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The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Part Three. The Play for Samuel Harvey. Chapter IV. Concerted Attack

1. The Four Knights' Game

We are forewarned that a lion is going to be eaten by a little bird.

Probably early April, 1548 
Lord Grey and Gideon Somerville are in London for a two-week stint, a trip planned in the last section. Gideon does not seem to have enough to keep him busy, so he spends a lot of time with Thomas Palmer, who is now working as Grey's "engineering adviser" in between trips to the dentist for more gold bridgework, apparently. Palmer, who has been around quite a while and was a card-playing friend of Henry VIII, is a good source of rumor and information, some of which Gideon passes on to Grey. But not all of it. Remember earlier Gideon did not let on to his superiors he actually knew Lymond's name. Gideon is a clever, circumspect man who keeps his own counsel.

Unfortunately for Lymond, Gideon encounters Margaret Douglas. She deftly leads Gideon's quick mind to put together the pieces of the puzzle of Will Scott, the Hume humiliation of Grey, the Spanish trickster Don Luis, the leader of Will's band of outlaws who is selling him out, the unnamed Scottish outlaws who captured Margaret, and one "blond, blue-eyed, rapacious ... polyglot" they both know.

Grey's assignment from the Lord Protector is to return to Cockburnspath and, on April 21, begin the fortification of Haddington as a prelude to another assault on Scotland.

Lymond now has the attention not only of Grey but also of the Protector, neither of whom is amused by his "huckstering with the might of the English crown."

The Nunnery

Mariotta has been recuperating at the convent near Midculter since late February. Janet Beaton shows once again that she is needle sharp: she doesn't believe for a second that Will and Mariotta's encounter with Sybilla after Will whisked Mariotta away from Lymond was an accident. Or that Will was able to go back to Lymond "without being suspected" so he could arrange a trap for Lymond. The last we saw of Will, he had slipped away from the Tower with Mariotta, and Lymond was furious with him, or seemed to be. It appears from Janet's cynical quizzing of Sybilla that the whole thing was a set-up to get Mariotta out of the Tower and back into the care of Sybilla. Whether Will is part of the deception or just an unwitting dupe is not clear.

Two things are clear from Sybilla's startled reaction to finding Will at the nunnery: she did not expect him to be there today, and she has been seeing him regularly ("he knows I come on Mondays"). Will's message to Andrew Hunter lights the fuse to a hilarious explosion: the messages setting up the trap for Lymond were not sent by Will. They were from Lymond. It is especially amusing that Mariotta is the one who immediately figures out the master puppeteer has once again pulled all the strings.

How much does Sybilla know? Quite a lot. Perhaps everything. First, she has been in communication with Will. Second, she is dismayed he is at the convent at the same time as Janet. Third, she tries to get Will to give her the message in private, but Will, "flustered" and "unaccustomed to the Dowager's little ways," reveals to Janet and Mariotta the existence of his message to Hunter. This destroys Sybilla's ability to make Will play her (and Lymond's) game.

It seems likely that Sybilla has been taking all of Will's messages and replacing them with messages from Lymond!

Things start to go wrong for Lymond. He and Johnnie Bullo (not one of Lymond's men, of course) arrive at Cockburnspath and meet with George Douglas, the bearer of bad news. Harvey is in London and not coming north. Lymond must send a message to bring Will Scott into the trap or face torture. Lymond complies and sends Johnnie with a message for Will.

A few days later Grey, Gideon Somerville, and Grey's men arrive and learn of the easy win with Lymond, who, along with George Douglas, is now at Heriot waiting to spring the trap set for Will Scott. Grey and Gideon arrive, Grey triumphant to at last have trapped "the Spaniard," and Gideon, supremely uncomfortable with the whole thing. Notice how Lymond admits he is Don Luis: by rubbing salt into Grey's still throbbing wound by referring to the "tawny velvet" clothes he liberated from Grey at Hume, accentuating Grey's humiliation.

Lymond learns that Grey finally discovered his ruse as the Spanish captain thanks to his old nemesis Margaret Douglas. Lymond makes sure Grey knows George Douglas is present (though trying hard not to be seen) and, while George and Grey confer, Gideon focuses all his considerable analytic skills on Lymond. Here is "a man waiting. Waiting for what?" Whatever it is, Lymond is no broken man; he still has something planned, something he anticipates. Gideon is so intrigued by Lymond he gets Grey's permission to remain on the scene and wait. Wait for what?

And so...Johnnie Bullo, the ultimate go-between, has another man deliver Lymond's message not to Will Scott but, as if it were a message from Will, to Buccleuch and, by extension, to Richard Crawford. The Buccleuch and Crawford men set out for Heriot in full anticipation of regaining Will Scott (who is not at Heriot) and capturing Lymond.

Chaos ensues. Every plan goes awry. Bowes' English are outnumbered and flee the mounted Scots. Gideon seizes the opportunity to grab Lymond and flee on horseback. Richard Crawford almost overtakes Gideon and Lymond until the men left behind by Grey (who is learning to listen to Gideon) attack and Richard must give up his pursuit. Gideon is home free until he is hit on the head and all goes black.
Gideon is now Lymond's prisoner, and Lymond is quite happy to tell Gideon the truth: that he was the one who sent for his brother and Buccleuch, although he had expected to be long gone with Mr. Harvey when they arrived. He had hoped the Scots would find and capture Grey and Bowes. But since everyone has been "energetically cheating," Lymond is not surprised by the turn of events.

Notice Lymond's reference to Nemesis when Gideon points out his how "abnormally lucky" Lymond was to escape unharmed. To say "Nemesis nodded" is to invoke the goddess of divine retribution and revenge, but it is more. Nemesis means "to give what is due," so in this case, it may mean that Lymond believes Nemesis is nodding to all his very ill fortune and giving him some rare good luck. Or he may mean that Nemesis nodded off and was asleep, so Lymond did not get his due.

On the way back to Crawfordmuir, Lymond and Gideon encounter Will Scott and Johnnie Bullo. This is the first time Gideon has set eyes on Will, and the drama that plays out is probably worth the price of admission for Gideon. Will is furious with Lymond, believing it was not he but his father and Richard Crawford that Lymond had sought to sell to the English. But Gideon, the enthralled spectator, honestly recounts to Will the fact that the Scots had set a "very efficient trap of their own."

One of my favorite lines occurs in this section. When Will barks at Lymond that he must face a reckoning for selling out his father and Richard Crawford to the English, Lymond responds:
"Make me?" invited Lymond and unfurled himself with terrifying suddenness.
It is Dunnett's use of the question mark that makes this sublime. There is a kind of laconic arrogance that echoes the challenges of childhood in Lymond's reply to Will. Here is a man so supremely confident in his superiority that he can stoop to the playful level of a child.

Unarmed and unhorsed, Will now hears the truth from an unimpeachable source--Gideon. Grey betrayed Lymond, but Will's father and Richard are unharmed and on their way home. Everything Will thinks he knows is pure nonsense. Now is the moment Lymond seizes to let Will know he knows about Will's "pattering off" to Dandy Hunter, which Lymond also knows has figured into the multiple mishaps of late.

The scene ends with Lymond watching wide-eyed as Johnnie Bullo rides off. The unusual expression on Lymond's face tells Gideon that Lymond realizes he should have kept his temper in check as he is usually able to do, but this time Will provoked him a little too effectively. It is never good to let potential rivals, enemies, or even employees know your weak spot, and this is what Lymond does in front of Will, Gideon, and Johnnie.

Early April, 1548
Easter falls on April 4

Gideon is being kept at Lymond's hideout, and Dunnett says at the start of this section they are at "Shortcleugh." A "cleugh" is a ravine, but the word is capitalized, indicating a formal place name. It seems odd to me that she never mentions Shortcleugh before or after. I believe Shortcleugh refers to one of the places where gold was found in Scotland:
Mr. Bulmer, in Queen Elizabeth's time, searched and found gold, etc., in these places in Scotland, viz., ... 4. Short-Cleugh water in Crawford moor. A Tour in Scotland, vol. 2, 1771, by Thomas Pennant
Lymond starts his inquisition of Gideon already knowing the outcome: Gideon will never agree to the trade of his life for Harvey's even if Grey agrees to it. Of course, Lymond has no intention of killing Harvey, so he claims, only questioning him. The fact is that Lymond has already thought through the examination of Somerville and concluded that Gideon will do everything in his power not to be exchanged for Harvey. We know this because Lymond has Gideon's sword, knife, key to his room, and horse waiting for his imminent departure.

It seems powerfully strange that Lymond, now that he holds the trump card, would simply let him go home, no strings attached. But that is exactly what he is doing. Why? Why on earth, after all the danger and threats and anger and pain and suffering to himself and others would Lymond just let Gideon go when he can try to force an exchange for Harvey? The only answer is that Lymond is a superb judge of men and their character. He says of Gideon, "honesty is your surest asset." Lymond is gambling that Gideon is an honest and honorable man. And Lymond is still smarting from the rebounding humiliation caused by his questioning of little Philippa Somerville: "I owe your family an act of sensibility."

Nemesis wakes up in this section. After "nodding" either in agreement or drowsiness earlier, the goddess of retributive justice now punishes Lymond for the cruelty he showed Philippa when her father uses it as a reason not to help Lymond.
Injure no-one, either by word or deed.
Nemesis watches for, and overtakes, the footsteps of men,
and holds a ruler and harsh bridle in her hand,
lest you do anything evil, or speak dishonest words:
She commands moreover that there be due measure in all things.

Translation of Alciato's Book of Emblems at
Memorial University of Newfoundland
by Andrea Alciato [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
At first, Gideon says he will not help Lymond "for no better reason than that you want it." But Somerville's better angels start to work on him, as Lymond believes they would, and it slowly dawns on Gideon that Lymond really is letting him go free without any "undertakings" (promised efforts) on Gideon's side. Lymond's unexpected generosity and also sheer recklessness get to Gideon and he finds himself possessed by momentary madness. Finally, he does make an undertaking, the one Lymond is hoping for.

If there was ever an example of reverse psychology in action, Lymond's handling of Gideon is it. Lymond risks everything he has been working so feverishly to achieve on the gamble he has read Gideon Somerville correctly. He gambles that Gideon will not be able to resist Lymond's wildly generous act to free him without precondition knowing what great store Lymond sets on the meeting with Harvey. Gideon, too, is a superb judge of character, and he has judged Lymond to be worthy of at least some level of trust.

Gideon is amazed that Lymond, who takes this meeting with Harvey so seriously that he is disbanding his company of men because of the danger to them, would put his fate into Gideon's hands. Somerville is not the only one seized by madness.

At the end of this section Gideon wonders to himself if he, like the mystic Evagrius (Ponticus), would "receive the receipt for these pious outgoings in his coffin." I refer you to Laura Caine Ramsey's entry on Evagrius for elucidation of the legend. The meaning of Gideon's musing is that he sees himself as the pagan Evagrius who is converted by, in this case, Lymond. At his conversion Evagrius received a promissary note saying he would be repaid in the afterlife, and Gideon wonders if he, too, will reap a posthumous reward for his "pious outgoings."

April 21-End of May

The final section finds Lord Grey in a foul humor despite the advent and persistence of a lovely spring. The fortifications at Haddington are a terrible disappointment requiring the rest of April and all of May to remedy. Furthermore, the Scots and French have a considerable force of men at arms nearby, the French, as Dunnett says with nicely understated humor, "delicately scenting the infested terrain."

But Grey is no slouch. By the last week of May his men have not only made Haddington defensible, Grey has five thousand men and horse, supplies for them all, and George Douglas, having used up all his English goodwill, in his sights.

On his own and quietly, Lord Grey takes one final measure: he sends to London for Samuel Harvey. After so many missteps, misdirections, and miscommunications, Grey is learning, like Gideon, to keep his own counsel.

2. The Pinning Move
Late May

Sybilla has moved Mariotta to Midculter, fearing the poor security at the convent, which makes sense given the hostilities that have occurred in the area and the fact Mariotta was already taken hostage by the English once. Mariotta's only sign of interest is in Johnnie Bullo's alchemical experiment.

Sybilla continues to mourn Christian's absence, which is further evidence of their close relationship and shared sympathies.

Johnnie Bullo's Furnace
At this point, I think it is clear why Sybilla has been financing and encouraging Johnnie's laboratory at Midculter. She is using Johnnie Bullo to exchange messages with Lymond, and the alchemy lab provides the perfect cover for his visits to Midculter. Indeed, Sybilla seems to enjoy his nonsense, too, which is a side benefit. It also helps keep Janet's nose out of Sybilla's business if she is preoccupied with trying to trip up the "mystagogue" Bullo. And the alchemy distracts Mariotta from her own misery.

The arrival of the messenger from Ballaggan, Dandy Hunter's home, brings very bad news indeed for Sybilla. Will is arranging to have Lymond, when he leaves to cross the border, trapped and captured by the English at the same convent where Sybilla's daughter and Lymond's sister died, a very ugly bit of intentional irony on Will's part. Sybilla, interestingly, even seems to blame Lymond for Will's betrayal when she says "he's driven that ridiculous boy half out of his mind, and this is the result."

Notice that Sybilla keeps her wits about her almost as well as Lymond does. She has the presence of mind to tell the messenger to let Hunter know to take Lymond to Threave, the home of Jack Maxwell and his bride Agnes Herries.

Once again Bullo slips out unnoticed to warn Lymond, but this time he is too late.

  1. Who are the four knights in the title of part 1?
  2. Why does Grey send for Samuel Harvey?
  3. Why would Sybilla tell Hunter to take Lymond to Threave?
  4. Do you believe Sybilla blames Lymond for Will's betrayal?
  5. Who is the lion eaten by the little bird?
Favorite Line
There she found herself in the embarrassing position of the social suicide who wakes up after the laudanum: the skies had fallen and done nothing but add to the general obscurity. 
Words that Describe Lymond in Concerted Attack
  • deceptive
  • scheming
  • irritated
  • irritating
  • amused
  • amusing
  • taunting
  • sarcastic
  • witty
  • wily
  • arrogant
  • exasperated
  • angry
  • manipulative
  • reckless
  • audacious
  • honest

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