The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

Chapter Fifteen

‘There was one person you forgot to ask for,’ Carradine said, breezing in, very gay, some days later, ‘in your list of kind inquiries.’

‘Hullo. Who was that?’

‘Stillington.’

‘Of course! The worthy Bishop of Bath. If Henry hated Titulus Regius, as a witness of Richard’s integrity and his own wife’s illegitimacy, he must still more have disliked the presence of its instigator. What happened to old Stillington? Judicial murder?’

‘Apparently the old boy wouldn’t play.’

‘Wouldn’t play what?’

‘Henry’s pet game. Out goes he. Either he was a wily old bird, or he was too innocent to see the snare at all. It’s my belief — if a mere Research Worker is entitled to a belief — that he was so innocent that no agent provocateur could provoke him to anything. Not anything that could be made a capital charge, anyhow.’

‘Are you telling me that he defeated Henry?’

‘No. Oh, no. No one ever defeated Henry. Henry put him on a charge and conveniently forgot to release him. And never home came he. Who was that? Mary on the sands of Dee?’

‘You’re very bright this morning, not to say exhilarated.’

‘Don’t say it in that suspicious tone. They’re not open yet. This effervescence that you observe in me is intellectual carbonisation. Spiritual rejoicing. An entirely cerebral scintillation.’

‘Well? Sit down and cough up. What is so good? I take it that something is?’

‘Good is hardly the proper word. It’s beautiful, perfectly-holy beautiful.’

‘I think you have been drinking.’

‘I couldn’t drink this morning if I tried. I’m bung full, full up to the gullet’s edge, with satisfaction.’

‘I take it you found that break in the pattern we were looking for.’

‘Yes, I found it, but it was later than we had thought. Later in time, I mean. Further on. In the first months everyone did what you would expect them to do. Henry took over — not a word about the boys — and cleaned up, got married to the boys’ sister. Got his own attainder reversed by a Parliament of his own attainted followers — no mention of the boys — and got an act of attainder through against Richard and his loyal subjects whose service was so neatly made treason by that one day’s ante-dating. That brought a fine heap of forfeited estates into the kitty in one go. The Croyland monk was terribly scandalised, by the way, at Henry’s sharp practice in the matter of treason. “O God,” he says, “what security are our kings to have henceforth in the day of battle if their loyal followers may in defeat be deprived of life, fortune, and inheritance”.’

‘He reckoned without his countrymen.’

‘Yes. He might have known that the English would get round to that matter sooner or later. Perhaps he was an alien. Anyhow, everything went on just as you would expect things to go with Henry in charge. He succeeded in August of 1485, and married Elizabeth the following January. Elizabeth had her first child at Winchester, and her mother was there with her and was present at the baptism. That was in September 1486. Then she came back to London — the Queen Dowager, I mean — in the autumn. And in February — hold on to everything — in February she was shut in a convent for the rest of her life.’

Elizabeth Woodville?’ Grant said, in the greatest astonishment. This was the very last thing he had expected.

‘Yes. Elizabeth Woodville. The boys’ mother.’

‘How do you know that she didn’t go voluntarily?’ Grant asked, when he had thought of it for a little. ‘It was not an uncommon thing for great ladies who were tired of court life to retire into an Order. It was not a severe existence, you know. Indeed, I have an idea it was fairly comfortable for rich women.’

‘Henry stripped her of everything she owned, and ordered her into the nunnery at Bermondsey. And that, by the way, did create a sensation. There was “much wondering”, it appears.’

‘I’m not surprised. What an extraordinary thing. Did he give a reason?’

‘Yes.’

‘What did he say he was ruining her for?’

‘For being nice to Richard.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘Sure.’

‘Is that the official wording?’

‘No. That’s the version of Henry’s pet historian.’

‘Virgil?’

‘Yes. The actual order of council that shut her up, said it was “for various considerations”.’

‘Are you quoting?’ asked Grant, incredulous. ‘I’m quoting. That’s what it said: “For various considerations”.’

After a moment Grant said: ‘He had no talent for excuses, had he? In his place I would have thought up six better ones.’

‘Either he couldn’t be bothered or he thought other people very credulous. Mark you, her niceness to Richard didn’t worry him until eighteen months after he succeeded Richard. Up till then everything had apparently been smooth as milk. He had even given her presents, manors and what not, when he succeeded Richard.’

‘What was his real reason? Have you any suggestion?’

‘Well, I’ve another little item that may give you ideas. It certainly gave me one hell of a big idea.’

‘Go on.’

‘In June of that year —’

‘Which year?’

‘The first year of Elizabeth’s marriage. 1486. The year when she was married in January and had Prince Arthur at Winchester in September, with her mother dancing attendance.’

‘All right. Yes.’

‘In June of that year, Sir James Tyrrel received a general pardon. On the 16th June.’

‘But that means very little, you know. It was quite a usual thing. At the end of a period of service. Or on setting out on a new one. It merely meant that you were quit of anything that anyone might think of raking up against you afterwards.’

‘Yes, I know. I know that. The first pardon isn’t the surprising one.’

‘The first pardon? Was there a second one?’

‘Yes. That’s the pay-off. There was a second general pardon to Sir James exactly a month later. To be exact on the 16th July, 1486.’

‘Yes,’ Grant said, thinking it over. ‘That really is extraordinary.’

‘It’s highly unusual, anyway. I asked an old boy who works next me at the B.M. — he does historical research and he’s been a wonderful help to me I don’t mind telling you — and he said he had never come across another instance. I showed him the two entries — in the Memorials of Henry VII— and he mooned over them like a lover.’

Grant said, considering: ‘On the 16th June, Tyrrel is given a general pardon. On the 16th July he is given a second general pardon. In November or thereabouts the boys’ mother comes back to town. And in February she is immured for life.’

‘Suggestive?’

‘Very.’

‘You think he did it? Tyrrel.’

‘It could be. It’s very suggestive, isn’t it, that when we find the break in the normal pattern that we’ve been looking for, Tyrrel is there, on the spot, with a most unconscionable break in his own pattern. When did the rumour that the boys were missing first become general? I mean, something to be talked openly about.’

‘Quite early in Henry’s reign, it would seem.’

‘Yes; it fits. It would certainly explain the thing that has puzzled us from the beginning in this affair.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It would explain why there was no fuss when the boys disappeared. It’s always been a puzzling thing, even to people who thought that Richard did it. Indeed, when you come to think of it it would be impossible for Richard to get away with it. There was a large, and very active, and very powerful opposition party in Richard’s day, and he left them all free and scattered up and down the country to carry on as they liked. He had all the Woodville–Lancaster crowd to deal with if the boys had gone missing. But where interference or undue curiosity was concerned Henry was sitting pretty. Henry had got his opposition party safely in jail. The only possible danger was his mother-in-law, and at the very moment when she becomes capable of being a prying nuisance she too is put under hatches and battened down.’

‘Yes. Wouldn’t you think that there was something she could have done? When she found that she was being prevented from getting news of the boys.’

‘She may never have known that they were missing. He may just have said: “It is my wish that you should not see them. I think you are a bad influence on them: you who came out of sanctuary and let your daughters go to that man’s parties!”’

‘Yes, that’s so, of course. He didn’t have to wait until she actually became suspicious. The whole thing might have been one move. “You’re a bad woman, and a bad mother; I am sending you into a convent to save your soul and your children from the contamination of your presence”.’

‘Yes. And where the rest of England were concerned, he was as safe as any murderer ever could be. After his happy thought about the “treason” accusation, no one was going to stick his neck out by inquiring particularly about the boys’ health. Everyone must have been walking on eggs as it was. No one knowing what Henry might think of next to make into a retrospective offence that would send their lives into limbo and their estates into Henry’s kitty. No, it was no time to be over-curious about anything that didn’t directly concern oneself. Not that it would be easy, in any case, to satisfy one’s curiosity.’

‘With the boys living at the Tower, you mean.’

‘With the boys living in a Tower officialled by Henry’s men. There was none of Richard’s get-together live-and-let-live attitude about Henry. No York–Lancaster alliance for Henry. The people at the Tower would be Henry’s men.’

‘Yes. Of course they would. Did you know that Henry was the first English King to have a bodyguard? I wonder what he told his wife about her brothers.’

‘Yes. That would be interesting to know. He may even have told her the truth.’

Henry! Never! It would cost Henry a spiritual struggle, Mr Grant, to acknowledge that two and two were four. I tell you, he was a crab; he never went straight at anything.’

‘If he were sadist he could tell her with impunity, you know. There was practically nothing she could do about it. Even if she wanted to. She mightn’t have wanted to all that much. She had just produced an heir to the throne of England and was getting ready to produce another. She might not have the spare interest for a crusade; especially a crusade that would knock the ground from under her own feet.’

‘He wasn’t a sadist, Henry,’ young Carradine said sadly. Sad at having to grant Henry even a negative virtue. ‘In a way he was just the opposite. He didn’t enjoy murder at all. He had to pretty it before he could bear the thought of it. Dress it up in legal ribbons. If you think that Henry got a kick out of boasting to Elizabeth in bed about what he had done with her brothers, I think you’re wrong.’

‘Yes, probably,’ Grant said. And lay thinking about Henry. ‘I’ve just thought of the right adjective for Henry,’ he said presently. ‘Shabby. He was a shabby creature.’

‘Yes. Even his hair was thin and scanty.’

‘I didn’t mean it physically.’

‘I know you didn’t.’

‘Everything that he did was shabby. Come to think of it, “Morton’s Fork” is the shabbiest piece of revenue-raising in history. But it wasn’t only his greed for money. Everything about him is shabby, isn’t it?’

‘Yes. Dr Gairdner wouldn’t have any trouble in making his actions fit his character. How did you get on with the Doctor?’

‘A fascinating study. But for the grace of God I think the worthy Doctor might have made a living as a criminal.’

‘Because he cheated?’

‘Because he didn’t cheat. He was as honest as the day. He just couldn’t reason from B to C.’

‘All right I’ll buy.’

‘Everyone can reason from A to B— even a child. And most adults can reason from B to C. But a lot can’t. Most criminals can’t. You may not believe it — I know it’s an awful come-down from the popular conception of the criminal as a dashing and cute character — but the criminal mind is an essentially silly one. You can’t imagine how silly sometimes. You’d have to experience it to believe their lack of reasoning powers. They arrive at B, but they’re quite incapable of making the jump to C. They’ll lay two completely incompatible things side by side and contemplate them with the most unquestioning content. You can’t make them see that they can’t have both, any more than you can make a man of no taste see that bits of plywood nailed on to a gable to simulate Tudor beams are impossible. Have you started your own book?’

‘Well — I’ve made a sort of tentative beginning. I know the way I want to write it. I mean the form. I hope you won’t mind.’

‘Why should I mind?’

‘I want to write it the way it happened. You know; about my coming to see you, and our starting the Richard thing quite casually and not knowing what we were getting into, and how we stuck to things that actually happened and not what someone reported afterwards about it, and how we looked for the break in the normal pattern that would indicate where the mischief was, like bubbles coming up from a diver way below, and that sort of thing.’

‘I think it’s a grand idea.’

‘You do?’

‘I do indeed.’

‘Well, that’s fine, then. I’ll get on with it. I’m going to do some research on Henry, just as garnish. I’d like to be able to put their actual records side by side, you see. So that people can compare them for themselves. Did you know that Henry invented the Star Chamber?’

‘Was it Henry? I’d forgotten that. Morton’s Fork and the Star Chamber. The classic sample of sharp practice, and the classic sample of tyranny. You’re not going to have any difficulty in differentiating the rival portraits, are you! Morton’s Fork and the Star Chamber make a nice contrast to the granting of the right to bail, and the prevention of the intimidation of juries.’

‘Was that Richard’s Parliament? Golly, what a lot of reading I have to do. Atlanta’s not speaking to me. She hates your marrow. She says I’m about as much use to a girl as a last year’s Vogue. But honestly, Mr Grant, this is the first time in my life that anything exciting has happened to me. Important, I mean. Not exciting meaning exciting. Atlanta’s exciting. She’s all the excitement I ever want. But neither of us is important, the way I mean important — if you can understand what I mean.’

‘Yes, I understand. You’ve found something worth doing.’

‘That’s it. I’ve found something worth doing. And it’s me that’s going to do it; that’s what’s wonderful about it. Me. Mrs Carradine’s little boy. I come over here with Atlanta, with no idea about anything but using that research gag as an alibi. I walk into the B.M. to get me some dope to keep Pop quiet, and I walk out with a mission. Doesn’t that shake you!’ He eyed Grant in a considering way. ‘You’re quite sure, Mr Grant, that you don’t want to write this book yourself? After all, it’s quite a thing to do.’

‘I shall never write a book,’ Grant said firmly. ‘Not even My Twenty Years at the Yard.’

‘What! Not even your autobiography?’

‘Not even my autobiography. It is my considered opinion that far too many books are written as it is.’

‘But this is one that must be written,’ Carradine said, looking slightly hurt.

‘Of course it is. This one must be written. Tell me: there’s something I forgot to ask you. How soon after that double pardon did Tyrrel get that appointment in France? How soon after his supposed service to Henry in July 1486 did he become Constable of the Castle of Guisnes?’

Carradine stopped looking hurt and looked as malicious as it was possible for his kind woolly-lamb face to look.

‘I was wondering when you were going to ask that,’ he said. ‘I was going to throw it at you on my way out if you forgot to ask. The answer is: almost right away.’

‘So. Another appropriate little pebble in the mosaic. I wonder whether the constableship just happened to be vacant, or whether it was a French appointment because Henry wanted him out of England.’

‘I bet it was the other way about, and it was Tyrrel who wanted to get out of England. If I were being ruled by Henry VII, I’d sure prefer to be ruled by remote control. Especially if I had done a secret job for Henry that might make it convenient for Henry if I didn’t live to too venerable an age.’

‘Yes, perhaps you’re right. He didn’t only go abroad, he stayed abroad — as we have already observed. Interesting.’

‘He wasn’t the only one who stayed abroad. John Dighton did too. I couldn’t find out who all the people who were supposed to be involved in the murder actually were. All the Tudor accounts are different, I suppose you know. Indeed most of them are so different that they contradict each other flat. Henry’s pet historian, Polydore Virgil, says the deed was done when Richard was at York. According to the sainted More it was during an earlier trip altogether, when Richard was at Warwick. And the personnel changes with each account. So that it’s difficult to sort them out. I don’t know who Will Slater was — Black Will to you, and another piece of onomatopoeia — or Miles Forrest. But there was a John Dighton. Grafton says he lived for long at Calais “no less disdained than pointed at” and died there in great misery. How they relished a good moral, didn’t they. The Victorians had nothing on them.’

‘If Dighton was destitute it doesn’t look as if he had done any job for Henry. What was he by trade?’

‘Well, if it’s the same John Dighton, he was a priest, and he was anything but destitute. He was living very comfortably on the proceeds of a sinecure. Henry gave a John Dighton the living of Fulbeck, near Grantham — that’s in Lincolnshire — on the 2nd of May, 1487.’

‘Well, well,’ Grant said, drawling. ‘1487. And he, too, lives abroad and in comfort.’

‘Uh-huh. Lovely, isn’t it?’

‘It’s beautiful. And does anyone explain how the much-pointed-at Dighton wasn’t hauled home by the scruff of his neck to hang for regicide?’

‘Oh, no. Nothing like that. Tudor historians didn’t any of them think from B to C.’

Grant laughed. ‘I see you’re being educated.’

‘Sure. I’m not only learning history. I’m sitting at the feet of Scotland Yard on the subject of the human mind. Well, that will be about all for now. If you feel strong enough I’ll read you the first two chapters of the book next time I come.’ He paused and said: ‘Would you mind, Mr Grant, if I dedicated it to you?’

‘I think you had better dedicate it to Carradine The Third,’ Grant said lightly.

But Carradine apparently did not feel it to be a light matter.

‘I don’t use soft soap as a dedication,’ he said, with a hint of stiffness.

‘Oh, not soft soap,’ Grant said in haste. ‘A matter of policy merely.’

‘I’d never have started on this thing if it hadn’t been for you, Mr Grant,’ Carradine said, standing in the middle of the floor all formal and emotional and American and surrounded by the sweeping folds of his topcoat, ‘and I should like to make due acknowledgement of my indebtedness.’

‘I should be delighted, of course,’ murmured Grant, and the royal figure in the middle of the floor relaxed to boyhood again and the awkward moment was over. Carradine went away joyous and light-footed as he had come, looking thirty pounds heavier and twelve inches more round the chest than he had done three weeks ago.

And Grant took out the new knowledge that had been given him, and hung it on the opposite wall, and stared at it.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/tey/josephine/daughter_of_time/chapter15.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04