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The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Part One: The Play for Jonathan Crouch. Chapter III. More Blindfold Play: The Queen Moves Too Far

This is a very busy chapter with many characters and much activity. It might be helpful to review the events as they occur:
  • Wat Scott and George Douglas (Margaret Lennox's uncle) discuss the merits of firearms and Tom Erskine reluctantly joins them.
  • Tom had already escorted Christian and company to Bogle House, where the Culter and Fleming families are staying.
  • The Scots learn the English under Somerset (the Protector) inexplicably did not press their advantage and instead returned to England leaving behind four garrisons.
  • Tom has the unpleasant duty of telling Wat that Will has joined Lymond's band of outlaws.
  • Wat believes his son's newly minted code of honor means he will not betray Lymond no matter how despicable Lymond is.
  • Tom goes to the Isle of Inchmahome where the Queen, her mother, Sybilla, Mariotta, Christian, seven other assorted children, et al., have been sequestered for their safety.
  • Tom and Andrew (Dandy) Hunter join the royal party and talk with Sybilla and Mariotta.
  • Mariotta silently worries about Francis's effect on her and Richard as well as what he might do to Richard at the Wapenshaw.
  • We learn during the conversation that Tom Erskine cannot stand George Douglas.
  • Later that night, Christian meets with Tom to ask him if he has learned the whereabouts of Jonathan Crouch, and he tells her what she wants to know but does not find out why she wants the information.
  • The following day we learn about an incident involving the Queen.
  • The Queen wanted to visit the Pleasure Gardens across the lake, so one of her maids took her there in a boat.
  • Once there, the maid left the Queen unattended while she had an assignation with a man.
  • While playing alone in the garden, the Queen came upon a man she describes as "a nice monk" who taught her a naughty riddle.
  • Sybilla recognizes the riddle (she immediately knows the answer).
  • Later, Christian joins the "monk," who is Lymond dressed as a cleric, on the north shore of the lake.
  • It turns out Francis had unexpectedly fallen asleep waiting for Christian, and the Queen discovered him.
  • Lymond describes how he entertained the child until they were discovered by the maid, who hauled the Queen away screaming because her fun was interrupted.
  • Francis gently chastises Christian for providing the Queen's hiding place to him because it is a state secret and dangerous to disclose.
  • We learn that Christian had sent Lymond a cryptic message to come meet her here this day.
  • Francis admits that, even though his head injury is much better, he finds himself falling asleep at inopportune moments, as happened before the Queen found him.
  • Francis learns his mother and Mariotta are on the island with the Queen and that Tom Erskine told Buccleuch his son has joined the outlaw Lymond.
  • Christian tells Francis what she learned from Tom: Crouch is George Douglas's prisoner.
  • Francis wants to tell Christian who he is, and she strongly rejects his offer, but he does confirm to her that he is Scottish.
  • Christian asks Lymond to send news of himself on occasion, and Francis promises to do so.
  • Before he leaves, Francis tries to find out why Christian is helping him and she says her motive is "common sense" (your case is "fortune's fault, not mine").
Scene 1

Wat Scott takes Tom Erskine's news about Will joining Lymond with far less surprise than I would have anticipated. I think he expected his hotheaded son to do some such reckless act given the terrible falling out they had. George Douglas counsels Buccleuch that "I think we are all underestimating him. Be patient, and your Will might surprise you one day," implying Will might sell out Lymond. George Douglas naturally assumes Will Scott will behave the way the Douglases do, that is, switching sides as the situation demands. The idea of unshakable loyalty is unfathomable to the Douglases.

Buccleuch finds the idea of betrayal distasteful and dishonorable in the extreme ("you don't sell your captain, even if he's captain of nothing more than carrion") This exchange provides a profound insight into the difference in character between the Douglases and the Scotts, especially Wat. Also, Tom's opinion of Lymond is delineated when he says, "But surely Will knows what Lymond is?"

A note about the Douglases. They have what could be charitably called flexible loyalties and morals. Buccleuch is right about the Douglases in general when he says George's "loyalty is to his own house and the devil." It was true at the time he said it, and so it remains true: you would do well to keep a wary eye on all the Douglas clan.

Scenes 2-3

Tom Erskine rides to the Isle of Inchmahome where the Queen and court are in hiding. It appears that security for the hiding place is not terribly good. Tom is asked for a password twice, but beyond that, there are no apparent deterrents to those with ill intent. The setting Dunnett describes is one of great serenity...monks singing, children sleeping, a consort playing...a court at leisure even though they are in hiding and in danger.

We are given more of a taste of Sybilla's personality the next day as she "commandeers" Tom and Andrew Hunter to help her distract Mariotta. (Christian is "out"...where, we soon learn.) What's wrong with Mariotta? Lymond. Ever since that day on the stairs, both she and Richard have been discombobulated. I cannot begin to describe how this sentence makes my flesh shiver:

"...what made her flesh shiver was the thought of Lymond, and the cool, impertinent grip of the mind he had used; in five indifferent minutes pioneering where Richard's diffident courtesy had never taken him."

Oh, my. Francis Crawford has touched Mariotta in a way no one else ever has. She feels as if he has crawled inside her mind and probed her in all the most vulnerable, hidden places like a military engineer looking for the spot where the wall is weakest and easiest to breach. Lymond makes her flesh shiver out of fear, yes, but also out of excitement. Richard's "diffident courtesy" has never made her shiver either with fear or excitement.

The incident at Midculter not only upset her but also had an ill effect on Richard, who spent two sleepless days (and nights) busying himself with preparations for war and, presumably, ignoring his wife. Francis has come between them like an uninvited and unwelcome guest, and they do not know how to expel him. Since Richard left with the army, Mariotta has heard nothing from him directly. Sybilla continues as she always does, gliding through her duties with the appearance of calm reserve.

Mariotta appeals to Andrew Hunter to talk to her about Richard, but her mind is clearly on Francis. Dandy introduces the topic of the Wapenshaw and how dangerous it would be for Richard to participate given Lymond's recent threatening behavior toward his brother. Rather than entertain Mariotta, he has planted another seed of worry in her mind. Sybilla, recognizing the perilous path the conversation is taking, changes the subject from Francis to Will Scott and directs her question not to Hunter but to Tom.

But Tom's mind is on Christian's odd behavior of the night before. As promised, he told her what she wanted to know (the location of Crouch) but she did not return the favor (or confidence) by explaining why she wanted to know.

I do not think it is an accident that Sybilla interrupts Tom and Christian. I believe Sybilla intentionally steps on Tom's toe to help Christian avoid having to answer Tom's questions. Sybilla is never awkward or clumsy. Like Lymond, she is as graceful as she is shrewd.

The next day brings a harried, hilarious recounting of the near-disaster with the little Queen. Nothing bad happened to her, but the Queen Dowager is rightly furious that her daughter was rowed across the lake and left unattended. In fact, it's outrageous that such a thing happened! I can't help thinking if I were Mary of Guise I would have been a lot angrier about this incident.

After all the noise and clamor and confusion, we finally learn what happened. Left alone in the garden by her maid, who had a tryst with a man, the Queen came upon a sleeping "monk," who entertained her with a rather naughty riddle. What's important to notice is who immediately recognizes the riddle: Sybilla. She has heard it before.

Notice that, from the point of view of a very small child, Lymond appears most emphatically nice.

Priory of Inchmahome
In the last section we visit the "scene of the crime" where Christian and "the sleeping monk," whose voice she recognizes, sit by the lake. As Lymond tells the story of how the Queen came upon him and he, caught unawares, dealt with the little girl, he shows us a very different aspect of his personality. How does he cope with a small child, who he knows is his queen, sitting on his chest? He is gentle, kind, humorous, and humoring (he pretends to eat the fish the child proffers). From Christian's comment--"What was it, a pebble?"--we know this typical childish game of "feeding" inappropriate things to others is something little Mary loves to do.

Again, Francis gently scolds Christian for being so free with the Queen's whereabouts. Christian's reaction is to claim she is "a very hasty person," a claim belied by what we know about her. And her flummoxed explanation of how and why she sent the message to Lymond seems out of character. She seems genuinely flustered and overly eager to help him, but still we do not have a motive for her actions.

Neither does Francis. In fact, he is so moved and puzzled by her "unthinkably kind and generous" behavior that his sense of honor impels him to reveal who he is. Christian is adamant he not do so. All she asks is for him to send news of himself, and he promises he will via Johnnie Bullo of the garlicky breath.

Something else important again arises in this scene. Lymond keeps unexpectedly falling asleep, which no doubt can be traced to his head injury. This is strong evidence the injury was serious and may have implications for him down the road.

Before he leaves, Lymond stops and examines Christian's hand as if to divine her intentions in its palm. He is plagued by what could possibly motivate her to help him. Christian's reply is "common sense," which, of course is the epitome of irony. Her willingness to harbor a strange man, possibly the enemy wrapped in an English cloak, hide him until he is well enough to escape, actively help him to escape, send him a message revealing the royal family's hiding place, wheedle information about an English prisoner for him, and keep all this secret from an old friend is the antithesis of "common sense." On the face of it, Christian's behavior is dangerously irrational and irresponsible. Imagine the consequences if she is found out!

One more interesting insight about this rich scene. Francis says to Christian, "I can say naught but Hoy gee ho!--words that belong to the cart and the plough." This is a quotation from "The Clown's Courtship," and here is the rest of the stanza and the repeated verse:
To marry I would have thy consent,
But faith I never could compliment;
I can say nought but 'hoy, gee ho,'
Words that belong to the cart and the plough.

Then say, my Joan, will not that do?
I cannot come every day to woo.

The whole poem is a proposal of marriage. Francis would not have lightly chosen to quote this poem at this moment. He is the clown, the fool, as he says, and this is as close to courtship as he can allow himself to come. He is telling Christian, obliquely, that if he were free to come every day to woo and win her, he would. But he cannot and he will not. Does Christian know the poem? Does she give us any sign of recognition?

Front Piece to
"The Anatomy of Melancholy"
Her response is a Latin quote, which is famously from Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, and is interesting in the larger context:

"...I am a younger brother, basely born,—cui sine luce genus, surdumque parentum—nomen, of mean parentage, a dirt-dauber's son, am I therefore to be blamed? an eagle, a bull, a lion is not rejected for his poverty, and why should a man? 'Tis fortunae telum, non culpae, fortune's fault, not mine."

Francis, of course, is the younger brother, and there may be other relevant parts of this quotation. However, this may be a stretch on my part because Burton's Anatomy was not published until 1621 (another possible Dunnett anachronism or merely an error on my part). Christian may simply have been quoting a Latin phrase that fits the moment. In defense of my interpretation, this is not the only reference to The Anatomy of Melancholy in The Game of Kings. I doubt Dunnett realized when she wrote The Game of Kings that people were going to analyze and scrutinize her work for years to come!

Update as of 3 Oct 2014: Laura Ramsey, author of The Ultimate Guide to The Game of Kings, kindly pointed out to me that "Dunnett is always careful to only use the original Latin or Greek quote, which pre-dates Lymond and would have been part of the schooling in a Renaissance university." Of course! I should have trusted Dunnett. However, the surrounding text from Burton (about the younger son) postdates Lymond and may not be something Dunnett had in mind when she was writing. Or maybe she did leave it for us like an "Easter Egg" to find buried in the other treasure. Who knows?

Favorite Line

"I don't mind being a lame duck, but the pond you've put me into has a kingdom in it, my dear."

  1. Why is Andrew Hunter interested in George Douglas's whereabouts?
  2. Why does Tom Erskine give Christian the information she requests without demanding to know her motives?
  3. Based on the quote from The Anatomy of Melancholy above, is Christian implying that she knows who Lymond is and that she believes it is fortune's fault and not his that he has become an outcast?

Words that Describe Lymond in More Blindfold Play

  • gentle
  • humorous
  • honorable
  • quick-witted
  • thoughtful
  • concerned
  • conscientious
  • pensive

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