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The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Friday, December 5, 2014

Part Two. The Play for Gideon Somerville. Chapter II. Discovered Check 1. Diagonal Mating Begins

1. Diagonal Mating Begins

Richard is being a pain again, this time to Mariotta. He isn't injured enough to warrant her care or slow him down (or keep him at home and in her bed). Rather than confide in her mother-in-law, Mariotta turns to the only other readily available woman for advice. Unfortunately for Mariotta, Janet Beaton is about as subtle as an andiron. She thinks Mariotta ought to be grateful that Richard is off doing manly stuff and leaving her alone. This is not the advice Mariotta hopes for.

The Jewelry

To add to Mariotta's woes, two anonymous packets containing expensive jewelry arrive for her. The "arrogance" and "insolence" both of the gifts and the messages convince Mariotta they must be from Lymond (who else?). She fails to show the brooch to Richard and Sybilla, so by the time the bracelet arrives, she is in a corner: the first thing Richard is likely to say to two gifts is, "why didn't you tell me about the first one when it arrived?" Richard is a man of unquestioned probity, and he expects the same from everyone else, especially his wife. Her failure to inform him immediately of an unasked for gift, accompanied as it was by a suggestive note, is beyond unacceptable. It would be for Richard a form of betrayal.

Mariotta's rationale for withholding these facts--she fears it would make matters between Richard and Francis worse--would fall on deaf ears with Richard. Mariotta's failure to inform Richard is not entirely because she is worried about her husband. She continues to be plagued by her memories of Lymond who, you will recall, moved her in a way her husband never had. Mariotta does not handle the situation well. Instead of the direct, honest approach, she wears the jewelry to see if Richard notices. He does not.

It is Janet who seems to draw the connection between the jewelry and Lymond: seeing Mariotta's jewels, Janet instantly recalls the shooting glove dropped at the Papingo shoot, which has "some jewellers' work on the back." Richard failed to follow up on the glove, which Sybilla says remains in a cabinet in Stirling.

The Philosopher's Stone, Part 1

Sybilla has invited Johnnie Bullo to visit her, Mariotta, and Janet at Midculter to discuss the Philosopher's Stone. On the surface, it appears the reason for inviting Johnnie to her home, other than satisfying Sybilla's intense curiosity, is to give her an opportunity to use him as a messenger between her and Lymond.

The Alchemist
Johnnie was not anticipating Janet Beaton's presence and is "not altogether pleased to see her" because she dabbles in magic and medicine, which are his domain. She might be a problem for him because she will undoubtedly question his knowledge and credibility, but he accepts the challenge "without diffidence." That is such a fine way of showing Johnnie's character: can you imagine Johnnie Bullo ever being meek or uncertain?

Johnnie's disquisition works his magic on Janet, who now is eager to engage in creating the stone. Janet, ever practical, focuses on making sure a commercial agreement is worked out on how to handle their profits from the gold while Mariotta is now completely caught up in the mystical aspects of the project. And Sybilla thinks through and plans for all the necessary items required for the project. Johnnie is eager to comply.

The Letter

This section is a challenge to understand because the letter operates on so very many levels.

I admit to puzzling over the opening for quite a while. What is the significance of beginning with the strange phrase "the great Pan is dead"? Lymond expects Christian, a highly educated woman, to know the reference to Plutarch, in which a boatman is exhorted by an anonymous, unseen voice to make the proclamation "the great Pan is dead." Lymond seems to be telling Christian (and Sybilla) that he is the anonymous voice speaking through John Maxwell.

The Great God Pan
Also, Pan is the god of shepherds and flocks: that, I think, is another clue to why this quote is included in the letter. Pan liked to frighten men and animals so he could inspire, yes, "PANic." That reminds us, the readers, of Lymond's use of the horses to create panic in the supply train headed for Hume and, perhaps, imply to Christian and Sybilla an incident in which animals will be used to create havoc. Perhaps they will reflect on this reference when they learn about the cattle raid.

My husband suggested a very plausible reason to start the love letter with this phrase. Pan, the satyr, suggests sexual desire; the double meaning here is that Maxwell cries in woe that his desire for Agnes is thwarted by her betrothal to another while Lymond subtly tells Christian that his desire for her must also "die."

Or perhaps the quotation is just one of the "sly absurdities" that Christian takes note of.

"Mercury's finger," on the other hand, is an excellent and more delineated clue. In palmistry, "the small finger is known as the mercury finger. This is the key to individual’s balance or abuse of power. If the finger is long, the individual is witty, and will have success in business. ... It is a good sign if this finger is straight and long. When pointed, it shows eloquence, tact and diplomacy." Mercury Finger: Palmistry Illustrated Guide

We know Lymond's fingers are long and slender, and I think we can safely assume that his Mercury finger is pointed. I am confident this is a message for Sybilla, who reacts to this one thing in the whole letter. She has already shown her interest in things mystical, and it is not unlikely that she and Francis would have read and discussed the arcane "sciences." Also, the Mercury finger and Mercury in general are associated with communication, and this is something Sybilla and Christian (and Janet) would have known. Lymond is communicating to his mother and Christian through Maxwell's letter. 

Remember: Lymond told Christian he would write to her, and he has, through Maxwell. Christian knows that while the letter itself is for Agnes, the subtext of the letter is directed to her. She receives Lymond's messages, and the flowery language and "sly absurdities" are part of his means of letting her know he is the voice behind the written words. His primary goal seems to be to tell Christian he is making good progress toward achieving his goal of tracking down the man he has been seeking with her help. 

Interestingly, Christian does not ruminate on the "love letter" aspects of Lymond's message, although they surely were clear to her. The "Spanish"* quotation at the end of the letter, included by Lymond to ensure Christian is asked to read the letter, is an unmistakable message to her since she recently heard him sing the song. Here's the full verse in English:
Rose of all roses, and Flower of all flowers,
Lady of all ladies, and Liege of all Lords.
Rose of beauty and truth,
and Flower of joy and of youth;
Lady enthroned in great holiness,
Liege Lord, who bears our sorrows and sins.
This is the Lady I hold as Liege
and of whom I long to be the troubadour,
so that, in this, I may have Her love,
giving myself over all other loves.
*The language is Galician-Portuguese, not Spanish, but none of the ladies (except Christian) seems to know the difference, and she is not telling.

Sybilla makes sure that Agnes answers the letter--with Christian's help--right away; there is no doubt that she sees Francis's fine mind behind the overwrought, almost silly letter. I'm amused that Sybilla says, with her fine sense of irony, "you can never tell a man from his letters." Is that ever true in this case!

The Plan

Wat Scott arrives after the ladies have dined. Notice Richard did not eat with them, showing up after they were finished. He really is making himself scarce. Sybilla is unhappy that Wat himself came to get Janet, as evinced by the excellent control of her facial muscles, because she has been trying to keep Richard and Wat apart for Lymond's sake. 

The women now learn from Richard and Wat's conversation about the plan for a cattle raid, supposedly hatched by Maxwell. Richard wants to know if Wat will participate in the raid and he is loathe to answer, so his wife does for him, as if pulling divine intervention from above: "Will you listen to this?" demanded Dame Janet of the ceiling. "The man's lost his tongue..."

The River Tyne (with cattle)
Wat has received the Queen Dowager's permission to pay lip service to the English as long as he shows proof of his Scottish loyalties. Participating in the cattle raid is one such proof, but Wat runs the risk of being spotted by the English, who will then know he's playing them for fools.

John Maxwell gets credit for the cattle raid, an idea planted by Lymond, nurtured by Maxwell, and harvested by the Scottish lairds, which somehow involves Wharton's next border incursion. Remember: George Douglas came up with the idea for Lennox to lead the English raid in the dead of winter and apparently it is going to happen after all. Lymond knew about this planned raid and, at the Ostrich Inn, suggested to Maxwell he attack Lennox and thereby get credit with the Scottish court for stopping another English incursion.

We get a glimpse of just how keen Buccleuch is in his analysis of John Maxwell's precarious situation. Both he and Richard know it is risky to trust Maxwell, given the fact that the Protector (of England) "has him by the short hairs," but they agree they should chance it. Maxwell's love letter to Agnes helps seal the deal because it is evidence that Maxwell really is trying to get into the good graces of the Queen Dowager. It appears from all the evidence that John Maxwell has cast his lot with the Scots and not the English.

The final scene in this part is a hasty private conversation between Janet and Richard in which she lets him know Wat has not changed his mind about hunting Lymond and his men. The most interesting part of the exchange is the one Richard does not hear. Janet knows there is trouble--deep trouble--between Richard and Mariotta, but she is also wise and experienced enough to know from Richard's demeanor not to bring it up now while he is chewing on his obsession with his brother.

  1. Why is Sybilla so keen on having Johnnie Bullo create the Philosopher's Stone?
  2. What does Johnnie Bullo hope to achieve from trying to create the Philosopher's Stone when he knows he cannot turn base metal to gold?
  3. Why is Richard so cold to Mariotta?
  4. When Sybilla suggests Christian help Agnes write her response to Maxwell, do you think Lymond's mother knows he is secretly communicating to Christian as well as her?
Favorite Line
The small panes of the Dowager's window became grey, and then ultramarine, and the hot, scented air fondled and set about itself strange words.
The hot air fondled the strange words...what an amazing image!

Words that Describe Lymond in Discovered Check 1. Diagonal Mating Begins (he does not appear in this section)
  • Clever
  • Conniving
  • Manipulative
  • Duplicitous
  • Unscrupulous
  • Subtle
  • Sly

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