. But I couldna stop.” The voice was a complex mezzo.
“Mary?”
“I got one of your letters, so I knew your lodging. Did you not get my letters?”
Toby did not answer, but strode across the room and embraced her tightly. “Oh, Mary, Mary, praise God,” he murmured.
She tentatively returned his embrace. “So you do want me here? I–I can go to my kin in Scotland. My father died, rest his soul, and I knew not if you–“
“Oh, yes, I want you here, above all things. I was about to go in search of you.”
“You were? Do you–” she stopped and ducked her head–“do you still wish to wed?”
“Oh, aye! This day! I had hoped to get a good place and give you a proper home, but if you will share my poor fortunes, I am yours if you will have me.” They returned to an intense embrace, fervent on both their parts. Eventually they sat.
“I am sorry for your father,” said Toby, kneading her hand. “He was a good man.”
“Aye, he made a good end.”
“There is much to say and ask. But have you a gown? I meant true when I said we should wed today.”
“Aye, tis in my bag. Shall I shift now?”
“Yes. I want a wife, not a minion. We must get a licence, since we cannot await the banns. My vicar will help us.”
Mary stood, but made no move to undress. She smiled at Toby’s blank look. “Out with ye, you rogue; we’re not wed yet.”
“Cry you mercy,” said Toby and stepped outside the room. He looked around the public room of the tavern, and called to the boy who washed the cups.
“John,” said Toby, “There’s a sixpence for you if you can carry a message rightly.”
“Try me, sir,” said the boy.
“Go to Master Thorpe, the bookseller, and tell him to bring Will Hume and Mistress Thorpe to St. Michael’s in Huggen Lane in two hours to see me wed. Then go to Master Edgcoke’s with the same message.”
The boy registered mild surprise, but ducked his knee and took off. Toby then spotted John Lowin and Will Sly at a table in the corner. He stepped over, beaming, and invited them both to the wedding. They responded with good-natured banter.

Mary, in a plain gray gown and white cap, stood with Toby before a young clergyman in the transept of the church, surrounded by the Thorpes, Lowin, Sly, a wide-eyed Edgcoke, and a few others I didn’t recognize. Will Hume was not present. The familiar prayerbook service was read, the couple pronounced married, and the group processed merrily to the tavern, where Toby and Mary were treated to toasts and some very crude but well-taken remarks.
Later, they snuggled in Toby’s narrow bed at Edgcoke’s. Their appetite for passion had apparently been satisfied, for they were talking with quiet animation. Mary spoke of her father. “He had tried to provide for me, but his noble friends had weakened, and a rich gallant who wanted me for his mistress had me turned out of our house when I refused him. I had enough money for my disguise and my passage, and a little more besides.”
“Brave wench! Did everyone take you for a man?”
“As far as I could tell, though an officer on the ship would have had me unnaturally as a man.”
“Did he offer to force you?” Toby frowned with protective anger.
“He might have, but I dealt shrewdly with him.” Mary smiled. “I feigned agreement and promised to meet him later, and offered him a pledge in wine. I had provided myself with some of my father’s simples and medicines and gave him a draught that made him sleep; and if he had waked, he would have been incapable.”
Toby chuckled. “I must be wary of what I drink.”
“Nay, lad. I like you awake and capable.” They giggled and wrestled a moment. Then they lay silent.
“What shall we do noo?” asked Mary softly.
After a moment, Toby spoke. “Will you go wi’ me to Sweden?”
“I’ll go wi’ you anywhere.”
As far as I could tell, Toby did not meet Jane and their son.

I was scoring an anonymous In nomine from xeroxes of manuscript parts when Jean called. She sounded very tentative, and spoke softly. After a few awkward but polite exchanges, there was a moment of silence. Then Jean said, “I’m sorry about your cello.”
“Me too.” I didn’t mention the wonderful cello I could play frequently, though not enough.
“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry about a lot of things–about the way it all happened. Is–is your leg OK now?”
“It’s fine.”
“I want to make up for the cello. I–“
“Don’t bother. It wasn’t worth much, and I’ve got more of your money than I wanted.”
“No, please listen. I’ve sent you something–not money. Try it and think about it before you turn it down.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll think about it.” She was silent. “So what are you doing?” I asked. “How’s Howell?”
“I’ve got to go. Take care. And keep what I sent you.” She hung up.
The next day a goddamn armored truck pulled into the driveway. My landlady, kneeling among her foxgloves, dropped her trowel and sat back on her heels. The uniformed driver, pistol on hip, took out a cello in a shipping case, which he handed to me after I showed my driver’s licence and signed several forms. I waved to my landlady and took the cello into my apartment. I opened the case and found a deep reddish-brown cello, obviously old, probably Italian. I looked inside at the label. Guadagnini. Whew. We’re talking high six figures here.
I closed the case. I didn’t tempt myself by playing it. But I thought about it. The case sat in the corner by the door that night, and I stared at it while I pondered. A peace offering, sure. But how far did Jean mean it to go? A Guadagnini seemed like overkill. How far did I want it to go? Hearing her voice, speaking softly and without the edge it had had during the last months of our marriage, stirred feelings in me that I had thought were gone. I had been focused on Clio so much lately that I hadn’t reflected that that relationship seemed to be stuck at the warm and friendly level. I had hopes for its development, but now the grounds for that hope seemed elusive. What was going on with Jean?
I was inspired to call Callie Warren; miraculously, she was home. “Tony, old hoss! How’s the leg?”
“Fine. I just got an odd call from Jean. What’s going on with her?”
“Funny you should ask. I got a call just the other day. Hadn’t heard from her in ages. She was more like the old Jean. Very friendly, wanted to catch up, mend fences. We talked a long time. I guess the most significant news from her is that Howell dumped her, the sumbitch.”
“Really. What happened?”
“I couldn’t get details, though Lord knows I tried. I know she feels bad about you, and needs some sort of absolution.”
“She sent me a cello. A really good one,” I added.
“Well, that’s a start.”
“What about her obsession with her father and the–the abuse thing?”
“That still seems to be going on,” said Callie, “but maybe less intensely. She’s changed therapists.”
“That’s good. I hope.”
“But she’s now into crystals,” sighed Callie.
We talked a while longer, but we both ended with many questions unanswered.
I woke up the next morning and stared at the clunky, squared-off shipping case. As I was having a second cup of coffee, Jean called.
“Did I wake you up?” she asked anxiously.
“No. I’ve been up, thinking about your present.”
“O, good–it got there. Do you like it?”
“It’s a beautiful instrument. A professional should have it.”
Jean said hurriedly, “I want you to keep it.”
“I don’t know that I can. You don’t owe me anything, and–“
Jean interrupted. “Tony. Please. Listen–this is hard.” She hesitated, and I kept quiet. “Do you–do you think we still have anything?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think we have a chance for–should we try again–could we get together again?” Before I could say anything, she went on, nervously. “Don’t answer that. Think about it. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. We had some good times, didn’t we? Don’t talk. I’ll call you later. Bye.” She hung up.
Well, there it was. I remembered Jean’s eyes, the feel of her body, her quick wit. Her smell. Her voice echoed in my ear and in my feelings. I felt her anxiety, her fear of what I might say. I could imagine her pain, getting dumped by Howell after investing in, or rather gambling on him. I recalled for the thousandth time the day of the break, and under the remembered anger and pain, I felt a little guilt: I had, after all, abandoned Jean when she was not well. Then I thought about Clio, her touch on my hand or shoulder, the quick kisses, her smile, her voice. There was promise in that voice. I remembered Jean’s moods, her rage.
I got up, poured out my cold coffee, and stared out the window. My landlady was back on her knees in the garden, separating her foxgloves. The prof came out the back door; they exchanged some words about the flowers. She smiled. He bent down and kissed her on the lips. Smiling, he got into his car and backed out the drive. Smiling, she returned to her flowers.
I thought about Tobias Hume and Mary McNab. The yellow copy of the shipping papers lay on my desk. I called the armored delivery service and told them to come pick up the cello. Return to sender.

Time’s Bending Sickle

June 12, 2011

The first chapter of this novel can be found in the archives under October 2010; scroll down to chapter 1. Two other novels are in the archives: “Four-Part Dissonance” begins October 2009, and “Death and the Maiden” begins March 2010.

32. Eternal Lines to Time

As I scored old partbooks, I had moments for idle speculation about my peculiar relationship to time. Here in my own time, I worked with artifacts from the past, trying to make them more intelligible to my contemporaries. But I wondered if I were not distorting them in some way. Would modern singers reading from a score perform the songs differently from sixteenth-century singers reading from partbooks? My other experience of time through mental movies tells me that yes, they sound different: singing styles were different in Toby’s time, the pitch was lower, and there were other subtle differences. But I cannot tape what I hear in my head, and my head may be just as distorting a medium as the written notation. And I also wonder if my observing Toby and his music changes it, as the observing of a subatomic particle changes its position. Am I really seeing the past, or just reassembling it?

Toby stood in the printer’s shop talking to a burly middle-aged man in a leather apron. Two younger men and a boy were working one of the presses, the thump of the inking pads and the creak of the screw press punctuating the conversation. The room smelt of damp paper and acrid ink. Printed sheets hung drying like laundry from cords stretched across the ceiling. Toby leafed through a bundle of paper.
“Now, Master Windet, this will be two books in one. The first book will be dedicated to the queen, thus.” He showed the printer a page. “But in the second book, I must have this page left blank, except for one copy which must bear this dedication to my lord of Arundel, and one which has this to the lords and Sir Christopher Hatton.”
The printer looked at the pages and frowned. “Only one copy of these?”
Toby hesitated. “Well, maybe a dozen of the latter, and two or three with the dedication to the earl. I must have a good clean copy for presentation.”
The printer looked over the papers and nodded. He didn’t seem especially excited about the project. “Very well, Captain. Now do you have the sum we agreed upon?”
Toby pulled out his purse. “Aye. Twas hard won, but I doubt not to recover it from the dedications.” He counted out several coins.
“I pray so, Captain, for both our sakes. I still have copies of your first book about, and they are little called for.”
“Fear not, Master Windet, the new book will make people call for the old. Keep them from the pieman yet a little longer. And how can I miss with this book? The good queen will surely reward me, as well as the earl and Sir Christopher. And look.” Here he shuffled the papers, pointing. “Every song has its own dedication, surely worth some token from these worthy ladies and gentlemen. See here, ‘The Lady of Suffolk’s Delight,’ and here, ‘The Duke of Lenox’s Delight,’ ‘The Earl of Southampton’s Favorite.'” He looked up at the printer with a shrewd glance. “And you see, each piece may be played several ways, so that a gentleman may play alone, or with company. You may be assured that when I play these musics in the inn, I shall inform the gentlemen auditors that copies may be had at your house at the sign of the Cross Keys at Paul’s Wharf.”
Windet nodded. “Very well, Captain. We shall have the first forme set by day after tomorrow; you may correct any errors then. As before, I suggest you be present when we begin printing, so that such faults as escape infect only a few sheets.”
“I shall not fail you, sir. I have too much at stake.” Toby smiled slightly, with an anxious wrinkle in his brow. “I may tempt Fortune by telling my hopes, Master Windet, but if the queen should smile on my efforts, I may find a place in the royal music.”
“I heartily wish you well, Captain,” said Windet, without quite hiding his skepticism.

One of my earliest visions was of Toby giving his presentation copy, with its hand-written plea, to a courtier-kinsman to deliver to Queen Anne. Apparently, since his meetings with Bachelar, he had gotten access to another of his Scottish relatives, though not, as it seems, Sir George Hume. That vision left Toby pacing in the kinsman’s anteroom. A later vision found Toby limping away in the dark, looking depressed.
He walked some distance until he came to a tavern with a sign depicting a mermaid. Several men greeted Toby when he entered. Toby abstractedly returned the greetings, and found a solitary bench by the fire. I heard one young man in an expensive-looking doublet and lace collar ask an older companion, “Captain Bobadilla?” The other nodded, and both smirked. If Toby heard, he gave no sign. He ordered a cup of ale, then stared into the fire. Talk buzzed around him.
“Captain,” said the older man, a compact gentleman wearing spectacles and an unfashionably full gray beard, “I see you have your instrument. Will you favor us with some music?”
Toby looked up as if awaking. “Sir?”
“Some music, good Captain.”
“I pray you pardon me. My spirits are out of tune tonight.” Toby turned away and fished a short clay pipe and small bag from a pocket. He loaded the pipe and lit it with a coal from the fire. He puffed thoughtfully for a while, spitting once or twice into the embers.
He didn’t look up when the door opened and a boy of fifteen or so entered. But when the boy called out, “Captain Tobias Hume!” Toby jumped up.
“Word from the queen?” Toby asked loudly. The boy looked puzzled, and the younger and older men looked at each other and smiled. A jowly, red-nosed man at another table stared at Toby in surprise, then gave a snort and turned to his ale.
“Be you Captain Hume, sir?” the boy asked Toby.
“Aye, lad. You have a message?”
“Yes, sir, but not from the queen. My lord your kinsman bade me give you this.” He handed Toby a paper. Toby took it and gave the boy a small coin–not much to judge from the boy’s expression. Toby sat on his bench and read:

Good Captain Toby,
The Queene has asked me to convey her thankes for the gift of your Book. She says she has no leisure now to hear your Musick, but that she will send a proper reward for the dedication. I dared mention your deserts and skill, hinting at your suitablilitie for a place in the Royal musick, but she put me by. I fear me that suche places come by succession and not Merit, for the royal musick has been filled by Bassanos and Lupos time out of mind. I would doe more, but I would not feed you false hopes.
Your well-wishing Cousin.

Toby stared at this note for a while, his eyebrows taking on an even more melancholy droop than usual. With a kind of reflex jerk, he tossed the paper into the fire.

A montage. Toby stood at the gate of a large house, holding another flat package. A servant asked his business, told him to wait, and took the package. After a while, he returned with a coin. In a similar scene, he waited, but the servant never returned. Again, at another house, the servant refused the package, and waved Toby away. Once, Toby was invited into a house, received by a dignified man in a furred gown, who seemed pleased with the book, who listened as Toby played, and who presented him with a small purse.

Toby entered the tavern with his viol. The jowly man with the red nose looked up and grinned. “Captain! What word from the queen?” The man and the rest of the company laughed loudly.
Toby gave a tired smile and unpacked his viol. “Gentlemen,” he began, “an the music I play likes you, tis all in two printed books to be had at Master Windet’s at the sign of the Cross Keys”–by now the red-nosed man and others were reciting along with Toby–“at Paul’s Wharf.”
Toby resignedly began playing. A few listened, others resumed their conversations. A noisy group of men entered, laughing and talking. I recognized Ben Jonson and Will Sly. Both men had put on weight: Sly was noticeably thicker in the jaws and neck, which were covered by a few days’ stubble, but no beard. He was modestly but respectably turned out in a black doublet with dark purple sleeve slashes and a flat white linen collar. Jonson was heavier around the middle, and wore a full but short beard. Toby stopped playing and looked up with an expression of annoyance, which changed to pleasure mixed with something else when he recognized his old acquaintances. He rose and extended his hand toward Sly.
Sly and Jonson had seen him by then, and greeted him heartily. “Well met, Toby! You remember Ben?”
“Of course.” Toby’s smile faded, and he spoke with some asperity. “How could I forget the maker of Captain Bobadilla? Keep you your sword in its scabbard these days, Master Ben?”
“Good Captain,” said Jonson, “twas but a jest. Take it in good part.”
“I took it well enough myself, but there are others who will not let it rest, and it grows stale.”
Sly stepped between them, embracing a shoulder of each man. “Men of wit and good will should be friends, and I would we were all friends here. What say you?”
“I say,” said Jonson with dignity, “that I beg the good captain’s pardon if my personage has caused him to suffer any discomfort.”
“Handsomely said, Ben,” said Sly. “Now, Toby?”
“If Master Ben will defend this real captain as well as he does his feigned one, I have no quarrel.”
“Agreed.” Sly brought their hands together. “Now, gentles,” he said brightly, “let us be merry. Let me make you acquainted with John Lowin, Toby.” Toby shook hands with another stocky man wearing a small goatee and moustache. “We shall sit a while and let you make some music for now, but soon we expect to be joined by another I think you wished to meet.”
“Who is that?” asked Toby.
“Why, Will Shakespeare.”
Toby raised his eyebrows. “Indeed, I admire that man’s wit exceedingly, and would be pleased to be known to him.” He turned to Jonson. “And I must say, Master Ben, that I thought your play of the fox to be most excellent. And Master Alfonso’s songs were most pleasing.”
“Thank you. I shall tell Alfonso you approve.”
The men took their seats, ordered drinks, and Toby took up his viol and resumed playing, closing his eyes. At that moment a woman in a low-cut dress entered, saw Toby, and stopped. She was not old, but her heavy, cracking makeup made her seem frayed around the edges. She lacked two front teeth, an upper and a lower. She moved toward Toby, standing at his side while he finished playing. The red-nosed man nudged another at his table and jerked his head in their direction.
“Captain! The quean is here for a word. Mind your courtesy.” The company laughed, and Toby looked around, startled.
“Moll?”
“Aye, Toby. Come away from these hobbyhorses. I’ll buy us a pint of wine, for I do mean to have a word with you.”
“Thank you, Moll, but a gentleman is coming whom I have longed to meet.”
“My news will not wait, nor when you know it, will you want it to have done.” To the drawer she said, “A pint of wine in the Crown.”
She pulled Toby by the sleeve, and as she led him to the private room, the red-nosed wag called out, “Captain! Were you of foot or horse?” He got another laugh. “Mind your spurs!”
“Well, Moll,” said Toby, sitting on a stool across from the woman and looking her over, “it appears you pursue your old trade.”
“Tell me another trade for a poor wench once fallen, Toby, for I would fain find such a one. It appears you pursue yours as well.”
“God help me, I do, though I hope I am cured of thievery.” Toby caught himself and shook his head. “I meant no offence to you, good Moll. You were ever my friend.”
“And mean to be so still. For I have news I thought I would never see you to tell. But my poverty and the laws of my mystery prevent me from giving it you gratis.”
Toby smiled faintly and pulled two coins from his purse. “I have but two shillings. Will one buy your news?”
Moll gave a gapped smile. “For you, yes. And you will find it a bargain.” Toby handed her the coin. “I think I can show you my news better than I can tell it. Come.” She drank her wine and rose. Leaving his viol in the care of the tapster, Toby followed her.
Moll led him down several dark lanes and alleys. Foul smells greeted them as they turned a corner and walked along a wide open sewer. At the river bank they turned left and went down a narrow set of stone steps. They stopped at a door in a shabby half-timbered building that was losing its plaster, showing the wattle underneath. Moll gave a set of three rapid knocks followed by three spaced ones. The door opened and they went in.
The first room had a low ceiling but a large fireplace in which a few coals glowed. The woman who admitted them appeared in the dim light to be younger and slimmer than Moll, but seemed to be of the same profession. Moll asked, “Will is yet here?” The woman nodded to another door. They crossed and looked through the doorway into a room that was almost completely dark. The floor seemed to be covered with piles of rags, and the smell of stale sweat, ale, and urine was strong. “Will?” called Moll.
“Away, leave me be.” The sleepy voice was deep but youthful.
“Come out to the light. We have a visitor.”
“Pox on your pox, you rotten whore. I’m sick.”
“I bring a cure better than any leech.” Her tone coaxed. “Come now, Will.”
The rags stirred and a figure stumbled to the door. A young man stood frowning and blinking, leaning in the doorway. He had long, dirty blond hair, and reddish fuzz on his pointed chin. He was a head shorter than Toby, taut and wiry like a gymnast. His eyes were narrow and seemed to be on different planes–but his eyebrows sloped down on the sides.
“The only physic I need is a gage of bowse,” he growled. “Who’s this gull?”
“Tell the gentleman your name,” said Moll.
“Will Slider. What’s his? Is he a ben cose or a harman bek?” His tone and look were profoundly suspicious.
“Nay,” said Moll, patiently. “Your right name.”
“I’ve been Slider since I was a kinchin coe, sliding down chimneys and windows. But they said twas Hume.”
Toby stood astonished. “Will Hume?”
“Aye,” said Moll, smiling at Toby. “I recall you telling Felix about searching for a babe named Will. Was this not worth a borde?”
Toby shook his head and stared at Will, who shifted uneasily. Toby then asked, “Who do you remember?”
“From when? I remember morts and coes of all sorts.”
“Who is the first person you remember? Do you remember your mother?”
“Nay.” He shifted his gaze from Toby to Moll. “What’s he mawnding about?”
“Answer him,” said Moll.
“I remember a coe named Harry.”
Toby staggered back to a bench by the fire and began weeping. After a moment, he looked into Will’s puzzled face and said, “I think I am your father. I am Tobias Hume.”
“Niggle the ruffin!” said Will.
Will, Moll, and Toby sat around the fire, tearing pieces from a large loaf of bread and eating. Toby spoke, while Will listened with suspicion, now and then smiling slyly. Moll sat quietly, but with attention.
“I say again, I tried long to find you. I have done little of what belongs to a father. Alas, I have little means to do what I should, and what I wish to do. I would keep you from the gallows.” He looked earnestly at Will, who grinned and looked away. “I would help you to an honest trade. I am not fit for the trade I have, and have not that I am fit for.”
“I have a good trade; I’m a ben nip, but a better foist. The chates will never get me.”
Moll sniffed. “The chates have stretched better necks than yours.”
Toby shook his head. “Youth thinks twill live forever. I have seen many young men surprised by death.”

Toby had taken Will to his lodging in Edgcoke’s house. I saw him trying to teach Will to read. Will seemed quick but resistant.
“How do they put so many letters on the paper?” Will asked Toby at one point.
“Have you never seen a printer’s shop?”
“Nay. I stole some books once by Paul’s, but got only a pittance for them.”
“Some books are worth much. But one must read them to know their value.” Will seemed to take that in, and returned to study more willingly.

Another day, Will came to Toby’s lodging with a book.
“What’s this worth?”
Toby looked skeptical. “How did you come by it?”
“At the Mermaid. I was cleaning a table in the Unicorn–”
“Honest work,” interrupted Toby, “though I hope to get you a true apprenticeship if I can ever raise the sum for the premium.”
“–a table where a bald coe–”
“Man, not coe.”
“–a bald man had been sitting. Found it on the table. He was gone.”
Toby looked at the book, a leather-bound blank book nearly filled with handwriting. He turned to the flyleaf and read “W. Shakespere his book.”
“I know this man,” he said with some excitement. “Tis Master Shakespeare’s!”
“So is it of value?”
“To him, surely. We must return it.” Will looked disappointed. Toby looked through the book. Each page seemed to contain a single item, for there were blank spaces at the top and bottom of each page; a few pages were covered with extensive revisions. The pages were full until about halfway through; then there were a few dozen blank pages. Then more writing, though not as many pages were used. Then more blank pages, except for the last two. He stared at the last page long enough for me to read

. . . and this by that I prove:
Loves fire heates water, water cooles not love.

“We must find Master Shakespeare. I’ll to the Globe tomorrow.”
Will frowned. “I didn’t steal the book. He thought so little of it that he left it behind.”
“He may have had a visit from his muse and forgot it. I once left a book worth a shilling twopence in a close-stool.”
Will flipped the pages. “What think you of this? Would a printer take such a valuable book as premium for an apprentice?”
Toby hesitated, and Will grinned and narrowed his eyes. His canine teeth were noticeably pointed. “I might do well with a printer,” said Will, giving Toby as sidewise glance. “I can read better now, and I would like beating with the ink balls. I could learn to set the little letters quickly; when I trained as a foist, I could pick three pockets in a wink, and no one the wiser.”
“No more thought of thievery.”
“No indeed. This book, now–if a printer printed it, twould be giving to many rather than taking from one, would it not?” Toby said nothing, and Will continued. “If it bought me an honest trade and kept me from thieving, one small borrowing of one man’s discarded trash might prevent a thousand thefts.” Toby frowned but said nothing, looking down. Will grinned.
“Well, you wouldn’t learn honesty with old Windet,” said Toby. “He cheated me of my music books, I’m sure. Now Master Thorpe seems a cheerful, honest man. Maybe we should just put the case to him, to see how he would answer.”
“Ah,” said Will, “tis good to have my own dad.” Toby smiled and brushed his nose.

Thomas Thorpe was indeed a cheerful, jolly man, a temperament that seemed to be fueled by a steady intake of sack, a bottle of which he kept at his elbow in his crowded bookshop. He sat at a small table piled with books, some unbound and some covered with vellum. He had a pronounced paunch and rosy cheeks over a thin beard; he was about Toby’s age. He seemed delighted by the proposition, especially when he saw the book in question.
“I have just come by another poem by Master Shakespeare, not his best–nothing like Venus and Adonis–ah, if only I had the selling of that poem! But these sonnets will carry it bravely. Some few sonnets have been going about in copies for years, and old Jaggard printed them in a book of cuttings and sweepings”–here he made a gesture of disgust–“some ten years ago. So there will be gentlemen and ladies who have had a taste who might pay for a feast.” He smacked his lips, turning the pages. He read for a while, gave a chuckle and an appreciative murmur, then turned back to Toby and Will. “So, this is Will Hume, who would learn the book trade?”
“Aye, sir,” said Will, managing to look both modest and shrewd.
“Well, I think I may accept this book as your premium. You may take it to Master Eld’s print shop and begin your study while the captain and I draw up your articles of apprenticeship. But wait a moment.” Thorpe took a sheet of paper and scratched on it with his pen for a few moments. “Tell Master Eld to set this as the dedication. Twill be our joke.” He showed Toby the paper with an inscription in italic capitals. “I dedicate the book to Master W. H., only begetter of these sonnets. I know several gentlemen with these initials who might pay for the flattery. But we know who the true begetter is for the book trade.” He laughed as he handed the paper to Will, who set off with it and the book.
“Now, Captain. Let us to the articles. Tis a common form, the scrivener in the next street can draw it up for sixpence. But let us say ‘a material consideration’ for the premium.”

Time’s Bending Sickle

June 5, 2011

This novel begins under October 2010 in the archives; scroll down to find chapter one. Two previous novels begin under October 2009 and March 2010.

31. Time that Gave

I didn’t hear from Ollie for several days. Then I got a sheaf of papers from him with places highlighted for my signature. A note read:

Sign these on the highlighted lines and get them back ASAP. It’s boilerplate, so you don’t need to read it all.
Ollie

Of course I read it all. Eventually I found that I was agreeing to forego all claims on community property for the material consideration of my car and for–one hundred thousand dollars. I called Ollie. He was in conference.
“Tell Ollie that if he doesn’t call me within the hour I’m going to burn some expensive boilerplate.”
He called in twenty minutes. “What’s the problem?”
“One hundred grand.”
“That’s a problem? Let me tell you–”
“No, what did I tell you?”
“Now listen. Take it. They want you to take it. They offered it before I could open my mouth. They’re ecstatic that we took it–they’re overjoyed. Let me get this all out. I think Jean is having some guilt. She was a little weepy at the meeting. I think it would be therapeutic for her if you took it. It would take so much time and trouble to change it now. We’d have to draw up new papers. I’d charge you more. You’d never get out of debt to me.” He laughed evilly. “You won’t get to keep all of that hundred grand. Wait’ll you get my bill. It’s a work of art. You can even pay me more if it will make you feel better.”
“Are you having fun now?”
“Well, yes. The novelty of it all. I even enjoyed accepting their offer, they were so surprised. Art nearly plotzed.” He chuckled again.
I thought about the money. I didn’t want clothes, car, house–stuff. But I wanted a new start and some freedom to make it. Could I buy that? Could I buy what I really wanted? Could I buy time? Maybe I could get there without Jean’s money. Or maybe I’d get stuck in some job I’d have to take to get out of debt.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Think fast. And FedEx those papers. I’ve got bills too, you know.”

I called Clio. “Can I come over for just a few minutes? I need your advice.”
“Sure. I’m just standing here trying to think what to do about this piece of crap I’m painting. It’ll be a good break–but you shouldn’t expect much in the way of advice.”
“Be there in a minute.” It was about three in the afternoon. The Baltimore summer was just beginning to show its malice. I had been scoring parts in shorts and a t-shirt; I grabbed my wallet and drove the few minutes to Clio’s.
She was waiting in her painting clothes, a paint-speckled tank top and cutoffs. “I made some iced coffee.”
“Wonderful.” We sat and sipped, while I tried to say something intelligent and encouraging about her work in progress.
“Oh, give it a rest,” she said, smiling. “Let me have my creative snit. What’s on your mind?”
I explained. I told her that I was tempted to take Ollie’s deal, though I had misgivings that the money would be tainted.
“Take it!” said Clio without hesitating. “You’re not being greedy. That money could let you do something useful, something positive. What would you really like to do? Sell computers? Play the cello? Teach? Go to dental school?”
“You really think I should?”
“Yes. You’re not having second thoughts about the divorce, are you?”
“No. But I think Jean is vulnerable, and I don’t want to take advantage.”
“If all she had was a two-hundred-thousand-dollar house and you were insisting on your half, that would be another matter. But she’s rich. She’ll get it back in two weeks without lifting a finger.”
I sat and stewed.
Clio broke the silence. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”
It struck me that I really liked what I was doing right now. I was getting into Doreen’s research. We had finished one article and I was thinking about another, one I might do on my own. I also enjoyed trying to sell Dragonbyte games when I could do so in a low-pressure kind of way. I rather liked the people that dealt with them, as I liked Tom and Hiro. I told Clio what I was thinking.
“There you go. Why don’t you live off that money while you go to grad school or write a book about this music? You need time.”
That possibility began to grow in my mind and take on plausibility within minutes of Clio’s suggestion. “Maybe. Why not?”
“Well, now that I’ve solved your problem, maybe you can help with mine. Why don’t you play my cello and inspire me with a way to fix this painting?” Of course I agreed.
I soon became absorbed in the sound of Clio’s golden Goffriller. It seemed to be made for the Bach suites, for I know I played them better on this cello than on any other. I had the first and third suites pretty well in my memory, so I played them–I don’t think I’d ever done them better. Then I played what I could remember of the fifth, mainly the wonderful sarabande. Near the end of that movement, I was aware of Clio in my peripheral vision. When I stopped, she put her hand on my shoulder.
“Thanks. That seemed to help. I don’t want to get clean enough to go out. Want to share a pot of hasty pasta?”
“That would be great. Thanks.”
Clio loved good food and was a great cook, though at times art prevailed over gastronomy. But though her pasta was hasty, it was never dull. To the jar of bottled sauce she added more garlic, oregano, wine, and a dash of salsa, throwing in a can of clams just before pouring it on the linguini and sprinkling on fresh parmesan. We ate heartily and drank just enough red wine. Her painting looked better even before the wine. We took our cups of dark roast coffee to the sofa and sighed with well-fed contentment. After more sighs and sips we put down our empty cups and sat quietly for a moment.
My hands were suddenly sweaty. I wiped them on my shorts and grabbed Clio’s right hand. There was a dab of green paint on her thumbnail. “Clio, I–”
She put the fingers of her left hand on my mouth. “Shh. Go home now, Tony, and sign those papers.” She stood, pulling me up by the hand I was still holding, and gave me a gentle shove toward the door. As soon as I was outside, she took hold of my t-shirt and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. “Night.”
“Night.” I signed the papers when I got home and sent them the next morning.

Felix, cocking his head slightly to favor his good eye, sat reading through Toby’s manuscript. Sometimes he would nod in approval, sometimes smile.
“Did you mean to write this note here?” he asked, pointing to a passage.
Toby squinted at the paper, fingering an airy viol. “Aye. You see, it carries on the line from here.” He pointed to an earlier spot.
“Ah,” said Felix, nodding. They sat at a small table behind the counter of Felix’s shop in Paul’s Churchyard. Eventually Felix turned the last page and looked up at Toby. “I think your music will give gentle players pleasure and amusement,” he said. “The learned may not praise it all, and some may find some songs too strange for their tastes. In your preface, your praise of the viol at the expense of the lute may set some teeth on edge. But tis you, my friend, and they must all take you as they find you.”
“Then you approve?”
“Indeed. You surpassed me in fencing, and now you have done so in music. My music would not fill such a book, and I have not been as industrious as you in collecting and polishing what I have done. But now we must think on the dedication. Your song of tobacco has put an idea in my mind. What think you of the young earl of Pembroke?”
“I have heard that he is handsome and witty, and tis said that he wrote the ditty for Master Dowland’s song of Apollo’s oath.”
“Tis also said that he takes tobacco for the headache. And more to the point, he is rich and, as he is young, may be generous. He has married an heiress, and has favor at court.”
“I had already thought to give his name to one of my galliards. I think it worth the venture. I’ll name an almaine for the duke of Holstein.”
“Write it fair, and we’ll off to Master Windet.”

Two young men were finishing a late breakfast in a wood-paneled room, dipping pieces of bread in their wine-cups, when a servant announced Captain Hume. Toby entered and bowed, his hat in one hand, and a linen-wrapped parcel in the other. The older of the young men greeted Toby courteously.
“I understand that you have a book for me, Captain.”
“Yes, an it please your lordship. I have taken the liberty of dedicating this book of music for the viol to your lordship.” Toby unwrapped his book, a thinnish folio bound in white vellum, and handed it to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who began turning the pages.
“Very handsome. You do me honor, Captain.”
“Your lordship is kind. Your name honors my work.”
Pembroke smiled, and chuckled at something he read in the book. The younger man, whom I gathered was Pembroke’s brother Philip, shared his good looks but was more sharp-faced. He now spoke. “Where have you served, Captain?”
“Many places, my lord. I was with the earl of Essex in Spain; I served Prince Maurice, King Charles of Sweden, and the late emperor of Russia.”
Both men seemed impressed. William spoke up warmly. “I too was in Cadiz; I was enough a boy to think it great sport. And our poor earl–a gallant soul, tragically fallen. Who was your officer?”
“Sir Roger Williams.”
“Brave Sir Roger!”
Philip then waved at the book. “And now you wish to leave soldiering and turn fiddler?”
“Well, my lord, you may judge. If it please you, I can play my music for you; my instrument is without.”
“What say you?” Philip asked William.
“If you will be so good, Captain, we have leisure for one or two songs.” William gestured to the footman by the door, who brought in Toby’s viol.
“By your leave, my lords, I must sit to play.”
“Of course.”
Toby sat and played “The Earl of Pembroke’s Galliard.” While he was playing, Philip looked through the book; he also smiled at several items. When Toby finished, Philip said “Let’s have this song of tobacco.” Philip and William exchanged amused glances. Toby sang the song, after which both men laughed and applauded. Toby rose and remained standing.
“Thank your lordships. I am glad to have given you some diversion.”
“And now, Captain,” William asked, “are you in earnest to leave the wars?”
“Aye, my lord, I have seen enough of wars. I hope to live by my music. My greatest wish, begging your lordships’ pardon, is to serve his majesty with my music.”
“Ah, Captain, that is not easily done. Places in the king’s music do not often fall vacant, and the musicians who have them now are jealous to keep them for their sons.”
“I understand, my lord. I speak only of my wish.”
“Are you married?” asked William.
“No, my lord. But I am betrothed to an honest maiden who lives in Riga, though she be Edinburgh born. If I may be so bold, I must say that I yearn to get a place so that I may bring her to England and make her my wife.”
“Enjoy your freedom while you may, Captain.” William spoke to Toby, but smirked at Philip.
“That’s a great way for a wench, Captain,” said Philip, “there are many closer to home. And at night all cats are gray.”
“Love has wings, my lord.”
“But men do not,” said William. He then drew out a small purse. “Well, Captain, thank you for your pains. And I wish you good fortune in love if not in war.”
“Thank you, my lord, for giving me audience, and for this generosity.”
“If I hear of a suitable place, I shall keep you in mind.”
“I should be ever in your debt, my lord.” Toby turned to leave, but Philip followed him into the hall.
“Stay a bit, Captain. I am curious about the wars. What battles were you in?”
Toby mentioned a few in the Low Countries, when Philip interrupted.
“And did you kill any of the whoreson Spanish?”
“Aye, my lord.”
“How many men have you killed?”
Toby looked pained. “Some dozen that I know of, God forgive me. Others may have died of wounds, or I may have killed without seeing that I killed. Sometimes the smoke and confusion in battle is very great.”
They chatted for a few more moments. When Toby left the house, he hurried to a sheltered spot in an alleyway and counted the coins from Pembroke’s purse. He looked pleased.

Felix and Toby entered a tavern, where Felix greeted a couple of acquaintances. Toby’s clothes seemed newer and more substantial. They moved to the largest group of men clustered before the fire, and ordered wine. Felix struck up a conversation with one man whom he overheard talking about music. After some ingratiating remarks of agreement with his new friend, Felix mentioned that his companion, Captain Hume, was a great player on the viol and had just published a book of music. This aroused general interest, but Toby modestly said that he hoped the book would get him a place, though he feared it would show him a fool.
“Nay, Captain, for shame,” said Felix. “Though it is a pity that this gentleman, who seems a man of good taste, should not have the opportunity to judge its quality.”
“I should be glad to hear your music, Captain,” said the gentleman; “would that we had an instrument.”
“Why, here’s a viol,” said a young man who had been listening eagerly. “The host here keeps one for the amusement of his guests. I’m sure he would be happy to lend it to the captain, if he would favor us with some of his music.”
Several of the group voiced encouragement.
“If it be your will, gentlemen,” said Toby, “I shall be pleased to obey you.”
Toby tuned up the viol and played some of his livelier pieces–I recognized “Tickle me Quickly.” Most of the group stood and listened with varying degrees of interest, and though one wandered off after the first piece, three more drifted over from another part of the tavern. Toby had the good sense to quit while they were still asking for more. Then the young man asked the question Felix and Toby must have been fishing for.
“Where might I buy your book, sir?”
“It is to be had at Master Windet’s, at the Cross Keys at Paul’s Wharf.”
“And at my shop,” Felix interjected, “at the sign of the sword and pen in Paul’s churchyard. The book is called The First Part of Ayres, or Captain Hume’s Musical Humors.”
“I’ll be there tomorrow,” said the young man.

A montage: Toby giving viol lessons to the young man from the tavern. Toby composing music. Toby, modestly yielding to Felix’s promptings, playing in other inns and taverns. Toby and Felix standing with a crowd in Paul’s churchyard watching the execution of four of the conspiritors in the Gunpowder Plot. Toby writing letters to Mary. Once, Toby received a small packet, which he opened with parted lips and trembling hands; but it was from Van Meergen, who wrote that he had done his best to forward the letters to Mary, but could not promise that they would reach her. He complained of illness, and asked Toby to pray for him.
Toby stood outside Felix’s shop, looking depressed.
“Be of good cheer, my friend,” said Felix, leaning on his counter. “Many books move slowly after the first months of sale. Have you not the dedication money yet?”
“Some. I have lived as frugally as I can, and have acquired a few pupils, but it trickles away. I must get a place.”
“No word from my lord of Pembroke?”
“None.”
“Do you know any of the new Scottish knights?”
“No. Some kinsmen of my cousin–or mayhap my father–are at court, but I know not whether to claim them or whether they will acknowledge me.”
Felix pulled his nose. “You must create the proper circumstances. Words talk, but money walks. Offer some of your store of money to the steward of Sir George Hume. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer could find you a place.”
“The steward?”
“Aye. He could plead your suit, perhaps arrange an audience. He must see Sir George every day.”
“It may be,” Toby agreed reluctantly.

Toby stood before the Earl of Pembroke, who sat in an armchair by the fire, smoking a clay pipe.
“Thank you, my lord, for admitting me. You are most kind.”
“Not at all. As you see, I am drinking tobacco. When my man announced you, I remembered your song. How is it with you, Captain?”
“I would it were better, my lord. I have been laboring mightily in search of a place, and husbanding your generous gift. But I am now without a penny, and no nearer my goal.” Pembroke blew a puff of smoke and reached for his purse. “No, my lord, I did not come to beg money of you. I have spent my last sixpence on presents for Sir George Hume’s steward, in hopes that he would hear my suit. I am a distant kinsman of Sir George.”
“But you have not had access?”
“No, my lord. In my desperate straits I find I must impose on your patience and beg for your help.”
Pembroke rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes. Then he got up and went to his writing table. “I could get you an audience with Sir George,” he said, “but you may be shaking the wrong tree. I have another thought. Do you know Daniel Bachelar?”
“I have heard his name, my lord, and know that he is a gentleman musician.”
“Aye. He was page to my uncle, Sir Philip Sidney, and is now one of the grooms of her majesty’s Privy Chamber.” He took a sheet of paper, dipped a pen, and began writing. “He may be able to put you in the way of something. He plays very well on the lute, and has composed music.” He sprinkled some sand on the wet ink, shook it off the paper, and handed it to Toby. “This will introduce you.”
“My lord, I can barely speak, much less express my gratitude.”
“Say no more. Did you bring your instrument?”
“Not today, my lord, but I shall gladly play for you at any time you desire.”
“Thank you, Captain. Another day, then. Good luck to you, Captain.”
Toby thanked him and left. He hurried through the streets toward Whitehall. Announcing that he had a message from the Earl of Pembroke, an usher directed him to another door, where he was told that Bachelar was with the queen at Greenwich.

Early the next morning, Toby began limping toward Greenwich. Before noon he approached the turreted walls of the palace, and I recalled his last visit here, when he bore a message to Lord Burghley. Eventually he found himself in a hallway speaking to a slim, dark-haired man in his early thirties, elegantly dressed in deep purple. Holding Pembroke’s letter, Bachelar looked up as Hume offered him a book.
“My music. Some of it is for the viol tuned lyra-way, so that you could play it on the lute, if it would amuse you to do so.”
“Thank you Captain. I shall study your music, and endeavor to find means to satisfy you and my lord of Pembroke.”

Toby, in his best clothes, carrying his viol, walked down a corridor with Bachelar.
“You should know, Captain, that her majesty is six months gone with child, and since so many of her children have miscarried or live but weakly, she has times of worry and melancholy. I play the lute for her often, and it seems to calm her. But she and her physicians think some variety of entertainment may not be amiss. I agree, and find your music likely to please her.”
“I hope it does.”
“I, too. Here is her chamber.”
Bachelar knocked discreetly, and was admitted by a waiting-woman. The queen sat by a small fire with her feet on a stool and an embroidered cloth over her knees. Although she was only in her thirties, she looked older, with lines of strain and worry around her mouth and eyes. Her face was long, with a pointed chin, and her blonde hair was in a frizzy puff pulled back behind her ears. “Ah, Master Daniel.”
“Your majesty,” said Bachelar, bowing. Toby bowed too. “May I present Captain Hume.”
“Captain, you are welcome. Master Daniel has told me something of your story.” She spoke fluently, but with a slight accent. “I thank you for coming. I find music helps relieve my sick fancies.”
“I shall endeavor with all my heart to please your majesty.”
“You may begin at your leisure.”
“I thank your majesty. By your leave, I shall tune my instrument.” Toby sat gingerly on the edge of a nearby chair, tightened his bow, and tuned. The bow skipped a bit on the strings, registering Toby’s nervousness. He began to play. After a few shaky notes, he settled down into a lively version of the piece he called “Life.” The queen’s toes twitched in time to the music. When he finished, he stood and bowed.
“Very good, Captain. Pray play another.”
“An it please your majesty, I have called this next song ‘A Merry Conceit,’ or ‘The Queen’s Delight.'” Toby played this and three others; either the queen enjoyed them, or she was practiced in polite inattention. As he was about to begin another piece, the waiting woman interrupted, reminding the queen that her doctor was to visit soon. The queen thanked Toby and Bachelar, who bowed themselves out.
“Very good, Captain,” said Bachelar, “the queen seemed pleased.”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity, Master Daniel. I shall be ever your debt if this should lead to some place in her majesty’s service. I beseech you, sir, to speak of me when you can.”
Bachelar looked skeptical. “I shall be happy to do what little I can for you, Captain, for I know how ill a musician’s life must be without a place in some great person’s service. But there are many impediments. I should not nourish too many hopes.”
Toby looked disappointed. He explained briefly to Bachelar about Mary, and his hopes to bring her to England. Bachelar seemed to listen sympathetically. They continued down the corridor silently for a moment.
“Captain, do you have more music composed since your book?”
“Some dozen new songs. And I have a few old songs not in the book.”
“Perhaps a new book, dedicated to her majesty, might do you good. You would at least earn a hansome reward for the dedication.”
“Very like. I thank you for the suggestion.”
“You might also compose it so that more gentleman players would buy it. I have always thought it very long-headed of Master Dowland to print his songs so that they may be performed in many different ways.”
“Indeed. Thank you for that notion as well.”
“And now,” said Bachelar, stopping at a door, “let us claim your reward for entertaining her majesty.” They entered a room in which a clerk was busy over piles of papers. Bachelar explained what they had come for; the clerk made a note in a ledger, unlocked a chest, and counted out five silver coins. Toby took them with a grateful look, and offered one to Bachelar, who took it without hesitation. They then shook hands, and Toby shouldered his viol and limped toward the gates.

In a few weeks, I got a large manila envelope from Ollie. Divorce papers. Jean and I were officially divorced. A certified check for one hundred thousand dollars. Ollie’s bill. I figured that I could live, without extravagance, about two years on what was left. I had the gift of time. I had to decide what I could do to make that gift count.
I called Clio. “My ship has come in. Let’s celebrate. Dinner on me.”
“Oh, Tony, I can’t. Please give me a rain check. But I’m glad it’s settled.”
“Me too. How about tomorrow?”
“I’m sorry. Make it Friday?”
“Sure.” But I was disappointed. The gloss and the glow would have faded by then.
That night, I dreamed I knocked on Clio’s door. I had flowers. The door opened and I went in. Then Abner, as usual in camouflage and orange hat, stepped from behind a large canvas and took aim at me. I held out the flowers as a shield, and they turned into the Goffriller. I could see the bullet holes and the splinters before I heard the shots. I woke up panting.
I did a lot of practical things the next day. I deposited the check, bought one certificate of deposit for a year, one for six months, and opened a money-market account, leaving about fifteen hundred in checking. Maria would be back in a month, so I gave my car a long-postponed servicing, and began looking for an apartment. Then I called Tom Backscheider and made a deal for one of his obsolete computers, to be worked off in sales commissions.
I also called Perry and Callie. Perry had rumors and gossip, but little hard information about Cullen. They seemed to keep busy, but there hadn’t been many new contracts. The work force had stopped shrinking after the post-buyout contraction, but nobody was happy. Howell had seemed distracted and distant. Perry said that Jean had once come to the building in jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup, spent an hour in Howell’s office, and left looking tired. Callie had talked to Jean, but had not got far in any conversation beyond small talk.
“She doesn’t say much. When I ask, she says she’s fine. But the way she says it bothers me, because she’s just flat.”
“Still on the satanic abuse stuff?”
“She hasn’t mentioned it.”
“What do you mean, ‘flat’?”
“Well, Doctor Maclean, it’s what we psychos–I mean psychologists–call ‘flat affect’–no cussin’, no yellin’, no laughin’. Like a day-old sopapilla.”
“Even you can’t make her laugh?”
“Nope. It’s making me lose my own self-confidence.”
“She say anything about the divorce?”
“Just that she’s glad it’s over.”

Toby hurried into Paul’s churchyard, beaming. I guess he was going to tell Felix about his performance before the queen. When he got to the sign of the pen and sword, the stall was tightly shuttered. Toby asked the keeper of the next shop if he knew where Felix might be.
“Newgate.” The adolescent apprentice wore a flat cap, an apron, and a knowing grin.
“The prison? On what charge?”
“For selling filthy and lascivious books.” He leered and winked. “They were good ‘uns, they were. Nashe’s ‘Choice of Valentines’ and Aretino.”
Toby hurried through the streets until he arrived at the grim old prison. A few small bribes soon brought him to a large common cell containing a dozen rough-looking men. Felix was not visible.
Toby caught the eye of a man hunched in a corner near the grate. He turned and grinned, revealing a four-tooth gap and no nose.
“Looking for someone, sir?”
“Yes, a one-eyed man, just arrived.”
“Oh, sir, ‘e’s dead.”
“What?”
“Lean coe in german slops? ‘E got in a fight with the Badger, who bounced ‘is ‘ead on the wall. ‘E wouldn’t wake, so the turnkeys took him to wait for the corpse wagon.”
“Thank you for your news, ill though it be.”
“Even bad news is worth thruppence for a poor man, eh sir?”
But Toby had turned to go, and the inmate shouted some unintelligible curse at him. Toby asked about the corpse wagon and was directed to a back gate, where he was told that the wagon had left with its load for the potters’ field. He grimly set off after it. Some miles later, he came upon two men beside a large ox-drawn wagon. They were shoveling dirt into a large pit. One discolored bare foot could still be seen.
“Looking for a friend or an enemy, sir?” The elder gravedigger said to Toby, smiling at his sorrowful face.
“A friend. A one-eyed man.”
“Aye, I remember loading him aboard. This lot’s about under. Pray for him here sir, and for the other miserable folk that keep him company.”
“I will.”