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The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Part Three. The Play for Samuel Harvey. Chapter I. Bitter Exchange

Betrayal Upon Betrayal

1. Offer of a Pawn is Discussed (early February 1548)

We begin the third part of the story still mulling the meaning and importance of Margaret Douglas, this time from Will Scott's point of view. He knows only that she holds some special significance for Lymond, but he does not know what. Will has at least learned that Lymond is unique among men and thus his relationships with women are bound to be less than conventional, including the way in which Will believes Lymond has (mis)used the blind "girl" Christian Stewart.

It is interesting that Will still sees Christian as a girl, someone who is his own age, when he would hardly view himself as still a boy. In fact, his mind immediately goes to that point, thinking how he is toying with his father by making the rendezvous in order to show off how much he has matured and "make self-satisfied comparisons," all of which indicates a marked immaturity. Once again, as before the Hume debacle, Will is playing his own private game using his father and Lymond as unwitting pawns, or so he thinks.

Also as with the Hume excursion, Lymond has put Will in charge of something, this time the dismantling of their location at Peel Tower. The new hideout is at Crawfordmuir, where gold mines have fallen into disuse ... well, almost. Now we learn the broader significance of Sybilla's spying the pale yellow gold at Patey Liddell's shop. The gold came from Crawfordmuir and was not mined legally. No doubt Lymond's men brought out a "sparkling fragment" or two for Patey to use in decorating Lymond's gloves and as payment for services rendered.

Next day, Will leaves for Peel Tower before Lymond departs for his own rendezvous, so Scott is not the only one holding back information.

Tantallon Castle
Lymond is off to see George Douglas at Tantallon Castle, a mid-14th century castle belonging to the Douglases, which had briefly fallen into the hands of James V of Scotland until his death in 1542 when Archibald Douglas returned to reclaim it. As is clear even in this image, the castle sits atop a promontory protected on three sides by "hundred-foot cliffs." It seems a fitting location for George and Lymond to spar.

George really, really wants and needs to produce Will Scott: "Sir George badly needed Will Scott to bolster his tattered prestige with Lord Grey." Dunnett rarely spells things out this directly, so this is a very important point. Lymond is doing his level best to exude insouciance and present alternatives. George is equally adroit in offering options; both men are dancing carefully around the central issue: each has what the other desperately wants. When Lymond says to George that "in the si├Ęcles de foi you would be irresistible," he means that if he were to take any man's word on faith, it would be George's. Alas, they are now living in the age of reason, so Lymond requires actual proof before he hands Will over. Of course, George Douglas is a man Lymond would trust just so far and no farther in any age, and that is not very far at all.

Also of note is the fact that George lets Lymond know he figured out his identity some time ago. George wants Lymond to think he knew who he was at their first encounter at Dalkeith (Pt 1, Ch VI) when Lymond, disguised by a black mask, was still seeking Jonathon Crouch. That's why George mentions Andrew Hunter. However, we cannot be sure exactly when or how George discovered (or deduced) Lymond's identity.

George, however, does momentarily get the better of Lymond when he discloses Mariotta's pregnancy. But even this ability to read Lymond's reaction does not assuage George's exasperation with Lymond, who steadfastly (if blandly) refuses all George's attempts to employ his talents or reward him with a barony (which Lymond would lose should Richard and Mariotta have a son). Douglas still cannot get his fingers on Lymond, and it galls him. Lymond's parting words on Will Scott are callous and cold as befitting a traitor and spy. I am left to wonder if George Douglas thinks he is witnessing the real Francis Crawford or if he has misgivings about the persona Lymond has presented.

The section ends with yet a second rare occurrence: Lymond is again surprised and caught flat-footed: Will Scott has up and gone, and Lymond has no idea where.

2. Brief Return to Home Squares (Sunday, February 5, 1548, on the Julian Calendar)

The scene between father and son plays out so vividly and cinematically reading it is like watching it happen in real time before your eyes. You can feel Wat Scott's roiling frustration and barely contained anger warring with his passionate desire to bring his son back into the Buccleuch fold. And you can feel Will's pride and determination to show his father the man he has become under Lymond's tutelage, even to the point of throwing vicious punches with his arm and his mouth. The two men's pent-up need to have it out with one another is palpable. The old lion needs to roar and the cub needs to flaunt his new-found strength.

The reader also learns some other important new pieces of information. First, that Lymond is excommunicated. This is one of the few mentions of religion in the story, and it is a very serious matter. Second, we learn about the destruction of the gunpowder dump that was purportedly planned by Lymond. And finally Wat Scott claims Lymond's perfidy was rewarded by King Henry VIII with money and land. By Buccleuch's account, Lymond is monstrous. However, Will and the reader are kept from learning "the other thing" about Lymond's treachery with the arrival of Johnnie Bullo.

Buccleuch almost convinces his son to come back with him, first with his argument that the family is caught in an impossible position between Lord Grey and the English on the one hand and the Queen Dowager and the Scots on the other. The appeal to Will's family feeling is powerful and compelling. Then the unfolding of Lymond's crimes against Scotland, including the explosion at the convent, have Will about to turn when Johnnie Bullo shows up with the news that the men are surrounded. All the good will and arguments for Will returning with his father evaporate like a whiff of smoke as the younger Scott believes it is all a trap planned by his father.

The fact that Richard Crawford is leading the men to capture Will so enrages Buccleuch that he threatens Culter with "death or maiming" if he tries to interfere again with Buccleuch's efforts to get his son away from Lymond. Once again, we see Culter as obsessed with his brother to the exclusion of all else: wife, mother, friends, country. Remember, Richard had earlier told Janet that he did not want to go behind Buccleuch's back, but now he has done just that. Richard is in a bad place, and everyone, including Richard himself, is convinced he wants Lymond dead.

Peel Tower
The scene back at Peel Tower provides a deep insight into Lymond's ethos. His primary concern with the fact that Will Scott kept his meeting with his father a secret is that, had Johnnie Bullo not picked up on a rumor about the meeting, Culter's men might well have found not only Lymond but all his men. Lymond is not about to allow Will to "endanger sixty men through maudlin sentiment and a watery schoolboy defiance." Will's immaturity in the face of his scolding is reflected in his petulant retort that Lymond doesn't "catechize Cuckoo-Spit every time he disappears with his women!" The difference between Lymond and Will Scott in terms of temperament, maturity, understanding, self control, and depth of insight is clearly delineated in this exchange.

Lymond lays out explicitly to Will just how short-sighted and perilous his private meeting might have been--and just how selfish. Will has far less to lose than anyone else. He would be accepted back into the Scott fold while everyone else in Lymond's band would be imprisoned or executed. Will only gets in one decent punch against the Master when he brings up the explosion at the convent. Lymond's silence and lack of reaction is interesting but not revealing.

On his way home to Branxholm, Buccleuch discovers the horrors wrought by an English raid on Hawick, part of Grey's larger plans to invade and punish Scotland. Once home, all Wat Scott's anger towards his wife's probable betrayal of the meeting to Culter goes out the window the moment he sets eyes on his newest child. As Dunnett says of Wat earlier in the chapter, he is a "man crammed with sentiment, which account[s] for the peculiar harmlessness of half his explosions." Buccleuch's feelings for his family, especially his children, are deep and vast, making his failure to bring Will back into the family all the more heart wrenching.

The chapter ends with many plans set in motion and many expectations:
  • George Douglas expects to trade Will Scott to Grey for an ambassadorship 
  • the Lord Protector of England expects better results from Grey than simply harrying Buccleuch
  • Grey expects Wharton and Lennox to invade Scotland as he moves towards Edinburgh
But what no one expects is for the little queen to fall mortally ill.

This chapter could be called Betrayals Upon Betrayals:
  • Will Scott betrays Lymond by secretly meeting his father.
  • Will almost betrays Lymond and his men's location through this meeting.
  • Lymond agrees to betray Will Scott.
  • George agrees to betray Samuel Harvey.
  • Janet betrays Wat Scott.
  • Someone betrays the Scott rendezvous to Johnnie Bullo.
  • Will thinks his father has betrayed him.
  • Richard betrays Wat Scott.
  • Johnnie Bullo betrays Will Scott.
  • Lymond is accused (again) of betraying his country.
  1. Was Lymond really going to turn Will Scott over to George Douglas in exchange for Samuel Harvey?
  2. Just how and when did George Douglas figure out who Lymond is?
  3. Do you think George believes the conniving, self-serving Lymond he sees is "the real thing"?
  4. Why does Janet Beaton betray her husband's meeting with his son to Richard? 
  5. Why does Will refuse to believe his father has not betrayed him (that is, it's not his father's men waiting in ambush)?
Favorite Line
A raffish smile struggled up from the depths of his beard and he covered it with one hand, but the eyes bent on his wife were as soft as a spaniel's.
Words that Describe Lymond in Bitter Exchange
  • laconic
  • cagey
  • cruel
  • callous
  • self-serving
  • deceptive
  • disingenuous
  • slippery
  • concerned
  • threatening
  • sober
  • impeccable
  • harsh
  • authoritarian
  • imperious
  • condescending
  • genuinely angry
  • surprised (twice, once by Will and once by George) 


  1. I love your blog. I've been having difficulties understanding most of what's going on in Gok. Your blog help me enjoying Gok in a deeper level than my first read. Please keep posting!

  2. Helpful, but who is Samuel Harvey and why is he so critical to Lymond?