Time’s Bending Sickle

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.

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