Read THE RISING SUN : Chapter VII of Privy Seal His Last Venture , free online book, by Ford Madox Ford, on

He held Throckmorton in the small room that contained upon its high stand the Privy Seal of England in an embroidered purse.  All red and gold, this symbol of power held the eye away from the dark-green tapestry and from the pigeon-holes filled with parchment scrolls wherefrom there depended so many seals each like a gout of blood.  The room was so high that it appeared small, but there was room for Cromwell to pace about, and here, walking from wall to wall, he evolved those schemes that so fast held down the realm.  He paced always, his hands behind his back, his lips moving one upon the other as if he ruminated-(His foes said that he talked thus with his familiar fiend that had the form of a bee.)-and his black cap with ear-flaps always upon his head, for he suffered much with the earache.

He walked now, up and down and up and down, saying nothing, whilst from time to time Throckmorton spoke a word or two.  Throckmorton himself had his doubts-doubts as to how the time when it would be safe to let it be known that he had betrayed his master might be found to fit in with the time when his master must find that he had betrayed him.  He had, as he saw it, to gain time for Katharine Howard so she might finally enslave the King’s desires.  That there was one weak spot in her armour he thought he knew, and that was her cousin that was said to be her lover.  That Cromwell knew of her weak spot he knew too; that Cromwell through that would strike at her he knew too.  All depended upon whether he could gain time so that Cromwell should be down before he could use his knowledge.

For that reason he had devised the scheme of making Cromwell feel a safety about the affairs of Cleves.  Udal fortunately wrote a very swift Latin.  Thus, when going to fetch Katharine to her interview with Privy Seal he had found Udal bursting with news of the Cleves embassy and with the letters of the Duke of Cleves actually copied on papers in his poke, Throckmorton had very swiftly advised with himself how to act.  He had set Udal very earnestly to writing a false letter from Cleves to France-such a letter as Cleves might have written-and this false letter, in the magister’s Latin, he had placed now in his master’s hands, and, pacing up and down, Cromwell read from time to time from the scrap of paper.

What Cleves had written was that he was fain to make submission to the Emperor, and leave the King’s alliance.  What Cromwell read was this:  That the high and mighty Prince, the Duke of Cleves, was firmly minded to adhere in his allegiance with the King of England:  that he feared the wrath of the Emperor Charles, who was his very good suzerain and over-lord:  that if by taxes and tributes he might keep away from his territory the armies of the Emperor he would be well content to pay a store of gold:  that he begged his friend and uncle, King of France, to intercede betwixt himself and the Emperor to the end that the Emperor might take these taxes and tributes; for that, if the Emperor would none of this, come peace, come war, he, the high and mighty Prince, Duke of Cleves, Elector of the Empire, was minded to protect in Germany the Protestant confession and to raise against the Emperor the Princes and Electors of Almain, being Protestants.  With the aid of his brother-in-law the King of England he would drive the Emperor Charles from the German lands together with the hérésies of the Romish Bishop and all things that pertained to the Emperor Charles and his religion.

Cromwell had listened to the reading of this letter in silence; in silence he re-perused it himself, pacing up and down, and in between phrases of his thoughts he read passages from it and nodded his head.

That this was a very dangerous enterprise Throckmorton was assured; it was the first overt act of his that Privy Seal could discover in him as a treachery.  In a month or six weeks he must know the truth; but in a month or six weeks Katharine must have so enslaved the King that all danger from Cromwell would be past.  And he trusted that the security that Cromwell must feel would gar him delay striking at Katharine by means of her cousin.

Cromwell said suddenly: 

‘How got the magister these papers?’ and Throckmorton answered that it was through the widow that kept the tavern.  Cromwell said negligently: 

’Let the magister be rewarded with ten crowns a quarter to his fees.  Set it down in my tables’; and then like lightning came the query: 

‘Do ye believe of her cousin and the Lady Katharine?’

Craving a respite for thought and daring to take none for fear Cromwell should read him, Throckmorton answered: 

‘Ye know I think yes.’

‘I have said I think no,’ Cromwell answered in turn, but dispassionately as though it were a matter of the courses of stars; ’though it is very certain that her cousin is so mad with love for her that we had much ado to send him from her to Paris.’  He paced three times from wall to wall and then spoke again: 

‘Men enow have said she was too fond with her cousin?’

With despair in his heart Throckmorton answered: 

’It is the common talk in Lincolnshire where her home is.  I have seen a cub in a cowherd’s that was said to be her child by him.’

It was useless to speak otherwise to Privy Seal; if he did not report these things, twenty others would.  But, beneath his impassive face and his great beard, despair filled him.  He might swear treason against Cromwell to the King; but the King would not hear him alone, and without the King and Katharine he was a sparrow in Cromwell’s hawk’s talons.

‘Why,’ Cromwell said, ’since Cleves is true to us we will have this woman down.  An he had played us false I would have kept her near the King.’

This saying, that ran so counter to Throckmorton’s schemes, caused him such dismay that he cried out: 

‘God forgive us, why?’

Cromwell smiled at him as one who smiles from a great height, and pointed a finger.

‘This is a hard fight,’ he said; ’we are in some straits.  I trow ye would have voiced it otherwise.’  And then he voiced his own idea-that so long as Cleves was friends with him Katharine was an enemy; if Cleves fell away she was none the less an enemy, but she would, from her love of justice, bear witness to the King that Cromwell was no traitor.  ‘And ye shall be very certain,’ he added pleasantly, ’that once men see the King so inclined, they will go to the King saying I be a traitor, with Protestants like Wriothesley ready to rise and aid me.  In that pass the Lady Katharine should stay by me, in the King’s ear.’

A deep and intolerable dejection overcame Throckmorton and forced from his lips the words: 

‘Ye reason most justly.’  And again he cursed himself, for he had forced Cromwell to this reasoning and action.  Yet he dared not say that his news of the Cleves embassy was false, that Cleves indeed was minded to turn traitor, and that it most would serve Privy Seal’s turn to stay Katharine Howard up.  He dared not say the words, yet he saw his safety crumbling, and he saw Privy Seal set to ruin both himself and Katharine Howard.  For in his heart he could not believe that the woman was virtuous, since he believed that no woman was virtuous who had been given the opportunity for joyment.  As a spy, he had gone nosing about in Lincolnshire where Katharine’s home had been near her cousin’s.  He had heard many tales against her such as rustics will tell against the daughters of poor lords like Katharine’s father.  And these tales, before ever he had come to love her, he had set down in Privy Seal’s private registers.  Now they were like to undo him and her.  And in truth, according to his premonitions, Cromwell spoke: 

’We shall bring very quickly Thomas Culpepper, her cousin, back from France.  We shall inflame his mind with jealousy of the King.  We shall find a place where he shall burst upon the King and her together.  We shall bring witnesses enow from Lincolnshire to swear against her.’

He crossed his hands behind his back.

’This work of fetching her cousin from Paris I will put into the hands of Viridus,’ he said.  ’I believe her to be virtuous, therefore do you bring many witnesses, and some that shall swear to have seen her in the act.  That shall be your employment.  For I tell you she hath so great a power of pleading that, being innocent, she will with difficulty be proved unchaste.’

Throckmorton’s head hung upon his shoulders.

‘Remember,’ Privy Seal said again, ’you and Viridus shall send to find her cousin in France.  Fill him with tales that his cousin plays the leman with the King.  He shall burst here like a bolt from heaven.  You will find him betwixt Calais and Paris town, dallying in evil places without a doubt.  We sent him thither to frighten Cardinal Pole.’

‘Aye,’ Throckmorton said, his mind filled with other and bitter thoughts.  ’He hath frightened the Cardinal from Paris by the mere renown of his violence.’

‘Then let him do some frighting in our goodly town of London,’ Cromwell said.