Link to Introduction

First time reader? Start here

The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Monday, January 19, 2015

Part Three. The Play for Samuel Harvey. Chapter II. The Queen's Progress Becomes Critical

1. A New Pawn is Taken (Early February - February 21, 1548)

Tom Erskine has come to Boghall to retrieve Christian and take her to Midculter so she and Lady Culter can go to Dumbarton as nurses to the sick baby Queen. Ladies of high birth and family would fulfill this function. Even though there was little they could do other than make the sick child more comfortable, there was no way a royal child would be left alone for a moment during an illness and could only be tended by women of utmost trustworthiness, loyalty, and high birth.

Christian seems more concerned with the renewed fighting, which is news to her. Her reaction to the wishy-washy way in which Arran has handled John Maxwell's demand of Agnes Herries as his bride shows just how passionate a patriot and person she is:
"I should take her to Threave [Maxwell's home] by the scruff of her neck and beg John Maxwell on my knees, if I were Arran, to come to our side."
Tom's marriage proposal is not the stuff of romantic legend. It is as awkward and faltering as Christian's reply is eloquent and expressive. Dunnett draws a clear contrast between the halting, prosaic Erskine and the passionate, incisive Christian. Of course, the comparison between Tom and Lymond is inevitable not only for the reader but also for Christian. How much does her experience with Lymond affect her refusal of Tom's offer? It is not mentioned, but surely the excitement he inspired has lingered in her mind and set her emotions swirling. She cannot give Tom a good reason for her refusal and, ultimately, in showing Tom mercy she buys herself some time to make a final decision. At this point, it seems as though she will not accept his proposal.

Sybilla is also preparing to leave for Dumbarton and, unaccountably, is distracted and smelling of sulphur. Neither Richard nor we know why, except she has a foul-smelling potion from Lady Catherine Hunter designed (supposedly) to protect Richard in the upcoming battle. Was Sybilla checking out this potion to learn its ingredients and potential dangers? We do not know, but she does not want Richard to take it; she just wants him to know about it so he can effectively lie to Andrew Hunter if he brings it up. 

And now the parting from Mariotta. Mariotta has been quiet of late, but so has Richard, yet again not confiding in his wife. She has learned about Richard's interference with Buccleuch and his son from Sir Wat and Sybilla. And she has been listening carefully to the discussions of Scottish war and politics, absorbing mainly Sybilla's points of argument that she now throws at Richard just waiting for him to criticize them so she can triumphantly tell him they are his mother's ideas. He does not bite but is patient and sincere, if a bit distracted, with his replies.

Mariotta does quite a nice, subtle job of weaving the political arguments in such a way that they equally apply to her marriage. The woman is deeply unhappy and Richard is not doing anything to change that. She wants to be part of his life and for him to be part of hers and their child's, that is, something more than a shadowy figure coming and mostly going about his own business. Even in this exchange, Richard's mind is clogged with "the millrace of pressing business in his brain" and not fully engaged in or attentive to what Mariotta is trying to tell him. That is, until she mentions "the wicket gate at the back."

Aside: A wicket gate (or door) is a person-sized entry inside or next to a much larger gate or door. The idea of a wicket gate is to allow someone to enter or exit without having to open the large gate or door. Still in use today, we refer to them as pedestrian entryways.

When Mariotta for the first time in her life sees blood drain from a man's face, she realizes she has gone too far. But she has stepped onto the field of battle and cannot retreat. Moreover, Mariotta has her husband's undivided attention, and she likes the feeling of power she is wielding: "at last she was laying him bare." But the cudgel is a clumsy weapon, as Mariotta quickly learns, because Richard, far from having his defenses crumble puts on a "stiffer armour." Before, he was wooden and detached; now he is a stone battlement and burning with a cold rage, at her and at Lymond. 

And now bad goes to worse. Mariotta stumbles into admitting that she shared her confidences with Andrew Hunter. Richard's initial vacant shock and dismay finally give way to a hardened resolve: his obsession with Lymond just intensified to a level that even Richard probably did not think possible. It is no longer sufficient to hunt his brother down; Richard now must have Lymond "on his knees, and weeping, and begging aloud to be killed." Be careful what you wish for, Richard. 

Left alone at last, Mariotta starts packing, preparing to leave Midculter and Richard and the rest of the Crawfords behind her.

February 21, 1548

The three-pronged English invasion is underway:
  • Wharton and Lennox leave Carlisle for Dumfries.
  • Grey's forces leave Berwick and dig in at Haddington (less than 20 miles from Edinburgh).
  • Lord Culter's Scots discover Wharton and Lennox's route and approach their flank.
  • Wharton's son Harry (he of the hot helmet at Annan) leads a spearhead of mounted soldiers towards Durisdeer, bypassing the Douglas home at Drumlanrig where Angus's daughter Margaret Douglas is located.
  • Harry and his men are attacked by John Maxwell with the aid of the supposedly fleeing Douglases, including Angus.
  • Harry's "forsworn Scots" (Scots who swore allegiance to England) turn on him and join the Douglases in routing the English.
In an hour, it is all over: "the annihilation of the whole of Lord Wharton's army." A messenger is sent to Lord Grey to tell him not only of the "total overthrow" of Wharton and Lennox's forces but of the deaths of Wharton and his son Harry. Grey, seeing his own defeat in the offing, immediately heads back to Berwick, there to learn that indeed neither Harry nor his father is dead. Rather, they are, along with Lennox and a sizable portion of their troops, safe at Carlisle. The one person who seems to have disappeared without a trace is Margaret Douglas.

The news of the Scottish victory is left to Sybilla to deliver to the Queen Dowager. The little queen is recovering from her illness when Sybilla brings word to an exhausted Mary of Guise. Sybilla's own emotions are no doubt raw from worry and fatigue: she blows her nose, as one who is suppressing tears would.

2. But Proves to Be Covered

Lymond is nearby when the fighting occurs, but "except for an episode which he made memorable both for John Maxwell and Lord Wharton's son, he took no part in the fighting..." What is that episode? Dunnett does not tell us, but in the previous section she notes that Richard is "always gifted with special intelligence in the field," strongly implying that Lymond is (indirectly) the source of the "special intelligence" that lets his brother find Wharton and Lennox's route and avoid Harry's spearhead, which John Maxwell attacks. I believe this is the memorable episode Lymond set up, possibly with the assistance of George Douglas. Perhaps we will find out later.

Aside: A bit more irony: Will Scott is reading The Buke of the Howlat, a book celebrating the virtues of the Douglases (a very small book?) with a focus on themes that are all central to The Game of Kings
"The Buke of the Howlat was composed in the late 1440s for Elizabeth Douglas, wife of Archibald Douglas, earl of Moray. It is one of the great monuments of fifteenth-century Scots verse ... telling a comic fable of an owl's borrowed feathers, his pride and ultimate fall, and a bird parliament which decides his fate. At its centre is a heraldic excurses which leads to a celebration of the virtues of the Douglas family and their service to Robert Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Its themes therefore focus on Scottish freedom, aristocratic achievement, and good self- and political governance."
From the website of Boydell & Brewer.

Will has been left at the Crawfordmuir tower during the excitement at Durisdeer and surrounding environs, but the real fun is about to begin with the arrival of Margaret Douglas. During the confusion created by the fighting, Turkey Mat slipped into Drumlanrig and kidnapped Margaret. Lymond wants her to stew for an hour or so before revealing himself as her captor. And he wants Will to watch the ensuing display. Why?

There are a number of possible reasons to explain why Lymond wants Will to watch his encounter with Margaret, but I think the primary reason is a simple one: Francis wants a witness, one who is high-born, educated, and from a respected family just in case he needs someone to confirm what really was said and done to and by Margaret Douglas. Lymond does not trust Margaret one iota, and he knows she is quite capable of lying about what he did or did not do or say to her. Will Scott's testimony to the actual events would make it virtually impossible for Margaret to get away with any serious distortion of the events.

Of course Lymond also wants to continue Will's "education" in the ways of the world. He wants Will to learn more about his (Lymond's) past from him, not from Buccleuch and others. He wants Will to see exactly what Margaret Douglas is and of what she is capable. Will is still naive, especially when it comes to women (remember, he thinks of the majestic Christian as a "girl"). Lymond also probably wants Will to learn that Margaret is his hostage to use as a bargaining chip. Although Will does not know about Lymond's meeting with George Douglas in which he promised to turn Will over in exchange for Samuel Harvey, he knows Lymond needs someone to exchange for Harvey. The fact that Lymond now has Margaret in his grasp means she is that bargaining chip; certainly that is how Will will perceive it.

Will, however, spends an agonizing hour waiting for Lymond to begin his interview with Margaret. She is no slouch. To be kidnapped by unknown foes, blindfolded and taken to who knows where, and held in suspense for what must seem like an eternity takes a very strong will to wait with patience and calm, but she must, because Will does not hear a sound from her. During this time, Will suddenly recalls a "revealing expression" used at Annan. I think that refers to Lymond saying he was brought up in "bad company. From oar to oar," referring to "the Pearl of Pearls," Lennox's wife Margaret. The name Margaret derives from the Greek word for pearl, as Lymond and Will would both know. 

I am sure Will is vigorously searching his memory for everything that was said at Annan, especially by Lymond and Lennox, Margaret's husband. Note that Will wonders what a "majestically reared young woman" like Margaret will make of Lymond, the "wildcat eccentric." Clearly, Will has not yet figured out that there is a robust history between them. He is about to learn differently.

What Will sees when Margaret encounters Lymond is first recognition, then fright. Interesting that she shows momentary fear. Will (and the reader) has no idea why. Also, it is very important that Margaret calls Lymond by his given name. Almost no one calls him Francis. In fact, thus far only his mother has called him Francis, and then only once. This makes Margaret's address of Lymond as Francis a very significant fact: she has had a close acquaintance with him.

Lymond has deliberately dressed as Will has never seen him, in virginal white. Recall that Lymond's face seems "virginal" to Will only an hour before when he revealed that the woman in the tower is Margaret Douglas. And Lymond's very first words in the book are "I am a narwhal looking for my virgin." One thing that must be abundantly clear about Dorothy Dunnett by now is that she does not leave things to chance or make arbitrary allusions. Her word choices are deliberate and essential to the overarching story and its meaning. The association of 'virgin' and 'virginal' with Lymond and Margaret is important, but exactly why we do not yet know.

What else does Lymond's conversation with Margaret reveal?
  • Margaret has been told what happened at Annan between Lymond and Lennox, et al.
  • Lennox once saved Lymond's life, but how and when?
  • Lymond says he regrets not killing Lennox at Annan.
  • Lymond wants to exchange Margaret for her son Henry.
  • Lymond plans to offer the child to the Scottish government for money and to gain the favor of a government that wants him for treason.
  • With Margaret and her son traded, who is left to exchange with Grey for Samuel Harvey? Who indeed!?
  • From Margaret's point of view, Lymond suffered "one accident, one reverse" that he should have been able to overcome by now.
  • Margaret claims King Henry VIII sent Lymond to Calais to protect him from the Scots.
  • By "stupefying bad luck," Lymond fell into the hands of the French.
  • The bad luck appears to be that "ill-timed dispatch" implicating Lymond in the convent's destruction because an English agent left it "by mistake" where the Scots could and would find it.
  • Margaret swears she knew of no duplicity involving the dispatch.
  • Lymond implies her uncle the king would have had no compunction about framing him for the destruction of the convent. 
  • Lymond was a galley slave! Wow! This is quite a discovery.
Now the full meaning of the insult at Annan becomes clear. Remember that Lymond says of Margaret, "I was brought up in bad company. From oar to oar, you might say." Why was Lennox angry enough to want to attack Lymond over this comment? Because Lymond is saying he went from being kept by a "whore" (the 'ore Margaret) to being a galley slave (at the oars) thanks to Lennox, Margaret, and King Henry. There is also the allusion to the Viking sport of jumping oar to oar to prove one's agility and prowess, and that also fits Lymond's situation.

Aside: The Viking sport of oar running appears in Dunnett's later novel The King Hereafter.
Margaret keeps trying to get Lymond to agree that he has over-reacted to the events and should "move on" with his life. Even she has to admit that his being forced into the life of a galley slave is good enough reason for his bitterness, but now, luckily for Lymond, she is here to help. Margaret as good as ditches Matthew Lennox, who is only a useful stepping stone to a possible throne, and promises Lymond he will take his place. She tells Lymond she can convince the Lord Protector of England to let her replace Lennox with Lymond, but he points out that there is still his "savoury reputation" that needs fixing. Lymond helpfully suggests a way: a believable story of strategic betrayal and forgery, with witnesses. This is important.

Margaret gets the Lymond treatment once she has agreed to dump her husband and arrange for some poor soul to swear the incriminating dispatch was a forgery. Once she realizes Lymond has been playing her all along, all the Tudor venom comes spewing out. But Lymond is more than a match for her. He even throws Thomas Howard in her face. Howard (Anne Boleyn's uncle) and Margaret were lovers and secretly engaged. Henry VIII found out and sent both to the Tower. Margaret, of course, broke with Howard and survived. Howard was to be executed, but died of an illness before the sentence could be carried out. It does not pay to be Margaret Douglas's lover or husband, as Lymond knows. He has no interest in her except possibly as a means to getting her son as his bargaining chip. 

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein
When Lymond says that King Henry's use of him as a scapegoat was no accident, he clearly believes that Margaret was in cahoots with her uncle to use him as a pawn in their game. Margaret acknowledges as much. But when Lymond refers to pleasing his mistresses, Margaret's eyes fill with tears of rage and she asks why he cannot "forget"--forget what? Lymond says he thinks of the past often, with "a certain aged melancholy," like the old lion, full of years and crying for its ancient prowess. Whatever happened between Margaret and Lymond had a profound effect on him.

But now Margaret gets the upper hand. She reveals that Wharton's son Harry captured Mariotta when she left Midculter after her disastrous encounter with Richard, and she has the letter to prove it. It is interesting that Margaret has waited until now to use this weapon against Lymond. Clearly, she is a strategic thinker and equal to the task of dealing with Lymond. His voice and words do not reveal much about how deeply this news affects him, but Will can see the impact in his white hands as they fumble with the cords of his shirt.

Lymond acts quickly to ensure he exchanges Mariotta for Margaret before anyone else starts searching for either woman and potentially discovers his location at Crawfordmuir. Margaret thinks Lymond's plan is to kill Mariotta (and, thereby, her child) to ensure his inheritance. She leaves him with a scathing critique of his mental state and his relationship with women, who Margaret believes Lymond "hates" because they are so inferior to him and cannot understand or appreciate him. Her words do sting because there is some truth to them. Not many people, male or female, can cope with Lymond. Margaret can and does in her own warped and malevolent way, at least with the Lymond she thinks she knows.

The last act in this melodrama involves the embarrassing disclosure of Will Scott lurking in the next room. Margaret is not content to humiliate Lymond; she has to make sure Will suffers the same fate, and with him her abilities are far more overtly effective. The imperious way she hands her cloak to Will and simply expects him to put it around her without a word of request or thanks shows she is used to handling people in general and men in particular as if they are all her servants.

Aside: Margaret's reference to "Krishna among the milkmaids" is an anachronism. There is no way she or Lymond or anyone in Europe at that time, no matter how educated and well-read, would know about Krishna or anything associated with Hindu writings, religion, or tradition. 

You can read the great Sanskrit scholar Friedrich Max Muller's Gifford Lecture, "The Veda as Studied by European Scholars," which was, ironically, given at Edinburgh.

Will gets drunk but Lymond gets drunker. Unfortunately for Will, his judgment deteriorates rather more and faster than the Master's, even if Lymond has a head start on Will. Will's petulant insistence on sleeping in his own bed is yet another indication of Buccleuch stubbornness and poor judgment: "a Buccleuch is incapable of leaving well enough alone." Will just cannot do the prudent thing and let Lymond drink off his anger and frustration and failure in private. Turkey Mat at least and probably all Lymond's other men seem to think it perfectly natural for the Master to get rip-roaring drunk in response to the stresses of the day, but Will has enough of his wits about him to realize there is potential danger in their leader getting snockered under the circumstances.

What Will does not realize is that Lymond never starts to drink until after he has put a plan in motion to deal with any potential dangers. Furthermore, Lymond is "a good deal less drunk and a good deal more dangerous" than Will first thought. The Master is sober enough to detect Will's real motives: he believes he, not Lymond, ought to be leading the men. Will is disgusted by Lymond's drunkenness and his unchivalrous treatment of women. 

So Lymond offers Will "what he had prayed for; what he had dreamed about and, more recently, what he had longed for to sting Lymond into shame." Will really does not understand Lymond, does he? It is as if Will is looking at one square inch of a magnificent stained glass window and thinks he is seeing the whole. But Lymond calls his bluff and offers Will a chance to wrest command from him through a drinking contest. If Will knew Lymond at all, he would know he has no chance of defeating him, even if the Master has "some hours' start" on Will. 

Lymond makes the insightful, humorous remark that he usually has an excellent reason for everything he does, "except perhaps recruiting redheaded predicants from the more notoriously pigheaded of our families," a reference to Will's predilection for high-handed moralizing. The comment also shows that Lymond is well-acquainted with the character of the Buccleuchs despite being away from Scotland for years. 
The opening of the next section is another example of Dunnett's masterful use of language to set a scene and build suspense: dawn, sleeping men and dogs, a door opening, Turkey Mat snoring on his back, a door closing, someone descending the stairs, the unsteady approach of a man who has been drinking all night...but which man? Lymond or Scott? The quiet tension and slow build to the inevitable is exquisite. 

Lymond is all business, the exchanges, the excesses, the embarrassments, and the inebriation of the past night seemingly forgotten. Unbeknownst to Will, Lymond had planned everything about the exchange of Margaret for Mariotta and given the orders to Mat. Confident all is well in hand, Lymond tells Matthew he is leaving for a little while, but he does not say where he is going. And Mat does not ask because, unlike Will Scott, Turkey Mat is someone "not prone to asking questions," a soldier used to following orders and trusting his commander. Even Matthew, however, cannot resist asking one question: what about Will?

What is interesting about how Matthew finds Will is not that he is snoring ferociously in an alcoholic stupor (as expected) but that "someone" has "loosened his clothing at the neck, put a cushion under his head, and laid a towel and a basin neatly and squarely on his stomach." Even after the insults, the threats, the anger, and the copious amounts of alcohol consumed, Francis Crawford has seen to Will's comfort as kindly and efficiently as any nursemaid. 

February 22 - early March, 1548

Lymond is off to meet George Douglas at Corstorphine, west of Edinburgh, to arrange for the exchange of Will Scott for Samuel Harvey. However, the meeting is delayed by more than five days because Lord Grey has finally realized he cannot trust George and is keeping him on a short(er) leash with his son as surety. George and Lymond ultimately make the arrangements for the exchange.

While Lymond is arranging his meeting with George, Matthew Lennox is exchanging Margaret for Mariotta. He does so, and afterwards Mariotta goes into premature labor. A royal surgeon is brought blindfolded to the Crawfordmuir tower to attend Mariotta, but the child is stillborn. Mariotta tells the surgeon who she is and also the identity of the man responsible for bringing her to the tower, and by this means the sensational news travels to astonished ears at Dumbarton and beyond.

  1. Why does Lymond leave Will at the tower during the excursion to Durisdeer (where the English and Scottish troops clash)?
  2. Do you think Lymond is responsible for the false reports about Wharton and his son's deaths?
  3. Why is Lymond dressed all in white for his encounter with Margaret?
  4. What does Margaret want Lymond to "forget"?
  5. Was Lymond really going to trade Margaret's child to the Scottish government?
  6. Lymond takes great care of Will Scott after their all-night drinking contest. What does this say about Lymond's character?
Favorite Line
High on the hilltops, among the wet scrub by the burn, a blackbird was singing. The notes, round as syrup, melted into the raw air of dawn and coaxed the cold, reddened sun to its day.
Words that Describe Lymond in the Queen's Progress Becomes Critical
  • scheming
  • manipulative
  • duplicitous
  • clever
  • cunning
  • frustrated
  • surprised
  • disappointed
  • depressed
  • considerate
  • circumspect
  • determined

No comments:

Post a Comment