Book: THE System OF THE WORLD



Neal Stephenson


THE System OF THE WORLD

VOL. III of


THE BAROQUE CYCLE

To Mildred


EPIGRAPH


BOOK SIX

Solomon’s Gold

BOOK SEVEN

Currency

BOOK EIGHT

The System of the World

CREDITS


COPYRIGHT


ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

But first whom shall we send

In search of this new world, whom shall we find

Sufficient? Who shall tempt with wandring feet

The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss

And through the palpable obscure find out

His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight

Upborn with indefatigable wings

Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive

The happy Ile…

MILTON, Paradise Lost

The story thus far…

In Boston in October 1713, Daniel Waterhouse, sixty-seven years of age, the Founder and sole Fellow of a failing college, the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Technologickal Arts, has received a startling visit from the Alchemist Enoch Root, who has appeared on his doorstep brandishing a summons addressed to Daniel from Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, thirty.

Two decades earlier, Daniel, along with his friend and colleague Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, knew Princess Caroline when she was a destitute orphan. Since then she has grown up as a ward of the King and Queen of Prussia in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, surrounded by books, artists, and Natural Philosophers, including Leibniz. She has married the Electoral Prince of Hanover, George Augustus, known popularly as “Young Hanover Brave” for his exploits in the recently concluded War of the Spanish Succession. He is reputed to be as handsome and dashing as Caroline is beautiful and brilliant.

The grandmother of George Augustus is Sophie of Hanover, still shrewd and vigorous at eighty-three. According to the Whigs-one of the two great factions in English politics-Sophie should be next in line to the English throne after the death of Queen Anne, who is forty-eight and in poor health. This would place Princess Caroline in direct line to become Princess of Wales and later Queen of England. The Whigs’ bitter rivals, the Tories, while paying lip service to the Hanoverian succession, harbor many powerful dissidents, called Jacobites, who are determined that the next monarch should instead be James Stuart: a Catholic who has lived most of his life in France as a guest and puppet of the immensely powerful Sun King, Louis XIV.

England and an alliance of mostly Protestant countries have just finished fighting a quarter-century-long world war against France. The second half of it, known as the War of the Spanish Succession, has seen many battlefield victories for the Allies under the generalship of two brothers in arms: the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Nevertheless France has won the war, in large part by outmaneuvering her opponents politically. Consequently, a grandson of Louis XIV now sits on the throne of the Spanish Empire, which among other things is the source of most of the world’s gold and silver. If the English Jacobites succeed in placing James Stuart on the English throne, France’s victory will be total.

In anticipation of the death of Queen Anne, Whiggish courtiers and politicians have been establishing contacts and forging alliances between London and Hanover. This has had the side-effect of throwing into high relief a long-simmering dispute between Sir Isaac Newton-the preeminent English scientist, the President of the Royal Society, and Master of the Royal Mint at the Tower of London-and Leibniz, a privy councilor and old friend of Sophie, and tutor to Princess Caroline. Ostensibly this conflict is about which of the two men first invented the calculus, but in truth it has deeper roots. Newton and Leibniz are both Christians, troubled that many of their fellow Natural Philosophers perceive a conflict between the mechanistic world-view of science and the tenets of their faith. Both men have developed theories to harmonize science and religion. Newton’s is based on the ancient proto-science of Alchemy and Leibniz’s is based on a theory of time, space, and matter called Monadology. They are radically different and probably irreconcilable.

Princess Caroline wishes to head off any possible conflict between the world’s two greatest savants, and the political and religious complications that would ensue from it. She has asked Daniel, who is an old friend of both Newton and Leibniz, to journey back to England, leaving his young wife and their little boy in Boston, and mediate the dispute. Daniel, knowing Newton’s vindictiveness, sees this as foreordained to fail, but agrees to give it a try, largely because he is impoverished and the Princess has held out the incentive of a large life insurance policy.

Daniel departs from Boston on Minerva, a Dutch East Indiaman (a heavily armed merchant ship). Detained along the New England coast by contrary winds, she falls under attack in Cape Cod Bay from the formidable pirate-fleet of Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, who somehow knows that Dr. Waterhouse is on board Minerva, and demands that her Captain, Otto Van Hoek, hand him over. Captain Van Hoek, who loathes pirates even more than the typical merchant-captain, elects to fight it out, and bests Teach’s pirate fleet in a day-long engagement.

Minerva crosses the Atlantic safely but is caught in a storm off the southwest corner of England and nearly cast away on the Isles of Scilly. Late in December she puts in at Plymouth for repairs. Dr. Waterhouse goes ashore intending to travel to London by land. In Plymouth he encounters a family friend named Will Comstock.

Will is the grandson of John Comstock, a Tory nobleman who fought against Cromwell in the middle of the previous century and, after the Restoration, came back to England and helped found the Royal Society. Subsequently, John was disgraced and forced to retire from public life, partly through the machinations of his (much younger) distant cousin and bitter rival, Roger Comstock. Daniel served as a tutor in Natural Philosophy to one of the sons of John. This son later moved to Connecticut and established an estate there. Will was born and grew up on that estate but has lately moved back to England, where he has found a home in the West Country. He is a moderate Tory who has recently been created Earl of Lostwithiel. Queen Anne has recently been forced to create a large number of such titles in order to pack the House of Lords with Tories, the party that she currently favors.

Daniel has spent the twelve days of Christmas with Will’s family at his seat near Lostwithiel, and Will has talked him into making a small detour en route to London.

Book 6


Solomon’s Gold


Dartmoor


15 JANUARY 1714

In life there is nothing more foolish than inventing.

-JAMES WATT

“MEN HALF YOUR AGE and double your weight have been slain on these wastes by Extremity of Cold,” said the Earl of Lostwithiel, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, and Rider of the Forest and Chase of Dartmoor, to one of his two fellow-travelers.

The wind had paused, as though Boreas had exhausted his lungs and was drawing in a new breath of air from somewhere above Iceland. So the young Earl was able to say this in matter-of-fact tones. “Mr. Newcomen and I are very glad of your company, but-”

The wind struck them all deaf, as though the three men were candle-flames to be blown out. They staggered, planted their downwind feet against the black, stony ground, and leaned into it. Lostwithiel shouted: “We’ll not think you discourteous if you return to my coach!” He nodded to a black carriage stopped along the track a short distance away, rocking on its French suspension. It had been artfully made to appear lighter than it was, and looked as if the only thing preventing it from tumbling end-over-end across the moor was the motley team of draught-horses harnessed to it, shaggy manes standing out horizontally in the gale.

“I am astonished that you should call this an extremity of cold,” answered the old man. “In Boston, as you know, this would pass without remark. I am garbed for Boston.” He was shrouded in a rustic leather cape, which he parted in the front to reveal a lining pieced together from the pelts of many raccoons. “After that passage through the intestinal windings of the Gorge of Lyd, we are all in want of fresh air-especially, if I read the signs rightly, Mr. Newcomen.”

That was all the leave Thomas Newcomen wanted. His face, which was as pale as the moon, bobbed once, which was as close as this Dartmouth blacksmith would ever come to a formal bow. Having thus taken his leave, he turned his broad back upon them and trudged quickly downwind. Soon he became hard to distinguish from the numerous upright boulders-which might be read as a comment on his physique, or on the gloominess of the day, or on the badness of Daniel’s eyesight.

“The Druids loved to set great stones on end,” commented the Earl. “For what purpose, I cannot imagine.”

“You have answered the question by asking it.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Dwelling as they did in this God-forsaken place, they did it so that men would come upon these standing stones two thousand years after they were dead, and know they had been here. The Duke of Marlborough, throwing up that famous Pile of Blenheim Palace, is no different.”

The Earl of Lostwithiel felt it wise to let this pass without comment. He turned and kicked a path through some stiff withered grass to a strange up-cropping of lichen-covered stone. Following him, Daniel understood it as one corner of a ruined building. The ground yielded under their feet. It was spread thin over a shambles of tumbledown rafters and disintegrating peat-turves. Anyway the angle gave them shelter from the wind.

“Speaking now in my capacity as Lord Warden of the Stannaries, I welcome you to Dartmoor, Daniel Waterhouse, on behalf of the Lord of the Manor.”

Daniel sighed. “If I’d been in London the last twenty years, keeping up with my Heraldic Arcana, and going to tea with the Bluemantle Pursuivant, I would know who the hell that was. But as matters stand-”

“Dartmoor was created part of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1338, and as such became part of the possessions of the Prince of Wales-a title created by King Edward I in-”

“So in a roundabout way, you are welcoming me on behalf of the Prince of Wales,” Daniel said abruptly, in a bid to yank the Earl back before he rambled any deeper into the labyrinth of feudal hierarchy.

“And the Princess. Who, if the Hanovers come, shall be-”

“Princess Caroline of Ansbach. Yes. Her name keeps coming up. Did she send you to track me down in the streets of Plymouth?”

The Earl looked a little wounded. “I am the son of your old friend. I encountered you by luck. My surprise was genuine. The welcome given you by my wife and children was unaffected. If you doubt it, come to our house next Christmas.”

“Then why do you go out of your way to bring up the Princess?”

“Only because I wish to be plain-spoken. Where you are going next it is all intrigue. There is a sickness of the mind that comes over those who bide too long in London, which causes otherwise rational men to put forced and absurd meanings on events that are accidental.”

“I have observed that sickness in full flower,” Daniel allowed, thinking of one man in particular.

“I do not wish you to think, six months from now, when you become aware of all this, ‘Aha, the Earl of Lostwithiel was nothing more than a cat’s paw for Caroline-who knows what other lies he may have told me!’ ”

“Very well. For you to disclose it now exhibits wisdom beyond your years.”

“Some would call it timidity originating in the disasters that befell my father, and his father.”

“I do not take that view of it,” Daniel said curtly.

He was startled by bulk and motion to one side, and feared it was a standing-stone toppled by the wind; but it was only Thomas Newcomen, looking a good deal pinker. “God willing, that carriage-ride is the closest I shall ever come to a sea-voyage!” he declared.

“May the Lord so bless you,” Daniel returned. “In the storms of the month past, we were pitched and tossed about so much that all hands were too sick to eat for days. I went from praying we would not run aground, to praying that we would.” Daniel paused to draw breath as the other two laughed. Newcomen had brought out a clay-pipe and tobacco-pouch, and Lostwithiel now did the same. The Earl clapped his hands to draw his coachman’s eye, and signalled that fire should be brought out.

Daniel declined the tobacco with a wave of his hand. “One day that Indian weed will kill more white men, than white men have killed Indians.”

“But not today,” Newcomen said.

If this fifty-year-old blacksmith seemed strangely blunt and direct in the presence of an Earl, it was because he and that Earl had been working together for a year, building something. “The balance of the voyage was easier, I trust, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“When the weather lifted, those horrid rocks were in sight. As we sailed past them, we said a prayer for Sir Cloudesley Shovell and the two thousand soldiers who died there coming home from the Spanish front. And seeing men at work on the shore, we took turns peering through a perspective-glass, and saw them combing the strand with rakes.”

The Earl nodded knowingly at this and so Daniel turned towards Newcomen, who looked curious-though, come to think of it, he always looked curious when he was not in the middle of throwing up. “You see,” Daniel continued, “many a ship has gone down near the Isles of Scilly laden with Pieces of Eight, and sometimes a great tempest will cause the sea to vomit up silver onto dry land.”

The unfortunate choice of verb caused the blacksmith to flinch. The Earl stepped in with a little jest: “That’s the only silver that will find its way onto English soil as long as the Mint over-pays for gold.”

“I wish I had understood as much when I reached Plymouth!” Daniel said. “All I had in my purse was Pieces of Eight. Porters, drivers, innkeepers leapt after them like starving dogs-I fear I paid double or treble for everything at first.”

“What embarrassed you in Plymouth inns, may enrich you here, a few miles north,” said the Earl.

“It does not seem a propitious location,” Daniel said. “The poor folk who lived here could not even keep their roof off the floor.”

“No one lived here-this was what the Old Men call a jews-house. It means that there was a lode nearby,” said the Earl.

Newcomen added, “Over yonder by that little brook I saw the ruins of a trip-hammer, for crushing the shode.” Having got his pipe lit, he thrust his free hand into a pocket and pulled out a black stone about the size of a bun. He let it roll into Daniel’s hand. It was heavy, and felt colder than the air. “Feel its weight, Dr. Waterhouse. That is black tin. Such was brought here, where we are standing, and melted in a peat-fire. White tin ran out the bottom into a box hewn from granite, and when it cooled, what came out was a block of the pure metal.”

The Earl had his pipe blazing now too, which gave him a jovial, donnish affect, in spite of the fact that (1) he was all of twenty-three years old, and (2) he was wearing clothes that had gone out of fashion three hundred years ago, and furthermore was bedizened with diverse strange ancient artifacts, viz. some heraldic badges, a tin peat-saw, and a tiny bavin of scrub-oak twigs. “This is where I enter into it, or rather my predecessors do,” he remarked. “The block tin would be packed down the same sort of appalling road we just came up, to one of the four Stannary towns.” The Earl paused to grope among the clanking array of fetishes dangling from chains round his neck, and finally came up with a crusty old chisel-pointed hammer which he waved menacingly in the air-and unlike most Earls, he looked as if he might have actually used a hammer for some genuine purpose during his life. “The assayer would remove a corner from each block, and test its purity. An archaic word for ‘corner’ is ‘coign,’ whence we get, for example, ‘quoin’-”

Daniel nodded. “The wedge that gunners use, aboard ship, to elevate a cannon, is so called.”

“This came to be known as quoinage. And thence, our queer English word ‘coin,’ which bears no relation to any French or Latin words, or German. Our Continental friends say, loosely translated, ‘a piece of money,’ but we English-”

“Stop.”

“Is my discourse annoying to you, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“Only insofar as I like you, Will, and have liked you since I met you as a lad. You have always seemed of a level head. But I fear you are going the way of Alchemists and Autodidacts now. You were about to declare that English money is different, and that its difference inheres in the purity of the metal, and is signified in the very word ‘coin.’ But I assure you that Frenchmen and Germans know what money is. And to think otherwise is to let Toryism overcome sound judgment.”

“When you put it that way, it does sound a bit silly,” the Earl said, cheerfully enough. Then he mused, “Perhaps that is why I have felt it necessary to make this journey with a blacksmith on one hand, and a sixty-seven-year-old Doctor on the other-to lend some gravity to the proposal.”

By gestures so subtle and tasteful that they were almost subliminal, the Earl led them to understand that it was time they were underway. They returned to the coach, though the Earl lingered for a few moments on the running board to exchange civil words with a small posse of gentleman riders who had just come up out of the Gorge and recognized the arms painted on the carriage door.

For a quarter of an hour they trundled along in silence, the Earl gazing out an open window. The horizon was far away, smooth and gently varying except where it was shattered by peculiar hard shapes: protruding rocks, called Tors, shaped variously like schooners or Alchemists’ furnaces or fortress-ramparts or mandibles of dead beasts.

“You put a stop to my discourse and quite rightly, Dr. Waterhouse. I was being glib,” said the young Earl. “But there is nothing glib about this Dartmoor landscape, or would you disagree?”

“Plainly not.”

“Then let the landscape say eloquently what I could not.”

“What is it saying?”

By way of an answer, Will reached into a breast-pocket and pulled out a leaf of paper covered with writing. Angling this toward the window, he read from it. “The ancient tumuli, pagan barrows, Pendragon-battlegrounds, Druid-altars, Roman watch-towers, and the gouges in the earth wrought by the Old Men progressing west-to-east across the land, retracing the path of the Great Flood in their search for tin; all of it silently mocks London. It says that before there were Whigs and Tories, before Roundheads and Cavaliers, Catholics and Protestants-nay, before Normans, Angles, and Saxons, long before Julius C?sar came to this island, there existed this commerce, a deep subterranean flow, a chthonic pulse of metal through primeval veins that grew like roots in the earth before Adam. We are only fleas gorging our petty appetites on what courses through the narrowest and most superficial capillaries.” He looked up.

“Who wrote that?” Daniel asked.

“I did,” said Will Comstock.

Crockern Tor


LATER THAT DAY

SO MANY BOULDERS PROTRUDED through the moth-eaten tarp of dirt stretched over this land, that they had to stop and alight from the carriage, which had become more trouble than it was worth. They must either walk, or ride on arguably domesticated Dartmoor ponies. Newcomen walked. Daniel elected to ride. He was ready to change his mind if the pony turned out to be as ill-tempered as it looked. The ground underfoot was a wildly treacherous composite of boulders, and grass-tufts as soft as goose-down pillows. The pony’s attention was so consumed by deciding, from moment to moment, where it should place all four of its hooves, that it seemed to forget there was an old man on its back. The track ran north parallel to a small water-course below and to their left. It was only visible about a third of the time, but helpfully marked out by a breadcrumb-trail of steaming horse-patties left by those who had gone before them.

The stone walls that rambled over this land were so old that they were shot through with holes where stones had fallen out, and their tops, far from running straight and level, leaped and faltered. He would phant’sy he was in an abandoned country if it weren’t for the little pellets of sheep dung rolling away under Newcomen’s footsteps and crunching beneath the soles of his boots. On certain hilltops grew spruce forests, as fine and dense and soft-looking as the pelts of Arctic mammals. When the wind gusted through these, a sound issued from them that was like icy water hurrying over sharp stones. But most of the land was covered with heather, gone scab-colored for the winter. There the wind was silent, except for the raucous buller that it made as it banged around in the porches of Daniel’s ears like a drunk burglar.

Of a sparse line of Tors stretching north over the horizon, Crockern was the smallest, humblest, and most convenient to the main road-which was probably why it had been chosen. It looked not so much like a Tor as like the stump and the crumbs left behind after a proper Tor had been chopped down and hauled away. They broke out onto the top of the moor and saw it above them. The men and horses huddling in its lee enabled them to judge its size and distance: farther away and higher up-hill than they had hoped, as was the case with all hard-to-reach destinations. It felt as though they had toiled for hours, and got nowhere, but when Daniel turned around and looked back at the way they had come, its many long meanders, which he had hardly noticed at the time, were all compressed so that they looked like the fingers of two interlaced fists.

The Tors were out-croppings of layered rocks of the kind that Leibniz thought were built up in riverbeds. Wind had eaten out soft layers to make them flattened lozenges piled atop each other in teetering stacks that leaned together for support-like piles of time-rounded books made in a library by a scholar who was trying to find something. Remnants of fallen ones were scattered down-hill for some distance, half-sunk into the ground at crazy angles, like three-volume treatises hurled into the ground in disgust. The wind only became stronger as they went up; small brown birds flapped their wings as hard as they could and yet fell behind this invisible currency in the air, so that they moved slowly backwards past Daniel.

Daniel estimated that two hundred and fifty gentlemen had answered the Earl’s summons, and gathered in the lee of the Tor. But in this place, that many men seemed like ten thousand. Few of them had bothered to dismount. For whatever sort of folk their forebears might have been, these truly were modern gentlemen, and they were as out of their rightful place, here, as Daniel was. The only man who seemed at home was the blacksmith, Thomas Newcomen, who looked like a chip off the old Tor as he stood to the side, broad shoulders an umbrella against the wind, scabby hands in pockets. Daniel saw him now for what he was, a Dwarf out of some Saxon ring-saga.

Between Stones and Wind this Tor ought by right to be dominated by elements of Earth and Air, if he were disposed to think like an Alchemist; but to him it seemed more a watery place. The wind sucked heat from his body as swiftly as snow-melt. The air (compared to the miasmas of cities) had a clarity and cleanliness, and the landscape a washed, lapidary quality, that made him feel as if he were standing on the bottom of a clear New England river at the moment when the ice broke up in the spring. So Water it was; but the presence of Thomas Newcomen spoke of Fire as well, for a Dwarf was never far from his Forge.

“Do not mistake me, I would fain be of service to the Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire,” Daniel had insisted, on the twelfth day of Christmas, after Newcomen had stoked the boiler, and the Engine he had wrought, sucking and hissing like a dragon, had begun to pump water up out of Lostwithiel’s mill-pond, and into a cistern on the roof of his house. “But I do not have money.”

“Consider that stop-cock by which Mr. Newcomen brings the machine to life,” the Earl had said, pointing to a hand-forged valve-wheel mounted on a pipe. “Does that stop-cock make steam?”

“Of course not. Steam is generated in the boiler.”

“The trade of this country is a boiler that raises all the steam-which is to say, all the capital-we require. What is wanted is a valve,” the Earl had said, “a means of conducting some of that capital into an engine where it may do something useful.”

THE JUMBLE OF SHRUGGED-OFF slabs afforded natural benches, podia, lecterns, and balconies that served the tin-men as well as the same furnishings in a proper meeting-house. The Court of Stannary was convened there, as it had been for half a millennium, by reading certain decrees of King Edward I. Immediately the most senior of the gentleman of this Tin Parliament stepped forward and proposed that they adjourn, without delay, to a certain nearby Inn, the Saracen’s Head, where (Daniel inferred) refreshments were to be had. This was proposed without the least suspicion that it would be refused. ’Twas like the moment at a wedding when the Priest polls the congregation for objections to the union. But the Earl of Lostwithiel astonished them all by refusing.

He had been seated on a mossy bench of stone. Now he clambered up onto it and delivered the following remarks.

“His Majesty King Edward I decreed that this Court meet in this place, and it has been phant’sied ever since that he did simply thrust the royal finger at a Map, indicating a place equidistant from the four Stannary Towns that surround the Moor, and never suspecting that by so doing he was choosing one of the most remote and horrible places in Britain. And so it is customary to adjourn to the comforts of Tavistock, on the supposition that the King of yore would never have intended for his gentlemen to hold their deliberations in a place like this. But I give King Edward I more credit. I daresay that he had a suspicion of Courts and Parliaments and that he wanted his Tin-men to spend their days in producing metal and not in carrying on tedious disputes, and perhaps forming Cabals. So he chose this place by design, to shorten our deliberations. I say that we ought to remain here, and profit from the King’s wisdom. For the tin and copper trades have fallen on hard times, the mines are flooded, and we have no real business to transact, other than what we gin up. I mean to gin some up now, and to go about it directly.

“My grandfather was John Comstock, the Earl of Epsom, and the scion of that branch of our ancient line, known vulgarly as the Silver Comstocks. As you know he came to ruin, and my father, Charles, fared little better, and even had to leave over the Earldom and immigrate to America when James I was overthrown. I make no bones about my ancestors.

“But even those of you who suppose that we are Jacobites (which we are not) and call us inveterate Tories (which we are) and who say that Queen Anne made me an Earl, only to pack the House of Lords with Tories when she needed to break Marlborough’s power (which may be true)-I say, even those among you who think nothing of me and my line, except what is deprecating and false, must know of the Royal Society. And if you think well of that Society and its works-as every sapient gentleman must-you may not take it amiss, if I remind you of the old connexions between that Society and my grandfather. John Comstock, though wedded to many of the old ways, was also a forward-thinking Natural Philosopher, who introduced the manufacture of gunpowder to England, and whose great distinction it was to serve as the first President of the Royal Society. During the Plague Year he succoured them as well, by offering them refuge on his estate at Epsom, where discoveries too many to list were made by John Wilkins, by the late Robert Hooke, and by him who stands at my right hand: Dr. Daniel Waterhouse, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Chancellor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal Arts. Dr. Waterhouse has very recently re-crossed the Atlantic and is even now on his way to London to confer with Sir Isaac Newton…”

The mention of Daniel’s name caused a sparse ripple of curiosity to propagate through the company of cold, irritable Gentlemen. The mention of Isaac’s created a sensation. Daniel suspected this had less to do with Isaac’s invention of the calculus than with the fact that he was running the Mint. The suspicion was confirmed by the next words of William Comstock, Earl of Lostwithiel: “It has been years since silver coins were to be seen in the market-places of this land. As many as are minted are taken to the furnaces of the money-goldsmiths and made over into bullion and sent into the East. Golden guineas are the currency of England now; but that is too great a denomination for common folk to use in their dealings. Smaller coins are wanted. Will they be minted of copper? Or of tin?”



“Copper,” shouted a few voices, but they were immediately drowned out by hundreds shouting, “Tin!”

“Never mind, never mind, ’tis no concern of ours, for our mines will not produce!” proclaimed the Earl. “Else, we would have never so much to talk about. To the Saracen’s Head we should adjourn, so as not to starve or freeze during our deliberations. But as all of our mines are flooded with water, the copper, or the tin, for the next English coinage shall perforce be imported from abroad. ’Twill be of no concern and no profit to us. The doings of this ancient Parliament shall remain a mere antiquarian curiosity; and so why not convene for a few ticks of the clock on a freezing moor, and have done with it?

“Unless-gentlemen-we can pump the water out of our mines. I know how you will object, saying, ‘Nay, we have tried man-engines, horse-engines, mill-wheels and windmills, none of them profit us!’ Even though I am not a miner, gentlemen, I understand these facts. One who understands them better is this fellow standing at my left hand, Mr. Thomas Newcomen, of Dartmouth, who being an humble man styles himself blacksmith and ironmonger. Those of you who have bought mining-tools from him know him thus. But I have seen him work on mechanical prodigies that are, to a mining-pick, as the Concertos of Herr Handel are to the squeaking of a rusty wheel, and I recognize him by the title of Engineer.

“Now, those of you who have seen the apparatus of Mr. Savery may hold a low opinion of engines for raising water by fire; but that of Mr. Newcomen, though it comes under the same patent as Mr. Savery’s, works on altogether different principles-as is evidenced by the fact that it works. Dr. Waterhouse is plucking at my sleeve, I can keep him quiet no longer.”

This came as a surprise to Daniel, but he did in fact find something to say. “During the Plague Year I tutored this man’s father, the young Charles Comstock, in Natural Philosophy, and we spent many hours studying the compression and rarefaction of gases in the engines conceived by Mr. Boyle, and perfected by Mr. Hooke; the lesson was not lost on young Charles; two score years later he passed it on to young Will at their farm in Connecticut, and it was my very great pleasure to visit them there, from time to time, and to witness those lessons being taught so perfectly that no Fellow of the Royal Society could have added what was wanting, nor subtracted what was false. Will took up those lessons well. Fate returned him to England. Providence supplied him with a lovely Devonshire wife. The Queen gave him an Earldom. But it was Fortune, I believe, that brought him together with the Engineer, Mr. Newcomen. For in the Engine that Newcomen has fabricated at Lostwithiel, the seed that was planted at Epsom during the Plague, England’s darkest hour, has flourished into a tree, whose branches are now bending ’neath the burgeoning weight of green Fruit; and if you would care to eat of it, why, all you need do is water that Tree a little, and presently the apples shall fall into your hands.”

From this, most of the gentlemen understood that they were about to be dunned for Contributions, or, as they were styled in those days, Investments. Between that, and hypothermia, and saddle-sores, the response was more tepid than it might have been. But Will Comstock had their attention. “Now one may see why I did not adjourn this Court to the Saracen’s Head. Our purpose is to set prices, and transact other business relating to tin-quoinage. And as the Old Men were exempt in several ways from Common Law, and common taxation, this Court has long met to supersede and overrule the ones that held sway over the rest of England. Without capital, Mr. Newcomen’s engine will remain nothing more than a curiosity that fills my cistern. The mines shall remain inundated. Neither copper nor tin shall come out of them, and this Court shall lose standing, and have no business to transact. On the other hand, if there is some interest among you Gentlemen of Devon-to speak plainly, if a few of you would care to purchase shares in the joint stock company known as the Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire-why, then, the bleak situation I have just described is overturned, you shall have purchased a Revolution, and this Court will be a busy one indeed, with little choice but to adjourn to that merry Inn down the road-where, by the way, the first two rounds of drinks will be paid for by your humble and obedient servant.”

The Saracen’s Head


THAT EVENING

“NOW YOU WILL BE a Tory, in the eyes of certain Whigs,” Will warned him, “and a butt for all the envenomed Darts of Party Malice.”

“It is merely a repetition of when I departed my father’s house on Holborn during the Plague, and went to seek refuge at Epsom,” Daniel said wearily. “Or when I became part of King James’s court-in part, at the urging of your father. It is ever thus, when I have dealings with a Comstock…”

“With a Silver Comstock,” Will corrected him. “Or a Tin one, as they have taken to calling me in Parliament.”

“Being a Tory has its perquisites, though,” Daniel allowed. “Mr. Threader has very courteously offered to convey me to London, departing tomorrow. He is going thither on business.”

The Earl looked a bit queasy. “And you have gratefully accepted?”

“I saw no reason not to.”

“Then know that Tories have their factions too, and parties within the party-”

“And Party Malice?”

“And party malice. Though within a party-as within a family-the malice is more strange, and frequently worse. Dr. Waterhouse, as you know, I am my father’s third son. I spent a good deal of time getting beaten up by my elders, and quite lost my savour for it. I was reluctant to be made a Tory lord, because I knew it would lead to more of the same-” Here his gaze broke free of Daniel’s, and wandered round the Inn until it had sought out Mr. Threader, who was holding court with several gentlemen in a corner, saying nothing, but listening, and writing in a book with a quill.

Will continued, “But I said yes to the Queen, because she was-is-my Queen. Many blows have landed on me since, from Whigs and from Jacobite Tories alike, but the two hundred miles of bad road between here and London act as a sort of padding to lessen their severity. You enjoy the same benefit here; but the moment you climb into Mr. Threader’s coach, and begin to put miles behind you-”

“I understand,” Daniel said. “But those blows do not hurt me, because I am followed around-some would say, haunted-by a long train of angels and miracles that account for my having survived to such a great age. I think that this explains why I was chosen for this work: either I am living a charmed life, or else I have overstayed my welcome on this Planet; either way, my destiny’s in London.”

Southern England


LATE JANUARY 1714

TRUE TO HIS WORD, Mr. Threader-or, to be precise, Mr. Threader’s train of carts, coaches, spare horses, and blokes on horseback-collected Daniel from the Saracen’s Head on the morning of 16 January 1714, hours before even the most optimistic rooster would be moved to crow. Daniel was proffered with a courtly bow, and accepted with sincere reluctance, the distinction of riding with Mr. Threader himself in his personal coach.

As Daniel’s person had been deemed so worthy, his baggage (three sea-trunks, two of which sported bullet-holes) merited placement on the cart that followed right behind the coach. Getting it there was not to be achieved without a few minutes’ unpacking and rearranging.

Daniel stayed outside to observe this, not because he was worried (the luggage had survived worse) but because it gave him a last opportunity to stretch his legs, which was something he had to do frequently, to prevent his knees from congealing. He doddered round the Inn’s stable-yard trying to dodge manure-piles by moon-light. The porters had unpacked from the wagon a matched set of three wooden boxes whose deeply polished wood harvested that light and raked it together into a pattern of gleams. They were expertly dovetailed together at the corners, and furnished with pretty hardware: hinges, locks, and handles made to look like natural swirlings of acanthus-leaves and other flora beloved of ancient Roman interior decorators. Behind them on the cart was a row of peculiarly tiny strong-boxes, some no larger than tobacco-chests.

The three wooden cases put Daniel in mind of the ones commissioned by the more well-heeled Fellows of the Royal Society for storage and transportation of scientific prodigies. When Hooke had made the Rarefying Engine for Boyle, Boyle caused such a box to be made to carry it round in, to emphasize its great significance.

In his laboratory in the cupola of Bedlam, Hooke had used Comstock gunpowder to drive the piston of such an engine, and had shown it could do work-or in Hooke-language, that it could give service as an artificial muscle. That was because Hooke the cripple had wanted to fly, and knew that neither his muscles nor anyone else’s were strong enough. Hooke knew that there were certain vapors, issuing e.g. from mines, that would burn with great violence, and hoped to learn the art of generating them and of conducting them into a cylinder to drive a piston-which would be an improvement on the gunpowder. But Hooke had other concerns to distract him, and Daniel had distractions of his own that led him apart from Hooke, and if Hooke’s artificial muscles had ever been perfected, Daniel had never seen them, nor heard about them. Now Newcomen was finally doing it; but his machines were great brutish contraptions, reflecting the fact that Newcomen was a blacksmith to miners where Hooke had been a watchmaker to Kings.

That merely glimpsing three good wooden boxes on a baggage-wain could lead to such broodings made Daniel wonder that he could get out of bed in the morning. Once, he had feared that old age would bring senility; now, he was certain it would slowly paralyze him by encumbering each tiny thing with all sorts of significations. And to become involved, at this late date, with the Engine for Raising Water by Fire, hardly simplified matters! Perhaps he was being too hard on himself, though. He was of an age where it was never possible to pursue one errand at a time. He must do many at once. He guessed that people who had lived right and arranged things properly must have it all rigged so that all of their quests ran in parallel, and reinforced and supported one another just so. They gained reputations as conjurors. Others found their errands running at cross purposes and were never able to do anything; they ended up seeming mad, or else perceived the futility of what they were doing and gave up, or turned to drink. Daniel was not yet certain which category he was in, but he suspected he’d find out soon enough. So he tried to forget about Hooke-which was difficult, since Daniel was still carrying his bladder-stone around in one pocket, and Hooke’s watch in the other-and got into the coach with Mr. Threader.

Mr. Threader bid him good morning and then slid down the coach’s window and made some remarks to his entourage, the general import of which was that they ought all to begin moving in the direction of London. This command was received much too cheerfully, as if going to London were a sudden brilliant improvisation of Mr. Threader’s. Movement commenced; and so it came to pass that on the evening of the 16th they found themselves slightly less far away from London than they had been at the start, and on the evening of the 17th, slightly less distant still. They lost ground on the 18th. Progress on the 19th was debatable. Certain days (as when they wandered north to the suburbs of Bristol) they might have been vulnerable to the accusation that they were not making any progress whatsoever.

Daniel’s father, Drake Waterhouse, had once moved his person, two horses, a pistol, some bags of oats, a Geneva Bible, and a sack containing eleven hundred pounds sterling from York to London-a distance comparable to the one Daniel was attempting to cover with Mr. Threader-in a single day. And this at the height of the Civil War, when roads were so muddy, and canals so murky, as to erase the distinction. That ride, and others like it, had become proverbial among Puritan traders: examplars of Industry. Mr. Threader, by contrast, played the slothful tortoise to Drake’s enterprising hare. On the first day of the journey, they stopped no fewer than five times so that Mr. Threader could engage in lengthy conversations with gentlemen who surprised them along the way-in all cases, gentlemen who happened to have been in attendance at the Court of Stannary the day before.

Daniel had just begun to form the idea that Mr. Threader was not of sound mind, when, during the last of these conversations, his ears picked up the sounds of coins in collision.

Daniel had come well stocked with books, borrowed from Lostwithiel’s small but colorful library. He began reading his way through them, and gave little further thought to Mr. Threader’s activities for the next several days. But he saw and heard things, which was a grievous distraction for one who was suffering from the particular form of anti-senility troubling Daniel.

Just as the end of a Parishioner’s life was announced by the tolling of the church-bell, so the demise of a Threader-conversation was invariably signalled by the music of coins: never the shrill clashing of farthings and Spanish bits, but the thick, liquid clacking of English golden guineas hefted in Mr. Threader’s hand. This was a nervous habit of Mr. Threader’s. Or so Daniel guessed, since he obviously was not doing it to be tasteful. Once, Daniel actually caught him juggling a pair of guineas one-handed, with his eyes closed; when he opened his eyes, and realized Daniel was watching, he stuffed one coin into the left, and the other into the right, pocket of his coat.

By the time they had got past Salisbury Plain en route to the suburbs of Southampton, and thereby put all strange Druidic monuments behind them, Daniel had learned what to expect from a day on the road with Mr. Threader. They traveled generally on good roads through prosperous country-nothing remarkable in itself, save that Daniel had never in his life seen roads so excellent and country so thriving. England was now as different from the England of Drake, as Ile-de-France was from Muscovy. They never went into the cities. Sometimes they would graze a suburb, but only to call upon some stately manor-house that had formerly stood all by itself in the country (or had been made, in recent times, to look like such a house). In general, though, Mr. Threader hewed to the open country, and sniffed out the seats of gentle and noble families, where he was never expected but invariably welcome. He carried no goods and performed no obvious services. He dealt, rather, in conversation. Several hours of each day were devoted to talking. After each conversation he would retire, clinking pleasantly, to his carriage, and open up a great Book-not a ledger (which would be tasteless) but a simple Waste-Book of blank pages-and joggle down a few cryptical notations with a quill pen. He peered at his diary through tiny lenses, looking somewhat like a preacher who made up the scripture as he went along-an Evangelist of some gospel that was none the less pagan for being extremely genteel. This illusion, however, diminished as they drew (at length) closer to London, and he began to dress more brilliantly, and to bother with periwigs. These, which would have been ornaments on most humans, were impenetrable disguises on Mr. Threader. Daniel put this down to the man’s utter lack of features. On careful inspection one could discover a nose in the center of the fleshy oval that topped Mr. Threader’s neck, and working outwards from there, find the other bits that made up a face. But without such diligent observations, Mr. Threader was a meat tabula rasa, like the exposed cliff of a roast beef left by the carver’s knife. Daniel at first took Mr. Threader for a man of about three score years, though as the days went on, he began to suspect that Mr. Threader was older than that, and that age, like a monkey trying to scale a mirror, simply had not been able to find any toe-hold on that face.

Southampton was a great sea-port, and since Mr. Threader obviously had something to do with money, Daniel assumed they would go to it-just as he had assumed, a few days before, that they would go into Bristol. But instead of Bristol, they had traced a hyperbola around Bath, and instead of Southampton, they grazed Winchester. Mr. Threader, it seemed, felt more comfortable with cities that had actually been laid down by the Romans, and viewed the newfangled port-towns as little better than hovels thrown up by Pictish hunter-gatherers. Recoiling from salt water, they now set a course, not precisely for Oxford, but for a lot of tiny places between Winchester and Oxford that Daniel had never heard of.

Now, Daniel was not being held captive; Mr. Threader even tendered apologies to him more than once, and offered to put him on a hired coach to London. But this only made Daniel want to see it through with present company. (1) Partly it was class. To leap out of Mr. Threader’s excellent carriage and dash off to London in a grubby hack-coach would be to admit that he was in a hurry-which, in Mr. Threader’s crowd, was not done. (2) He had been worried, anyway, about his knees locking up if he were forced to sit for a long time; which would be true, axiomatically, in an efficient coach. The leisurely itinerary of Mr. Threader was just the one Daniel would have chosen, had he been afforded the power to choose. (3) He was not in a hurry anyway. According to what Enoch Root had confided to him in Boston, his summons from the Princess had been a single mote in a storm of activity that had broken in the Court of Hanover in the late spring and early summer of the year just concluded, after the signing of the Peace of Utrecht had brought the War of the Spanish Succession to an end, and got all the Princes and Parliaments of Europe thinking about what they were going to do with the rest of the Eighteenth Century. Caroline could be made the Princess of Wales, and Daniel’s errand could suddenly be imbued with all sorts of import and urgency, by two deaths-Queen Anne’s and Sophie’s. Perhaps Caroline had, at that time, had reasons to expect the former, and to fear the latter. Accordingly, she had begun to set her pieces out on the board, and dispatched her summons to Daniel. But both Anne and Sophie were still alive, as far as Daniel knew. So he was not even a pawn yet. ’Twere pointless, as well as self-important, to rush to London, so long as he was on the island, and able to reach the city on short notice. Better to take his time and to see that island, so that he would better understand how things were, and be a more competent pawn when the time came. Through the windows of Mr. Threader’s carriage he was viewing a country almost as strange to him as Japan. It was not only England’s unwonted peace and prosperity that made it strange to him. Too, it was that he was viewing places that Puritans and Professors did not get invited to. Since Daniel had never seen those places, he tended to forget they existed, and to discount the importance of the people who lived in them. But this was a mistake, which would make him a very poor and useless pawn indeed if he did not mend it; and weak pawns were liable to be sacrificed early in the game.

They had a surprising bit of warm weather then, for a day or two. Daniel took advantage of it by getting out of that coach whenever it stopped moving. When he tired of walking, he had his great raccoon-lined cape brought out-it filled a trunk by itself-and spread upon the wet grass. There was always grass, for they always stopped in places with lawns, and it was always short, for there were always sheep. On his square of American raccoon fur he would sit and read a book or eat an apple, or lie on his back in the sun and doze. These little picnics enabled him to make further observations of Mr. Threader’s business practices, if that is what they were. From time to time, through a manor-house window, across a Great Lawn, or between sparkling fountain-streams, he would catch sight of Mr. Threader passing a scrap of paper to a gentleman, or vice versa. They looked like perfectly ordinary scraps-not engraved, like Bank of England notes, and not encumbered with pendulous wax seals like legal documents. But their passing from hand to hand was always attended with much courtesy and gravitas.

If children were present, they would follow Mr. Threader about, and, whenever he stopped moving, form up around him and look expectant. He would pretend not to notice them at first. Then, suddenly, he would reach out and snatch a penny out of some child’s ear. “Were you looking for this? Do take it-it is yours!” he’d say, holding it out, but before the little hand could grasp it, the penny would vanish as mysteriously as it had appeared, and be discovered a moment later in a dog’s mouth or under a stone, only to disappear again, amp;c., amp;c. He would drive the little ones into a frenzy of delight before finally bestowing a silver penny on each of them. Daniel hated himself for being so fascinated by what he knew to be the cheap jugglery of a carnival mountebank, but he could not help watching. How, he wondered, could the wealthy parents of these children entrust money-as they apparently did-to a prestidigitator?

On one Lawn, while he dozed, sheep came up all around him, and the sound of them grazing became a sort of continuo-line to his dreams. He opened his eyes to see a set of blunt yellow sheep-teeth tearing at the grass, inches from his face. Those teeth, and the mass of winter wool that had turned the animal into a waddling, greasy bale, struck him as most remarkable. That solely by gnawing at the turf and lapping up water, an animal could generate matter like teeth and wool!

How many sheep in England? And not just in January 1714 but in all the millennia before? Why had the island not sunk into the sea under the weight of sheep-bones and sheep-teeth? Possibly because their wool was exported-mostly to Holland-which was in fact sinking into the sea! Q.E.D.

On the 27th of January they entered a forest. Daniel was astonished by its size. He thought they were somewhere near Oxford-it went without saying that they were avoiding the city itself. He saw a fragment of Royal heraldry, but old and ivy-grown. They must be on the estate that, in his day, had been known as the Royal Manor and Park of Woodstock. But Queen Anne had given it to the Duke of Marlborough in gratitude for his winning the Battle of Blenheim, and Saving the World, ten years ago. The Queen’s intention was that a magnificent Palace was to be thrown up there for Marlborough and his descendants to dwell in. If this had been France, and the Queen had been Louis XIV, it would have been done by now-but it was England, Parliament had its knobby fingers around the Monarch’s throat, and Whigs and Tories were joined in an eternal shin-kicking contest to determine which faction should have the honor of throttling her Majesty, and how hard. In the course of which, Marlborough, a quintessential Tory, and son of a Cavalier, had somehow been painted as a Whig. Queen Anne, who had decided, very late in life, that she much preferred Tories, had stripped him of military command, and in general made life so unrewarding for him in England that he and Sarah had gone away to Northern Europe (where he was considered the greatest thing since beer) to bask in the gratitude of Protestants until such time as the Queen stopped fogging mirrors at Kensington Palace.

Knowing all of this, and knowing what he knew of construction sites and of the English climate, Daniel expected to see a lifeless morass surrounded by a slum of underemployed workers huddling under tarpaulins and drinking gin. For the most part he was not disappointed. But Mr. Threader with his genius for skirting, and his abhorrence of the center, teased Daniel by taking unmarked tracks through the woods and across meadows, opening gates and even taking down fence-rails as if he owned the place, and sniffing out the cottages and lodges where the Duke’s tame gentlemen kept records and counted coins. In glimpses between the trunks of trees (where trees still stood) or piles of timbers (where they didn’t) Daniel collected vague impressions of the Palace’s foundations, and some half-completed walls.

This divagation to Woodstock finally broke the ice-which had been very thick-between Dr. Waterhouse and Mr. Threader. It was clear that Daniel was as mysterious to Mr. Threader as the other way round. Since Threader had not been present at Crockern Tor-he had lain in wait for the Stannary Court at the Saracen’s Head-he’d not had the benefit of hearing Will Comstock’s account of the Plague Year. All Mr. Threader knew was that Daniel was a Royal Society chap. He could infer that Daniel had got in solely on account of his brains, as he was manifestly lacking in the other tickets: wealth and class.

In the early going, out in Devon where distances between fine houses were greater, Mr. Threader had not been able to restrain himself from circling round Daniel and jabbing at his outer defenses. He had somehow got it in his head that Daniel was connected to the family of Will Comstock’s bride. And to him this would make sense. Will had married the daughter of a Plymouth merchant who had grown wealthy importing wine from Portugal. But her great-grandfather had been a cooper. Will, by contrast, had noble blood, but no money. Such complementary marriages were all the rage now. Daniel was no gentleman; ergo, he must be some friend of the cooper’s folk. And so Mr. Threader had made certain dry, deadpan utterances about Will Comstock, hoping that Daniel would put his book down and unburden himself of some lacerating comments about the folly of using steam to do work. In the first few days’ travel he had bobbled such bait before Daniel, but his angling had been in vain. Since then, Daniel had kept busy reading in his books and Mr. Threader writing in his. Both men were of an age when they were in no great hurry to make friends and share confidences. Starting friendships, like opening up new overseas trade routes, was a mad venture best left to the young.

Still, from time to time, Mr. Threader would lob dry conversation-starters in Daniel’s direction. Just to be a good sport, Daniel would do the same. But neither man could accept the loss of face that attended curiosity. Daniel could not bring himself to come out and ask what Mr. Threader did for a living, as he could see that among the set who kept big houses in the country, it was perfectly obvious, and that only an idiot, or a grubby Whig, would not know. Mr. Threader, for his part, wanted to know how Daniel was connected to the Earl of Lostwithiel. To him, it was monstrously strange that an aged Natural Philosopher should materialize all of a sudden in the middle of Dartmoor, in a coonskin wrapper, and croak out a few words that would cause every gentleman in a twenty-mile radius to liquidate other holdings, and buy stock in that commercial Lunatick Asylum, the Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire.

Daniel had developed two alternative hypotheses: Mr. Threader was a betting agent who roamed about taking and settling wagers. Or, Mr. Threader was a Jesuit in disguise, visiting the homes of crypto-Catholic Jacobite Tories to hear confessions and to collect tithes. The polished wooden chests, according to this hypothesis, contained communion wafers, chalices, and other Popish gear.

All of these speculations collapsed in a few minutes when Daniel saw Blenheim Palace a-building; realized whose estate they were on; and, in his astonishment, forgot himself, and blurted, “Is he here?”

“Is who here, precisely? Dr. Waterhouse?” Mr. Threader asked delicately.

“Churchill.”

“Which Churchill?” Mr. Threader asked shrewdly. For new ones were being produced all the time.

“The Duke of Marlborough.” Then Daniel came to his senses. “No. I’m sorry. Stupid question. He’s in Antwerp.”

“Frankfort.”

“He has just moved to Antwerp,” Daniel insisted.

This occurred moments before Mr. Threader went into one of Marlborough’s out-houses to do whatever it was that he did. Meanwhile Daniel meditated on the foolishness of his little outburst. Obviously the Lord of the Manor was not in residence now. Men who owned such estates did not live upon them, at least, not in January. At this time of the year they were all in London. The most important occupants of the country estates were not men, but sheep, and the most important activity was conversion of grass into wool; for wool, exported, brought revenue, and revenue, farmed, enabled gentlefolk to pay rent, buy wine, and gamble in London, all winter long.

All clear enough in its general outlines. But as Daniel had got older he had developed a greater respect for details. Mr. Threader, he suspected, was a detail.

To a merchant, England was a necklace of sea-ports surrounding a howling impoverished waste. As with a burning log on a hearth, all the warmth, color and heat lay in the outer encrustation of ruby-red coals. The interior was cold, damp, dark, and dead. The sea served the same purpose for the commerce of England as the atmosphere did for combustion of a log. Any place that the sea could not reach was of no account, save in the vastly inferior sense that it sort of held everything together structurally.



And yet England did have an interior. Daniel had quite forgotten this until he had been awakened by the sheep-teeth right in front of his face. Unlike, say, the interior of New Spain, which produced its wealth in a few highly concentrated mines, England’s countryside made its treasure in the most diffuse way imaginable. There were no wool-mines. A given swath of grass produced infinitesimal revenue. In order to arrange it so that a Lord could wager a hundred guineas on a horse-race, some kind of frightfully tedious and complicated money-gathering process would have to take place, and it would have to take place all over England, all the time, without letup. Daniel’s eyes watered, to think of the number of separate transactions that must go on, all over a given hundred-mile-square patch of English turf, in order to yield a single pound sterling of free-and-

clear income, deliverable to a Fop in London.

But at any rate it happened somehow. The recipients of those pounds sterling gathered in London, all winter long, and engaged in Intercourse. That is, money changed hands among them. In the end, a great deal of that money must make its way back out into the countryside to pay for the building and upkeep of stately houses, amp;c., amp;c.

The stupidest imaginable way of handling it would have been to gather together all of the pennies in the countryside, from millions of tributary farmsteads, and physically transport them into London; let the wagon-trains feed and water while the gentlefolk carried out their Intercourse; and then load the coins back onto the wagons and haul them back out to the country again. And perhaps that was how they did it in some countries. But England had obstinately refused to mint coins of large denominations-which was to say, gold coins-in large enough quantities to be actually useful. Anyway, such coins were too enormous for small transactions on farms. Those that were minted, tended to be snapped up by London merchants, and used for overseas trade. The true coin of England, the one ordinary folk used, had always been the silver penny. But its low value-which was precisely what made it useful in market-town and countryside-made it miserably inconvenient for gentry who wanted to live in the city. The annual systole and diastole of wealth in and out of London would require movement of vast wagon-trains laden with coins.

One never saw such traffic on English roads, though. The very idea had a Robin Hood-esque, days-of-yore ring to it. And because what was out of sight was out of mind, Daniel had never thought about what was implied by the disappearance of money-chests from the highways of modern England.

Suppose one had gained the trust of many gentlefolk in London. One could then act as an intermediary, settling their transactions in the city with a word and a handshake, without the need for bags of silver to be lugged around and heaved into the doorways of posh town-houses.

Suppose one also had many contacts in the countryside-a network, as it were, of trusted associates on all of the estates and in all of the market-towns. Then one could almost dispense with the need for hauling stamped disks of silver to and from London on the highways-but only by replacing it with a torrential, two-way flow of information.

Winged-footed Mercury, messenger of the Gods, must have very little to do nowadays, as everyone in Europe seemed to be worshipping Jesus. If he could somehow be tracked down and put on retainer and put to work flitting back and forth from city to country and back, carrying information about who owed what to whom, and if one, furthermore, had rooms full of toiling Computers, or (engaging in a bit of Speculative Fiction here) a giant Arithmetickal Engine for balancing the accounts, then most transactions could be settled by moving a quill across a page, and movement of silver across England could be cut back to the minimum needed to settle the balance between city and country.

And forget silver. Convert it to gold, and the number of wagons required would be divided by thirteen.

And if one possessed a reservoir, a money-cistern somewhere, even those movements could be reduced-one could then do calculus on the curves, and integrate them over time-

“You were right,” Mr. Threader exclaimed, climbing back into the carriage. “His Grace has indeed moved to Antwerp.”

“When Queen Anne suffered her latest Onset of Symptoms,” Daniel said absent-mindedly, “George Louis in Hanover finally got it clear in his mind that he and his mum would be responsible for the United Kingdom any day now, and that they would need an apparatus-a Council of State, and a Commander in Chief.”

“Of course he would want Marlborough for that,” said Mr. Threader, sounding just a bit scandalized. As if there was something clearly improper about the next King of England choosing the most glorious and brilliant general of English history to take the reins of the Army.

“Therefore the Duke has gone to Antwerp to renew ties with our regiments in the Low Countries, and to be ready-”

“To pounce,” Mr. Threader said.

“Some would say, to be of service, when the new reign begins, and his exile comes to an end.”

“Self-imposed exile, let us not forget.”

“He is not a fool, nor a coward-he must have felt some strong compulsion to leave his country.”

“Oh, yes, he was to be prosecuted for duelling!”

“For issuing a challenge, I was informed, to Swallow Poulett, after Mr. Poulett said, to the Duke’s face, in Parliament, that the Duke had sent his officers off to be slaughtered in hopeless Engagements, so that the Duke could then profit from re-selling their commissions.”

“Scandalous!” said Mr. Threader ambiguously. “But that is in the past. The Duke’s pretensions as to his exile, however sturdy they may have appeared to some in the past, are now wholly undermined; for I have a bit of news concerning Marlborough that I’ll wager not even you have heard, Dr. Waterhouse!”

“I am cataleptic with anticipation, Mr. Threader.”

“My lord Oxford,” said Mr. Threader (referring to Robert Harley, Lord Treasurer of the Realm, the Queen’s chief minister, and leader of the Tory Juntilla which had thrown down the Whig Juncto four years earlier), “has granted the Duke of Marlborough a warrant of ten thousand pounds to resume construction of this Palace!”

Daniel picked up a London newspaper and rattled it. “What a very odd thing for him to do, when Harley’s own Spleen, the Examiner, is jetting bile at Marlborough.” This was Daniel’s delicate way of suggesting that Harley was only throwing money at Marlborough to create a distraction while he and his henchman Bolingbroke were up to something really reprehensible. Mr. Threader, however, took it at face value. “Mr. Jonathan Swift of the Examiner is a bull-terrier,” he proclaimed, and favored the newspaper with what, by Mr. Threader’s standards, was a warm look. “Once he got his canines sunk in my lord Marlborough’s leg it was several years’ labor for my lord Oxford to pry those foaming jaws apart; never mind; Harley’s deeds speak louder than Swift’s words; those Whigs who would claim Marlborough’s virtues for their own, must now explain the matter of those ten thousand pounds.”

Daniel was about to air the observation that ten thousand pounds was a very reasonable price for the Tories to pay to get Marlborough in their camp-especially since it was not actually their money-but he curbed his tongue, sensing that there was no point. He and Mr. Threader would never agree on a thing. There was no profit to be gained by further discussion anyway, for Mr. Threader’s fascination with those ten thousand pounds was the datum that enabled Daniel to solve the equation at last.

“I wonder if we might have met before, you and I,” Daniel mused. “Long ago.”

“It must have been very long ago indeed, sir. I never forget-”

“I have perceived that about you, Mr. Threader-that you allow certain things to slip decently into the past-which is practical-but you never forget, which is prudent. In this instance you have not forgot a thing; we were not formally introduced. In the summer of 1665, I left London and went out to find refuge at Epsom. As very little traffic was moving on the roads, for fear of the plague, I had to walk from Epsom town out to John Comstock’s estate. It was rather along walk, but in no way unpleasant. I recall being overtaken by a carriage that was on its way to the manor-house. Painted upon its door was a coat of arms not familiar to me. I saw it several more times during my stay there. For even though the rest of England was immobilized-embalmed-the man who went about in that carriage would not stop moving on any account. His comings and goings were evidence, to me, that the world had not come to an end, the Apocalypse had not occurred-the hoofbeats of his team on Comstock’s carriageway were like the faint pulse in a patient’s neck, which tells the Physician that the Patient still lives…”

“Who is that madman, coming and going in the midst of the Plague,” Daniel asked, “and why does John Comstock let him into his house? The poxy bastard’ll infect us all.”

“John Comstock could not exclude that fellow any more than he could ban air from his lungs,” Wilkins said. “That is his money-scrivener.”

Mr. Threader was getting teary-eyed now, though it was a toss-up whether this was because of Daniel’s mawkish Narration, or because at long last he understood the nature of Daniel’s feeble connection to the Silver Comstocks. Daniel brought the anecdote to a swift merciful conclusion: “Unless my memory is having me off, the same arms are painted on the door of the vehicle in which we are now sitting.”

“Dr. Waterhouse, I’ll not sit still while you disparage your faculty of recollection any more, for truly, you have the memory of an elephant, sir, and it is no wonder to me that you were gathered in by the Royal Society at a tender age! Your account is without flaw; my late father, may God have mercy on his soul, had the honor of being of service to the Earl of Epsom, just as you said, and my brothers and I, during our apprenticeships, as it were, did accompany him on several of his excursions to Epsom.”

HE HAD PROMISED that they would go into London the next day, but the matter of the ten thousand changed everything. Mr. Threader was now in the same predicament as a spider who has unexpectedly caught something huge in his web, which is to say, the news was good, but much frantic scurrying around was now demanded of him. So they were detained round Oxford on the 28th and 29th of January. Again, Daniel could have got to London easily but again he resolved to see the journey through with Mr. Threader. So he nipped into Oxford and renewed friendships or, as warranted, hostilities with scholars at the University, while Mr. Threader mended the strands of his local Web, so unused to such exertions.

On the 30th, which was a Saturday, they got a late start. Daniel first had to find a hackney-carriage to take him from Oxford back out to Woodstock. There was a lot of blundering about in the woods there trying to rendezvous with Mr. Threader’s train. When he spied it, drawn up before a cottage on the edge of the wood, he saw that he was too early after all, as the horses were all in their feed-bags. He had the hackney-driver unload his trunks on the spot, so that Mr. Threader’s men could get them packed on the right cart. But Daniel himself remained in the hackney-coach, and asked the driver to continue a mile down the road and drop him off, so that he could enjoy a stroll back through the woods. If they were going to attempt to make it all the way to London today, this would be his last opportunity to stretch his legs.

The woods were pleasant enough. Spring was trying to come early. Even though branches were bare, holly and ivy provided some greenery. But the road was a slough, with puddles that would have challenged an albatross. It seemed to be cutting round the base of a rise situate between him and the cottage, and so Daniel angled away from it first chance he got, taking what looked like a game trail up onto higher and firmer ground. Reaching the top of the rise he was faintly disappointed to discover the cottage just where he had expected to find it. Decades had passed since he had enjoyed the thrill of getting lost. So down he went, and approached the little compound from its back side, and thereby saw something through a window.

The three wooden chests from Mr. Threader’s baggage cart had been brought in and unlocked. They contained scales-exquisite scales made out of gold, so that cycles of tarnishing and polishing would not, over the years, throw off their balance. In front of each scale sat one of Mr. Threader’s assistants, weighing golden coins, one at a time. Another assistant was counting the coins out of a chest and distributing them, as needed, to the weighers, who stacked the weighed coins one at a time on embroidered green felt cloths that they had unrolled on the tabletop. Each weigher was maintaining three stacks of coins; the stack in the middle tended to be higher than the other two. When a stack grew precarious it would be carried off, counted, and deposited in one of Mr. Threader’s strong-boxes. Or that was the general impression Daniel collected peering through bubbly ancient window-panes with sixty-seven-year-old eyes.

Then he remembered the warning that Will had spoken to him at the Saracen’s Head. He knew instantly that, even though he had come this way with intentions wholly innocent, and stumbled upon this scene by chance, it would never be viewed that way. He began to feel actual guilt-pangs even though he was blameless. This was a miraculous prodigy of self-shaming that was taught to young Puritans by their elders, as Gypsies taught their children to swallow fire. He skulked back into the forest like a poacher who has stumbled upon the gamekeeper’s camp, and worked his way round to the road, and approached the carts from that side, just as the scales and strong-boxes were being loaded onto the carts for transport.

They began to work their way down the gantlet of thriving river ports that crowded the brinks of the Thames. It was market-day in several of the towns they passed through, which impeded their progress, and at the end of the day they had got no farther than Windsor. This suited Mr. Threader, who perceived opportunities for conversation and profit in that district, so lousy with Viscounts, Earls, amp;c. Daniel was of a mind to stroll up the road to the nearby town of Slough, which was full of inns, including one or two newish-looking ones where he thought he could find decent lodgings. Mr. Threader deemed the plan insane, and watched Daniel set out on the journey with extreme trepidation, and not before Daniel had, in the presence of several witnesses, released Mr. Threader from liability. But Daniel had scarcely got himself into a good walking-rhythm before he was recognized and hailed by a local petty noble who was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and who insisted that Daniel accompany him to his house near Eton and stay the night in his guest bedchamber. Daniel accepted gladly-to the fascination of Mr. Threader, who saw it play out in the carriageway, and found it extremely singular, verging on suspicious, that a chap such as Daniel should be thus recognized and plucked out of the crowd simply because of what went on in his brain.

The next day, Sunday, January 31st, 1714, Daniel did not get breakfast, because none was served. His host had given his kitchen staff the day off. Instead he was hustled off to a splendid church between Windsor and London. It was exactly the sort of church that Drake would have set fire to with extreme prejudice during the Civil War. As a matter of fact, the longer Daniel looked at it, the more certain he became that Drake had torched it, and that Daniel had watched. No matter; as Mr. Threader would say, that was in the past. The church was vaulted with a fair new roof now. Daniel’s bum, and the bums of the noble and gentle congregants, were kept up off the stony floor by most excellent carven pews, which were rented out to the occupants at annual rates that Daniel did not dare to even think about.

This seemed like the sort of High-Flyer church where the minister would wear glorious raiments. And maybe it was. But not today. He trudged up the aisle in burlap, his head hung low, pallid knuckles locked together below his chin, dolorous musick wheezing out of the organ, played upon reed stops that mocked the rumblings of the parishioners’ empty stomachs.

’Twas a scene of pre-Norman gloom. Daniel half expected to see Vikings crash through the stained glass windows and begin raping the ladies. He was quite certain that Queen Anne must have suffered another Setback, or the French unloaded a hundred regiments of Irishmen in the Thames Estuary. But when they had got through the obligatory stuff in the beginning of the service, and the Minister finally had an opportunity to stand up and share what was on his mind, it turned out that all of this fasting, humiliation, and wearing of rough garments was to bewail an event that Daniel had personally witnessed, from a convenient perch on his father’s shoulders, sixty-five years earlier.

“THOSE PEOPLE MIGHT AS WELL have been Hindoos to me!” he shouted as he was diving into Mr. Threader’s carriage three hours later-scant moments after the Recessional dirge had expired.

Then he looked at Mr. Threader, expecting to see the man’s periwig turned into a nimbus of crackling flames, and his spectacle-frames dripping, molten, from his ears, for Daniel’s humours got sorely out of balance when he was not fed, and he was quite certain that fire must be vomiting from his mouth, and sparks flying from his eyes. But Mr. Threader merely blinked in wonderment. Then his white eyebrows, which were not on fire at all, went up, which was what Mr. Threader did when overtaken by the urge to smile.

Daniel knew that Mr. Threader was feeling that urge for the following reason: that now, in the final hours of their two-week trek, starvation and a High Church sermon had succeeded where Mr. Threader had failed: the real Daniel Waterhouse had been unmasked.

“I see no Hindoos, Dr. Waterhouse, only a flock of good English parishioners, emerging not from a heathen temple but from a church-the Established Church of this Realm, in case you were misinformed.”

“Do you know what they were doing?”

“That I do, sir, for I was in the church too, though I must admit, in a less expensive pew…”

“ ‘Expiating the horrid Sin committed in the execrable Murder of the Royal Martyr! Remembrancing his rank Butchery at the Hands of the Mobb!’ ”

“This confirms that we did attend the same service.”

“I was there,” Daniel said-referring to the rank Butchery-“and to me it looked like a perfectly regular and well-ordered proceeding.” He had, by this time, had a few moments to compose himself, and did not feel that he was spewing flames any more. He uttered this last in a very mild conversational tone. Yet it affected Mr. Threader far more strongly than anything Daniel could have screamed or shouted at him. The conversation stopped as dramatically as it had begun. Little was said for an hour, and then another, as the carriage, and the train of wagons bringing up the rear, found its way along town streets to the Oxford Road, and turned towards the City, and made its way eastwards across a green, pond-scattered landscape. Mr. Threader, who was facing forward, stared out a side window and looked alarmed, then pensive, then sad. Daniel recognized this train of emotions all too well; it was a treatment meted out by evangelicals to Damnable Sinners. The sadness would soon give way to determination. Then Daniel could expect a fiery last-ditch conversion attempt.

Daniel was facing backwards, watching the road pass under the wheels of the baggage-cart. On that cart, he knew, was Mr. Threader’s strangely over-organized collection of strong-boxes. This put him in mind of a much-needed change of subject.

“Mr. Threader. How shall I compensate you?”

“Mm-Dr. Waterhouse? What?”

“You have not only transported me but boarded me, entertained me, and edified me, for two weeks, and I owe you money.”

“No. Not at all, actually. I am a very particular man, Mr. Waterhouse, in my dealings. Had I desired compensation, I’d have said as much before we set out from Tavistock, and I’d have held you to it. As I did not do so then I cannot accept a penny from you now.”

“I had in mind more than a penny-”

“Dr. Waterhouse, you have made a lengthy journey-an unimaginable journey, to me-and are far from home, it would be a sin to accept so much as a farthing from your purse.”

“My purse need not enter into it, Mr. Threader. I have not undertaken this journey without backing. My banker in the City will not hesitate to advance you an equitable sum, on the credit of the Person who has underwritten my travels.”

Now Mr. Threader was, at least, interested; he stopped looking out the window, and turned his attention to Daniel. “I’ll not take anyone’s money-yours, your banker’s, or your backer’s, sir. And I’ll not ask who your backer is, for it has gradually become obvious to me that your errand is-like a bat-dark, furtive, and delicate. But if you would be so good as to indulge my professional curiosity on one small matter, I should consider your account paid in full.”

“Name it.”

“Who is your banker?”

“Living as I do in Boston, I have no need of a bank in London-but I am fortunate enough to have a family connexion in that business, whom I can call upon as the occasion demands: my nephew, Mr. William Ham.”

“Mr. William Ham! Of Ham Brothers! The money-goldsmiths who went bankrupt!”

“You are thinking of his father. William was only a boy then.” Daniel began to explain young William’s career at the Bank of England but he bated, seeing a glassy look on Mr. Threader’s face.

“The money-goldsmiths!” Mr. Threader reiterated, “The money-goldsmiths.” Something in his tone put Daniel in mind of Hooke identifying a parasite under a microscope. “Well, you see then, it’s of no account anyway, Dr. Waterhouse, as I do not think that Mr. Ham’s money would have any utility for me.”

Daniel understood now that Mr. Threader had set a trap by asking for the name of his banker. Saying to Mr. Threader, a money-scrivener, My banker is a money-goldsmith, was like mentioning to an Archbishop I attend church in a barn: proof that he belonged to the Enemy. The trap had sprung on him now; and, whether by design or no, it happened at the moment they trundled through Tyburn Cross, where limbs of freshly quartered criminals were spiked to the scaffold, festooned with unraveled bowels. Mr. Threader proclaimed, “Coiners!” with the finality of a Norn.

“They’re drawing and quartering people for that now?”

“Sir Isaac is determined to root them out. He has brought the judicial Powers round to his view, which is that counterfeiting is not just a petty crime-it is high treason! High treason, Dr. Waterhouse. And every coiner that Sir Isaac catches, ends up thusly, torn by flies and ravens at Tyburn Cross.”

Then, as if it were the most natural Transition imaginable, Mr. Threader-who had leaned far forward and screwed his head around to contemplate, at greater length, the festering shreds of Sir Isaac’s latest kills-fell back into his repose with a contented sigh, and fastened the same sort of look on the tip of Daniel’s nose. “You were there when Charles the First was decapitated?”

“That is what I told you, Mr. Threader. And I was startled, to say the least, to enter a church three score and five years later, and be confronted with evidence that these High Church folk have not yet recovered from the event. Do you have any idea, Mr. Threader, how many Englishmen perished in the Civil War? In accordance with our norms, I shall not even mention Irishmen.”

“No, I’ve no idea…”

“Precisely! And so to make such a bother about one chap seems as bizarre, idolatrous, fetishistic, and beside the point to me, as Hindoos venerating Cows.”

“He lived in the neighborhood,” said Mr. Threader, meaning Windsor.

“A local connexion that was not even mentioned in the homily-not, I say, in the first, the second, or the third hour of it. Rather, I heard much talk that sounded to me like politics.”

“To you. Yes. But to me, Dr. Waterhouse, it sounded like church. Whereas, if we were to go there-” and Mr. Threader pointed at a barn in a field to the north side of Tyburn Road, surrounded by carriages, and emanating four-part harmony; i.e., a Meeting-House of some Gathered Church “-we would hear much that would sound like church to you, and politics to me.”

“To me it would sound like common sense,” Daniel demurred, “and I hope that in time you would come round to the same opinion-which would be an impossibility for me, in there-” Fortuitously, they had just crossed over some important new street that had not existed, or had been just a cow-path, in Daniel’s day; but never mind, as looking north he saw Oxford Chapel just where it had always been, and so he was able to thrust his finger at an Anglican church-steeple, which was all he wanted to illustrate his point. “-in that there is no sense to it whatever, only mindless ritual!”

“It is naturally the case that Mysteries of Faith do not lend themselves to commonsensical explanation.”

“You, sir, might as well be a Catholic, if that is what you believe.”

“And you, sir, might as well be an Atheist-unless, like so many of the Royal Society, you have, on your way to Atheism, chosen to pause for refreshment at the Spring of Arianism.”

Daniel was fascinated. “Is it widely known-or supposed, I should say-that the Royal Society is a nest of Arianism?”

“Only among those capable of recognizing the obvious, sir.”

“Those capable of recognizing the obvious might conclude from the service you and I have just been subjected to, that this country is ruled by Jacobites-and ruled, I say, thusly from the very top.”

“Your powers of perception put mine to shame, Dr. Waterhouse, if you know the Queen’s mind on this question. The Pretender may be a staunch Catholic, and he may be in France, but he is her brother! And at the end of a poor old lonely woman’s life, to expect that she’ll not be swayed by such considerations is inhumane.”

“Not nearly as inhumane as the welcome her brother would receive if he came to these shores styling himself King. Consider the example just cited, so tediously, in church.”

“Your candor is bracing. Among my circle, one does not allude so freely to Decapitation of Kings by a Mobb.”

“I am glad that you are braced, Mr. Threader. I am merely hungry.”

“To me you seem thirsty-”

“For blood?”

“For royal blood.”

“The blood of the Pretender is not royal, for he is no King, and never will be. I saw his father’s blood, streaming out of his nostrils in a gin-house at Sheerness, and I saw his uncle’s blood being let from his jugulars at Whitehall, and his grandfather’s plashing all round the scaffold at the Banqueting House, sixty-five years ago today, and none of it looked different from the blood of convicts that we put up in jars at the Royal Society. If spilling the Pretender’s blood prevents another Civil War, why spill it.”

“You really should moderate your language, sir. If the Pretender did come to the throne, the words you just spoke would be high treason, and you would be dragged on a sledge to the place we have just put behind us, where you would be half-hanged, drawn, and quartered.”

“I simply find it inconceivable that that man would ever be suffered to reign over England.”

“We call it the United Kingdom now. If you were fresh from New England, Dr. Waterhouse, which is a hot-bed of Dissidents, or if you had been dwelling too long in London, where Whigs and Parliament lord it over ordinary sensible Englishmen, then I should understand why you feel as you do. But during our journey I have showed you England as it is, not as Whigs phant’sy it to be. How can a man of your intelligence not perceive the wealth of this country-the wealth temporal of our commerce and the wealth spiritual of our Church? For I say to you that if you did comprehend that wealth you would certainly be a Tory, possibly even a Jacobite.”

“The spiritual side of the account is balanced, and perhaps o’er-balanced, by the congregations who gather together in Meeting-Houses, where one does not need to sign a lease, to sit on a pew. So we may leave Church-disputes out of the reckoning. Where money is concerned, I shall confess, that the prosperity of the countryside quite overtopped my expectations. But it comes to little when set against the wealth of the City.”

Timing once again favored Daniel, for they were now on Oxford Street. To the carriage’s left side, the Green Lane stretched northwards across open country, threading its way between parks, gardens and farms, darting into little vales and bounding over rises. To the right side it was all built-up: a development that had been only a gleam in Sterling’s* eye twenty years ago: Soho Square. Gesturing first this way, then that, Daniel continued: “For the country draws its revenue from a fixed stock: sheep eating grass. Whereas, the City draws its wealth from foreign trade, which is ever-increasing and, I say, inexhaustible.”



“Oh, Dr. Waterhouse, I am so pleased that Providence has given me the opportunity to set you right on that score, before you got to London and embarrassed yourself by holding views that stopped being true while you were gone. For look, we are come to Tottenham Court Road, the city begins in earnest.” Mr. Threader pounded on the roof and called out the window to the driver, “High Street is impassable for re-paving, jog left and take Great Russell round to High Holborn!”

“On the contrary, Mr. Threader. I know that the Tories have established their own Bank, as a rival and a counterpoise to the Bank of England. But the Bank of England is capitalized with East India shares. The equity of the Tories’ Land Bank is, simply, land. And East India trade grows from year to year. But of land there is a fixed quantity, unless you mean to emulate the Dutch, and manufacture your own.”

“This is where you need to be set to rights, Dr. Waterhouse. The Land Bank is an antiquarian folly, for just the reasons you have set forth. But this in no way signifies that the Bank of England holds a monopoly. On the contrary. With all due respect to the busy, but misguided men of the Juncto, their Bank’s health is as precarious as the Queen’s. The war we have just brought to an end was a Whig war, pressed upon a reluctant Queen by the importunities of a warlike Parliament, led by a Juncto intoxicated by dreams of adventures on foreign soil. They got the money by taxing the people of the country-and I know whereof I speak, for they are my friends!-and they got that money into the coffers of the Duke of Marlborough’s army by means of loans, brokered in the City, at great personal profit, by Whig bankers and money-goldsmiths. Oh, it was very lucrative for a time, Mr. Waterhouse, and if you were to believe the representations made by my lord Ravenscar, why, you might be forgiven for thinking it was all profitable to the Bank of England. There is his house, by the way,” Mr. Threader remarked, as he peered at a spreading Barock pile on the north side of Great Russell Street. “Unspeakably vulgar, quintessentially nouveau…”

“I was the architect,” Daniel said mildly.

“Of the first bit,” said Mr. Threader after only a moment’s break, “which was admirable, a jewel-box. Pity what has been inflicted on it since you left. You know both the Golden, and the Silver, Comstocks. Fascinating! Ravenscar is no longer in a position to afford the best, and so, as you can plainly see, he makes up in ostentation and volume what he cannot have in taste and quality. His mistress seems to find it pleasing.”

“Oh.”

“You do know who my lord Ravenscar’s mistress is?”

“I’ve no idea, Mr. Threader; when I knew him, he had a different whore every week, and sometimes three at once. Who is his whore presently?”

“The niece of Sir Isaac Newton.”

Daniel could not bear this and so he said the first thing that came into his head: “That is where we used to live.”

He nodded southwards across Waterhouse Square, and slipped far down in his seat so that he could get a look at the house that brother Raleigh had built on the rubble of the one where Drake had been blown up. This change of position brought him knee-to-knee with Mr. Threader, who seemed to know the story of Drake’s demise, and observed a respectful silence as they circumvented the square. Gazing, from his low-down position, over the skyline of the city, Daniel was shocked by a glimpse of an enormous dome: the new St. Paul’s. Then the carriage rounded a turn onto Holborn and he lost it.

“You were making some comment about banks, earlier?” Daniel inquired, in a desperate bid to purge his mind of the image of Roger Comstock putting his poxy yard into Isaac’s niece.

“It went poorly for the Whigs, very poorly indeed, in the last years of the war!” Mr. Threader answered, grateful to’ve been given the opportunity to recount the misfortunes of the Juncto. “Bankruptcy forced England to do what France could not: sue for peace, without having accomplished the chief goals of the war. No wonder Marlborough fled the country in disgrace, no wonder at all!”

“I cannot believe East India trade will be depressed for very long, though.”

Mr. Threader leaned forward, ready with an answer, but was tripped up by an interruption, of a professional nature, from the driver.

“Dr. Waterhouse, if you would be so good as to specify any destination in greater London, it would be my honor and privilege to convey you to it; but we are approaching Holborn Bridge, the gates and wall of the ancient City are within view, and you must decide now, unless you really want to accompany me all the way to Change Alley.”

“That is very kind of you, Mr. Threader. I shall lodge at the Royal Society to-night.”

“Right, guv’nor!” said the driver, who could overhear conversations when he needed to. He turned his attention to his horses, then, and addressed them in altogether different language.

“Bad luck that that the Royal Society has moved out of Gresham’s College,” Mr. Threader asserted.

“The delicacy of your discourse is a continual wonder to me, sir.” Daniel sighed, for in truth, the Royal Society had been thrown out of that mouldering pile after Hooke-who, for many years, had defended their lease with his usual vicious tenacity-had died in 1703. Without Hooke, they had only been able to delay the eviction. And they had delayed it superbly, but as of four years ago they were in new quarters off Fleet Street. “Those of us who sank our money into the bonds that paid for the new building, might employ stronger language than ‘bad luck.’ ”

“It is apropos, sir, that you should bring up the topic of investments. I had been about to mention that, should we have taken you to Gresham’s College, we should have passed by the front of a new edifice, at Threadneedle and Bishopsgate, that might fairly be called a new Wonder of the World.”

“What-your offices, Mr. Threader?”

Mr. Threader chuckled politely. Then he got a distracted look, for the carriage had slowed down, and tilted slightly, depressing him and elevating Daniel. They were climbing a gentle grade. Mr. Threader’s gaze bounced from the left window to the right, and stuck there, fixed on the sight of St. Andrew’s church-yard, a huddled mob of gray head-stones fading into the twilight of the absurdly truncated mid-winter day. Daniel, who even in daylight would have been at some difficulty to keep track of where they were in this new London, realized that they were still rattling eastwards down High Holborn; they had missed several turns, viz. Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane, that would have taken them down toward Fleet Street. As St. Andrew’s fell away aft, they missed yet another: Shoe Lane. They were climbing the approaches to the bridge where Holborn, like a country gentleman stepping over a turd-pile, crossed the Fleet Ditch.

Mr. Threader rapped on the roof. “The Royal Society is no longer at Gresham’s College!” he explained to the driver. “They have moved to a court off of Fleet Street-”

“Crane Court,” Daniel said. “Near Fetter Lane, or so I am informed.”

The driver now murmured something, as if he were ashamed to speak it aloud.

“Would you be offended, affrighted, sickened, or in any wise put out, if we were to go down the Fleet?”

“As long as we do not attempt it in a boat, Mr. Threader.”

Mr. Threader put the tips of his fingers to his mouth, lest the mere suggestion should cause him to throw up. Meanwhile with his other hand he made a coded rap on the ceiling. The driver immediately guided his team toward the right edge of the street. “The brink of our Cloaca Maxima has been shored up since you last, er-”

“Made a Deposit into a Vault?”

“As it were, Dr. Waterhouse. And it is still early enough that the nocturnal traffic shall not have built to the pitch of activity one would so desperately wish to avoid, later.”

Daniel could not see where they were going, but he could smell it now, and he could feel the carriage swerving away from the foot of the Holborn Bridge, and slowing to negotiate the turn southwards. He leaned forward and looked out the window down the length of the Fleet Ditch, a black and apparently bottomless slot in a long slab of unspeakably stained pavement, running due south to the Thames. The sky above the river shed a flinty twilight on this gap, from which the buildings of the city seemed to draw back in dismay. In defiance of Mr. Threader’s optimistic prediction, an ox-cart, consisting of a giant barrel on wheels, had backed up to the edge of the ditch and opened a large orifice in its rear to spew a chunky brown cataract into this, the least favored tributary of the Thames. The sounds coming up from the depths below, indicated that it was striking something other than clear running water. Making a quick scan of the length of the Ditch between them and the Fleet Bridge, about a quarter of a mile downstream-if “downstream” had any meaning here-Daniel saw two other such carts doing the same thing, or getting ready to. Other than the usual crew of idlers, vagrants, thieves, shake-rags, and disgraced preachers selling instant weddings, there was no traffic, other than a single sedan-chair, which was just emerging from an alley on the opposite bank of the ditch, and in the act of turning north towards Holborn. As Daniel caught sight of it, it faltered and stopped. The faces of the two men carrying it waxed like a pair of moons as they turned to look at Mr. Threader’s train. Then the carriage in which Daniel was riding executed its turn. The Ditch swung out of Daniel’s view, and was replaced by the first in a various row of cookeries and market-stalls, not all that bad here, close to Holborn, but bound to degenerate rapidly as they moved on. Daniel turned his head the other way to look out at the Ditch. A slablike wall rose from the opposite bank, ventilated by a few windows barred with heavy grids: the front of the Fleet Prison. His view was then blocked by the nostrils of an ox towing a vault-wagon. A whiff came in the window that paralyzed him for a few moments.

“Deposits must be down to-day, and vaults empty, as so many are fasting in remembrance of the Royal Martyr,” Daniel observed sourly, for he could tell that Mr. Threader wanted to continue talking about Financial Institutions.

“If I were coming to London a-fresh, Dr. Waterhouse, and wished to align my personal interests with a bank, I should pass the Bank of England by-pass it right by, I say! For your own sake! And keep right on going.”

“To the Royal Exchange, you mean…one or two doors down, on the opposite side…”

“No, no, no.”

“Ah, you are speaking of Change Alley, where the stock-jobbers swarm.”

“That is off Cornhill. Therefore, in a strictly cartographic sense, you are getting colder. But in another, you are getting warmer.”

“You are trying to interest me in some security that is traded in Change Alley. But it issues from an Eighth Wonder of the World that is on Threadneedle, near Gresham’s College. It is a most imposing riddle, Mr. Threader, and I am ill-equipped to answer it, as I’ve not frequented that busy, busy neighborhood for twenty years.”

Daniel now leaned to one side, planting his elbow on an arm-rest and supporting his chin on his hand. He did so, not because he was tired and weak from hunger (though he was), but so that he could see round Mr. Threader’s head out the rear window of the carriage. For he had glimpsed a peculiar apparition overtaking them. A rustic person would have guessed it to be a coffin levitating through the air. And considering the number of corpses that had been disposed of in Fleet Ditch over the centuries, there was no better place in London for a haunting. But Daniel knew it was a sedan chair, probably the same one that had emerged, a few moments ago, from the alley across the way. Looking across the Ditch Daniel could see directly into that alley, or one like it, and it seemed to him like the vertical equivalent of the Fleet Ditch itself, a black slot filled with who knew what sort of vileness. What had a sedan chair been doing in such a place? Perhaps taking a gentleman to an unspeakably perverse tryst. At any rate it was now gaining ground on them, coming up along one side. It got close enough that Daniel could sit up straight and view it directly out the carriage’s side window. The windows of the sedan chair-assuming it had windows-were screened with black stuff, like a confession-booth in a Papist church, and so Daniel could not see into it. He could not even be certain that anyone was inside, though the ponderous jouncing of the box on its poles, and the obvious strain on the two massive blokes who were carrying it, suggested that something was in there.

But after several moments these porters seemed to hear some command from inside the box, and then they gratefully slackened their pace and allowed Mr. Threader’s carriage to pull away from them.

Mr. Threader, meanwhile, had resorted to complicated hand-gestures, and was staring at a distant point above Daniel’s head.

“Proceed to the fork in the road, there, where Pig Street leads away from Threadneedle. Whether you go right, toward Bishopsgate, or left up Pig toward Gresham’s College, you will in a few moments come to the offices of the South Sea Company, which, though it is only three years old, already spans the interval between those two ways.”

“And what do you propose I should do there?”

“Invest! Open an account! Align your interests!”

“Is it just another Tory land bank?”

“Oh, on the contrary! You are not the only one to perceive the wisdom of investing in the future increase of foreign trade!”

“The South Sea Company, then, has such interests…where? South America?”

“In its original conception, yes. But, as of a few months ago, its true wealth lies in Africa.”

“Africa! That is very strange. It puts me in mind of the Duke of York’s Africa Company, fifty years ago, before London burned.”

“Think of it as the Royal Africa Company, risen from the ashes. Just as the capital stock of the Bank of England is the East India Company, that of the South Sea Company is the Asiento.”

“Even I know that this word Asiento is linked somehow to the Peace, but I’ve been terribly distracted-”

“We could not win the war-could not dislodge the grandson of Louis XIV from the Throne of Spain-but we did extract certain concessions from him. One of which was the entire right of shipping slaves from Africa to the New World. Mr. Harley, our Lord Treasurer, made arrangements for this Asiento to become an asset, as it were, of the South Sea Company.”

“How splendid.”

“As the commerce of America grows, so the demand for slaves from Africa will grow apace with it, and so there can be no sounder investment than the Asiento, no surer foundation for a bank, for a fortune-”

“Or for a political party,” Daniel said.

Mr. Threader raised his eyebrows. Then they passed by another vault-wagon, forcing them to keep their mouths, and even their eyes, closed for a few moments.

Mr. Threader recovered quicker, and said: “Steam, on the other hand, sir, I would hold in very low esteem, if you’ll indulge me in a spot of word-play.”

“It is lamentably late in this journey, and this conversation, sir, for you to be divulging this to me.”

“Divulging what, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“That you think the Earl of Lostwithiel is launching a mad enterprise, and that you believe your clients should put their money, rather, into the Asiento.”

“I shall put their money where they have directed me to put it. But I cannot help observing, that the nearly limitless coast of Africa is crowded with slaves, driven out from the interior by their more ferocious cousins, and virtually free for the picking. If I wish to pump water from a Cornish tin-mine, Dr. Waterhouse, I need not pay Mr. Newcomen to erect a frightful Engine; now that we have the Asiento, I need only send a ship southwards, and in a few weeks’ time I shall have all the slaves I need, to pump the water out by stepping on tread-mills, or, if I prefer, to suck it out through hollow straws and spit it into the sea.”

“Englishmen are not used to seeing their mines and pastures crowded with Blackamoors toiling under the lash,” Daniel remarked.

“Whereas, steam-engines are a familiar sight!?” asked Mr. Threader triumphantly.

Daniel was overcome with tiredness and hunger, and leaned his head back with a sough, feeling that only a miracle could get him out of this conversation whole. At the same moment, they arrived at the Fleet Bridge. They turned right and began back-tracking westwards, since the driver had over-shot their destination. Daniel, who, as always, had a view out the rear window of the vehicle, was confronted suddenly by the astonishing sight of a colossal stone egg rising up out of the street less than half a mile away, reigning over the low buildings of London like a Khan over a million serfs. This was by a wide margin the largest building Daniel had ever seen, and something about it replenished his energies.

“Nothing about the English landscape is forever fixed. Just as you have probably grown used to the presence of that Dome,” Daniel said, nodding down Fleet to St. Paul’s, and obliging Mr. Threader to turn around and rediscover it, “we might grow accustomed to multitudes of black slaves, or steam-engines, or both. I speculate that the character of England is more constant. And I flatter us by asserting, furthermore, that ingenuity is a more essential element of that character than cruelty. Steam-engines, being a product of the former virtue, are easier to reconcile with the English scene than slavery, which is a product of the latter vice. Accordingly, if I had money to bet, I’d bet it on steam-engines.”

“But slaves work and steam-engines don’t!”

“But slaves can stop working. Steam-engines, once Mr. Newcomen has got them going, can never stop, because unlike slaves, they do not have free will.”

“But how is an ordinary investor to match your level of confidence, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“By looking at that,” Daniel answered, nodding at St. Paul’s, “and noting that it does not fall down. Go and examine its arches, Mr. Threader, and you will see that they are in the shape of parabolas. Sir Christopher Wren made them thus, on the advice of Hooke; for Hooke shewed that it should be so.”

“You have quite wandered away from me. It is an excellent church. I see no connection to steam-engines.”

“Both church-domes and engines are subject to physical laws, which are, in turn, amenable to mathematickal calculations; and we know the laws,” Daniel announced. “It is at least as well-founded as what you do for a living.”

They had come to a halt before the mouse-hole in the north side of Fleet Street that led to Crane Court. The driver maneuvered his team into it, giving directions to the other drivers that the baggage-cart alone should follow; the remainder of the train, consisting by this point of two large carriages and a second baggage-wain, were to remain in Fleet Street, and to get themselves turned around and aimed in the direction of Ludgate.

Getting the horses, their tack, and the carriage to pass through that archway was a bit like funneling a model ship, rigging a-luff, through the neck of a jug. At one point they drew to a full stop and Daniel, glancing out a side-window, found himself within kissing range of a pedestrian-gawky, post-smallpox, perhaps thirty years of age-whose advance down Fleet Street had been barred by all of Mr. Threader’s maneuvers. This fellow, who affected a ratty horse-hair wig, and who carried a smoky lanthorn in one hand and a staff in the other, peered in on them with frank curiosity that Mr. Threader found unseemly. “Go to, go to, sirrah, we are no concern of the Watch!”

The carriage moved forward into the narrow cul-de-sac of Crane Court.

“One of the Royal Society’s new neighbors?” Daniel asked.

“That watchman? No, I should think not!”

“Each inhabitant is supposed to take his turn on the Watch,” Daniel said pedantically, “and so I assumed…”

“That was twenty years ago when the Act was passed,” Mr. Threader returned, sorrowful over Daniel’s naivete. “It has become the practice for householders to pool a bit of money and pay some fellow-usually some caitiff from Southwark-to do the chore in their stead. As you encountered him this evening, so shall you every evening, unless you have the good fortune to pass by while he is in Pub.”

Still they were making their way, tentatively, down Crane Court. Once they had squeezed through the entrance, it had broadened slightly, to the point where two oncoming carriages might scrape past each other.

“I rather thought we should be leaving you off at the home of some distinguished Fellow,” said the bemused Mr. Threader. “I say, you’re not on the outs with them, are you?” he jested, trying to terminate their journey on a jolly note.

I shall be soon enough. “I have several invitations in my pocket, and mean to spend them methodically-”

“Like a miser with his coins!” said Mr. Threader, still trying to haul Daniel up to the level of joviality that he considered suitable upon parting; perhaps this meant he wanted to see Daniel again.

“Or a soldier with his pouch of balls,” Daniel returned.

“You may add one more!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Invitation! You must come and lodge with me for a few days, Dr. Waterhouse; I shall take it as an affront if you do not.”

Before Daniel could think of a polite way to beg off, the carriage came to a stop, and at the same moment the door was pulled open by a fellow Daniel assumed was a porter, albeit over-dressed for the job in his Sunday church-going togs. He was not a porter of the gorilla type, but rather tall, of reasonably normal proportions, perhaps forty-five years old, clean-shaven, almost gentlemanly.

“It is I,” Daniel volunteered, as this man could not seem to decide which of the two passengers was the honored guest.

“Welcome to Crane Court, Dr. Waterhouse,” said the porter, sincerely but coolly, speaking in a French accent. “I am Henry Arlanc, at your service.”

“A Huguenot,” muttered Mr. Threader as Henry Arlanc helped Daniel down onto the pavement.

Daniel glanced at the front of the house that formed the end of the court, but it looked just like the engravings, which was to say, very plain and simple. He turned to look back towards Fleet Street. His view was blocked by the baggage-cart, which had taken longer to negotiate the entrance, and was still fifty feet away, lumbering towards them. “Merci,” said Mr. Threader as Arlanc helped him out.

Daniel moved over to one side so that he could peer between the baggage-cart and the line of house-fronts running down to Fleet. His night vision was not what it had once been, but he thought he could see the glimmer of the inquisitive watchman’s lanthorn limning the arch, perhaps three hundred feet away. He was bothering someone else now, someone in a sedan chair.

The luggage wagon suddenly got much larger, as if a giant bladder had been inflated to fill the entire width of the court. Daniel had scarcely registered that impression, when it became a source of light. Then it seemed a radiant yellow fist was punching at Daniel through a curtain of iron-colored smoke. The punch was pulled long before it reached him, and collapsed and paled into an ashy cloud. But he had felt its heat on his face, and things had flown out of it and struck him. Crane Court was now enlivened by the music of f?ry-bells as golden coins sought out resting-places on the paving-stones, and fell in twirling parabolas onto the roof-tiles. Some of them must have been flung straight up in the air for great distances because they continued to land hard and to bounce high for several seconds after Daniel had found his own resting-place: on his arse in the street. The court had been blocked off by a wall of smoke which now advanced to surround him; he could not see his own feet. But he could smell the smoke; it was sulfurous, unmistakenly the product of the combustion of gunpowder. Mixed in with that was a sharper chymical scent that Daniel probably could have identified if he had sniffed it in a laboratory; as it was, he had distractions.

People were calling names, including his. “I am all right,” Daniel announced, but it sounded as if his fingers were in his ears. He got to his feet, spry as a twenty-year-old, and began working his way down the court in the direction of Fleet Street. The air was clearer nearer the ground, and he ended up walking bent nearly double, tracking his progress by the passage of sprayed coins and other detritus under his feet. There was a kind of snow fluttering through the smoke as well: raccoon fur.

“Watchman!” Daniel shouted, “can you hear me?”

“Yes, sir! The Marching Watch has been sent for!”

“I do not care about the Marching Watch, they are too late! I want that you should follow that sedan chair, and tell me where it goes!”

No answer came back.

Mr. Threader’s voice came out of the smoke, just a few yards away. “Watchman, follow that sedan chair and I shall give you a guinea!”

“Right you are, sir!” returned the watchman.

“…or a guinea’s equivalent value in other goods or services, at my discretion, provided that timely and useful information, which would not have been obtainable through other means, is brought to me, and me alone; and note that nothing in this offer shall be construed to create a condition of employment between you and me, particularly where assumption of liabilities, criminal or civil, is concerned. Did you hear all of that, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“Yes, Mr. Threader.”

“It is so witnessed this thirty-first day of January, Year of our Lord 1714.” Mr. Threader muttered very rapidly.

In the next breath, he began finally to answer the hails of his assistants, who had come running up from Fleet Street and were now tramping blindly through the smoke all round, hardly less dangerous than the terrified horses. Having found Mr. Threader and Daniel by nearly running them down, they began asking, repeatedly and redundantly, whether they were all right; which soon became annoying to Daniel, who suspected that they were only doing it to be noticed. He told them to instead go and find the driver of the baggage-cart, who had been airborne when Daniel had lost sight of him.

The smoke was finally beginning to clear; it seemed to be draining, rather than rising, from the court. Mr. Threader approached. “Did anything strike you, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“Not very hard.” For the first time it occurred to him to brush himself off. Wood-shards and raccoon-tufts showered from the folds of his clothing. His finger caught the edge of a coin, which had been made rough as a saw-blade by the violence of its recent career, and this fluttered to the ground and hit with a tinny slap. Daniel bent to examine it. It was not a coin at all. It was a miniature gear. He picked it up. All round him, Mr. Threader’s assistants were in similar postures, snatching guineas off the ashlars like a crew of gleaners. The driver of the baggage-cart was face down, moaning like a drunk as he was tended to by Henry Arlanc and a woman, possibly Arlanc’s wife. Someone had had the presence of mind to draw the other baggage-cart across the entrance of Crane Court so that the Marching Watch-when and if they arrived-would not simply march in watching for stray coins.

“At the risk of being one of those bores who will only venture to state facts after they have become perfectly obvious to all,” said Mr. Threader, “I guess that my baggage-cart has just been Blown Up.”

Daniel flipped the gear over in his palm several times, then put it in his pocket. “Without a doubt, your hypothesis passes the test that we call, Ockham’s Razor.”

Mr. Threader was strangely merry. For that matter, even Daniel, who had been in a sour mood all day from fasting, was feeling a bit giddy. He saw Henry Arlanc approaching, wiping traces of blood from his hands, his face blackened. “Mr. Arlanc, if you are all right, would you be so good as to fetch a broom, and sweep my things in-doors?”

This actually produced a guffaw from Mr. Threader. “Dr. Waterhouse! If I may speak frankly, I had been concerned that your coonskins would leave you open to ridicule from London’s a la mode. But in the end, the Garment in Question was not even suffered to pass the city gates.”

“It must have been done by someone very young,” Daniel guessed.

“Why do you suppose so, sir?”

“I have never seen you happier, Mr. Threader! Only a fellow who had lived through very little would imagine that a gentleman of your age and experience would find this sort of thing impressive.”

This hammered a bung into Mr. Threader’s barrel of chuckles, and straightened him right up for several moments. In time he worked his way back to merry, but only after perilous detours through confused, astonished, and outraged. “I was about to make a similar remark directed at you!” He was less shocked by the explosion than by Daniel’s imputation that it had anything to do with him. Another cycle of bewilderment and stifled anger swirled round his face. Daniel observed with some fascination; Mr. Threader had facial features after all, plenty of them.



In the end, all Mr. Threader could do was laugh. “I was going to express my outrage, Dr. Waterhouse, that you imagined this had anything to do with me; but I bated. I cannot throw stones, since I have been guilty, mutatis mutandis, of the identical sin.”

“You thought it was for me!? But no one knew I was coming,” Daniel said. But he said it weakly, for he had just remembered the pirates in Cape Cod Bay, and how Edward Teach, literally smouldering on the poop deck of Queen Anne’s Revenge, had asked for him by name.

“No one, save the entire crew of the ship that put you ashore at Plymouth-for she must have reached London by now.”

“But no one knew how I was coming to London.”

“No one, save the Court of Directors, and most of the Investors, of the Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire! Not to mention your Backer.” Mr. Threader then got a bright look on his face and said, “Perhaps they were not trying to affright you, but simply to kill you!”

“Or you,” Daniel returned.

“Are you a wagering man, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“I was brought up to loathe it. But my return to London is proof that I am a fallen man.”

“Ten guineas.”

“On the identity of the intended victim?”

“Just so. What say you, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“As my life is already staked, ’twere false ?conomy to quibble over ten guineas. Done.”

Crane Court


EARLY FEBRUARY 1714

But what should be the reason that such a good man should be all his days so much in the dark?

-JOHN BUNYAN, The Pilgrim’s Progress

DANIEL’S FIRST FORTNIGHT at the Royal Society was not equal, in excitement or glamour, to that fiery Spectacle that had heralded his arrival. In the minutes after the blast, excitement born of fear had made him feel half a century younger. But the next morning, he woke in his little guest-garret to discover that the thrill had vanished as quickly as the smoke of the blast; while the fear persisted as stubbornly as the carbon-black scorches it had sprayed on the pavement. Aches and pains had appeared in every part of him, as if all the shocks and insults he had suffered since Enoch Root had walked into his Institute some four months ago, had not been registered at once by his body, but had been marked down in a credit-ledger which had now come due, all at once, and with usurous interest.

Much more debilitating was a melancholy that settled over his spirit, and took away his desire to eat, to get out of bed, or even to read. He only stirred at odd intervals when the melancholy condensed into a raw, beastly fear that set his heart thumping and caused all the blood to drop out of his head. One morning before dawn he found himself crouching before his tiny window, twitching a linen curtain, peering out at a wagon that had trundled into Crane Court to deliver some sea-coal to a neighboring house, wondering whether the collier and his boys might be disguised murderers.

His own clear awareness that he had gone half mad did nothing to lessen the physical power of his fear, which moved his body with irresistible power, as a sea heaves a swimmer. He got no rest during the two weeks he spent in that garret, despite staying in bed most of the while, and realized only one gain: namely, he arrived at a better understanding of the mentality of Sir Isaac Newton. But that hardly seemed like a reward. It was almost as if he had suffered a stroke, or a blow to the head, that had stolen away his faculty of thinking about the future. He was quite certain that his story had come to an end, that his sudden journey across the Atlantic was a flash in the pan, which had quite failed to ignite the powder in the barrel, and that Princess Caroline would purse her lips, shake her head, and write it all off as a failed investment and a Bad Idea. Really he was no better off during that time than he had been tied to Hooke’s chair at Bedlam being cut for the stone. The pain was not as intense, but the mental state was much the same: trapped in the here and now like a dog, and not part of any coherent Story.

He got better on Saint Valentine’s Day. The agent that brought about this miraculous cure was as obscure as the cause of the disease itself. It certainly did not originate from the College of Physicians, for Daniel had used what energies he had to keep the doctors and their lancets at bay. It seemed to issue, rather, from a part of town that had not existed when Daniel had been a young man: a place, just up the road from Bedlam, called Grub Street.

Daniel’s medicine, in other words, was Newspapers. Mrs. Arlanc (the wife of Henry, an English Dissenter, and the housekeeper of Crane Court) had been faithfully bringing up food, drink, and new-papers. She had told visitors that Dr. Waterhouse was deathly ill, and physicians that he was doing much better now, and thereby stopped all of them from crossing his threshold. At Daniel’s request, she refrained from bringing him his mail.

Now, most places did not have newspapers, and so, if Mrs. Arlanc had not brought him any, he would never have known that they were wanting. But London had eighteen of them. ’Twas as if the combination in one city of too many printing presses; a bloody and perpetual atmosphere of Party Malice; and an infinite supply of coffee; had combined, in some alchemical sense, to engender a monstrous prodigy, an unstanchable wound that bled Ink and would never heal. Daniel, who had grown to maturity in a London where printing presses had to be hidden in hay-wagons to preserve them from the sledgehammers of the Censor, could not quite believe this at first; but they kept coming, every day. Mrs. Arlanc brought these to him as if it were perfectly normal for a man to read about all London’s scandals, duels, catastrophes, and outrages every morning as he spooned up his porridge.

At first Daniel found them intolerable. It was as if the Fleet Ditch were being diverted into his lap for half an hour every day. But once he grew accustomed to them, he began to draw a kind of solace from their very vileness. How self-absorbed for him to cower in bed, for fear of mysterious enemies, here in the center of a metropolis that was to Hostility what Paris was to Taste? To be so unnerved, simply because someone had tried to blow him up in London, was like a sailor in a naval engagement pouting and sulking because one of his fellows had stepped on his toe.

So, inasmuch as it made him feel better, Daniel began to look forward to his daily ink-toilette. Immersion in Bile, a splash of Calumny on the face, and a dab of Slander behind each ear, and he was a new man.

The 14th of February was a Sunday, meaning that before the sun had risen, Mr. and Mrs. Arlanc had embarked on their weekly pilgrimage to a Huguenot meeting-house that lay somewhere out beyond Ratcliff. Daniel awoke to find, next to his door, a bowl of cold porridge resting on an otherwise empty tray. No newspapers! Down he ventured into the lower storeys of the house, scavenging for old ones. Most of the rooms had no reading material whatever, except for damned Natural Philosophy books. But on the ground floor, back in Mrs. Arlanc’s kitchen, he found a sheaf of old newspapers preserved as fire-starters. He re-ascended in triumph to his garret and read a few of the more recent numbers while excavating a pit in his congealed porridge.

Of the past week’s editions, several actually agreed on something factual. This happened about as often as a Total Eclipse of the Sun, and was just as likely to cause panic in the streets. They agreed that Queen Anne was going to open Parliament tomorrow.

Daniel had been conceiving of this Queen as a caricature of elderliness and frailty. News that this half-embalmed figment was going to clamber out of bed and do something of consequence made Daniel feel ashamed of himself. When the Arlancs returned from church in the late afternoon, and the Mrs. trudged up to the garret to collect the tray and porridge-bowl, Daniel announced that tomorrow he would read his mail, and perhaps even put on clothes and get out of bed.

Mrs. Arlanc, who hid competence beneath a jiggly, henlike facade, smiled at this news; though she had the good manners to keep her lips pressed together so that Daniel would not be exposed to the sight of her teeth. Like most Londoners’, these had been well blackened by sugar.

“You chose aptly, sir,” she allowed the next morning, backing through the narrow door with a basket of books and papers balanced on her tummy. “Sir Isaac inquired after you for a third time.”

“He was here this morning?”

“Is here now,” Mrs. Arlanc answered, then paused. The entire house had drawn a tiny, sharp breath as the front door was closed. “Unless that was him departing.”

Daniel, who had been sitting up on the edge of his bed, rose to his feet and ventured to a window. He could not see down to the front door from here. But in a few moments he spied a burly fellow plodding away, holding a pole in each hand, followed closely by a black sedan chair, and then a second pole-holding bloke. They patiently built up to a trot, weaving round a few stentorian vendors, knife-grinders, amp;c. who were making their way up and down Crane Court, pretending to be shocked that the residents were not flocking out of their houses to transact business with them.

Daniel tracked Isaac’s sedan chair until it reached Fleet, which was a howling flume of Monday morning traffic. The bearers paused long enough to draw deep breaths and then executed a mad sally into a gap between carriages. From a hundred yards away, through a window, Daniel could hear drivers reminding them about their mothers. But the whole advantage of the sedan chair was that it could out-pace other vehicles by insinuating itself into any narrow leads that might present themselves in traffic, and so very soon they had vanished in the tide of men and animals flowing to Westminster. “Sir Isaac is on his way to the opening of Parliament,” Daniel hazarded.

“Yes, sir. As is Sir Christopher Wren, who also nipped in and asked about you,” said Mrs. Arlanc, who had not failed to seize on this rare opportunity to strip off the bed-clothes. “But that is not all, oh, no sir. Why, this morning you’ve had mail from a Duchess. A messenger brought it round not half an hour ago. ’Tis on the top of the basket.”

Hanover 21 January 1714

Dr. Waterhouse,

As you are expected (God willing) to arrive in London soon, Baron von Leibniz is eager to correspond with you. I have made private arrangements for letters to be conveyed between Hanover and London by couriers who may be trusted. At the risk of being presumptuous, I have offered the Doctor (as I affectionately call him, even though he has been ennobled) the use of this service. My seal on this envelope is my affirmation that the enclosed letter came from the Doctor’s hand to yours, untouched and unseen by any other person.

If you would forgive a short personal memorial, I beg leave to inform you that I have taken possession of Leicester House, which, as you may know, was once the home of Elizabeth Stuart, before she came to be known as the Winter Queen; when I return to it, which may occur soon, I trust you will be so generous with your Time, as to call upon me there.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Eliza de la Zeur

Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm

This had been wrapped around a letter written in Leibniz’s hand:

Daniel,

That God hears the prayers of Lutherans, is a proposition hotly disputed by many, including many Lutherans. Indeed the late fortunes of the King of Sweden in his wars against the Tsar might lend support to those who say, that the surest way to bring something about, is for Lutherans to get down on their knees and pray that God forbid it. Notwithstanding which, I have prayed for your safe passage every day since I was allowed to know you had left Boston, and I write these lines in the hope and expectation that you have arrived safe in London.

It would be unseemly for me to beg for your succour so early in this letter, and so I shall divert you (or so I flatter myself) by relating my last conversation with my employer, Peter Romanov, or Peter the Great, as he is now styled-not without perfectly sound reasons-by many (I say “employer” because he owes-I do not say “pays”-me a stipend to act as his advisor on certain matters; my Mistress and liege-lady remains, as always, Sophie).

As you probably know, the Tsar’s chief occupation these last several years has been making war on the Swedes and on the Turks. What little time remains, he spends on the building of his city, St. Petersburg, which by all accounts is growing up into a fair place, though it is built on a slough. Which amounts to saying, that he has little time to listen to the prating of savants.

But he does have some time. Since he flushed the Swedes out of Poland, it has become his habit to travel down through that country and into Bohemia to take the waters at Carlsbad for a few weeks out of every year. This happens in the winter when the land is too barren and the seas too frozen for him to prosecute his wars. Carlsbad, which lies in a mountain valley thick with noble trees, is easily reached from Hanover, and so that is where I go to earn-I do not say “collect”-my pay as consultant to the Tsar of All the Russias.

But if you are imagining a peaceful winter idyll, it is because I have not rendered the scene faithfully. (1) The entire point of “taking the waters” is to induce violent diarrh?a for days or weeks on end. (2) Peter brings with him a vast entourage of lusty Steppenwolves who do not take well to the genteel boredom of Carlsbad. Such words as “languid,” “leisurely,” and “placid,” common as they may be among the Quality of Europe, who are exhausted by a quarter-century of wars, do not appear to be translatable into any of the languages spoken by Peter’s crowd. They stay on an estate that is loaned to them by the Polish duke who owns it. But I am certain that this fellow does so out of some baser emotion than hospitality, for every year the Russians find it in good repair, and leave it a ruin. I would not even have been able to reach the place if I had not come in my own personal carriage; the local coachmen will not venture near it for any amount of money, for fear that they or their horses will be struck by musket-balls, or-what is more dangerous-be invited to join in the revels.

I was not afforded a choice. When I stepped out of my coach in the carriageway of this estate, I was spied by a dwarf, who saw me thanking God for my safe arrival, and beseeching Him for an expeditious departure, in the Lutheran manner. “Swede! Swede!” he began to cry, and the chant was rapidly taken up by others. I told my driver to make himself scarce and he rattled away promptly. Meanwhile I had been picked up by a pair of Cossacks and thrown into a different sort of vehicle: an ordinary gardener’s wheelbarrow. But it took me several moments to understand this, for it had been decked out with silver candelabras, silk curtains, and embroidered tapestries. To make room for me, they had to expel a marble bust of the King of Prussia, which was already spalled by impacts of musket-balls, and now broke in half on the icy cobblestones. Then the living Leibniz took the place of the carved King. Unlike my predecessor I did not break in two, though I was put in my chariot roughly enough that I was lucky not to have fractured my tailbone. A fragment of a lady’s tiara was stabbed into my periwig to serve as a crown, and without further ceremony I was wheeled into the grand ballroom of this stately house, which was as smoky as any battle-field. By this time I had been engulfed in a motley phalanx of dwarves, Cossacks, Tatars, and diverse ill-looking Europeans who had been milling about in the stable-yard until my arrival. I did not see a single Russian until the smoke, driven by a frigid gust from the open doors, cleared from the far end of the ballroom to reveal a sort of makeshift fortress that had been erected by flipping several dining-tables up on edge, and then lashing those walls of polished wood together with bell-ropes and curtain-pulls. This fortification was supplemented by demilunes and ravelins, fashioned from chairs and cabinets; and it was manned entirely by Russians.

I collected now that Peter’s entourage had been divided into two groups, viz. Muscovites, and Miscellaneous, and that a battle was being enacted. Or re-enacted; for the general arrangement of the redoubt, and the deployment of the Miscellaneous forces, brought to mind the Battle of Poltava. Peter’s antagonist in that great clash was King Charles XII of Sweden, which role had been played by the marble bust until moments ago; but said statue had performed so miserably that his forces had been repulsed, and driven back into the bitter cold of the stable-yard. Little wonder that they had seized on me, a flesh-and-blood Lutheran, as a replacement. But if they were expecting me to display any more martial qualities than the bust, they were sorely let down, for even after I had been wheeled into the van of the Miscellaneous battalions, I comported myself in all ways as a sixty-seven-year-old philosopher. If I pissed myself it was of no account, since the Moravian prostitute who came running toward me with a two-foot-high tankard of beer, tripped on her dirndl and flung the contents into my lap.

After this pause for refreshment, the Miscellaneous forces mounted a charge towards the redoubt. We had got about halfway across the ballroom when some Russian galloped out from behind an overturned armoire and cut the chandelier-rope with a backhand swing of his saber. I looked up to see half a ton of crystal, and a gross of lit tapers, descending toward me like a glittering meteor. The men who were pushing my wheelbarrow flung themselves forward and with a mighty acceleration we shot beneath the chandelier so close that I felt the warmth of the candle-flames moments before being struck by a hail of shattered crystal. We had dodged it; but those behind us were brought up short by this spectacle, and then hindered by its sharp wreckage. So our advance faltered; but my heart stopped, when I saw barrels of muskets reach up over the wooden redoubt, and then shorten as they were leveled at us. Pan-powder flashed up and down the line, and then bolts of white fire sprang towards us. But nothing else came our way save a few chunks of wadding-material. I was struck on the arm by a smoking wine-cork and still bear the bruise on my bicep. The amount of smoke hardly bears description. Most of it came forth in an amorphous cloud, however I saw one or two smoke-rings, about the size of a man’s hat, propagating across the room, and retaining their shape and vis viva for extraordinary distances. These rings are unlike water-waves, which consist of different water at different times, for smoke rings propagate through clear air, proving that they indeed carry their own substance with them, neither diluting it with, nor dispersing it into, the surrounding atmosphere. And yet there is nothing special about the smoke as such-it is the same smoke that hangs over battlefields in shapeless clouds. The identity of a smoke ring would appear to consist, not in the stuff of which it is made, for that is commonplace and indifferent, but rather in a particular set of relationships that is brought into being among its parts. It is this pattern of relationships that coheres in space and persists in time and endows the smoke-ring with an identity. Perhaps some similar observation might be made about other entities that we observe, and credit with uniqueness and identity, including even human beings. For the stuff of which we are made is just the common stuff of the world, viz. ordinary gross matter, so that a materialist might say, we are no different from rocks; and yet our matter is imbued with some organizing principle that endows us with identities, so that I may send a letter to Daniel Waterhouse in London in the full confidence that, like a smoke-ring traversing a battle-field, he has traveled a great distance, and persisted for a long time, and yet is still the same man. The question, as always, is whether the organizing principle is added to the gross matter to animate it, as yeast is thrown into beer, or inheres in the relationships among the parts themselves. As a Natural Philosopher I feel compelled to support the latter view, for if Natural Philosophy is to explain the world, it must do so in terms of the things that make up the world, without recourse to occult intrusions from some external, unknowable Realm Beyond. That is the view I have set forth in my book Monadology, a copy of which is enclosed-you are most welcome-and, right or wrong, I interpreted the smoke-rings flying past me in the ballroom in Carlsbad as a Roman would interpret owls, ravens, amp;c. before a battle.

The Russians had not fired live musket-balls at us; or if they had, none had struck me. I flattered myself for a moment that we were safe. But then, on the other side of the smoke-bank into which I was being thrust headlong, I heard the scrape and ring of steel blades being whisked from scabbards, and the rumbling roar of deep-chested Russians bellowing war-cries as they vaulted over wrecked furniture. They were mounting a sally from the redoubt! They came out of the haze like apparitions, as if the smoke itself were condensing to solid form, and fell upon the attackers swinging their blades. By this point I had fully convinced myself that I really was caught up in a violent insurrection, and that I would go to my death in a wheelbarrow. Then my attention was commanded by a vast disturbance propagating through the smoke towards me: not so much a single whorl or eddy, as a whole meteorological event unto itself, like the towering whirlwinds of America, and seeming all the higher for my position: as low down in the wheelbarrow as I could slouch.

Glints and gleams, not only of steel, but of diamonds, and cloth-of-gold, shone through the dark turbulence of it; and finally the smoke cleared away, like a bow-wave parting round the gilded figurehead of a ship, to reveal Peter the Great.

When he recognized me, he laughed, and given my circumstance I could do nothing but accept this humiliation. “Let us go out,” he said in Dutch.

“I am afraid I will be killed!” I returned, quite honestly. He laughed again, then sheathed his saber and stepped forward until he was straddling the wheelbarrow, almost as if he meant to piss on me. Then he bent down, planted his shoulder in my gut, wrapped one arm around my waist, and lifted me up as if I were a sack of coffee-beans being taken from a ship’s hold. In a moment I was upside down over his shoulder, watching his spurs glide above the marble floor as he bore me across the room with immense strides. I expected to see pools of blood and severed limbs, too, but the worst was the occasional burst of beer-vomit. The battle still raged all around, but the shouting was mixed with a good deal of hilarity. Blade still rang against blade, but where sword-blows struck home, they did so with slapping noises; the Russians were beating their foes with the flats of their sabers.

In a few moments Peter had carried me out into a formal garden that had been hewn at great expense from the surrounding forest. He bent over and tossed me onto what I first supposed was a very high bench; but it pivoted beneath me. Looking around, and shaking away my dizziness, and blinking off the brightness of the sun on the snow, I perceived that I was perched on the wheel of a wagon, which had flipped over on its side at the end of a long set of skid-marks. It had plowed to a stop in a topiary hedge shaped like a man-of-war, which was now listing to port as a result of having been rammed by this cart. The hedge served to block the wind; and the cart-wheel, which was as high off the ground as an average man’s shoulder, elevated me to the point where by sitting up straight I could very nearly look the Tsar in the eye.

Now, it was not usual to see him so quickly. In previous years I have been summoned to Carlsbad most urgently, only to languish in the town for days or weeks as I beg his Court officials for the favor of an audience. My first impulse was to be pleased that I had found myself in the Presence so soon; then I had the wit to realize that he would only act in such haste if he were angry with me, or wanted me to do something. As it turned out, I was right about both.

The conversation was direct. Some would say brutal. It is not that Peter is a brute. Extremely violent and dangerous to be sure, but more in the style of a highly effective Roman Emperor than of a cave-bear. It is simply that he likes to accomplish things, preferably with his own hands, and tends to view conversations as impediments. He would rather do something of an essentially stupid and pointless nature, than talk of something beautiful or momentous. He wants his servants to be like his hands, which carry out his will immediately and without the tedium of verbal instructions-so much so that if a conversation extends beyond a few sentences, he will grow intolerably restless, his face will become disfigured by uncontrollable tics, and he will shoulder his interlocutor out of his way and take action himself. Since he and I do not share fluency in any language, he might have summoned an interpreter-but he was content to get along with a few crude sentences in a mixture of Dutch, German, and Russian.

“At St. Petersburg there is a place staked out to build the Academy of Sciences as you have suggested,” he began.

“Most Clement Lord,” I said, “as I have had the honor and privilege of founding such an Academy in Berlin; and as I have made some head-way in persuading the Emperor to found one in Vienna; my joy upon hearing this news, cannot but be commingled with apprehension that that of Russia will one day out-shine those of the Germans, and perhaps even put the Royal Society in the shade.”

You can well imagine his impatience as I croaked this out. Before I was half-way through it, he was stomping back and forth in the frozen garden like a frost-bitten sentry. I looked down to the opposite end of the clearing and noticed several portraits in ornate gilded frames, which had been taken down from the walls of the chateau, leaned against the hedge, and used for musketry practice. The faces of most of those paintings now consisted of fist-sized holes, and stray balls had punched out novel constellations in the dark backgrounds. I decided I had better get to the point. “How can I make this happen?”

This startled him and he spun round to glare at me. “What?”

“You want the Russian Academy to over-awe those of Berlin, Vienna, and London?”

“Yes.”

“How may I be of service to your Tsarish Majesty? Do you want me to recruit savants?”

“Russia is big. I can make savants. Just as I can make soldiers. But a soldier without a gun is only a fire that burns food. I think the same is true of a savant without his tools.”

I shrugged. “Mathematicians do not require tools. But all the other types of savant need something or other to help them do their work.”

“Get those things,” he commanded.

“Yes, Most Clement Lord.”

“We will make that thing you spoke of,” he announced. “The library-that-thinks.”

“The great machine that manipulates knowledge according to a set of logical rules?”

“Yes. That would be a good thing for my Academy of Science to have. No one else has one.”

“On both counts I am in full agreement, your Imperial Majesty.”

“What do you need, to build it?”

“Just as St. Petersburg cannot be built without architects’ drawings, or a ship without plans-”

“Yes, yes, yes, you need the tables of knowledge, written down as binary numbers, and you need the rules of symbolic logic. I have supported this work for many years!”

“With generosity worthy of a C?sar, sire. And I have developed a logical calculus well adapted to regulate the workings of the machine.”

“What of the tables of knowledge!? You told me a man was working on this in Boston!”

By this point the Tsar had stormed up and put his face quite close to mine and gone into one of his twitching fits, which had spread to involve his arm. To steady himself he had gripped the rim of the wheel upon which I was seated, and was twisting it back and forth, rotating me first this way, then that.

For what I said next, it may help to exonerate me slightly in your eyes, Daniel, if I mention that this Tsar still breaks men on the wheel, and does even worse things to those who have incurred his displeasure; which was impossible for me to put out of my mind in my current circumstance, viz. mounted on a large wheel. Before I could think better of it, I blurted, “Oh, Dr. Waterhouse is on his way across the Atlantic at this very moment, and should, God willing, reach London soon!”

“He is turning over the work I paid for, to the Royal Society!? I knew I should have throttled that Newton when I had the opportunity!” (For when Peter visited London some years ago he met Sir Isaac at the Mint.)

“Not at all, Clement Lord, for indeed, your humble servant and all his works are reviled by the Royal Society, which would never accept anything linked to my name, even if Dr. Waterhouse were to behave so dishonestly, which is inconceivable!”

“I am building up my Navy,” Peter announced.

This, I confess, made little impression on me, for he is never not building up his Navy.



“I have ordered three men-of-war to be constructed in London,” he continued, “and to sail into the Baltic when weather permits in the spring, to join my fleet for a further assault upon the Swedes; for I have not yet fully purged Finland of those vermin. It is my wish that when those ships sail from London, they are to be laden with tools for my savants to use at the Academy of Science, and they are to carry the fruits of the labors of Dr. Waterhouse.”

“It shall be as you say, your Imperial Majesty,” I answered, as it seemed unwise to give any different response.

Then he could not shoo me away fast enough. I was dragged, breakneck, back into the center of Carlsbad on a troika and re-united with my driver. Thence we proceeded to Hanover with only a brief detour to Leipzig, where all of my affairs are in a state of upheaval. Publication of Monadology has gone forward with only the normal amount of bickering with printers. Now that the war is over, Prince Eugene, the Duke of Marlborough’s valiant brother-in-arms, has taken an interest in Philosophy-which may or may not be an affectation. At any rate, he asked me to write down some of my ideas in a form that would be readable by people like him, who are literate, and intelligent, but do not make a professional study of Philosophy (and he is not the first. It would be interesting to ask one of these people why they assume it is possible to do this in the case of philosophy when they would never dream of asking Sir Isaac to write a version of Principia Mathematica with all of the mathematicks taken out). I have done the best I can to satisfy Prince Eugene. The tract is called Principles of Nature and of Grace, and its printing moves forward too, attended by a completely different set of distractions and controversies. But most of my time in Leipzig was spent, not on the publication of new work, but on the most tedious re-hashing of what I was doing forty years ago. Since you are in the bosom of the Royal Society, Daniel, you know what I refer to: the dispute with Sir Isaac as to who first invented the calculus. Letters have been flying back and forth like kites over a knacker’s yard ever since this became warm about six years ago, but it has been hot during the last two years, or ever since Sir Isaac began to convene “committees” and, God help us, “tribunals” at the Royal Society to render an impartial verdict. In short, by the time you read this, anything I might say concerning the Priority Dispute will be out of date, and you can get better intelligence by stopping anyone in the hallway and asking him for the latest.

By this point, Daniel, you are no doubt frantic with anxiety that I’m about to ask for your help in my war with Sir Isaac. Indeed, I confess I might have stooped so low, if Peter had not laid more pressing burdens upon me. As it happened, during the ride from Leipzig to Hanover I scarcely thought of Newton at all, save in one, purely practical sense: I could not imagine how I was going to get a letter to you at Crane Court without someone-possibly even Newton himself-recognizing my handwriting, and tearing it open.

Upon my arrival, however, I learned that Providence had shed some favor on me. My old friend (and yours, I believe) Eliza, the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm, had come to town incognito.

Several members of the English nobility have gravitated to Hanover in the last year or two, as the war ground to a halt like an unwound clock, and it became evident that England would not suffer the Pretender to succeed Queen Anne. These English courtiers-all Whigs, of course-have probably earned the scorn of London society for turning their backs on a reigning Queen and leaving their country to curry favor with Sophie and her son. And perhaps some of them deserve it. But they have performed invaluable services, not only to the Hanoverians but to England, by forging contacts, teaching their future rulers a few words of English, and coaxing them to think concretely about preparations. If the change of reign goes smoothly, you may thank them for it. They will be sure to compensate themselves handsomely!

This is not the place to tell the nature of Eliza’s work in Hanover. Suffice it to say that her incognito is not just a histrionic fashion statement. She is not seen in Court. Almost no one knows she is here. She corresponds frequently with a certain distinguished Englishman who lived in Frankfort until recently, when he moved to Antwerp. And if she receives letters from the Pretender’s court in St.-Germain, it is not because she is in league with the Jacobites, but because she makes it her business to know every detail of the plots that are being laid there, to bring a Catholic king back to the Court of St. James. At any rate, the Duchess’s network of couriers is peerless and more than equal to the task of getting a letter from my hands to yours without it falling into the grasping claws, and passing beneath the bulging eyeballs, of Sir Isaac.

So, to the matter at hand: Peter’s three new warships are supposedly being completed at Orney’s ship-yard in a place called Rotherhithe, across the river from Limehouse, adjacent to the Shepherd and Dog Stairs, off Lavender Street. I hope that these names mean something to you!

If you are feeling up to a minor adventure, and if it would in no way interfere with whatever it is you are supposed to be doing for Princess Caroline, I should be indebted if you were to (1) learn from Mr. Orney when those ships are expected to sail for St. Petersburg, and (2) before they do so, freight them, as much as you can, with goods that might be of use, or at least of interest, to aspiring Russian Natural Philosophers, viz. thermometers, scales, lenses, toad’s-eyes, unicorn’s-gallbladders, Philosopher’s Stone, and the like; and (3) for God’s sake give the Tsar something to show for our work of the last fifteen years. If you can arrange for your note-cards to be shipped over from Boston in time, that is ideal. Short of that, any tangible evidence that you have been doing something at the Massachusetts Bay Institute of Technologickal Arts, may help to keep your humble and obedient servant from being broken on a wheel before the Russian Academy of Sciences, as an example to Scientists who draw stipends without yielding Science.

Yours, amp; c.,

Leibniz

Daniel got dressed. Much of his clothing had been blown up. In the two weeks since, however, Mrs. Arlanc had brokered the procurement of new garments. Daniel had been too debilitated to meddle. Consequently he was now closer to being a la mode than at any time in his life.

The last fifty years had not witnessed anything like the thorough-going revolution in gentlemen’s attire that had come about after the Plague and the Fire, when doublets, and other medieval vestiges, had finally vanished from the world by decree of Charles II. The garments stacked on the table next to Daniel’s bed bore the same names, and covered more or less the same bits of the humane anatomy, as the ones that had become fashionable at that time: hose up to the knee, breeches, a linen shirt, a long, skirted, many-buttoned vest, and over that a long-sleeved coat with even more buttons. They had even managed to scare up a periwig for him. The old Louis XIV lion-mane wig was no longer in use; the new ones were narrower and more compact. A bizarre affectation seemed to have taken hold, of dusting them with white powder. The one Mrs. Arlanc had put on the block-head here was as plain as could be, and simply made it look as if Daniel had a luxuriant head of snow-white hair, tied back in a queue. Daniel put it on, if only to keep his bald head warm. He had avoided freezing to death in this room only by wearing a woolen night-cap twenty-four hours a day.

While he was putting on these clothes, which took a long time-his fingers were stiff with age and chill, and the buttons never ended-he glanced through the basket Mrs. Arlanc thought of as a repository, and Daniel thought of as a dustbin, for his mail. There were five separate communications from Mr. Threader, two from Roger Comstock, one from the Earl of Lostwithiel, and diverse cards and notes from Fellows who had stopped by to look in on him, and been turned away by the adamant Mrs. Arlanc. His London relations, some of whom he had never even heard of (these were children of the late Sterling and of Raleigh, and of William Ham) had written, somewhat perfunctorily. As promised, Monadology was in there from Leibniz, and there was a 2nd edition of Isaac’s Principia Mathematica, its leather cover still reeking of the tannery. This had been dropped off, not by Isaac-indeed, there was nothing in the basket from him-but by one of his young acolytes, who had thoughtfully piled on top of it a recent issue of Journal Literaire, a Royal Society document from last year called Commercium Epistolicum, and a litter of broadsheets and pamphlets in diverse languages, all tied together with narrow black ribbon. Daniel recognized these as several years’ worth of attacks and counter-attacks in the calculus dispute. Apparently he was expected to familiarize himself with them-which could only mean that they intended to call him before their tribunal to render testimony.

So much for mail from persons he actually knew. He worked his way deeper into the basket. Metallic clanking and scraping noises issued from its depths as he stirred through it. There were a few letters from Londoners who, starting as of a month ago, had become his fellows on the Court of Directors of the Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire. There were two from chaps whose names he did not recognize at all, but who had orderly minds-or so he guessed from their handwriting. These two were the only letters he actually bothered to open and read, simply because they were the only ones whose contents were not wholly predictable. As it turned out, both were from men who had come up with inventions for determining longitude, and sought Daniel’s help in bringing their ideas before the Royal Society. Daniel threw them away.

There were no letters from his wife, or from little Godfrey, which was in no way surprising, given the season of the year and the rough weather. Groping to the very bottom of the basket, he scraped his hand on something jagged, and jerked back. He was not too old to die of tetanus. His fingers emerged sooty, rather than bloody. Pulling all the mail out of the basket and then tilting it towards the window he observed several twisted and blackened shreds of wood and of metal in the bottom. The largest bit was a miniature cask, no more than gallon-sized, such as might be used to transport distilled spirits. One end of it was intact-badly damaged to be sure, but still recognizable as having once been a keg. The staves were bound together by an iron band at the end, and spread out, like lines of longitude from the pole, until they reached the equator. But none of them continued very far into the opposite hemisphere. Some were snapped off clean, some bent outwards, some smashed into splintery brooms. That end of the keg, and its metal band, were gone entirely, though they might be accounted for by some of the loose fragments in the bottom of the basket. Other things were in there, too: gears, springs, levers of wrought brass.

Part of Daniel wanted to overturn this basket on a well-illuminated table and piece the device back together. But instead he buried it again under his unread mail. He had spent a fortnight immobilized by melancholy, and tormented by unreasonable fears. Today his humours had gone back into balance. The Daniel Waterhouse who had cowered in that bed for two weeks was a different chap from the one who was standing by the door, dressed and periwigged. But they could easily change places if he dwelled too long on the dark relics in that basket. They had grown cold, waiting for his attention; let them grow colder still.

THE ROYAL SOCIETY’S HEADQUARTERS comprised two separate houses and a tiny courtyard separating them. During the fund-raising effort, some had gone so far as to style it a “compound.” One of the houses was the northern terminus of Crane Court. Above its ground floor it had two addtional full storeys, plus a garret in the roof space. This garret, which was where Daniel had been lodged, had two small dormer windows facing the Crane Court side, which would have afforded a clear view all the way down to Fleet Street, and even to the Thames, had they not been partially blocked by a low parapet-wall that had been added to the front of the house to make it seem a few feet higher than it really was. So from his bed, Daniel’s view had been of a sort of lead-lined ditch formed where the steeply sloping roof plunged down to die in the base of the parapet: a bathing-place for birds when it rained, and a raceway for rodents in all weathers. For a few hours in the afternoon the sun would traverse the rectangle of sky that showed above the parapet, if the weather happened to be clear. If Daniel stood up and approached the window he could see over the lip of the parapet, where moss, soot, and birdshit vied for hegemony, down into Crane Court, and scan the jumble of rooftops all around. A view of the dome of St. Paul’s was denied him unless he opened the window, thrust his head out, and craned it to the left. Then it was startlingly close. Yet it seemed inapproachable because of the wide crevasse of Fleet Ditch, which broke the city in twain half-way between. If he turned one hundred eighty degrees and looked west, he was confronted by a church that was much closer, and infinitely older: the Rolls Chapel, which appeared to be sinking or collapsing into a spacious church-yard just across Fetter Lane. This medieval pile, which had been used by Chancery as a records dump for many centuries, had turned black with coal-smoke during Daniel’s lifetime. A bow-shot to the south of it, fronting on Fleet Street, was the Church of St. Dunstan-in-the-

West, a Wren production, duly turning black.

Much less strenuous for an old stiff-necked man was simply to gaze southward down the length of Crane Court and hope to glimpse a bit of open water between the buildings that filled most of the space between Fleet Street and the river. This view, every time he spied it, made Daniel feel as if he had, by some error in navigation, been taken to some city as strange as Manila or Isfahan. For the London in which he had grown up had been a congeries of estates, parks, and compounds, thrown up over centuries by builders who shared a common dream of what a bit of English landscape ought to look like: it should be a generous expanse of open ground with a house planted in it. Or, in a pinch, a house and wall built around the perimeter of a not-so-generous patch of ground. At any rate, there had been, in Daniel’s London, views of sky and of water, and little parks and farmlets scattered everywhere, not by royal decree but by some sort of mute, subliminal consensus. In particular, the stretch of riverbank Daniel could see from this garret had been a chain of estates, great houses, palaces, courts, temples, and churches put up by whatever powerful knights or monks had got there first and defended them longest. During Daniel’s lifetime, every one of these, with the exceptions of the Temple (directly across from the outlet of Crane Court) and Somerset House (far off to his right, towards where Whitehall Palace had stood, before it had burned down), had been demolished. Some had been fuel for the Fire and others had fallen victim to the hardly less destructive energies of Real Estate Developers. Which was to say that with the exception of the large open green of the Temple, every inch of that ground now seemed to be covered by Street or Building.

Turning his back on the window and opening his bedchamber door brought him back to London straightaway-not the London of average Londoners, but the circa-1660, Natural-Philosophic London of John Wilkins and Robert Hooke. For the remainder of the attic was packed to the rafters with material that Daniel recognized and identified under the broad heading of, Science Crapp. All had been brought over from the Royal Society’s creche at Gresham’s College.

Gresham’s College had been precisely the sort of structure that had no place in modern-day London: a compound, rather than a house, built around a court that was spacious enough to house hundreds of Londoners if razed and jammed with town-houses. Gresham’s had been Tudor wattle-and-daub, a style that encouraged builders to make it up as they went along, and generally suffered them to get away with it. Whatever it might have looked like in Sir Thomas Gresham’s mind’s eye, when he had come back from Antwerp, famous from mending Gloriana’s coinage, and rich from speculating in it, by the time Daniel had got there it seemed to have been made not by human architects but by wasps.

At any rate it had been huge: ten times the size of the two Crane Court houses combined. They had not had the whole thing to themselves, but they’d had a lot of it.

Also they’d had Hooke and Wren, who’d built London up from cinders. If there was a cellar, closet, attic, or shed anywhere in London that was sitting vacant, Wren would know of it, and Hooke would have the temerity to use it for something.

What it all amounted to was this: up to about the turn of the century, the Royal Society had been able to store things by the acre. There had been no need to cull out, to throw away, or even to organize. But during the first decade of the century they’d lost Gresham’s and they’d lost Hooke. Their storage space had shrunk by a factor of ten, at the least. Which might have been a very favorable turn if the sorting out and throwing away had been done by someone who was qualified-who had been around from the beginning-and who had had the time to do a good job of it. To put it plainly, Newton, Wren, or Waterhouse. But Sir Isaac had been busy with the Mint, with prosecuting a war against Flamsteed, and with making the second edition of Principia Leibniz-proof. Sir Christopher Wren, during the same days, had been finishing St. Paul’s and building the Duke of Marlborough’s London house, just next door to St. James’s Palace: two significant jobs for an architect. Daniel had been in Massachusetts trying to build a Logic Mill.

Who then had performed the sorting-out? One of Newton’s acolytes. And he had probably done it in a hurry. If Daniel had been fully aware of this four years ago, when it had been happening, he’d have been in a panic. Now he could only look on the contents of this attic in the same spirit in which he had looked at the remains of Drake’s house on the morning after the Fire.

Most of the Science Crapp was still packed in the crates, barrels, bundles, and bales in which it had been carted hither. Each of these containers was an impediment to the casual investigator. Daniel spied a crate, not far below the rafters, with its lid slightly askew. The only thing atop it was a glass bell jar covering a dessicated owl. Daniel set the bird to one side, drew out the crate, and pulled off the lid. It was the old Archbishop of York’s beetle collection, lovingly packed in straw.

This, and the owl, told all. It was as he had feared. Birds and bugs, top to bottom, front to back. All salvaged, not because they had innate value, but because they’d been given to the Royal Society by important people. They’d been kept here just as a young couple keeps the ugly wedding present from the rich aunt.

He heard someone stifling a sneeze. Straightening up carefully, so as not to burst any of the juicy bits in his spinal column, he looked down the stairs and caught the eye of Henry Arlanc. Henry looked nervous, and studiously mournful, like a vicar at a wake, who did not know the deceased, but who is aware that the living have suffered a grievous loss and are likely to be in a foul mood. “I have endeavoured, Dr. Waterhouse, to preserve all that was brought here, in the condition it was brought.”

“No solicitor could have worded it more carefully,” Daniel muttered under his breath.

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

Daniel stepped over to the top of the staircase, and steadied himself with a hand on the wall, for this was halfway between a ladder and a stair, and it made him dizzy.

“You have done well…you are absolved,” Daniel said. “The owl was free of dust.”

“Thank you, Dr. Waterhouse.”

Daniel sat down at the top of the stairs, resting his feet on the first step down. Between his knees he now enjoyed a clear and direct view of Henry’s face. Up here in the attic it was gloomy, but the walls and doors of the storey below were all painted white or close to it. The doors had been left open to release the light coming in the windows, and so Henry was bathed in pitiless and revealing illumination, like a specimen on a microscope stage. He was regarding Daniel uneasily.

“How long have you served here, Henry?”

“Since you moved in, sir.”

Daniel was a bit confused until he realized you meant The Royal Society.

“I like to say, that I came with the property,” Henry continued.

“When we moved here from Gresham’s College, there must have been a good deal of…rubbish. At Gresham’s, I mean.”

Henry looked inexpressibly relieved. “Oh yes, sir, more than you could ever imagine.”

“Cart-loads, then, was it?”

“Yes, sir, dozens of cart-loads hauled away,” Henry affirmed, in the pride of a job well done.

“Hauled away where, precisely?”

Henry faltered. “I-I would not know that, Dr. Waterhouse, there are salvage-men who pick through rubbish looking for objects of value, and sell them to tinkers…”

“I understand, Henry. What is more, I agree that neither you, nor any other man, can be asked to know whither rubbish has gone, after the rubbish-cart has disappeared from view. But I have a different question for you along the same lines, on which you must concentrate as intently as you can.”

“I shall strain to do so, Dr. Waterhouse.”

“At the time that Gresham’s was being cleared out, and the rubbish being carted away, and the treasures brought safely here-I say, at that time, was any rubbish taken away, or treasures produced, from other locations?”

“Other locations, Dr. Waterhouse?”

“Hooke. Mr. Robert Hooke. He might have squirrelled things away at Bedlam, or in the additions to the Marquis of Ravenscar’s house, or the College of Physicians-”

“Why those places, sir?”

“He built them. Or St. Paul’s, or the Fire Monument-he had a hand in those as well. He might have left things in those buildings; and just as the nuts, hidden in out-of-the-way places by a squirrel, are oft forgotten, and discovered later by others-”

“I do not recollect anything coming from Bedlam, or any other place besides Gresham’s College,” Henry said flatly.

Henry looked curiously red in the face. He had been simple enough to fall into the trap that Daniel had set by speaking of rubbish. But he was sharp enough to see it in hindsight. His response was to become angry rather than fearful. Daniel sensed immediately that to have this man angry at him was undesirable. He explained, in softer tones, “It is only that the Royal Society is so pre-eminent among the scientific academies of the world, that what is rubbish to us, would be esteemed treasure to some who are accounted savants in backward places; and as a gesture of friendship towards such countries, we could send them odds and ends for which we have no further use.”

“I take your meaning now, sir,” said Henry, the flush fading from his cheeks.

“Better for one of Mr. Hooke’s old clocks to be studied by a student in Muscovy, than for some Shadwell tinker to make the gears into jewelry.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“I have been asked by a colleague on the Continent to keep an eye out for any such items. It is probably too late for the dozens of cart-loads. Perhaps not for what might have been stowed by Hooke in other buildings to which he had keys.”

“Sir Christopher Wren was an old friend of Mr. Hooke’s.”

“That he was,” said Daniel, “though I wonder how you know it, since Hooke died seven years before you had any connection to the Royal Society.”

Again Henry’s face flushed. “ ’Tis common knowledge. Sir Christopher is here all the time-why, he stopped in just this morning-and often speaks of Hooke with a kind of affection.”

Henry got a wry distracted look which proved he was speaking truth. God and the angels might speak of Hooke with outright and unalloyed affection; but a kind of affection was the best that could be achieved by Wren, or any other mortal.

“I should simply refer my inquiries to Sir Christopher, then.”

“He has stated more than once that he would enjoy renewing your acquaintance, sir, whenever…”

Henry trailed off and made a furtive glance at the doorway to the garret, near the top of the stairs.

“Whenever I came to my senses. Consider me healed, Henry. And if you are seized by an urge to throw anything away, do make me aware of it, so that I can pluck out any items that would pass for wonders in Muscovy.”

Daniel went out for a walk: a most imprudent act.

Henry Arlanc had let it be known that if Daniel ever summoned the will to leave, for an hour or a day, he, Henry Arlanc, could arrange a sedan chair or a carriage. This was nothing more than simple common sense. The streets of London were a good bit more dangerous now than when Daniel had last walked them, and Daniel much more vulnerable. But on a morning like this, with the streets so crowded with well-to-do persons on the move, murderers and footpads were less likely to be encountered than pickpockets. And these would reap only the meagrest of harvests from Daniel.

An odd notion had come in to Daniel’s mind: perhaps the intended victim of the Infernal Device had been, not Daniel or Mr. Threader, but Henry Arlanc.

Now in his years of toil for the Royal Society, Daniel had become a stern judge of odd notions. There were abundant reasons to discard this one straightaway. Its most obvious defect was simply that Daniel had not the faintest idea why anyone would want to blow up the Royal Society’s porter. Moreover, the fog that had descended over Daniel’s mind since the explosion had made him susceptible to hypotheses of an extremely dark and frightening cast, and this seemed like one of those.

But the Natural Philosopher in him had to admit that it was at least theoretically possible. And until it had been ruled out, Daniel liked to preserve, from Arlanc, some independence-he did not wish to get in the habit of relying on the Huguenot every time he stirred from Crane Court-and some privacy. ’Twas neither necessary nor desirable for Arlanc to know everything about his movements around London.

His knees were still recovering from too long spent in bed, but they had become unlimbered by the time he reached the end of Crane Court and flung himself on the mercy of Fleet Street. He turned to the right, therefore moving in the general direction of Charing Cross, and worked his way cautiously upstream, prudently facing on-coming traffic, and with his right hand dabbing at the fronts of houses and shops in case he should be forced to save himself by diving into a door-way. Soon he had left St. Dunstan-in-the-West behind. The Inner and Middle Temple would be to his left, on the opposite side of Fleet, lurking behind a screen of newer buildings. These were largely occupied by pubs and coffee-houses that were continual targets of arch but confusing references, and cruel but murky satire, in newspapers.

Soon he had passed through Temple Bar. The way-now called the Strand-forked into a main channel on the left and an inferior one to the right, creating a long central island with a couple of churches in it. Daniel took the narrower way-really a series of disjoint street-fragments crudely plumbed together-and grew convinced that he was lost. The buildings were held apart by splints of air, too narrow to deserve the name “alley,” that jogged crazily to the right and left, and did not run in straight lines even when they could have. The fire had stopped short of this part of the city, probably because the Rolls and the Temple, with their generous lawns, had acted as fire-breaks. Hooke, in his capacity as City Surveyor, had not been empowered to bring it out of the Dark Ages. These ancient rights-of-way were as sacred, or at least as unassailable, as the precepts of the Common Law. Somewhere among them was an old, therefore low-ceilinged room that had been acquired by a printer, Mr. Christopher Cat, and made into a thing called the Kit-Cat Clubb.

I have spoken to Mr. Cat about you, Roger had let Daniel know, in a note slipped under his door. When you venture out, stop by our Clubb for refreshment. There had been a sketchy map, which Daniel now withdrew from his pocket, and tried to interpret. It was useless. But presently he was able to find his way to the Kit-Cat Clubb simply by following the carriages of Whig M.P.s.

The building had clearly been thrown up in an epoch of English history short on food and building materials, because Daniel, who was of average height, could barely stand up without being bludgeoned by a joist. Accordingly, the paintings that Mr. Cat had commissioned to adorn the walls were all bizarrely wide and short. This ruled out portraits, unless they were portraits of very large groups as seen from tremendous distances. Of these, the largest and most prominently displayed was of the distinguished membership of the Kit-Cat Clubb. Roger was front and center in his best wig, which was captured as a horseshoe-shaped swipe of an overloaded paint-brush.

“LET’S DO SOMETHING about Longitude!”

He was the same Roger in a much older body. Only his teeth looked young, because they were; they could not have been carved more than a few months ago. He had deteriorated in every way save the Mental and the Dental. He made up for it with clothing.

Daniel blew on his chocolate for a few moments, trying to get it to cool without forming a wrinkled hide on the top. He could not hear himself think for all the Whigs in wigs shouting at each other. “The Queen opened Parliament only two hours ago,” he reminded Roger, “or so I’ve been told, and she forgot, entirely, to mention the trifling detail of who would succeed her, after her demise. And you wish to have a chat about Longitude.”

The Marquis of Ravenscar rolled his eyes. “ ’Twas settled ?ons ago. Sophie or Caroline will succeed her-”

“You mean, Sophie or George Louis.”

“Don’t be a fool. Ladies run Europe. The War of the Spanish Succession was all women. In Versailles, Madame de Maintenon. In Madrid, her best friend, the Princesse des Ursins, Camarera Mayor of the Bourbon Court of Spain. She runs the place. Those two on the one side, fought it out against Queen Anne and Sophie on the other.”

“I thought Queen Anne and Sophie hated each other.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Touche, Roger.”

“Now if you insist on being pedantic, yes, George Louis is next in the queue after Sophie. Do you know what he did with his wife?”

“Something horrible, I heard.”

“Locked her up in a Schlo? for the rest of her life, for bed-swerving.”

“So clearly he has the upper hand, at least-”

“ ’Tis the exception that proves the rule, Daniel. By taking such a measure, he confesses his helplessness to the world. She made him a cuckold. Cuckolds cannot be unmade.”

“Still, she’s locked in a Schlo?, and he isn’t.”

“He is locked up in the Schlo? of his own mind, which, by all accounts, has walls so thick, as to leave very little room within. The leading lady of England will be the Princess of Wales-raised personally by Sophie and by the late lamented, by all accounts dazzling, Queen of Prussia; and tutored by your friend.” This Roger stressed ominously.

“Er, getting back to the actual topic of conversation, don’t you think your time were better spent making sure the Hanoverians actually do succeed to the throne? Longitude can wait.”

Roger waved his hand as if trying for the eleventh time to knock a particular horse-fly out of the air. “God damn it, Daniel do you really think we are so feckless, as not to have thought of that?”

“I beg your pardon.”

“We’re not letting the Pretender in! You were there at his so-called birth-you saw the sleight-of-

hand involving the warming-pan-surely a man of your discrimination was not so easily deceived!”

“To me it looked like a babe’s head coming out of the Queen’s vagina.”

“And you call yourself a man of science!”

“Roger, if you would set aside this quaint notion that countries must be ruled by kings who are the sons of other kings, then it would not matter whether the Pretender entered St. James’s Palace through a vagina, or a warming-pan; either way, to hell with him.”

“Are you suggesting I become a Republican?”

“I’m suggesting you already are one.”

“Hmmph…from there, ’tis only a short step to Puritanism.”

“Puritanism has its advantages…we are not so much under the thumb of ladies.”

“Only because you hang all of the interesting ones!”

“I am told you have a mistress of a distinguished family…”

“As do you-the chief difference being, I get to sleep with mine.”

“They say she is extraordinarily clever.”

“Yours, or mine?”

“Both of them, Roger, but I was referring to yours.”

Roger did an odd thing then, namely, raised up his glass and turned it this way and that, until it had caught the light from the window the right way. It had been scratched up with a diamond. Several lines of script ran across it, which he now read, in a ghastly chaunt that was either bad reading or bad singing.

At Barton’s feet the God of Love

His Arrows and his Quiver lays,

Forgets he has a Throne above,

And with this lovely Creature stays.

Not Venus’s Beauties are more bright,

But each appear so like the other,

The Cupid has mistook the Right,

And takes the Nymph to be his Mother.

By the time he had lurched and wheezed to the end, several nearby clubbers had picked up the melody-if it could be so called-and begun to sing along. At the end, they all rewarded themselves by Consumption of Alcohol.

“Roger! I never would have dreamed any woman could move you to write even bad poetry.”

“Its badness is proof of my sincerity,” Roger said modestly. “If I wrote her an excellent love-poem, it might be said of me, that I had done it only to flaunt my wit.”

“As matters stand, you are indeed safe from any such accusations.”

Roger now allowed a few silent moments to pass, and adjusted his posture and his wig, as if about to be recognized in Parliament. He proclaimed: “Now, when the attention of all Good and Forthright Men is fixed upon the controversies attending the Hanoverian Succession, now, I say, is the time to pass Expensive and Recondite Legislation!”

“Viz. Longitude?”

“We can offer a prize to the chap who devises a way of measuring it. A large prize. I have mentioned the idea to Sir Isaac, to Sir Christopher, and to Mr. Halley. They are all for it. The prize is to be quite large.”

“If you have their support, Roger, what can you possibly want of me?”

“It is high time the Massachusetts Bay Institute of Technologickal Arts-which I have supported so generously-did something useful!”

“Such as-?”

“Daniel, I want to win the Longitude Prize!”

London


LATE FEBRUARY 1714

DANIEL WAS LURKING LIKE A bat in the attic, supervising Henry Arlanc, who was packing Science Crapp into crates and casks. Sir Isaac Newton emerged from a room on the floor just below, talking to a pair of younger men as they strode down the corridor. Daniel craned his neck and peered down the stairway just in time to catch a glimpse of Isaac’s feet and ankles as they flicked out of view. One of the men was Scottish, and sanguine, and fully agreeable to whatever it was that Isaac thought he should do. “I shall remark on the Baron’s remarks, sir!”

Leibniz had published his latest salvo in Journal Literaire under the title “Remarks.”

“I’ll use him smartly, I will!”

“I shall supply you with my notes on his Tentamen. I found in it a clearly erroneous use of second-order differentials,” Isaac said, preceding the others down the stairs.

“I perceive your strategy sir!” boomed the Scotsman. “Before the Baron presumes to pick the lint from oot o’ yoor eye he ought to extricate the log from oot o’ his oon!” It was John Keill: Queen Anne’s cryptographer.

The three men stormed down the stairs and out into the streets, or so it sounded to Daniel, in whose failing ears their footsteps and their conversation melted together into a fusillade of hoots and booms.

Daniel waited until their carriages had cleared the end of Crane Court, then went to the Kit-Cat Clubb.

ONE OF THE REGULARS THERE was John Vanbrugh, an architect who made a specialty of country houses. For example, he was building Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough. He couldn’t help but be busy on that front just now, since Harley had just flung ten thousand pounds at the Duke. Most of his tasks, just now, had nothing to do with the drawing up of plans or the supervision of workers. He was rather shunting money from place to place and attempting to hire people. Daniel knew this because Vanbrugh was using the Kit-Cat Clubb as his office, and Daniel couldn’t go there and read the paper and drink chocolate without hearing half of Vanbrugh’s business. Occasionally Daniel would glance up to discover Vanbrugh staring at him. Perhaps the architect knew he had corresponded with Marlborough. Perhaps it was something else.

At any rate, Vanbrugh was there when Daniel walked down from Crane Court, and within a few moments he had a great deal more reason to stare. For Daniel had scarcely sat down before a really excellent carriage pulled up in front of the club, and the head of Sir Christopher Wren appeared in its window, asking for Dr. Daniel Waterhouse. Daniel obliged by coming out and climbing right in. The magnificence of this vehicle, and the beauty of the four matched horses that drew it, were sufficient to stop traffic on the Strand, which greatly simplified the task of getting it turned around and aimed back the way Daniel had come, eastwards into the city.

“I sent a carter round to Crane Court, as you requested, to collect whatever it was you wanted collected. He shall meet us at St. Stephen Walbrook and then he is yours for the day.”

“I am in your debt.”

“Not at all. May I ask what it is?”

“Rubbish from the attic. A gift to our scientific brethren in St. Petersburg.”

“Then I am in your debt. Given the nature of my work, what a scandal it would raise, if Crane Court collapsed under the weight of beetles.”

“Let us consider all accounts settled between us, then.”

“Did you really go through all of it!?”

“What I am really after is the residue of Hooke.”

“Oh-er! You shan’t find it there. Sir Isaac.”

“Hooke and Newton are the two most difficult persons I have ever known-”

“Flamsteed belongs too in that Pantheon.”

“Hooke thought Newton stole his ideas.”

“Yes. He made me aware of it.”

“Newton considered himself aggrieved by any such accusations. Hooke’s legacy could only support Hooke, and never exonerate Newton-so away with all such rubbish! But Hooke, being no less obstreperous than Newton, must have anticipated this-he would therefore have placed his most valuable stuff out of Newton’s reach.”

Wren bore his eighty-one years as an arch supports tons of stone. He had been a sort of mathematical and mechanical prodigy. The quicksilver that had seemingly welled up out of the ground, round the time of Cromwell, had been especially concentrated in him. Later that tide had seemed to ebb, as many of the early Royal Society men had succumbed to a heaviness of the limbs, or of the spirit. Not so with Wren, who seemed to be changing from an elfin youth into an angel, with only a brief sojourn in Manhood. He wore a tall fluffy silver wig, and clothing of light color, with airy lace at the throat and wrists, and his face was in excellent condition. His age showed mostly in the dimples of his cheeks, which had lengthened to crevices, and in the fragile skin of his eyelids, which had become quite loose, pink, and swollen. But even this only seemed to lend him a placid and mildly amused look. Daniel saw now that Wisdom had been among the gifts that God had bestowed on the young Wren, and that it had led him into architecture: a field where the results spoke for themselves, and in which it was necessary to remain on speaking terms with large numbers of one’s fellow humans for years at a time. The other early Royal Society men had not recognized Wren’s wisdom, and so there had been whispers, fifty years ago, that the wonder boy was squandering his gifts by going into the building trade. Daniel had been as guilty of saying so as anyone else. But Wren’s decision had long since been vindicated, and Daniel-who’d made his own decisions, some wiser than others-felt no trace of envy, and no regret. Only a sort of awed bemusement, as their carriage emerged from Ludgate and circumnavigated St. Paul’s church-yard, and Wren parted a curtain with one finger to cast an eye over St. Paul’s, like a shepherd scanning his flock.

What would it be like, to have built that? Daniel could only guess at it, by considering what he had built, and trying to appraise it in a similar spirit. But Daniel’s work was not finished yet. He was not that old-or so he felt, in present company. When Wren’s son had laid the last stone into its place in the lantern atop the dome of St. Paul’s, Sir Christopher had been ten years older than Daniel was today.

St. Paul’s had passed from view; they had turned onto Watling Street and come to a dead stop in the congestion; the tables had turned, and now Wren was looking at Daniel bemusedly. “I do not intend to make your business mine,” he said, “but it would help me to help you, if you would allow me to know what sort of Hooke-stuff you are looking for. Some of his artwork, to adorn your walls? Navigational instruments, for finding your way back to Boston? Architectural drawings? Astronomical observations? Schemes for flying machines? Samples of exotic plants and animals? Clock-work? Optical devices? Chymical Receipts? Cartographical innovations?”

“Forgive me, Sir Christopher, my affairs divide and multiply from one day to the next, I am compelled to pursue several errands at once, and so my answer is not as plain as it might be. Almost anything will serve the end I have already mentioned, viz. giving the Russian savants-in-training food for thought. As for my own purposes, I require anything to do with machines.”

“I have heard it mentioned that you are a member of the Court of Directors of the Proprietors-”

“No. It is not that. Mr. Newcomen’s Engine is a huge and beastly piece of ironmongery, and he needs no assistance from me to make it. I am thinking of small, precise, clever machines.”

“I suppose you mean, small, precise machines, made cleverly.”

“I meant what I said, Sir Christopher.”

“So it’s the Logic Mill again? I thought Leibniz gave up on it, what, forty years ago.”

“Leibniz only set it aside forty years ago, so that he could-” Here Daniel was struck dumb for a few moments out of sheer awe at the faux pas he had been about to commit; he was going to say, invent the calculus.

Sir Christopher’s face, as he regarded this narrowly averted conversational disaster, looked like the death-mask of a man who had died in his sleep while having a pleasant dream.

Finally Wren said, brightly, “I recall Oldenburg was furious. Never forgave him for not finishing it.”

A short pause. Daniel was thinking something unforgivable: perhaps Oldenburg had been right, Leibniz should have built the damned machine and never trespassed upon the holy ground that Isaac had discovered and walled round. He sighed.

Sir Christopher was regarding him with infinite patience. ’Twas like sharing a coach with a Corinthian column.

“I am serving two masters and one mistress,” Daniel began. “Just now, I don’t know what the mistress expects of me, and so let us leave her out of the discussion, and consider my masters. Both men of power. One, a prince of a faraway land, of an old style, but with new ideas. The other, a new sort of prince: a Parliamentary potentate. I can satisfy both, by achieving the same object: construction of a Logic Mill. I know how to build it, for I have been thinking about it, and making test-pieces, for twenty years. I shall soon have a place to build it in. There is even money. I want tools, and clever men who can work miracles with them.”

“Hooke devised machines for cutting tiny gears, and the like.”

“And he knew all of the watch-makers. Among his papers there might be names.”

Wren was amused. “Oh, you’ll have no difficulty getting watch-makers to talk to you, after my lord Ravenscar passes the Longitude Act.”

“That depends on whether they perceive me as a competitor.”

“Are you?”

“I believe that the way to find longitude is not to make better clocks, but to make certain astronomical observations-”

“The Method of Lunar Distances.”

“Indeed.”

“But there is so much arithmetick to be done, with that method.”

“And so let us equip every ship with an Arithmetickal Engine.”

Sir Christopher Wren pinkened-not because he was angry, or embarrassed, but because he was interested. His mind worked for a while. Daniel let it. Finally Wren said, “The most ingenious mechanics I have ever seen, have not been those who make clocks-though they are admittedly very clever-but the ones who make organs.”

“Pipe-organs, you mean?”

“Yes. For churches.”

Daniel felt something very strange happening to his face: he was smiling. “Sir Christopher, you must have employed more organ-makers than any man in history.”

Wren held up a steadying hand. “The furnishings are put in by the parish vestries-it is they who employ the organ-makers. But this much is true: I see them all the time.”

“London must be infested with them!”

“That was more true ten and twenty years ago than now. London’s churches are finished. Many of the organ-makers have gone back to the Continent, to rebuild instruments destroyed in the wars. But many are still here. I shall make inquiries, Daniel.”

They arrived at the church of St. Stephen on Walbrook. Walbrook had been a stream in Roman times, and was now assumed to be a sewer flowing somewhere beneath the street of the same name, though no one was volunteering to go down and verify this. It was a good omen for the day, because this was Daniel’s favorite church. (1) Wren had put it up early in his career-come to think of it, during the same years Leibniz had been toiling on the calculus. It was all domes and arches, as white and pure as an egg; and whatever uplifting thoughts its parishioners might think as they filed into it, Daniel knew it was Wren’s secret anthem to Mathematicks. (2) Thomas Ham, his goldsmith uncle, had lived and worked close enough to hear the hymns being sung in this church. His widow Mayflower-who late in life had converted to Anglicanism-had attended services there with her surviving son William. (3) When King Charles II had ennobled Thomas Ham by way of apology for absconding with all of his customers’ deposits, he had named him Viscount Walbrook, and so to Daniel the Church of St. Stephen Walbrook felt almost like a family chapel.

Wren had put up so many churches so quickly that he’d not had time to plant steeples on them. They all looked splendid on the inside. But steeples were essential to his vision of how London ought to look from the outside, and so now, in semi-retirement, he was going round to his old projects and banging out majestic yet tasteful steeples one after the other. From here Daniel could see another being finished at St. James Garlickhythe, a quarter-mile away, and yet another freshly completed one across the street from there at St. Michael Paternoster Royal. Apparently Sir Christopher’s steeple project was rolling through London a neighborhood at a time. Eminently practical, that. This one, at St. Stephen Walbrook, was just getting underway, using men and materiel being moved over from the other two.

They were taking over the near end of an anomalous open ground north of the church, which spanned a distance of a hundred yards or so between it and the riotous Poultry/Threadneedle/Cornhill/Lombard intersection. Formerly this had been the Stocks Market. It was impossible for so much uncovered dirt to exist in a city like London without becoming a breeding-ground for Crime or Commerce, and Daniel spied instances of both as soon as he got out of Wren’s carriage. At the nearer end, Wren’s workmen had set up, and were guarding, supply-dumps for the masons and carpenters who would spend the next year or two working here, and were erecting a tiny encampment of shacks and tents. Their dogs were parading around, solemn as doctors, urinating on anything that did not move fast enough. Amid this mess, Daniel spied one cart laden with parcels he’d packed with his own hands in the attic of the Royal Society.

A lot of fellows were doffing their hats-not to Daniel, of course, but to his traveling-companion. Wren was clearly getting ready to part ways with him. “I have in my possession drawings of many of Hooke’s buildings.”

“That is just the sort of thing I need.”

“I shall send them to you. As well as the names of some men, now retired, who built them, and who may have recollections of peculiarities in their construction.”

“That is really splendid of you.”

“It is the least I can do on behalf of the estate of the fellow who taught me how to design arches. Lastly, I shall nominate you as Overseer of Demonstrations to the Royal Society.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“It will become clear to you with a little reflection. I bid you good day, Dr. Waterhouse.”

“You are a perfect gentle knight, Sir Christopher.”

HE HAD PHANT’SIED that London would be less congested in its eastern reaches, beyond Bishopsgate, but if anything that part of the city was worse yet. For on that front it lay open to the inroads of, on the left hand, Industry, and on the right, Shipping. Neither Daniel nor his carter cared to spend the balance of the day disputing the right-of-way against heavy wagons laden with bricks, coal, and lime, and being drawn down the street by cavalry-charges of draught

–horses. They might cross the Bridge, but Southwark would be the same scene with narrower, fewer, and worse roads. So Daniel decreed a change in plans, and had the carter drive him and his parcels down Fish Street Hill to the approaches of London Bridge, and then east along Thames Street as if going to the Tower. To their right, diverse narrow ancient lanes ran down to the wharves, about a bow-shot away, each street giving him a moment’s glimpse of a different controversy, mob action, or commercial transaction; but the river Thames was not present in any of these tableaux, because all he could see at the open street-ends was masts and rigging.

They passed the Billingsgate market, which was arrayed around the three sides of a large rectangular dock, or cut-out in the riverbank, where small vessels could come in from the Pool. The dock reached most of the way to Thames Street, which broadened into a plaza there, so as to shake hands with the market. Black rocks skittered out, or lodged and shattered, under the iron rims of the cart’s wheels. The horses faltered. They were pushing through a crowd of children in grimy clothes who were buzzing around gleaning those black rocks out of crevices between paving-stones.

“Crimps!” said the carter, “Crimps and Meters come to meet the Hags.” He was referring, not to the boys scavenging coal, but to classes of people doing business on the northern shore of Billingsgate Dock. Crimps were coal-merchants, and to judge from snatches of accent drifting on the breeze, they were Yorkshiremen. Meters were the City of London officials who weighed the chalders of sea-coal on immense blackened steel-yards, and Hags were the stout tubby boats that ferried it in from the big hulks out in the Pool. All of which was new to Daniel, who thought of Billingsgate as a fish-market; but he was reassured to see that the fishwives had not been driven out of the place, indeed still controlled most of the dock, and drove back encroaching Crimps with well-aimed barrages of fish-guts and vivid, faithful descriptions of their persons and their families.

Past Billingsgate the going was easier, but only slightly, as the Customs House was shortly ahead of them on the right. This was so crowded with men doing transactions that it was said by some to rival Change Alley. Their discourse commingled into a surfing roar, and even from here Daniel could hear the occasional crash and foam of some mighty wave of Intercourse.

“This will do,” he said, and the carter took the next right turn and drove down a lane, lined with small and dingy, but very active, business concerns, to the Thames wharf. Several wee docks had been chopped out of this stretch of the riverbank and it did not take them long to find one where watermen were gathered, smoking pipes and exchanging learned commentary. Simply by standing still and dispensing coins to the right people at the right times, Daniel was able to cause his parcels to be loaded on a boat; passage to be booked across and down the river; and the carter to be sent home.

Seen from Thames Street the river had seemed less Conduit than Barrier-a palisade of honed wood thrown up to prevent an invasion, or an escape. But with a few strokes of the waterman’s oar they penetrated the screen along the wharves and surged out into the main channel. This was as crowded as any water in the world, but miraculously open and accommodating compared to the streets of London. Daniel felt as though burdens had been lifted, though nothing could be further from the truth. London very quickly became a smouldering membrane, a reeking tarpaulin flung over the hill and not smoothed out. The only features of consequence were the Fire Monument, the Bridge, the Tower, and St. Paul’s. The Bridge, as always, seemed like a Bad Idea, a city on stilts, and a very old, slumping, inflammable Tudor city at that. Not far from its northern end was the Fire Monument, of which Daniel was now getting his first clear view. It was an immense solitary column put up by Hooke but universally attributed to Wren. During Daniel’s recent movements about London he had been startled, from time to time, to spy the lantern at its top peering down at him from over the top of a building-just as he had often felt, when he was a younger man, that the living Hooke was watching him through a microscope.

The tide was flowing, and it wafted them downstream at a fair clip. They were abreast of the Tower before he knew it. With some effort of will, Daniel swerved his gaze from Traitor’s Gate, and wrenched his thoughts from recollection of old events, and paid heed to present concerns. Though he could not see through the Tower’s walls and bastions, he could see smoke rising from the general vicinity of the Mint buildings; and beneath the general clamor radiating from the city he phant’sied he could detect the slow heavy pulse of the trip-hammers beating out guineas. On the battlements were soldiers, wearing black trim on their red coats: therefore, the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards, who had been garrisoned at the Tower, yanked away from it, re-garrisoned there, yanked back again so many times that Daniel had given up trying to keep track. The whereabouts of the Black Torrent Guard were an infallible weather-cock that told which way the wind was blowing, where Marlborough-who had founded the regiment-was concerned. If the United Kingdom was at war, the Black Torrent Guards were at the front. If at peace, and Marlborough in favor with the Sovereign, they would be at Whitehall. If Marlborough lay under suspicion of being another Cromwell-in-the-making, then his favored Regiment would be exiled to the Tower, and numbed with the toils of minding Mint and Arsenal.

As they drifted down the river, the buildings gradually became meaner, and the ships more magnificent. Not that the buildings were so very mean at first. Carriageways had always coursed along both banks, but now one could not see them because warehouses, mostly of burnt brick, had been cast up between them and the river, their walls plunging sheer into the water so that boats could bump against them to be loaded or unloaded with the help of cranes that projected out above the water like the feelers of microscopic animalcules. The only relief in these warehouse-walls was at small flat wharves specializing in this or that type of cargo, and connected to the world by rays of pounded dirt. On the left or Wapping bank, those streets led into a city that had, dumbfoundingly, been summoned into being during Daniel’s absence. On the right or Southwark bank, the buildings soon dwindled to a mere screen along the water-front, with open country beyond. But Daniel was only allowed to see into it when the boat swam into transitory alignment with a south-going road. Such roads were lined with new buildings for a quarter-mile or so inland, making them look like sword-cuts hacked into the city. And the country beyond was not your English farmsteads (though there were pastures and dairies) but your quasi-industrial landscape of tenter-grounds and tanner yards, the inherently land-hungry manufactures of large flat goods.

Coming round the elbow before Wapping put them in view of a mile of river, running straight up to the great horseshoe-bend between Limehouse and Rotherhithe, Daniel was surprised, and yet not, to see that the new city on the left bank extended almost that entire distance, so that the formerly free-standing towns of Shadwell and Limehouse were all but swallowed by London now. The very idea made his skin crawl just a bit, for the downriver slum-towns had always been the breeding-grounds of mudlarks, river-pirates, rabid dogs, wharf-rats, highwaymen, and Vagabonds, and the intervening belt of countryside-pocked though it might have been with clay-pits, brick-yards, and gin-houses-had been a sort of cordon sanitaire between them and London. He wondered if London might get more than it bargained for, by replacing that barrier with through streets.

The Southwark side was much more open, and parts of it were un-obstructed, so that Daniel, and grazing dairy-cows, could inspect each other across a few yards of water, mud, and turf. But just as the sloops and schooners were giving way to proper three-masted ships as they progressed down this stretch of the Pool, so the small wharves and warehouses of city merchants were being supplanted by vast flat yards that owned long swaths of the bank, big as battle-fields, and almost as noisy: the ship-yards. Some bloke at the Kit-Cat Clubb had tried to convince Daniel that there were now no fewer than two dozen ship-yards active along the edges of the Pool, and almost as many dry-docks. Daniel had only pretended to credit this, out of politeness. Now he believed. For what seemed like miles, the banks of the Thames were lined with enterprises that ate trees by the thousands and shit boats by the score. They spat out enough saw-dust and wood-shavings to safely pack St. Paul’s in a shipping-crate, supposing a crate that large could be built. Which it probably could, here. Certain things Daniel had been noticing suddenly became connected in his mind. The rafts of hardwood logs floating down the Charles, day after day, in Boston, and the fact that coal, its smoke, and its soot were everywhere in London now, both spoke of a desperate hunger for wood. The forests of Old and New England alike were being turned into fleets, and only a fool would burn the stuff.

At the last minute the waterman showed uncertainty as to which ship-yard was Mr. Orney’s-there being so many to choose from, here-but Daniel knew. It was the one with three men-of-war, all being built to the same plan, resting side-by-side on the ways. The workers sitting on the ribs of those ships, eating their midday meals, were English- and Irishmen, wearing wool caps if they bothered to protect their heads from the raw breeze at all. But as they rowed closer Daniel saw two men in giant fur hats, inspecting the work.

The waterman made them drift beneath the jutting sterncastles of the three hulls. The one in the middle was nearly complete, except for the all-important carving, painting, and gilding of gaudy decorations. The other two were still receiving their hull planks.

They came in view of a pier that thrust out into the river at the downstream end of the yard, well clear of the ships. A man in plain black clothing was sitting on a keg near the end, nibbling on a pasty and reading a Bible. When he saw them coming, he put both down carefully, stood up, and held out his hands to catch the painter thrown his way by the waterman. His hands blurred and conjured up a perfect knot, making them fast to a heavy iron bitt on the pier. The knot, and the style in which it had been performed, demonstrated to all who witnessed them that this fellow was one of God’s elect. His clothing was severe, and it was none of your fine Sunday stuff, but heavy woolen work-clothes, flecked all over with stray fibers and saw-dust. From the man’s callused hands, and his way with cordage, Daniel took him for a rigger.

On the shore above them, wheel-ruts and plank-roads formed a miniature London of avenues and squares, except that the place of buildings was taken by stacks and heaps of logs, timbers, rope-coils, oakum-bales, and pitch-kegs. Running along one side of this supply-dump, and defining the eastern boundary of Orney’s yard, was a public right-of-way that traversed the flats for a short distance and then bounded up a stairway to Lavender Lane, which was the bankside street in this part of Rotherhithe.

“God save you, brother,” Daniel said to the rigger.

“And thee-sir,” returned the rigger, giving him the once-over.

“I am Dr. Waterhouse of the Royal Society,” Daniel confessed, “a high and mighty title for a sinner, which brings me never so much respect and honor among those who have been seduced by the pleasures and illusions of Vanity Fair.” He threw a glance over his shoulder at London. “You may so address me, if you wish; but to be called ‘Brother Daniel’ would be a higher honor.”

“Then Brother Daniel it is, if thou wouldst return the favor, by knowing me as Brother Norman.”

“Brother Norman, I perceive that thou dost set a continual example of Industry to the men around you who are tempted by the false promises of Slothfulness. All of this I understand-”

“Oh, there are hard workers among us, Brother Daniel, otherwise how could we perform such works as these?”

“Thy point is well taken, Brother Norman, and yet my confusion only worsens; for I have never seen a ship-yard so prodigious, with workers so few; where is everyone?”

“Why, Brother Daniel, I am grieved to inform thee that they are in Hell. Or as close a thing to Hell as there is on this earth.”

Daniel’s first guesses at this riddle were prison or a battlefield but these did not seem likely. He had almost settled on whorehouse when he heard the sound of men erupting into cheers on the far side of Lavender Lane.

“A theatre? No! Bear-baiting,” he guessed.

Brother Norman closed his eyes prayerfully, and nodded.

This outburst of cheering was the signal for several of the men who had been eating to rise up and quit the ship-yard. They ascended the stairs in a bunch, followed at a cautious distance by the two Russians Daniel had noticed earlier. Other than Brother Norman, perhaps half a dozen workers now remained in the entire yard.

“I say,” Daniel exclaimed, “is it Mr. Orney’s custom to suspend all work, in the middle of the day, so that his workers can run off to attend a bloody and disgraceful spectacle? It is a miracle anything gets done in this place.”

“I am Mr. Orney,” Brother Norman said pleasantly.

Forty years ago, Daniel might now have flung himself into the river from sheer mortification. In light of recent months’ events, he knew he would survive this, like it or not. The best he could do was to soldier on. He was more concerned about the waterman who’d brought him here. That man had been listening shrewdly to the exchange, and now looked as if he might topple backward off the pier.

“I do beg your pardon, Brother Norman,” said Daniel.

“Oh, not at all, Brother Daniel, for how are we to come closer to God, if our ears be not open to the criticism of godly brethren?”

“Very true, Brother Norman.”

“Thou mightst never wot, O Son of Drake, what a ridiculous figure thou makest, in thy foppish periwig and whorish clothing, unless I were to lovingly put thee in mind of it.”

Another cheer from beyond Lavender Lane reminded Daniel that, as usual, the unrepentant sinners were having more fun.

“I have acquainted the workers with my views on such entertainments,” Brother Norman continued. “Several of our Brethren are there now, handing out tracts. Only God can save them.”

“I thought you were a rigger,” Daniel said idiotically.

“To be an examplar, in a ship-yard, is to show excellence in all of its tributary trades.”

“I see.”

“The baiting-ring is yonder. Tuppence a head. Enjoy!”

“Oh, no, Brother Norman, I have not come for that.”

“Why hast thou come then, Brother Daniel? Solely to offer me thy opinions as to how I might better look after my affairs? Wouldst thou care to audit my books? The day is young.”

“Splendid of you to offer, but-”

“I am afraid my fingernails are dirty, and might not meet with thine approval, but if thou wouldst come back tomorrow-”

“That is really quite all right, Brother Norman. My father, the smuggler, who employed diverse pirates and Vagabonds, was frequently observed to have a bit of dirt under his nails after we had been up all night loading contraband.”

“Very well, then, how may I be of help to thee, Brother Daniel?”

“By loading these parcels aboard the first of yonder ships that, if God wills it, does set sail for St. Petersburg.”

“This is not a warehouse. I cannot accept responsibility for aught that happens to them while they are stored in my yard.”

“Agreed. The thief who makes off with them is in for bitter disappointment.”

“You must secure the permission of Mr. Kikin.”

“And he is-”

“The short one. Approach Mr. Kikin from directly in front, with thine hands in plain view, or the tall one shall kill thee.”

“Thank you for that advice, Brother Norman.”

“Not at all. Mr. Kikin is quite certain that London is alive with Raskolniks.”

“What’s a Raskolnik?”

“From the nature of Mr. Kikin’s precautions, I infer that it is a sort of Russian Huguenot, bearded, ten feet tall, and good at throwing things.”

“Well, I don’t think I quite match that description-”

“One can never be too careful. Thou couldst be a Raskolnik disguised as a superannuated dandy.”

“Brother Norman, ’tis such a pleasure to be free of the stuffy courtesies of London.”

“The pleasure is entirely mine, Brother Daniel.”

“Tell me, please, have you heard any news of an East Indiaman called Minerva?”

“The ship Minerva of Rumor and Legend? Or the real one?”

“I have heard no rumors, know no legends…I assure you my interest is practical.”

“I saw a Minerva in dry-dock, round the bend, a fortnight ago, and so I can promise thee she was not the one of legend.”

“How does that follow, Brother Norman? I am wanting some knowledge, concerning Minerva, that would transform your riddle into a story.”

“Forgive me, Brother Daniel, I assumed you were as knowledgeable about maritime legends, as you are in ship-yard management. Some of the French sailors impose on the credulous, by insisting that there was once a ship, of that name, whose hull, below the waterline, was clad in gold.”

“Gold!?”

“Which could only be seen when she was heeled over, as when a stiff breeze was coming in abeam.”

“What a preposterous notion!”

“Not entirely, Brother Daniel. For the enemy of speed is the barnacle, which makes the hull rub the water. The notion of covering a hull with smooth metal is excellent. That is why I, and half the other shipwrights along the Pool, went to the trouble of having a look at this Minerva when she was in dry-dock.”

“But you did not see gold.”

“Copper is what I saw, Brother Daniel. Which might have been shiny and red when it was new. And if the light were to glance off it in just the right way, why, a Frenchman-a Papist, susceptible to gaudy and false visions-might phant’sy it were gold.”

“So that’s how the legend got started, you suppose.”

“I am certain of it. Oh, but the ship is quite real, Brother Daniel, I spied her riding at anchor a day or two ago, not half a mile out-I believe that is her, there, in front of Lime-Kiln Dock.” Brother Norman helpfully extended a hand across and downriver, indicating a short stretch that contained a hundred vessels, of which a third were full-sized, ocean-going three-masters. Daniel did not even bother to look. “She is a rakish teak-built sort of Dutch East Indiaman of the later Jan Vroom school, marvelous well-armed, generous tumble-home, a temptation and a terror to pirates.”

“I lived aboard her for two months and yet would never be able to pick her out from that crowd, at this range. Brother Norman, when do you expect that these ships shall set sail for St. Petersburg?”

“July, if God wills it and the cannons are delivered on time.”

“Sir,” Daniel said to his waterman, “I am going to go have a word with Mr. Kikin. While I do, I should be obliged if you would deliver a message to Captain van Hoek of Minerva.”

Daniel got out a pencil and a scrap of paper and wrote out the following on a barrel-head:

Captain van Hoek,

If your intention is to make a return voyage to Boston, then mine is to hire you to collect certain goods there, and bring them back to me here in London, preferably no later than July. I may be reached at the Royal Society, Crane Court, Fleet Street, London.

–Daniel Waterhouse

Mr. White’s Baiting-Ring


HALF AN HOUR LATER

ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF THE RING was subtended by standing-room, the remainder by a stand of benches. Daniel shrugged off the pamphleteers and missionaries trying to block the entrance and paid a whole shilling to get a sack of straw to cushion his bony old arse, and admission to the bleachers. He chose a place at the end of a bench so he’d have some hope of jumping clear if the structure collapsed-clearly it had not been engineered by Wren. From there he was able to look directly across the ring into the faces of the two Russians, who had elbowed their way to the front. This was no mean feat, considering that the other groundlings were Southwark shipyard workers. However, the tall one really was enormous, and he was armed. Mr. Kikin simply stood in front of him; his head came up to the other’s breastbone. Behind them, fellow spectators were reduced to taking turns sitting on each other’s shoulders.

Behind the stands a four-horse carriage was drawn up, defended from the Rotherhithe crowd by its staff of white-wigged footmen and coachmen. Daniel found it a bit odd that someone rich enough to own and populate such a rig would come so far to see a bear-baiting. The theatres and baiting-rings of Southwark were in easy striking distance of London; that was a simple matter of ten minutes on a boat. But to get here was a long trip in a coach, through a nasty sprawl of tanneries.

On the other hand, if these people were squeamish, they would never have formed the intention of coming hither. Daniel did not recognize the arms on the door of their carriage-he suspected that they were newly minted-and he could divine little by staring at the backs of the wigs worn by the owner and his two lady companions.

Aside from those three, the stands contained half a dozen other well-heeled persons who had evidently come out by water. These had all come alone. Daniel had to admit that he blended in.

The entertainment hewed strictly to the ancient Classical forms, which was to say it consisted of five minutes of actual excitement preceded by nearly an hour of showmanship. A series of pompous introductions, enlivened by cock-fights, led to some big dogs being trotted out on chains and paraded round the ring, so that wagers could be laid as to which would survive. Members of the audience who were too poor or too prudent to bet amused themselves by surging to the front and trying to make the dogs even angrier than they already were by throwing rocks at them, poking at them with sticks, or bellowing their names. One was King Looie, one was King Philip, another Marshall Villars, and yet another, King James the Third.

A fellow came in late and chose a seat at the end of a bench three rows below Daniel. It was another Nonconformist, dressed all in black, with a broad-brimmed hat. He was carrying a basket, which he set down on the bench in front of him, between his feet.

The gentleman who’d come out in the coach stood up, resting a scarred hand on the pommel of his small-sword, and stared at the newcomer. Daniel found the gentleman’s profile annoyingly familiar but could not quite place him. Whoever he was, he was clearly of a mind to go and eject this Nonconformist, who was as out of place here, as he would have been at the Vatican. The only thing that held him back-literally-was his companions. The ladies seated to either side of him exchanged a meaningful glance behind the skirts of his coat, then reached up in perfect unison, as if they were mirror images of each other, to lay gloved hands on the gentleman’s forearms. The gentleman did not take kindly to this at all, and shook his arms free with such violence that Daniel flinched, afraid that the fellow was going to elbow the ladies in the faces.

This imbroglio-in-the-making was interrupted by an announcement that “The Duke of Marlborough” was in the house. Everyone save the gentleman, Daniel, and the Nonconformist cheered. A score of groundlings were shooed out of the path of a gaudy-painted cart, a booth on wheels, which was being backed into the ring with a ponderous slowness meant to build excitement and enhance wagering.

The gentleman, preparatory to sitting down, put his hands on his arse to smooth the skirts of his coat. He glanced back behind the stands and looked moderately surprised. Daniel followed his gaze and noticed that the coach-and-four was no longer there. For this, the most plausible explanation was that the coachman had decided to move to some place quieter and not so crowded with Bankside rabble; it was certainly the case that many horses would be spooked by the entertainment that was about to begin.

Daniel turned back to look at the gentleman, who patted his belly, blindly groping up the length of a fat golden watch-chain that traversed his brocade vest, and pulled a time-piece out of a wee pocket. The watch-chain had several shriveled brown charms dangling from it-rabbits’ feet? The gent flipped open the lid of the watch, checked the time, and finally sat down.

They had missed nothing: only a mock-pompous ceremony of dragging a length of chain out from under the door of the wheeled booth, and fixing it to a massive stake driven into the ground. Now, finally, the door could be opened to reveal the Duke of Marlborough. And here was where Mr. Kikin and his companion suffered a great let-down. For the Duke might be large, by the standards of European black bears, but he was a runt compared to the brown Siberian monsters that chased people around Muscovy. Worse yet, when the Duke’s muzzle was pulled off by an intrepid trainer, and he opened his mouth to roar, it was obvious that his fangs had been filed down to harmless nubs.

“The Duke’s most fearsome foes: Harley and Bolingbroke!” shouted the master of ceremonies.

A pause for effect. Then the door of an enormous kennel was winched up, like the portcullis of a donjon. Nothing happened. A squib exploded inside the kennel. That did the trick: out came Harley and Bolingbroke, a matched set of poodles with white periwigs strapped to their heads. They rushed out half-blind and deaf, and went separate ways; Harley headed for the edge of the ring, Bolingbroke for the center, where the bear knocked him down with one blow of his paw, then rolled him over on his back and brought the other paw down with a sort of scooping motion.

A big spongy piece of poodle viscera was silhouetted against the white sky. It was throwing off a helix of blood-spray as it spun end-for-end. It seemed to be hanging motionless in the air, which gave Daniel the idea it was headed straight for him; but then it plunged and struck, with palpable momentum, into the bodice of the powder-blue silk gown currently being worn by one of the gentleman’s two lady companions. From there it tumbled into her lap and lodged in her skirt, between her thighs. Daniel pegged it as a lung. She had the good sense to stand up first, and scream second.

This performance, from the detonation of the squib to the almost as explosive ovation given by the groundlings in acclaim for the lady’s role, covered an elapsed time of perhaps five seconds.

The one lady now had to be taken aside and comforted by the other. As their coach had gone missing, this had to be done there in the stands, in full view of all present. It made a sort of side-show to the long-awaited main event: the big dogs were unleashed into the ring. First King Looie and King Philip. They made straight for the bear, until the bear noticed them and stood up on its hind legs; then they had second thoughts, and decided to see what might be achieved with a hell of a lot of barking. Marshall Villars and King James the Third were then let go, and pretty soon it had begun to look like a fight.

The crowd of groundlings were now in a frenzy equal to that of the animals. So much so that they did not notice, for several seconds, when the dogs and the bear stopped fighting, and began to ignore each other. Their muzzles were down in the dirt.

The dogs’ tails were wagging.

The crowd stopped shouting, almost in unison.

Bits of red stuff were hurtling into the ring from somewhere near Daniel, and plumping into the ground like damp rags.

All eyes noticed this and back-traced the trajectories to the Nonconformist. He had stood up and set his basket on the bench next to him. Daniel noticed now that the basket was blood-soaked. The man was pulling great hunks of raw meat from it and hurling them into the ring.

“You men, like these poor beasts, do fight for the amusement, and toil for the enrichment, of men such as this wretch-Mr. Charles White-only because, like these beasts, you are hungry! Hungry for succour, of the physic, and of the spirit! But prosperity temporal and spiritual is yours to be had! It falls from heaven like manna! If you would only accept it!”

To this point the meat-flinger’s performance had been entertaining, after a fashion, and they’d particularly liked it when he’d called a gentleman a Wretch to his face. But in the last few moments it had taken on the aspect of a sermon, which the groundlings did not care for at all. They all began to murmur at once, like Parliament. Daniel for the first time questioned whether he would get out of Rotherhithe today in one piece.

Mr. Charles White-perhaps asking himself the same question-was sauntering diagonally across the stands, casting meaningful looks at several of the blokes who were running the place. From this, and from what the meat-flinger had said, Daniel collected that White was the owner, or at least the backer.

“Splendid proposal, old boy! I do believe I’ll take a bit of this, thank you very mumph.” White’s final word was muffled by the Nonconformist’s left ear.

Now, the removal of said ear was a close re-enactment of a similar undertaking Daniel had witnessed twenty-odd years earlier, in a coffee-house. The hand that gripped the victim’s head, twisting him this way and that to worry the ear off, still bore an ugly stigma from Roger Comstock’s dagger. Daniel had no desire to see such a thing again. But the groundlings were fascinated. This was in other words a shrewd bit of crowd control on White’s part, in that it gave his audience some value for their money; the only value they were likely to get, today.

He got the ear off a lot quicker this time-practice having made perfect-and held it up. The crowd applauded; and as they did, White swiveled the ear back and forth, making it “listen” to whichever side was applauding the loudest. Once they understood this witticism, they went for it with gusto, the left and right flanks trying to out-do each other in noise-making. White meanwhile took this opportunity to dab blood off of his lips with a lace hanky.

“This ear is rather dry and gamy,” he shouted, when the crowd had grown tired of the jest. “I am afraid it has been tanned by listening to too many hellfire-sermons! It does not merit pride of place ’pon my watch-chain. ’Twill serve for dog-meat though.”

White vaulted over the barrier into the ring: a display of physical vigor striking to all. He fed the ear to the surviving poodle, Harley.

This spectacle-a dog eating a piece of a human being-seemed to give the crowd whatever satisfaction they had come for. Though none was pleased by the outcome, none complained. They began to mutter and joke amongst themselves. A few departed straightaway, to beat the crowds. Most milled out in a great herd, occasionally turning their heads back to watch the poodle, its periwig askew, its black lips peeled back from its fangs, grinding up the ear in its back teeth.

It occurred to Daniel to look for the one-eared, meat-hurling Puritan, who, when last seen, had been exiting stage right, making a dreadful noise: half sobbing with pain, half singing a hymn. His basket had been upset during the struggle with Mr. Charles White. Several bits of offal had tumbled out of it, and now lay on the bench in steaming lagoons of dark blood. Daniel recognized an enormous thyroid gland and decided that this had all been removed from a horse, or something equally large, that had been alive a quarter of an hour ago.

The meat-thrower had staggered down out of the stands and into the open space behind, where he was being assisted by a dozen or more of his brethren, who were all showing off forced smiles. Mr. White’s carriage still had not returned; in its place was a conveyance far ruder, and much better suited to this district: a knacker’s wagon, dark and crusty with old gore and bright and runny with new. Daniel from his elevated vantage point was able to see things in the back of that wagon that were hidden from the view of Mr. White, who remained down by the ring’s edge: a newly cut-up horse was in there. Not a worn-out nag but a glossy and well-looked-after steed.

It was one of Mr. White’s carriage-horses.

Mr. White’s footmen and driver were standing very close together a quarter of a mile away, next to a motionless carriage, to which only three horses were harnessed.

Daniel took another look at the Nonconformists and noticed that every single one of them had at least one pistol in his belt.

’Twas an excellent time to be leaving. Daniel descended the benches, trying not to look like a man in a panic, and did not slow or look back until he had put the whole baiting-ring between himself and the scene that had happened, or was about to, behind the stands.

“Mr. Kikin,” he said, having approached from in front, with his hands in plain sight, and offered a formal bow. “I come to you on an errand from Baron von Leibniz, counselor to his Imperial Majesty, Tsar Peter.”

This was an abrupt beginning; but Charles White, on the far side of the ring, was only just now piecing together the picture of how he had been used today by those Dissidents, and was working himself up into a rage limited only by the fact that he was outnumbered by chaps who looked forward to dying, and were carrying loaded pistols. Amid such distractions, the only way Daniel could think of to seize Mr. Kikin’s attention was to invoke the name of Peter the Great.

It worked. Kikin showed not the slightest doubt that Daniel was telling the truth. From this, Daniel knew that Leibniz’s account of the Tsar was on the mark; he did things his own way, be they never so irregular, and his servants, such as Kikin, did not long endure if they wanted the nimbleness to keep pace with his evolutions. Thus Daniel was able to draw Mr. Kikin and his companion aside, and get them clear of the growingly monstrous spectacle in the stands. Mr. White was bellowing threats and execrations at the Dissidents, who were drowning him out with hymn-singing, while a few unusually stupid spectators were darting in to throw stones at them.

HE HAD BEEN TOLD, by people who knew Russians, to expect cheekbones. Lev Stefanovich Kikin (as he introduced himself, once they had edged clear of the brawl, and withdrawn to a quiet corner of Orney’s ship-yard) did have quite a pair. But the slablike elements of Kikin’s face, and his overall fleshiness, hid his bone structure well enough that no one who lived north of, say, the River Seine would have picked him out as having come from a far country that was by all accounts very different from the rest of Christendom. Daniel would have felt more at ease if Kikin had had green skin and three eyes, so as to remind anyone who looked at him that he thought about things differently. As it was, Daniel tried to concentrate on the outlandish hat, and Kikin’s giant companion, who never left off scanning the horizon for Raskolniks.

For his part, Kikin-who was, after all, a diplomat-listened with an air of amused tolerance that Daniel found a bit grating after a while. But never mind; his mission here was not to befriend Kikin (or Orney, for that matter) but to arrange for the Science Crapp to be off-loaded and warehoused here, that it might be shipped to St. Petersburg later. Before an hour had passed, he had accomplished it, and was on his way back across the river. He asked the waterman to convey him to Tower Wharf.

The waterman rowed hard, not to please Daniel, but out of a selfish desire to put a large expanse of water, or anything, between him and Rotherhithe. They cut diagonally through the Pool, crossing from the south bank to the north whilst working upstream about a mile. This brought them to Wapping. From there another mile’s journey took them past the Red Cow, where Daniel and Bob Shaftoe had run Jeffreys to ground, then St. Catherine’s, and then the long wharf of the Tower. This was pierced in one place by the arch that led to Traitor’s Gate. Daniel had talked his way in there once, but saw no merit in attempting it now. So he had the waterman keep rowing.

Just beyond the Tower’s upstream corner, the river seemed to bend around sharply to the right-a trick played on landlubberly eyes by Tower Dock which was a vestige of the outer moat-system. Looming above this stagnant channel was a bewildering complex of land-gates, water-gates, docks, causeways, and drawbridges, all more or less answering to the appellation Lion Tower, and serving as the front door of the entire Tower of London complex. This was where Daniel paid the waterman for the day, and disembarked.

The outer reaches of the complex were open to the public. Daniel got all the way through Byward Gate, and into the beginning of Mint Street, before anyone bothered to ask him what he was doing. He claimed that he was here to pay a call on Sir Isaac Newton. This got him an escort: an Anglo-Irish private soldier of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards, who accompanied him a short distance up Mint Street. This was narrow, noisy, and long. For the first several yards it was lined with the dwellings of some of the Mint workers. Past that, it was pinched between a porter’s lodge on the right side of the way, and on the left, a building that served as the formal entrance to the Mint, with stairs leading to an office on the storey above.

Daniel’s escort ushered him into the building on the left, which Daniel immediately recognized as one of those miserable places where visitors cooled their heels waiting to be admitted.

For all that, it wasn’t so bad. He could use a respite. On the off chance that Daniel really was a friend of Sir Isaac’s, the porter ventured in from across the street and brought him a cup of tea. Daniel sat for a while, sipping it and watching coal-carts rumble in, and manure-carts out, and feeling the throb of the trip-hammers. Presently he was given the news that Sir Isaac was not on the premises, and the opportunity to leave him a note, which he did.

On his way out, as he passed under Byward Tower, he encountered the private who had escorted him to the office.

“Did you serve in the War, private?” Daniel asked. For this fellow did not look like an utterly raw recruit.

“I marched with Corporal John in ’11, sir,” came the answer. Corporal John was what the Duke of Marlborough was called by his soldiers.

“Ah, the outflanking of the ne plus ultra,” Daniel exclaimed. “Thirty miles in a day, wasn’t it?”

“Thirty-six miles in sixteen hours, sir.”

“Magnificent.”

Daniel did not inquire about the campaign of ’12, which had been a disgrace-the Queen had fired Marlborough on the first day of that year. “I once knew a fellow, a sergeant in this regiment-he did me a favor, and I did him one in turn. Since then, there have been twenty-five years of war. He couldn’t possibly still be here-”

“Only one man saw those twenty-five years through, sir,” the private returned.

“That is a dreadful figure. What is that man’s name?”

“It’d be Sergeant Bob, sir.”

“Bob Shaftoe?”

The private rationed himself a grin. “The same, sir.”

“Where is he now?”

“On a Mint detail, sir.”

“Mint detail?”

“Doing a job that needs doing for the Mint, sir.”

“So he is-?” Daniel pointed back up Mint Street.

“No sir, you’ll find him on London Bridge, sir. ’Tis a task of an unusual nature, sir.”

DANIEL SAW NO SOLDIERS doing anything, usual or unusual, as he walked most of the length of the bridge. Here, at least, was a part of London that had changed very little during his lifetime. The clothing worn by the people, and sold in the shops lining the carriageway, was of course different. But it was late in the afternoon and the sun was shining horizontally downriver, throwing the built-up segments of the bridge into a gloom too profound for his old eyes to penetrate, and so in these stretches he could phant’sy himself a ten-year-old boy again, out running an errand in the Puritan republic of Oliver Cromwell. But these day-dreams were interrupted when he came to the open fire-breaks, where the buildings ceased and the bridge hurried on for a stone’s throw as a naked causeway. As he ventured into these gaps, the sun blasted him on the right side of his face, and when he turned his head away from it and looked down the Thames, he saw two thousand ships-which annihilated the dream that he was back in the simple days of old. He scuttled across these open stretches like a rat across an unwelcome stripe of lanthorn-light, and found refuge in the cool dark canyons between the old buildings.

The last and shortest of these open stretches was practically in Southwark, seven-eighths of the way across. On the far end of this gap the carriageway was over-arched by a stone castle, of ancient-looking design, but only about three hundred years old. It was the highest structure on the Bridge, for it served both as watch-tower and as choke-point. It dated to an ?ra when military operations were of a more straightforward character, so that a bloke on the top of the tower, looking south to discover Frenchmen or Saracens coming up in force, could sound the alarm and slam the doors to the Bridge. It was called the Great Stone Gate.

The last of the old wattle-and-daub houses was supported by one starling, and the Great Stone Gate by the next one to the south, and the fire-break between them, above the carriageway, coincided with the broad stone arch that spanned the interval between the starlings below. The flume of Thames-water that raced through that arch was called Rock Lock, and was the broadest of all London Bridge’s twenty locks. Passengers who were willing to brave the rapids of the Bridge were sometimes offered the option of detouring all the way down here to take Rock Lock, which was the least dangerous, being the widest; but to do so was generally scorned, by your inveterate Bridge-shooters, as unmanly.

The Bridge’s several fire-breaks exerted a mysterious attraction upon contemplative or insane Londoners. Daniel passed one-he was not sure which-standing with his back to the carriageway, looking upstream. He was wearing a pinkish or flesh-colored coat. He was not enjoying the distant view of west London. Rather, his grizzled, scarred, close-cropped head was bent down to look at the starling beneath. He was gesticulating with an ebony walking-stick, and jabbering: “Have a care, have a care, remember the object of the exercise-there’s no point in doing it, is there, if the result is crack-pated, and cannot hold milk.” The words sounded insane, but he spoke them with the weary patience of a man who has been ordering people around for a long time.

A soldier in a red coat was planted to one side of the carriageway, craning his neck to look almost vertically upwards. Daniel stepped to the side, so that he would not be run over, and followed that soldier’s gaze to the top of the Great Stone Gate, where a pair of young men in filthy old shirts were at work.

In company with Ludgate, Temple Bar, Aldgate, amp;c., this was one of the old gates of the City of London. And in accordance with an ancient and noble tradition, common to most all well-regulated Christian nations, the remains of executed criminals were put on display at such gates, as a way of saying, to illiterate visitors, that they were now entering into a city that had laws, which were enforced with gusto. To expedite which, the top of the tower above Great Stone Gate had been fitted with numerous long iron pikes that sprayed out from its battlements like black radiance from a fallen angel’s crown. At any given time, one or two dozen heads could be seen spitted on the ends of these, in varying stages of decomposition. When a fresh one was brought in from Tower Hill, or from one of the City’s hanging-grounds, the wardens of the gate would make room for it by chucking one of the older heads into the river. Though here as in every other aspect of English life, a strict rule of precedence applied. Certain heads, as of lordly traitors who’d been put to death at the Tower, were allowed to remain long past their Dates of Expiration. Pick-pockets and chicken-stealers, by contrast, were swapped through so rapidly that the ravens scarcely had time to peel a good snack off of them.

Some such operation was seemingly underway now, for Daniel could hear some authoritative chap atop the tower, chiding those men in the ragged shirts: “Don’t-even-think-of touching that one, it is Baron Harland of Harland-peculation, 1707, hanging by a thread as you can see…yes, you may inspect that one.”

“Thank you, sir.” One of the wretches gripped an iron pikestaff and lifted it carefully out of its socket, then brought it round so that the head mounted to its end was face to face with the other wretch-who proceeded to feel the skull all over, like a phrenologist.

“I phant’sy this’n’s sound, sir. It don’t give when I mash it.”

“Bring it down,” shouted the red-coated soldier on the carriageway.

A few moments later the wretch emerged from an internal stair-way, which he had descended with conspicuous gallantry and athleticism. He passed the head under the gaze of the soldier, who responded with a perfunctory nod, and then tucked it back under his arm and sauntered over to the western edge of the carriageway, within arm’s length of the grizzled man in the pink coat. Taking it up in both hands, he hollered, “Oy! Heads up, mate!” and gave it a good toss. Daniel could not see its trajectory, but could read it in the postures of the head-thrower and the pink-coat, both of whom were tracking it carefully: quiet anticipation as the head traced a parabola downwards, then shock and dismay as someone down below bobbled it, ending with explosive relaxation as it was caught. The man who’d thrown it wheeled about smartly, like a soldier in a drill. His face looked very much as if he had dodged a cannonball. He marched back to the Great Stone Gate.

Daniel strolled over to take his place. Looking over the bridge’s parapet he could now see down to the flat top of the starling below: a puddle of rubble circumscribed by a line of pilings, just an arm’s length above the level of the river. Down there were two more redcoats, supervising the labors, but standing well clear, of another pair of unfortunates, who were surrounded by partially decomposed and dismantled heads. These two chaps were working shirtless in the cold, probably because their backs were covered with whip-marks that were still bleeding. But they, too, were vigorous young men. Daniel reckoned they were private soldiers guilty of some infraction, being made to undertake this work as part of their punishment. The work consisted of catching the heads thrown down to them, and cutting off the tops of the skulls with handsaws.

As Daniel was taking in this scene, one of them finished a cut, and the top of a skull fell to the ground. He picked it up, gave it a quick inspection, and then underhanded it straight up in the air. The man next to Daniel snatched it at the peak of its flight, and gave it a careful look. To Daniel the Natural Philosopher, the specimen appeared in excellent condition: the sutures well knitted, the bone thick and sturdy.

“If you are talking to me, Daniel Waterhouse, I cannot hear you,” said the man. “Unlike other men whose ears have gone bad, I have schooled myself not to shout, nor to ramble on and on. But you may have to do both.”

Daniel perceived now that Bob Shaftoe’s coat was an army uniform that had once been red, but lost much of its color from washing. From this, and from the careful mending of it, he deduced that Bob had a wife.

“Abigail is well, thank you,” Bob announced. “Forgive my presumption, but men with bad ears must learn to read minds, as well as lips; and if you were not about to ask about her, why, the fault is yours.”

Daniel smiled, and nodded. “What the hell are you doing?” he shouted, and pointed to the skull.

Bob sighed. “The Mint men have been melting down a lot of silver, which was taken from a treasure-galleon on the Spanish Main. When it melts, certain fumes rise out of it-surely you know more on this than I-and the men who breathe in those vapors grow ill. There is only one remedy. Sir Isaac learnt of it from some German coiners he hired during the Great Recoinage. It is to drink milk from a human skull. Several of the Mint-men have lately gone down ill; so the call has been put out for skulls and milch-cows. What are you doing here, guv’nor?”

“In London? I-”

“No, here,” said Bob, pointing to the pavement between Daniel’s feet. “Observing me like a beetle.”

“I was at the Tower on other business, and took it into my mind to pay a call on you.”

Bob did not seem entirely certain that Daniel was telling the truth. He removed his eyes from Daniel’s face and gazed out over the river, towards Whitehall. His thumb had discovered a loose flap of scalp projecting above the rim of the skull-cup, and now he was absent-mindedly peeling the scalp away. The deceased was a red-headed man with close-cropped hair and a freckly bald spot. “I am not available,” Bob said.

“Not available, for what?”

“For the Marquis of Ravenscar’s bloody secret army,” Bob answered. “I serve the Queen, long may she reign, and if the Pretender comes to this island, why, then, we shall have a bit of sorting-out to do, and I shall look to John Churchill for his leadership in the matter. But the Whig Army shall have to get ’long without Bob Shaftoe, thank you very much.”

HOOKE, TWISTED AND BENT as he was, had been in the habit of going everywhere on his own two feet, even though his work as City Surveyor, and as a sort of partner to Wren, had made him rich enough to afford a coach and four. Daniel had not understood it fully until today. For a man who wanted to get things done in London, there simply was not time to go in a vehicle, because of the congestion. The sedan chair was a workable compromise, but still a compromise. The only reason not simply to walk was the dirtiness of the streets, and the loss of dignity. After all he’d seen today, Daniel could not, with a straight face, abhor the streets of London for their squalor. As for dignity, he had very little of that to look after, and the sight of the heads and the skulls had set loose in his mind the usual train of ruminations considering mortality, vanity, and all that. Long sour passages from Ecclesiastes were running through his mind as he tromped back up the bridge and up-hill to Eastcheap where he turned left. The sky was crimson in the west. The dome of St. Paul’s, directly ahead of him, looked bluish against it. The Watch were emerging and beginning to range up and down the streets, giving Daniel reason to believe that it was not utterly suicidal to walk home alone. He happened to reach St. Paul’s as Vespers was beginning, so he went in there to rest his feet for a while.

A new organ was under construction, and Daniel spent more time brooding over it than he did contemplating the meaning of the service. Wren had disparaged it as “a box of whistles.” Daniel understood the complaint. For Daniel, too, had once designed a building, and savored the thrill of seeing it built, only to endure the long indignity of watching the owner clutter it up with knick-knacks and furniture. This box of whistles project was only one of several spats that Wren had conducted with Queen Anne in recent years as to how St. Paul’s ought to be decorated. And so as Daniel looked about at the interior of the place, he understood that certain of the details that met his eye might not be as Wren would have wanted them. And yet, he had to admit that it wasn’t in bad taste at all, at least compared to some other Barock architecture he’d seen. Or perhaps the style was merely growing on him.

Daniel thought that the fantastically complex ornamentation of Barock churches was a replacement for the complicated things made by God, that had used to surround people when they lived out of doors (or that Hooke had seen in drops of water). Entering into a place such as this, they were surrounded by complicated things made by men in emulation of God-but frozen and idealized, in much the same way as the mathematical laws of Natural Philosophy were compared to the reality they tried to describe.

When the service was over, the sun had gone down, and it were dangerous to be out alone. Daniel shared a hackney down Fleet Street to Crane Court.

A note had arrived from Captain van Hoek of Minerva. But it had been written out, and probably composed, by Dappa.

Dr. Waterhouse,

We guess that to carry your freight, though less of an honour ought too to be less of a hazard, than to carry your person, and therefore consent. We aspire to leave the Pool in the latter half of April and to return in July. If this will not be too late, kindly inform us as to the approximate tonnage and volume you wish to reserve on our return voyage.

Dappa will venture ashore some day before we embark, to consult with his publisher in Leicester Square, quite near your current lodgings. With your permission he will meet with you on the same day, to write a contract; for his pen is as versatile and inconstant as his tongue.

van Hoek

Orney’s Ship-yard, Rotherhithe


12 MARCH 1714

DANIEL SUPPOSED THAT THE MATTER of Orney and Kikin and the Science Crapp was finished and settled for good. But one morning, close to a fortnight later, a note was handed to him by Mrs. Arlanc. This document was not merely dated but timed, for it had been written out in haste half an hour ago.

Monsieur Waterhouse,

A hellish glow on the eastern horizon early this morning gave notice to any Londoner who chanced to look that way of Trouble in Rotherhithe. You may yet observe a column rising from that district, consisting more of steam than of smoak, as the Fire has been put out; but not before it had consumed one of His Imperial Majesty’s ships. I am, naturally, bound thither in haste. This message (for whose rudeness I apologize) comes to you in a hackney-carriage. Kindly inform its driver whether you will join me at Rotherhithe (in which case he shall convey you at my expense) or not (in which case prithee send him away).

Kikin

It was by no means obvious to Daniel why he ought to heed this oblique summons from Mr. Kikin. That there had been a fire at Orney’s ship-yard was unfortunate. But Daniel’s connection to the matter was tenuous. Kikin, who was an intelligent man, must know this. Yet he had gone to some trouble and expense, and had unlimbered his most diplomatic English, to ask Daniel out to Rotherhithe.

In the end he decided to go there, not because he could see any clear reason why, but because he could see no reason why not, and because it was likely to be more interesting than staying at Crane Court. The endless carriage-ride gave him plenty of time to make up his mind that he had decided wrong. But by then it was too late. He reached Orney’s ship-yard around midday. From the point on Lavender Lane where he disembarked from the hackney-carriage, he enjoyed an Olympian prospect over the entire ship-yard.

There was no wind at all today. A silent tide of translucent white smoke had seeped into the maze of stock-piles down on the bank, turning them into blocky islands. These had been little affected by the fire. Daniel’s eyes sought out the pallet where had been piled the Natural Philosophy stuff from Crane Court. Other than a few scorch-marks where cinders had showered down upon the tarpaulin, there appeared to be no damage.

Having satisfied himself as to that, he raised his eyes to the parallel ways where the Tsar’s three ships had been a-building.

The fire had started in the middle of the three hulls. As far as Daniel could make out, no attempt had been made to save this one. But expanses of sail-cloth had been drenched in the river and flung over the unfinished hulls to either side. The cloth looked very much the worse for wear-no one would ever make sails of it-but for the most part it had steamed, not smoked, in the heat of the flames. From footprints in the bankside mud and other such evidence, Daniel could infer that bucket-brigades had been formed to wet down the sail-cloth and perhaps to attack the central fire. A hue and cry must have gone up; Orney and many of his workers must have rushed to the yard. But not soon enough to save the middle ship. The fire must have worked in the belly of that hull for some time before it had been noticed. The hull-planks on both sides were charred through, and it was obvious that the keel had been damaged. It would be rated a total loss by Mr. Orney’s insurer.

This much Daniel could see from a high vantage point at the top of the stairs. Swirling heat-waves still roiled out of the destroyed hull. Through them he could see a weirdly distorted image of men on small boats rowing to and fro, peering at the disaster in something of the same spirit as other men had watched the bear-baiting.

Daniel found a stairway and descended from the lane to the yard. The smoke that lingered in the lanes among the stock-piles smelled like the aftermath of any house-fire, which was to be expected. But mixed with it, Daniel was surprised to nose out a sharp nostril-stinging fragrance that did not belong there: a chymical fume. Daniel had most recently smelled it in Crane Court, the night of his arrival, just after the Infernal Device had gone off. Before that, he had smelled it many other times in his life; but the first time had been forty years ago at a Royal Society meeting. The guest of honor: Enoch Root. The topic: a new Element called Phosphorus. Light-bearer. A substance with two remarkable properties: it glowed in the dark, and it liked to burn. He suffered a pang of incipient guilt, thinking that perhaps this was all a terrible mishap, laid to him; perhaps there had been a sample of phosphorus in among the goods from Crane Court, which had somehow caught fire, and caused the conflagration, and Kikin had called him out here only to prosecute him. This was extremely unlikely-a fair sample of the stupid terrors that continued to bedevil him from time to time. He went and inspected his pallet, and found that nothing of the sort had happened.

Daniel found Orney and Kikin in one of the surviving hulls. This was still draped in sopping sail-cloth, presumably in case the fire in the middle hull should flare up again. Orney and Kikin roamed up and down the length of the hull on a strip of temporary decking-a sort of scaffold. Daniel reckoned it had been put there so that the workers could gain access to the upper parts of the ribs, but in present circumstances it made a suitable command and observation post for the proprietor and his customer.

They took in the curious spectacle of Daniel ascending a ladder, then-since he had survived it-greeted him. Orney was smiling in the way that bereaved persons oft did at funerals. Kikin-whatever emotions he might have felt earlier in the day-was sober, avid, acute, interested in everything. “You have come,” he said more than once, as if this were a significant finding.

Norman Orney mopped his cindery visage with a corner of wet canvas. Seeing this, a boy stepped in with a bucket of beer and offered Orney a ladle-full. “God bless you, lad,” said Orney, accepting it. He quaffed half a pint in a few impressive swallows.

“It started in the wee hours, then?” Daniel hazarded.

“Two of the clock, Brother Daniel.”

“It burned for a long while, then, before anyone noticed.”

“Oh, no, Brother Daniel. In that, you are quite off the mark. I employ a night-watchman, for these banks are infested with mudlarks.”

“Sometimes they fall asleep.”

“Thank you for supplying me with that intelligence, Brother Daniel; as ever, you are keen to point out any mismanagement or incompetence. Know then that my watchman has two dogs. Both began to bark shortly after two of the clock. The watchman smelled a pungent fume, and observed smoke from yonder hull. He raised the alarm. I was here a quarter of an hour later. The fire had spread with inconceivable rapidity.”

“Do you suspect arson?” Daniel asked. The thought had only just come to him; even as he was giving voice to it he was feeling the first flush of shame at his own stupidness. Orney and Kikin made polite efforts to mask their incredulity. In particular, Kikin would presume arson even if there were evidence to the contrary; for these were, after all, warships, and Russia was at war.

What must Kikin make of Daniel?

“Had you, or your watchmen, seen any strangers about the shipyard recently?”

“Other than you, Brother Daniel? Only a pair of prowlers who stole in, night before last, on a longboat. The dogs barked, the prowlers departed in haste. But they can have had nothing to do with the fire; for the ship was not on fire yesterday.”

“But is there any possibility that these prowlers might have secreted a small object in the hull-down in the bilge, say, where it might have gone unnoticed for twenty-four hours?”

Orney and Kikin were gazing at him most intently.

“The ship is-or was-large, Brother Daniel, with many places of concealment.”

“If you find clock-work in the bilge of the burnt ship, please be so good as to inform me,” Daniel said.

“Did you say clock-work, Brother Daniel?”

“It may have been damaged beyond recognition by the combustion of the phosphorus.”

“Phosphorus!?”

“Your men must inspect the bilges and any other hidden cavities in the surviving hulls every morning.”

“It shall be done, Brother Daniel!”

“You have a fire agent in the City?”

“The Hand-in-Hand Fire-Office on Snow-Hill!”

“Pray consider me at your disposal if the Hand-in

–Hand Fire-Office tries to blame this on you, Brother Norman.”

“You may have hidden virtues, Brother Daniel. Pray overlook my stubborn unwillingness to see them.”

“Pray forgive my hiding my light under a bushel, Brother Norman.”

“Indeed,” said Kikin, “there is much that is hidden in you, Dr. Waterhouse. I would see it uncovered. Would you please explain yourself?”

“The pungent reek that your watchman complained of, and that still lingers over yonder, is that of burning phosphorus, and I last smelled it on the evening of the thirty-first of January in Crane Court,” said Daniel. He went on to relate a brief account of what had happened that night.

“Most remarkable,” said Kikin, “but this ship was not exploded. It was set afire.”

“But one who knew how to make an Infernal Device, triggered by clock-work, might rig it in more than one way,” Daniel said. “I hypothesize that the machine uses phosphorus to create fire at a certain time. In one case, that fire might be conveyed to a powder-keg, which would explode. In another, it might simply ignite a larger quantity of phosphorus, or of some other inflammable substance, such as whale-oil.”

“But in any case, you are saying, the machines-and their makers-are the same!” said Orney.

“Then it is a matter for your Constables!” Kikin proclaimed.

“As the evildoers are nowhere to be seen, there is nothing for a Constable to do,” Daniel pointed out. “It is ultimately a matter for a Magistrate.”

Kikin snorted. “What can such a person do?”

“Nothing,” Daniel admitted, “until a defendant is presented before him.”

“And who should do that, in your system?”

“A prosecutor.”

“Let us find a prosecutor, then!”

“One does not find a prosecutor in England, in the way one finds a constable or a cobbler. One becomes a prosecutor. We who are the victims of these Infernal Machines must be the Prosecutors of those who made them.”

Kikin was still in difficulties. “Do you mean to say that each of us pursues a separate Prosecution, or-”

“We might,” Daniel said, “but I suppose it would be more efficient”-this word chosen to delight the ears of Mr. Orney, who indeed looked keen on it-“for you and you, and I, and the Hand-in-Hand Fire-Office if they are so inclined, and Mr. Threader and Mr. Arlanc, to pursue it jointly.”

“Who are Threader and Arlanc?” Kikin asked. For Daniel had left them out of his Crane Court narration.

“Why,” said Daniel, “you might say that they are the other members of our Clubb.”

A Subterranean Vault in Clerkenwell


EARLY APRIL 1714

“THE RIVER FLEET is a parable-I would venture to say, a very mockery-of humane degradation!” announced Mr. Orney, by way of a greeting, as he stomped down stairs into the crypt.

Here, if he had evinced dismay, turned on his heel, and run back up the steps, no man would have thought less of him.

Mr. Threader-who’d arrived a quarter of an hour previously-had been quite aghast. “It is consecrated ground, sir,” Daniel had told Mr. Threader, “not some pagan Barrow. These souls are Members in Good Standing of the Community of the Dead.” And he had shoved his hand into a tangle of pallid roots and ripped them out of the way to reveal an ancient brass plate, bejeweled with condensed moisture, and gouged with a dog’s breakfast of rude letters, no two the same size, evidently copied out by some medieval artisan who knew not what they signified.

Re-forming them into Latin words and sentences was a job for patient clerks, or clerics. But this was Clerkenwell, where such had been coming to draw water for at least five hundred years. Decyphered, the letters said that behind this plate lay the earthly remains of one Theobald, a Knight Templar who had gone to Jerusalem whole, and come back in pieces. Next to it was another plate telling a similar tale about a different bloke.

Unlike Mr. Threader, Mr. Orney seemed not in the least put out by the surroundings. Daniel had been at pains to set up candles and lanthorns wherever he could, which generally meant the lids of the half-dozen blocky sarcophagi that claimed most of the floor. By the light of these, it was possible to make out a vaulted roof. This was not a soaring, lost-in-dimness type of vaulted roof. It was barely high enough for a bishop to walk up the middle without getting slime on his mitre. But the stones had been well joined, and the room had survived, a pocket of air in the dirt, oblivious to what might be happening above.

Mr. Orney paused for a moment at the foot of the stairs to let his eyes adjust, which was very prudent, then advanced on Daniel and Mr. Threader, dodging round nearly invisible puddles with sailorly grace as he made his way between the sarcophagi. He was showing a lack of curiosity, and a refusal to be awed, that in another man would have been infallible proof of stupidity. Since Daniel knew him not to be stupid, he reckoned that it was a sort of religious assertion; to a Quaker, these Papist crusader-knights were as primitive, and as beside the point, as a clan of Pictish barrow-diggers.

“Why, Brother Norman? Because the Fleet, like life, is brief and stinky?” inquired Daniel politely.

“The stench at its end is only remarkable because the Fleet runs so pure and fresh at the beginning; issuing as it does from diverse wells, holes, rills, and spaws hereabouts. Thus does a babe, fresh from the womb, soon fall prey to all manner of gross worldly-”

“We get the point,” Mr. Threader said.

“And yet the interval between the two is so brief,” Mr. Orney continued, “that a robust man” (meaning himself) “may walk it in half an hour.” He pretended to check his watch, as proof that this was no exaggeration. But it was too gloomy in here to make out the dial.

“Do not let our host see your time-piece, sir, he’ll have it apart before you can say, ’avast, that is expensive!” ’ said Mr. Threader, sounding as if he knew whereof he spoke.

“Never mind,” said Daniel, “I recognize it as the work of Mr. Kirby, probably undertaken when he was journeyman to Mr. Tompion, nine years ago.”

This produced a brief but profound-one might say, sepulchral-silence. “Well discerned, Brother Daniel,” Mr. Orney finally said.

“After the mysterious explosion,” remarked Mr. Threader, “Dr. Waterhouse secreted himself in an attic no less gloomy than this tomb, and would not return my letters for many weeks. I feared he had no stomach for Prosecution. But when he returned to polite society, behold! He knew more of clocks, and the men who make ’em, than any man alive-”

“That is rank flattery, sir,” Daniel protested. “But I will grant you this much, that if our Clubb is to achieve its Goal, we must learn all we can of the Infernal Devices in question. They were driven by clock-work, you may be sure on’t. Now, thirty years ago, I knew Huygens and Hooke, the most illustrious horologists of the ?ra. But when I returned to London I found that I was no longer privy to the secrets, nor acquainted with the practitioners, of that Technology. In my eagerness to redress this, I did from time to time forget my manners, prising open clocks and watches to examine their workings and decypher their makers’ marks, as Mr. Threader has waspishly reminded me. The result: we are met here in Clerkenwell!”

“Vy the khell are ve meetink khere?” demanded a new voice.

“God save you, Mr. Kikin!” answered Mr. Orney, not very informatively.

“If you had arrived on time,” said the irritable Mr. Threader, “you’d have had an answer just now from Dr. Waterhouse.”

“My carriage is axle-deep in a bog,” was the answer of Mr. Kikin.

“That bog is a valuable discovery,” said Mr. Orney, who waxed jovial when Mr. Threader was in a bad mood. “Put a fence round it, call it a Spaw, charge a shilling for admission, and you’ll soon be able to buy a phaethon.”

The Russian was ill-advisedly descending a slimy twelfth-century staircase into his own shadow. A flickering orange trapezoid was projected onto the floor from above, skating back and forth like a leaf coming down from a tree. It could be inferred that Mr. Kikin’s associate, who was too tall to enter the crypt, was standing in the antechamber at the top of the stairs waving a torch around, trying to get the light around his master’s shoulders.

“This damp will kill us,” Mr. Kikin predicted in a stolid way, as if he got killed every morning before breakfast.

“As long as the candles don’t go out, we have nothing to fear from this atmosphere,” said Daniel, who was deeply sick and tired of hearing semi-learned people ascribe all their problems to damps. “Yes, water seeps in here from the moist earth. But Mr. Orney was only just now remarking upon the marvellous purity of these waters. Why do you think the Knights Templar built their Temple here? It is because the nuns of St. Mary and the Knights Hospitallers both drew their water from the same well here, and didn’t die of it. Why, just up the road, wealthy gentle-folk pay money to soak in these same moistures.”

“Why not meet there?” Mr. Kikin suggested.

“I second the motion!” exclaimed Mr. Threader.

“Because-” Daniel began. But then he heard a snatch of conversation from the top of the stairs. The torch-light trapezoid grew wider and moved sideways. A new shadow appeared in its center. The fifth and last member of the Clubb was making his way down stairs. Daniel gave him a few moments to get within earshot, then continued, loudly: “because we do not wish to draw attention to ourselves! If our Nemesis has employed a clock-maker, or indeed a maker of any sort of fine instrument, why, the knave’s workshop is likely within a musket shot of this Temple.”

“Some would call it a temple, some a mound of rubble in the middle of a swine-yard,” said Mr. Kikin, catching the eye of Mr. Threader and getting a warm look in return.

“Mound is too grand a word, sir. In English we say ‘bulge.’ ”

“Those who did, would thereby show a grievous want of Real Estate Acumen!” Daniel returned, “for of the Three Desiderata: location, location, and location, this ruin has all! The tide of London’s expansion is lapping at its foundations!”

“Are you the land-lord, Dr. Waterhouse?” inquired Mr. Threader, suddenly interested.

“I am looking after the property on behalf of a High Net Worth Individual,” returned Daniel, “who is keen to make this vale into a world-renowned center of Technologickal Arts.”

“How did this individual become aware of the ruin’s existence?”

“I told him, sir,” Daniel said, “and to anticipate your next question, I learnt of it from a fellow of my acquaintance, a very, very old chap, who had knowledge from a Knight Templar.”

“Then he must indeed be very old, as the Templars were wiped out four hundred years ago,” said Mr. Threader, sounding a bit irritated.

“A new building is contemplated?” asked Mr. Orney, as one man of commerce to another.

“Is already underway,” Daniel confided, “to include an arcade of shops and ateliers for makers of watches, and of instruments-not only musickal, but philosophickal.”

He was getting expectant stares, as if he had broken off in mid-sentence.

“Planispheres, heliostats, theodolites, and circumferentors, e.g.,” he tried. Nothing.

“If Longitude is found, I daresay, ’twill be found on this property!” he concluded.

All of this had been taken in by Henry Arlanc, the last to arrive. He was standing silently, and somewhat apart from the others.

“Right!” said Mr. Threader. “The second meeting of the Clubb for the Taking and Prosecution of the Party or Parties responsible for the Manufacture and Placement of the Infernal Engines lately Exploded at Crane Court, Orney’s Ship-yard, amp;c., is called to order.”

TO DANIEL, IN HIS YOUTH, a club had always been a stick for hitting things with.

In 1664, a Mr. Power, discoursing of barometers, had written, “The Difference of the Mercurial Cylinder may arise from the club and combination of all these causes joined together.”

This extended meaning of “club” had been taken clearly by Daniel and everyone else at the Royal Society, because many of them had lately been at universities where starvelings pooled pennies to buy food or, more often, drink. The slang for this was “to make a club.” Around this time, one often heard Mr. Pepys proposing to John Wilkins and others that they make a club for dinner, meaning exactly the same procedure, save with more money and better results.

During Daniel’s absence from London, Pepys’s merry improvisations had spread out across Time to become perpetual, while losing their freedom in Space by confining themselves to fixed quarters. The notion had struck Daniel as questionable, until Roger had finally lured him to the Kit-Cat Clubb. On entering that place Daniel had said, “Oh, why didn’t you say so!” for he had understood it immediately as a Routine Upgrade of the coffee-houses where everyone had used to pass the time of day twenty years ago-the chief difference being that only certain people were let in. This all but ruled out ear-biting, stab-wounds, and duels.

This Clubb was nothing at all like the Kit-Cat. Its purpose was altogether different, its members (except for Daniel) very unlike Roger’s crowd, its meeting-place even darker and more low-ceilinged.

But certain things about Clubbs were universal. “First order of business: the collection of Dues!” Mr. Threader proclaimed. He had a coin pre-positioned in a tiny pocket of his waistcoat, and now flipped it casually onto the stone lid of a twenty-ton coffin. Everyone did a double-take: it was a pound sterling, which was to say a silver coin, and very crisp-looking, too. Using it to pay Clubb dues was a bit like nonchalantly riding around Hyde Park on the back of a Unicorn.

Daniel threw in a Piece of Eight. Mr. Kikin paid with Dutch silver money. Mr. Orney tossed out a golden guinea. Henry Arlanc upended a purse and poured out half a pint of copper tokens. Nearly all of these had been given him beforehand by Daniel. The other members of the Clubb probably suspected as much.

Daniel had insisted that the Huguenot porter be admitted, because it was theoretically possible that he was an intended victim of the first Infernal Device. Mr. Threader had proposed that the dues be set high, as a way of keeping rabble such as Arlanc out. Orney had agreed for reasons strictly practical: it was expensive to hunt down and prosecute criminals. Kikin had gone along with any and all expenditures because it might help keep his head attached to his neck if he could show the Tsar he was sparing no expense to catch the men who’d burned his ship. So Daniel had ended up paying high dues, not only for himself but for Arlanc.

Mr. Threader opened a small wooden case lined with red velvet, took out a hand-scale, and began to weigh the Spanish and Dutch money against a calibrated brass weight, which, according to tiny but furious assertions graved on its face, was the Platonic ideal of what a pound sterling ought to weigh, as laid down some 150 years ago by Gresham. Mr. Orney took this as a signal to begin reading the minutes of the previous meeting, which had been held at Mr. Kikin’s town-house in Black Boy Alley a fortnight ago.

“With the Membership’s indulgence, I shall elide all that was to no purpose, and summarize all that was merely pedantic…” Orney began.

“Hear, hear!” said Daniel before Mr. Threader could object. He needn’t have worried. Mr. Threader had stuck his tongue out, and his eyes were nearly projecting from his head on stalks as he gauged the weight of Daniel’s Spanish silver.

“This leaves only two items worth mentioning: the interview with the unfortunate Watchman, and Dr. Waterhouse’s discourse on the mechanism. Taking these in order, we interrogated Mr. Pinewood, a Watchman who witnessed the explosion in Crane Court, and was hired, or in some way induced, by verbal representations from Mr. Threader, of a highly ambiguous and still hotly disputed nature…”

“Is all of that really in the minutes!?” said Mr. Threader, glancing up from his scale with a look of mock amazement.

“Believing that he would be compensated, Mr. Pinewood lit out after a sedan chair that had been seen following Mr. Threader and Dr. Waterhouse immediately prior to the explosion,” said Mr. Orney, looking satisfied that he had been able to get a rise out of Mr. Threader. “Mr. Pinewood informed us that he followed the chair eastwards on Fleet Street as far as the Fleet Bridge, where the two men bearing it stopped, set it down, turned on Mr. Pinewood, picked him up…”

“Avast, we know the story,” muttered Mr. Threader.

“…and flung him bodily into Fleet Ditch.”

Everyone swallowed.

“A collection was taken up for Mr. Pinewood’s boils, and prayers said for his other symptoms, some of which medical science has not even devised names for yet. Some contributed more, and prayed more reverently, than others.

“The subsequent movements of the sedan chair may only be guessed at. Dr. Waterhouse lost no time guessing that it had returned to the side-alley whence he himself had seen it issue only a few minutes earlier. ‘I am convinced,’ Dr. Waterhouse informed us, ‘that they had some foreknowledge of our arrival in London, and were positioned to follow Mr. Threader’s carriage through Newgate to the City, and that we foxed them by diverting down the bank of Fleet Ditch to Crane Court.’ There followed some discussion as to whether the occupant of the sedan chair had any connection whatever to the Infernal Device; I opined that ’twere imprudent to follow so closely a vehicle known to be moments away from exploding, and that the sedan chair probably contained nothing more than a venturesome Courtesan. Mr. Threader was quick to take offense at any suggestion that a Whore (to use his term) would look on the arrival of his entourage in London as an Opportunity; the faces of the other members of the Clubb recorded amusement at his pious…”

“I move we choose a new secretary to take the Minutes,” Mr. Threader said. “Monsieur Arlanc, never mind what I’ve said about him in the past, is quiet, dutiful, and literate; I’ll pay his dues if he takes the job.”

The end of Mr. Threader’s sentence was garbled, because while talking he had reached up and inserted a large gold coin between his own molars.

“Mr. Threader,” said Mr. Orney, “if you are feeling peckish, there are Inns up the road at Black Mary’s Hole, and taverns down at Hockley-in-the-Hole, to which we might adjourn; but you’ll get no satisfaction by eating my guinea.”

“It is not yours any longer, but the Clubb’s,” said Mr. Threader, now examining the coin for bite-marks, “and it is not a guinea until I say it is.”

“You’ve already weighed it, so what’s the use of biting it?” asked Mr. Orney, sounding at least as curious as he was peeved.

“ ’Tis a proper guinea,” Mr. Threader admitted. “Pray continue your whimsical Narration, Mr. Orney.”

“In short, I put forth the hypothesis that the sedan chair was a red herring,” said Mr. Orney. “This led to a murky disquisition on clock-work, or so it appears in my notes…”

“For once your notes are accurate,” said Mr. Threader.

“Not in the least!” said Daniel. “All I meant was this. Mr. Orney avers that to place an Infernal Device in a carriage, made to explode at a certain time, and then to follow the same carriage closely down the street, only moments in advance of the explosion, were madness. To which I answer, this depends on how knowledgeable, and how confident, one is of the correct running of the clock-work. A competent horologist would set the Device up properly, and moreover would have some idea how fast or slow ’twould run in a rocking and jouncing carriage on a cold day.”

“So the person in the sedan chair was no horologist!” said Mr. Kikin.

Mr. Threader chuckled, believing that it was a witticism, but Daniel could see that the Russian had taken Daniel’s point, and was wholly serious.

“Indeed, sir. I submit that the Infernal Devices might have been planted by people who had but a very imperfect understanding of how they worked. If that is true, the Device might have been expected to explode hours or even days later than it did-the person in the sedan chair might have been nearly as astonished as were Mr. Threader and I, when it went off in Crane Court.”

“No one doubts that it exploded at the wrong moment,” said Mr. Threader, “so your hypothesis has at least a patina of credibility.”

“It is all neither here nor there,” Mr. Orney said flatly, “as Mr. Pinewood ended up thrashing about in shite, and we know nothing more concerning the sedan chair.”

“I disagree. It suggests a line of attack, by thinking about clock-work. The device that burned your ship went off at the right time: the dead of night. The one in Mr. Threader’s carriage went off too early. I conclude that the device that was used ran too quickly in a moving carriage on a cold day, but ran at the correct rate sitting still in the belly of a ship’s hull. From that I can guess as to what sort of clock-work was used, which might help lead us to him who made the Infernal Devices.”

“Hence…Clerkenwell,” Mr. Kikin said.

“What results can you report to us, from this line of inquiry?” demanded Mr. Orney.

“That is like asking a farmer in April what he has harvested from the seeds he planted a week ago,” Daniel protested. “I had hoped to find some of Mr. Robert Hooke’s notes and test-pieces at Crane Court. He was one of the first to have a go at finding the Longitude with clocks, and knew better than anyone how their rate was influenced by rocking and by changes in temperature. Alas, Hooke’s residue was all rubbished. I have made inquiries with the Royal College of Physicians, and with my lord Ravenscar.”

“Why them, pray tell?” Mr. Threader asked.

“Hooke built the Physicians in Warwick Lane, as well as certain additions to my lord Ravenscar’s house. It is possible that he stored some of his things in those places. My queries have gone unanswered. I shall redouble my efforts.”

“Since we appear to have moved on to New Business,” said Mr. Threader, “pray tell us, Mr. Orney, of all that you have learnt on the piss-boiling front.”

“Dr. Waterhouse assures us that piss-boiling on a very large scale is needed to make phosphorus for these Infernal Devices,” Mr. Orney reminded them.

“His account left little to the imagination,” Mr. Threader said.

“To do it in London would be difficult-”

“Why? London could not smell any more like piss than it does to begin with,” Mr. Kikin observed shrewdly.

“It would draw attention, not because it smelt bad, but because it was a queer practice. So the piss-boiling probably happens in the countryside. But this would require transportation of piss, in large amounts, from a place where there was a lot to be had-viz. a city, e.g., London-to said countryside; a thing not to be accomplished in perfect secrecy.”

“You should make inquiries among the Vault men!”

“An excellent idea, Mr. Kikin, and one I had a long time ago,” Mr. Orney said. “But my habitation is remote from the banks of the lower Fleet where the Vault men cluster, thick as flies, every night to discharge their loads. As Monsieur Arlanc dwells at Crane Court, five minutes’ walk from the said Ditch, I charged him with it. Monsieur Arlanc?”

“I have been very, very busy…” began Henry Arlanc, and was then drowned out by indignant vocalizations from the rest of the Clubb. The Huguenot made a brave show of Gallic dignity until this Parliamentary baying had died down. “But the Justice of the Peace for Southwark has succeeded where I failed. Voila!”

Arlanc whipped out a pamphlet, and tossed it onto a slate coffin-lid; it skidded to a stop in the pool of light cast by a candle. The cover was printed in great rude lurid type, big enough for Daniel to read without fishing out his spectacles: “THE PROCEEDINGS of the As-sizes of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol-Delivery for the COUNTY OF SURREY.”

Below that the letters got small; but Mr. Kikin bent over and read the subtitle aloud: “Being a FULL and TRUE accompt of ye most surprizing, execrable and Horrid CRIMES committed by the Enemies, and just, swift and severe PUNISHMENTS meted out by the Defenders, of the Peace of that County from Friday January 1, to Saturday February 27, Anno Domini 1713/14…”

Mr. Kikin shared an amused look over the candle with Henry Arlanc. It was possible to buy these pamphlets everywhere, which implied that some people-a lot of people, actually-were buying them. But no man who was literate enough to read them would admit to it. This sort of literature was supposed to be ignored. For Mr. Arlanc to notice it was uncouth, and for Mr. Kikin to derive amusement from it was rude. Foreigners and their ways!

“Forgive me, Monsieur Arlanc, but I have not had the…er…pleasure of reading that document,” said Mr. Threader. “What does it say?”

“It relates the case of a Mr. Marsh, who was driving his wagon down Lambeth Road one night in December, when he met three young gentlemen who had just emerged from a house of ill repute in St. George’s Fields. As they passed each other in the lane, these three young men became so incensed by the odour emanating from Mr. Marsh’s wagon that they drew out their swords and plunged them into the body of Mr. Marsh’s horse, which died instantly, collapsing in its traces. Mr. Marsh set up a hue and cry, which drew the attention of the occupants of a nearby tavern, who rushed out and seized the perpetrators.”

“Courageous, that, for a Mobb of Drunks.”

“The roads down there are infested with highwaymen,” Mr. Threader said keenly. “They probably reckoned ’twas safer to go out and face them as a company, be it ne’er so ragged, than be picked off one by one as they straggled home.”

“Imagine their surprise when they found they’d apprehended not highwaymen, but gentlemen!” Mr. Kikin remarked, very amused.

“They had apprehended both,” said Henry Arlanc.

“What!?”

“Many highwaymen are gentlemen,” said Mr. Threader learnedly. “As ’tis beneath the dignity of a Person of Quality to work for a living, why, when he’s gambled and whored away all his money, he must resort to a life of armed robbery. To do otherwise were dishonorable.”

“How come you to know so much of it? I daresay you are a regular subscriber of these pamphlets, sir!” said the delighted Mr. Orney.

“I am on the road several months out of the year, sir, and know more of highwaymen than do you of the very latest advances in Caulking.”

“What came of it, Monsieur Arlanc?” Daniel inquired.

“On the persons of these three, valuables were found that had been stolen, earlier in the evening, from a coach bound for Dover. The occupants of that coach prosecuted them. As all three were of course literate, they got benefit of clergy. Mr. Marsh does not appear again in the Narration, save as a witness.”

“So all that we know of Mr. Marsh is that in the middle of the night he was transporting something down Lambeth Road so foul-smelling that three highwaymen risked the gallows to revenge themselves on his horse!” said Mr. Orney.

“I know a bit more than that, sir,” Arlanc said. “I’ve made inquiries along the banks of the Fleet, after dark. Mr. Marsh was indeed a London Vault-man. ’Tis considered most strange, by his brethren, that he crossed the River with a full load in the middle of the night.”

“You say he was a Vault-man,” Daniel remarked. “What is he now? Dead?”

“Out of business, owing to the loss of his horse. Moved back to Plymouth to live with his sister.”

“Perhaps we should send one of our number to Plymouth to interview him,” suggested Daniel, half in jest.

“Inconceivable! The state of the Clubb’s finances is desperate!” Mr. Threader proclaimed.

Silence then, save for the sound of tongues being bitten. A face or two turned towards Daniel. He had known Mr. Threader longer than the others; so a decent respect for precedence dictated that he be given the first chance to bite Mr. Threader’s head off.

“We have just doubled the size of our accompt, sir. How can you make such a claim?”

“Not quite doubled, sir, your Piece of Eight came up a ha’p’ny light of a pound.”

“And my guinea is several pence heavy, as all the world knows,” said Mr. Orney, “so you may supply Brother Daniel’s deficit from my surplus, and keep the change while you are at it.”

“Your generosity sets an example to us unredeemed Anglican sinners,” said Mr. Threader with a weak smile. “But it does not materially change the Clubb’s finances. Yes, we have twice the assets today as we had yesterday; but we must consider liabilities as well.”

“I did not know we had any,” said the perpetually amused Mr. Kikin, “unless you have been taking our dues to Change Alley, and investing them in some eldritch Derivatives.”

“I look to the future, Mr. Kikin. One gets what one pays for! That is the infallible rule in fish-markets, whorehouses, and Parliament. And it applies with as much force in the world of the thief-taker.”

Mr. Threader reveled in the silence that followed. Finally Mr. Orney, who could not stand to see anyone-especially Mr. Threader-enjoy anything, said, “If you mean to hire a thief-taker, sir, with our money, you would do well to propose it first, that we may dispute it.”

“Even before disputing thief-takers, if someone would be so kind as to define the term for me?” said Mr. Kikin.

“Apprehending criminals is oft strenuous, and sometimes mortally dangerous,” said Mr. Threader. “So, instead of doing it oneself, one hires a thief-taker to go and do it for one.”

“To go out and…hunt down, and physically abduct, someone?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Threader mildly. “How else do you suppose justice can ever be served?”

“Police…constables…militia…or something!” sputtered Mr. Kikin. “But…in an orderly country…you can’t simply have people running around arresting each other!”

“Thank you, sirrah, for your advice upon how to run an orderly country!” Mr. Threader brayed. “Ah, yes, if only England could be more like Muscovy!”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen…” Daniel began. But Mr. Kikin’s fascination prevailed, and he let the argument drop, asking, “How does it work?”

“Generally one posts a reward, and leaves the rest to the natural workings of the market,” said Mr. Threader.

“How large a reward?”

“You have penetrated to the heart of the matter, sir,” said Mr. Threader. “Since the days of William and Mary, the reward for a common robber or burglar has been ten pounds.”

“By convention, or…”

“By royal proclamation, sir!”

Mr. Kikin’s face clouded over. “Hmm, so we are in competition with Her Majesty’s government, then…”

“It gets worse. Forty pounds for highway robbers, twenty to twenty-five for horse thieves, even more for murderers. The Clubb, I remind you, has ten pounds, plus or minus a few bits and farthings.”

“Stiff competition indeed,” said Mr. Orney, “and a sign, to those wise enough to heed it, that ’tis a waste of time to rely ’pon thief-takers.”

Before Mr. Threader could say what he thought of Mr. Orney’s brand of wisdom, Mr. Kikin said: “You should have told me before. If the Clubb’s dues are to be pissed away on inane things, I must be thrifty. But if it is a matter of posting a reward…to catch an enemy of the Tsar…we could have every thief-taker in London working for us by tomorrow evening!”

Mr. Threader looked perfectly satisfied.

“Do we really want that?” Daniel asked. “Thief-takers have a more vile reputation even than thieves.”

“That is of no account. We are not proposing to hire one as a nanny. The viler the better, I say!”

Daniel could see one or two flaws in that line of reasoning. But a glance at the faces of Mr. Orney and Monsieur Arlanc told him he was out-voted. They appeared to think it was splendid if Mr. Kikin wanted to spend the Tsar’s money in this way.

“If there is no further business here,” Daniel said, “I thought a tour of the watch-makers’ shops of Clerkenwell might be in order.”

“To find criminals, Dr. Waterhouse, let us search among criminals, not horologists; and let us not do it ourselves, but have thief-takers-paid for by the Tsar of Muscovy!-do it for us,” said Mr. Threader; and for once, he seemed to speak for the whole Clubb, except for Daniel. “The meeting is adjourned.”

AS A WAVE PASSES THROUGH a rug that is being shaken, driving before it a front of grit, fleas, apple seeds, tobacco-ashes, pubic hairs, scab-heads, amp;c., so the expansion of London across the defenseless green countryside pushed before it all who had been jarred loose by Change, or who simply hadn’t been firmly tied down to begin with. A farmer living out in the green pastures north of the city might notice the buildings creeping his way, year by year, but not know that his pasture was soon to become part of London until drunks, footpads, whores, and molly-boys began to congregate under his windows.

As a boy Daniel had been able to open an upper-storey window in back of Drake’s house on Holborn, and gaze across one mile of downs and swales to an irregular patch of turf called Clerkenwell Green: a bit of common ground separating St. James’s and St. John’s. Each of these was an ancient religious order, therefore, a jumbled compound of graveyards, houses, ancient Popish cloisters, and out-buildings. Like all other Roman churches in the realm, these had become Anglican, and perhaps been sacked a little bit, during Henry VIII’s time. And when Cromwell had come along to replace Anglicanism with a more radical creed, they had been sacked more thoroughly. Now what remained of them had been engulfed by London.

Yet it was better to be engulfed than to be on the edge, for the city had a kind of order that the frontier wanted. Whatever crimes, disruptions, and atrocities had occurred around Clerkenwell Green while it was being ringed with new buildings, had now migrated slightly northwards, to be replaced by outrages of a more settled and organized nature.

Half a mile northwest of Clerkenwell Green was a place where the fledgling Fleet ran, for a short distance, parallel to the road to Hampstead. Between road and river the ground was low, and shiny with shifting sheets of water. But on the opposite bank, nearer to Clerkenwell, the ground was firm enough that shrubs and vegetables could be planted in it without drowning, and buildings set on it without sinking into the muck. A hamlet had gradually formed there, called Black Mary’s Hole.

A bloke wanting to leave the urban confines of Clerkenwell Green and venture out across the fields toward Black Mary’s Hole would have to contend with a few obstacles. For directly in his path stood the ancient compound of St. James’s, and on the far side of that was a new-built prison, and just beyond that, a bridewell run by Quakers. And the sort of bloke who passed the time of day going up to Black Mary’s Hole would instinctively avoid such establishments. So he would begin his journey by dodging westwards and exiting Clerkenwell Green through a sort of sphincter that led into Turnmill Street. To the left, or London-wards, Turnmill led into the livestock markets of Smithfield, and was lined with shambles, tallow-chandleries, and knackers’ yards: hardly a tempting place for a stroll. To the right, or leading out to open country, it forked into two ways: on the right, Rag Street, and on the left, Hockley-in-the-Hole, which presumably got its name from the fact that it had come into being along a bend of the Fleet, which there had been bridged in so many places that it was vanishing from human ken.

Hockley-in-the-Hole was a sort of recreational annex to the meat markets. If animals were done to death for profit in the butcher-stalls of Smithfield, they were baited, fought, and torn asunder for pleasure in the cock-pits and bear-rings of Hockley-in-

the-Hole.

Rag Street was not a great deal more pleasant, but it did get one directly out of the city. A hundred paces along, the buildings fell away, and were replaced by gardens, on the right. On the left the buildings went on for a bit, but they were not so unsavoury: several bakeries, and then a bath where the Quality came to take the waters. In a few hundred paces the buildings ceased on that side as well. From that point it was possible to see across a quarter-mile of open ground to Black Mary’s Hole. This was, in other words, the first place where a Londoner, crazed by crowding and choked from coal-smoke, could break out into the open. The impulse was common enough. And so the entire stretch of territory from the Islington Road on the east to Tottenham Court Road on the west had become a sort of deranged park, with Black Mary’s Hole in the center of it. It was where people resorted to have every form of sexual congress not sanctioned by the Book of Common Prayer, and where footpads went to prey upon them, and thief-takers to spy on the doings of the footpads and set one against another for the reward money.

Baths and tea-gardens provided another reason to go there-or, barring that, a convenient pretext for gentlefolk whose real motives had nothing to do with bathing or tea. And-complicating matters terribly-any number of people went there for childishly simple and innocent purposes. Picknickers were as likely to come here as murderers. On his first visit to this district, Daniel had heard someone creeping along behind him, and been certain it was a footpad, raising his cudgel to dash Daniel’s brain’s out; turning around, he had discovered a Fellow of the Royal Society brandishing a long-handled butterfly net.

Just at this place where London stopped, on the road to Black Mary’s Hole, was a bit of land accurately described, by members of Daniel’s Clubb, as a swine-yard with a mound of rubble in it. As a boy looking out the window of Drake’s house, Daniel had probably flicked his gaze over it a hundred times and made naught of it. But recently he had got a bundle of letters from Massachusetts. One of them had been from Enoch Root, who’d got wind of Daniel’s plan to build a sort of annex to the Institute of Technologickal Arts somewhere around London.

For a long time I have phant’sied that one day I should find the landlord of the ruined Temple in Clerkenwell, and make something of that property.

Daniel had rolled his eyes upon reading these words. If Enoch Root was a real estate developer, then Daniel was a Turkish harem-girl! It was typical Enochian meddling: he knew there was a Templar crypt under this swine-lot that was about to be gobbled by London, and didn’t want it to be filled in, or used as a keg-room for a gin-house, and he hoped Daniel or someone would do something about it. Daniel bridled at this trans-Atlantic nagging. But Root had a knack for finding, or creating, alignments between his interests and those of the people whose lives he meddled with. Daniel needed a place to build things. Clerkenwell, though it was obviously unstable, muddy, smelling of the knacker, and loud with the screams and roars of fighting beasts, Regarded as Unsafe by Persons of Quality, was a suitable place for Daniel. He could get to Town or Country-or escape from either-with but a few steps, and none of the neighbors were apt to complain of queer doings, or pay any note to nocturnal visitors.

The parcel was an irregular pentagon about a hundred paces wide. Within it, the sunken ruin was situated off-center, away from the road to Black Mary’s Hole, near a vertex that pointed back towards Clerkenwell. The gardens of a neighboring Spaw came up close to it on one side, making the parcel seem larger than it was. It was one of countless crumbs of territory that had been worried off the edges of the Church’s stupendous holdings in Tudor days. Tracing the changes in its ownership since then had been a good job for an unemployed boffin who knew a lot of Latin-Daniel had made two trips to Oxford to research it. He had discovered that ownership of the land had passed into the hands of a Cavalier family that had gone to France during Cromwell days and, owing to an ensuing pattern of marriages, bastardy, suspicious deaths, and opportunistic religious conversions, essentially become French people and were unlikely ever to come back. Twenty-five years of almost continual war between Britain and France had left them profoundly ignorant of suburban London real estate trends. Daniel had passed all of this on to Roger at the Kit-Cat Clubb. Letters had been despatched to France, and a few weeks later Roger had informed him that he could build anything he wanted there, provided it might later be resold at a profit. Daniel had found a mediocre architect and told him to design houses with shops in the ground floor, wrapping around three sides of the property, embracing a court with the ruin in the middle of it.

As he emerged from the half-collapsed anteroom of the crypt-the last member of the Clubb to depart-white blindness came over him because of the brilliance of the cloudy sky. He shaded his eyes and looked down at the luminous grass. A small round wrinkled thing was next to his shoe, looking like a f?ry’s coin-purse. He kicked it over and realized it was a knotted sheep-gut condom.

His eyes had adjusted sufficiently now that he could look at the nearby hog-wallow without suffering too much. It was all dried up, as the tenant had been encouraged to take his swine elsewhere. Finally he could remove his hand from his brow and trace the lines of surveyors’ stakes marking the foundations of the new buildings. When walls began to rise up upon those foundations, they’d screen this yard from the road, and then the only people who’d be able to see into it would be a few of those Spaw-goers, and perhaps-if they had sharp eyes, or owned perspective glasses-inmates of the new prison on Clerkenwell Close, a quarter-mile distant. But for what it was worth, they’d be the better class of prisoners who could afford to pay the gaolers for upper-storey rooms.

ACCUSTOMED TO THE TEMPO of Trinity College and of the Royal Society, he’d thought that the Clubb’s meeting would go much longer. But Threader, Orney, and Kikin had nothing in common but decisiveness, and a will to get on with it. His watch told him he was very early for his appointment with Sir Isaac Newton. This would have been a blessing to most, for who’d want to be the insolent wretch who kept Sir Isaac waiting? To Daniel, who was looking forward to the meeting about as much as another bladder operation, it was a damned nuisance. He desired some pointless distraction; and so he decided to go call on the Marquis of Ravenscar.

There was no way to get from here to Roger’s house that was not dangerous, offensive, or both. Daniel opted for offensive, i.e., he attempted to walk through the middle of Hockley-in-the-Hole. It lay within earshot, just on the other side of some buildings. What made it offensive was the sort of people gathered there on this Saturday morning: Cockneys come up to watch fights between beasts, and to participate in others. But they also made it safe, after a fashion. Pick-pockets were all over the place, but footpads-whose modus operandi was to beat victims senseless-couldn’t work in a crowd.

At the place where Saffron Hill Road disgorged its push of Londoners into the Hole, two men, stripped to the waist, were circling around each other with their fists up. One of them already had a red knuckle-print on his cheek, and a huge smear of dirt on one shoulder where he’d tumbled into the street. They were bulky coves, probably meat-cutters from Smithfield, and at least a hundred men had already formed a ring around them, and begun to lay wagers. All foot-traffic had to squeeze through a strait no more than a fathom wide between this storm of elbows and the building-fronts along the north side of the Hole: a line-up of taverns and of smudgy enterprises that looked as if they didn’t want to be noticed.

A man was lying full-length on the ground at the foot of one building, dead or asleep, creating further eddies and surges in the crowd as people dodged around him. He looked like an apparition, a prophecy of what would become of Daniel if he were to lose his footing there. So Daniel made no pretense of dignity. He sidestepped as far as he could to the right, so that he was almost cowering against the sheer brown-brick face of a building, and shifted his walking-stick to his right hand so it wouldn’t get kicked out from under him, and put his hand through the wrist-loop in case it did. He let the traffic carry him into the flume.

He had got about halfway through, and begun to sense daylight ahead, when he sensed unease propagating like a wave through the crowd ahead of him, and looked up to see a great brute of a horse, in black leather tack with silver ornament, drawing a small carriage. Its design was outlandish: all stretched out and bent around, recalling the shape of a pouncing cheetah. In the moment before he realized that he was in trouble, his mind identified it as one of the new rigs called phaethons. It was going to squeeze through this bottleneck. Or rather, it would trot through without breaking stride, and let the pedestrians do all the squeezing.

The crowd couldn’t believe it-’twas an impossibility! Yet the vehicle, twenty feet long and eight high, drawn by a ton of prancing, iron-shod flesh, was not slowing down. The ends of the carriage-poles protruded like jousting-lances. One of those could go through your head like a pike through a pumpkin, and if you dodged that, you might still have your foot crushed under a wheel and face the always-tricky dilemma of amputation vs. gangrene. A hundred men did the rational thing. The sum of those rational choices was called panic. Daniel’s contribution to the panic was as follows: perhaps eight feet ahead of him he saw a recessed shop-doorway, and made up his mind that while everyone else was gaping at the phaethon, he could squirt forward between the crowd on his left, and the shop-window on his right, and dodge into it. He ducked under the shoulder of a bigger man and scurried forward.

Halfway there, his left peripheral vision went dark as a large number of onrushing bodies blotted out the white sky.

Daniel saw very clearly that he was going to die now, in the following manner: smashed against the front of this shop by tons of meat and bone. The shop-window would not give way; it was made of small square panes in a grid of wooden mullions as thick as his wrist. Eventually it might buckle under the pressure of the crowd, but all of his ribs would give way sooner. He tried to lunge forward another step, but it only got worse; and his foot came down too soon, on unsteady ground. He had stepped on the torso of the unconscious man he’d noticed moments earlier. He lost his balance, but gained six inches’ altitude, and this triggered some sort of climbing instinct. If the mullions of the window were stout enough to crush his ribcage, then they could at least support his weight while they were doing it. He flung both arms in the air like a Baptist in ecstasy, clutched at a horizontal bar, and pulled himself up while pushing with both feet against that sleeping or dead man, all at the same moment as he was being picked up by the mob, like a reed that has fallen into the surf, and slammed against the building. His feet were no longer touching anything. The force of gravity was countered by several different blokes’ knees, shoulders, hips, and heads, which had all struck him over the course of a brief, bony barrage. If they’d driven him under he’d be a sorry case, but they’d pushed him up. One of his cheeks had slammed up against a windowpane so hard that the glass had popped half out of its frame and was making ominous ticking noises very close to his eyeball.

He no longer needed to support his own weight, so he allowed his left hand to release its grip on the mullion above, brought it down right past his nose, insinuated his fingers between jawbone and window, and crooked his fingers over the edge of the frame, taking advantage of the loose pane by getting a bit of a handhold on its mullion, so that when the crowd collapsed he would not simply fall backwards and crack his head on the ground.

The air inside the shop felt cooler on his fingertips and smelt of pipe-smoke. He had no choice but to stare through the glass for about five seconds. In the architect’s mind’s eye, this had probably been a lovely shop-window where ladies would coo over pretty displays. And maybe it would be that some day, if Hockley-in-the-Hole ever became fashionable. But for now a board had been put up inside of it, a bit more than arm’s length inside the glass. Daniel couldn’t tell whether it was a backdrop for display, or a barrier against intruders. It had been covered with green fabric a long time ago, and the fabric had been bleached by the sun, as this was a south-facing window. It had gone nearly white everywhere except where the sun’s light had been blocked by wares, hung on that board for display. No wares remained on it now. But their caught shadows were clearly visible. Daniel’s first thought was pendulums, because the shapes were circular, depending from slim cords. But no one bought pendulums save Natural Philosophers and mesmerists. It had to have been watches, hanging on chains.

The phaethon clattered past and the crowd relaxed, presenting a whole new universe of hazards to Daniel. A lot of chaps who had been leaning against other chaps who had, in the end, been leaning against Daniel, now decided to right themselves by pushing off hard. So waves of pressure thrust Daniel against the grid, again and again, so hard that he felt it popping underneath him. One of the brass buttons on his coat shattered a pane, spraying the watch-shadows with skewed triangles of glass. Then his support went out from under him and he fell, braking himself-as planned-with the one hand he’d crooked over the windowframe. His hip swung into the store-front and cracked another pane.

Now that the loosened pane was no longer being forced inwards by his cheek, it had sprung back and trapped his knuckles under its sharp edge. He was caught on tiptoe, like a prisoner strung up in a dungeon. But his right hand was free, the walking-stick still dangling by its wrist-thong, so with some ridiculous tossing and squirming motions he got a grip on its middle, raised its knotty head, and bashed out the loose pane to get himself free. The man who’d been lying on the ground rolled over onto his back, sat up convulsively, and blew a cloud of blood from his nostrils. Daniel hurried on; and just as he walked past the front door of the building he felt it opening. Three paces farther along he heard an “Oy, you!” but Hockley-in-the-Hole had become more riotous than ever and he could plausibly ignore this. He simply could not begin a conversation with the sort of person who would lurk in the back of such a building.

He walked faster, following the leftward curve of Hockley-in-the-Hole. A miasma of watery smells, issuing from gutters and crevices in the pavement, told him he’d crossed over the entombed Fleet. He dodged right into Windmill Hill, though it was a long time since there’d been a discernible hill, or a windmill, there. He then forced himself to walk straight west, without looking back, for a hundred paces. That brought him clear of Hockley, and into the center of the largest open place in this part of town, where Leather Lane, Liquor-pond Street, and several other ways came together in a crazed, nameless interchange half the size of Charing Cross. There, finally, he turned around.

“Your watch, sir,” said a bloke, “or so I surmise.”

All the air drained out of Daniel’s lungs. For ten minutes he had felt clever and spry. Now he looked down at himself and saw wreckage. To inventory all that had gone wrong with his clothes and his toilette would take more time than he could spare; but his watch was unquestionably missing. He took a step toward the bloke, then a smaller step. But the other fellow seemed to’ve made up his mind that he’d not pursue Daniel any farther today. He stood and waited, and the longer he waited, the more he seemed to glower. He was a great big cove, built to chop wood all day long. He had the most profound whiskerage Daniel had seen in many a year, and looked as if he could grow a jet-black beaver-pelt out of his face in about a week’s time. He might have shaved forty-eight hours ago. But he’d had little incentive to do it any more frequently than that, since his cheeks and chin had suffered badly from smallpox, leaving scars atop other scars. In sum, the man’s head looked like a Dutch oven forged over a dying fire with a ball-peen hammer. His hair hung round his face in a way that reminded Daniel of the young Robert Hooke; but where Hooke had been sickly and bent, this man was made like a meat-wagon. Yet he was holding Daniel’s watch in the most curious delicate way, the time-piece resting on a half-acre of pink palm, the chain drawn back and draped over the black-creviced fingers of the other hand. He was displaying it.

Daniel took another step forward. He had the ridiculous phant’sy that the man would dart away if Daniel reached out: a reflex Daniel had learned in childhood games of keep-away, and never quite got rid of.

Something did not make sense. He looked up into the man’s gray eyes and noticed crows’ feet. He was older than he looked, probably in his forties. The beginnings of an explanation there.

“You have judged me aright,” the man said, in an encouraging tone. “I am a horologist gone bad.”

“You deal in stolen time-”

“Don’t we all, sir? Each striking his own bargain, as ’twere.”

“I was going to say, ‘time-pieces,’ but you interrupted me.”

“ ’Tis a common error of those who buy time dear, and sell it cheap, Dr. Waterhouse.”

“You know my name? What is yours?”

“My surname is Hoxton. My father christened me Peter. Hereabouts, I am called Saturn.”

“The Roman god of time.”

“And of surly dispositions, Doctor.”

“I have inspected your shop, Mr. Hoxton, quite a bit more closely than I should have liked.”

“Yes, I was just inside the window, smoking my pipe, and observing you in return.”

“You have told me in your own words that you have gone bad. You operate under an alias that is a byword for foul temper. I think I know the nature of your business. Yet you ask me to believe that you are returning me my watch, without any…complications…and you expect me to approach within your reach…” Daniel here trailed off, keeping an eye on the watch, trying not to seem as interested in getting it back as he really was.

“You’re one of those coves f’r whom everything has to make sense? Then you and I are fellow-sufferers.”

“You say that because you are a horologist?”

“Mechanic since I was a lad, clock-maker since I came to my senses,” said Saturn. “The piece of information you are wanting, Doctor, is this: this here is an old Hooke balance-spring watch, this is. When the Master made it, why, it might’ve been the best time-piece ever fashioned by human hands. But now there’s a score of proper horologists round Clerkenwell who can make ones that’ll keep better time. Technology ages, dunnit?”

Daniel pursed his lips to keep from laughing at the spectacle of this new, five-guinea word, Technology, emerging from that head.

“It ages faster’n we do. It can be difficult for a bloke to keep up.”

“Is that your story, Saturn? You could not keep up, and so you went bad?”

“I grew weary of keeping up, Doctor. That is my story, if you must know. I grew weary of transitory knowledge, and decided to seek knowledge of a more ?ternal nature.”

“Do you claim to have found it?”

“No.”

“Good. I was afraid this was going to turn into a homily.”

Daniel now felt safe in advancing two more steps. Then a question occurred to him, and he stopped. “How did you know my name?”

“It’s inscribed on the back of the watch.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Very clever,” said Saturn. Daniel could not tell which of them was the target of the sarcasm. Saturn continued, “Very well, sir. A certain flash cull of my acquaintance, a file-cly with a specialization in tatlers, who had run afoul of a Harmon in Fleet Street, and been condemned to shove the tumbler from Newgate to Leadenhall, came by my ken of an afternoon, desiring employment of a sedentary nature while his stripes healed. And after taking sensible precautions, which is to say, making sure that he was not running a type of service-lay to slum my ken, I said to this buz, my business here has fallen on hard times because I cannot run it without transitory knowledge. And yet my brain has had its fill of the same, and all I wish to do is to sit in my shop reading books, to acquire knowledge ?ternal, which benefits me in ways intangible, but in no way helps me to receive and sell stolen property of a horologickal nature, which is the raison d’etre of the shop. Therefore, go ye out into the Rumbo, the Spinning-Ken, to Old Nass, go to the Boozing-kens of Hockley-in-the-Hole and the Cases at the low end of the Mount, go to the Goat in Long-lane, the Dogg in Fleet Street, and the Black-boy in Newtenhouse-

Lane, and drink-but not too much-and buy drinks-but never too many-for any flash culls you spy there, and acquire transitory knowledge, and return to my ken and relate to me what you have learnt. And back he comes, a week later, and informs me that a certain old Gager has lately been making the rounds, trying to recover some lost property. ‘What has he lost?’ I inquired. ‘Not a thing,’ came the answer, ‘he is after another cull’s lost property-some gager who was Phinneyed ten years since.’ ‘Go and learn that dead cove’s name,’ says I, ‘and the quick one’s, too.’ Come the answers: Robert Hooke, and Daniel Waterhouse, respectively. Why, he even pointed you out to me once, when you walked past my shop on your way to visit your swine-yard. That’s how I knew you.”

Peter Hoxton now extended his arms. His left hand held the chain of the Hooke-watch, swinging it like a pendulum, and his right offered a handshake. Daniel accepted the watch greedily, and the handshake with reluctance.

“I have a question for you, Doctor,” said Saturn, as he was shaking Daniel’s hand.

“Yes?”

“I’ve made a study of you, and know you are a bit of a Natural Philosopher. Been meaning to invite you into my ken.”

“Did you-sir, did you cause my watch to be stolen!?” Daniel demanded, trying to draw back; but Saturn’s hand had engulfed his, like a python swallowing a gerbil.

“Did you-Doctor, did you fling yourself against my shop-window on purpose!?” Saturn answered, perfectly mocking Daniel’s tone.

Daniel was too indignant to speak, which the other took as permission to go on: “Now philosophy is the study of wisdom-truths ?ternal. Yet, long ago you went over the sea, didn’t you, to set up an Institute of Technologickal Arts. And here you are back in London, aren’t you, on some similar errand. Why, Doctor? You had the life I dream of: to sit on your arse and read of truths ?ternal. And yet I cannot make my way through a chapter of Plato without glancing up to see you sprawled against my shop-window like an enormous spate of bird-shite. Why turn away from the study of truths ?ternal, to traffick in transitory knowledge?”

Somewhat to his own surprise, Daniel had a ready answer, which came out of his mouth before he had had time to consider it. “Why does the minister tell mundane stories during his homily? Why not simply quote direct from sublime works of theology?”

“Anecdotes serve to illustrate the ideas he’s getting at,” Saturn surmised, “and anyway, if those ideas have no relation to mundane things, why, they’re probably rubbish.”

“Then if Newton and Leibniz are sublime theologians, sir, I am an humble vicar. Technology is a sort of religious practice to me, a way of getting at the ?ternal by way of the mundane. Does that answer your question, and may I have my hand back?”

“Yes,” said Saturn. “You have your watch, sir; you have your hand; and you have a parishioner.”

“But I do not want a parishioner,” said Daniel, turning on his heel and walking west into Liquor-pond Street.

“Then you ought to give up preaching, and those religious observances you just spoke of,” said Peter Hoxton, falling into step beside Daniel. “You are a Cambridge man?”

“I am.”

“And is not the ancient purpose of Cambridge to turn out clerics, and send them out into England to minister to the unwashed?”

“You know that perfectly well! But I’ll not minister to you or any other man, Peter Hoxton, for if ever I was a vicar, I am a fallen one now, and not fit to minister to a dog. I went astray early, and have strayed far. The only way I can think of to find my way closer to God is through the strange ministry I spoke of earlier, whereof Hooke and Spinoza were prophets. It is not a way I recommend to any man, for I am as ’stranged from the main line of religion as a stylite monk, sitting on a pillar in a waste.”

“I have strayed further and grown more ’stranged than you, Doc. I have been wandering in that same waste without any pillar to sit upon-therefore, you, perched on your post, are like a Pharos to me.”

“I say to you one more time-”

“There’s that word again! Time. Let me speak of time, Doc, and say to you this: if you continue to walk through Hockley-in-the-Hole unaccompanied, and to wander about the city as you’ve been doing, your time may be measured in days, or hours. You are not leery enough. This fact has been made note of by certain coves who make unleery gagers their prey. Every foot-scamperer and bridle-cull on the upper Fleet pricks up his ears when you trudge out to your swine-yard and disappear into your hole in the ground. Your time will be up very soon, and you will wind up as a scragg’d, naked corpse, floating down Fleet Ditch to Bridewell, if you do not make some large friends soon.”

“Are you nominating yourself my bodyguard, Saturn?”

“I am nominating myself your parishioner, Doc. As you lack a church, we shall have to worship peripatetically, ambling about the streets, as now, and making Hockley-in-the-Hole our Agora. As I am half as old, and twice as big, as you, why, many an idle cove, who does not wot the true nature of our relationship, may ignorantly assume that I am your bodyguard, and, on account of that foolish misapprehension, refrain from stabbing you or bludgeoning you to death.”

They had reached Gray’s Inn Lane. The lawyer-infested gardens and walks behind Gray’s Inn lay to either side of the road here, and beyond them were the settled confines of various Squares: Red Lyon, Waterhouse, Bloomsbury. Roger’s estate was on the far corner of Bloomsbury, where London gave way again to open countryside. Daniel did not want to lead Saturn directly to it. He stopped.

“I am dafter e’en than you guess, Saturn.”

“Why, impossible!”

“Have you heard of a pirate in America, called Edward Teach?”

“Blackbeard? Of course, sir, he is legendary.”

“I say that not so long ago, I heard Blackbeard standing on the poop of Queen Anne’s Revenge, calling for me by name.”

For the first time, Peter Hoxton was taken a-back.

“As you see, I am insane-best leave me alone,” Daniel said, and turned his back on Saturn yet again, looking for an opening in traffic on Gray’s Inn Lane.

“Concerning Mr. Teach, I shall make inquiries among the Black-guard,” said Peter Hoxton.

The next time Daniel dared to look over his shoulder, Saturn had vanished.

Bloomsbury


HALF AN HOUR LATER

“A ROMAN TEMPLE, on the edge of the city. Modest. Nothing gaudy,” had been Roger’s instructions to him, some twenty-five years earlier.

“I suppose that rules out having it be a Temple of Jupiter or Apollo,” Daniel had returned.

Roger had looked out the window of the coffee-house, feigning deafness, which was what he always did when he guessed Daniel was making fun of him.

Daniel had sipped his coffee and considered it. “Among your modest and humble Roman Gods would be…let me think…Vesta. Whose temples, like your house, stood outside the old boundaries of the city.”

“Well enough. Splendid god, Vesta,” Roger had said, a bit distantly.

“Goddess, actually.”

“All right, who the hell was she!?”

“Goddess of the hearth, chaste above all others…”

“Oh, Jesus!”

“Worshipped around the clock-or the sundial, I should say-by the Vestal virgins…”

“Wouldn’t mind having a few of those around, provided they were not pedantic about the virginity.”

“Not at all. Vesta herself was almost seduced by Priapus, the ithyphallic God…”

Roger shivered. “I can’t wait to find out what that means. Perhaps we should make my house a Temple of Priapus.”

“Every shack you walk into becomes a Temple of Priapus. No need to spend money on an architect.”

“Who said I was going to pay you?”

“I did, Roger.”

“Oh, all right.”

“I will not make you a Temple of Priapus. I do not think that the Queen of England would ever come to call on you, Roger, if you lived in such a place.”

“Give me another humble, unassuming God then!” Roger had demanded, snapping his fingers. “Come on, I’m not paying you to drink coffee!”

“There’s always Vulcan.”

“Lame!”

“Indeed, he was a bit gouty, like many a gentleman,” Daniel had said patiently, “but he got all the most beautiful goddesses-including Venus herself!”

“Haw! The rogue!”

“He was master of metals-though humble, and scorned, he fettered Titans and Gods with his ingenuity-”

“Metals-including-?”

“Gold and silver.”

“Capital!”

“And of course he was God of Fire, and Lord of Volcanoes.”

“Volcanoes! An ancient symbol of fertility-sending their gouts of molten stone spurting high into the air,” Roger had said meditatively, prompting Daniel to shove his chair away several inches. “Right! That’s it, then-make me a Temple of Vulcan-tasteful and inexpensive, mind you-just off Bloomsbury there. And put a volcano in it!”

This-put a volcano in it-had been Roger’s first and last instructions to Daniel concerning interior decoration. Daniel had fobbed that part of it off on a silversmith-not a money one, but an old-school silversmith who still literally smote silver for a living. This had left Daniel free to design the Temple of Vulcan itself, which had presented no difficulties at all. A lot of Greeks had figured out how to make buildings of that general type two thousand years ago, and then Romans had worked out tricks for banging them out in a hurry, tricks that were now second nature to every tradesman in London.

Not really believing that Roger would ever actually build it, Daniel had sat down in front of a large clean sheet of paper and proceeded to pile element on element: and quite a few Plinths, Pilasters, Architraves, Urns, Archivolts, and Finials later, he had ended up with something that probably would have caused Julius C?sar to clap his hands over his laureled and anointed head in dismay, and order the designer crucified. But after a brief sell job from Daniel in the back room of a coffee-house (“Note the Lesbian leaf pattern at the tops of the columns… Ancient symbols of fertility are worked into the groins… I have taken the liberty of depicting this Amazon with two breasts, rather than the historically attested one”), Roger was convinced that it looked exactly like a Temple of Vulcan ought to. And when he actually went and built the thing-telling everyone it was an exact reproduction of a real one on Mount Vesuvius-nine out of ten Londoners were content to believe it. Daniel’s only consolation was that because of the bald lie about Vesuvius, hardly anyone knew he-or indeed any living person-had been responsible for it. Only the Gods knew. As long as he avoided parts of the world with a lot of volcanoes, he would go unscathed.

During his most melancholy times, he was kept awake at night by the phant’sy that, of everything he’d ever done, this house would last the longest, and be seen by the most people. But with the one exception of being cut for the stone, every fear that had ever tormented Daniel in his bed had turned out, in the light of day, to be not all that bad really. As he plodded westwards on Great Russell Street toward its cross with Tottenham Court Road, passing by Bloomsbury Square, he sensed a massy white Presence in the corner of his eye, and forced himself not to look at it. But at some point this became absurd, and he had to square his shoulders, perform a soldierly right-face, and look his shame in the eye. And, mirabile dictu, it was not so very bad! When it had first gone up, twenty years ago, in the middle of a hog-lot, cater-corner from a timber depot, it had been screamingly bizarre. But now it was in the middle of a city, which helped a little, and Hooke had added on to it, which helped a great deal. It was no longer an alienated Temple but the buckle in a belt of Corinthian-columned arcades that surrounded Roger’s parcel. The wings gave it proportion and made it seem much less likely to topple over sideways. The friezes had been added to the pediment and to the tablatures while Daniel had been in Boston, a tangle of togas and tridents that diverted the viewer’s eye from the underlying dreadfulness (or so Daniel thought) of the architecture. Here Hooke had done him more favors by extending the horizontal features of the Temple into the wings, giving Daniel’s phant’sies and improvisations more authority than they probably deserved. All in all, Daniel was able to stare at the place for a solid five or ten minutes without dissolving in embarrassment; London’s boundaries enclosed much worse.

For the thirtieth time since crossing Gray’s Inn Road, he looked to see if Saturn was following him. The answer was again no. He crossed Great Russell and walked up the steps, feeling like a wee figure sketched into a rendering to show the scale. Passing between two fluted columns he swept across the Portico and raised his walking-stick to beat upon one of the massive front doors (gold leaf, with details in silver and copper, all part of the metallurgical theme). But the doors were drawn open so swiftly that they seemed to leap away from him. It gave him a turn-his eye was foxed into thinking that the doors were stationary, and he falling backwards away from them. He took a step forward to compensate; and, entering the cleavage between the doors, nearly fell into the one between a pair of breasts. It required some effort to stop himself, straighten his carriage, and look the owner in the eye. She was giving him a knowing look, but the dimples in her cheeks said, All in good fun, go on, have a good long stare then!

“Doctor Waterhouse! You have kept me waiting far too long! How can I ever forgive you?”

This sounded like an opportunity for Daniel to say something witty, but it whooshed past him like grapeshot.

“Er…I have?”

Ah, but the lady was accustomed to dealing with numb-tongued Natural Philosophers. “I should have heeded Uncle Isaac, who has spoken so highly of your strength of character.”

“I…beg your pardon?” He was beginning to feel as if he should perhaps hit himself with his stick. Perhaps it would restore circulation to his brain.

“A weaker man would have planted himself right there, where you were just now standing, on his first day in London, and said to all who passed by, ‘Look! D’you see that House? I built it! It’s mine!’ But, you!” and here she actually planted her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. But it seemed funny, not in the least affected. “You, Doctor Waterhouse, with your Puritan ways-just like Uncle Isaac-withstood that temptation for, what, a little more than two months! It is a mystery to me, how you and Uncle Isaac can delay your pleasures with such stony patience, when someone such as I would become frantic.” Then, because this perhaps sounded a bit risque, she added, “Thank you so kindly for answering my letters, by the way.”

“You are most welcome, it was my privilege,” Daniel answered without thinking. But it took a moment to remember what she was even talking about.

Catherine Barton had come to London round the turn of the century. She’d have been about twenty. Her father-Isaac’s brother-in-law-had died a few years earlier, and Isaac had shouldered the load of keeping the poor survivors fed, clothed, and housed. After a short time staying in the city with Isaac, she’d come down with smallpox and fled to the countryside to recover or die. It was during that time that she’d sent a letter to Daniel in Boston, a letter no less sweet and charming for being cleverly written.

Which reminded Daniel that he ought to say something. “It is fortunate for me that, through your letters, I was able to meet your mind before I was put in any danger of being swept off my feet by…er…the rest of you.”

She’d been trying to figure out why her uncle was the way he was. And not in a conniving way, but, it seemed, out of a sincere desire to be a good and understanding help-meet to this weird old man who had become, in effect, her new father. Daniel had written eight drafts of his letter back to her, for he knew perfectly well that one day Isaac would find it among her effects, and read it. He would read it every bit as shrewdly as a challenge from Leibniz.

Everyone knows Isaac as a brilliant man, and treats him as such, which is a mistake; for he is as pious as he is brilliant, and his piety taketh precedence. Mind you, I speak not of outward, conspicuous piety but of an inner fire, a light under the bushel as ’twere, a yearning to draw nearer to God through exercise of God-given faculties.

“Your advice was of inestimable value to me, after I recovered-thanks be to God-and returned to London. And insofar as I have been of any help whatever to Uncle Isaac, I daresay what you wrote was a boon to him as well.”

“I shall not hold my breath waiting for an expression of gratitude from him,” Daniel said, hoping it sounded like a wry thing to say. She had the good grace to laugh out loud. Daniel got the impression she was accustomed to having men blurt indiscreet things to her, and regarded it as excellent sport.

“Oh, nonsense! You understand him better than any man alive, Dr. Waterhouse, and he is keenly aware of it.”

This-though she said it with dimples engaged-was really more of a threat than a compliment. What was more, Daniel knew that Catherine Barton had said it quite carefully and deliberately.

He decided to stop waiting for the formal introduction of Miss Catherine Barton to Dr. Daniel Waterhouse. It would never happen. She had vaulted over that hurdle with ribbons and skirts a-flying, and obliged him to follow. “You might enjoy a look round,” she suggested, arching her eyebrows spectacularly. She did not need to speak aloud the second half of the sentence: if you could only manage to pry your eyes off me. In truth, she was more presentable than beautiful. But she had some beautiful features. And she was very well-dressed. Not in the sense of showing off how much money she could spend, or how a la mode she could be, but rather in the sense that her attire presented to the world a full, frank, and exhaustive account of all that was admirable about her body. When she spun around to lead him across the vestibule, her skirts swirled around her buttocks and thighs in a way that made their contours fully known to Daniel. Or he phant’sied as much, which amounted to the same thing. He’d been wondering, for as long as he’d been in London, what it was about this woman that caused great and powerful men to recite appalling poetry about her in the Kit-Cat Clubb, and to go all glassy-eyed when her name came up in conversation. He should have known. Faces could beguile, enchant, and flirt. But clearly this woman was inflicting major spinal injuries on men wherever she went, and only a body had the power to do that. Hence the need for a lot of Classical allusions in Catherine Barton love-poetry. Her idolaters were reaching back to something pre-Christian, trying to express a bit of what they felt when they gazed upon Greek statues of nude goddesses.

There were plenty around. The vestibule was an oval room lined with niches that had stood vacant the last time Daniel had seen the place. The decades since had afforded Roger all the time he’d needed to bankroll raiding-parties on Classical ruins, or to commission original works. As he followed Miss Catherine Barton out of the room, Daniel spun round a full three hundred sixty degrees to scan the vestibule. The two servants who had pulled the doors open on Catherine’s command-both young men-were caught staring at their mistress’s backside. Both of them snapped their heads away and blushed. Daniel gave them a wink, turned, and followed her out.

“I have shown this house to visitors an hundred times,” she was saying, “and so all sorts of prattle is on the tip of my tongue-all of it perfectly boring to you, Dr. Waterhouse, to whom this house needs no introduction! You know we are crossing the central hall, and that the important rooms are to the left…” She meant the dining hall and the library. “And the odds and ends to the right…” (servant’s quarters, kitchen, back stairs, House of Office) “and the Withdrawing Room straight ahead. What is your pleasure? Do you need to retire that way?” she asked, glancing to the right. She was asking him if he needed to urinate or defecate. “Or is there anything you would like there?” glancing left-meaning, did he need to take any refreshment. She kept her hands clasped together in front of her bodice and pointed to the left or right with tiny movements of her eyes, obliging Daniel to gaze into them attentively. “To be proper, I should conduct you into the Withdrawing Room where we might have a great argument as to who should sit in which chair. But after the war, French manners are quite out of favor with us-especially us Whigs-and I cannot bring myself to be so formal with you, who are like another uncle to me.”

“I should only make an ass of myself-I who have spent twenty years in a wooden house!” Daniel returned. “Only tell me this, I pray you: if we go into the Withdrawing Room, can I see-”

“The volcano has been moved,” she said, quite solemn, as if afraid Daniel would be furious.

“Out of the house, or-”

“Oh, heaven forbid! No, ’tis the centerpiece of the house as ever, Doctor! It is only that this part of the house, which is to say, the part you designed, began to seem, in some of its rooms, rather more small than suited Roger’s tastes.”

“That is when Mr. Hooke was brought in to add the wings.”

“You know the story, Dr. Waterhouse, and so I shall not bore you, other than to say that the addition contains a ballroom that is at last large enough to exhibit the volcano in the style it deserves.” And with that she wheeled around and pushed open a pair of doors across the hall from the vestibule, allowing light to flood in from the windows of the Withdrawing Room. Daniel stepped in, and then stopped, a-mazed.

When this room had been laid out, those windows had commanded a view to the north across a pasture, soon to become a formal garden: a view near to Daniel’s heart, as it was practically the same as the one from the back of Drake’s old house. But now the garden had been truncated to a court-yard with a fountain in the center, and directly on the other side, a stone’s throw away, rose a Barock palace. This room, which Daniel had conceived as a quiet retreat from which to enjoy a vast prospect of flowers and greenery, had been reduced to a sort of viewing-gallery for contemplating the magnificence of the real house.

“Vanbrugh,” Catherine explained. The same one who was doing Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough.

“Hooke-”

“Mr. Hooke did the wings, which as you can see, embrace the courtyard, and connect your Temple to Mr. Vanbrugh’s, er…”

Fuck-house of the Gods was on the tip of Daniel’s tongue, but he could hardly throw stones at Vanbrugh since he had started it. All he could summon up was, “What an undeserved honour ’tis for me, that Vanbrugh should finish so grandly, what I started so plainly.”

The chairs in the Withdrawing Room were arranged in an arc facing toward the window. Catherine passed between two of them and opened a pair of French doors that in the original scheme had led out onto the long central promenade of the garden. Instead of which he followed her onto marble paving-slabs and pursued her around the kerb of an octagonal pool. It had a bronze fountain in the center of it, a great Classical action-scene: muscular Vulcan thrusting himself forth on massive but bent legs, having a go at Minerva, the cool helmet-head, who was pushing him back with one arm. Swords, daggers, helmets, and cuirasses were strewn all round, interspersed with the odd half-forged thunderbolt. Vulcan’s knobby fingers were ripping Minerva’s breastplate away to expose a body obviously modeled after Catherine Barton’s. Daniel recognized the tale: Minerva went to Vulcan’s forge to acquire weapons and armor; Vulcan became inflamed with lust and assaulted her; she, being one tough deity, held him at bay, and he had to settle for ejaculating on her leg. She wiped it off with a rag and flung it on the ground, fertilizing Mother Earth, who later bore Erichthonius, an early king of Athens, who introduced the use of silver money.

The sculpture was heavy-laden with clews and portents: with her free hand Minerva was already reaching for a rag, and Vulcan was ominously close to making contact with her creamy thigh. Smaller sculpture groups decorated the ends of the fountain-pool; at the end nearer to Daniel’s building, a babe on the lap of a fertility sort of goddess (lots of cornucopiae) being fed grapes from a bunch. Opposite, near Vanbrugh’s building, a crowned King seated on a pile of bullion. As they skirted the pool, Daniel felt a perverse urge to swivel his head and find out just how the sculptor had handled certain particulars. He was especially keen to know from where the water was spurting. At the same time, he couldn’t bear to see it. Catherine was ignoring the fountain altogether; she did not want to talk about it, had turned her face away, her posture rhyming with Minerva’s. Daniel contented himself with pursuing her across the court-yard, albeit with even less success than Vulcan.

What with so many distractions, they were inside the new house before Daniel had really had the time to examine its interior. Probably just as well; he’d gotten a vague impression of lots and lots of statues, prancing along rooftops and balustrades.

“Rokoko, it is called,” Catherine explained, leading him into what must have been the grand ballroom. “ ’Tis all the rage.”

Daniel could only recollect Drake’s house, with its bare walls and floors, and one or two plain boxy pieces of furniture to a room. “It makes me feel old,” he said, baldly.

Catherine favored him with a brilliant smile. “Some say, ’tis the result of a surplus of decorators, combined with a deficit of houses.”

And a want of taste, Daniel wished he could say. “As you are the mistress of the household, mademoiselle, I shall make no comment on what some say.” She rewarded him with dimples. Without meaning to, he had made a sly comment on her Arrangement with Roger.

Daniel found these moments slightly unnerving. For the most part she did not look like Isaac-not even the young, frail, girlish Isaac Daniel had met at Trinity half a century ago. He would never have guessed she had a drop of Newton-blood in her veins if he hadn’t known as much already. But during the moments when she forgot to hide her cleverness, a family resemblance flashed forth, and he saw Isaac’s face for an instant, as if the author of Principia Mathematica were stalking him through a darkened room when lightning struck outside.

“Here is a curious invention you may find worthy of your attention, Doctor. This way, please!”

The volcano stood at one end of the ballroom. It was a great improvement on the volcanoes made by Nature, which were so rude, irregular, and unadorned. This one was perfectly conical, with forty-five-degree-angle slopes converging on a polished brass nozzle or teat at the summit. A semi-ruined Classical temple, complete with half-collapsed golden dome, had been erected there, enclosing the vent, which could be viewed between Doric columns of red marble. The mountain itself was black marble, veined with red, and adorned with the usual tiresome menagerie of nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, amp;c., all sculpted in gold. It probably stood no more than four feet from base to summit, but was made to seem much larger by the base that supported it: a hollow plinth rising from the floor to waist level, supported all round with caryatids in the shape of Typhon and other gross earthy monsters.

“If you come round back with me, Doctor, I shall a-maze you with the most marvelous Screw.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She had opened a hatch concealed in the back, and was beckoning. He came round, squatted carefully, and peered inside. Now he could see a fat cylinder that began in a copper basin on the floor, and ran up at an angle to the summit of the volcano.

“Roger wanted so badly to have a volcano that would spew rivers of molten silver. It would have been spectacular! But Mr. MacDougall was afraid it would set fire to the guests.”

“Which would have been spectacular too, in a different way,” Daniel mused.

“Mr. MacDougall persuaded Roger to settle for oil of phosphorus. It is prepared elsewhere, and brought here in casks, and poured into the tub. The Screw of Archimedes conducts it upwards, it gushes from the summit, and runs down the slopes as the centaurs and whatnot flee in terror.”

“They-flee?”

“Oh, yes, for it is meant to represent glowing streams of liquid fire.”

“That I understand. But how do they flee-?”

“They are clock-work creatures.”

“Also the work of Mr. MacDougall?”

“Indeed.”

“I remember hiring a silversmith named Millhouse but not an ingenieur named MacDougall.”

“Mr. Millhouse hired Mr. MacDougall to do the clever bits. When Mr. Millhouse died of smallpox-”

“Mr. MacDougall took over,” Daniel guessed, “and could not stop adding one clever bit after another.”

“Until Roger cut him off-somewhat emphatically, I’m afraid,” said Catherine, and winced in a manner that made Daniel want to stroke her hair.

“Is he still alive?”

“Oh, yes, he works in theatres, making apparitions, explosions, and storms.”

“Of course he does.”

“He staged the naval battle that burned down the Curtain.”

“I believe you. How frequently does the volcano erupt?”

“Once or twice a year, for important parties.”

“And Mr. MacDougall is called back from exile on those occasions?”

“Roger has him on retainer.”

“Where does he get his phosphorus?”

“He has it delivered,” she said, as if this were an answer.

“Where may Mr. MacDougall be found, I wonder?”

“The Theater Royal, in Covent Garden, is getting ready to stage a new production entitled The Sack of Persepolis,” Catherine said, tentatively.

“Say no more, Miss Barton.”

Sir Isaac Newton’s House,


St. Martin’s Street, London


LATER THAT DAY

“I’VE A SORT OF RIDDLE for you, to do with guineas,” was how Daniel ended the twenty-year silence between himself and Sir Isaac Newton.

He had been fretting, ever since Enoch Root had turned up in his doorway in Massachusetts, over how to begin this conversation: what ponderous greeting would best suit the gravity of the occasion, how much time to spend reminiscing about student days in Cambridge, and whether to say anything about their last encounter, which had gone as badly as any social encounter, short of homicide, could go. Like a play-wright penning and burning draughts of a troublesome scene, he had scripted this reunion in his head an hundred times, and each time the script had careered off into a bloody debacle like the last act of Hamlet. As it seemed perfectly hopeless, and as he’d been assured by Saturn that he had only hours or days to live in any case, he reckoned, why waste time on formalities?

When the door was opened, and he first looked Isaac in the face from across the room, he did not see any trace of fury or (what would have been more dangerous) fear. Isaac looked resigned. He was feigning patience. He looked like a Duke receiving a long-lost idiot half-brother. And on the spur of the moment, Daniel said this thing about guineas as he was stepping over the threshold. The servant who’d opened the door for him gave him the same sort of look he might bestow on a gibbeted corpse suspended above a crossroads on a warm day, and closed the door behind him.

Daniel and Isaac were alone together in the study. Or Daniel assumed it was called a study. He could not imagine Isaac having a bedchamber or a dining-room. Any room he was in, was a study by default. The walls were paneled in dark wood, surprisingly uneven, almost rustic, compared to Roger’s house. The door was made of the same stuff, so that it vanished when it was closed, making it seem as if Daniel and Isaac were a pair of old desiccated specimens closed up in a shipping crate. The room had windows looking out onto the street. Their massive, elaborate wooden shutters were open to admit some of the light off Leicester Fields, but much of this was blocked by half-drawn scarlet curtains. Isaac was seated behind a great table, the sort of table Drake would’ve owned, and he was dressed in a long scarlet dressing-gown over a good linen shirt. His face had not changed all that much, though it had got heavier, and he still had the long white hair. But his hairline had jumped back, making it seem as if his brain were trying to force its way up out the top of his head. His skin had been white when Daniel had walked in, but by the time he had made it to the end of the room to proffer his hand, Isaac had gone red in the face, as if stealing the color from his robe.

“There is nothing in my life quite so irritating as to be riddled and teased with inane conundrums, meant to prove my wit, and to try my senility,” he answered. “Bernoulli-Leibniz’s pawn-sent me-”

“The brachistochrone problem, I recall it,” Daniel said, “and you solved it in hours. It took me rather longer.”

“But you did solve it,” Isaac commanded. “Because it was a problem of the calculus, meant to try whether I understood the calculus or not! Can you fathom the impertinence of it!? I was the first man who could ever have solved it, Daniel, and you the second, because you had the calculus from me first-hand. To be hectored thus, by the Baron’s lackeys, three decades after I had invented it-”

“In truth my riddle is another sort of thing altogether,” Daniel said. “I really am quite sorry to have wrong-footed you.”

Isaac blinked and heaved a sigh. He seemed inordinately relieved. Perhaps he had feared that Daniel would dispute what he had just said: You had the calculus from me first-hand. That was the key. In Daniel, Isaac saw a witness who could testify to Isaac’s priority in the discovery of the calculus. Whatever other annoying and inconvenient qualities Daniel might have, vanished when placed beside that. Daniel felt the muscles of his scalp and neck easing, felt his lungs filling with air. He was going to be all right. He’d make it out of the room whole, even if he said things that made Isaac a little angry. To Isaac, Daniel was more than a pawn; he was a rook, kept sequestered in the corner of the board until the end-game, then brought out at last to sweep inexorably down the board, driving the foe back to the last rank and forcing surrender. Isaac would put up with a lot, from a rook.

He wondered whether Isaac had, through some machinations, caused Daniel to be brought back to London. Perhaps he had exerted some action at a distance upon Princess Caroline in Hanover.

“What is your riddle, Daniel?”

“Earlier today, I was with a man who knows a good deal more than I do about money. This fellow was trying to judge the value of a guinea.”

“Of a coin that purported to be a guinea,” Isaac corrected him.

“Indeed-I say ‘guinea’ because that is what, in the end, it turned out to be.”

“He should have weighed it.”

“That is just what he did. And he could say nothing against the weight of the coin. Which would seem to settle the matter. But then he did something that to me was very odd. He put the coin in his mouth and he bit down on it.”

Isaac made no answer, but Daniel thought he pinkened again, slightly. Certainly he was interested in the story. He clasped his hands together on the table in front of him, composing himself, rather like a cat.

“Now,” Daniel said. “Even I know that coiners frequently make their counterfeits by joining two faces stamped from gold foil, and filling the void between them with solder. The solder is both lighter and softer than gold. This provides two means of detection: one may weigh the coin, or bite it. Either should suffice. In particular, if a coin has passed the test of weighing, its value should be confirmed beyond doubt! For nothing is heavier than gold. Any adulteration should be betrayed by a want of gravity. The weighing test ought to be infallible. And yet this chap-who really is extremely knowledgeable concerning coins-felt it necessary to make the additional test of biting. Is there any reason for it? Or was he being foolish?”

“He was not being foolish,” Isaac said, and stared at Daniel expectantly. His eyes were great luminous ice-balls hanging in space, like comets.

“Do you mean to say that I was, Isaac?”

“To associate with such a man? Foolish, or naive,” Isaac returned. “As you have wandered in the wilderness for two decades, I shall grant you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Then cure me of naivete, and tell me, what sort of man is he?”

“A weigher.”

“Well, he is obviously that, inasmuch as he weighs things, but you seem to invest the word with connotations that are lost on a back-woodsman such as I.”

“In spite of all my efforts to reform the practices of the Mint, and to make each newly coined guinea identical to the last, some variation in weights persists. Some guineas are slightly heavier than others. Such errors are reducible but not eradicable. I have reduced them to the degree that, where honest persons are concerned, no variation exists. That is, most men in London-and I include sophisticated men of commerce-would trade one guinea for another without hesitation, and certainly without bothering to take out a scale and weigh them.”

“I well remember when that was not the case,” Daniel remarked.

“You refer to our visits to Stourbridge Fair, before the Plague,” Isaac said immediately.

“Yes,” Daniel answered, after a moment of awkwardness.

He and Isaac had walked from Trinity to the Fair once, to buy prisms, and along the way, Isaac had made some remarks about fluxions-the beginnings of the calculus. During his recent sea-voyage from Massachusetts, Daniel had summoned that ancient memory to mind, and brought it back to life in his head, remembering certain queer details, like the shapes of the aquatic plants in the river Cam, bent downstream by the sluggish fluxion of the water. It was now obvious that Isaac had been thinking hard, and recently, about the same memory.

To go on prating of coins, when the true topic of the conversation was so close to breaking the surface, were faintly ridiculous. But Englishmen, given a choice, would always prefer the faintly ridiculous over the painfully direct. So, on with numismatics.

“It got even worse-the coinage did-later,” Isaac said.

“I remind you that I did not depart until the middle of the 1690s, when there were hardly any coins left in the country, and our ?conomy was a confetti of I.O.U.s.”

“Now England is awash in gold. The currency is as hard as adamant. Our commerce is the wonder of all the earth, and even Amsterdam is in our shade. It were vanity for me to take too much credit for this. But it is simple honesty to say, that it could not happen in the absence of this plain understanding, shared by all Englishmen, that a guinea may be exchanged for a guinea without a second thought. That all guineas are the same.”

Suddenly all that Daniel had observed of Mr. Threader rearranged, in his mind, into a novel, strange, but perfectly coherent picture; it was like watching a pile of rubble spontaneously assemble itself into a marble statue. “Allow me to hazard,” Daniel said, “that a weigher” (he almost said, “Mr. Threader”) “is a chap who to outward appearances believes what every honest, plain-dealing Englishman believes about the value of a guinea. But in secret, he takes every guinea that comes his way, and weighs it ’pon scales of the most exacting precision. Such as are light, or of the mean weight, he returns into circulation. But such as are heavy, he hoards. And when he has hoarded an hundred such-I am only making up numbers for the sake of argument-perhaps he has enough gold, in sum, to mint an hundred and one guineas. He has created a new guinea out of thin air.”

Isaac said yes by slowly blinking his pink eyelids. “Of course, what you have described is only the most elementary of their practices. Those who master it, move on quickly to more nefarious schemes.”

But Daniel was still new to all of this, and stuck on the elementary. “It would only be feasible,” he guessed, “if one were already in a line of work that involved handling large numbers of coins.”

“Naturally! And that is why the practice is so rife among the money-scriveners. I make guineas, and send them out into the country; they scurry about unraveling the tapestry I’ve so laboriously woven, and return the heaviest coins to London, where they invariably make their way to the coffers of the most vile and execrable traitors in the realm!”

Daniel recalled driving past shredded corpses at Tyburn. “You mean that weighers are connected with coiners.”

“As spinners are with weavers, Daniel.”

Daniel was silent for a moment, rehearsing every memory he had of Mr. Threader.

“That is why I was so shocked-shocked half to death, if you must know-to see you traveling in the company of one such!” Isaac said, actually shaking a bit with emotion.

Daniel was so used to Isaac mysteriously knowing things, that he was not as surprised by this very odd revelation as he ought to have been, and did not pay any particular mind to it. “For that,” he remarked, “there is an explanation that you would find miserably boring if you knew it.”

“I have made it my business to know it, and I accept that there was nothing untoward in your temporary association with that man,” Isaac returned. “If I were inclined to be suspicious, like Flamsteed, I should interpret your continued association with him in the worst possible light! As it is, I see plainly enough that you were ignorant of his true nature, and beguiled by his charm, and I trust you to heed my warning.”

Daniel was now very close to laughing out loud. He could not choose which was funnier: the phant’sy that Isaac Newton was not suspicious-minded, or that Mr. Threader possessed charm. Better change the subject! “But my question is not answered yet. Why did he bite the coin, if he had already weighed it?”

“There is a way to fool the weighing-test,” Isaac said.

“Impossible! Nothing is heavier than gold!”

“I have discovered the existence of gold of greater than twenty-four-carat weight.”

“That is an absurdity,” Daniel said, after a moment’s pause to consider it.

“Your mind, being a logical organ, rejects it,” Isaac said, “because, by definition, pure gold weighs twenty-four carats. Pure gold cannot become purer, hence, cannot be heavier. Of course, I am aware of this. But I say to you that I have with my own hands weighed gold that was heavier than gold that I knew to be pure.”

From any other man on earth-Natural Philosophers included-this would amount to saying, “I was sloppy in the laboratory and got it wrong.” From Sir Isaac Newton, it was truth of Euclidean certainty.

“I am put in mind of the discovery of phosphorus,” Daniel remarked, after considering it for a few moments. “A new element of nature, with properties never before seen. Perhaps there exist other elements of which we are unaware, having properties hitherto unknown. Perhaps there is such an element, similar in many respects to gold, but having a higher specific gravity, and perhaps the gold you spoke of was alloyed with it to make a metal, indistinguishable from gold in its gross properties, but slightly more dense.”

“I give you credit for ingenuity,” Isaac said, slightly amused, “but there is a simpler explanation. Yes, the gold I speak of is alloyed with something: a fluidic essence that fills the interstices among its atoms and gives the metal greater weight. But I believe that this essence is nothing less than-”

“The Philosophick Mercury!” Daniel exclaimed. The words came out of his mouth in a spirit of genuine excitement; bounced off the hard walls of dark wood; and, when they entered his ears, made him cringe at his own idiocy. “You think it is the Philosophick Mercury,” he corrected himself.

“The Subtile Spirit,” Isaac said, not excited, but solemn as Rhadamanthus. “And the goal of Alchemists for thousands of years, ever since the Art was taken into the Orient, and removed from human ken, by its past master, King Solomon.”

“You have been searching for traces of the Philosophick Mercury since we were boys,” Daniel reminded him. “As recently as twenty years ago, your efforts to find even the smallest trace of it had met with abject failure. What has changed?”

“I took your advice, Daniel. I accepted the charge of the Mint from my lord Ravenscar. I initiated the Great Recoinage, which brought vast tonnage of gold plate and bullion out from where it had been hoarded.”

“And you adjusted the ratio in valuation of silver to gold, so that the latter was over-valued,” Daniel said, “which as everyone knows, has practically driven all silver off the island, and attracted gold from every corner of the globe where commerce has spread its tendrils.”

Isaac declined comment.

“Prior to your-” here Daniel was about to say something like terrifying spasm of dementia but corrected himself: “change of career, twenty years ago, you were only able to work with such modest samples of gold as you could buy from local sources. Your appointment to the Mint-combined with the policies you have adopted there-have made the Tower of London the bottle-neck through which all the world’s gold flows, and put you in a position to dip your finger into that flow at will, sampling and testing the gold of many different lands-am I getting it right?”

Isaac nodded, and it seemed he looked almost mischievous, in a naughty-old-man sort of way. “The practice of all Alchemists since the time of Hermes Trismegistus has been to presume that the Gold of Solomon had been forever lost, and to attempt to re-discover his lost Art through patient trials and arcane study. This was the course that defeated me, before what you coyly describe as my change of career. But during my recuperation, as I went to inspect the Mint, and conversed with my predecessors there, I came to realize that the ancient presumption of the Esoteric Brotherhood was no longer true. If Solomon went away into the remotest isles of the Orient, why, Commerce has now gone that far, or farther, and in particular the Spaniards and the Portuguese have left no stone unturned, the world over, in their assiduous search for gold and silver. No matter how far Solomon may have journeyed, he would have left behind traces of his passage, in the form of Solomonic Gold, which is to say, gold made through an Alchemical process, bearing traces of the Philosophick Mercury. In the millennia since his kingdom vanished from the earth, this gold might have passed from one ignorant set of hands to another a thousand times. It might have been taken across wastes by caravans, forged into pagan funeral-masks, plundered from fallen citadels, buried in secret hoards, dug up by thieves, seized by pirates, made into jewels, and coined into specie of diverse realms. But through all of these evolutions it would preserve the traces of the Philosophick Mercury that would provide an infallible proof of its origins. To find it, I need not pore over ancient manuscripts for fragments of Alchemical lore, and I need not venture into far reaches to search for ancient gold with my own hands. I need only position myself like a spider at the center of the global web of commerce, and then so arrange matters that all the world’s gold would flow inwards toward me, as every point of matter in the solar system naturally falls inwards toward the Sun. If I then remained vigilant, and sampled all the gold that came into the Mint to be made into guineas, in time I should be nearly certain of finding some traces of the Solomonic Gold.”

“And now you would appear to have found it,” said Daniel, unwilling to weigh in, yet, on Isaac’s side. “How recently has this occurred?”

“For the first several years there was nothing. Not a trace. I despaired of finding it ever,” Isaac admitted. “Then, during the respite in the War, round 1701, I found a bit of gold heavier than twenty-four carat. I cannot summon words, here and now, to convey my emotions then! It was just a flake of gold leaf, found in a coiner’s shop after it was raided, on my orders, by the King’s Messengers. The coiner himself had been slain during the raid-most frustrating! Several years later, I found a counterfeit guinea that was heavier than it ought to be. In time, I hunted down the coiner who had made it, and interrogated him as to where he had obtained his bullion. He had gotten most of it from conventional sources. But he said that he had recently purchased, through a middleman, a quantity of gold in the form of sheet metal, hand-hammered, about an eighth of an inch thick. Six months later I talked to another coiner who recollected having seen a larger piece of such gold. He said it had been marked on one side with a linear pattern of scrapes, and stained on the other face with tar.”

“Tar!”

“Yes. But I have never seen such a sample with my own eyes. I only find evidence of its existence in coins-counterfeit guineas of a level of quality such that I myself am sometimes deceived by them!”

“So, ’twould appear that whoever has this gold, has hoarded it, and used to spend it, in the form of plates stained with tar. But from time to time he will deliver some of it up to a coiner-”

“Not a coiner but the coiner. Jack. Jack the Coiner. My Nemesis, and my prey, these last twelve years.”

“Jack sounds like an interesting chap,” Daniel allowed, “and I ween I shall learn more of him from you anon-but is it your hypothesis that he has a hoard of these gold sheets somewhere, and coins them from time to time?”

“No. They’re of no use to him hoarded. If he had a hoard, he would coin every last ounce of it, as fast as his coiners could do the work. No, it is my hypothesis that Jack knows the owner of the hoard, and that from time to time that person, wanting some money to spend, takes some plates out, and brings them to Jack.”

“Do you have any notion as to who the hoarder might be?”

“The answer is suggested by the tar, and the scrapes. It is coming from a ship.”

“There is a vague association between tar and ships, but beyond that, I don’t follow you,” Daniel said.

“The information you are wanting is that, among sailors and officers of the French Navy, there is a legend-”

“Ah, in truth I have heard it!” Daniel exclaimed. “But I failed to draw the connexion. You refer to a legendary ship whose hull was plated with gold.”

“Indeed.”

“But ’twould seem that in your view this is no legend.”

“I have studied it,” Isaac announced. “I can now trace the descent of King Solomon’s Gold from the pages of the Bible, down through the ages, to the hull of that ship, and thence to the samples that I have assayed in my laboratory in the Tower of London.”

“Pray tell me the tale then!”

“Most of it is no tale at all. The Islands of King Solomon lie in the Pacific. There his gold rested, undisturbed by men, until round the time that you and I were young, and Huygens’s clock began to tick. A Spanish fleet, driven by a typhoon far off the charted sea-lanes that join Acapulco to Manila, dropped anchor in the Solomons, and took on board certain provisions, including earth to pack round the galley-stoves to protect the planks of the ship from fire. During the voyage home to New Spain, the heat of the fire melted gold-or something that looked like it-out of the sand, and it pooled to form nuggets of astonishing fineness, which were discovered when the ships broke bulk in Acapulco. The Viceroy of New Spain, then just beginning a twenty-five-

year reign, was not slow to send out ships to the Solomons to extract more of this gold, and bring it back to Mexico to be piled up in his personal hoard. At the end of his reign, he caused the Solomonic Gold to be loaded aboard his private brig, which sailed back to Spain in convoy with the Spanish treasure-fleet. They made it safe as far as Cadiz. But then the little brig foolishly sailed alone up to Bonanza, where the Viceroy had caused a villa to be built, in which he phant’sied he would enjoy a wealthy retirement. Before she could be unloaded, she was set upon in the night by pirates, dressed as Turks, and led by the infamous criminal known to us as Half-Cocked Jack, the King of the Vagabonds, and to the French as L’Emmerdeur. The gold was stolen and spirited away in long stages to Hindoostan, where most of it fell into the possession of a heathen potentate, an Amazon pirate-queen, black as char-coal, who had not the faintest understanding of what she had netted. But on those shores, Jack and his confederates used their ill-gotten gains to build a pirate-ship. And from some Dutch shipwrights they had the notion-which was in no way a faulty one, as e’en a stopped Clock is correct twice daily-that if the hull of this ship were cladded, below the waterline, with sheets of smooth metal, she would afford no purchase for barnacles, and repel the attacks of the teredo.”

“ ’Tis a wholly reasonable idea,” Daniel said.

“ ’Twas a good idea, most strangely executed! For, vain and extravagant man that he was, this Jack decreed that the metal be wrought out of solid gold!”

“So the tale told by those French mariners was in no way fanciful,” Daniel concluded.

“I should rather say, ’twas none the less true, for being fanciful!” Isaac returned.

“Do you know where that ship is now?” Daniel asked, trying not to sound nervous; for he knew.

“It is thought that she was christened Minerva. But this is not known with certainty, and is of little use, even if true, as hundreds of ships answer to that name. But I suspect that she still roams the seas, and calls at London from time to time, and that some commerce plays out between Jack the Coiner, and those who sail her. Plates of gold are taken out of her bilge-for make no mistake, they were stripped from her hull and replaced with copper, probably in some unfrequented Caribbean cove, many years ago-and delivered to Jack, who coins them into excellent guineas, with which he poisons Her Majesty’s stock of money. That is the tale of Solomon’s Gold, Daniel. I hoped you would find it a diverting yarn. Why do you look so distracted?”

“I find it very odd that the prize you have sought your entire life, should happen to rest in the hands of the man you describe as your Nemesis.”

“My Nemesis, where Mint work is concerned. In other fields, I have other foes,” Isaac reminded him shortly.

“That is beside my point. Why shouldn’t the hoard of Solomonic Gold lie in a vault in Seville, or at the Vatican, or the Forbidden City of Peking? Of all the places in the world where this gold might have ended up, why should it be in the possession of Jack the Coiner-the one man you’d most like to see being dragged on a sledge to Tyburn?”

“Because its density exceeds that of gold, it is valuable to a counterfeiter.”

“It is more valuable to an Alchemist. Do you suppose Jack knows as much, and do you suppose he is aware that you, Isaac, are an Alchemist?”

“He is a mere criminal.”

“Yes, and a very cosmopolitan one, from the sounds of it.”

“I assure you he has not the faintest comprehension of matters Alchemical.”

“Neither do I. And yet I understand that you desire this gold!”

“What does it matter? He knows that I wish to hunt him down and bring him to justice-that is enough.”

“Isaac, you have a habit of under-estimating the intelligence of anyone who is not you. Perhaps this Jack is using the Solomonic Gold to bait you.”

“What matters it if a mouse baits a lion?”

“Depends on whether the lion is being baited into single combat with that mouse, or into a pit-fall with sharpened stakes at the bottom.”

“I do not think your analogy is applicable. But I am grateful for your expression of concern. Now let us end all tedious disputes about Jack, by ending Jack!”

“Did you say ‘us’?”

“Yes! Yes, I did. As there are only two men in this room, I can only have meant, you and I. As we shared a room, and worked together, at the beginning of our lives, so shall we do now, as we near their ends.”

“What possible use could I be in helping to apprehend Jack the Coiner?”

“You have come from America on a mysterious errand. You have traveled in the company of a notorious weigher, and I am told that you are up to some occult doings in a hole in the ground in Clerkenwell.”

“Not true, unless you count real estate development as one of the black arts.”

“If you were now to announce yourself, to the criminal underworld of London, as a weigher, in possession of gold from America-”

“I beg your pardon, but I really do not wish to announce myself to the criminal underworld as anything!”

“But supposing you did, why, you might be able to establish contacts with Jack’s subtile net-work of informants and Black-guards.”

“That is the second time today I have heard ‘Black-guard’ spoken in those portentous tones. I thought a Black-guard was a boy who polished boots.”

“Some of those boys have got rather big, and found employment even lower, and even blacker,” Isaac remarked.

“Then I’ll have nothing to do with any Black-guard.”

“If you have heard some other man speaking the word to-day, ’twould seem that you already do have something to do with them,” said Isaac, amused, “which would hardly surprise me considering the company you have been keeping.”

Daniel was silent. But only because he could not divulge to Isaac that his only motive in speaking to the sort of man who spoke of the Black-guard-men such as Peter Hoxton-was to track down whatever remnants Hooke had left behind.

Isaac read his silence as submission. Given more time, Daniel might have disabused Isaac of any such ideas, and extricated himself. But a servant was knocking at the door. A minute earlier Daniel had heard someone calling briefly at the front door of the house, presumably to deliver a message, and now it had penetrated to the study, and interrupted their discourse at the worst possible moment for Daniel. He wondered whether the servant had been lurking outside the door, waiting to knock at some subtle signal from Isaac: I have sprung the trap, now interrupt us lest he wriggle free!

“Enter!” Isaac commanded, and in came the servant who’d admitted Daniel earlier, holding a rectangle of good paper with a few lines scrawled over it in a lazy, important hand. As Isaac decyphered the penmanship, and considered the import, and discussed it in a hushed, elliptical manner with his servant, Daniel had his first opportunity to review all that had passed since he had breezed into this room with a riddle concerning guineas.

What had he expected? He had expected that, at best, Isaac would be cool and distant. At worst, he’d know that Daniel was striving to preserve some memory of Hooke, and corresponding with and running errands for Leibniz, and would tear Daniel’s beating heart out of his chest then and there, like an Aztec priest. Those had seemed the most likely outcomes. If some oracle had let him know in advance that he was to have a long, cordial, even friendly conversation with Isaac, he’d have accounted it a triumph. And maybe it was-but it was Isaac’s triumph and not Daniel’s. Whether or not Isaac knew of Daniel’s concealed loyalty to Hooke and Leibniz, he had clearly got it into his mind that Daniel needed to be kept close, and kept busy.

“We’ve not even had time to broach the subject of Baron von Leibniz’s pretensions concerning the calculus,” Isaac announced in a chummy voice that was very odd coming from him, “and here it is time for me to be on my way.”

“I consider myself fortunate indeed to have taken up as much of your time as I have done,” Daniel said, trying not to sound ironic about it.

“The good fortune is all mine, and I assure you that the meeting I go to now shall never be half so enjoyable as this!” Isaac returned. “If the Mint were strictly a temple of Natural Philosophy-as it ought to be-supervising it would be pure pleasure. As it is, I waste many hours in meetings of a political nature.” He was getting to his feet.

“Is it Whigs or Tories today, then?” Daniel asked, rising. From here on out it would be all banter: pleasant noises that might as well have been spoken in Iroquois.

“Germans,” Isaac returned, offering him priority out the door. Catherine Barton, or someone, must have taught him manners.

“Really! They’ll be running the country soon enough, why are they pestering you now?”

They paused in a hall so that Isaac could shrug off his scarlet robe and have a vest and coat thrown across his shoulders by a valet. “They don’t pester me, but other men, of higher station-ramifications ensue,” Isaac said. “I would offer to convey you somewhere, but my conveyance only has room for one. May I have a hackney summoned for you?”

“I’ll walk, thank you,” Daniel said. Isaac followed him into the vestibule, which was crowded. Two large men were in here, smelling of the street. Between them stood a vertical black box, open on one side to reveal a crimson leather seat. Isaac sidled into it, smoothing the skirts of his coat under him. A servant stood at the ready to slam the door to.

“I shall hear from you concerning the proposal that I made,” Isaac predicted. “And do let’s not forget to have a conversation, some day soon, about the calculus.”

“Not a day passes without my thinking of it,” Daniel answered. With that the door was latched shut. Isaac had vanished inside the black box. His voice came out of it clearly, “God save the Queen, Daniel,” reminding Daniel that the only thing between them was a sheer black screen through which Isaac could see and hear everything, though he was quite invisible to anyone outside.

“God save the Queen,” Daniel returned, and then he followed the sedan chair out the door and onto St. Martin’s. Isaac was carried rapidly southwards, toward St. James’s and Westminster and all things great and important. Daniel, not wanting the awkwardness of walking along abreast of Isaac’s chair, went the other way.

Passing immediately through a gate at the head of the lane, he came out into an open plaza, squarish, about a bow-shot on a side. This was called Leicester Fields, and on three sides-including the one where Daniel had entered-it was now hemmed in by the sort of new town-houses that had started going up all round here after the Fire. But on the north edge-which Daniel was facing directly across a few hundred feet of open turf-it was walled off by one of the few remaining old-fashioned Tudor compounds: a congeries of red brick and half-timbered buildings called Leicester House. It had formerly been one of the few houses around London deemed suitable for royalty to dwell in, and had been used by diverse Tudor and Stuart princes as a palace. Elizabeth Stuart had dwelt there before she’d gone off to Europe to become the Winter Queen and to spawn Sophie and many others. Changes in the royal line had weakened the sentimental ties to this house, and the re-building of London in a new style had quite over-shadowed it and made it seem a mere English farm-house.

As Daniel came into Leicester Fields, he gazed in that direction curiously, trying to get his bearings, like a mariner looking for the old familiar stars. He saw a lot of horses and vehicles in front of the place, and felt a pang, supposing that the wreckers had arrived to tear it down. But as he strolled across the Fields, creating localized panics among sheep and chickens, he perceived that these were not rubbish-wagons but baggage-carts, and rather well-maintained ones at that. Among them was a carriage, a coach-and-four drawn by a matched set of black horses. A woman was alighting from that carriage, walking away from Daniel toward the house, and servants were drawn up in two lines to greet her. Daniel could not see anything of the woman, other than that she was petite, and trim. Her head was shrouded in a voluminous silk scarf covering a big hat or wig. And he was too far away, and his eyes were too far gone, to resolve lips, eyes, and noses on the faces of those servants. But something in their posture, and in the way they turned their faces and bodies toward the woman as she progressed across the court, told Daniel that they were smiling. They loved her.

At the apex of this formation, where the two lines of servants came together in front of the house’s main entrance, stood a man who was not a servant: he was dressed in the clothes of a gentleman. But there was something odd about him, which Daniel could not make sense of until he went into movement, extending a leg to make a low bow, and accepting the woman’s hand to kiss it. The man’s skin was entirely black. The woman took his arm and the black man escorted her into Leicester House; the lines of servants broke up and everyone made him- or herself busy unloading the baggage carts, amp;c.

As there was nothing more to see, Daniel turned on his heel and ambled toward the edge of Leicester Fields; and as he did, he became aware that he was only one part of a general slow evacuation. Diverse tinkers, vagabonds, strolling gentlemen, and boot-blacks were also making their way towards the exits, and in the fronts of the new town-houses around the square, curtains were being drawn.

Leicester House


TEN SECONDS LATER

HE WAS OBLIGED TO PURSUE her to the upper storey, for she talked as she went. She stormed a long dangerous wooden staircase and then faltered, only for an instant, as a great splintery-looking wooden door had presented itself in her way. By the time Dappa could get the words “Allow me-” past his lips, she’d clobbered it with her shoulder, got it open, and vanished into a big-sounding space yonder. The door remained ajar, shuddering from end to end.

He took the last few steps with some care. His legs, anyway, were unused to pushing off against things that did not pitch and roll. After all he’d been through, he didn’t want to die falling down a nasty old stairway in a strange English house.

They were now in an isosceles triangle made by the converging planes of the roof and a somewhat dodgy floor of loose deals. In any house made to normal scale it would have been pigeon-nesting space, but here it was large enough to throw a country dance.

Dappa wished he had some sailors with him, so that they could all share a good laugh at this room. Persons who fell into the habit of dwelling on dry land soon acquired queer and comical ways. They forgot that everything in God’s creation moved, and they fell into the phant’sy that an object, such as a wardrobe, could be dragged to a certain position in a room such as this one, covered with a sail, and let go of, without in any way being lashed down, and that twenty years later one might come back and find it just where it had been left.

Certain of these people then let themselves go altogether. Rooms such as this one were the monuments that they built to themselves. The draped furniture, crated paintings, and heaps of books were as chock-a-block as ice-floes driven into a blind cove by a boreal breeze. Spiders had been at work: a Navy of diligent riggers working day and night to tie it all down and lash it smartly together. Eliza was undoing their work, moving down the length of the room in carefully considered lunges and clever sideways darts. Her gown was growing a diaphanous train of cobwebs, and her wake in the air was visible as a serrated line of dust-explosions and plunging vortices. She was thinking hard about which way to go next, and had forgotten to talk.

Wee dormers were cut into the pitch of the roof every few yards, shedding plentiful light, and giving Dappa an excellent prospect of the many ways he could soil his dark suit if he attempted to follow her. Forgetting that this house could be trusted not to move under his feet, he reached up with one hand and braced it absent-mindedly on a tie-beam running between rafters above his head. A small avalanche of pale gray bat-shit tumbled down his sleeve and made itself one with the expensive black wool. “ ’Tis well my head’s grizzled to begin with,” he muttered, and then was struck by how well his voice carried down the utterly silent room.

“Beg pardon?”

“Never mind, only grumbling and muttering.”

“It is all right,” she called back in her alert way. “Do keep in mind, though, that when we are in the presence of others-especially, Persons of Quality-”

“Then you are my noble patroness,” Dappa said, “and I the ink-stained wretch. So very ink-stained, as to’ve become black from head to toe, save the soles of my feet, where I walk about collecting slave-narratives-”

“And the palm of your hand, where you grip your quill. I recognize these phrases from the Apology of your new manuscript,” she said, favoring him with a trace of a smile.

“Ah, you’ve read it!”

“Of course I have,” she answered, affronted. “Why ever not?”

“I was afraid you might have grown weary of slave-tales. I fear they are repetitious. ‘I was seized by raiders from the next village…traded to the tribe across the river…marched to the edge of the great water, marked with a hot iron, put aboard ship, dragged off of it half dead, now I chop sugar cane.’ ”

“All human stories are in some sense repetitious, if you boil them down so far. Yet people fall in love.”

“What?”

“They fall in love, Dappa. With a particular man or woman, and no one else. Or a woman will have a baby, and love that baby forever…no matter how similar its tale might seem to those of other babies.”

“You are saying,” Dappa said, “that we make connections with other souls, despite the sameness-”

“There is no sameness. If you looked down upon the world from above, like an albatross, you might phant’sy there was some sameness among the people crowding the land below you. But we are not albatrosses, we see the world from ground level, from within our own bodies, through our own eyes, each with our own frame of reference, which changes as we move about, and as others move about us. This sameness is a conceit of yours, an author’s hobgoblin, something you fret about in your hammock late at night.”

“In truth, I have my own cabin, and do my fretting in a bed nowadays.”

Eliza did not answer. Quite some time ago she had reached the far end of the room, which Dappa guessed was the front of the house, and during this exchange she had been peering out across Leicester Fields through a tiny round window. If this were a ship, she’d be keeping her eye on the weather. But it wasn’t; so what could she be looking at?

“All that is wanted,” she continued distractedly, “is for a reader to recognize a kindred soul in a single one of your narratives, and that will suffice to prove, for that reader, that Slavery is an abomination.”

“Perhaps we should be printing them up separately, as pamphlets.”

“Broadsheets are cheaper, and may be posted on walls, et cetera.”

“Ah, you are far ahead of me.”

“Distribution is my concern-Collection is yours.”

“What are you looking out the window for? Afraid you were followed?”

“When a Duchess comes off a foreign ship in the Pool and travels through London in a train of a dozen coaches and waggons, she is followed,” Eliza said levelly. “I am taking a census of my followers.”

“See anyone you know?”

“There is an aged Puritan I think I recognize…and some nasty Tories…and too many curtain-twitching neighbors to count.” She turned away from the window and demanded, in a wholly new tone of voice, “Anything good from Boston?”

“They are mostly Angolans there, and my command of that language is not what it used to be. The Barkers have become so aggressive in Massachusetts-handing out pamphlets on street-corners…”

This, which he’d thought she’d find interesting intelligence, bored her right back to gazing out the window. Of course she would know precisely what the Barkers were up to in Massachusetts. “The result,” he continued, “is that the slave-owners there are more watchful than the ones in, say, Brazil, and when they see their slave having a lengthy conversation with a strange well-dressed Blackamoor-”

“You did not collect anything useful in Boston,” she said shortly.

“Am I too discursive in my responses, your grace?”

“Am I too much the Editor?” She was done peering, and was returning to him.

“This room is the reverse of a Bilge,” Dappa realized. “That is, if you took Minerva and capsized her, so that her masts were pointed straight down towards the center of the earth, then her keel would be high and dry, like this ridge-beam above our heads, and the hull-planks would form a pitched roof.”

“And it would still be crowded with stored objects, like this garret.”

“Is that what you call it?”

“Starving writers live in them.”

“Is that an offer of lodgings, or a threat of starvation?”

“It depends on whether you bring back some apt Narrations from your next sea-voyage,” she said with a smile. She’d come abreast of him now, and took his arm. “Where to next?”

“Boston again.”

They could see down those stairs now. Servants were standing anxiously below, coming in earshot. “And your grace?” Dappa added, distinctly.

“Oh-do you mean, where am I off to next?”

“Yes, my lady. You’ve just returned from Hanover, I gad?”

“Antwerp,” she whispered. “I am here now, Dappa, for-what do you call it-the long haul.”

They descended the stairs-a simple procedure made longer and more complicated than it ought to have been by the helpful strivings of the servants, and of some members of the Duchess’s household. Dappa’s ear, ever tuned to languages, picked out an exchange in German between two young women. They were dressed as if they were merely Gentle. But Dappa thought they carried themselves Nobly.

DAPPA HAD FIRST SEEN ELIZA some twenty years earlier. He’d been eager to hate her. He, Jack, van Hoek, and Vrej Esphahnian had sailed from Vera Cruz on a ship full of gold, bound for London or Amsterdam, and had diverted to Qwghlm only because of Jack’s infatuation with this woman. The letter that had lured them there had turned out to be a trick, a forgery from the hand of the Jesuit father Edouard de Gex, and Minerva had fallen into a trap laid for them there by the French. A kind of justice had been served on Jack. Dappa, van Hoek, and the crew of Minerva had been allowed to sail away, but only after the gold in Minerva’s hold had been seized by the French. They’d been left with nothing more than the thin plates of gold that had been put on the hull, below the water-line, when the ship had been built on a Hindoostan beach. That, and the ship itself. Minerva was a home and an income, but only as long as they continued sailing her to and fro. They had, in other words, been condemned to spend the rest of their lives in dangerous toils and wanderings. This suited van Hoek perfectly. Not so much Dappa.

They did not own Minerva. The owners were, in order of precedence, Queen Kottakkal of Malabar, Electress Sophie of Hanover, van Hoek, Dappa, Jack Shaftoe, and some old comrades of theirs who at last report were dwelling on the isle of Queenah-Kootah, off Borneo. For the most part these investors were far away and had not the faintest idea of how to reach them, which were good investors to have. Even Sophie reigned over a land-locked Electorate. But in time they received a message written in her hand and bearing her seal, letting them know that she was naming Eliza, Duchess of Arcachon and of Qwghlm, as her proxy, and that they should report to her whenever they dropped anchor in the Pool of London, to hand over Sophie’s share of the profits, and to be managed.

Dappa had gone to the first such meeting with dim expectations. He and the others had heard so much of this Duchess’s beauty from Jack, and, at the same time, had learned to harbor such grave reservations as to Jack’s powers of discernment, that he could only expect to be confronted with some one-toothed, poxy hag.

The event was rather different. To begin with, the woman had been all of about thirty-five years old. She had all of her teeth and had come through smallpox with only moderate scarring. So she was, for a start, not loathsome. She had keen blue eyes and yellow hair, which of course looked bizarre to Dappa. But he’d grown used to van Hoek, a red-head, which proved he could adjust to anything. Her small nose and mouth would have been considered beautiful among the Chinese, and in due time he understood that many European men’s tastes ran along similar lines. If her nose and cheeks had not been disfigured by freckles, Dappa might have been able to bring himself round to thinking she was attractive. But she was small-waisted and bony. In every way, Eliza was the opposite of voluptuous. Voluptuous was what Dappa liked, and from the looks of the sculptures and frescoes he observed round London and Amsterdam, his tastes seemed to be shared by many a European man.

The topic of their first meeting had been Accounting. And so even if Dappa had felt the slightest attraction for the woman at the beginning of the day, it would long since have vanished when he stumbled out the door of her town-house twelve hours later. Eliza, it turned out, had a vicious head for numbers, and wanted to know where every farthing had gone since Minerva’s keel had been laid. Considering all they’d been through, her questions had been impertinent. Many a man would have back-handed her across the face, most would have stormed out. But Eliza was representing one of the most powerful persons in Christendom, a woman who could destroy Minerva in so many different ways, that her only difficulty would lay in choice of weapon. Dappa had checked his temper partly because of that, but also partly because he knew in his heart that Minerva ought to keep her books more carefully. They had lost their two members who knew how to keep accounts: Moseh de la Cruz, who had gone to colonize the country north of the Rio Grande, and Vrej Esphahnian, who had given his life revenging himself on the ones who had ensnared them. Since then, the books had become a mess. He’d known for a long time that a settling of accounts would have to come some day and that it would be ugly and painful. It could have come about in worse ways than over a table with this funny-looking young Duchess.

In the years since, they’d met from time to time to settle accounts. She’d learned of his strange habit of collecting and writing down slave-stories (“Why do you spend so much of our money on paper and ink!? What are you doing, throwing it overboard?”) and she had become his publisher (“We can at least endeavour to make your hobby pay its own way.”). Years had gone by. He had wondered how she would age. Unable to think of her as a woman (for to him Queen Kottakkal, six feet tall and three hundred pounds, was a woman), he had made up his mind, after seeing a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London, that she was a f?ry. What did an old, or even a middle-aged, f?ry-queen look like?

THEY SAT DOWN now in a little upstairs chamber of Leicester House, less formal than a Withdrawing Room, and she fearlessly took a seat facing a window. Moreover, a west-facing window that was admitting red sunset-light. Dappa studied her.

“What do you see?” she asked, studying him back.

“I can no longer see you as anything other than my friend, patroness, and Lady, Eliza,” he answered. “Marks of age, health, experience, and character, which a stranger might phant’sy he perceived in your face, are invisible to me.”

“But what do you really see?”

“I have not looked at enough skinny white women to be an apt judge. But I see that bone structure is a good thing to have, and that you have it; lo, the Creator hung you on an excellent frame.”

She found this curiously amusing. “Have you ever seen an Arcachon, or an honest rendering of one?”

“Only you, my lady.”

“I mean, an hereditary Arcachon. Suffice it to say that they are not hung on good frames, and they well know it. And I owe my position in the world today, not to wit or courage or goodness, but to my being hung on a good frame, and being able to propagate it. And what think you of that, Dappa?”

“If it provides you with a sort of purchase on the sheer cliff that the world is, from which to make use of your abundant wit, courage, and goodness, why, here’s to bone structure!” Dappa returned, raising a teacup high.

She lost a struggle with a smile. Creases flourished around her eyes and mouth, but they did not look bad on her; they looked well earned and fairly won. She raised her own teacup and clinked it against Dappa’s. “Now you really do sound like the Apology of a book,” she said, and sipped.

“Are we back to talking of that, my lady?”

“We are.”

“I’d hoped I could ask you about those Hanoverian Countesses who seem to’ve joined your household in Antwerp.”

“What makes you think they are only Countesses?”

Dappa gave her a sharp look, but she had a glimmer in her eye to suggest that she was only baiting him. “ ’Twas only a guess,” he said.

“Then go on guessing, for I’ll tell you no more than you’ve already discerned.”

“Why Antwerp? Meeting with the Duke of Marlborough?”

“The less I tell you, the less likely you are to be interrogated by the sort of men who loiter in my front lawn with spyglasses.”

“Very well…if you put it that way…perhaps we should speak of my book!” Dappa said nervously.

She got a contented look, as if to say that this was a much more satisfactory topic of conversation, and settled herself for a moment-which gave Dappa a warning that she was about to unburden herself of a little address she’d composed ahead of time. “What you must never forget, Dappa, is that I myself might not be opposed to Slavery, had I not myself been a slave in Barbary! To most English people, it seems perfectly reasonable. The slavers put out the story that it is not so very cruel, and that the slaves are happy. Most in Christendom are willing to believe these lies, absurd as they are to you and me. People believe Slavery is not so bad, because they have no personal experience of it-it takes place in Africa and America, out of sight and out of mind to the English, who love sugar in their tea and care not how ’twas made.”

“I notice you do not sweeten yours,” Dappa mentioned, raising his cup.

“And from the fact that I still have teeth attached to my excellent bone structure, you may infer that I have never used sugar,” she returned. “Our only weapon against this willful ignorance is stories. The stories that you alone are writing down. I have in one of my boxes down stairs a little packet of letters from English men and women that all go something like this: ‘I have never had the least objection to Slavery, however your book recently fell under my eye, and, though most of the slave-narratives contained in it were mawkish and dull, one in particular struck a chord in my heart, and I have since read it over and over, and come to understand the despicable, nay execrable crime that Slavery is…’ ”

“Which one? Which of the stories do these letters refer to?” Dappa asked, fascinated.

“That is the problem, Dappa: each of them refers to a different one. It seems that if you put enough stories out before the public, many a reader will find one that speaks to him. But there is no telling which.”

“What we’ve been doing, then, is a bit like firing grapeshot,” Dappa mused. “Chances are that a ball will strike home-but there’s no telling which-so, best fire a lot of ’em.”

“And grapeshot is a useful tactic sometimes,” Eliza said, “but it never sank a ship, did it?”

“No, my lady, grapeshot can never do that.”

“I say we have now fired enough grapeshot. It has had all the effect it is ever going to have. What we need now, Dappa, is a cannonball.”

“One slave-tale, that everyone will take note of?”

“Just so. And that is why it does not trouble me that you failed to sweep up any more grapeshot in Boston. Oh, write down what you have. Send it to me. I’ll publish it. But after that, no more scatter-shot tactics. You must begin to use your critical faculties, Dappa, and look for the slave-story that has something to it beyond the bathos that they all have in common. Look for the one that will be our cannonball. It is time for us to sink some slave-ships.”

The Kit-Cat Clubb


THAT EVENING

“I AM QUITE CERTAIN THAT we are being watched,” Daniel said.

Dappa laughed. “Is that why you were at such pains to sit facing the window? I venture that no one in the history of this Clubb has ever desired a view of yonder alley.”

“You might do well to come round the table, and sit beside me.”

“I know what I’d see: a lot of Whigs gaping at the tame Neeger. Why don’t you come and sit beside me, so that we may enjoy a view of that naked lady reclining in that strangely long and narrow painting above your head?”

“She’s not naked,” Daniel retorted crossly.

“On the contrary, Dr. Waterhouse, I see incontrovertible signs of nakedness in her.”

“But to call her naked sounds prurient,” Daniel objected. “She is professionally attired, for an odalisque.”

“Perhaps all the eyeballs you phant’sy are watching us, are, truth be told, fixed on her. She is a new painting, I can still smell the varnish. Perhaps we should instead go sit ’neath yonder dusty sea-scape,” Dappa suggested, waving in the direction of another long narrow canvas that was crowded with stooped and shivering Dutch clam-diggers.

“I happened to see you greeting the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm earlier,” Daniel confessed.

“She goes by de la Zeur-’tis less formal that way,” Dappa broke in.

Daniel was brought up short for a moment, then finally got a wry look on his face, and shook his head. “You are strangely giddy. I should never have ordered you usquebaugh.”

“Too long on land.”

“When do you sail for Boston?”

“Ah, to business! We’d hoped to depart in the second half of April. Now, we think early May. What do you wish us to fetch from there?”

“Twenty years’ work. I do hope you shall have a care with it.”

“In what form is the work? Manuscripts?”

“Yes, and machinery.”

“That is an odd word. What does it mean?”

“I beg your pardon. It is theatre-jargon. When an angel descends, or a soul lights up to heaven, or a volcano erupts, or any other impossible thing seems to happen on the stage, the people behind the scenes, who’ve made it happen, give the name machinery to the diverse springs, levers, rigging, et cetera used to create the illusion.”

“I did not know you ran a theatre in Boston.”

“You jest, sir, the Bostonians would never have allowed it-they’d have sent me packing to Providence.”

“Then how comes it you have machinery in Boston?”

“I used the term ironically. I built a machine there-across the river actually, in a shack about halfway ’tween Charlestown and Harvard-a machine that has nothing to do with theatrical illusions. I need you to bring it to me.”

“Then I must know, in order: Is it dangerous? Is it bulky? Is it delicate?”

“In order: yes, no, yes.”

“In what wise is it dangerous?”

“I’ve no idea. But I’ll tell you this, ’tis only dangerous if you turn the crank, and give it something to think on.”

“Then I’ll take the crank off and keep it in my cabin, and use it only to bash pirates on the head,” announced Dappa. “And I shall forbid the crew to hold conversations with your machinery, unless they are devoid of intellectual stimulation: nothing beyond a polite ‘Good day, machinery, how goes it with thee, does the stump of thy crank ache of a damp morning?’ ”

“I suggest you pack the parts in barrels, stuffed with straw. You shall also find many thousands of small rectangular cards with words and numbers printed on them. These are likewise to be sealed in watertight casks. Enoch Root may already have seen to it by the time you reach Charlestown.”

At the mention of Enoch’s name, Dappa glanced away from Daniel’s face, as if the older man had committed an indiscretion, and picked up his dram to take a sip. And that was all the opening needed for the Marquis of Ravenscar to irrupt upon their conversation. He appeared so suddenly, so adroitly, it was as if some machinery had injected him into the Kit-Cat Clubb through a trap-door.

“From one odalisque to another, Mr. Dappa! Haw! Is it not so! For I take it that you are the writer.”

“I am a writer, my lord,” Dappa answered politely.

“I hope I do not offend by confessing I’ve not read your books.”

“On the contrary, my lord,” Dappa said, “there is nothing quite so civilized as to be recognized in public places as the author of books no one has read.”

“If my good friend Dr. Waterhouse were polite enough to make introductions, I should not have to rely ’pon guess-work; but he was raised by Phanatiques.”

“It is too late for formalities now,” Daniel answered. “When another begins a conversation with a cryptickal outburst on odalisques, what is there for a polite gentleman to do?”

“Not cryptickal at all! Not in the slightest!” protested the Marquis of Ravenscar. “Why, ’tis known to all London now, at” (checking his watch) “nine o’clock, that at” (checking his watch a second time) “four o’clock, Mr. Dappa was on hand to greet the Duchess of Arcachon and of Qwghlm!”

“I told you!” Daniel said, in an aside to Dappa, and put his two fingers to his eyes, then pointed them across the room toward the phant’sied spies and observers.

“You told him what!?” Roger demanded.

“That people were watching us.”

“They’re not watching you,” Roger said, highly amused. Which told Daniel, infallibly, that they were. “Why should anyone watch you? They’re watching Dappa, making the rounds of the odalisques!”

“There you go again-what on earth-?” Daniel demanded.

Dappa explained, “He alludes to a sort of legend, only whispered by discreet well-bred Londoners, but openly bandied about by drunken merry lords, that the Duchess was once an odalisque.”

“Figuratively-?”

“Literally a harem-slave of the Great Turk in Constantinople.”

“What a bizarre notion-Roger, how could you?”

Roger, slightly nettled by Dappa, raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

Dappa proclaimed, “England being a nation of clam-diggers and sheep-shearers, must forever be a net importer of fantastickal tales. Silk, oranges, perfume, and strange yarns must all be supplied from across the seas.”

“If only you knew,” Daniel returned.

“I agree with Mr. Dappa!” Roger said forcefully. “The story of his tete-a-tete with the Duchess is racing up and down Grub Street like cholera, and will be in newspapers tomorrow at cock-crow!”

And then he was gone, as if by trap-door.

“You see? If you were more discreet-”

“Then Grub Street would be unawares. Nothing would be written, nothing printed, concerning me, or the Duchess. No one would hear of us-no one would buy my next book.”

“Ah.”

“Light dawns ’pon your phizz, Doctor.”

“ ’Tis a novel, strange form of commerce, of which I was unawares until just now.”

“Only in London,” Dappa said agreeably.

“But it is not the strangest form of commerce that goes on in this city,” Daniel pressed on.

Dappa visibly put on an innocent face. “Do you have some strange yarn to set beside my lord Ravenscar’s?”

“Much stranger. And, note, ’tis a domestic yarn, not imported. Dappa, do you recollect when we were being harried in Cape Cod Bay by the flotilla of Mr. Ed Teach, and you put me to work, down in the bilge?”

“You were in the hold. We do not put elderly doctors in the bilge.”

“All right, all right.”

“I remember that you obliged us by smashing up some old crockery to make ammunition for the blunderbusses,” Dappa said.

“Yes, and I remember that the location of that old crockery was pricked down, with admirable clarity, on a sort of bill posted on a beam next the staircase. A diagram, shewing how the hold, and the bilge, were packed with diverse goods.”

“There you go again with your confusion of ‘hold’ and ‘bilge.’ We do not pack goods in the bilge, as it is generally full of what I will euphemistically call water, which rapidly turns goods into bads. If you doubt it, I’ll pack some of your machinery in the bilge on our return voyage this summer, and you may see its condition ’pon arrival. If you had any idea of the foulness-”

Daniel was showing Dappa his palms. “Not necessary, my good man. Yet your lading-diagram does include the bilge, and all that lies in that foulness, does it not?”

“Are you referring to the ballast?”

“I suppose I am.”

“The ballast is carefully diagrammed, because it affects the balance and the trim of the ship,” Dappa said. “From time to time we must shift a few tons this way or that, to compensate for an uneven load, and then it is of course useful to have a diagram of where it is.”

“As I recollect that diagram, the bottom-most hull-planks of the ship are covered with flat rectangular iron pigs, laid down side by side, like floor-tiles.”

“Kentledge, ’tis called. We also have some cracked cannons and old faulty cannonballs down there.”

“Atop that, you have piled many tons of rounded stones.”

“Shingle from a Malabar beach. Some use sand, but we use shingle, because it does not foul the pumps.”

“It is atop the shingle that you pile up casks of shot, salt, water, and other heavy goods.”

“As is the common-nay, universal-practice on non-capsizing ships.”

“But I recall that another layer of ballast was shewn on this diagram. It was below any casks, below the shingle, below the scrap metal, below even the kentledge. It was the thinnest possible layer, a mere membrane, and on the diagram it looked like onion-skin. It was pressed against the tarry inner surface of the hull-planks themselves, and it went by some name such as anti-fouling plates.”

“What of it?”

“Why put anti-fouling plates on the inside?”

“They are spares. You must have noticed that we carry extra stores of everything, Dr. Waterhouse. Minerva’s hull is clad in copper sheets-she’s famous for it-and the last time we had a coppersmith make up an order of such material, we had him make more than we needed, so as to get a better price, and to have some in reserve.”

“Are you certain you are not confusing them with the spares that are stowed in crates near the foremast step? I seem to recall sitting on them.”

“Some are stored there. Others are stored against the inside of the hull-planks, under the kentledge, as you described.”

“What an odd place to store anything. To get at them, one would have to unload the ship entirely, pump out the unspeakable contents of the bilge, shovel out tons of shingle, and winch up the massive pigs of kentledge, one by one.”

Dappa did not respond, but had taken to drumming his fingers on the table irritably.

“It seems more like buried treasure than ballast.”

“If you’d care to test your hypothesis, Doctor, you may do so the next time we are dry-docked, provided you show up with your own shovel.”

“Is that what you say to inquisitive Customs inspectors?”

“We are more polite to them-as they generally are to us.”

“But politeness aside, the underlying meaning is the same. The hold may be emptied, if some official demands it. Minerva shall then bob like a cork, but she shall not capsize, thanks to the ballast. But those anti-fouling plates may not be inspected unless the ballast is removed, which would render the vessel unstable-it could only be done if she were beached, or in dry-dock-as she was just a few weeks ago. No Customs inspector ever demands that, does he?”

“This is a very odd conversation,” Dappa observed.

“On an arbitrary numerical scale of conversational oddness, ranging from one to ten, with ten being the oddest conversation I’ve ever had, and seven being the oddest conversation I have in a typical day, this rates no better than five,” Daniel returned. “But to make it less odd for you, I shall now speak directly. I know what those plates are made of. I know that you take some out from time to time, when you are in London, and I know that they find their way into the coinage. It does not matter to me how this is done, or why. But I say to you that you are putting yourselves in danger every time you spend the treasure from that bilge. You imagine that it may be fused, in a coiner’s crucible, with like metal from other sources, and that, once it has been thus con-fused, it has gone out into the world, and can never be traced back to you. But I say that there is one man, at least, who is not con-fused in the slightest, and who has drawn to within a hair’s breadth of divining your secret. You may find him at the Tower of London most days.”

Dappa had been greatly disquieted early in this little speech, but then had got a distracted, calculating look, as if reckoning how quickly Minerva could weigh anchor and get out of the Pool. “And you tell me this-why? To be good?”

“As you were good to me, Dappa, when Blackbeard called for me by name, and you refused to give me up.”

“Oh. We did not do that out of goodness, but stubbornness.”

“Then my warning to you is strictly an act of Christian charity,” Daniel said.

“God bless you, Doctor!” Dappa replied, but he was still wary.

“Until such time as we arrive at an understanding concerning the disposition of the gold,” Daniel added.

“There is something in this word disposition that makes me leery. How do you imagine we’ll dispose of it?”

“You have to get rid of it before it is found by the gentleman I spoke of,” Daniel pointed out. “But if you coin it, ’twill be as if you sailed Minerva under the guns of the Tower at noon, and ran those sheets of gold up the yard-arms.”

“But what good is it, if not coined?”

“Gold has other uses,” Daniel said. “Of which I shall tell you more some day. But not today. For we are approached by Peer, and must bring the oddness of our discourse down to a value of one or two on the scale I mentioned earlier.”

“Peer? Who or what is Peer?”

“For a man who, moments ago, was lecturing me ’pon the workings of Grub Street, you’ve not been attending to your newspapers at all, have you?”

“I know it exists, how it works, and that it’s important, but-”

“I read the papers every day. Let me tell you quickly then: there is a newspaper called Ye Lens which was started by Whigs, when their Juncto held power; several clever men write for it; Peer is not one of them.”

“You mean, he doesn’t write for the Ye Lens?”

“No, I mean he is not very clever.”

“How’d he get the job, then?”

“By being in the House of Lords, and always taking the Whig side.”

“Ah, so he is a peer!”

“A Peer of the Realm, with writerly ambitions. And as he writes for the Lens, and a lens is something you peer through, he has given himself the pen-name of Peer.”

“This is the longest prolog to an introduction I’ve ever heard,” Dappa remarked. “When is he actually going to show up?”

“I believe he-they-are waiting for you to notice them,” Daniel said, pointing with his eyeballs. “Brace yourself.”

Dappa narrowed his eyes, flared his nostrils, and then torqued himself round in his chair until he had-heeding Daniel’s sage advice-braced one elbow on the table.

Facing him from roughly twelve feet away were the Marquis of Ravenscar, planted stolidly on the booze-slickened Kit-Cat floor-boards, and an even better-dressed chap, who was dangling by both arms from one of the Clubb’s low-hanging beams, his impeccably shod feet swinging back and forth just a few inches above the floor.

When this man saw that Dappa was looking his direction, he let go and dropped to the floor with a loud, chesty “Hoo!” His knees bent deeply, creating alarming strains in the crotch of his breeches, and allowing his knuckles to dangle near the floor. After making certain he’d caught Dappa’s eye, he moved in a waddling gait to the Marquis of Ravenscar, who was standing still as a star, his face pinched up in a pickled smile.

Peer now pursed his lips, thrust them out as far as they would go, and, glancing back frequently to make sure he still had Dappa’s attention, began to make little “Hoo! Hoo!” noises while circling cautiously around Roger. After completing a full orbit of Roger, he shuffled in closer, leaned in so that he was almost nuzzling Roger’s shoulder, and began to make snuffling noises whilst cocking his head this way and that. Noting something apparently caught in the tresses of Roger’s splendid wig, he raised one hand off the floor, reached into the luxuriant mass of curls, pinched something tiny, pulled it out, examined it, gave it a good thorough sniffing, then popped it into his mouth and began to make exaggerated chewing noises. Then, in case Dappa had glanced away during this, he sidled around Roger and repeated the performance some half-dozen times, until even Roger became sick of it, raised one hand in the mildest of threats, and muttered, “Oh, will you stop it!”

Peer’s response was extreme: he jumped back out of cuffing-range, came to rest on his knuckles and the balls of his feet, made excited screeching noises (or as near as a member of the House of Lords could come to it), then sprang into the air while flinging his arms above his head. He grabbed the beam again, knocking loose a shower of dust that sifted down, stained his white wig gray, and caused him to sneeze-which was most unfortunate, as he’d been taking snuff. A bolo of reddish-brown mucus hurtled out of his nose and made itself fast to his chin.

The Kit-Cat Clubb had become quiet as a monastery. Perhaps three dozen men were in the place. By and large, they were of a mind to find nearly anything funny. Rarely did a minute tick away without all conversation in the Clubb being drowned out by a storm-burst of booming laughter from one table or another. But there was something in Peer’s performance so queer that it had shut them all up. Daniel, who had phant’sied that the crowding and the hubbub gave him and Dappa some sort of privacy, now felt even more exposed, and acutely spied upon, than ever.

The Marquis of Ravenscar swaggered toward Dappa. Behind him, Peer dropped from the rafters and got busy with a Belgian gros-point lace handkerchief. After Roger had moved along for a few paces, Peer followed him, cringing along in Roger’s wake.

“Dr. Waterhouse. Mr. Dappa,” said Roger with tremendous aplomb. “It is good to see you both again.”

“And you likewise, et cetera,” answered Daniel shortly, as Dappa had been temporarily robbed of the power of speech.

Conversations resumed, tentatively, around the Clubb.

“I pray you will not take it amiss if I refrain from picking lice out of your hair, as my lord Wragby has been so considerate as to do for me.”

“It’s not even my hair, Roger.”

“May I introduce to you, Dappa, and re-introduce to you, Daniel, my lord Walter Raleigh Waterhouse Weem, Viscount Wragby and Rector of Scanque, Member of Parliament, and Fellow of the Royal Society.”

“Hullo, Uncle Daniel!” said Peer, suddenly straightening up. “Very clever of someone to dress him up in a suit of clothing! Was that your conceit?”

Dappa was staring sidelong at Daniel. “I forgot to mention that Peer is my half-great-nephew once removed, or something like that,” Daniel explained to him, behind his hand.

“Who are you talking to, uncle?” Peer inquired, looking past Dappa’s head into a void. Then, with a shrug, he continued, “Do you phant’sy my demonstration worked? I did ever so much research, to get it right.”

“I’ve no idea, Wally,” Daniel returned, and then looked over at Dappa, who was still frozen in the sidelong-glare attitude. “Dappa, did you understand, from what you just observed, that my lord Wragby, here, is a member of my lord Ravenscar’s ape-tribe, and that he plays a submissive role, fully acknowledging my lord Ravenscar’s dominance?”

“Who are you talking to?” said Peer for the second time.

“To whom are you talking!” Dappa corrected him.

A few moments’ silence from Peer, greatly savoured by Roger and Daniel. Peer raised one hand, pointed his index finger at Dappa as if holding him at bay with a pistol, and turned to Daniel with his mouth a-jar.

“What you didn’t know, my nephew,” Daniel said, “is that Dappa was, at a very young age, taken aboard ship by pirates as a sort of pet. And these pirates, being a polyglot group, amused themselves by training Dappa to speak twenty-five different languages fluently.”

“Twenty-five different languages!” Peer exclaimed.

“Yes. Including better English than you, as you just saw.”

“But…but he doesn’t actually understand any of them,” Peer said.

“No more than a parrot does, when it squawks out a demand for a cracker,” Daniel affirmed, then let out a squawk of his own as Dappa kicked him in the shin under the table.

“What a remarkable feat! You should exhibit him!”

“What do you think I’m doing right now?”

“How was the weather yesterday?” Peer inquired of Dappa, in French.

“In the morning it was miserable and rainy,” Dappa returned. “After noon I thought it would clear but, alas, it was still overcast until nightfall. Only as I was getting ready for bed did I begin to see stars shining through gaps between clouds. Could I trouble you for a cracker?”

“I say, the French pirate who taught him that trick must have been an educated man!” Peer exclaimed. Then he got a look on his face as if he were thinking. Daniel had learned, in his almost seventy years, not to expect much of people who got such looks, because thinking really was something one ought to do all the time. “One would suppose there would be no point in holding a conversation with a man who does not understand what he is saying. And yet he described yesterday’s weather better than I could! In fact, I think I’ll use his wording in tomorrow’s edition!” Again, now, the thoughtful look. “If he could relate other experiences-such as his tete-a-tete with the Duchess-as faithfully as he recalls the weather, it would make my interview with him ever so much easier. I had come prepared to do it all in grunts and sign language!” And Peer gave a note-book in his hip-pocket an ominous pat.

“I suppose that whenever one speaks in the abstract-which is to say, most of the time-what one is really doing is interacting with some sort of image that is held in the mind,” Dappa said. “For example, yesterday’s weather is not here in the Kit-Cat Clubb with us. I cannot feel yesterday’s rain on my skin, nor can I see yester-eve’s stars with my eyes. When I describe these things to you (in French or any other language) I am really engaging in some sort of internal colloquy with a stored image inside of my brain. It is an image I may call up on demand, as a Duke might demand that a certain painting of his be brought down out of the garret. Once it is before my mind’s eye, I may see it as if it were there, and describe it.”

“That is all well and good for recollecting what you have gathered in through your senses, and stored in the garret, as it were,” Peer said. “So I could ask you to relate your observations of the Duchess of Qwghlm today, and rely on your account. But as you do not understand the conversation you had with her, or indeed the one you are having with me now, I fear your interpretation of what went on at Leicester House might be wide of the mark.” He spoke haltingly, unsure of how to converse with someone who didn’t understand what he was saying.

Preying on this, Daniel inquired, “But how could he interpret anything if he didn’t understand it?”

This stopped Peer’s gob for a few awkward moments.

“I would refer you to the work of Spinoza,” Dappa said, “whose words are of course perfect gibberish to me, but who wrote in his Ethics, ‘The order and connexion of ideas is the same as the order and connexion of things.’ Meaning that if there are two things, call them A and B, that have a particular relationship to each other, for example, my lord Wragby’s wig, and my lord Wragby’s head, and if I have in my mind an idea of my lord Wragby’s wig, call it alpha, and an idea of his head, call it beta, then the relationship between alpha and beta is the same as that between A and B. And owing to this property of minds, it is possible for me to construct in my head an whole universe of ideas, yet each idea will relate to all of the other ideas in precisely the same way that the things represented by those ideas relate to one another;lo, ’tis as if I have created a microcosm ’tween my ears, without understanding a bit of it. And some of the ideas may be records of sensory impressions, for example, yesterday’s weather. But others may be abstract concepts out of religion, philosophy, mathematics, or what have you-not that I’d know, since to me they are all a meaningless parade of hallucinations. But insofar as they are all ideas, they are all fungible. Whatever their origins may have been, they are now all con-fused into the same currency, and so I may speak of the Pythagorean Theorem or the Treaty of Utrecht as well as I may speak of yesterday’s weather. To me, they are all just crackers-as are you, my lord Wragby.”

“That is quite clear,” Peer said vaguely, for he had gone a bit glassy-eyed round the point where Dappa had begun to use Greek letters. “Tell me, Dappa, were there any German pirates aboard your ship?”

“You mean, native speakers of High-Dutch, or Hochdeutsch? Alas, they are a rare breed ’mong pirates, for the Germans fear water, and love order. Most of them were Dutchmen. However, there was a prisoner, kept in fetters down in the bilge, a Bavarian diplomat who taught me his language.”

“Right then!” And Peer flipped opened his note-book, and began to scan pages filled with laboriously botched cartoons. “Well, Dappa, you may not be aware that we Englishmen dwell on something very much like the sandbars you used to see in your rivers, save that ours is much larger, and free of crocodiles-” He held up a sketch.

“We call it an island,” said the Marquis of Ravenscar helpfully.

“There is a great river of cold, salty water,” Peer said, holding his arms far apart, “ever so much broader than the distance between my book and my pencil, separating us from a place called Europe which is full of nasty nasty apes. In your system of mental ideas, you might liken it to a lot of monkey-bands who are forever screeching and throwing rocks at each other.”

“But sometimes we cross the salty river on things like hollow logs, except much larger,” said the Marquis of Ravenscar, now getting into the spirit of things, “and throw a few rocks of our own, just to stay in practice!” He winked at Dappa, who gave back a brooding stare.

“There is a frightfully enormous and strong old gorilla, a silver-back, of whom we are terrified, just over the river.”

Dappa sighed, sensing that there was no way out. “I think I’ve seen his image on French coins, he is called Leroy.”

“Yes! He owns more bananas than anyone else, has more apes in his tribe, and has thrown a lot of rocks at us.”

“That must be very painful indeed,” Dappa said, not very sympathetically.

“Yes, quite,” said Peer. “But we have a mighty silver-back of our own, a really stupendous and deadly accurate stone-thrower, who, some moons ago, chased Leroy right up a tree! Because of this, our little band, here on our sandbar in the salty river, cannot make out whether to worship and revere our big silver-back as a god, or fear and revile him as a devil. Now, we have an enormous clearing in the jungle, actually not far from where we are right now, where we convene to make obeisance to a certain female silver-back, rather frail-and where we beat our chests, and throw f?ces at each other.”

“Ugh! Until you told me that, I was about to say, I should like to see this clearing.”

“Yes, it is rather frightful,” Roger put in, dismayed by Peer’s similitude, “but we have found throwing f?ces preferable to throwing rocks.”

“Do you throw your f?ces, my lord Wragby?” Dappa asked.

“It is what I do for a living!” answered Peer, shaking his note-book, “and what you see here is the Instrument I use to scrape my Ammunition off the jungle floor.”

“May I ask, what is special about this female silver-back, that you should brave flying f?cal material to pay homage to her?”

“She holds our Stick of Power,” Peer answered, as if that settled it. “Now, to the matter at hand. There are two tribes vying for the favor of the ancient female silver-back. The leader of one of those tribes stands before you.” He indicated Roger, who made a courtly bow. “Alas, we have been driven to the periphery of the clearing by the most incredible and sustained f?ces-barrage this jungle has ever witnessed; and the terribly, terribly mighty and enormous English silver-back I spoke of was nearly buried alive in it, and withdrew across the cold, salty river to a place named Antwerp, where it is possible for him to sit and enjoy the occasional banana without being struck in the face by a flying turd. And we who follow Roger, here, are frightfully curious to know if, and when, our big silver-back is coming back over the river, and whether he might be in a mood to throw any actual stones at any of us if, and when, he does, and whether he has any designs on the Stick of Power.”

“And what of Leroy? Is he still up his tree?”

“Leroy is halfway to the ground! And from his distance, with his failing eye-sight, he cannot easily distinguish between apes throwing stones, and apes throwing mere f?ces; at any rate, if he thinks we are distracted, why, he’ll scamper right back down to terra firma like the cheeky monkey he is, and we don’t want that.”

“If I may ask a direct question, why are you telling me these things, my lord?”

“That nice female you paid a call on earlier today,” said Peer, “that most admirable yellow-haired chimp, why, she has just crossed over the cold salty river and returned to our sandbar after sojourning, for many moons, in the jungle that lies off where the sun rises every morning, where a thousand different German-speaking ape-tribes vie for the control of individual trees, or, indeed, individual branches of trees. She came over on a giant hollow log that seemed to have a larger-than-normal number of these German-speaking apes on board. She came from the general direction of the place where our formidable silver-back has been biding his time, and enjoying his bananas. Which band does she belong to? For in the country where she was sojourning dwells another female silver-back, who has the run of several biggish trees, and who has her eye on our Stick. Does your friend belong to her tribe? Or is she in the camp of him who bides his time in Antwerp? Or both, or neither?”

Now it was Dappa’s turn to look glazed. After working this through for a moment, he guessed: “You’re trying to work out whether it would enure to your benefit to hurl some f?ces at Eliza.”

“I say, you are spot on!” Peer exclaimed. “That Spinozzel chap really was on to something!”

Roger Comstock had a particular way of holding himself, when he wanted to say something, that caused everyone within a pike-length to shut up and turn towards him worshipfully. This everyone now did, because he was holding himself in that way. After collecting himself for a few moments, he held up one hand, thumb tucked into palm, and gave Dappa another wink. “Four silver-backs.” The other hand came up, two fingers extended. “Two Sticks of Power. One of them rather firmly in the grip of Leroy and his heirs and assigns. The other, widely seen as being Up for Grabs. So, let us consider the four silver-backs.” Now he was holding up both hands, two fingers extended from each. “Two female, two male, all very very old, though, ’tmust be allowed, the one in Antwerp is as vigorous as a battle-weary sixty-four-year-old could ever be. The German female has a son, a great oafish gorilla who is going to have our Power-Stick lodged in his fat fist quite soon, if I’ve anything to say about it. Now his mum is hated by the female who presides over our sandbar today; why, she begins to screech and wave the Stick about the moment she detects a whiff of this German on the breeze. So quite naturally the son is persona non grata here. But he has a son of his own, and we’d very much like to see him swinging through English trees and eating English bananas as soon as we can get him over here. So-”

“Then don’t throw shit at Eliza,” Dappa said.

“Thank you.”

“Perhaps we should throw a bit so it doesn’t look as if we are colluding,” Peer suggested, clearly disappointed.

“Perhaps you should go pick some nits out of her hair, my lord,” Dappa returned.

“Thank you, Dappa, that will be all,” said Roger sternly, and led Peer away by the elbow.

“Before you ask,” Daniel said, “that was a ten.”

DAPPA BROODED THROUGH most of the trip to Crane Court.

Daniel ventured: “I hope I did not offend you, in the way I dealt with Peer. I could not think of any other way to respond.”

“To you, he is just a singular imbecile,” Dappa returned. “To me, he is a typical sample of the sort of bloke I need to reach with my books. And so, if I seem distracted, it is not because I am annoyed with you-though I am a little. It is because I am asking myself, what is the point of trying to reach such persons at all? Am I wasting my time?”

“My nephew simply believes whatever the people around him believe,” Daniel said. “If every man in the Kit-Cat Clubb proclaimed you King of England, why, he would fall on his knees and kiss your ring.”

“This may be true, but it does not help me, or my publisher.”

“Your publisher,” Daniel said. “The Duchess. She and you were simply talking about selling books, weren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“She doesn’t speak to you of those matters that so concern the Whigs.”

“Of course she doesn’t. Don’t tell me you were going to ask about it as well?”

“I admit to some curiosity about the Duchess, and what she is up to in London,” Daniel said. “I knew her once, Dappa, many years ago. Recently, she has let me know that she means to renew the acquaintance. I do not phant’sy this is owed to my looks, or my charm.”

Dappa offered nothing. They rattled on wordlessly for a bit. Daniel sensed that this bit of news had only made Dappa more anxious. “Will it create a tremendous hardship for Minerva if you follow my advice, and do not unload the anti-fouling plates?”

“It will create the need for a loan,” Dappa replied, “which will have to be repaid, in gold, upon our return.”

“I can arrange something,” Daniel said.

In the dim light scattering into the carriage he could see Dappa’s eyes flick towards the window, a gesture of annoyance. Daniel could guess what he was thinking: what sort of pass have we come to when we must look to an aged scientist as our banker?

HE INSISTED THAT THE DRIVER let him off at the entrance to Crane Court, rather than squeezing through that narrow arch and driving all the way to the Royal Society’s front door. The short walk would do him some good. He bid Dappa good-bye and tottered on creaky legs through the entrance. The hackney remained where it was for a few moments, keeping an eye on him. But Crane Court was an unlikely place for footpads, as they’d have no way to escape from it if a hue and cry were raised. So presently the horses were given orders to move, and the hackney clattered away, taking Dappa down to White Friars Stairs where he could find a waterman to row him down the Thames to Minerva.

Daniel was alone in the familiar confines of Crane Court; and at that moment he was struck by a monstrous thought.

Now, it had been a very long day indeed, beginning with a journey up to the Templar-tomb in Clerkenwell and continuing through Hockley-in-the

–Hole, an odd conversation with Peter (Saturn) Hoxton, a refreshing visit to Catherine Barton at Roger’s house, the long-dreaded reunion with Miss Barton’s uncle, and later the Kit-Cat Clubb. Too many threads, and too much information for his stiff old brain to cope with. Any part of the day would have given him plenty to think about during his short stroll from Fleet Street to the door of the R.S. But what his mind seized upon was Isaac’s sedan chair.

Just before and after the explosion, a sedan chair had been poised at the very place where Daniel had just alighted from the hackney, there in the arched tunnel where Crane Court debouched into Fleet Street.

Tonight his way up the Court was nearly barred by a vault-wagon drawn up to exhaust the sewage from one of the town-houses. He diverted round it, desiring to give it the widest berth possible, lest he get splashed. But just before he did, he turned round and looked back toward Fleet, peering through the arch. Golden light was gleaming through from whale-oil street-lanthorns on Fleet, just as on the night of the explosion.

On that Sunday evening, the mysterious sedan chair had been framed in the entry, dead center, a black doorway suspended in the arch of light. It had followed them to that point; paused; waited (or so it seemed) for the explosion; and then it had fled, pursued, briefly, by the hapless Watchman.

Isaac had said something, earlier today, to the effect he’d been shocked to see Daniel traveling in the company of Mr. Threader. This could be interpreted more than one way; but the most straightforward was that he literally had observed the two of them together in Mr. Threader’s carriage.

Which could only have occurred along Fleet Ditch in the minutes before the explosion. Perhaps Isaac had been in that sedan chair. Perhaps it had been nothing more than a coincidence that he had fallen in alongside Mr. Threader’s carriage when he had. Perhaps he had been on his way from some errand-and it would have had to’ve been a very dark and strange one indeed-in the dangerous alleys on the eastern brink of the Ditch, en route to his dwelling off Leicester Fields. But then why had he stopped in the entrance to Crane Court?

Daniel turned about and gazed at the arch again, trying to re-summon the fading memory.

But instead of seeing the remembered image of the black box, he saw a limbed shadow detach itself from one side of the arch and flit across the opening. It was a man who had been lurking there, and who had just made his departure onto Fleet Street. A moment later Daniel heard iron horseshoes splashing sparks on the brittle ashlars of the street. It was a rider, who had dismounted, and led his horse quietly to the entrance, so that he could spy on Daniel more discreetly. He had probably lost Daniel in the shadows of the vault-wagon and decided to call it a night.

Daniel had lost his train of thought concerning the sedan chair. He turned and walked quickly until his nostrils and his eyes no longer burned from the ammonia-cloud surrounding the vault-wagon. He was hardly surprised to hear footsteps behind him.

“Are you the gager Saturn names Doc?” said a pre-adolescent boy. “Don’t loap off, I ain’t a scamperer.”

Daniel considered stopping, but reckoned the boy could keep up with him. “Are you of the Black-guard?” he asked wearily.

“No, Doc, but I’ve my Aspirations.”

“Very well.”

“This is for you, then,” said the boy, and held out a folded stick of paper, very white compared to his filthy hand. Daniel accepted it. The boy darted back down the court and climbed aboard the vault-wagon he’d rode in on. “Lovely watch you’ve there-best keep an eye on it!” he called out, as a sort of pleasantry.

Henry Arlanc let him in, and helped stow away his coat and walking-stick. “It is a great honour to have been named Secretary of your Clubb, sir,” he observed. “I’ve just been copying out today’s Minutes.”

“You will do very well,” Daniel assured him. “I only wish our Clubb was one that met in a nice house and offered food and drink.”

“For that, I’ve the Royal Society, Doctor.”

“Yes, but you are not the Secretary.”

“I could be. If a Secretary’s job is to prick down all comings and goings, doings and discussions, why ’tis all here,” said Arlanc-strangely talkative this evening-and pointed to his head. “Why’re you peering at me so, Doctor?”

“I just had a thought.”

Henry Arlanc shrugged. “Would you like me to fetch a quill and-”

“No, thank you. This one will rest secure up here,” said Daniel, and imitated Henry’s head-pointing gesture. “Henry, does it ever happen that Sir Isaac will come here in his sedan chair, on a Sunday evening?”

“Frequently!” Henry answered. “There is always business here, pressing in on him. In the week, he has responsibilities at the Mint. Then, when he comes here, there are so many visitors, distractions. But he has learnt the trick of coming late on Sundays, when no one is in the building except for me and Madame, who understand that he is not to be disturbed. Then he can work late into the night, sometimes even until sunrise on Monday.”

“No one calls for him then, eh?”

“Pourquoi non, for no one knows he is here.”

“Except for you, and Madame Arlanc, and his own servants.”

“All I meant, sir, was that no one who would dare to disturb him knows he is here.”

“Of course.”

“Why do you ask, Doctor?” Arlanc said; an odd and rude thing for a porter to say to a Doctor.

“I phant’sied I had seen signs of his presence round the house on some Sunday evenings, and wondered if I were imagining things.”

“You have imagined nothing, Doctor. May I assist you up stairs?”

Doc,

If you are reading this it means that the boy found you in Crane Court. You may wish to check your pockets, amp;c.

Know that a representative of mine is scheduled to partake of high tea with a friend of a friend of Mr. Teach on Thursday next. Inquiries will be made.

I went to your hole in the ground and chased out two culls who had gone down there, and not for the usual purpose, viz. buggery. I believe they mistook me for the Ghost of a Knight Templar, from which I conclude, they were cultivated men.

Saturn

Saturn,

Thank you for your diligence. It is what I would expect of an Horologist.

Suppose I had come into possession of some odds and ends of yellow metal; then do you know any of the sort of men who would buy them from me? Any you particularly dislike? I ask purely as an academic exercise, on behalf of a noted Natural Philosopher.

Dr. Waterhouse

Isaac,

I can think of no better way to repay the hospitality you showed me at your house today, than to respectfully inform you that someone may be trying to Blow you Up. Whoever it is, would appear to be well acquainted with your habits. Consider varying them.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Daniel

P.S. Concerning the other topic of our discussion, I am making inquiries.

Crane Court, London


22 APRIL 1714

…whereas here; all, as well Brandy as Wine, and all our strong compounded Drinks, such as stout Ale, Punch, Double-Beer, Fine-Ale, amp;c. are all drank to Excess, and that to such a Degree, as to become the Poison, as well of our Health as of our Morals; fatal to the Body, to Principles, and even to the Understanding; and we see daily Examples of Men of strong Bodies drinking themselves into the Grave; and which is still worse, Men of strong Heads, and good Judgment, drinking themselves into Idiotism and Stupidity…

-DANIEL DEFOE,

A Plan of the English Commerce

A GUTTER RAN DOWN the centerline of Crane Court, in a weak bid to make Gravity do something useful. The slope was so feeble that when Daniel walked down to Fleet Street, he overtook a floating apple-core he’d tossed into it a quarter of an hour earlier, while standing in front of the Royal Society waiting for Saturn to appear.

Peter Hoxton nearly filled the archway. His hands were thrust in his waistcoat-pockets, his arms akimbo, giving his upper half the same general shape as the planet Saturn viewed through a telescope. He was smoking a clay-pipe whose stem was broken down to a mere knuckle-bone. As Daniel drew nearer, he took this out of his mouth and pitched it into the gutter; then froze, head bowed, as if a need to pray had suddenly come over him.

“Behold!” was the first thing he said to Daniel. “Behold what runs in your gutter here!”

Daniel drew up beside him and followed his gaze down. Where Crane Court’s gutter ran between Saturn’s feet, a sump had been formed by settling of the earth under the stones. In the deepest parts of it, the net-work of crevices between stones was plotted in brilliant lines of liquid argent.

“Quicksilver,” Daniel said. “Probably discarded from the Royal Society’s laboratories.”

“Point to it!” Saturn suggested, still staring fixedly at the quicksilver net-work.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Point to the Royal Society, and make as if you’re offering up some remark about it.”

Daniel uncertainly turned round and pointed up the center of Crane Court, though he omitted any feigned remarks. Saturn turned his head to look that way; peered blankly for a few moments; then turned his back on Daniel and shuffled off into Fleet Street.

Daniel took a few moments to catch up in traffic. The church-bells had struck six P.M. a few minutes ago. Fleet was deadly crowded.

“I phant’sied you’d have a hackney,” Daniel said, hoping to rein Saturn in by starting a conversation with him. “I did mention that all expenses would be reimbursed…”

“No need,” Saturn returned, sowing the words back over his shoulder, “the place is all of two hundred paces from here.” He was walking east on Fleet, glancing over his shoulder for openings between riders and coaches and wagons, sometimes trespassing in front of them to claim right-of-way. The general plan seemed to be that they would cross over to the south side.

“You had intimated it might be near by,” Daniel said, “but I find it startling that a house of that type should lie so near to-to-”

“To a house of the Royal Society’s type? Not at all, Doc. The streets of London are like bookshelves, you can as leave find unlike houses next to each other as find a picaroon-romance shelved alongside a Bible.”

“Why did you need for me to point at the Royal Society, just now?”

“So I might look at it.”

“I did not know one needed leave to look at it.”

“That is because you are used to the ways of Natural Philosophers, who are forever peering at whatever pleases them. There is a kind of arrogance in that, you are unawares of. In other walks of life, one does need leave. And ’tis well we are having this talk en route to Hanging-Sword-Alley. For the ken we are going to is most certainly the sort where, Doc, you do need leave.”

“Why, then, I’ll have eyes only for you, Mr. Hoxton.”

They had come already to where Water Lane broke away to the right, and ran straight down to the river. Saturn made that turn, as if he meant to ramble down to White Friars Dock. The Lane was a straight and broad cleft separating two jumbled, mazy neighborhoods. On the right, the periphery of the Temple. Typical resident: a practitioner at law. On the left, the parish of St. Bride’s. Typical resident: a woman who’d been arrested for prostitution, thievery, or vagrancy and put to work pounding hemp at Bridewell. In his more peevish moments Daniel phant’sied that the only thing preventing those on the right and those on the left from coming together lewdly in the middle of the Lane, was the continual stream of redolent carts booming down it to eliminate their steaming loads upon Dung Wharf, which could be nosed a short distance ahead.

Water Lane was lined on both sides by post-Fire buildings, kept up in such a way as to give the casual stroller a frank and fair synopsis of the neighborhoods that spread behind them; which was to say that whenever Daniel walked down this way to the river, he hewed strictly to the right, or Temple, side, trailing a hand along shop-fronts as he went. When he was feeling bold, and was surrounded by well-dressed law-clerks and brawny, honest tradesmen, he would gaze across the way and disapprovingly regard the buildings on the left side.

There, between a certain pawn-shop and a certain tavern, stretched a narrow gap that reminded him of a missing tooth in a rotten jaw. He had always supposed that it was the result of an error by Robert Hooke, the late City Surveyor, who’d done his work sans flaw in the better neighborhoods, but who, when he got to this district, might possibly have been distracted by the charms of a Bridewell girl. Noting the sorts of people who came and went through that gap, Daniel had sometimes speculated as to what would befall him if he ever went in there, somewhat in the spirit of a seven-year-old boy wondering what would happen if he fell through the hole in an out-house.

When Saturn had entered Water Lane, he had gravitated to (inevitably) the left side, which caused Daniel to lose his bearings, as he’d never seen it from this perspective. The strolling, snuff-taking lawyers across the way looked doltish.

After just a few paces Saturn veered round a corner into a narrow, gloomy pass, and Daniel, wanting nothing more than to stay close, hurried after him. Not until they had penetrated ten paces into it did he turn round to look at the bright facades on the other side of Water Lane, far far away, and realize that they had gone into that same Gap he had oft wondered about.

It were just to describe his movements now as scurrying. He drew abreast of Saturn and tried to emulate his manner of not gazing directly at anything. If this maze of alleys were as horrible as he’d always supposed, why, he did not see its horrors; and considering how briskly they were moving, it hardly seemed as if there would be time for any of them to catch up. He foresaw a long train of stranglers and footpads stretched out in their wake, huffing and puffing and bent over from side-aches.

“I presume this is some sort of a lay?” said Peter Hoxton.

“Meaning…a plan…scheme…or trap,” Daniel gasped. “I am as mystified as you are.”

“Does anyone else know where we are going, and when?” Saturn tried.

“I let the name of the place, and the time of the meeting, be known.”

“Then it’s a lay.” Saturn darted sideways and punched his way through a door without knocking. Daniel, after a clutching, febrile moment of being by himself in the center of Hanging-Sword-Alley, scrambled after him, and did not leave off from scrambling until he was seated next to Peter Hoxton before the hearth of a house.

Saturn spooned coal onto the evidence of a late fire. The room was already stuffy; these were the last chairs anyone wanted.

“This is really not so very dreadful after all,” Daniel ventured.

Saturn rummaged up a bellows, got its two handles in his hands, and held it up for a mechanical inspection. A brisk squeeze slapped lanky black locks away from his face. He aimed it at the pile of coal and began crushing the handles back and forth as if the bellows were a flying-machine, and he trying to raise himself off the floor.

Following Saturn’s warnings, Daniel had religiously avoided looking at anything. But the close, and now smoky, air of this parlour was leavened by female voices. He could not stop himself turning to look at an outburst of feminine laughter from the far end of the room. He got an impression of rather a lot of mismatched and broken-down furniture arranged in no particular way, but swept back and forth across the room by ebbing and flowing tides of visitors. There might have been a score of persons in the room, about evenly divided between the sexes, and clumped together in twos, threes, and fours. At the far end was a large window looking out onto a bright outdoor space, perhaps Salisbury Square in the heart of St. Bride’s. Daniel could not tell, because the windows were screened with curtains, made of rather good lace, but too large for these windows, and tarred brown as naval hemp by pipe-smoke. They were, he realized with a mild thrill, curtains that had been stolen-probably snatched right from someone’s open window in broad daylight. Silhouetted against that ochre scrim were three women, two gaunt and young, the other plump and a bit older, and smoking a clay-pipe.

He forced himself to turn his attention back to Saturn. But as he did so he scanned the room and got an impression of many different kinds of people: a gentleman who would not have looked out of place promenading round St. James’s Square, as well as several who belonged more to Hockley-in-the-

Hole.

By his exertions Saturn had evoked light, but no perceptible heat, from the rubble of coals and ashes on the hearth. That was enough-no heat was wanted. It seemed he’d only wanted something to occupy his nervous hands.

“A lot of females!” Daniel remarked.

“We call them women,” Saturn snapped. “I hope you haven’t been peering about like some damned Natural Philosopher at a bug collection.”

“We call them insects,” Daniel shot back. This elicited a gentlemanly nod from Saturn.

“Without peering,” Daniel continued, “I can see well enough that, though it’s untidy, it’s far from loathsome.”

“To a point, criminals love order even more than Judges,” Saturn said.

At that moment, a boy entered the room, breathing hard, and scanned the faces. He picked out Saturn instantly, and moved toward him with a joyous expression, reaching significantly into his pocket; but Peter Hoxton must have given him a glare or a gesture, because suddenly his face fell and he spun away on his heel.

“A boy who snatches your watch in the street, and runs off with it, does not do so out of a perverse longing to cause you grief. He is moved by a reasonable expectation of profit. Where you see sheep being sheared, you may assume there are spinning-wheels nearby; where you have your pocket picked, you know that there is a house such as this one within sprinting-distance.”

“In its ambience ’tis rather like a coffee-house.”

“Aye. But mind, the sort who’re disposed to abhor such kens as this would say its hellishness inheres in its very congeniality.”

“I must admit, it smells less of coffee than of the cheap perfume of geneber.”

“Gin, we call it in places like this. My downfall,” Saturn explained laconically, peering over his shoulder at the boy, who was now in negotiations with a fat, solitary man at a corner table. Saturn went on to give the room a thorough scan.

“You dishonor your own rules! What are you looking at?”

“I am reminding myself of the exits. If this turns out to be a lay, I shall not bother excusing myself.”

“Did you perchance see our buyer?” Daniel inquired.

“Save my fellow horologist in the corner there, and this gager next to us, who is trying to wash away his pox with gin and mercury, everyone here has come in groups,” Saturn said, “and I told the buyer that he must come alone.”

“Gager is what you call an elderly man.”

“Yes.”

Daniel hazarded a look at said gager, who was curled up on the floor in the corner by the hearth, no more than a sword-length from them-for the room was small, the tables close, and the separation between groups was preserved only through a kind of etiquette. The gager looked like a whorl of blankets and worn-out clothes, with pale hands and a face projecting from one end. Resting on the hearth-stones directly before him were a clay bottle of Dutch geneber and a thumb-sized flask of mercury. This was the first clue that he was syphilitic, for mercury was the only known remedy for that disease. But confirmation could be had by looking at his face, which was disfigured by lumpy tumors, called gummas, rimming his mouth and his eyes.

“Every snatch of conversation you overhear in this room shall be riddled with such flash cant as ‘gager,’ ‘lay,’ et cetera, for here, as in the legal and medical professions, the more impenetrable a man’s speech, the higher the esteem in which he is held. Nothing would be more injurious to our reputation in this house, than for us to speak intelligibly. Yet we may have to wait for a long time. And I fear I may fall into drinking gin, and end up like yon gager. So, let us have an unintelligible conversation about our religion.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Remember, Doc, you are my Father Confessor, I your disciple, and your portion of our bargain is that you shall help me draw nigher to Truths ?ternal through the sacrament of Technology. This-” and he scanned the room lightly, without letting his eye catch on anything, “is not what I signed on for. We were to be in Clerkenwell, building things.”

“And we shall be,” Daniel assured him, “once the masons, carpenters, and plasterers have finished their work round the old Temple there.”

“That should not be long. I’ve never seen stones piled up in such haste,” Saturn said. “What is it you mean to make there, then?”

“Read the newspapers,” Daniel returned.

“What’s that s’posed to mean?”

“What’s the matter, you’re the one who wanted to speak in cyphers.”

“I do read the newspapers,” said Saturn, wounded.

“Have you attended to what goes on in Parliament?”

“A lot of screeching and howling as to whether our next King’s son* ought to be given a hero’s welcome in the House of Lords, or barred from the Realm.”

Daniel chuckled. “You must be a Whig, to refer so confidently to George Louis as our next King.”

“What do I look like to you?” said Saturn, suddenly lowering his voice, and looking about uneasily.

“A Jacobite Tory, dyed in the wool!”

Daniel’s chuckling at his own jest was, for a few moments, the only sound in the room. Then:

“There’ll be no such talk in this house!”

The speaker was a short, stout Welshman with a large jaw. He was wrapped in a bulky and bulging black cloak, as if he’d just come in from outside, and was making a sweep through the parlour on his way back to the kitchen. A brace of empty gin-bottles dangled by their necks between the fingers of his right hand, and a full one was gripped in his left. Daniel assumed the fellow was being wry, and chuckled some more; but the Welshman very deliberately swiveled his head around and gave Daniel a glare that shut him up. Most of the people in the room were now looking their way.

“Your usual, Saturn?” the Welshman said, though he continued to stare fixedly at Daniel.

“Have her bring us coffee, Angus. Gin disagrees with me these days, and as you have perceived, my friend has already drunk one bottle too many.”

Angus turned around and stalked out of the room.

“I am sorry!” Daniel exclaimed. Until moments ago he had felt strangely at home here. Now, he felt more agitated than he had out in the alley.

The wretch on the floor went into a little fit of shuddering, and tried to jerk his unresponsive limbs into a more comfortable lie.

“I assumed-” Daniel began.

“That the words you were using were as alien to this place as the Calculus.”

“Why should the proprietor-I assume that’s what he was-care if I make such a jest-?”

“Because if word gets round that Angus’s ken is a haunt of such persons-”

“Meaning-?”

“Meaning, persons who have secretly vowed that the Hanover shall not be our next King,” Saturn croaked, so quietly that Daniel was forced to read his lips, “and that the Changeling* shall be, why, it shall become self-fulfilling, shall it not? Then such persons-who are always in want of a place to convene, and conspire-will begin to come here.”

“What does it matter!?” Daniel whispered furiously. “The place is filled with criminals to begin with!”

“And that is how Angus likes it, for he is a past master among thief-takers,” Saturn said, his patience visibly dwindling. “He knows how it all works with the Watch, the Constables, and the Magistrates. But if the supporters of the Changeling begin to convene here, why, everything’s topsy-turvy, isn’t it, now the house is a heaven for Treason as well as Larceny, and he’s got the Queen’s Messengers to contend with.”

“I hardly phant’sy the Queen’s Messengers would ever venture into a place like this!” Even Daniel had the wit to mouth the name, rather than speaking it aloud.

“Be assured they would, if treason were afoot here! And Angus would be half-hanged, drawn, and quartered at the Treble Tree, ’long with some gaggle of poxy Jacobite viscounts. No decent end for a simple thief-taker, that.”

“You called him that before.”

“Called him what?”

“A thief-taker.”

“Naturally.”

“But I thought a thief-taker was one who brought thieves to justice, to collect a reward from the Queen. Not a-” But Daniel stopped there, as Peter Hoxton had got a look on his phizz that verged on nausea, and was shaking his head convulsively.

“I see you’ve been sending my coal right up the fucking Chimney!” Angus proclaimed, stalking toward them. He had divested himself of the cloak and the gin-bottles and was now being followed, at a prudent distance, by a Bridewellish-looking girl with a mug of coffee in each hand.

“Rather, providing you with the service of keeping the fire going,” Saturn answered calmly, “at no charge, by the way.”

“I didn’t want it going to begin with!” Angus returned. “ ’Twas that lappy-cull who mewled and pleaded for a bit of warmth! Now you’ve gone and got it going again! There’ll be a charge for that!”

“Of course there will be,” Saturn said.

The coffee was served, and money changed hands, in the form of copper tokens, minutely examined by Angus.

“Now why do you say I should attend to the doings of Parliament?” Saturn asked, as they were beginning to sip their coffee. “What connexion could I possibly draw between the situation of the Duke of Cambridge* and your hole in the ground in Clerkenwell?”

“None whatever. Save that Parliament’s more loud and obvious doings may be used as a sort of screen or blind to cover arcane, subtile machinations that might reward your attention.”

“This is worse than being given no information at all,” Saturn grumbled.

A man entered solus, and began to look round the place. Daniel knew immediately it was their buyer. But rather than jumping to make their presence known, he settled deeper into his chair so that he could spend a few moments inspecting the newcomer. In silhouette against the glowing screen of curtains, he could easily be confused with an actual gentleman, for he wore a wig, clamped down by a hat with a vast brim folded upwards in the style then mandatory. A sword dangled from one hip. But when he stood, he crouched, and when he walked, he scuttled, and when he noticed things, he flinched. And when this man came over to the hearth, and accepted a chair pulled up by the uncharacteristically hospitable Peter Hoxton, Daniel perceived that his wig was stinking horsehair, his hat was too small, and his sword was more danger to himself, in its sheath, than it would’ve been to others, out of it. He nearly tripped over it twice, because every time he whacked it off a chair- or table-leg it jumped back between his ankles. He put Daniel in mind of a clown at St. Bartholomew’s Fair, got up to mock a gentleman. Yet the mere fact that he was trying so hard earned him a sort of dignity, and probably counted for something in a house of this type.

“Mr. Baynes, Dr. Gatemouth,” said Saturn. “Doc, say hallow to him we are calling Mr. Baynes.”

“Dr. Gatemouth, ’tis a pleasure as well as an honour,” said the newcomer.

“Mr. Baynes,” Daniel said.

“Would you be one of the Gatemouths of Castle Gatemouth?”

Daniel had no idea what to do with this question.

“Doc is of a very old family of armigerous yeomen in the Gatemouth district,” prated Saturn, sounding bored.

“Ah, perhaps they knew some of my forebears,” exclaimed Mr. Baynes, patting his sword-hilt, “for I am nearly certain that Gatemouth Abbey lies adjacent to a certain vicarage where-”

“It is not his real name,” Saturn snapped.

“Of course, that is obvious, do you think I am a child? I was merely trying to make him feel at ease.”

“Then you failed. Let us speak of the Ridge, so that we may ease him out of this ken.”

Said to a real gentleman, these words would have provoked a duel. So Daniel at this point was one uneasy gager. But Mr. Baynes was unfazed. He took a moment to re-compose himself and said, “Very well.”

“Do you understand that the amount in play is large?”

“A large weight was bandied about, but this tells me little of the actual amount of Ridge, until the purity of the metal has been quoined.”

“How large a quoin do you propose to hack off?” said Saturn, amused.

“Large enough to balance my toils and sufferings.”

“Howsoever much you assay-assuming you truly do-you’ll find Doc, here, is no Beaker. The amount and the weight are as identical as the refiner’s fire can make ’em. And then what?”

“A transaction,” said Mr. Baynes, guardedly.

“But last time I had dealings with you, Mr. Baynes, you were in no position to move such a quantity of Ridge as Dr. Gatemouth has on his hands. A glance at your periwig tells me your fortunes have in no wise improved.”

“Peter Hoxton. I know more of your story than you of mine! Who are you to cast aspersions!?”

Now Daniel had scarcely followed a word of this, so dumbfounded was he by Mr. Baynes’s appearance. But around this time, he was able to formulate an explanation that fit the observed phenomena, viz.: Mr. Baynes had wooden teeth that had been carved to fit a larger mouth. They were forever trying to burst free of the confines of his head, which gave him a somewhat alarming, horselike appearance when it was happening. For him, speech was a continual struggle to expel words whilst keeping a grip on his dentition. Therefore he spoke in a slow, deliberate, and literally biting cadence, terminating each phrase with an incredible feat of flapping his prehensile lips around his runaway choppers and hauling them back into captivity.

The sheer effort expended-so say nothing of the risk incurred-in casting this rebuke at Saturn, gave it telling weight. Peter Hoxton recoiled, fell back in his chair, and raised a hand to run it back through his hair.

Having thus cleared the floor, Mr. Baynes continued, “Supposing a cull did have the resources” (a very difficult word for him to…pronounce…requiring a lip-wrap fore and aft) “to engage in a Transaction of the magnitude contemplated by Dr. Gatemouth-would he come here to meet with a stranger? I think not! He would delegate the matter to an underling, who would in turn choose a trusted intermediary, to make the initial contact.”

Saturn grinned, which only made his unshaven face seem darker, and shook his head. “We all know there is only one coiner in the realm who can act on this scale. There is no need to flinch, I’ll not utter his name aloud in this place. You’d have us believe, I take it, that you are speaking on behalf of some lieutenant of his?”

“A great big one-armed cove, a foreigner,” Mr. Baynes allowed.

And now, a bit of a Moment. To this point, Mr. Baynes had been putting on a passable show. But it was bad form to have volunteered such information, and he knew it.

“You see, I do not bate at divulging such data, such is my confidence that he will deal only through me.”

Doc and Saturn nodded sagely, but the damage had been done, and Mr. Baynes knew, though he might not admit, it.

The syphilitic gager on the floor, who had appeared dead for a while, had been stirring ever since Mr. Baynes had made his entrance. Daniel supposed this was an effect of the way they’d rearranged the chairs, for Daniel had moved to a new spot between the wretch and his precious coal-fire, and was blocking what little warmth spread out of it. The gager now made noises that indicated he was sitting up. Daniel did not turn around to look-he did not have to, as Saturn was watching all with green disgust. Something told Daniel to rise and get out of the way.

He and most other Fellows of the Royal Society recognized syphilis and leprosy as distinct diseases, spread in different ways. But most other persons had conflated the two diseases in their minds, and so recoiled from syphilitics in much the same way as they would from lepers. This explained everything about how Saturn was reacting now. Daniel, F.R.S. though he was, reverted to superstition in the clutch, and allowed the gager the widest possible berth as he half-crawled and half-staggered toward the hearth. Some of his limbs dragged senseless on the floor, while others moved in spasms, as if he were being stung by invisible hornets. Trailing his nest of filthy blankets behind him, he slouched on the hearth, completely eclipsing the light of the fire, and hunched even closer to it, rubbing his paralyzed hand with his twitchy one. His gray hair would be dangling and burning in the coals now if he, or someone, hadn’t wrapped it all up in a sort of bandage-turban atop his head.

“The questions that this foreign gentleman will ask of me, may be easily anticipated,” observed Mr. Baynes.

“Indeed,” Saturn returned. “The Ridge is from America.”

“As Dr. Gatemouth is known to have recently come over from Boston, no one phant’sied it came from Guinea,” Mr. Baynes said, with elaborate meanness. “The foreign gentleman will be curious: have rich new gold mines been discovered on the banks of the River Charles? Because if so-”

“If the foreign gentleman truly does represent the coiner you and I are thinking of, why, he must be a busy man, and disinclined to hear long tedious Narrations of pirate-exploits on the Spanish Main, et cetera,” Saturn said. “Does it not suffice for him to know that it is in fact Ridge? For the entire point of Ridge is that it may be confused with other Ridge, and it matters not where ’twas dug out of the ground.”

“The foreign gentleman thinks it does matter, and further, is ever alert for inconsistencies in Narrations. Indeed, in his world, where commerce is, of necessity, informal and ad hoc in the extreme, to tell a coherent Story is the sole way of establishing one’s credit.”

“Mr. Baynes is correct as far as that goes,” Saturn told Daniel in an aside. “Men of this sort are literary critics of surpassing shrewdness.”

“No convincing Tale means no Credit, and no Transaction. I am here, not to quoin your Ridge, but to assay your Story; and if I do not bring him a ripping pirate-yarn to-night, why, you are finished.”

An odd snuffing noise issued from the hearth, as if a handful of dust had been tossed on the coals. Daniel glanced over to see that the gager was rubbing feverishly at his eyes and his mouth. Perhaps the smoke had irritated his mucous membranes, and had made him sneeze and paw at the encrusted sores that so disfigured his face. Daniel then noticed that the fire was blazing up, but producing a good deal more smoke than light. The smoke was drawing swiftly up the chimney, which was fortunate, because it had an evil, thick, reddish look.

He turned his attention away from the strange actions of the gager, and back to matters at hand: Mr. Baynes, who was still prating about the foreign gentleman, and an empty chair.

The empty chair demanded a second glance, and then a third.

Mr. Baynes himself was only just becoming aware that Saturn was gone. Both of them now turned to survey the parlour, supposing that their companion might have stood up to stretch, or to rid himself of his empty mug.

Twilight had come over Salisbury Square, but enough of it sifted in through the windows to show that Peter Hoxton was no longer in the room.

Most of that light was now blocked. The women who had been perched before the lace curtain were scattering away from it. One seized a fistful of skirt and hauled it clear of her ankles, and used the other hand as a flail to clear impediments out of her course: a straight line to the nearest exit. She looked as if she were of a mind to scream, but had more important things to do just now, and so all that came from her mouth was a sort of hooting noise.

For an instant it was almost completely dark in the room, and then Daniel felt in his soul the impact of something huge upon the window. Stakes of broken wood strode end-over-end across the floor, bounding through a skittering wash of sharded glass.

He stood up. A lot of people seemed to be headed his way, as half the space in the room had been claimed by a black bulk thrust in through the obliterated window. Daniel stepped back toward the chimney-corner, knowing that, in a human stampede, he’d be the first to end up with boot-prints on his face; but suddenly there was a fizzing noise nearby, and the room was plastered with hellish light. The faces of the onrushing guests burst out of the gloom, a choir of white ovals, mouths opened, not to sing, but to scream; then they all raised hands or arms to protect their eyes. They parted to the sides of the room, faltered as they bashed into one another and stumbled over furniture, and finally came to a stand.

The center was now clear, except for a treacherous rubble of upended chairs, and Daniel had a clear view of the thing that had come in. It was a large and heavy-built wagon, like the ones used to transport bullion, but reinforced for ramming, and painted a black so profound that, even in the dissolving radiance that now filled the room, it was nothing more than a brooding blur. One part of it stood out brightly. Fixed to the prow of this terrestrial Ram was a badge of silver metal: a flat plate of polished steel cut into the flashing silhouette of a greyhound in full chase.

Doors flew open on both sides of the wagon, and good boots began to hit the floor; Daniel could see little, but he could hear the jingling of spurs, and the ring of steel blades being whisked from scabbards: Evidence that Angus’s new guests were Persons of Quality.

Daniel half-turned toward the source of the light, shielding his eyes from it with one hand, and looked at Mr. Baynes, who had lost his teeth, and seemed very old and helpless. Of all the strange things that had obtruded on Mr. Baynes’s senses in the last ten heartbeats, the one that owned his attention was the emblem of the silver greyhound. Following Mr. Baynes’s gaze, Daniel began to see it in more than one place: the men piling out of the wagon, and herding Angus’s clients into the corners at sword-point, all wore similar badges on their breasts.

The unoccupied wagon was now withdrawn from the window and dragged off to one side. Suddenly the parlour had become an annex of Salisbury Square. A large cloaked man was cantering toward them on a black stallion, with saber drawn.

He rode right into the center of the room, reined in his charger, and stood up in his stirrups, revealing a silver greyhound pinned to his coat. “High Treason!” he proclaimed, in a voice loud enough to pelt off the opposite side of the square. “I say, on your knees, all of you!”

It was true of beasts and humans alike that when they were terrified-literally scared out of their wits, beyond the pale of reason-they either froze, or ran away. To this point Mr. Baynes had been frozen. Now his instincts told him to flee. He jumped up and turned away from all those silver greyhounds that seemed to be chasing him. In so doing, he turned full into the light. But the light was now coming over him like a burning cloud, seeming to exert a palpable force that pressed him down onto his knees, and then to all fours.

Daniel’s eyes had finally adjusted to the brightness, or perhaps the light was slowly burning out. He could see now that the old gager was gone, his blankets collapsed on the hearth like a snake’s shed skin.

From them had emerged what ninety-nine percent of Christendom would identify as an angel, with flowing white hair and a sword of fire. Even Daniel was tempted to think so; but on a moment’s reflection he decided it was Sir Isaac Newton, brandishing a rod of burning phosphorus.

DURING THE HOUR that followed the descent of the Queen’s Messengers on Angus’s boozing-ken, many vivid and novel scenes presented themselves to Daniel’s organs of sense. But the next time he had a moment to sit and think-which occurred on the head of a sloop anchored in the river off Black Friars, as he was taking a splendid crap into the Thames-these were the salient facts:

Isaac had tossed a handful of some chymical powder on the fire, causing thick smoke to spew out the chimney; this had been the signal for the Queen’s Messengers to mount their assault on Angus’s boozing-ken.

Peter Hoxton and Angus had dived through a sort of bolt-hole that led from the kitchen into the cellar of a neighboring house, gone out the back door into a little poultry-yard, vaulted a wall, streaked through a whorehouse, dodged into another boozing-ken, and taken another bolt-hole into an alley called The Wilderness (this the Queen’s Messengers learned by following their trail and interrogating bystanders).

At its eastern end, The Wilderness dead-ended in the burying-ground behind Bridewell. There, Angus and Saturn had parted ways among unmarked whores’ graves, and got away clean.

The sores on Isaac’s mouth and eyes were fakes, made from the congealed latex, or sap, of a Brazilian tree.

The Captain of the Queen’s Messengers-the big man who had ridden into the ken on horseback-was none other than Mr. Charles White, he of the bear-baiting and ear-biting.

After most of Angus’s clients had been duly scared out of their wits and sent running, the Queen’s Messengers, with Daniel, Isaac, and Mr. Baynes in tow, had barrelled down the length of The Wilderness with no less speed than Saturn and Angus. Before them, Bridewell rose up above its crowded burying-ground. It was a surplus Royal palace, turned over to the poor a long time ago, half burned down in the Fire, and half rebuilt. Daniel had never really taken a good look at it before, as why would anyone want to? But this was probably the right way to see it: catching the last glimmer of blue twilight, and protected from the denizens of St. Bride’s Parish by its muddy necropolis. As they gathered speed down The Wilderness, Daniel phant’sied that they were about to make a frontal assault on Bridewell Palace, galloping across the pocked lumpy glacis of the burying ground to ram down the doors and round up the whores. But at the last moment they veered right on Dorset and charged straight into the timber yard that spread along the riverbank there.

Two lighters had been tucked up against the timber-wharf, screened, by stacks of logs, from the view of any underworld sentries who might have been peering down from high windows of Bridewell. They had been well-manned with oarsmen, and ready to cast off and pull away.

A brief twilight row had taken the Messengers (half a dozen in all), Daniel, Sir Isaac, and their prisoner to this sloop, Atalanta. For tonight’s purposes, she was all bare spars, and incognito; but the coat of arms on one of her furled flags was that of Charles White. Atalanta was his own jacht. No doubt, when the Queen was made aware, she would be most grateful.

Charles White had spent the brief row sitting knee-to-knee with Mr. Baynes, absent-mindedly fondling the collection of dried human ears strung on his watch-chain, and wondering aloud how long it would take them to sail downriver to the Tower of London, where all of the really first-rate implements of torture were to be found. He had held a speculative colloquy with his fellow Messengers, wondering whether it would suffice merely to keel-haul Mr. Baynes en route; whether the effectiveness of said keel-hauling might be enhanced by doing it at the place (a hundred yards away) where Fleet Ditch emptied into the Thames; whether, in other words, Mr. Baynes’s ability to talk would be impaired or enhanced by being made to inhale sewage; or whether they’d have to keel-haul him and then use the facilities in the Tower. The problem being that traitors, who were destined to be publicly half-hanged, castrated, drawn, and quartered anyway, frequently saw no incentive to talk.

One of White’s lieutenants-a younger gentleman, probably picked for the role because he was sweet-faced and blond-then raised the following objection: namely, that Mr. Baynes might not be destined for the man-rated butcher-block at Tyburn at all, as it was not really demonstrated, yet, that he was, in fact, a traitor. He was roundly hooted down. But a minute later he raised the same objection again, and finally was given leave to explain himself.

A wily barrister, he said, might argue that Mr. Baynes was in truth a loyal subject of Her Majesty.

Stay, stay, ’twas not so preposterous! For clearly Dr. Waterhouse was a loyal subject, merely pretending to deal with coiners as a trick to gather intelligence. Could Mr. Baynes’s barrister not advance the same claim?

No, it was ludicrous on its face, retorted Charles White-much to the dismay of Mr. Baynes, who had begun to show stirrings of hope.

For (White went on) Mr. Baynes had not, in fact, proffered any such intelligence, indeed probably did not have any. So drawing and quartering was certainly to be the fate of him, and the only question was: how hideous would his tortures have to be, between now and then, to make him do as he ought?

Daniel had the misfortune, during all of this, to be seated in the prow of the lighter, facing aft. This gave him a clear view of Charles White’s broad back, and Mr. Baynes’s hairless and toothless head, which frequently strained up or sideways to scan the boat for a sympathetic face.

To Daniel it might be perfectly evident that it was a childish masque, scripted to play on Mr. Baynes’s terrors, and to break him without thumbscrews. But Mr. Baynes-an audience of one-was captivated by the show. His disbelief had not merely been suspended; it had been fired out of a cannon into a stone wall. There was little question his resistance was broken. The only open question was: were his wits ruined, too, to the point where he’d be useless?

Would Daniel, put in the same predicament, have been able to see through the ruse so easily? He doubted it.

Though perhaps he was in the same predicament, and the show was being staged for him as much as for Mr. Baynes.

The shit that he took off Atalanta’s head was a masterpiece, exactly two well-formed packages plunging into the river like sounding-leads, and vanishing without a splash-evidence that his gut would keep functioning well after other parts of him had given way to age. He was inclined to sit there for a few minutes with his buttocks cupped in the luxuriously polished wooden annulus of the shite-hole, and to savor this triumph, just as the late Samuel Pepys had taught him to do in the case of urination. But the noises coming from belowdecks told him that he had responsibilities down there, not only to his Queen, but to Mr. Baynes.

For his fears concerning the latter had been realized. The Queen’s Messengers might be very skilled at hounding traitors, but as a theatrical troupe they were rank amateurs, utterly lacking in the all-important Sense of Audience. They had let the show go on too long, and reduced Mr. Baynes to a blubbering imbecile.

Daniel pulled his breeches back on, went aft, and, at the top of the narrow staircase that led belowdecks, nearly collided with a man coming up for some fresh air. The only thing that prevented it was the other chap’s white hair, which shone in the light of the half-moon, and gave Daniel a moment’s warning.

He backed up and allowed Isaac to join him on deck.

“Mr. Hoxton has shown his colours, I should say,” Isaac remarked.

“What-by running off?”

“Indeed.”

“If he had stayed to be keel-hauled, thumbscrewed, drawn, and quartered, we’d know him to be a trustworthy chap, is that it?”

Isaac was mildly affronted. “No such fate would have befallen him, had he shown a willingness to serve the Queen.”

“The only way in which Peter Hoxton can be of service to the Queen-or to you-is to bring me intelligence from the flash world. If he had not run away, he would have thereby declared himself an enemy of all things flash, and become perfectly useless. By escaping, along with Angus, he has enhanced his reputation beyond measure!”

“It is of no account. Your role is now played out. And well played. I thank you.”

“Why did you send the smoke-signal? Why not wait to see what else Baynes would divulge?”

“He had already over-stepped, and divulged too much,” Isaac retorted, “and he knew it. He grew reticent, and, to try you, asked you for your story. I knew you had none, or at least, none fit to withstand the scrutiny of this one-armed foreigner, or even of Mr. Baynes. My decision was: Let us advance!”

“What is it you need from Mr. Baynes now, in order to advance?”

AT DANIEL’S INSISTENCE, Charles White and his merry men left Mr. Baynes alone for a few minutes in a cabin, though they made sure to put him in irons first, so that he’d not devise some way to evade justice by committing suicide.

Daniel lurked outside the cabin door until Mr. Baynes stopped sobbing and whimpering, then counted slowly to a hundred (for he himself needed to calm down a bit), then opened the hatch and went through, carrying a lit candle.

Mr. Baynes was on a bench with his hands fettered behind his back. Before him was a plank table. He had slumped forward so his head lay on it. Daniel was certain he had expired from a stroke, until he perceived the prisoner’s pinioned arms slowly rising and falling, as his lungs filled and emptied like the bellows of an Irish bagpipe.

Daniel wished he could fall asleep, too. For a few minutes he sat there nodding drowsily in the light of the candle-flame. But he could hear booted and spurred feet pacing round the deck overhead, and he knew perfectly well that he was not anchored in some placid cove, but only a few yards off Black Friars, London.

“Wake up.”

“Eh-?” Baynes pulled against his irons, then regretted it and sat up, his spine creaking and popping like an old mast taking a gust. His mouth was a dry hole, pushed in like a wound. He refused to meet Daniel’s eye.

“Will you talk to me?” Daniel asked.

Mr. Baynes considered it, but said nothing. Daniel rose to his feet. Mr. Baynes watched him sidelong. Daniel reached into his pocket. Baynes tensed, getting ready to suffer. Daniel drew his fist out, flipped it over, and opened it to display, on the palm of his hand, Mr. Baynes’s set of false teeth.

Baynes’s eyes got wide and he lunged like a cobra, yawning. Daniel fed the teeth to him and he sucked and gummed them in. Daniel stepped back, wiping his hand on his breeches, and Mr. Baynes sat up straight, having seemingly swapped a new and better skull for the faulty one he’d woken up with.

“You are a gentleman, sir, a gentleman. I marked you as such the moment I saw you-”

“In truth I am no gentleman, though I can be a gentle man. Mr. Charles White is a gentleman. He has already explained what he means to do to you. He means what he says; why, I’m surprised you still have both of your ears. Save thine ears, and the rest of thyself, by telling me where and when you are supposed to meet the one-armed foreigner.”

“You know that I shall be killed, of course.”

“Not if you serve your Queen as you ought.”

“Oh, but then I shall be killed by Jack the Coiner.”

“And if not by Jack, then by old age,” Daniel returned, “unless apoplexy or typhus take you first. If I knew of a way to avoid dying, I’d share it with you, and the whole world.”

“Sir Isaac knows of a way, or so ’tis rumored.”

“Spouting Alchemical rubbish is not a way to get in my good graces. Telling me the whereabouts of the one-armed foreigner is.”

“Your point is well taken, concerning mortality. In truth, ’tis not fear of mine own fate that stopped my tongue.”

“Whose then?”

“My daughter’s.”

“And where is your daughter?”

“Bridewell.”

“You fear that some revenge will be taken on her if you assist the Queen’s Messengers?”

“I do. For she is known to the Black-guard.”

“Surely Charles White has the power to get one girl sprung from Old Nass,” Daniel reflected. Then he stopped short, astounded to hear himself speaking like a criminal.

“Aye. Straight from there, to his bedchamber, to be his whore until he has worn her out, at which point he’ll no doubt give her a decent interment in Fleet Ditch!” Mr. Baynes was as upset to imagine this horror, as he would have been to witness it, and had gone all twitchy now; his wooden teeth were chattering together, and clear snot was streaming out of one nostril.

“And you phant’sy I am a decent sort?”

“I said it before, sir, you are a gentle man.”

“If I give you my word that I’ll go to the Spinning-Ken and look after your daughter-”

“Not so loud, I pray you! For I do not want Mr. White to so much as know that she exists!”

“I am no less wary of him than are you, Mr. Baynes.”

“Then-you give your word, Dr. Gatemouth?”

“I do.”

“Her name is Hannah Spates, and she pounds hemp in Mr. Wilson’s shop, for she’s a strong girl.”

“Done.”

“Prithee, send in the Queen’s Messengers.”

DANIEL’S REWARD FOR THIS makeshift act of grace was a free moon-light river-cruise to the Tower of London. This was strangely idyllic. The best part of it was that Charles White and his platoon of feral gentlemen were not present; for after a short conversation with Mr. Baynes, they had flocked on the deck like a murder of crows, clambered back into the row-boats, and set off for Black Friars Stairs.

Even the passage of London Bridge, which, on a smaller boat, was always a Near Death Experience-the sort of event gentlemen would go home and write down, in the expectation that people would want to read about it-was uneventful. They fired a swivel-gun to wake up the drawbridge-keeper in Nonsuch House, and raised a silver-greyhound banner. He stopped traffic on London Bridge, and raised the span for them, and the sloop’s master suffered the current to flush them through into the Pool.

Half an hour later they clambered by torch-light into the dank kerf of a Tower Wharf staircase. As Daniel ascended the stair, and his head rose through the plane of the Wharf, the whole Tower complex unfolded before and above him like a vast black book, writ on pages of jet in fire and smoke.

Almost directly ahead on the wharf stood a jumble of small buildings fenced about with a palisade. The wicket had been opened by one of the Wharf Guard standing the night watch. Daniel moved through it in a crowd, and entered one of the small buildings, troubled by the sense that he was invading someone’s dwelling. Indeed he was, as this Wharf-apartment seemed to be home for (at least) a porter, a sutler, a tavern-keeper, and diverse members of their families. But a few steps on, he felt timbers under his feet and sensed that they’d passed through into a different space: they were outdoors again, crossing over a wooden causeway that spanned a straight lead of quiet water. It must be the Tower moat, and this must be a drawbridge.

The planking led to a small opening in the sheer face of the Tower’s outer wall. On the right hand, a wedge-shaped bastion was thrust out from the same wall, but it offered no doorways: only embrasures and murder-holes from which defenders could shower fatal attentions upon people trying to get across this bridge. But tonight the drawbridge was down, the portcullis was up, no projectiles were spitting out of the orifices of the Tower. The group slowed down to file through a sort of postern gate into the base of Byward Tower.

To their left was a larger gate leading to the causeway that served as the Tower’s main land entrance, but it had been closed and locked for the night. And indeed, as soon as the last of their group had made it across the drawbridge, the postern gate was closed behind them, and locked by a middle-aged bloke in a night-cap and slippers. Daniel had enough Tower lore stored up in his brain to suspect that this would be the Gentleman Porter, and that he must live in one of the flats that abounded in this corner of the complex. So they were locked in for the night.

With the gates closed, the ground floor of Byward Tower was a tomb. Isaac and Daniel instinctively moved out from under it and into the open cross where Mint Street came together with Water Lane. There they tarried for a minute to watch Mr. Baynes being frog-marched off to a dungeon somewhere.

Anyone who entered the Tower of London as they just had, expecting to pass through a portal and find himself in an open bailey, would be disappointed. Byward Tower, through which they’d just passed, was the corner-stone of the outer defenses. All it afforded was entry to a narrow belt of land surrounding the inner defenses, which were much higher and more ancient.

But even an expert on medieval fortifications would be perplexed by what Daniel and Isaac could see from here, which in no way resembled a defensive system. They appeared, rather, to be standing in the intersection of two crowded streets in pre-Fire London. Somewhere behind the half-timbered fronts of the houses and taverns that lined those streets lay defensive works of stone and mortar that would make the Inner Ward impregnable to a pre-gunpowder army. But in order to see those medieval bastions, embrasures, et cetera, one would have to raze and scrape off everything that had been built atop and in front of them, a project akin to sacking a small English town.

Byward Tower was a Gordian knot in and of itself, in that it connected the complex’s two most important gates to its most congested corner. But that was only its ground floor. The building consisted of two circular towers bridged together, and was a favorite place to keep important prisoners. It now stood to one side of Daniel and Isaac. To their other side was the enormous, out-thrust bulk of Bell Tower, the southwestern bastion of the inner wall. But Daniel only knew this because he was a scholar who’d looked at old pictures of the place. Much more obvious were the ground-level structures built facing the street: a couple of taverns right at the base of Bell Tower, more sutlers’ shacks, and small houses and apartments heaped and jumbled against and on top of every ledge of stone that afforded purchase.

Anyone coming into such a crowded place would instinctively scan for a way out. The first one that met the eye, as one came in through Byward Gate, was Water Lane-the strip of pavement between inner and outer defenses, along the river side. This view was half-blocked by Bell Tower and its latter-day excrescences, but none the less seemed like the obvious path to choose, for Water Lane was broad. And because it was open to the public during the daytime, it was generally free of clutter.

The other choice was to make a hard left, turning one’s back on the river, and wander off into what looked like a medieval slum, thrown up against the exterior of a Crusader castle by a lot of bustling rabble who were not allowed to come in and mingle with the knights and squires. The spine of it was a single narrow lane. On the left side of that lane ran a series of old casemates, which in soldier-parlance meant fortified galleries, specifically meant to be overrun by invaders, so that defenders, purposely stranded inside of them, could shoot through the windows into the attackers’ backs and turn the ditch into a killing-ground. In new forts, the casemates were burrowed into the ramparts, and protected by earth. In obsolete ones like this, they were built against the inner faces of curtain-walls. The ones on the left side of Mint Street were of that sort. They rose nearly to the height of the outer wall, obscuring it, and making it easy to forget that all of this was built intra muros. Gunpowder had long since made them militarily useless, and they had been remodeled into workshops and barracks for the Mint.

On the right side, packed in tight as they could be, but never rising above a certain level-like mussels along the tide-line-another line of buildings clung to the higher walls of the inner defenses.

From the corner there at Byward, it all looked like the wreckage of a burnt city that had been raked into a stone sluice where it wanted a good rainstorm to quench the flames, beat down the smoke, and wash it away. The rhythmic crashing noises echoing down the length of this dung-choked ghetto provided the only clue that something of an organized nature was going on in there; but this hardly made Mint Street seem more inviting, even when one knew (as Daniel did) that the incessant bashing was the sound of coins being minted by trip-hammers.

In a funny way, he thought, this burning gutter was a sort of counterpart to Fleet Ditch.

Since the Fleet was full of earth and water, and Mint Street full of fire and air, this was not an insight that ever would have come to Daniel’s mind, if not for the fact that, just a few scant minutes before, he had been staring up the one, and now here he was, staring up the other.

On further reflection, he decided that the two had nothing in common, save that both ran in the same direction to the Thames, and both were cluttered and stagnant and had a lot of shit in them.

He had known Isaac for fifty years, and so he knew, with perfect certainty, that Isaac would turn away from the clear, cool, pleasant prospect of Water Lane, and march into the metallic seething of Mint Street. This he now did, and Daniel was content to follow in his wake. He’d never penetrated more than a few yards into the Mint; the farthest he’d ever gotten was the office that was just inside the entrance, on the left side of the Lane, and up some stairs. Of course Isaac swept past it and kept on going.

The Tower of London was essentially square, though, to be pedantic, an elbow in its northern side made it into a pentagon. The strip between inner and outer walls ran the full circuit. The southern side, along the river, was accounted for by Water Lane; but everything else was Mint Street, which was to say that the Mint embraced the Tower of London on three sides (technically four, taking the northern elbow into account).

Strange as it might seem, in a town with but a single street, it was easy to get lost. The view down the street was obstructed by ten different bastions thrust out from the inner wall, and so one could never see very far. Daniel was of course aware that he was in a horseshoe-shaped continuum, but once he lost count of the towers, this did him little practical good. By walking faithfully in one direction or the other, he would eventually come to an extremity of the horseshoe, and exit onto one end or the other of Water Lane. But the length of the Mint was a quarter of a mile, which for a Londoner might as well have been the distance between Oslo and Rome. Such an interval sufficed to distinguish between the Fleet Ditch and the Royal Society, or the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and the knackers’ yards of Southwark. So by the time he’d followed Isaac past a couple of those bastions, and gone round a turn or two, Daniel felt as if he’d ventured deep into a city as outlandish as Algiers or Nagasaki.

Two hundred feet in, the way was bottlenecked by the handsome semicircular curve of Beauchamp Tower. Directly across from it, crammed against the outer wall, were the long casemates where silver and gold were melted down in great furnaces. Continuing north, they immediately passed more casemates containing the coin-bashers. Then they rounded their first corner, another bottleneck between the bastion of Devereux Tower and a low bulky fort in the vertex of the outer wall, called Legge’s Mount. Both were made very strong, and both were still manned by the Black Torrent Guard, to withstand bombardment from that ?ternal Menace, London, which pressed in close on the Tower here.

Isaac slowed, and looked at Daniel as if he wanted to say something.

Daniel glanced curiously down the segment of Mint Street that had just come into view. He was strangely let down to see that it was quiet and almost peaceful. He’d been hoping that the Mint would only become more Hellish the deeper he went into it, like the Inferno according to Dante, and that in its deepest penetralia would be a forge of surpassing hotness where Isaac turned lead into gold. But from this corner ’twas plain that the climax had come already-that all the big, hot, and loud bits were close to the entrance (which made sense logistically, he had to admit) and that this northern limb was what passed for a sedate residential neighborhood. It was about as hellish as Bloomsbury Square. Which only went to show that Englishmen could live anywhere. Condemn an Englishman to hell, and he’d plant a bed of petunias and roll out a nice bowling-green on the brimstone.

Isaac now said something the precise wording of which scarcely mattered. The import was that Daniel was an impediment to his arcane nocturnal researches, and would he please go away. Daniel answered with some pleasantry and Isaac hurried away, leaving Daniel alone to rove up and down a quarter-mile of Mint.

He gave it a once-over, just to stop feeling lost. The northern limb sported a couple of houses at first, obviously for high Mint officials. Then it was workmen’s barracks on the left side, and, on the right, milling machines of some sort, perhaps the ones that stamped inscriptions on the edges of coins to foil clippers.

As he approached the northern elbow he found himself among soldiers, and thought he’d somehow wandered astray; but after getting round the turn he began to see, again, Mint dwellings on the left and milling shops on the right. So ’twould seem the conversion of military casemates to monetary workhouses was a work still in progress.

There was another sharp right turn, pinched between the bastion where they kept the Crown Jewels and another defensive mount, like Legge’s, in the outer wall. This brought him round to the eastern limb of the Mint, which ran straight south to Water Lane. A few strangely pleasant houses with gardens soon gave way to more of a smoky, glowing, banging character: probably the Irish Mint, which appeared to run all the way to the end.

By all rights he ought to’ve been tired. But the noise and vigor of the Mint infected his blood, and he ended up walking the entire length of it several times before he began to feel the effects of his long day.

The chapel bell tolled midnight from the Inner Ward as Daniel was rounding the northwest corner, near Legge’s Mount, for the third time. Daniel took it as a signal to duck into a little court along the outer wall, a gap between casemates, which had been beckoning to him. It appeared to belong to one of the Mint officials, who kept a wee casemate-house just next to it, as cozy as a dwelling made from a last-ditch fortress defense could ever be. At any rate, the court had a bench in it. Daniel sat down on that bench and fell asleep suddenly.

His watch claimed it was two o’clock in the morning when he, and all the workers who dwelt along Mint Street, were awakened by a sort of Roman Triumph making its way up from Byward Tower. Or at least it sounded as loud and proud as that. But when Daniel finally got up from his bench, dry and stiff as a cadaver, and tottered out to look, he thought it bore the aspect of a funeral-procession.

Charles White was riding atop the black wagon, which was surrounded by cloaked out-riders-mounted Messengers-and followed by a troop of soldiers on foot: two platoons of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards, who garrisoned the Tower, and who (or so Daniel gathered) were in the unenviable position of being at the beck and call of Charles White, whenever he wanted reinforcements. The black wagon itself was now padlocked from the outside.

A strange parade it was. Yet much better suited to this horseshoe-town than any of your sunlit, gay, flower-strewing, music-playing parades. Daniel could not help but fall in step with it as the wagon came abreast of him.

“So!” Daniel exclaimed, “ ’twould appear that the information provided by our guest was correct.”

He could feel White’s glare on his face like sunburn. “All I’ll allow is that our hen squawked, and laid an egg, whose savour is not yet proved. More eggs had better follow, and they had best be full of excellent meat, or else that hen shall furnish Jack Ketch with a dish of wings and drumsticks.”

White’s hen/egg gambit drew light applause. “How’ll you try this egg we have just gathered, sir?” asked one of the foot-soldiers.

“Why, crack its shell first,” he returned, “and then ’tis a choice, whether to fry it on the griddle, boil it ’til hard, scramble it-or eat it raw!”

Another round of laughter for this witticism. Daniel regretted having exposed himself in Mint Street. But they were now making the turn at the elbow, bringing new buildings and bastions in view, and White had lost interest.

“We have him!” White proclaimed, seemingly talking to the moon. But following White’s gaze, Daniel was able to make out Isaac’s silhouette against a narrow archway on the right side, backlit by several torches; or was that the false dawn of furnace-light?

They’d worked their way round to the best district of the whole Mint: the northeast, where the Master and Warden had their private houses and courts on the left. But Isaac was on the right. The arch in which he stood was some kind of sally-port of the Inner Keep.

“He fought like Hercules,” White continued, “despite being one-armed. And we could not clap him in manacles for the same reason!” Everyone laughed. “This holds him very well, though!” He rapped on the roof of the wagon.

The procession drew to a halt there, under the embrasures of the bastion called Brick Tower. Daniel now perceived that Brick Tower had been conceived as a mustering-place where the very bravest, drunkest, or stupidest knights in the Tower of London would gather in preparation for a sally. When they were ready, they would charge down a stone stair that ran along the front of the inner wall, make a sharp left, and continue down a second flight, erupting from the door where Isaac was standing, into the ditch, where God knows what would transpire between them and any foe-men who’d penetrated that far, and survived the fire from the casemates.

All of which was of primarily historical interest tonight. Save that this sally-stair held, in the crook of its arm as it were, a large storehouse, and next to it a stable, belonging to the Mint. These buildings obscured the lower half of Brick Tower, and for all Daniel knew, might be connected with it through passageways-squinting at old sooty out-buildings in the dark at two in the morning left plenty of lee-way for the imagination.

At any rate, the horses drawing the black wagon were obviously of the view that they were home, and the night’s work finished. It was into those dark buildings that the wagon was now conducted. The Messengers remained within, the Guards emerged and dispersed to their barracks, some of which were all of fifty paces away.

This left Daniel alone in the street. Or so he phant’sied, for a few moments, until he noticed a red coal bobbing up and down in a moon-shadow across the way, and realized that someone was lurking there, smoking a pipe, and observing him.

“Did you participate, Sergeant Shaftoe?”

He was only making an educated guess. But the pipe-coal emerged from the shadows, and the form of Bob coalesced in moon-light.

“I dodged that detail, I do confess, Guv.”

“Such errands are not to your liking?”

“Let some youngster take the glory. Opportunities for action are scarce of late, now that the war is in recess.”

“At the other end of town,” said Daniel, “they do not say ’tis in recess, but finished.”

“What other end of town would that be, then?” demanded Bob, feigning elderly daftness. “Would you be speaking of Westminster?” He said that in a very good accent. But then he reverted to mudlark Cockney. “You can’t mean the Kit-Cat Clubb.”

“Nay, e’en at the Kit-Cat Clubb they say the same.”

“To Doctors they say it, I think. To soldiers they say different things. The discourse of the Whigs is cloven like a devil’s hoof.”

An ugly commotion now arose within the stable at the foot of Brick Tower, which, while Doctor Waterhouse and Sergeant Shaftoe had been conversing, had been lit up with torches. The doors of the wagon had been unlocked, and men were shouting in a way Daniel hadn’t heard since he’d gone to the bear-baiting in Rotherhithe. From where they were standing, it was not loud. But something in the tenor of it made it out of the question for Daniel and Bob to continue their talk. Suddenly it rose to such a pitch that Daniel shrank away, thinking that the prisoner might be about to escape altogether. There was a tattoo of thumps, and a scream or two; then momentary silence, broken by a man calling out in a language of bent vowels and outlandish syllables.

“I have heard curses in many tongues, but this one is new to me,” Bob remarked. “Where’s the prisoner from?”

“He is from Muscovy,” Daniel decided, after listening for a few more moments, “and he is not cursing, but praying.”

“If that is how Muscovites sound when they talk to God, I’d hate to hear their blaspheming.”

After that, all movements inside the stable were accompanied by the clanking of irons. “They put a collar on him,” Bob said learnedly. The sounds receded, then vanished all of a sudden. “He’s in the Tower now,” Bob announced. “God have mercy on him.” He sighed, and gazed down the length of the street in the direction of the full moon, which was swinging low over London. “I had better rest,” he said, “and so had you-if you intend to come.”

“Come where?” Daniel asked.

“Wherever we are directed by the Russian.”

It took a moment for Daniel to work through all that was implied by this. “You think that they will torture him-and he will break-and lead us to-?”

“It is only a matter of time, once Charles White has him in the Tower. Come, I’ll get you a proper billet, away from the noise.”

“What noise?” Daniel asked, because the Mint had been extraordinarily quiet these last few minutes. But as he followed Bob Shaftoe back up the street, he began to hear, through one of the open embrasures in Brick Tower, the sound of a man screaming.

River Thames


THE NEXT MORNING (23 APRIL 1714)

“IN THE END THE MUSCOVITE spoke willingly,” Isaac announced.

He and Daniel were on the poop deck of Charles White’s sloop Atalanta. Twelve hours had passed since the Muscovite had been brought into the Tower.

Daniel had spent one of those hours attempting to sleep in the officers’ quarters of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards. Then the whole Tower had been roused by a call to arms. Or so it had seemed, from the perspective of one savagely irritable old man who desperately wanted to sleep. In truth, only the First Company of the Guards was rousted. To the other denizens of the Tower it was the most delicious sort of nocturnal alarm: one that gave occasion only to roll over and go back to sleep.

After some few minutes of fuss and bother, which he scarcely remembered since he’d been asleep on his feet, Daniel had been sent out of the Tower of London the way he’d come in, and ushered aboard Atalanta. He had repaired to a small cabin and seized the first thing that looked like a bunk. Some time later he had been awakened by sunlight, and peered out a window to discover that they had moved all of a quarter of a mile from Tower Wharf. Situation Normal: some foul-up had brought the proceeding (whatever it was) to a stand; they had Hurried Up only to Wait. He had pulled a blanket over his face and gone back to sleep.

When he’d finally woken up, not long ago, and dragged himself, stiff and foul and squinty-eyed, abovedecks to piss over the rail, he’d been startled to find open country around them, and the river’s width swollen to a mile. He guessed they were nearing the end of Long Reach, between Erith and Greenhithe, which would put them about halfway from London to the sea.

To get to the rail, he had to “beg your pardon” through many dragoons. The entire First Company-more than a hundred men-had been crammed aboard. Even when half of them were packed in belowdecks, this made the upperdeck so crowded that men could not sit down. Rather than trying to walk upon the deck, the sloop’s able seamen scampered like spiders through rigging overhead. Fortunately, as was the practice on all well-run ships, the aft or poop was reserved for officers; and Fellows of the Royal Society were given honorary status as such. Once he’d dragged himself up the stairs to the poop, Daniel found elbow room to spare, and plenty of space along the rail to get fresh air, to urinate, and to spit out the cottony stuff that had grown in his mouth while he’d been sleeping. A cabin-boy, perhaps alarmed by the volume of fluid this already-shriveled gager was discharging into the Thames, even brought him a ladle of water.

And at some point Sir Isaac appeared at his elbow, making his day complete.

“He spoke willingly,” Daniel repeated, trying not to sound aghast.

“Indeed, for a choice was laid before him: endure confinement and interrogation in the Tower to the end of his days, or tell what he knew, and be returned to Russia. He chose Russia.”

“Well if you put it that way, anyone who speaks under torture does so willingly,” Daniel pointed out. Normally he would have been slower to jab at Isaac, but he was in a wretched state, and moreover, had performed a great boon for Isaac during the previous day.

Isaac retorted, “I saw the Muscovite returning to his cell on his own two feet when it was over. Whatever was done to him was less violent-though it may have been more excruciating-than the beatings that are given to yon soldiers, every day, for trifling offenses. Mr. White knows ways of securing the cooperation of prisoners without inflicting permanent injury.”

“He’ll go back to Muscovy with both of his ears, then?”

“His ears, his eyes, his beard, and all the limbs he came in with.”

Daniel had not yet turned to look Isaac in the face. Instead he was facing abaft, looking at a pair of flat-bottomed river boats that followed in their wake. These were laden mostly with horses, and all the clutter that went with them, viz. saddles, tack, and grooms. No wonder they’d been slow to get underway.

While he’d been conversing with Isaac, the sloop had been negotiating a zigzag in the river, and widening its lead over the horse-barges; now they were swinging wide round a large, marshy lobe in the south bank, and coming in view of a place, a couple of miles downstream, where bright green downs and white chalk-hills crowded the right bank, and gave purchase for a river-side settlement. There, he knew, would be Gravesend. The seamen who were manning the sloop-scattered very thin over the crowd of Guards-became more alert. The laconic, incomprehensible commands of the sloop’s captain came more frequently. They were going to put in there. Indeed, they had few other choices, as once they got below Gravesend there’d be nothing but ooze all the way to the North Sea; and what was the point of barging a lot of horses down the river to drown ’em?

“What do you imagine a Russian was doing here, in business with Jack the Coiner?” Daniel asked.

“Jack enjoys the lavish support of some foreign potentate, most likely the King of France,” Isaac answered. “For make no mistake, the commerce of England is envied by all the world. Those Kings who cannot raise their own realms to our level, phant’sy that they can bring us down to theirs, by polluting our coinage. If the King of France may harbor such ambitions, why, so may the Tsar of all the Russias.”

“You think the Muscovite is a Tsarish agent?”

“That is the most creditable explanation.”

“You said he had a beard?”

“Indeed, a long luxuriant one.”

“How many years’ growth, would you say?”

“Soaked and stretched, it would extend below his navel.”

“He sounds like a Raskolnik to me,” Daniel said.

“What’s a Raskolnik?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. But they hate the Tsar. And one of the reasons they hate him is that he has decreed that they must shave off their long luxuriant beards.”

This silenced Isaac for a while, by forcing him to carry out immense recalculations. Daniel took unfair advantage of it to add: “Not long ago a new warship being built for the Tsar in Rotherhithe was burned by an Infernal Device, secreted in the recesses of the hull during the night-time. It used clock-work to shatter a phial containing white phosphorus, which, when the air touched it, burst into flame. Or so I have inferred from smelling its smoke, and sifting through the residue.”

Isaac was too fascinated by the news to wonder how Daniel had come by it. “That is the same mechanism as was used to set off the explosion in Crane Court!”

“Been looking into it, have you?”

“I did not ignore the warning you sent me.”

“The one-armed Muscovite is no foreign agent,” Daniel prophesied, “but a sort of Phanatique who absconded from Russia for the same reason that my great-grandfather, John Waterhouse, fled to Geneva during the reign of Bloody Mary. At loose ends in London, he somehow became a part of Jack’s criminal net-work. I am quite certain he has not the slightest intention of going back to Russia.”

“Your hypothesis is belied by your own evidence,” Isaac said. He had reverted to a high, magnificent tone that he used for philosophical discourse. “You have convinced me that the same organization that set off the Crane Court explosion, burned the Tsar’s ship in Rotherhithe. But a mere band of criminals does not pursue foreign policy!”

“It may be that the Swedes paid them to destroy the ship a-building,” Daniel said, “which is easier than sinking it after it is launched and armed. Or it may be that the Muscovite, being, as I gad, a sort of Phanatique, did it by himself, as Puritans used to strike whatever blows they might against the King.”

Isaac reflected for a moment, then said, “To carry on discourse, of a speculative nature, about Jack’s organization and its designs, is idle.”

“Why is it idle?”

“Because in a few hours they will be in our power, and then we may simply ask them.”

“Ah,” Daniel said, “I could not tell if we were going to arrest Jack the Coiner, or invade France.”

Isaac briefly made a noise that sounded like laughing. “We are going to lay siege to a castle.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“ ’Tis a Jacobite stronghold,” Isaac said. He was being just a bit facetious.

“So in a sense we are going to invade France,” Daniel muttered.

“One might think of it as a chip of France on the banks of the Thames,” Isaac said, showing a taste for whimsy that was, to say the least, out of character. But (as shown by the laugh and the sarcasm) he’d learned a conversational gambit or two during his decades in London.

For example, prating about the genealogy of noble families: “You remember the Angleseys, I am certain.”

“How could I not?” Daniel answered.

Indeed, the very mention of the name forced him to come awake, as if he had had just been told that the sails of Blackbeard had been sighted on the horizon. He looked Isaac full in the face for the first time since the conversation had begun.

As a young man Daniel had known the Angleseys as a clan of dangerous crypto-Catholic court fops. The patriarch, Thomas More Anglesey, Duke of Gunfleet, had been a contemporary, and a mortal rival, of John Comstock, who was the Earl of Epsom and the first great noble backer of the Royal Society. Comstock had been the C, and Anglesey the first A, in the CABAL, the group of five who had run the Restoration government of Charles II.

In those days Daniel had been too naive to comprehend just how close the connections were between the Angleseys and the royal family. Later, he’d learned that the two sons of Thomas More Anglesey, Louis (the Earl of Upnor) and Phillip (Count Sheerness), were both bastards of Charles II, fathered on a French Countess during the Interregnum, when Charles had been exiled in France. Thomas More Anglesey had then been induced, somehow, to marry the embarrassed Countess and raise the two boys. He’d done a wretched job of it-perhaps he’d been distracted by ceaseless plot-making against John Comstock.

The younger of the two “Anglesey” bastards, Louis, had been a great swordsman, and had used Puritans as practice targets during his years at Trinity College, Cambridge. He’d been there at the same time as Daniel, Isaac, and various other fascinating human specimens, including Roger Comstock and the late Duke of Monmouth. Later, Louis had become interested in Alchemy. Daniel even now blamed him for seducing Isaac into the Esoteric Brotherhood. But there was no point in laying blame today-for the Earl of Upnor had perished a quarter-century ago at the Battle of Aughrim, fending off a hundred Puritans, Germans, Danes, amp;c. with his rapier, until shot in the back.

By that time his supposed father, the Duke of Gunfleet, had long since died. The Duke’s final years had not been good ones. Having ruined the Silver Comstocks-driven John into rustic retirement, and the rest of them all the way to Connecticut-and having taken over their house in St. James’s, he had seen his own fortunes destroyed, by bad investments, by his sons’ gambling debts (which must have hurt him all the more, as they weren’t really his sons), and above all by the Popish Plot, which was a sort of politico-religious rabies that had taken over London round 1678. He had packed the entire family off to France and sold the London palace to Roger Comstock, who had promptly leveled it with the ground and turned it into a real estate development. In France the Duke had died-Daniel had no idea when, but it would have been a long time ago-leaving only Phillip, Count Sheerness: the older of the two bastards.

Count Sheerness. All of these names-Gunfleet, Upnor, and Sheerness-referred to places round the mouth of the Thames, and had been handed out to the Angleseys by Charles II in reward for services performed at time of the Restoration. Daniel could only recollect a few of the details. Thomas More Anglesey had been in a wee naval scrap off Gunfleet Sands, and sunk a boat-load of die-hard Puritan sailors, or something like that, and had proceeded to the Buoy of the Nore, where he’d rallied a lot of Royalist ships around him.

The Nore was a sandbar-really the extremity of a vast region of shifting sands deposited round the place where the Thames and the Medway joined together and emptied into the sea. A Buoy had always been anchored there, a few miles off Sheerness Fort, to warn incoming ships, and to force them to choose between going to port-which would, God and tides willing, take them up the Medway, under the guns of Sheerness Fort and then of Castle Upnor, and eventually to Rochester and Chatham-or to starboard, which set them on the way up the Thames to London. Anglesey’s makeshift fleet had been neither the first nor the last invasion force to use that buoy as a rallying-point. The Dutch had done it a few years later. In fact, one of the peculiar duties assigned to the naval ships in this part of the river was to sail up to the Buoy and blow it out of the water whenever serious trouble loomed, so that foreign invaders could not find it.

At the time Charles II had come back, the ignominious Dutch invasion lay in the future, and Sheerness and Upnor seemed glorious names. But to any Englishman who’d been alive and awake during the Anglo-Dutch War, most certainly including Daniel and Isaac, such words as “Buoy of the Nore” and “Sheerness” connoted dark doings by foreigners, farcical bungling by Englishmen, grievous humiliation, proof of England’s vulnerability to seaborne intruders.

So if Isaac’s reference to Count Sheerness was the ink, then all of this history was the page the ink was printed on.

If they kept going as they were, they’d be in view of the Buoy of the Nore in a few hours.

“You can’t be serious,” Daniel blurted.

“If I observed faces, instead of stars, and philosophized about thinking, instead of Gravity, I could write a treatise about what I have seen passing over your visage in these past thirty seconds,” Isaac said.

“I wonder if I am arrogant to think that Waterhouses are no less deeply enmeshed in the affairs of the world, than Angleseys or Comstocks. For just when I think that all have passed on, and my connections to them severed-”

“You find yourself on a boat for Sheerness,” Isaac concluded.

“Tell me the tale, then,” Daniel said, “for I’ve not kept up with the Angleseys.”

“They’ve a French name now, and French titles, inherited from the mother of Louis and Phillip, and they dwell at Versailles, save when they are at the exile court in St.-Germain, paying homage to the Pretender. Only Phillip survived long enough to propagate the line-he had two sons before he was poisoned by his wife in 1700. The sons are in their twenties; neither has been to England or speaks a word of English. But the older of the two remains Lord of the Manor in certain pockets of land around Sheerness, on either bank of the Medway.”

“And ’tis unthinkable he’d be anything but a Jacobite.”

“The situation of his properties is most convenient for smugglers-or for agents of France. In particular he is lord of a certain lonely castle that stands off the Isle of Grain, in view of the open sea, and that may be reached directly from the Continent without interference by Her Majesty’s Customs agents.”

“Was all of this information provided by the Russian? For I am not inclined to trust him.”

“The tale of the absorption of the Angleseys into France is well known. The particulars concerning Shive Tor come from the Muscovite.”

“You stated a minute ago that Jack the Coiner was an agent of Louis XIV,” Daniel said, “and that he was generously supported. You are telling me that this thing you call Shive Tor-”

“Has been made available to Jack,” Isaac concluded. “It is the head-quarters of his criminal empire, his treasure-keep, his bolt-hole, his conduit to France.”

It is a convenient explanation, Daniel said to himself, for the fact that a varlet has been able to evade you for so many years. But he knew if he said it aloud, Isaac would heave him overboard.

“You phant’sy that’s where it is, don’t you?”

Isaac stared at him, and did not so much as blink for a long time. After a bit this made Daniel nervous, and as if he needed to fill in the silence with some words. “It would make sense,” he continued, “if the gold-the Solomonic Gold-came off a ship, as you suppose-what better place to unload it, and to store it, than a remote and obscure watch-tower, without most of Her Majesty’s defenses and customs houses?”

“I shall thank you not to divulge this to the others. We must take utmost care until the gold is safe in the Tower of London.”

“What then?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Suppose you find King Solomon’s Gold in Shive Tor and bring it home to your laboratory, and extract the Philosophic Mercury from it-that’s it, then, isn’t it?”

“That’s what, then?”

“It’s the End of the World or something, it is the Apocalypse, you’ve solved the riddle, found God’s presence on Earth, the secret of eternal life-really, this entire conversation is idle, in a sense-none of it matters, does it?”

“There is no telling,” Isaac said, in the soothing tones of one who is trying to calm a madman. “My calculations from the Book of Revelation suggest that the End of the World will not occur until 1876.”

“Really!?” Daniel said, fascinated. “That’s a hell of a long time. A hundred sixty-two years! Perhaps this Solomonic Gold is over-rated.”

“Solomon had it,” Isaac pointed out, “and the world did not come to an end then, did it? Christ Jesus Himself-the Word made flesh-trod the earth for thirty-three years, and even now, seventeen centuries later, the world is a heathenish and foul place. Never did I suppose that the Solomonic Gold was to be the world’s Panacea.”

“What is it, then? What is the bleeding point?”

“If nothing else,” Isaac said, “it will furnish me with the means to give the German a warm welcome when he comes over the sea.”

And he turned away from Daniel and went belowdecks.

Lieutenant’s Lodging, the Tower of London


AFTERNOON

SAID LIEUTENANT-GENERAL EWELL THROWLEY, the Lieutenant of the Tower: “I do most humbly beg your pardon, my lord, but I simply did not understand.”

His prisoner and guest, Rufus MacIan, Lord Gy, peered with his one extant eye across the dining-room table into the flushing face of his captor and host. Lord Gy was only thirty years old, but he was big and whiskery and banged-up and haggard. Very clearly and distinctly, he repeated his last statement: “Yeir buird is a fere bit o wrichtwork. A jiner today can never fetch such mastie straiks as these, he must send strags upaland to scaff amang the rammel, an plaister all together oot o skifting his grandfaither would hae tossed inti the chaffer.”

Ewell Throwley was forced to abort, and circle back around. “My lord, we are military men, the both of us, and saw hard service in the late War. This remains true in spite of the revolutions in Fortune that have made you a condemned prisoner, and me the officer in charge of the Liberty of the Tower. I learned in my service, as I daresay you did in yours, that there is a time to set courtly manners aside, and speak plainly, one gentleman to another. There is no shame, no dishonor in so doing. May I speak to you in that wise now?”

Lord Gy shrugged. “Aye, let’s hae it.”

Gy was the name of a river near Arras. Back in the days when he had been named simply Rufus MacIan, this man had, on an impulse, splashed across it and cut a French gentleman in two with one swing of a five-foot-long Claymore. The Frenchman had turned out to be a Count, and a Colonel, with a poor sense of direction. The tide of a battle had been turned as a consequence of that Claymore-stroke. MacIan had been ennobled as Lord Gy.

“I knew that I could rely upon you, my lord, as a fellow-soldier,” Lieutenant-General Ewell Throwley went on. “ ’Tis well. For there is a certain matter never spoken of in polite society, and yet known to all, which will, if we ignore it-pretending that it does not exist-turn what should be a pleasant social occasion into an insufferable ordeal. You do know-or as you would say, ‘ken’-what I speak of, my lord?”

“Crivvens!” exclaimed Lord Gy. “Wha hae foostit ben the heid-hoose!?” Then he added, with unmistakable sarcasm: “Serr’s, a coud gae through the fluir.”

“Brilliant, that is a paradigmatic specimen,” said Throwley. “It is this, my lord: you do not speak English.”

An awkward moment across the table there. Rufus MacIan drew breath to answer, but Throwley headed him off: “Oh, you understand it perfectly. But it is not what you speak. The polite euphemisms are many. We say, my lord Gy has a Highland lilt, a brogue, a burr. But this is to gloss over the true nature of the problem, which is that you simply and in fact are not speaking English. You could if you wanted, but you don’t. Please, I beg of you, my lord Gy, speak English, and consider yourself welcome in my house, and at my table.”

“ ’Twas o the table-the buird-a was discoursing, when ye set in with such an uncanny rant concerning ma accent.”

“It is not an accent. This is my point. My Lord.”

“Sixteen month hae a lodged in the Tower o London,” said Lord Gy very slowly, “and never seen th’inside o this hoose till now. A meant only to offer a compliment on the furnishings.” The Scotsman gripped the edge of the tabletop with both hands and lifted it half an inch off the floor, testing its weight. “These baulks wuid serve to stop bools. Which is to say, cannonballs.”

“Your compliments are accepted with gratitude,” said Throwley. “As to the delay in extending my hospitality-most regrettable. As you know, it is a long-standing tradition for the Lieutenant of the Tower to take tea with Persons of Quality who have been committed to this place. As a fellow-veteran, I have impatiently awaited the day when I could share this table with you. As no one knows better than you, my lord, during the first year of your incarceration, it was felt best to keep you in heavy irons stapled to the floor of Beauchamp Tower. This I do most sincerely deplore. But since then, we have not heard from you the threats, the promises of death, dismemberment, and mayhem; or if we have, we have not understood them. It has been deemed suitable to move you to a Yeoman Warder’s house, like the other guests. You and Mr. Downs have been getting along famously, I presume?”

Both Rufus MacIan and Ewell Throwley now turned their attention to the portly, bearded Beefeater who had escorted the prisoner across the Parade and into the Lieutenant’s Lodgings. Yeoman Downs looked tremendously satisfied. Indeed, had looked that way, without letup, since he had opened the door of his wee house on the green a quarter of an hour ago, and led his guest across the grass in a flying wedge of armed Sentinels.

“We hae gaen alang,” said Lord Gy gravely, “like a hoose afire.”

The Lieutenant of the Tower and the Yeoman Warder alike seemed just a bit uncomfortable with this simile; and so there was now an awkward silence. Lord Gy filled it by humming some sort of weird aimless Gaelic chaunt.

The Lieutenant’s Lodging, which was situated in the southwestern corner of the Inner Ward, was a Tudor sort of house, typical of pre-Fire London; now it was remarkable chiefly in that it had never burned down. Downs, Throwley, and MacIan were in a dining-room that had seen a lot of hard service. Throwley’s maid and steward hovered in a corridor. Another maid-a servant of Lord Gy, who had followed Downs and Gy across the green-tarried in the entrance-hall with a covered basket. Several armed guards stood outside the front door, looking out over the Parade, which was quiet. Drumbeats, and the bellowing of sergeants, could be heard drifting over the fortifications from the direction of Tower Hill, where the garrison was drilling. Too one could hear the sporadic pock, pock, pock of carpenters building the platform where, in seven days, Rufus MacIan’s head would be detached from his body.

“Splendid,” said Throwley weakly, “that is what Mr. Downs has reported, and most fortunate it is that I have been able to share this table with you before your, er, departure.”

“Ye spake a minute or of lang-standin traditions,” said Lord Gy, and looked significantly at the Yeoman Warder. Downs relayed the signal to the young woman in the entry hall, who now ventured into the dining-room. Ewell Throwley raised his eyebrows and blinked, for she was a tall and muscular lass with enough red hair to cover three average heads. As she burst across the threshold of the room she executed a sort of running curtsey and tossed a grin at Throwley.

“On the Muir of Rannoch, they grow braw, or they grow na at all,” MacIan offered by way of explanation.

“Ah, you have imported a…clanswoman from the…country to look after you.”

“A look oot for her, sir…an orphant she is…a trigidy, if ye must know.” MacIan cleared his throat. The red-headed lass withdrew a bottle from the market-basket perched on her arm. She gave it to Downs, then curtseyed and backed out of the room. Gy purred some phlegmy endearment to her. Downs handed him the bottle. Gy clasped it tenderly in both hands. “I have prepared an Oration!” he announced in something quite a bit closer to the English spoken by Throwley. This silenced the house. “Sir, ye treat us well here, for condemned traitors. The Tower isna a bread-and-water sort of nick, if a man will only comport himself civilly. Nay, all manner of victuals are allowed iz, and many a laird dines better in the Tower, after he’s doomed, than he did a free man in London town. ’Tis a tradition, or so a am told, to share with the Warders, the Major, the Deputy Lieutenant, and-sir-the Lieutenant hissell, some moiety o the comforts ye so generously allow iz to partake of. And this hae a done with the other officers. But-sir-not yet with ye, for a hae na the privilege, till this moment, of making your acquaintance.” He raised up the bottle. “Ye alluded afore to my carnaptious first twelvemonth on these premises. A do confess a was frawart and bool-horned. A did misca ye. A wes less than a Highland gentleman should be. But a Highland gentleman is never wantin the comfort of a refreshment that we know as usquebaugh. Some call it the water of life. When a wes allowed to hae it, ma mood an ma manners improved. But today a hae a guid deal more o the water than o life; for ma social calendar says a hae an Engagement on Tower Hill wi one Jack Ketch, a week frae today. And so a wanted ye to hae this, Lieutenant-General Throwley. It came to me frae a blude-friend only yesterday, and as ye can see, the bottle’s never been opened.”

Throwley bowed, but did not reach out to accept the bottle, since Rufus MacIan had not yet formally presented it. He contented himself, for now, with a glance at the label. “Glen Coe, twenty-two years old,” he read. “Why, ’tis as old as the lassie who brought it in!”

Downs laughed in the manner of all subordinates subjected to the boss’s wit. Lord Gy took it gravely. “You’re rare gleg in the uptak, sir, why, the twae ir precisely alike in age.”

“My lord, I know some London gentlemen who make a study of this usquebaugh, in all its varieties, even as Frenchmen do of Burgundy wine. I confess I know little of Glen this or Glen that-but I have at least the wit to recognize that any bottle aged two and a score years must be of rare excellence.”

“Oh, ’tis rare-very few hae survived. Very few. Ye maun learn usquebaugh, sir. For many Jacobites wul be dwellin in this Tower in years to come, an a moiety of ’em wul be Highlanders. Nae man is better poised than ye to make o hissell a collector and a connoisseur.”

“Then do let my collection, and my education, begin to-day! David, bring some dram-glasses,” Throwley called to the steward who had been waiting outside the servants’ entrance to the dining-room. “What can you tell me, my lord, concerning this bottle? What distinguishes it from the common dram?”

“Och, sir, ye maun no consider only its age, but its provenance, or what the French call its terroir. For Scotland’s a big varyand countra, as crazed, riven, and pitted as ma own visage, gowstie here, cosie thare. Nae brae, nae glen, nae ben like the next. Each wi its own clime, its own sile, its own water. Adam’s wine, we call water. A hae known Highlandmen who, when they were lost in smochy weather, could ken just where they were by scoopin up a handful o water frae a burn or a loch, an havin a wee gust.”

“Or, I daresay, a wee dram from the nearest still!” put in Lieutenant-General Throwley, to the great entertainment of Yeoman Warder Downs. But Rufus MacIan accepted the jest with equanimity, and settled the chuckling of the two Englishmen with the calm stare of his clear blue eye.

“Dinna you make fun! ’Tis true. For the usquebaugh is the daughter of the cold clear waters tha dance in those Highland burns.”

“My lord, modest chap that you are, you do not do justice to the men who dwell in those glens. For surely there is skill, there is technique-it is not a mere matter of stirring together a few natural constituents.”

Rufus MacIan raised his eyebrows and held up an index finger. “Point well taken, sir, an a thank ye for gien me a fair opportunity to blaw mynes ain horn!”

Downs and Throwley laughed. A silver tray, a-rattle with small cups, had been brought in and set down. “Please, my lord, sit with us.”

“A wul stand, thank ye, as befits a professor afore his scholars.”

The two Englishmen were left slightly ill at ease, but Lord Gy made it plain by gestures that they were to sit, and even pulled out Downs’s chair for him. He explained: “In that wee tissle at Malplaquet, which ye may hae heard of, ma company were ruggin an rivin wi some Frenchmen. A took a muckle cloot frae a musket butt, fell frae ma horse, an bemang’d my rig.” He put his hands on his kidneys and shoved his pelvis forward. His sporran flew at the Englishmen and a barrage of pops and creaks came out of his lower spine.

“ ’Tis true, he never sits, but drives me mad with his pacing,” Downs put in.

MacIan was at such obvious pains to make them at ease that Downs and Throwley acquiesced, and leaned back comfortably in their chairs to hear the continuation of the lecture.

“As the landscape o ma countra is fractured into diverse muirs, glens, gullions, snibs, howes, scaurs, linns, lirks, et cetera, so ma nation, as is well known, is divided into many clans, and the clans into septs. And it is among the auld men, the lang in the horn as we say, that the wit and the airt of usquebaugh-making is concentrated-I maun wax poetic an say, distilled. As the septs and clans differ, so do the stills and the airt of their use, and so, accordingly, does the produce.”

“Prithee, then, tell us of the sept and clan of this place whose name is on the bottle,” Throwley said. “For some reason the name of Glen Coe is familiar to me; but during the War my head got so over-flowed with outlandish place-names, I can no longer sort them out.”

“Why, ’tis remarkable ye should inquire, sir, for it is ma clan and ma sept!”

Downs and Throwley laughed heartily at this, as it seemed to have been ingeniously laid, like a conjuror’s trick. The Englishmen were looking a bit wide-eyed at Lord Gy now, seeing him anew, as a regular bloke, a merry companion.

The Scotsman made the faintest suggestion of a bow to acknowledge the glow of appreciation on their faces, and continued: “That is why a am givin ye this praisent now, Lieutenant-General Throwley. For a Highlander, the water of life that comes frae his oon glen is as much a part of him as his oon livin blude. A gie ye this so it wul aye be livin on after the deid-strake hae fallen on ma neck on yonder Hill.” And now, finally, he extended the bottle across the table to Throwley. Throwley, with an Englishman’s eye for the ceremonial gesture, stood up smartly and accepted the gift with a bow. When he sat, so, finally, did MacIan.

“But my lord, again modesty obstructs your duty as our professor. We should learn something of the people of Glen Coe before we drink their, er…”

“The water o their life, sir.”

“Indeed.”

“There isna much to relate of MacIan of MacDonald,” said Lord Gy. “We ir a wee sept, much more so of late. Glen Coe is an uncommon high, weather-glim scaup o land in the north of Argyll, no far frae Fort William. It runs from a lofty gowl in the Grampians down to the slate-mines at Ballachulish, at the heid of the loch called Linnhe, which runs down to plash the shores of Mull and spaw into the Atlantic. A wilsome, out o the way place is Glen Coe. When we do receive outdwellars, ’tis ever a surpreese, and more oft than na, they turn out to be lost on the way to Crianlarich. We try to show them hospitality none the less. Hospitality, we have learnt, is an uncannie thing. One may never tell how ’twill be repaid.”

“Is very much usquebaugh produced in Glen Coe?”

“ ’Tis odd that ye should ask, for I believe none is produced there now, or for many years. Aye, the only bottles o Glen Coe ye ir like to hae in yeir collection, shall be very auld ones.”

“What-?”

“The still was shivered. No one hae made it guid.”

“Then the MacIan MacDonalds must have fallen upon hard times indeed,” Throwley said gravely.

“ ’Tis more right to say, hard times fell on thaim. Whan all of us in this room were laddies, an order went oot frae King William that the chiefs o the Highland clans maun all sign a muckle oath o loyalty, spurnin all allegiance to the Stewart-that ye call the Pretender. Alastair MacIan MacDonald, ma chief, did sign that pledge. But dwellin as he was in the back of beyond, and it bein the deid of a vicious winter, he did miss a certain deidline. Now, no long efter, a great doon-come of snow fell ding on in oor glen. The bothies an barns were smoored under it. An then wha should appear but a company o soldiers frae Fort William, that had gang agley in the spindrift. Vagand like a band o runagates they war, fagged half to deeth, sterving, blae-a company o kirkyaird deserters! They dinna hae to beg us. A sakeless hill-run lot we wes, dacent and soothfast, goodwillie toward fellow-men. Shelter we gied them, no in oor barns, mind ye, but in oor own homes, humble as they war. For these war na outdwellars to us, though they war o a different clan. They war fellow-Scotsmen. We turned it into a ceilidh. That’s whaur all o our usquebaugh went! Down the throttles o those ramscallions! But we dinna mind.”

Now an extraordinary thing happened, which was that the sound of bagpipes became audible.

The Lieutenant’s Lodging was packed into the corner of the Inner Ward. Indeed, though the front wall was half-timbered, the back was simply the ancient curtain-wall of the Tower of London, looking down over Water Lane. Windows had been made in the upper reaches of that wall so that the Lieutenant could see out over the Lane, and the outer fortifications, wharf, and river beyond. Both Water Lane and the Wharf were open to the public during the day-time. It seemed likely that Throwley’s housekeeper had opened those rear windows to let April breezes air out the bedchambers, and haply a strolling bagpiper had wandered by, playing a Highland melody in hopes that strollers or soldiers would toss coins at him. It was the same tune that Lord Gy had been humming a few minutes previously.

Strong emotion had begun to tell on MacIan’s face as he related the tale of the lost soldiers and the impromptu ceilidh that his kin had thrown for them in the snowdrifts of Glen Coe. When the bagpipe’s snarl drifted through the room, his eye became watery, and he began to paw at the patch that covered the other. “Och, a need a dram,” he confessed. “Ir ye havin difficulty, sir, gettin that open?”

“I must confess with all these layers of wax, lead, and wire, the contents of this bottle are as closely guarded as this Tower!”

“Haud yeir tung, much more so!” said Lord Gy dismissively. “Gie it me, there is a trick to getting it open, a’l hae oor drams poured out smairtly.” He accepted the bottle back from Throwley.

Downs had been looking queasy these last few minutes. “I do confess, my lord, your tale has struck a chord, a melancholy one, in my memory. The details escape me. But I doubt its ending.”

“Then a’l make it quick, and make an end o it. Efter twae weeks o dwelling amang us as blude-friends, gutting our winter victuals, burning up oor peat-bings, an dancin the reel o Bogie wi our lasses, those mangrels waukened one day at five in the morning and put the MacIan MacDonalds to the fire and the sword. Our glen they made into a knacker’s midden. Some of us fled to the crags, yawin an yammerin, heart-scalded. We lived on snow an wrake-lust until the murthering wichts had gaen away. Only then durst we gae doon amang the bones an cinders to hack common graves into the frozened erd o Glen Coe.”

Yeoman Downs and Lieutenant-General Throwley were sitting gobsmacked. They were petrified for now, though a harsh word or sudden movement from Rufus MacIan might have scattered them from the house.

Noting this, he closed his eye for a moment, then opened it, and managed a wry smile.

That, to the Englishman, seemed the moral to the story. It said that in spite of the horror he had witnessed as a boy, Rufus MacIan had grown up into a gentleman, and found a kind of solace in the self-control and civility that was expected of such.

“Now,” he said, “wuid ye care for a dram?”

“My lord,” said Throwley huskily, “ ’twere disrespectful to refuse.”

“Then let me get the damned thing open,” said Rufus MacIan of MacDonald. He rubbed moisture from his eye on the shoulder of his coat, and drew in a big snuffle before it could escape from his nostrils. “Mr. Downs, as a mentioned, there’s a trick to it. Shards o glass may fly. A entreat ye to look the other way-unless ye want me to leave ye this eye-patch in ma last will and testament!”

Mr. Downs permitted himself a controlled smile at this faint jest, and averted his gaze.

Lord Gy gripped the bottle by its neck and swung it sideways until it exploded against Downs’s temple.

He was left holding only the neck of the bottle. But projecting from it was a steel dirk nine inches long, dripping usquebaugh. He was up on the table before Lieutenant-General Throwley could rise from his chair.

From the next room could be heard the sound of the red-headed maidservant throwing the door bolts to.

Rufus MacIan of MacDonald was squatting in the middle of the dining table now, giving Throwley a clear and close view of whatever it was he kept underneath his kilt. It seemed to have paralyzed the Lieutenant of the Tower. Which made his visitor’s next move a simple matter. “Can ye understand this?” MacIan asked, and rammed the dirk into Throwley’s eyeball until it stopped hard against the back of his skull.

Sloop Atalanta, Gravesend


AFTERNOON

THEY DREW ALONGSIDE A WHARF at Gravesend. It was near where the tilt-boat ran up the river to London, and so a sizable and curious crowd was there watching them, and calling out questions. Perhaps Isaac thought his outburst about “the German” really was an intelligible end to the conversation, or perhaps he did not care to stand in the open on the poop and be peered at.

Daniel sensed he was being peered at from another quarter. A certain gentleman had been haunting the corner of Daniel’s eye for above a quarter of an hour. From his dress, he was an officer of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards.

“Colonel Barnes,” the man said, in response to what must have been a lapse in Daniel’s mean, flinty outlook.

“I am Dr. Daniel Waterhouse,” Daniel returned, “and I have heard criminals introduce themselves to me with greater formality and courtesy than what you have just shown.”

“I know,” said Colonel Barnes, “one of them came up to me and did just that, a few hours ago, on Tower Wharf.”

“Colonel Barnes, ’twould seem you have duties ashore, I’ll not delay you-”

Barnes glanced out over the sloop’s upperdeck, which had now been joined to the wharf by gangplanks in two places. Dragoons were streaming across, driven by cursing sergeants on the deck and exhorted by lieutenants on the wharf; as they came ashore they clustered by platoon.

“On the contrary, Dr. Waterhouse, I’m to stay ’board ship. Suits me better.” He made a loud rapping noise on the deck, and Daniel looked down to discover that one of the colonel’s legs was a rod of carven ebony with a steel tip.

“You are a Black Torrent man to the bone,” Daniel remarked. Every regiment had its own type of wood, used to make swagger sticks and the like, and ebony was the trade-mark of the Black Torrent Guards.

“Indeed, been with them since the Revolution.”

“Surely you need to supervise the disembarkation-”

“Dr. Waterhouse, you do not understand Delegation of Authority,” Barnes returned. “Here’s how it works: I tell my subordinates to get all but two platoons off the boat, and they do it.”

“Who has delegated you to harry me round the poop deck?”

“Why, the aforementioned very polite criminal.”

“A colonel commands a regiment, is it not so?”

“That is correct.”

“Do you mean to tell me that a colonel, in turn, is commanded by a Black-guard?”

“That is the custom in most armies,” Barnes returned dead-pan. “True, ’twas sometime different under my lord Marlborough, but since he was stripped of command, why, it has been Black-guards all the way to the top.”

Daniel had a natural impulse here to laugh; but some other part of him was recommending that he proceed cautiously with this Barnes. What the colonel had just said was witty, but it was also reckless.

Most of the Guards were off the ship now, leaving only two platoons of some fourteen men each, each under its own sergeant. One of them had congregated at the forward end of the deck, the other aft, directly below where Colonel Barnes and Daniel were standing. This left a large clear space amidships, claimed by Sergeant Bob Shaftoe. He was facing toward the wharf, so Daniel was viewing him in profile; but now he adjusted his posture slightly toward them and glanced, for a quarter of a second, in Barnes’s direction.

“Your sloop, Cap’n,” Barnes sang out.

The skipper retaliated with a series of histrionic commands that caused the gangplanks to be drawn back onto the wharf, and the sloop’s lines to be cast off.

“You and Sergeant Bob make war together,” Daniel said. “It is what you do.”

“If that’s true, our life’s work has been a failure!” Barnes answered, mock-offended. “I should prefer to say, we make peace, and have achieved success.”

“Say it however you like. Either way, you’ve spent a quarter-century marching around with him, and have heard every joke and anecdote he knows how to tell, a thousand times over.”

“ ’Tis a common outcome in our line of work,” Barnes allowed.

“Now you phant’sy you know everything about me, because ten or twenty years ago, in a tent along the Rhine or a bothy in Ireland, Sergeant Bob told you a tale about me. You suppose you may approach me in a companionable way, and divulge things to me, and thereby make me your bound accomplice, as when two boys cut their thumbs on purpose and bleed on each other and then say that they are brothers. Please do not be offended if I recoil from your tender. There is a reason why old men are aloof, and it has nothing to do with being pompous.”

“You should renew your acquaintance with Marlborough,” Barnes said, putting on a little show of being impressed. “The two of you would get along famously.”

“An unfortunate choice of adverb, that.”

Barnes was silent for a while now. The two horse-barges were coming up to the wharf at Gravesend to discharge the loads. The Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard were dragoons, meaning that they fought on foot, using the tactics and the arms of infantry. But they maneuvered round the field of battle on horseback. To put it crudely, they were shock troops. Clearly the companies that had disembarked had orders to mount, get on the turnpike that paralleled the river, and ride east, pacing the sloop.

“Everyone is scared to death just now,” Barnes said. He sidled up to Daniel along the rail and offered him half a small loaf of bread, which Daniel practically lunged at. “Why, to listen to certain Whigs, a Jacobite invasion is just over the horizon, driven on a Popish wind. And yet Sir Isaac fears the arrival of the German! ’Tis an impossibility for both the Hanovers and the Jacobites to occupy the same space. Yet the Whigs’ fears, and Sir Isaac’s, are equally real.”

When he alluded to the impossibility of two objects occupying the same space, Barnes was resorting to a verbal tic that had its origins in Descartes. He had, in other words, been to Oxford or Cambridge. He ought to be a vicar, or even a Dean, in some church. What was he doing here?

“When Sir Isaac refers, with such trepidation, to the German, he does not mean George Louis.”

Barnes looked startled, then fascinated. “Leibniz-?”

“Yes.” And this time Daniel could not prevent himself smiling a bit.

“So it’s not that Sir Isaac is a Jacobite…”

“Far from it! He fears the arrival of the Hanovers, only in that Leibniz is the advisor to Sophie, and to Princess Caroline.” Daniel wasn’t entirely certain he ought to be telling Barnes so much, but it was better for Barnes to understand the truth than to harbor the suspicion that Isaac was a covert supporter of the Changeling.

“You skipped a generation,” Barnes said puckishly. Or as puckish as a maimed colonel of dragoons could be.

“If George Louis has any interest whatever in philosophy-for that matter, in anything at all-’tis a secret close kept,” Daniel returned.

“So am I to understand that the present expedition has its origins in a philosophical dispute?” Barnes asked, looking about himself as if seeing the sloop in a new light.

Atalanta had reached the middle of the channel now and, freed from the slow horse-barges, spread more canvas to the wind than she had done before. They were sailing due east on Gravesend Reach. On their right, the chalky hills would draw back from the river, widening the marshes that spread at their feet. The town of Tilbury was on the left. It was the last port on that bank of the river, for beyond it the Thames sloshed between mud-flats instead of streaming between proper banks. Even at their improved pace, they had a few hours’ sail ahead of them; and Isaac was nowhere to be seen. There was no harm, Daniel concluded, in conversing with a philosophy-hobbyist.

He glanced around the sky, looking for a convenient C?lestial Body, but the day had slowly become overcast. Instead he fastened upon the river-water rippling along the hull-planks, and glanced too at the mud-flats below Tilbury. “I cannot see the sun-can you, Colonel Barnes?”

“We are in England. I have heard rumors of it. In France I saw it once. But not today.”

“And the moon?”

“She is full, and she set over Westminster as we were loading on Tower Wharf.”

“The moon’s behind the world, the sun’s behind clouds. Yet the water that buoys us is obeying the dictates of both, is it not?”

“I have it on good authority that the tides are operational today,” Barnes allowed, and checked his watch. “Sheerness expects a low tide at seven o’clock.”

“A spring tide?”

“Uncommon low. Why, feel how the river’s current bears us along, hastening to the sea.”

“Why does the tide rush out to sea?”

“The influence of the sun and the moon.”

“Yet you and I cannot see the sun or the moon. The water does not have senses to see, or a will to follow them. How then do the sun and moon, so far away, affect the water?”

“Gravity,” responded Colonel Barnes, lowering his voice like a priest intoning the name of God, and glancing about to see whether Sir Isaac Newton were in earshot.

“That’s what everyone says now. ’Twas not so when I was a lad. We used to parrot Aristotle and say it was in the nature of water to be drawn up by the moon. Now, thanks to our fellow-passenger, we say ‘gravity.’ It seems a great improvement. But is it really? Do you understand the tides, Colonel Barnes, simply because you know to say ‘gravity’?”

“I’ve never claimed to understand them.”

“Ah, that is very wise practice.”

“All that matters is, he does,” Barnes continued, glancing down, as if he could see through the deck-planks.

“Does he then?”

“That’s what you lot have been telling everyone.”

“Meaning the Royal Society?”

Barnes nodded. He was eyeing Daniel with some alarm. Daniel, cruelly, said nothing, and let Barnes simmer until he could stand it no more, and continued, “Sir Isaac’s working on Volume the Third, isn’t he, and that’s going to settle the lunar problem. Wrap it all up.”

“He is working out equations that ought to agree with Mr. Flamsteed’s observations.”

“From which it would follow that Gravity’s a solved problem; and if Gravity predicts what the moon does, why, it should apply as well to the sloshing back and forth of the water in the oceans.”

“But is to describe something to understand it?”

“I should think it were a good first step.”

“Yes. And it is a step that Sir Isaac has taken. The question now becomes, who shall take the second step?”

“You mean, is it to be he or Leibniz?”

“Yes.”

“Leibniz has not done any work with Gravity, has he?”

“You mean, it seems obvious that Sir Isaac, having taken the first step, should be better positioned to take the second.”

“Yes.”

“One would certainly think so,” Daniel said sympathetically. “On the other hand, sometimes he who goes first wanders into a cul-de-sac, and is passed by.”

“How can his theory be a cul-de-sac if it describes everything perfectly?”

“You heard him, a short time ago, expressing concern about Leibniz,” Daniel pointed out.

“Because Leibniz has Sophie’s ear! Not because Leibniz is the better philosopher.”

“I beg your pardon, Colonel Barnes, but I have known Sir Isaac since we were students, and I say to you, he does not strain at gnats. When he is at such pains to gird for battle, you may be sure that his foe is a Titan.”

“What weapon could Leibniz possibly have that would do injury to Sir Isaac?”

“To begin with, a refusal to be over-awed, and a willingness, not shared at this time by any Englishman, to ask awkward questions.”

“What sort of awkward questions?”

“Such as I’ve already asked: how does the water know where the moon is? How can it perceive the Moon through the entire thickness of the Earth?”

“Gravity goes through the earth, like light through a pane of glass.”

“And what form does Gravity take, that gives it this astonishing power of streaming through the solid earth?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Neither does Sir Isaac.”

Barnes was stopped in his tracks for a few moments. “Does Leibniz?”

“Leibniz has a completely different way of thinking about it, so different as to seem perverse to some. It has the great advantage that it avoids having to talk rubbish about Gravity streaming through Earth like light through glass.”

“Then it must have as great disadvantages, or else he, and not Sir Isaac, would be the world’s foremost Natural Philosopher.”

“Perhaps he is, and no one knows it,” Daniel said. “But you are right. Leibniz’s philosophy has the disadvantage that no one knows, yet, how to express it mathematically. And so he cannot predict tides and eclipses, as Sir Isaac can.”

“Then what good is Leibniz’s philosophy?”

“It might be the truth,” Daniel answered.

Cold Harbour


THE SAME AFTERNOON

THE TOWER MIGHT HAVE ENDURED forever with very little upkeep, had it not been for a nasty infestation of humans. From a janitorial standpoint, the problem with this particular race was not that they were de-, but avidly con-structive, and would on no account leave off bringing new building-stuff in through the all-too-numerous gates, and fashioning them into shelters. Left to the elements, such improvisations would break down naturally in decades or centuries, leaving the Tower as God and the Normans had intended it to be. But the difficulty with a human was that where he found a shelter he would occupy it, and when it broke, fix it, and if not prevented, build annexes onto it. To the management of the Tower, it was less an infestation of termites than a plague of mud-daubing wasps.

Every time the Constable brought in a surveyor, and compared his work to the plan his predecessor had drawn up some decades before, he would discover new nests that had insensibly grown in the corners, as dust-balls under a bed. If he went to eject the people who lived in them, so that he could tear them down, he would be confronted with documents and precedents, showing that those people were not squatters but tenants, and that they’d been paying rent for decades to some other squatter-cum-

tenant, who in turn paid rent or performed necessary services for some Corporation or Office or other sui generis queer ancient Entity that claimed long standing or warrant Royal.

Short of a concerted arson campaign, the only brake on this infestation was a lack of space within the walls that circumscribed the hive. It came down, then, to a question of how much crowding human beings could endure. The answer: not as much as wasps, but still rather a lot. In fact, there was a certain type of human who thrived on it, and those types gravitated naturally to London.

Dart the Barber lived in a garret above a storehouse in Cold Harbour. Most of the year, Cold Harbour was cold without a doubt. To Dart and his roommates-Pete the Sutler and Tom the Boot-black-it was also a sort of metaphorical harbour. But beyond that the name made no sense at all. It was nowhere near the water, and performed no harbour-like functions. Cold Harbour was a patch of turf and a few storehouses in the middle of Tower Green, just off the southwest corner of the ancient Conqueror’s keep called the White Tower.

A wee hole had been worried through the wattle near the vertex of the gable, just large enough to admit a pigeon, vent smoke from a rush-light, or frame a man’s face. At the moment it was giving Dart a sort of dove’s-eye-view of the Parade. Accounting for about half of the Inner Ward, the Parade was the largest open space in the Tower. A well-tended patch of English turf it was. But it was scarred, below Dart, with ridges of rain-worn stone: the exposed foundations of walls that had been thrown down, ?ons ago, by long-dead Constables. For perhaps the only thing that could stir a Constable to use force against the gnawing accretion of sheds, annexes, pop-outs, amp;c., was the combined awareness of (a) his own mortality and (b) the fact that there was no place left in the Tower complex to dig his grave. At any rate, there was evidence here that Cold Harbour had once been a bigger thing than it was now. From ground level, these ruins were a meaningless maze of tripping-hazards. From Dart’s privileged viewpoint they could be made out as a page of rectilinear glyphs stroked in gray and yellow paint on green baize.

If Dart had been as keenly interested in the several centuries just past as he was in the several hours just beginning, he could have decyphered that grassy palimpsest to tell a tale about the fortifications of the Inmost Ward, and how they had changed over time, from a picket to keep out die-hard Angles, to the innermost of half a dozen lines of circumvallation, to a security checkpoint for a royal palace, to an outmoded slum, to a tripping-hazard. The part where Dart dwelt had only been suffered to remain standing because it was easily made over into storehouses.

And if Dart were one for profound introspection he might ponder the queerness of his circumstance: he (an illiterate barber), a sutler, and a Black-guard (as boys who polished boots were called) sharing an apartment twenty paces distant from William the Conqueror’s chief Fort.

However none of these thoughts came to him, or even came near him, as he peered out through the gable-vent on the afternoon in question, heaving ruby-colored blood up from his lungs onto a crusty brown rag. Dart was living for the moment.

The Parade stretched an hundred paces from east (the line of barracks huddled along the footing of the White Tower) to west (a wee street of warders’ houses backed against the west wall). A hundred and fifty paces separated its north (the Chapel) from its south (the Lieutenant’s Lodging). The Cold Harbour dwelling of Dart the Barber, Tom the Black-guard, and Pete the Sutler was about half-way ’long the eastern edge of it. So to his left Dart had a good view over the northern half of the Parade, but to his right all was obliterated by the high White Tower, which squatted in the heart of the complex like a solid cube of stone. Its formidable lines had been cluttered, on its western and southern sides, by low skirts of identical barrack-houses, jammed in wall-to-wall so that their peaked roofs merged to form a sawtooth fringe. Two companies of the Guard regiment lived in these and similar ones near by. The other dozen companies were packed into various spaces around the periphery of the Inner Ward, along Mint Street, or wherever space could be found for them. All told, they numbered near a thousand.

A thousand men could not live without victuals, which was why sutlers’ houses had been allowed, nay, encouraged to occupy various crannies around the Tower and the Wharf. Pete’s was one such; he was the tenant of this garret, and he sublet hammock-space to Dart and, more recently, to Tom.

The Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards often drew duty of a ceremonial nature, such as greeting foreign ambassadors on Tower Wharf, and so they were more than normally concerned with the upkeep of their kit. This meant no lack of work for Tom and the other boot-blacks. And any congregation of humans required barbers to dress wounds and see to the removal of redundant hairs, whiskers, bodily humours, and necrotizing limbs. So Dart had been permitted to wind some bloody gauze round a pike and plant it outside a certain door in Cold Harbour as the customary hall-mark of his trade.

He was not plying that trade now but nervously honing a razor, again and again, on a leather strop, and peering down the line of barracks doors, watching Tom the Black-guard make his rounds. Most of the garrison was extra muros on Tower Hill; in their absence Tom was going to each door in turn to polish the boots that had been left out by the soldiers. To look at him, Tom was a boy of about twelve. But he spoke with the voice, and answered to the urges, of a grown man, which made Dart suspect he was really a bloke who’d not grown properly.

Tom had been doing this for the best part of two hours and had settled into a fixed routine, which was that he would squat down to polish a pair of boots, then stand up when he was finished, as though feeling a need to stretch, and look idly around the Parade, then glance up into the sky to see if any change in the weather was coming. Then he would turn his attention to the next pair of boots.

The only thing more tedious than to perform this duty was to watch it. Even though Dart had been told that he must on no account take his eyes off Tom, he found it hard going to keep his eyes open. The sun was beating against a white haze that steeped the garret in drowsy warmth. Cool gusts found their way to Dart’s face from time to time and reminded him to open his eyes. True to form, he, being the barber, had the worst shave in the whole Tower. His stubbly chin pricked him awake when he nodded off and let it rest on the dove-shit-covered sill of the tiny window. The only thing he could do while he bided his time was to whet the tools of his trade. But if he did so any more, they would become transparent.

Tom the Black-guard had a yellow cloth slung over his shoulder.

It had not been there a minute before. Dart was seized by guilt and fear, and already justifying himself: I did not take my eyes off him for more than a heart-beat!

He looked again. Tom bent down to start in on another pair of boots. The yellow cloth stood out like a lightning-bolt against the usual black-stained rags.

He closed his eyes, counted to five, opened them, and looked a third time to be sure. It was still there.

Dart the Barber stepped away from the window for the first time in two hours, raked his strops, shears, and razors together into a bag, and made for the stairs.

The garret had been turned into a maze by stacked sacks of flour and kegs of salted meat, as well as by hams and gutted rabbits dangling from the rafters, and the hammocks where Dart and Tom and Pete slept. But Dart moved through adroitly, and minced down a fatally precipitous stair to the ground floor, where after a brief scamper down a stunningly foul-smelling passage no wider than his shoulders he was discharged into a somewhat wider L-shaped alley that ran from the Bloody Tower gate to the Inner Ward. Scuttling round the bend of that L, he emerged onto grass before the southwestern angle of the White Tower. Then, reversing his direction round to the left, he entered the Parade.

He’d been warned not to look about, but could not help glancing at Tom, hard at work over a boot. Tom was turned his way. Though his head was bent down over his work, his eyes were rolled up in their sockets so far that they had turned white, enabling him to mark Dart’s progress over the grass.

Dart made bold to glance this way and that, trying to guess what Tom had seen. For it had seemed, during those two hours, as if Tom had been scanning the sky for something. Over the western wall of the Tower, nothing was visible except for the columnar Monument, some half a mile distant, and beyond that, the dome of St. Paul’s. He turned his head to the right and looked north over the storehouses and barracks that lined that edge of the Inner Ward. Here was something: shreds of smoke were climbing up to vanish against the white sky. The source seemed near to hand. But not as near as the Mint, which lay just on the far side of those barracks. He guessed it was coming from Tower Hill. It was probably not from gunpowder, for Dart had not heard the Guard discharging any weapons. Possibly someone had lit a rubbish-fire in one of the courts tucked away in the maze of the Tower hamlets. Or possibly ’twas something more than a rubbish-blaze.

He faltered. He had made it most of the way across the Parade. But suddenly the door of No. 6, one of the warders’ houses, had opened. Three Sentinels were there, in place of the usual one. It seemed that the Scotsman was due to be aired out. A Yeoman Warder emerged. It was Downs. He lived in No. 6 with the Scotsman, and he had been very particular about getting a good shave this morning. Now he’d gone it one better by donning his best coat. He was followed by Lord Gy, a bulky man in a kilt. Then out came his maidservant, the big red-head, with a basket over her arm. Lord Gy and Yeoman Downs began to walk due south towards the Lieutenant’s Lodging, beneath the parapet of Bell Tower. The three Sentinels formed a triangle around them and the red-head brought up the rear. Dart stopped to let them pass in front of him, and doffed his hat. The Laird ignored him; Yeoman Downs made an answering wink. All of this passed from Dart’s mind as soon as it moved out of view. Few events were more routine than a social call by a noble prisoner on the Lieutenant of the Tower.

A lone Sentinel-a private soldier of the Black Torrent Guard-was stationed before the door of No. 4. Like No. 6, No. 4 was a Tudor sort of house that wouldn’t rate a second glance if it were dropped along a village green in Essex and its peculiar occupants replaced with a petty tradesman and his family.

When Dart drew close enough to make it obvious he was headed for No. 4, the Sentinel reached round behind himself and rapped on the front door. A moment later Yeoman Clooney thrust his head out an open window nearby and inquired, “Visitor for my lord?”

“Barber,” answered the Sentinel.

“Is he expected?”

Clooney always asked this. It was the most feeble of challenges. Even so, Dart had to stifle a momentary impulse to run away-or, worse, to break down and confess. But he could sense the Black-guard’s eyes prodding him in the back like a pistol-barrel. “Sir,” he gargled. He had to cough up some bloody phlegm and swallow it before he could continue: “I told my lord I would come this week, he is due.”

Clooney’s head drew back into the house. A brief exchange of murmurs could be heard through the open window. Then floor-boards cracked and door-locks snapped. Yeoman Clooney opened his front door and nodded in a confidence-inspiring way to the Sentinel. “His lordship will see you,” he proclaimed, in a trumpety heraldic tone that reminded Dart what an honor it was to mow an Earl’s scalp, and how unworthy Dart was of it. Dart hunched over, picked up his bag, and hustled into the house, tipping his hat at the Sentinel, then making a nod at Yeoman Clooney.

The house had a front parlour looking out on the Parade through the very window Clooney had been using to exchange words with the Sentinel. The light was good there, and so that was where Dart spread out his drop-cloth. He set a chair in the middle of it.

The Earl of Hollesley was spending the twilight of his life in this house because he had been entrusted with some of H. M. Government’s money during the War of the Spanish Succession, and had used it to put a new roof on his country house, instead of buying saltpeter in Amsterdam. He was near sixty, and as far as Dart knew, his entire life consisted of sitting in a chair and having his hair cut. Other prisoners strolled round the Liberty, killed themselves, or staged spectacular, improbable escapes; the Earl of Hollesley spent all his time in No. 4. Except for Dart, once a fortnight, he rarely entertained visitors. When he did they tended to be Catholic priests, for the Earl had gone Popish in his dotage. When he entered the room on Yeoman Clooney’s arm, Dart said to him, “M’lord,” which was all he was encouraged to say.

Yeoman Clooney had the easy, but unfathomably tedious job of keeping an eye on the Earl twenty-four hours a day. He took a chair in the corner while Dart got the Earl seated and tarped. “Sir,” said Dart in a kind of stage-whisper to the yeoman, “I’ll take the liberty of shutting the window, as the day’s a bit gusty, and I don’t want hair blowing round your tidy abode.”

Clooney feigned interest in the window for a few moments, then drifted off. Dart went to it, looked out across the Parade, and found Tom the Black-guard gazing back at him. Before pulling down the sash Dart drew his rag from his pocket, loudly and distinctly hacked into it, then spat on the ground.

It went without saying that the Earl of Hollesley wore a periwig. But he still had to be shorn every so often. He preferred to have his head shaved. It ruled out lice.

By the time Dart had got his brushes and razors organized, and taken up his tonsorial post beside the Earl, Tom the Black-guard was half-way across the Parade, and staring at him curiously through the window. Which was well. For otherwise Dart could never have done, nay, even contemplated it. An Earl, or even a Yeoman Warder, was so great, so potent, so terrible to an insect like Dart. But there was a cold power behind Tom the Black-guard that overbalanced even an Earl. Dart might evade a Justice of the Peace, but blokes like Tom could nose him out even if he ran all the way to Barbados. If Dart did not do as he’d been instructed, he’d forever be a rabbit, trapped in a warren, pursued by an army of ferrets. Which is what gave him the courage-if courage was the right word for it-to announce: “Yeoman Clooney, I say that I have a blade to my lord Hollesley’s throat.”

“Er-what?” Clooney had been very close to drowsing off.

“A blade to his throat.”

The Earl was reading The Examiner. He was hard of hearing.

“So, you are giving him a shave as well as a haircut?”

This was unexpected. Clooney was supposed to understand a blade to the throat of a Lord.

“I am giving him neither, sir. I am making a threat to kill my lord.”

The Earl stiffened, and rattled his Examiner. “The Whigs will be the death of this country!” he announced.

“What possible reason could you have for doing such a mad thing?” Clooney wanted to know from the corner.

“The Juncto!” the Earl went on. “Why don’t they come out and call it by its real name, a Cabal, a Conspiracy! They are trying to drive Her Majesty into her grave! It is assassination by another name.”

“I know naught of reasons. Reasons are for Tom. Tom is at the door,” Dart said.

“It’s all right here!” the Earl continued, and leaned forward suddenly, so that he’d have cut his own throat if Dart hadn’t reacted in time. “The Duke of Cambridge. What, his German title isn’t good enough for him? You’d think he was a proper Englishman, wouldn’t you?”

There came a knock at the door from the Sentinel. “Boot-black,” came the call.

“Admit him, sir,” Dart said, “and make no sign of distress to the Sentinel, for Tom shall be watching you avidly. Tom shall explain all.”

“No wonder Her Majesty is wroth! ’Tis a calculated insult-calculated by Ravenscar. Where Age and Ague have failed to bring down our Queen, he shall do it with Aggravation, may God forbid!”

Clooney left the parlour. Dart stood for a few moments with his blade-hand a-tremble, expecting that the Sentinel would appear in a moment to blow his head off with a pistol-shot. But the door opened and closed without any commotion, and Dart could now hear the slithering voice of Tom the Black-guard, speaking to Clooney in the entrance-hall.

“That Sophie is a circling vulture,” Lord Hollesley proclaimed. “Not content to wait for a dignified succession-she sends her grandson before her, like a kite to peck at our Sovereign’s withered cheeks!”

Dart was straining to hear the conversation between the Black-guard and the Yeoman, but the Earl’s fulminations and paper-rattling drowned out all but a few words: “Muscovite…Wakefield Tower…vertebrae…Jacobites…”

Then all of a sudden Tom thrust his head into the parlour and gave him a flat inspection, like a coroner viewing a corpse. “Stay here,” he said, “until it happens.”

“Until what happens?” Dart asked. But Tom was already on his way out the door, and Yeoman Clooney beside him.

Dart stood there, resting his tired blade-hand on the Earl’s collar-bone, and watched the two of them angling across the green toward Wakefield Tower-where, according to scuttle-butt, a one-armed Russian had been chained up the night before.

There was nothing else to do. So he began to soap the Earl’s head. Presently he began to hear the ardent tolling of several bells on the north side of Tower Hill. This was a fire-alarm. Somewhere beyond the moat, a building was burning. Normally Dart would’ve been one of the first on the scene, for he loved a good fire. But he had solemn obligations here.

Sloop Atalanta, the Hope


LATE AFTERNOON

HAVING TAKEN DELIVERY of some Enlightenment, for which he’d have had to pay handsomely at Oxford or Cambridge, Colonel Barnes could hardly deny Daniel a look at the map. They descended to the upperdeck and spread it out on a barrel-head so that Sergeant Bob Shaftoe could brood over it in company with them. ’Twas not one of your noble maps hand-penned on gilded parchment, but a common thing, a woodcut stamped out on foolscap.

He could see a cartographer making a strong case that this part of the world did not rate mapping, for nothing was there but muck, and what features it had changed from hour to hour. The map was pocked with such place-names as Foulness, Hoo, the Warp, and Slede Ooze. ’Twas as if England, when she had worn out certain words, threw them into the gutter-like a man discarding his clay-pipe when its stem was broke down to a nub-and the Thames carried those words down-country along with litter, turds, and dead cats, and strewed them up and down the estuarial flats and bars.

The ever-widening flow swept round to the left just ahead of them. The map told Daniel that a mile or two later it would right its course again and shortly lose itself in the sea. This stretch of river was named the Hope, and an apt name it might be for Sir Isaac.

The Hope limned a hammerhead-shaped protrusion of Kent with no particular boundary between marsh and water, but instead a mile-wide zone between high and low tide-the river halved its width at ebb. Because Daniel knew where they were going, he traced the flat top of the hammerhead eastwards until he reached the semicircular peen at its seaward end. This was labeled the Isle of Grain. The Thames flowed along its northern cheek, the Medway along its southern. The two rivers met just off the Isle’s eastern tip. And like a couple of porters who drop their loads in the middle of the street to engage in a fist-fight over which had right-of-way, these two rivers, at the place where they came together, let go of all the muck they’d been carrying out to the sea. In this way was built up a vast bank, a bulge growing eastwards from the Isle of Grain’s indefinite shore, and as that bulge reached out into the sea, mile after mile, it narrowed, converged, refined itself into a slim prod sticking far out into brackish water between Foulness Sand on the north and the Cant on the south. At the extremity of that bar was the Buoy of the Nore. The estuary yawned east like a viper’s mouth, the Nore spit thrust out in its middle like a barbed tongue. It was in that cursed in-between depth, too shallow for most vessels and too deep for any beast.

But far short of the Buoy, just off the Isle of Grain’s coast, was a place that might be reached by boat or beast, depending upon the tide. It was a tiny thing, like a gnat crawling on the page. Daniel did not have to bend down and squint at those crabbed letters to know it was Shive Tor.

Raising his eyes from the map to scan this indistinct coastline he saw a few places where the old bones of the earth almost poked out, knuckle-like, through the flesh spread over them by the rivers. The Shive, which lay a mile off the high-tide line of the Isle of Grain, was one of those. It even had its own system of pools and bars, echoing the greater system of which it was a part. Daniel guessed that some daft person had long ago seen fit to convey stones out to this stony Hazard and pile them up, making a cairn from which to watch for Vikings or light signal-fires, and later generations of the daft had used it as the foundations of a permanent tower.

He glanced up to find Colonel Barnes gone-called away to lay plans on the quarterdeck-and Bob Shaftoe favoring him with what was very nearly an evil look.

“Do you blame me for something, Sergeant?”

“When last you slept in Tower, guv,” Bob returned-referring to something that had happened on the eve of the Glorious Revolution-“you told me the following tale: namely that you had with your own eyes seen a certain babe emerging from the Queen of England’s vagina in Whitehall Palace. You, and a roomful of other notables.”

“Yes?”

“Well, now that babe is all growed up and living at St.-Germain and phant’sies he’s to be our next King, is it not so?”

“That is what they keep saying.”

“And yet the Whigs call this same bloke the Changeling, and say he’s a common bastard orphan smuggled into Whitehall in a warming-pan, and never passed through the vagina of a Queen at all-at least not until he got old enough to do it t’other way.”

“Indeed, they never leave off saying it.”

“Where’s that put you, guv?”

“Where I ever was. For my father was running about London a hundred years ago proclaiming that all Kings and Queens were common bastards, and worse, and that the very best of ’em was not fit to reign over a haystack. I was raised in such a household.”

“It matters not to you.”

“Their bloodlines matter not. Their habits and policies-that is different.”

“And that is why you consort with Whigs,” said Bob, finally gaining a measure of ease, “for the policies of Sophie are more to your liking.”

“You did not suppose I was a Jacobite!?”

“I had to ask, guv.” Bob Shaftoe finally broke off staring at Daniel’s face, and looked about. They had been traveling northwards down the Hope, but were reaching the point where they could see to the east around the river’s final bend and discover the startling prospect of water stretching unbroken to the horizon.

“My lord Bolingbroke, now, he is a Jacobite,” Bob remarked. Which was like opining that Fleet Ditch was unwholesome.

“Been seeing a lot of him?” Daniel inquired.

“Been seeing a lot of him,” Bob said, turning his head slightly toward the quarterdeck and glancing up at the banner that flew at the mizzen, carrying the arms of Charles White. “And you must know he is the whip that Bolingbroke cracks.”

“I did not know it,” Daniel confessed, “but it rings very true.”

“Bolingbroke is the Queen’s pet,” Bob continued, “and has been ever since he drove Marlborough out of the country.”

“Even a Bostonian knows as much.”

“Now the Whigs-your friend in particular-they have been raising a private army, they have.”

“When we met some weeks ago on London Bridge, you alluded to that, very darkly,” Daniel said. He was now beginning to experience fear, for the first time since he had awoken. Not the bracing, invigorating fear of shooting under London Bridge in a small boat, but the vague smothering dread that had kept him bedridden the first few weeks he’d been back in London. It was familiar, and in that, oddly comforting.

“Whigs’ve been whispering in a lot of ears,” Bob continued, glancing at the place where Colonel Barnes had stood a moment earlier. “Are you with us or against us? Will you stand up and be counted? When the Hanovers reign, shall they know you as one who was loyal, who can be trusted with command?”

“I see. Hard to resist that sort of talk.”

“Not so hard, when there is Marlborough, just over there,” nodding at the eastern horizon, “but contrary pressure, even greater, comes now from Bolingbroke.”

“What has my lord Bolingbroke done?”

“He’s not come out and done anything just yet. But he is making ready to do something that will make some of us uneasy.”

“What is he making ready to do?”

“He’s drawing up a list of all the captains, the colonels, and the generals. And according to White-who lets things slip, for effect, when he is pretending to be drunker than he really is-Bolingbroke will soon order those officers to sell their companies and their regiments, unless they sign a pledge that they will serve their Queen unconditionally.”

“Sell them to Jacobite captains and colonels, one presumes.”

“One presumes,” Bob returned, a bit mockingly.

“So that if the Queen were to decide, on her deathbed, that the crown should go to her half-brother (I’ll dispense with the pretense of calling him the Changeling), the army would stand ready to enforce that decree and welcome the Pretender to England.”

“That is how it looks. And it puts a bloke like Colonel Barnes in a bit of a spot. The Marquis of Ravenscar’s entreaties may be shrugged off, provided it is done civilly. But Bolingbroke offers a choice, like the Buoy of the Nore-we must go one way or t’other, and there’s no going back once the decision’s made.”

“Yes,” Daniel said. And he held back from saying what was obvious: that Barnes, with his loyalty to Marlborough, would never go Bolingbroke’s way. But as Bob had pointed out, he had to choose one path or the other. He could not say no to Bolingbroke without saying yes to Ravenscar.

Daniel stood for a time brooding and fuming over the stupidity of Bolingbroke, who would force men like Barnes into the arms of the opposing camp. It was an act of panic. Panic was notoriously catchy; and the questions Barnes and Shaftoe had been directing his way suggested it was beginning to spread.

Which raised the question of why on earth they would think of him. Barnes owned a regiment of dragoons, for Christ’s sake, and if a tenth of the hints dropped by him and Sergeant Bob held true, they were in communication with Marlborough.

What was it Barnes had said just a few minutes ago? Everyone is scared to death just now. On its face this was about Isaac and his fears concerning Leibniz. But perhaps Barnes was really speaking of himself.

Or of anyone. Obviously Bolingbroke was scared. Roger Comstock, the Marquis of Ravenscar, was too outward merry to let on that he was scared; but then he was apparently deep into mustering a Whiggish army, which was not the act of a man who had been sleeping soundly.

Who wasn’t scared? The only person Daniel could think of who wasn’t, was Sir Christopher Wren.

If the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm was scared, she was not letting on.

Perhaps Marlborough wasn’t scared. There was no telling as long as he remained in Antwerp.

Those were the only ones he could think of.

Then he had one of those moments where he suddenly stood outside of his own body and beheld himself, as from a seagull’s perspective, standing on the deck of Mr. Charles White’s sloop running down the tide in the Hope. And he came to ask, why was he, who had little time left on earth, devoting these minutes to drawing up a tedious inventory of who was, and was not, scared? Was there nothing better for a Doctor and Fellow of the Royal Society to do with his time?

The answer was all around him, buoying him up and keeping him and the others from drowning: Hope. According to myth, the last thing to emerge from Pandora’s Box. Feeling Fear’s clammy arms reaching around him, Daniel had an almost physical longing for Hope. And perhaps Hope was no less contagious than Fear. He wanted to be infected with Hope and so he was trying to think of someone, like Wren or Marlborough, who would give it him.

It was an hypothesis, anyway. And it described the actions of others as well as it did his own. Why had Princess Caroline summoned him from Boston? Why had Mr. Threader wanted to make a Clubb with him? Why did Roger want him to find the Longitude and Leibniz want him to make a thinking machine? Why did the likes of Saturn trail him through Hockley-in-the-Hole, asking for spiritual direction? Why did Isaac solicit his aid? Why did Mr. Baynes expect Daniel to look after his wayward daughter in Bridewell? Why were Colonel Barnes and Sergeant Shaftoe asking him these pointed questions today?

Because they were all scared, and, just like Daniel, they longed for Hope, and sought anyone who might give it to them; and when they drew up their mental inventories of who was and wasn’t scared, why, somehow-through what was either a grotesque error or a miracle-they put Daniel in the “wasn’t scared” column.

Daniel laughed when he understood this. Bob Shaftoe might’ve been unnerved by that. But because Bob had got in the habit of thinking Daniel wasn’t scared, he read it as further evidence of Daniel’s supreme and uncanny self-confidence.

What to make of it? Daniel briefly considered hiring one of the printers in St. Paul’s Churchyard to make up a broadsheet in which he, Daniel Waterhouse, declared to the whole world that he was scared shitless nearly all the time. And in other times this might have been a fair course-humiliating to be sure, but honest, and a sure way to be rid of all these needy people who wanted to feed from his supposed rich store of Hope.

But that was to take a child’s view of the Pandora’s Box story, and to conceive of Hope as an angel. Perhaps what Pandora had was really just a jack-in-the-box, and Hope had never been anything more than a clock-work clown, a deus ex machina.

God from the machine. Daniel had spent enough time with theatrical machinery to watch its workings, and its effect upon audiences, with a cynical eye. Indeed, had passed through a long phase of despising the theatre, and the groundlings who paid money to be fooled.

But coming back to London (which had theatres) from Boston (which didn’t), he had seen that his cynicism had been ill-founded. London was a better city, England a more advanced place, for its theatres. It was not wrong for people to be fooled by actors, or even by machinery.

And so even if Hope was a contrived thing-a mechanism that popped up out of Pandora’s Box by dint of levers and springs-it was by no means bad. Which signified that if a crowd of people had somehow deluded themselves into phant’sying that Daniel was un-afraid, and, from that, were now generating Hope and courage of their own, why, that was an excellent practice. Daniel was obliged to remain upon the stage and to play his role, be it never so false. Because by doing so he might defeat the contagion of panic that was leading men like Bolingbroke to pursue such abysmally stupid gambits. False, machine-made Hope could make real Hope-that was the true Alchemy, the turning of lead into gold.

“Charles White is very like my lord Jeffreys, would you not say?”

“In many respects, yes, guv.”

“Do you recall the night we hunted Jeffreys down like a rabid dog, and arrested him, and sent him to justice?”

“Indeed, guv, I have dined out on the tale for a quarter-century.”

Which explained much, for the tale had probably grown in the re-telling, and made Daniel seem more heroic than he’d been in the event.

“When you and I were leaving the Tower that evening, we encountered John Churchill-I use his name thus since he was not yet Marlborough in those days.”

“That I do remember. And the two of you drew aside for a private conversation, in the middle of the causeway where you’d not be overheard.”

“Indeed. And the subject of that conversation must remain as private as ever. But do you recall how it ended?”

“The two of you shook hands, very pompously, as if closing a Transaction.”

“You are almost too keen for your own good, Sergeant. Now, from what you know of Marlborough, and of me, do you phant’sy either of us is the sort to renege on a Transaction, solemnly entered into in such a pass: before the very gates of the Tower of London, on the eve of the Glorious Revolution, when both of our lives hung in the balance?”

“Of course not, sir. I never-”

“I know. Stay. Only let me say to you now, Sergeant, that our Transaction is still alive, even today; that the present voyage and mission are part of it; that all is well, and the Revolution only grows more Glorious with each passing day.”

“That’s all I wanted to hear, guv,” said Bob with a little bow.

Daniel resisted the urge to say I know it is.

The Monument, London


LATE AFTERNOON

HALF-WAY UP THEY STOPPED to pant. The two younger pilgrims shared a stone ledge lit by a wee air-hole; some stone-masons had gone to a lot of trouble, here, to frame a toenail of gassy white sky in thunderous vault-work.

“Pity ’tis such an indifferent day,” said one, but not until after he’d lunged at the window and worked his lungs, for a minute, like black-smith’s bellows.

“We’ll have to gin up our own meteorology,” answered the other. He jammed a shoulder into a crevice of light that had opened up between the frame of the window and his fellow-pilgrim’s ribs, pried him out of the way, and availed himself of some air. Being London-air it could not be called fresh, but it was an improvement on the congealed miasma that filled these confines: a sort of well-shaft two hundred feet high.

An older pilgrim, several turns of the helix below them, stumbled. He was too short of breath to curse. He had to be content with inhaling and exhaling in a very cross way. “Out…of…my…light!” he then managed, one syllable per stair-tread.

The younger two-who were not really all that young, being in their middle thirties-moved up. Then they came aware of an impending need to make way for three young gentlemen who were descending. These had all prudently removed their small-swords from their hangers, so as not to trip on them, and were carrying the weapons before them like saints with crucifixes.

The two ascenders by the window were garbed all in black, except for their white collars, and even had black capes reaching below their knees. They were evidently Nonconformists: Quakers, or even Barkers. The three descenders were gaudy Piccadilly boys reeking of snuff and gin.

“Beg pardon, we have been up to view Heaven,” sang one of the latter, “and found it ever so boring, and now we are in a great hurry to reach Hell.” His companions laughed.

The pilgrims had their backs to the light and their faces to the dark. Otherwise, un-pilgrim-like amusement might have been seen.

“Make way for them, brother,” said the uppermost of the two young Dissidents, “Heaven can wait for us; Hell’s hungry for these.” He flattened himself against the wall, back to the chilly stone. But his brother was disfigured by an enormous hump on the back, and had to retreat to the window, and lean backwards into the cavity.

“You’re in my fucking light!” re-iterated the old one, now barely visible as a disembodied white collar spiraling up the dusky shaft.

“Making way for some unrepentant sinners, father,” explained the humpback. “Do thou comport thyself as a good Christian pilgrim.”

“Why don’t you take ’em hostage!? We need hostages!”

This extraordinary suggestion welled up out of the gloom just as the foremost of the three young fops was squeezing past the pilgrim who’d backed against the wall. They were so close that the latter could hear the former’s stomach growling, and the former smelt oysters on the latter’s breath. They shared a Moment there, each in his own mind weighing the threats. One had a sword, but his back was to a hundred-foot abyss. The other was pinned to a stone wall, but carrying a long pilgrim’s staff.

The Heaven-bound one averted his gaze politely-not a thing to be done with ease, as he had the look of one who had never lost a staredown-and called to the one below, “O Father, I have spoke with them, and found that they are all Englishmen. Not French dragoons as we had first supposed.” He then winked at Sword Boy-who, getting it, said, “Ah,” then, “ ’tis well-no fit place for an Engagement, this!” and then went on to maneuver past the humpback. A few moments later, the three Hell-bound could be heard bidding good day to the old pilgrim with the offensive politeness reserved for the mad.

“Time for a swop,” said the humpback. He moved up from the window, shedding some gray glare on the staggering old man, and threw off his cape to reveal a great long helmet-shaped object strapped to his back. Getting it off, and transferring it to the other, was several minutes’ feverish work. By the end of it they had made themselves near as irritable as the elder.

He had caught up with them and leaned towards the window to catch his breath. The light shone on a face imprinted with more odd and unwholesome tales than a warehouse full of Bibles. “An indifferent day,” he repeated mockingly. “I know not what you mean. The weather does not make the day. We make the day, as suits us. This day it suits me to destroy the currency of the Realm. The weather is fine.”

“This bloody stair has holiday-makers tramping up and down, can’t you keep a secret, Dad?” said the foremost, who was now trapped in a web of lashings that bound the helmet-shaped thing to his spine.

“As long as that is in plain view, ’tis farcical to make a great show of discretion, Jimmy,” returned Dad.

Taking the point, Jimmy’s brother-who now stood straight-backed, and carried the pilgrim’s staff-threw the cape over Jimmy’s shoulders, turning him into a bent hunchback. “Is there really no better way to gain entry to the Tower, Dad?”

“What do you mean!?”

“There’s public taverns crowded right against the foot of the wall. From there, a grapnel tossed up to the battlements-”

“The prisoners have maid-servants who go to and from market every day. You could disguise yourself as one of them,” suggested Jimmy.

“Or hide in one of the Mint’s hay-wains.”

“Or in one of those great bloody wagons they use to bring in the Cornish tin…”

“Or pretend to be the barber to some noble traitor…”

“I myself have sneaked in with night-time burial processions, just to have a look around the place…”

“You could bribe the Wharf-guard to overlook you when they lock the place up for the night…”

The old man said, “Danny boy, if you hadn’t spent the last month at Shive Tor making all ready; and Jimmy, if you hadn’t been toiling over the coin-presses; you’d know that half of our number did. But for me to enter by some such subtile way would not serve the purpose now, would it? Don’t stand there a-gawping at your Dad, move along, let’s get it done before the whole venture misfires! And if you get ahead of me, and you meet with any decent London folk who’d make good witnesses, why, don’t be foolish, take ’em hostage! You know how it’s done!”

A few minutes later they burst out into the light, and found themselves sharing a square stone platform with four Jews, two Filipinos, and a Negro.

“ ’Tis like the set-up for one of those tedious jests that are proffered in Taverns by Imbeciles,” muttered the old pilgrim, but no one heard him.

Jimmy and Danny were flabbergasted by the view: the new dome of St. Paul’s in one direction, about a mile away. Opposite, and only half as far, the Tower of London. Just below them, and so close that they could hear the grinding of the Dutch water-engines being impelled by the out-going tide, was London Bridge.

“Tomba! What are these bloody Sons of Israel doing here!?” he demanded of the Negro.

Tomba was sitting crosslegged at the southeast corner of the platform. In his lap was a pulley, or in nautical jargon a block, as big as a bull’s head. He removed a whalebone fid from his mouth and said, “They came up to look at the view, mon. They’ve caused us no troubles.” He had a spray of dreadlocks that would fill a bushel basket.

“Really I meant, in a larger sense, why do I encounter them everywhere I go,” said the old pilgrim-though he was now stripping off the collar and cape to reveal conventional breeches, a long-skirted coat, and a breathtaking waistcoat made of cloth of gold with silver buttons. He made sure that the Jews saw it. “Amsterdam, Algiers, Cairo, Manila-now here.”

Tomba shrugged. “They got here first. You can’t pretend astonishment, when you see ’em.” He was working on a splice. This platform on which they all stood was impaled, as it were, on the shaft of the Monument: an immense fluted column that stood alone on Fish Street Hill. Supposedly its foundation covered the place where the Fire had started in 1666. Or so ’twas asserted by the Latin inscription on its base, which blamed the conflagration on Popish incendiaries, despatched from the Vatican. At any rate the middle of the high viewing-platform was occupied by a stone cylinder, which was the upper terminus of the stairway, as well as the support for diverse Barock decorations, knobs, lanthorns, amp;c. piled on top to make the Monument that much taller. Several turns of rope had been laid round this by the two Filipinos, who’d set out their street-shoes in a tidy row so that they could work barefoot, sailor-style. The same ropes passed through the eye of the huge block on Tomba’s lap. To look at it, a landlubber would phant’sy that the pulley had already been made fast to the top of the Monument; but the Filipinos were riggers, and would not let it rest until a good deal more splicing, seizing, stropping, and serving had been effected. They’d been busy enough, until now; but the arrival of the man in the golden waistcoat threw them into a lather, and even the Jews backed away from them, lest they get jabbed by a marlinspike or bludgeoned by a heaver, and find their forelocks unfathomably convolved with a turk’s-head.

The father of Jimmy and Danny went the long way round to the east side of the platform. A spyglass emerged from his pocket and snicked out to length. He scanned some third of a mile of London, stretching from the square at the base of the Monument to the vast killing-ground of Tower Hill. Fifty years before, this had all been smoking cinders and puddles of liquefied roofing-lead. It followed that all the buildings standing there today were Stuart, and all of ’em were brick, except for a few Wren-churches, which had a lot of stone to them. Closest was St. George’s, so near by that he could jump from here and splatter on its roof. But he had no use for St. George’s today, save as a landmark to establish a heading. Raising his glass then brought him straight to a view of St. Mary-at-Hill, five hundred and some feet from the Monument’s gaudy plinth. A bloke with a spyglass was perched in its cupola; he took the instrument from his eye and waved. It seemed a cheerful gesture, not a warning, so he did not let his gaze linger there, other than to verify that there was a crossbow-man on the roof of that church, standing next to a copper tun and facing across the street (St. Mary Hill) toward a block of buildings on the eastern side. Beyond those, a few degrees to starboard, was a great hulk of a church, St.-Dunstan-in-the-East. Unauthorized personnel had likewise gained access to roof of same. It lay all of a hundred yards from St. Mary-at-Hill; and another hundred yards to the east of it was another bulky fabrique whose roof too was infested with crossbow-men and other unlikely trespassers. This would be Trinity House, the Guild or Clubb of Thames river-pilots. The lower floors would be sparsely occupied with retired tillermen drunk on sherry and wondering what all the confounded fuss was about.

Diverting now a bit to port, and some five hundred feet down-range, he found All Hallows Church, easily picked out by Barking Churchyard, which wrapped around it north, east, and south. Other than a sole sentry in the steeple, the place looked innocuous; the only activity was a funeral-procession making its way into the churchyard from Tower Street.

Beyond that was Tower Hill, an open glacis between the buildings of London and the moat of the Tower. It was put to diverse uses, viz. site of public decapitations, place for drilling of troops, and picnic-ground. Some ventured to name it a green. Today it was wholly brown, but enlivened by stripes of red. The garrison of the Tower used it as a place to rehearse their tedious drills and maneuvers. This explained why it was brown, for the grass had not been able to maintain a grip on the pounded mud. The troops were drilling at this very moment, which explained the red stripes; for the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard, despite their name, wore red coats. They were grouped by company, which made it easy to number them even without aid of a spyglass. Indeed their orderly battle-lines looked like nothing so much as tally-marks scratched in red chalk on a clay tile.

“I make them a dozen! There are fourteen companies in all; the First is downriver; twelve are there on Tower Hill; one, as is customary, standeth watch over the Tower. Of those, how many are out on the Wharf? Have you tallied them yet? No, never mind, ye’ll be assembling a certain Device…where is my damned bagpiper? Ah, now I see him, strolling on Water Lane…why, I phant’sy I can even hear his Heathenish Strains. Too bad for the Lieutenant! Now, where’s my Fire?” He twitched the glass hard to port, sweeping it across the whole expanse of the Tower. The northern wall and the moat flashed by, and then the stretch of Tower Hill that lay due north of the complex. This was but a narrow patch of open ground, for the city stretched out a lobe toward the Tower here, nearly pinching the Tower Hill green in half. At its closest approach, some of the buildings along Postern Row came within a stone’s throw of the Moat. These belonged not to the city of London but to the Tower of London itself; they were called the Tower hamlets, they had their own militia, their own Justices of the Peace, and their own Fire Brigade. Which was not merely a pedantic observation. For one of the buildings in the Tower Hamlets was on fire. The trail of smoke above it told that it had been smouldering for a long time; but just now, orange flames began to billow from its windows. The Fire Brigade had been called out from the taverns where they patiently waited, day in and day out, for an excuse to do their duty, and they were hastening out of the hamlets’ diverse courts and culs-de-sac, out of Distiller’s Yard and Savage Gardens into Woodruff Lane. But they were outnumbered, and generally out-run, by persons who merely wanted to see a building burn down. This was the ever-present Mobility; or, for short, the Mobb.

“My people!” exclaimed the man mawkishly. Satisfied, he took the glass down from his eye, blinked a few times, and attended to the near-at-hand for the first time in several minutes. A huge Indian, blinded by sweat, was emerging from the stair carrying a bucket of silk thread. One of the Filipinos had scaled the stone knob at the top of the Monument, a good twenty feet above, and lashed himself to the base of the lanthorn. He caught a coil of rope underhanded to him by his partner. Tomba spliced away, wielding that fib like a scribe with a pen, and glancing up alertly from time to time. The four Jews had made a cabal in the southwest corner and were avidly speculating as to what the hell was going on. The only ones completely useless were Jimmy and Danny, still gazing, gobsmacked, down into the Tower.

“Wake up, ye bloody prats!” said the old man in the golden waistcoat. “Lest I come over and knock the dust out o’ yer skulls.” Then, before he could summon up any more such endearments, he was distracted by items of interest in the river Thames.

On the downstream side of the Bridge, a derelict-looking barge was tied up to the fourth starling from the near end. A short distance downstream, a sloop could be seen anchored in the Pool. She was in the act of weighing anchor. This was not remarkable. But she was running out her guns, which was; and to boot, some hands were busy on her aft end, preparing to hoist a blue flag covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

But even more than these, what truly commanded his attention was a huge wagon coming across the Bridge from Southwark, drawn by a team of eight horses. It looked like the sort of wagon that might be used to convey great building-stones from rural quarries into the precincts of the city. But its burden was covered by worn-out sails, and it was preceded and followed by a swarm of jubilant Black-guards who, if they were keeping to form, were probably picking pockets, purses, and shop-windows clean as they went, like grasshoppers progressing through a field of ripe grain. As they crossed the Square-the open fire-break in mid-span-a man jumped off the wagon, darted to the downstream side, leaned over the parapet, and waved a swath of yellow cloth over his head a few times. His eyes were directed toward the fourth starling. There, a cutlass severed a painter. The barge began to drift down with the tide.

“My boys. My doves,” said the man in the golden waistcoat. “Every varlet in a mile radius is doing me a favor of some description, save you twain. Do you not wot how long it took me to hoard all of the favors I am spending in this hour? Favors are harder to get than money. Faith, what I am doing here now is like shoveling guineas into the sea. Why am I doing it? Simple, boys: ’tis all for you. All I want is to provide you lads with a proper Mum to look after you.” His voice had gone thick; his face had collapsed and now bore no trace of anger. “Starin’ at yon Tower as if you’d never seen the minars of Shahjahanabad. Remindin’ me of my own self, a wee mudlark boy, first time Bob and I sallied up the river. Fascinating it might be to you, who’ve been ’tending to other matters, and ’tending well, I might add. But I am so bloody sick of the place, e’en though I’ve ne’er set foot in it. A thorough study of the Tower of London your father has made. Where the Tower is concerned, I am, as our friend Lord Gy would say, a dungeon o’ learnin’. No small toil for one as unused to study as I. Spent many hours plying with drink your Irish outlaws who have garrisoned it, and know its odd corners and passages. Sent artists in to sketch me this or that tower. Stood up here on howling bitter days peering at it through a perspective-glass. Wooed the Tower’s maid-servants, bribed and blackmailed the Warders. To me ’tis now as familiar as a parish church to its aged vicar. I have traced through f?tid streets the invisible boundary of the Liberty of the Tower. I know which prisoners are close kept, and which have been granted that Liberty. I know the amount of the stipend that the Constable of the Tower is paid for looking after a Commoner-of-

means and a Commoner-without-means. Of the guns that look out o’er the river, I know which are in good order, and may not be fired because of dry rot in their carriages. I know the number of dogs, how many of them are pets, how many are strays, and how many of the latter are mad. I know which prisoner dwells with which Warder in which house. I know the amount of the customary tip one must give to a Warder to gain entry to the Inner Ward. When the Gentleman Porter goes into the country to take the waters, and cannot ’tend to his customary duty of locking the Tower’s gates at half-past-ten in the evening, who takes over that duty for him? I know. Did you know that the Steward of the Court of the Liberty of the Tower does double duty as its Coroner? Or that the Apothecary serves by warrant of the Constable, whereas the Barber is a wholly informal and unsworn position? I do, and indeed the Barber is one of our number. All these and numberless other things I know concerning the Tower. And at the end of my studies I have concluded that the place is naught more than just another queer English town, with a rickety wooden gaol and a parish church, and the only thing of note about it is that money is made there, and its leading citizens are all Lords committed for High Treason. I inform you of this now so you’ll not be let down anon when it’s amply shown ’tis true; and also, so that you’ll stop gawping at it, and count the redcoats in the Wharf Guard, and assemble the fucking Rocket!”

Jimmy and Danny had begun to rouse from their stupor round the point in the soliloquy when their father had brought up the subject of rabid dogs-even for those who lived a life of danger, this was a certain attention-getter. The terminal word “rocket” jolted them like the noose at a rope’s end. Jimmy shrugged off his cape and let it crumple to the stone deck. For a few moments Danny looked to be committing fratricide as he worked with a dirk under his brother’s arms, but he was only cutting away the web of ropes that bound the helmet-shaped burden to his back.

“Damn me, I should watch more and discourse less,” remarked their father, surveying the rooftops below through his glass. “They’ve strung the lines while I was prating.”

A thread of gossamer now connected the steeples of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Dunstan-in-the-East, and thence ran almost in a straight line to the roof of Trinity House. But haply he focused on the streaming gutter of Tower Street just in time to see a crossbow-bolt flying above it. This pierced the copper roof-skin of All Hallows Church. It had only lodged there for a few moments when a dark-skinned, barefoot man scrambled to it, and commenced a curious hand-over-hand pantomime. He was pulling in yards of silken thread, too fine to be resolved by the glass. It was originating from a smooth-rubbed copper vat on the roof of Trinity House, and it got thicker as he pulled it in, so that if one had the patience to stand there and watch, it might in the end become visible.

He diverted his glass a few arc-seconds down into the adjoining churchyard, where the funeral had taken a macabre turn: the lid of the coffin had been tossed aside to reveal a helmet-shaped object with a long stick projecting from its base. Stored in the foot of the sarcophagus was another vat of coiled thread.

From there it was a flick of the glass to Tower Hill. The red lines were gone! The companies of soldiers had marched away. He scanned the Hill until he’d found them again: they had done just as he’d hoped. They had marched toward the smoke and the fire. As how could they not, for the fire had broken out in a building not far from Black Horse Stables, where these dragoons kept many of their horses. The protocol of London fires was as fixed and changeless as that of a coronation: first the fire brigades came, then the Mobb arrived, and finally soldiers marched out to drive away the Mobb. All was proceeding according to tradition.

He took the glass from his eye to make sure that his sons were doing their bit for the Plan. Indeed, they had lashed the pilgrim-staff to the rocket-head, and leaned it against the railing, aimed in the general direction of St. Mary-at-Hill. Several yards of iron chain trailed from the end of the stick and were now being spliced to a loose end of cord that trailed over the brim of the kettle that the Indian had lugged up here. So that was as it should be. He glanced straight down to verify that the large wagon was booming into position at the foot of the column. Then he moved in the direction of the river, to check on his naval maneuvers; but as he came near the stair exit, his progress was all of a sudden blocked by a tall slender fellow in a long robe, who emerged not even breathing hard.

“Bloody Hell-our Supervisor’s here, boys.”

In response, spitting noises from Jimmy and Danny.

The robed one cast back his hood to reveal black hair with gray streaks and an unfashionable, but admittedly handsome, goatee. “Good day, Jack.”

“Say instead Bonjour, Jacques, so that our hostages shall make a note of your Frenchitude. And while you are at it, Father Ed, make the sign of the cross a few times to show off your Catholicity.”

Father Edouard de Gex switched happily to French and raised his voice. “I shall have more than one occasion to cross myself before we are finished. Mon Dieu, are these the only hostages you could arrange? They are Jews.”

“I am aware of it. They’ll make better witnesses, as being impartial to the quarrel.”

Father Edouard de Gex’s nose was a magnificent piece of bone architecture surmounting nostrils big enough to swallow wine-corks. He put them to good use now, literally sniffing at the Jews. He threw back and cast off his long robe to reveal the black cassock of a Jesuit, complete with swingeing crucifix, rosary, and other regalia. The Jews-who had supposed, until now, that the business with the pulley was part of routine Monument maintenance-now could not choose between astonishment and fear; We came up to take in the view, they seemed to say, and never expected the Spanish Inquisition.

“Where are the coins?” de Gex demanded.

“On your climb, did you nearly get tumbled off the stair by a great Indian who was on his way down?”

“Oui.”

“When next we see him, he’ll have the coins. Now, if you do not mind, I’d gladly have a look at the river.” Jack skirted de Gex and raised his glass, then faltered, as he did not really need it. The barge was drifting downriver with the tide-surge, and had covered perhaps a quarter of the distance to Tower Wharf. Men had emerged onto its deck and busied themselves with now-familiar preparations involving ropes and rockets. As for the sloop, she had now run out her French flag for everyone in the Pool to see, and seemed to be making a course for the Tower. Men were suddenly crowding her decks: men dressed all alike in powder-blue coats. If Jack had bothered with the spyglass, he could have seen ropes, grapnels, blunderbusses, and other Marine hard-ware in their hands.

The question was: was anyone in the Tower bothering to look? What if Jack threw a Boarding Party, and nobody came?

Behind him de Gex, in the universal manner of Supervisory Personages, was asking useless questions. “Jimmy, what think you?”

“I think too much pivots on outcomes within the Tower,” was Jimmy’s bleak answer.

De Gex seemed pleased to’ve been served up this opportunity to discharge the priestly office of succouring those who despaired. “Ah, I know the Tower is of an aspect very formidable. But unlettered man that you are, you want historical perspective. Do you know, Jimmy, who was the first prisoner ever held in the Tower of London?”

“No,” answered Jimmy, after deciding not to exercise his other option, viz. flinging de Gex off the Monument.

“It was his holiness Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham. And do you know, Jimmy, who was the first prisoner to escape from the Tower?”

“No idea.”

“Ranulf Flambard. This was in the year of our Lord eleven hundred and one. Since then very little has changed. The Tower’s inmates refrain from escaping, not because the place is so competently looked after, but because they are mostly English gentlemen, who would look on it as bad form to leave. If the place were managed by Frenchmen our plan would be certain to fail, but as matters stand-”

“Come, they’re not so bad,” Jack put in, “see how the redcoats swarm to the Wharf. The alarm has gone up.”

“Excellent,” de Gex purred. “Then a Russian and a Scotsman may achieve what no Englishman would dream of.”

Sloop Atalanta, off the Isle of Grain


LATE AFTERNOON

WHEN NEXT THEY SAW COLONEL Barnes, they were well down the last reach of the Hope. The tide was rushing away from them so ardently that it threatened to ground Atalanta on the floor of an empty Thames. The river drew narrower every minute as its contents fled to the sea, exposing vast gray-brown slatherings to the air. Southend could be seen a few miles off the port bow, stranded in a mud desert. But what dominated the prospect was the sweep of the open ocean, which now subtended a full quarter of the horizon.

To starboard a fat sinuous river could be seen meandering out through the Kent marshes and nearly exhausting itself as it struggled across the ever-widening flat, trying to connect with the Thames.

“It is Yantlet Creek,” announced Colonel Barnes. “All that lies beyond it is not the mainland, but the Isle of Grain.”

“How can a creek form an island?” Daniel inquired.

“Questions such as that are the penalty we suffer for inviting Natural Philosophers,” Barnes sighed.

“Sir Isaac asked, too?”

“Yes, and I’ll give you the same answer.” Barnes unrolled his map, and traced the S of Yantlet Creek inland to a place where it joined up with a ganglion of other creeks, some of which flowed the other direction, into the Medway on the opposite side of the isle.

“Gravity seems to be mocking us here-who can explain the flow of these streams?” Daniel mused.

“Perhaps Leibniz can,” Barnes returned, sotto voce.

“So it is truly an island,” Daniel admitted, “which raises the question: how will your mounted companies be able to cross over to it? I assume that is what they are doing.”

Barnes used one dirty fingernail to trace the line of a road from the ferry wharf at Gravesend eastwards along the foot of the chalk hills. Where the Thames had jogged north to swing round the hammerhead, the road angled south to cut across its narrow handle, and then to follow the higher and drier ground a few miles inland of the Thames. “Here’s where they should have got ahead of us,” Barnes said. “And here is the bridge-the only bridge-over Yantlet Creek to the Isle of Grain.”

“Military man that you are, you lay great stress upon the onliness of that bridge,” Daniel remarked.

“Military man that I am, I have made it mine, for today,” Barnes stated. “My men have crossed over it, and hold the Isle end.” Then he checked his watch, to reassure himself. “Jack and his men are pent up now on that Isle, they cannot escape by land. And if they should attempt it by sea-why, we shall be waiting for them, shan’t we?”

He could learn nothing further from the map, so Daniel looked up. He could now see a rectangular keep sticking up out the top of a cairn-like foundation, perhaps a mile ahead of them.

At high tide, Shive Tor might make, if not a pretty picture, then at least a striking Gothick spectacle, jutting out of sparkling water off the shore of the Isle of Grain, brooding over the traffic of ships through England’s front gate. But at this moment it stood alone in the middle of an expanse of drained muck the size of London.

“If Jack lives up to his reputation, he’ll have a vessel at his disposal-perhaps a bigger and better one than this,” Daniel said-less to raise a serious objection than to egg Barnes on.

“But look beyond-behold what lies in the distance!” Barnes exclaimed.

Daniel now gazed past Shive Tor and perceived that there was water again, a mile or two beyond it. It required a moment or two to persuade himself that this must be the channel of the Medway. On the far bank of that lay a system of fortifications with a fishing-village cowering behind it: Sheerness.

“If Jack breaks for France, we need only signal Sheerness Fort. The Admiralty shall see to the rest,” Barnes said. He said it distractedly, as he’d telescoped a brass perspective-glass to full length and was using it to squint at Shive Tor. “Not to worry, though-as we expected, he’s high and dry. There’s a ship-channel, you see, so that the Tor can be serviced by water, and Jack’s been dredging it deeper and deeper, so he can sail right up to the Tor with larger and larger vessels-but it’s no use during a spring tide. A longboat would scrape the bottom of that ditch this evening.”

Round the time Shive Tor had emerged from behind the Isle of Grain, a new wind had flooded over the starboard bow. For the last few minutes the sailors had been attending to it, trimming the canvas. Their business masked the more subtle operations of signalmen, who were at work with flags trying to communicate (or so Daniel assumed) with the dragoons who had disembarked at Gravesend. There was, in other words, a bit of a lull. Quite obviously, it would not last, and then there was no telling when Daniel would have another opportunity to speak to Barnes.

“Don’t mind Roger,” he said.

“Beg your pardon, sir?”

“The Marquis of Ravenscar. Don’t be troubled. I shall send him a note.”

“What sort of note, precisely?”

“Oh, I don’t know. ‘Dear Roger, fascinated to hear you are raising an army, oddly enough, so am I, and have already invited Colonel Barnes to be my Commander-in-Chief. Do let’s be allies. Your comrade-in-

arms, Daniel.’ ”

Barnes wanted to laugh but could not quite trust his ears, and so held it in, and went apoplectic red. “I should be indebted,” he said.

“Not at all.”

“If my men were to suffer, because of some political-”

“It is quite out of the question. Bolingbroke shall live out his declining years in France. The Hanovers shall come, and when they do, I shall extol you and your men to Princess Caroline.”

Barnes bowed to him. Then he said, “Or perhaps not, depending upon what happens in the next hour.”

“It shall go splendidly, Colonel Barnes. One more thing, before we are embroiled-?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“Your superior wanted to convey some message to me?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The Black-guard who accosted you on Tower Wharf this morning.”

“Ah yes,” Barnes said, and grinned. “Great big chap, dark and a bit gloomy, would’ve made a fine dragoon. Spoke in words I did not fully understand. Which was probably his intent. Wanted me to tell you that it was a lay.”

Daniel was frozen for a count of ten.

“You all right, Doctor?”

“This breeze off the sea is quite bracing.”

“I’ll get you a blanket.”

“No, stay… Those…those were his words? ‘It’s a lay’?”

“That was the entire message. What’s it signify? If you don’t mind my asking.”

“It means we should all turn around and go back to London.”

Barnes laughed. “Why’d we want to do such a thing, Doctor?”

“Because this is a trap. No, don’t you see? They somehow-Jack somehow-knew.”

“Knew what, Doctor?”

“Everything. He led us on.”

Barnes took a moment to think it through. “What, you’re saying the Russian was planted?”

“Just so! Why else would he have divulged so much, so soon?”

“Because Charles White had his testicles in a vise?”

“No, no, no. I’m telling you, Colonel-”

“Too fanciful,” was the verdict of Barnes. “More likely, the Black-guard’s in the pay of Jack, and, in a last-ditch gambit to stop us from coming out here, tried to scare us off with words.”

There was no changing Barnes’s mind. Daniel had committed a grave error by instilling Barnes with Hope first, then trying to make him afraid. If a want of hope made men desperate, a surfeit of it made them stupid in a wholly other way. Hope was tricky business, it seemed, and ought to be managed by someone with more experience of it than Daniel.

They were accosted by a lone musket-shot from shore. The captain ordered his seamen to slacken the canvas until they were only just making head-way. A skiff had pushed off from the indistinct shore of the Isle of Grain. News of it rapidly penetrated the quarterdeck and brought Charles White and Sir Isaac Newton up to the poop.

In a few minutes the skiff came alongside them, carrying a lieutenant of the King’s Own Black Torrent Guards. It had been commandeered from a local fisherman and his boy, who did all the work. They were not so much put out by this turn of events, as incredulous.

The lieutenant brought a cargo of words, and unloaded it with no small pride on the poop deck. These words were accepted as valuable military intelligence by all present save Daniel, who construed them only as additional tricks put in their way by Jack the Coiner.

The gist of it was that a brilliant success had been achieved. The dragoons had galloped over the Yantlet Creek bridge half an hour ahead of schedule, and posted a platoon there to hold it. The rest of the company had made for that stretch of shore-line nearest Shive Tor, and posted a lookout on St. James’s Church. This was built on the nearest thing the Isle of Grain had to a hill, and looked straight out across the tide flats. There the command post had been established. Most of the company was now deployed below it, at the high tide line, ready either to intercept any counterfeiters fleeing from the Tor on foot, or to mount a charge across the flats and storm the building. All of which had been noted by the inmates of the Tor, who had burned a few documents (or so it could be guessed from interpreting smoke) and then tried to escape by water.

Moored on the seaward side of the Tor, in the dredged channel, had been a boat of perhaps sixty feet in length, built on the lines of a Dutch ocean-going fishing vessel called a hooker. As Daniel, son of a smuggler, knew, this would be an ideal sort of craft for illicit traffic across the North Sea. Drake had used boats with flatter bottoms, because he tended to unload in shallow coastal creeks, but since Jack had his own ship-channel, he could carry out a thriving trade with a deeper-draught vessel such as this hooker. The occupants of Shive Tor had hastily loaded some items onto the hooker, raised sail, and tried to take her down the channel to open water. But she had run aground almost immediately, no more than a bowshot from the Tor. They had flung out enough stuff to refloat her, then let the wind-which was abeam-push her to the side of the wee channel, where she had run aground for good. This had opened the channel again and enabled at least some of them to make their escape in a sort of whaling boat: not much bigger than a longboat, but equipped with a mast and a sail, which had been raised once it had been rowed free of the channel. The whaler’s flight was being watched from St. James’s Church. But not much longer; in another hour, darkness would fall.

Having concluded this narration, the lieutenant awaited orders. Now, Mr. Charles White, who was quite obviously the master of this expedition, had the good form to look expectantly at Barnes, giving him leave to utter the command.

Barnes considered it for a long time-to the shock, then irritation, of Charles White and Isaac Newton both. Finally he shrugged and gave orders. This lieutenant was to be rowed back to shore, where he was to order an advance across the tidal flats to Shive Tor. Atalanta was to raise sail and pursue the fleeing whaler, pausing only to drop its longboat at the mouth of the Tor’s dredged channel so that an advance party could reach the Tor, arrest anyone who hadn’t made it onto the whaler’s passenger list, and salvage the grounded hooker before the resurgent tide floated it off.

These orders produced intense activity from all except Charles White, who responded with a sigh of mock relief and a roll of the eyes: what had taken Colonel Barnes so long? Precious seconds had been wasted as he pondered what was obvious!

Barnes had turned his back on White immediately after giving the command. He thumped over to Daniel.

“You’re correct,” Barnes said. “It’s-what did your friend call it? A lay.”

“What brings this change of mind, Colonel Barnes?”

“The fact that I had no decision to make. An imbecile could have given those orders.” He glanced over at White. “And one almost did.”

“Is it your intention to remain aboard, or to go to the Tor in the longboat?”

“A peg-leg’s no use in muck,” Barnes said.

“Daniel, I should benefit from your assistance at the Tor,” announced Sir Isaac Newton, breaking in on their conversation from behind Barnes. He was shrugging on a coat, and had brought up a wooden case that, from the way that he glared at anyone who came near it, Daniel assumed must contain Natural-Philosophick or Alchemical instruments.

Barnes pondered for a moment.

“On the other hand,” he said, “I could always hop about on one foot.”

Lieutenant’s Lodging, the Tower of London


LATE AFTERNOON

BY THE TIME HE GOT up to the late lieutenant’s bedchamber, no fewer than four grappling-irons were already lodged in the sills of its open windows. As he approached, a fifth erupted through a sash, and flying glass nearly accounted for his remaining eye. He spun away, backed to the window, thrust his hand out into the breeze, and skated it back and forth until he heard an answering cheer from below.

Sixteen months ago, MacIan had been arrested for a violation of the Stabbing Act. The stabbee had been an Englishman: a Whig who had mocked him in a coffee-house, pretending that he could not understand a word the Scotsman was saying. The Prosecutor had been the Whig’s widow: a more formidable opponent. By dint of various connivings and intrigues, she managed to trump up a few moments’ impulsive dirk-work into an act of High Treason. Exploiting the fact that her late husband had been a Member of Parliament, she had convinced a magistrate that the imbroglio had, in truth, been an act of international espionage carried out by a Scottish Jacobite Tory against an important member of Her Majesty’s Government. So MacIan had been committed to the Tower instead of Newgate Prison. He had not set foot beyond the Inner Wall since then. Now, though, he staged half of an escape by thrusting his head and shoulders out the window.

It was a different world out here. The only thing he had an eye for at first was doings on the river: not the easiest page for a one-eyed man to read, given the number and variety of ships strewn over the Pool. As a boy he had thought ships wonders. As a veteran he saw them differently, each vessel a coagulated Motive, a frozen Deed.

His eye soon picked out the triangular sails of a sloop, and a blue French naval banner, and, below them on the deck, an assembly of blue-coated soldiers. In case this were not a clear enough message, the sloop now fired a spotty barrage from its collection of swivel-guns. That, MacIan knew, served two ends: it let the Wharf Guard know that these invaders were not a mirage. But it was also a cue to the other actors in the play, letting them know that MacIan had hit his mark, and appeared in a certain window.

Within the Moat and on the Wharf, at this moment, should be seventy-two private soldiers, four corporals, four sergeants, two drums and a single lieutenant, that being a single Company, and the minimum complement deemed necessary to guard the place.

Of that number, a quarter of them-one platoon-would normally be concentrated along the Wharf, which was by far the most vulnerable face of the complex in that anyone in the world could come up to it on a boat. The other three platoons would be scattered round the complex at a plethora of sentry-posts and guard-houses: at the gates, causeways, and drawbridges, of course, but also before the doors of the Yeoman Warders’ houses, in front of the Jewell Tower, and at diverse other check-points.

There were also about two score Yeoman Warders. These were, in a somewhat technical sense, soldiers-The Yeomen of the Guard of Our Lady the Queen, “the Queen’s Spears,” the vestiges of a sort of Praetorian Guard that Henry VII had organized after Bosworth Field. But MacIan was rather less concerned with them, for they were scattered amongst their cottages looking after prisoners, they were not well armed, and they were not really run after the fashion of a military unit.

Normally Charles White and a few of the Queen’s Messengers-who actually were rather dangerous lads-would be hanging around the place. But they were off on a river cruise today.

At least in theory there was a Militia of the Tower Hamlets. But to muster these would take days, and to get their firelocks in working order would take longer. Most of them dwelt on the wrong side of the Moat anyway.

There was a Master Gunner, and under him four Gunners. By this time of day the Master Gunner could be counted on to be dead drunk. Only two of the Gunners would be on duty. And this meant sitting in a dungeon taking inventory of cannonballs-not manning the battlements ready to put fire to a loaded Piece. To actually load and fire the cannons and mortars on the Wharf and along the parapets of the walls required quite a few more bodies than that, and so it was a duty for the Guard. When the guns were fired on the Queen’s Birthday or for the arrival of an ambassador, much of the regiment was kept busy looking after them.

So the task at hand was to account for the some fifty-four guards who were not presently on the Wharf, and put them out of action.

What Rufus MacIan wanted to hear, he heard now: the drummer on the Wharf hammering out a tattoo that meant Alarm, Alarm! He could hear it clearly through this window, indeed could’ve thrown a stone over the low outer wall and hit the drummer-boy on the head. But it booted nothing for him to hear it. The question was, could it be heard by the Guards sprinkled round the Mint and the Inner Ward over the alarms of the fire that was burning in the hamlets, north of the Moat?

There was no better vantage-point from which to answer such questions than the building he was in now: the Lieutenant’s Lodging. MacIan turned his back on the window and strode north, exiting the room and stepping across a corridor. This brought him, for a moment, in view of a staircase. Angusina, the big red-headed lass, was coming up with a fistful of skirt in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other. Her face was flushed beneath the freckles as if someone had been flirting with her. “The Centinells ir flichtered!” she proclaimed, “weengin away like a flocht o muir-cocks at the buller o’ the guns.”

“The guns, aye, but can they hear the tuck o the drum?” MacIan wondered, and ducked into a small room under the gables. A long stride brought him to a mullioned window that framed a view of the Parade. What he saw was to his satisfaction: “A see reid,” he announced. “ ’Tis a beginning.”

As MacIan knew from having watched their interminable drills through the window of his prison, when an alarm sounded, the company on guard was supposed to form up at their barracks and march as quickly as possible to the Parade. This was more or less what he was seeing now, albeit from a different window. One platoon was there, wanting a few men, and enough privates had strayed in from other platoons to assemble a couple of additional squads.

The fact that Rufus MacIan had just stabbed the Lieutenant of the Tower to death in his own dining-room had no effect at all, and would not have made a difference even if these men had been aware of it. They were carrying out standing orders, which was exactly what was wanted at this stage of the Plan. If the Lieutenant (Throwley) had been alive, or if the Colonel of the regiment (Barnes) or even its Master Sergeant (Shaftoe) had been present, any of them might have countermanded those standing orders, and dashed the whole enterprise. As matters stood, none of them was in a position to put his superior intelligence to use here. Besides them, only three other personages stood in the chain of command: the Constable of the Tower (the late Ewell Throwley’s superior) and the Deputy Lieutenant and the Major (Throwley’s subordinates). The Constable was presently taking the waters in the country, trying to rid his system of three dozen faulty oysters he’d tucked into yesterday afternoon. The other two had been drawn away for the afternoon on some pretext. And so the Tower guard, like a killed chicken dashing around the farm-yard, was aping the remembered commands of a head that had already been thrown to the dogs.

The ranking sergeant was in the middle of the Parade, screaming a bit of tender abuse at each solitary lobsterback who came running in. Squads were schooling like fish on the green. It put Rufus MacIan in mind of the War: of the glorious carnage of Blenheim, piercing the French lines at Brabant, crossing the morass on the right end of the line at Ramillies, breaking the French cavalry before Oudenaarde. A thousand tales of gallantry that had become mere stuff between veterans’ deaf ears. Part of him wanted to stride across that green Parade, rally those troops-for excellent troops they were-and lead them to the Wharf. But his status as condemned traitor and sworn enemy would be an impediment there. To settle his mind on the task at hand was easy enough-he need only turn around and look at that red-headed girl, and remember the day when he had picked her up from the cold blue breast of her dead mother and wrapped her in bloody bed-clothes and borne her up screaming into the crags above Glen Coe.

The ranking sergeant had turned his purple face to the south. For a moment MacIan was wary of being spied in the lieutenant’s window. But the sergeant was not looking his way; his gaze was directed, rather, towards Cold Harbour-no, towards Bloody Tower, the chief portal to Water Lane from where he stood. MacIan could not see what the sergeant was looking at, but he could discern from the man’s silence, and his posture, that he was soaking up commands. It must be the officer in command of this company. That would fit. The lieutenant, on hearing the guns on the river, and the alarm from the Wharf, would run to investigate. Seeing the improbable, the unthinkable, but not-to-be-denied sight of a party of French Marines bearing down on the Wharf and blazing away with swivel-guns, he would dash back across Water Lane and get in view of the Parade the quickest possible way, which was through the stalwart arch in the base of Bloody Tower, and order all available units to “follow me!”

The sergeant on the green answered the only way he knew how: methodically. With a deliberation that was as agonizing to Rufus MacIan as it must have been to the wild-eyed lieutenant on the threshold of Bloody Tower, he drew and raised his sword, bellowed a catechism of marching orders that caused the one company and the three squads to stiffen, shoulder arms, wheel to the south, and-finally, bringing the sword down-forward march. And once some momentum had been established he even went to the extreme of telling them to double-time it.

MacIan went back to the bedchamber on the south side and found that Angusina had already applied herself to the task of pulling in the grapnels and making rope-ends fast to the frame of the lieutenant’s massive bed. Her imposing pelvis was framed in a window like an egg in a snuff-box as she hand-over-handed some burden up on a rope. Rufus MacIan thrust his head out another window and looked off to the left down Water Lane just in time to see the head of the column of redcoats sally from the base of Bloody Tower. A jog to the left then took them across the lane and into the base of St. Thomas’s tower, which they could use as a bridge to the Wharf.

He was distracted by a clanging noise nearby, and glanced down to see a Claymore bashing against the stone wall as Angusina hauled it up on a rope. The blade was almost naked, clad only in a sort of thong used for hanging it on the back. Scabbards for Claymores did not exist; such weapons were to be used, not worn. This particular blade had suffered worse, and MacIan was not troubled by its sparking collisions with the wall.

The lot below numbered a round dozen. They were ordinary London tavern rabble by their looks. Or to be precise, ordinary post-war London tavern rabble. For the Mobility had suddenly become a lot younger and rougher in the last twelvemonth, when much of Her Majesty’s army had been disbanded. Some of the veterans had gone off to be pirates or soldiers of fortune. But these happy few had been making themselves common, unremarkable features of a couple of drinking establishments spackled to the plinth of Bell Tower and the adjoining stretch of wall-directly beneath the very windows that Angusina and Rufus were presently looking out of.

“A praisent for thee, uncle, an weel to be seen!” called Angusina, and heaved the Claymore up into the room. After it several rods of iron clattered in series over the windowsill. For the great sword had been affixed to the top of a collapsible ladder, made of forged rungs separating a pair of knotted ropes. Angusina held the weapon out so that Rufus MacIan, wielding his bloody dirk, could slash the twine that bound it to the uppermost rung. This accomplished, he tossed the Claymore onto the bed-there was not room in this low-ceilinged chamber even for a practice swing-and helped the wench fix the head of the ladder to a Tudor armoire the size of a naval shot locker. Then it was back to the windows, as now came perhaps the chanciest bit of the entire Plan.

These windows were desperately exposed to view, and to more dangerous attentions, from the Wharf. What they had done until now-rope and ladder work-was visible but not, all things considered, conspicuous. Soldiers on the Wharf, distracted by the apparition on the Thames, could see it if they turned around and looked-but it was just as likely they’d not. What was going to happen next, on the other hand, could not be missed by anyone.

He hauled up a faggot of muskets on the end of a rope, slashed them apart, and began to charge one with powder and balls that Angusina had pulled up in an earlier load. A bit of covering fire couldn’t hurt. But what was really wanted here was cavalry.

“They’re so doughty,” cooed Angusina. “Yon blae-coatit Jocks oot on the River. And whaur were such stout-hertit Marines enlisted, uncle?”

“A bankrupt theatre,” he answered. “Yon French Marines ir no French, nor Marines, nor doughty, nor stout-hertit, nor aye soldiers. They ir actors, lass, an they hae been told they ir playin in a wee masque for the amusement o the Dutch Ambassador.”

“Never!”

“Aye.”

“Losh! They ir in for a stamagast then!” Angusina exclaimed.

“Fire!” came a distant scream from the Wharf. The cry was instantly buried under a barrage of mighty, hissing thuds as perhaps two score soldiers discharged their muskets. Then silence, except for a howl of dismay from the company of actors aboard the sloop.

“And that’s it for thaim,” said Rufus MacIan. “They’ll fleg off now. Tach! Whaur is ma bludie cavalry?” He had the musket loaded by now and he approached the window, wanting in the worst way to look to the right, towards Byward Tower and the causeway over the Moat. But prudence demanded that he scan the Wharf first. The soldiers were still in line with their red backs to him, the sergeant in profile watching them reload. But the drummer-blast, the dummer was looking right at him! His grip tightened on the stock of the musket. But blasting the drummer into the river, though it would have been easy at this range, was not a good way to be inconspicuous.

At least no one was pointing a gun at him. He turned his head to the right. Only a yard or two below the adjacent window, one of the Water Lane tavern crowd was scaling the ladder with a blunderbuss on his back. Several rungs below, another followed. Just beyond them was the sheer face of Bell Tower, which unfortunately blocked much of his view to the west. Bell was a bastion, meaning it bulged out through the planes of the walls to either side of it. This was done for a practical military purpose, viz. so that defenders, safe inside, could shoot out through its embrasures at attackers trying to scale the walls. MacIan noticed movement inside a small window cut into the near face of Bell Tower. It was really no more than twenty feet away. But a long twenty feet, in that Bell Tower was a completely different building, not reachable from here by any internal passageways that Rufus MacIan knew of. The window in question admitted a stripe of light to a prison cell, one reserved for important blokes. He could not recall who was in there just now. But where there was an important prisoner, there would be a Yeoman Warder. And how could a Yeoman not look out the window when he heard pitched combat on Tower Wharf? The Yeoman’s hand was moving up and down rapidly, and that was what really caught the old soldier’s eye of Rufus MacIan. Other eyes, reconciled to other professions and circumstances, might have read it as butter-churning, masturbation, or shaking a pair of dice. But to him it could be only one thing: use of a ramrod to shove a ball down the barrel of a weapon.

The musket could not be wielded fast enough through the small window. “Ye there,” he said to the lower ladder-climber, “throw me your pistol and hold fast.”

It was an exceptional sort of request. But MacIan had learned how to utter such requests in a way, and with a look, that ensured they would be heard and heeded. Shortly the pistol flew at him butt-first. MacIan caught it just as the Yeoman was swinging the window open, and cocked it as the Yeoman was thrusting his own pistol out, and pulled the trigger an instant before the Yeoman did. This had not left time for taking aim, and so the ball spalled a chunk out of the window-frame and went zooming away with a weird noise, like a drunken wasp. But it had the desirable effect of spoiling the Yeoman’s aim. His shot grazed the wall short of the ladder. The man who’d thrown the pistol took advantage of the reloading-interval to scamper up the last half-dozen rungs and dive through the window; and as soon as he was out of the way, a white line flicked up from Water Lane and vanished into the sniper’s window. “God damn it!” shouted the Yeoman.

Rufus MacIan looked down to discover an archer standing in the lane in front of the tavern, calmly fitting a second shaft to his bow-string. This man looked up at MacIan as if expecting a commendation; but what he got was, “Can ye see down the fookin’ causeway? If ma bludie cavalry dinna come soon-” cut off by a crash and crack as a musket-ball from the Wharf smashed into the wall near MacIan’s head. MacIan dropped to the floor of the bedchamber and buried his face in his sleeve for a few moments, as it felt to have been shredded on one side by numerous skirps of rock.

But he got an answer to his question. For in the sudden quiet he could hear many iron horseshoes, and a few iron wheel-rims, assaulting the paving-stones of the causeway. They could be any group of riders, followed by a wagon. But the piper down the lane, who’d been silent these last few minutes, now let pent-up breath sing in his drone, and began to play a battle-song of the MacDonalds: a tune Rufus MacIan hadn’t heard since the eve of the Massacre of Glen Coe, when the soldiers had danced to it. The tune came in not through his ears but his skin, which erupted in goose-pimples all over; ’twas as if his blood were oil, and fire had been laid to it, and serrated flames were racing from his heart to his extremities, and probing through the uncanny mazes and dark recesses of his brain. And this was how he knew that they were not just any riders but his kinsmen, his blude-friends, riding at last to slake the wrake-lust that had burned in them for twenty-two years.

There was answering musket-fire now from Angusina and the few men who’d scaled the ladder. When his ears cleared he heard shod hooves biting into wood-MacIan’s cavalry, drawn to the sound of the pipes, had reached the wooden drawbridge that spanned the last few yards of moat before the Byward Tower gate. They were moving at a canter-meaning that they’d seen no reason to rein in their mounts-meaning that the tavern-contingent had accomplished its paramount charge of making sure that the portcullis was not dropped.

There was an epidemic of hammering noises, and the room became very dusty. A barrage had been fired from the Wharf into the windows. Taking advantage of the reload-interval, he raised his head above the windowsill. Two more men were clambering up the ladder as sprightly as they could go. A platoon of lobsterbacks, now with their backs to the river, were lined up on the Wharf reloading; one had been shot and was curled up on his side. The other soldiers who’d been on the Wharf were no longer in sight. Indeed, since the menacing sloop had suspended its attack, there was no reason for them to remain out there. The lieutenant must have perceived this and ordered them to march back through St. Thomas’s Tower. They would be flooding into the Lane at any moment-

Horseshoes below. He looked plumb down to see a line of a dozen riders in kilts trotting into the Lane from the gate; and sweetest of all, heard the Byward Tower portcullis hurtling down behind them, sealing the Tower off from London. “Fuck-all ahint ye,” he informed them, “Englishmen afore, comin athort the Lane-get the bastarts!” And without bothering to wait and watch his orders being put into effect, he whirled to the bed, grabbed up the Claymore in its rude back-holster, and bore it in front of him out of the room and down the stairs.

AS A LAD HE HAD plotted his wrake, his revenge, in day-dreams a thousand times. He had always seen it as a straightforward matter of wading through the intestines of Campbells and Englishmen swinging his Claymore. Fortunately, a dozen years of professional war-making had intervened between those laddish phant’sies and the opportunity of this day, and taught him that he must go about it systematically.

So he did not fly out onto the Parade and go looking for Englishmen to slay, but bided his time by the door for a moment and made a study of the place as he hung the great sword on his back.

The Parade was empty except for a single redcoat running from the barracks toward the Bloody Tower gate.

No, never mind, someone had just shot him, probably from Cold Harbour. The Plan called for ten men, give or take a few, to have slipped into the Inner Ward and taken up positions from which they could shoot over the Parade or throttle this or that choke-point. Which appeared to have been done. The Yeoman Warders looking out the windows of their houses would have seen the redcoat fall, and would understand that to step from their front doors was death. But this did not mean that the Parade was available to Rufus MacIan. For a Yeoman, or a stray soldier of the Guard, could just as easily shoot through a window or over a parapet. It had to be considered a no-man’s-land for the time being.

“I need to ken if the Bloody Tower portcullis is dropped,” he remarked, just thinking aloud. But hearing a man clear his throat behind him, he turned around to discover half a dozen lads, flushed in the face and breathing hard from the scramble up the ladder and the dash down the staircase, but all in the pink of health and ready to go with loaded muskets.

“Beg pardon, my lord, but we worked out a signal for that.”

“And ye ir-?”

“Gunnery Sergeant, retired, Dick Milton, my lord.”

“Ti the windie then, Milton, an look for thy signal.”

“There it is,” Milton replied after a glance across the Parade. “See there, the Chapel has a clear view of Bloody Tower, as we’ve a clear view of it. We’ve a lass in there. Came in last night for a funeral, stayed all night to pray, and stayed all day to keep an eye on Bloody Tower for us. Do you mark the yellow cloth in the middle window there? She put it up to let us know that the portcullis is dropped.”

“Then the Black-guard maun hae sprung the Russian,” said Rufus MacIan, “an the Russian maun hae duin his job. Crivvens! It’s a clinker.”

“A clinker, my lord?”

“A wadna hae believed it, tha a one-airmed man could fell so many. But he hae surpreese on his left flank, an mad panic on his right, an either o the twae, by itself, is more mauchty than Hercules. Ir ye all guidwillie, now, to practice your auld profession?”

“Aye!” and “Yes, my lord,” came the answers.

“Then count to five, and follow.” MacIan flung the front door open and stepped out onto the Parade, as casually as if he were the Lieutenant of the Tower on his way to church.

“One,” chanted the men crouched in the building he’d just left behind.

Smoke jerked from the window of a Yeoman’s house.

“Two.”

A musket-ball buzzed in like a massive bumblebee, ruffled the whiskers of MacIan’s beard, and destroyed the window he had lately been peering out of.

“Three!” chanted the gunners, except for one who was screaming.

Musket-smoke spurted from half a dozen odd places around the Inner Ward: from dovecotes and barrel-stacks in Cold Harbour, doors of barracks, and corners and crannies of ancient walls.

“Four!” Another musket-ball, much too high, dug a crater from the front of the Lieutenant’s Lodging. “Paltry,” was the verdict of Rufus MacIan. “A dowless effort.” But his comments were drowned out by the echoes of the recent fire rolling around the Parade, as several other shots had just been fired to suppress the efforts of those Yeomen who were taking pot-shots at him.

“Five!”

Three men piled out the door, dropped to a kneeling position on the gravel track that ran along the front of the house, and raised muskets to their shoulders, taking aim at windows where they thought Yeomen were holed up. Their fire heaved up a cloud of smoke that covered the emergence of a second three.

Rufus MacIan was running east down the gravel track, along the fronts of the houses that looked out over the Parade. Halfway to Bloody Tower, he stopped, and cold-bloodedly turned his back to the Parade so that he could scan the windows of a house for snipers. All he could make out was the head of a maidservant peering out an upper window. No worries there; but he readied his firearm just in case a musketeer should present himself elsewhere. The second group of three men ran to a spot a couple of yards behind him, threw themselves down, and got ready to fire across the Parade. In the meantime Angusina and a few of the Water Lane tavern crew had fired a covering fusillade from the upper storeys of the Lieutenant’s Lodging. The first group of three left their empty and smoking muskets on the ground, and sprinted down the track towards Bloody Tower, passing between MacIan and the other three just as the latter discharged their muskets in no particular direction.

A red garment flashed in the window of one of the houses off to MacIan’s left. He wrenched the barrel of his musket that way, but the soldier saw him and dove to the floor before MacIan could pull the trigger.

The second group of three, likewise leaving their muskets on the ground, got up now and ran after their fellows towards Bloody Tower. MacIan took up the rear, following after them. But he moved only at a stroll. Partly this was because he expected a few more gunners to emerge from the Lieutenant’s Lodging. And he was not disappointed, for two and then another two came out helter-skelter and ran towards him, taking their chances against sporadic musketry from the windows of a few die-hard Yeomen. But partly it was to keep an eye on this house where one or more lobsterbacks were prowling.

Of the motley line of half-timbered houses that stretched along the southern verge of the Parade, the Lieutenant’s Lodging lay farthest to the west. The one Rufus MacIan was concerned with was at the opposite, easternmost end, therefore closest to Bloody Tower. It was thrust out into the green in a manner that, to the military eye, recalled a bastion. Between its eastern face and Bloody Tower was an open ground perhaps fifteen yards across-a narrow enough interval to allow for targeted musket-fire. In other words, Guards barricaded in that house could spoil their plans vis-a-vis Bloody Tower.

Another flash of red-a soldier had passed by a window in a hurry, seemingly on a downward trajectory. As if descending a staircase.

The door-handle was moving! MacIan watched in fascination from no more than ten feet away. The front door moved outwards half an inch. Oblivious, the last two of MacIan’s gunners ran by, headed for sanctuary in Bloody Tower. The soldier inside could see them, but he could not see MacIan. What would happen next was suddenly as clear to MacIan as if he’d witnessed it. He set his musket down and strode at the door of the house, reaching back behind his head with both hands and groping for the Claymore. He found it, and pulled it up out of the back-holster just as the door was swinging open. A musket emerged first, held in white hands.

MacIan drew the handle down through the air as fast as he could get his arms to move. But this was nothing compared to the swiftness achieved by the tip of the four-foot blade, which moved so rapidly that it spoke out with a wicked noise like the uncoiling of a bullwhip. Something messy happened and the musket fell to the ground outside the door. MacIan’s blade had passed through the man’s forearm and struck the edge of the door at an angle, skiving off an acute angle of wood and stopping when it struck a nail. The soldier had vanished inside without MacIan’s ever seeing his face. Suddenly the grip of the Claymore was jerked nearly out of his hands as the door was pulled shut. The tip of the blade struck the door-frame and was knocked free so briskly that the weapon, shuddering from end to end, sprang back into the air. MacIan caught it by the cross-guards. He heard door-bolts being thrown inside-from which he guessed that there was another soldier within.

MacIan flattened himself against the wall of the house and spent a few moments getting the Claymore hung on his back, and judging the number of steps to the musket he had left on the ground. Yeomen were taking pot-shots at him from the opposite corner of the Parade. But at such a distance a musket-ball would merely accept suggestions-not obey orders. The balls were smashing out windows above him and probably creating as much of a problem for the soldiers inside as they were for their intended target.

MacIan ran, snatched his musket off the ground, wheeled, and charged round the corner of the house to the open space between it and Bloody Tower. If they had been hoping to shoot down at him, they’d now have to present themselves at different windows, and perhaps move to different rooms.

The tactic worked, as cheap simple tactics commonly did: through a ground-floor window he could see a door flying open, and a man in a red coat running through it and wheeling toward the light-then freezing up in horror as he realized he had just blundered into the enemy’s sights. This gave MacIan the moment that he required to center the musket on the red breast of his foe. But as he did so he noticed a sash being flung open on the upper storey, and another flash of red appearing there.

And now a very rapid calculation: the ground-floor soldier was his. All that was required was a small movement of the trigger finger. As for the one above, if this Jock had a weapon in condition for use, then Rufus MacIan was about to be shot, no matter what he did; and if he tried to raise his musket-barrel and draw a bead on the new lad, he would probably miss. So he pulled the trigger.

What happened after that was anyone’s guess, since all he could see was powder-smoke. But a moment later an answering blast came from the window above, and he felt the ground jolt beneath his feet. This, he reckoned, must be the impact of a musket-ball on his body, being transmitted down his legs into terra firma; and if he stood still for a few more moments he would feel the first hot shards of pain traveling away from the entry-wound, would feel an unaccountable need to clear his throat as his lungs filled up with blood.

But none of these things happened. The smoke was drifting away. MacIan looked up at the window, out of a sort of professional curiosity, wanting to lay eyes on the soldier so incompetent that he could miss that shot, wanting to relish the humiliation in the Englishman’s eyes when he kenned he’d fired into the ground.

But when the smoke finally cleared, he saw no such thing, but rather an unbeast, a nightmare vision, like one of the horrors from Malplaquet that cluttered his brain, like so many stuffed monsters in an old hunter’s attic, and came alive each night to torment him just as he was about to drop off to sleep. This unbeast moved, and slid limp from the window, landing on its head in the grass before him. It did not come to a decent position of repose. Rather the corpse was propped up on something: a half-pike or javelin that had transfixed its ribcage, like an enormous alien bone that had grafted itself onto the man’s skeleton.

MacIan looked up into the vacant window but saw no one there-so it must have come in to the window from outside. But he was the only man in the yard, and he had no memory of chucking any spears lately. It had to have come from above, then. He turned around to face Bloody Tower and ran his gaze up forty feet of sheer stone to its parapet.

There, framed in a slot between two crenels, and silhouetted against the sky, was a very large man with a beard flowing down his front. Smaller men were active around him, hustling among the gun-carriages that were situated on the roof of this Tower, wheeling them about to aim toward the River, chocking them up with thick quoins so that they were aimed, not at the shipping in the Pool, but down upon the soldiers on the Wharf.

The big man with the beard was gripping in one hand another half-pike. He raised the other to make a gesture. It was not a hand but a barbed hook with a skein of moist detritus swinging from it, possibly hair or shreds of clothing. With this he pointed up, away from the river, drawing MacIan’s eye away from the toils of the gunners and towards the penetralia of the Tower of London. Over the roofs of the Cold Harbour storehouses he pointed, and over the soldiers’ barracks and the gate of the Inmost Ward, to the lofty prize that stood in the center of all, commanding the complex, the River, and the City from its four turrets: the White Tower. He thrust his hook at it thrice.

The Hero of the Gy needed no more urging. Dropping his empty musket, he unslung his Claymore for what he guessed would be the last time, and hurried between droning musket-balls towards Cold Harbour Gate.

LIKE ANY SELF-RESPECTING CONDEMNED traitor, MacIan had spent plenty of time plotting dramatic escapes from the Tower of London. He knew where the exits were. Today, though, he must think of them as entrances.

There were five gates to the Inner Ward. One of them was an old sally-port in the northeast corner, near Brick Tower, leading into the Mint. It was of no concern today. The remaining four gates were spaced unevenly along Water Lane. Bloody Tower and Wakefield Tower each contained a gate. These two structures were so close together as to constitute virtually a single, misshapen building. A stroller moving east on Water Lane would spy the Bloody Tower gate first and then, after rounding the bastion of Wakefield, see its gate. But though close together, these two portals were as divergent as they could be. The first was a broad, massive, handsome Gothick arch that led directly onto the Parade via the court where Rufus MacIan was now standing. Thanks to the Russian, the light shining through that arch was reticulated by a massive grid of iron bars. Beyond it MacIan could see several redcoats lying still in the middle of Water Lane. They’d marched back from the Wharf expecting to re-enter the Inner Ward through that arch, but had been stopped by the ancient portcullis. And at that moment a dozen Scots horsemen had charged down on them swinging sabers. When horse attacked foot the outcome was never in doubt, unless the foot had pikes, and were well drilled. The Wharf Guard of the Tower of London did not carry or use pikes.

The second gate was a little postern giving entry to the circular ground floor of Wakefield Tower. Thence one could cross into a long L-shaped gallery that ran up through Cold Harbour and broke into the open just short of the White Tower. This was not a fit way for cavalry to come in. If things were proceeding according to plan, Tom the Black-guard was ensconced beneath a window near the vertex of the L, commanding both legs of the passage, with a large number of loaded firearms in his lap. Few if any of the Tower’s would-be defenders would pass in or out through the Wakefield Tower gate. But some of its attackers should have come running in that way on the heels of the cavalry charge.

MacIan ran north along the verge of the Parade, passing by the Cold Harbour storehouses on his right. There was still a damnable lot of musket-fire coming from Yeomen’s windows, but none of it was directed his way any longer. When he reached the corner of the last storehouse and ducked around it, he at last had a safe vantage-point from which to appreciate why. The appearance of a few gunners atop Bloody Tower and the adjoining stretch of wall, aiming Her Majesty’s cannons down across Water Lane toward the Wharf, had compelled the Wharf Guard to pitch their muskets into the river and stand helpless. They were no longer able to shoot at men climbing the rope ladder into the Lieutenant’s Lodging. And so a continual parade of invaders was now emerging from the front door of that house and sprinting down to Bloody Tower where they could take stairs up to the battlements and man yet more cannons. As they did, they drew what little fire the Yeomen could muster. But even this was being suppressed by occasional fusillades from firing-points that the invaders had set up along the southern edge of the Parade.

He heard a gate groaning behind him and so turned his back to the Parade, which had become a sort of closed chapter anyway.

He had been engaged, these last few moments, on a project of looping north round the end of Cold Harbour to get from the Inner Ward (a parade for Guards and a village green for Yeomen) into the Inmost Ward (the court of a Royal Palace). He was facing now into an interval some ten or fifteen paces wide separating the Cold Harbour buildings from the corner of the White Tower. That opening was walled off; but there was a gate in the wall, which was being very considerately opened for him by a man in a kilt.

“At last, someone I can talk to,” MacIan said. “Welcome to the Tower, lad.”

“And welcome to the Inmost Ward, uncle,” returned this young man, and stepped back to let him enter.

This was a mere bowling-green compared to the Parade. It seemed even smaller than it was because it was mashed between the immense White Tower on the north and, on the south, Wakefield Tower (a palace unto itself) and a congeries of bulky office buildings and storehouses belonging to the Ordnance. Somewhere in the midst of that would be another tiny postern-the third of Water Lane’s four portals-communicating with the Constable’s Lodgings, and of no interest today. Far more important was the last gate, a proper arch, large enough for Highlanders to ride through without dismounting. That gave access to a sort of barracks-street along the eastern perimeter of the Inmost Ward, and thence to another gate, a partner of the one MacIan had just walked through…where was it, though? His eye, no judge of distances, had trouble making sense of the place. But the piper had taken up a position at the head of the barracks-street to lead the cavalry onwards. The sound of the music crashing from the stony environs gave MacIan the information he wanted to decypher the place. He found the gate in question. It was open. Men were beginning to ride through it. Some were slumped over in their saddles, clutching at battle-wounds earned in Water Lane, or perhaps earlier, when they had galloped out of the streets of London town to astonish the sentries posted at Lion Gate. But most were riding straight-backed and proud, and one-bless him-carrying the unfurled colors of MacIan of MacDonald.

“So that is the famous White Tower,” said the lad who had opened the gate for him, “Feich! It’s not even white!”

“The Englishmen have no self-pride. If you read their history you will see that they are nothing more than a lot of doxy and mistemious bog-stalkers. Think: what would a few gallons of white paint cost the Queen of England?”

“For the love of God, I’d come down and paint it myself just so I wouldn’t have to look at it. Everywhere you go in this cursed city, there it stands, a blot on the horizon.”

“I’ve a more expeditious solution,” MacIan answered. “I know of one place, not far from here, where you can look in any direction you please without having to suffer the sight of this rubble-heap.”

“Where’s that, uncle?”

“The inside of it!” And MacIan beckoned to the banner-carrier.

“What-how do you get in?” inquired the lad.

“Through the bloody front door. They built it high off the ground, you see, there-to make it easy to defend-but the English, lazy as they are, have built a lovely timber staircase so they need not strain themselves.”

“I cannot see it.”

“The barracks are in the way. Follow me!” MacIan entered the front door of a sort of gatehouse pent between two barracks.

“I’ll go before you, uncle!” cried the lad; and behind him, like exclamations could be heard from other warriors who were hastily dismounting in the Inmost Ward and running to catch up with them, encumbered by diverse cutlasses, Claymores, blunderbusses, and granadoes.

But Rufus MacIan strode out the back of the gatehouse and began climbing a rude wooden staircase towards a simple round-headed archway cut into the White Tower’s south wall. “You do not understand,” he called over his shoulder. “You are looking forward, now, to a pitched battle for the White Tower. As if this were a picaroon-romance. But the battle is over. You have fought it and won it.”

A Yeoman Warder suddenly stood framed in the arch. He drew an old rapier from a scabbard at his hip, held it up above his head, and began to charge down the timber stairs, screaming. Rufus MacIan did not bother reaching for his Claymore. The Yeoman was butchered on the hoof by musket-balls flying in from half a dozen different angles. He sprayed and faltered at each impact, disintegrating before their eyes, and then collapsed and rolled down the stairs leaving much of himself behind.

“He’s been reading picaroon-romances, too,” observed Rufus MacIan. “Watch your step, lads, it’s a wee bit slippery.”

He took the last steps two at a time and strode across the threshold of the White Tower, saying, “I claim thee for Glen Coe.”

The City of London


LATE AFTERNOON

HE WAS PRESENTABLE. He was amiable. He’d been taught to sign his name-assuming Jones really was his name-on command. Beyond that he was, and always would be, perfectly illiterate. This rendered it out of the question that Seaman Jones of the good ship Minerva would ever be an officer, or a man of commerce.

Jones did not chafe under his limitations-if he was even aware he had any. They had picked him up in Jamaica. His story at the time was that he was a wholesome North Devon lad who had been abducted from the shore round Lynmouth by a boat-load of sailors from a Bristol slave-ship anchored in the Channel-in other words, that he’d been press-ganged-and that, after a run to Guinea to pick up slaves, he had jumped ship in Jamaica. They had always assumed that Jones would jump ship again one day, and avail himself of his first chance to get back to his family farm on the edge of Exmoor. But that had been years ago. Jones had proved immune to the temptations of Exmoor on several occasions, as Minerva frequently called at Plymouth, Dartmouth, and other ports convenient to his supposed homeland. Indeed, he gave every indication of being perfectly content with his lot aboard Minerva. There had been some trouble with rowdiness at first, providing a hint as to what Jones was running away from, but as years and voyages had gone by he had ripened into a steady, reliable, if somewhat limited crewman.

So on the liability side of Jones’s account, to illiteracy could be added a mysterious, probably criminal past, and a want of ambition. He had, however, one asset that was not possessed by the officer who was walking next to him up Lombard Street: he was a white-skinned Englishman. From time to time Jones was called upon to make the most of this asset by dressing up in a pair of breeches, leather shoes, a waistcoat, a long watch coat of a somewhat nautical cut, and a very plain horsehair periwig. This was the sort of get-up that a ship’s officer might keep stuffed in a footlocker while crossing an ocean, and pull out after dropping anchor in some harbor, so that he could go ashore and look minimally decent in the eyes of money-scriveners, victuallers, ship-chandlers, and insurance underwriters.

If these two were to hail a hackney coach and travel a couple of miles west to the new streets round Piccadilly and St. James, where shopping rather than shipping was the order of the day, their roles, in the eyes of most casual strollers, might be reversed. For people with an eye for clothes would notice that Dappa’s actually fit him, that they were of recent make, well cared for, and cleverly picked out. The lace around his shirt-cuffs had never been dragged through beer-foam, goose-grease and damp ink; his shoes shone like wax fruit. The sophisticated toffs of the West End would then take in the fact that Dappa was older, that he was alert to everything going on around them, and that when they came to street-corners Dappa went where he would, and Jones followed. Jones looked about himself curiously, but he was not really paying attention in the way that Dappa was. A West Ender, watching this procession of two stride past, might conclude that Dappa was a Moorish diplomat from Algiers or Rabat, and Jones his local guide.

But this was not the West End. This was the City of London. They were only a stone’s throw from Change Alley. No one paid much heed to clothing here, unless it was as a truly vulgar and shocking exhibit of wealth. By that standard both Dappa and Jones were invisible. Dappa, darting ahead through the crowd of money-men, was assumed to be the servant-a meat souvenir picked up on a trading-voyage-beating a path through the jungle, as it were, and keeping a shrewd eye for hazards. Jones, strolling in Dappa’s wake, was obviously the master, and what might in other settings have been seen as a stupid or vacuous expression could be taken, here, as the meditative phizz of a financial savant who was trying to plumb the meaning of the latest trend in Sword Blade Company share prices, and couldn’t be bothered to dress himself elegantly or indeed to find his own way down the street. His absent-minded way of taking in everything around him was proof that his was a mind tuned to follow the divagating strains, and quiver in sympathy with the startling chords, of the Market.

Or so Dappa told himself, to check his own impatience, when Seaman Jones paused to chat up a pretty orange-girl on a street-corner, or reached out to accept a handbill from a dirty, bawling pamphleteer. When they came at last to the doorway of Worth’s Coffee-House on Birchin Lane, just across the way from the Heraclitean riot of Change Alley, Dappa fell to the rear. Jones strode forward and entered the coffee-house first. A few moments later Dappa was pulling Jones’s chair out for him as he seated himself at a vacant table, and scurrying after a maid to make Mr. Jones’s desires known.

“We are early,” Dappa told Jones after he had got back to the table with the coffee, “and Mr. Sawyer is ever late, and so make yourself comfortable, as I cannot. After this, there’s no more leisure until we reach Massachusetts.” And Dappa took up the pose of a servant, standing behind Jones, ready to dart forward and tend to emergent needs.

Everyone else in the place was either involved in a conversation or, if alone, reading something. Worth’s Coffee-House was the haunt of a sub-species of petty financier who provided bridge loans, and other, less easily explained financial instruments, to the shipping trade. Of the singletons scattered about the place, some were salts consulting tide-tables or almanacks. Others looked like money-scriveners or money-goldsmiths. Their choices in reading material leaned towards London newspapers. Jones, here, was the odd man out in that he could not read at all. But at the corner of Gracechurch and Lombard, he had accepted a libel from a nasty tub-faced tout who looked and smelled as if he’d washed his face with rancid tallow, and who had bestowed an evil look on Dappa as he’d walked by. Jones had rolled it up and carried it here in one hand, looking for all the world like a man of affairs toting a Bill of Exchange to be redeemed. But now, in an effort to blend in with this literate crowd, Jones unrolled the handbill and smoothed it out on the table, and bent over it, aping the poses of the readers around him.

He had it upside down! Dappa bent his face toward the floor, and stepped forward so that he could discreetly knee Jones in the arse. But Jones was quicker than Dappa gave him credit for. Though he knew nothing of letters, he had figured out on his own that the document needed to be spun around. For this bill was illustrated: at the top of the page was a fist-sized blot of ink, a butcherous woodcut of a savage black-skinned man with spraying dreadlocks. His throat was clasped in a white lace cravat, his shoulders dignified by good English tailoring. Printed beneath this portrait in crusty letters an inch high was the word

DAPPA

followed by

A SLAVE, property of MR. CHARLES WHITE, ESQ., is missing and presumed stolen or astray. A REWARD in the amount of TEN GUINEAS shall be given to the first party who brings this Neeger to the dwelling of Mr. White on St. James’s Square.

And then finer print, which Dappa would need glasses to read. But he could not get his glasses out of his breast pocket, because not a muscle in his body would move.

Sloop Atalanta, off the Shive


SUNSET

HE WISHED HOOKE WERE HERE. A Natural Philosopher could not but be enthralled by all that was laid out for view by such a rare low tide. The sun had sunk low in the west and, behind London’s dome of smoke, shone the color of a horseshoe when the farrier beats it out on the anvil. That light was skidding across the tidal flats all round, making them seem not so flat at all. The surface of the muck was rippled, as if it were a pond that had been disturbed by a chill wind, then frozen. But more remarkable to Daniel was the shape of Foulness Sand, a few miles to the north, across the mouth of the Thames. This country of muck, larger than some German principalities, lay concealed beneath the water most of the time. It was devoid of any features such as rocks or vegetation. Yet when the tide drew off, the great quantity of water that had been stranded in the dells of all those frozen ripples drained away, not as a streaming sheet, and not by quiet seepage into the earth, but by finding its way to the low places. One hand-sized puddle would erupt in upon its neighbor, and those two would join forces and go looking for a nearby place that lay a hair’s breadth lower, even as every other dollop of water for miles around was pursuing a like strategy. The result, integrated (to use Leibniz’s terminology) over the whole of Foulness Sand, was that entire systems of rivers and tributaries sprang into being. Some of those rivers looked as old as the Thames, and big enough to build cities on; yet in a few hours they’d disappear. Existing in a state of pure alienation, unsoftened by reeds or willows, and not encrusted by the buildings of men, they were pure geometry. Albeit geometry of an irregular and organic cast, repugnant to Euclid or, Daniel suspected, to the silver-haired knight who was standing next to him. But Hooke would have seen beauty and found fascination there, and wrought pictures of it, as he had done with flies and fleas.

“Do the same rivers always spring up? Or is it new ones, in different places, at every tide?” Daniel mused.

“One will recur, again and again, for years, perhaps undergoing slow alterations from tide to tide,” Isaac answered.

“It was a rhetorical question,” Daniel muttered.

“Then some day, perhaps after a storm or an exceptional high tide, the water draws back, and it is gone, never to be seen again. There is much in the subterranean realm that is as opaque to the mind, as it is to the eye.”

Isaac now moved across the poop deck to view Shive Tor. Daniel felt compelled to stay at his elbow.

To their left, gray spread to infinity. Ahead, it extended only to the shore of the Isle of Grain, a couple of miles distant. Most of the isle barely rose above the horizon, but there was one hill, perhaps fifty to a hundred feet above sea level, grassy, with a few weather-shocked trees flinging their arms back aghast. Atop that stood a small, blocky, ancient stone church. It stood broadside to the sea, as if the masons had begun by erecting a wind-wall so that they would have something to stand in the lee of, then topped it with a steep roof to deflect the gales heavenwards. On its western front was a square tower with a flat roof and a crenellated top, which the Black Torrent Guard had pressed into service as a watch-tower.

Between Atalanta and the foot of that hill, the gray expanse was divided into an upper and a lower part by an irregular line of heaving froth. Below, this was tinged with blue and aqua. Above-nearer the land-it was washed with brownish and yellowish and greenish hues and mottled by scattered swellings in the mud. Sea-birds skimmed along just above it, moving in twos and threes as if hanging together for safety. From time to time they would alight and skitter about on twiglike legs, pecking at the mud. Some of them were doing so around the very foundations of Shive Tor, which stood high, but not dry, halfway between Atalanta and the foot of the hill.

The Tor’s dredged ship-channel was aimed obliquely downriver, so to find its entrance Atalanta would have to glide a short distance past the Shive and come about. The sailors were making ready to accomplish that and to launch the longboat, and they were going about it smartly, for it now seemed quite possible that they might lose the fleeing whaler in the dark. A silver-greyhound flag had been produced from somewhere and was being lashed to a stunted flagpole on the longboat’s transom, so that, for what it was worth, everyone who saw them would know that they were the Queen’s Messengers. Two dragoons had been pressed into service throwing sounding-leads over the rail and calling out depths, one on the port and one on the starboard side of the bow.

Barnes was arguing with the sloop’s captain as to which of them would need more dragoons. The latter wanted it understood that this was Mr. Charles White’s pleasure-jacht, not an Admiralty ship, and that, in consequence, he did not have any Marines aboard; and as the fleeing whaler probably contained the leaders of Jack’s organization-possibly even Jack himself-at any rate, the most notorious and dangerous criminal traitors in the Realm-most of the dragoons really ought to remain aboard the sloop.

“But you are overhauling a single boat,” Barnes was saying. “We are assaulting a stone fortress. There’s no telling what we shall find-”

But it was useless. Charles White-who would be staying on the sloop, that he might have the glory of catching Jack the Coiner-came down on his captain’s side, and pointed out that Barnes’s party would in a few minutes be reinforced by nearly a full company of dragoons charging across from the Isle of Grain. The number of dragoons put off in the longboat, not including Colonel Barnes and Sergeant Shaftoe, would be eight. If that was not enough, they could always draw back and await the onslaught from shore.

“It is like playing a part in a masque,” Daniel heard Barnes muttering, “a farce entitled ‘How bad plans are made.’ ”

“If Jack understood the true nature of the Solomonic Gold, he would not use it to coin false guineas,” Isaac said to Daniel, apparently feeling some need to justify his tactics aloud. “To him it is only gold. Slightly above common gold in value, but still gold. Finding himself under attack, he would get it out of the Tor and aboard the hooker. But when the hooker ran aground, he would resolve to abandon it. For he would have other hoards elsewhere.”

“You think he threw it overboard?”

“The band of criminals on the hooker, in their panic, might have thrown anything heavy overboard. So we might find it strewn along the bank of the dredged channel. Or it might still be aboard the hooker. I don’t think it is in the Tor, or on the whaler-come! It’s now!” And Isaac moved with short quick steps to the head of the stair that ran down to the upperdeck. His box of gear was slung over his shoulder on a leather strap, and it banged on his hip as he went, and threatened to pull him off balance. Daniel scurried up behind him and put a steadying hand on the box, and in this way the two old philosophers moved down the steps and across to where the longboat was a-dangle from a pair of out-thrust yards. Soon enough they, Barnes, Shaftoe, eight dragoons, and an able seaman from the sloop’s crew were aboard; though Daniel nearly toppled into the water, and in the scramble, lost his periwig. Lines were worked, and the boat jostled and slanted beneath them. They fell into the looming shadow of the sloop’s hull. Between the darkness and the loss of his wig, Daniel felt chilly, and called for someone to throw a blanket down to him. Soon a wadded-up lump of gray wool thudded down, followed by a knit watchman’s cap, which Daniel gratefully pulled down over his naked skull. As the sloop pulled away from them he saw his wig spinning in a vortex, its long white ponytail pointing this way and that, like a compass needle that has lost its fix on true north.

The sloop-which seemed to move so slowly when one was aboard-sprang away from them. Or perhaps it only felt that way to one who was being marooned. Within a minute they were beyond shouting-range, and might signal the larger vessel only by having a dragoon fire a musket into the air.

The platoons on the Isle of Grain were not moving nearly so quickly. When this plan had first been conceived, Daniel had phant’sied that Atalanta, and those mounted platoons, would converge on the Tor at the same instant. But here they were in this longboat at the mouth of the dredged channel, perhaps a musket-shot from the Tor, and the companies on the isle had not stirred yet. Supposedly they were at the foot of the hill, below the steeple of the church. But they were hidden in the dusky shadows, and obscured by grass. That they existed at all was merely a comforting assumption, like that there was a God and that He meant well.

And so for a moment Daniel, and everyone else on the boat with the probable exception of Isaac, were overcome with the sense that it was all a terrible mistake.

Then they could hear the faint sound of a horse blowing air through its lips, out somewhere along the shore. Then faint crackling sounds that came and went in pulses. For the isle was belted with a strand of cockleshells rejected by the surf, and some men must be treading on them as they came down on to the tide flats.

“Let’s go for a bit of a row then,” Barnes said. “I’ll wager Jack has some claret inside.” He addressed these words to Bob Shaftoe, who bellowed something to his dragoons who were manning the oars. And rowing boats might not have been their metier; but they applied themselves to it cheerfully enough and began bashing their oars against each other. “Move some bloody water!” Bob told them. “This ain’t duelling with quarter-staves. Do I look like Robin bloody Hood to you? Stop banging ’em together and get ’em in the water!” And much more in that vein as the longboat began to spin and dodge forward across the pale water that lay thin on the mud-bank. They had crossed over the surf-line now, and the foam of the breakers looked as if it were above their altitude. This illusion was mildly unnerving even to Daniel, who had the advantage of being in a boat; it could not have been comforting to the approaching dragoons.

Finally a horn sounded from the marshes, a cheer went up from the dragoons, and the edge of the island turned red as the First Company of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards emerged from the grass, all in a wide line, and began to advance over the flats at a trot.

Daniel looked at the Tor. It was square-floored, each face of the building something less than ten yards wide. Perhaps twenty yards’ altitude separated its gaptoothed parapet from its foundation-a pile of boulders atop a lens of greasy black stone that poked up through the bank. “Shive” was a primeval English word for knee-cap, and Daniel, who had sliced a patella or two from cadavers, could see how the rock had come by its name. Slime and barnacles coated the lower reaches and made it difficult to tell where the natural plinth left off and the man-made work began. The Tor had been built up out of bulky brown boulders probably prised from a quarry upriver, barged down at high tide, and rolled overboard. White mortar held it together. There was but a single door, which looked out onto a silted pool at the terminus of this long gouge that they were fitfully navigating. The threshold was an arm’s length above where the fur of wee crusty creatures and rank weeds gave way to bare, wave-washed stone. So that was where they had built a floor. From the situation of windows (if that was not too grand a term for them) higher up, Daniel estimated there was a wooden platform above, forming an upper storey, and above that a roof, on which lookouts and gunners might stand to look out over, or through, the woebegone parapet.

“Is there room here for so many horses, when the tide comes in?” Daniel asked.

“First you were worried they would not come at all-I could see it in your phizz-now you’re worried because they’re coming!” Barnes returned. “It is nonetheless a question that deserves an answer. We are dragoons, Doctor. The horses are mere vehicles. When the men are here, the beasts will be sent back straightaway-they’ll be back on the Isle of Grain half an hour from now.”

“I do beg your pardon, Colonel. As a wise man once told me, we are all scared.”

Barnes nodded gracefully. But he could sense a Newtonian glare boring into the other side of his head, so without delay he said to the sergeant, “Let us advance, and see if we draw fire from the Tor.”

“I did not understand that Sir Isaac Newton’s role was to draw fire,” Daniel shot back peevishly, then bit his tongue as even Isaac was smiling at Barnes’s jest. Annoyed now with everyone on the boat, including himself, Daniel snatched the blanket-ten pounds of greasy Qwghlmian wool-and settled it over his shoulders. It prickled him through his clothes like a heap of thistles, but it would eventually be warmer.

The longboat balked mulishly as it scraped its keel on the sandy bottom every few yards. Sergeant Bob became exasperated, then profane, to the point where Sir Isaac became visibly offended. Half of the dragoons divested themselves of their powder-horns and granadoes, and vaulted over the gunwales to land waist-deep in the channel. This lightened the boat’s load enough to get its keel out of the muck, and it enabled them to move it along by pushing on it with their shoulders, as if it were a gun-carriage mired in Flanders. “Take advantage of the shallow water,” Barnes said approvingly, “we’ll not have it much longer.” The colonel had mostly been keeping an eye on the parapet, clearly worried about snipers. Isaac’s gaze was fixed on the hooker, which was now rolling freely on the bank of the channel-the direction of the tide had reversed! The sergeant was attending to his men.

Daniel was the only one aware that the charge of the First Company from the Isle of Grain had come to a halt as soon as it had got started. Only a few yards beyond the cockle-belt, a few of the horses had gone down. The rest had halted, and the line of redcoats had split and spread into two wings, trying to probe around some obstacle. A pistol-shot tolled for a broken-legged horse. This got everyone’s attention. They heard, too, a distant thudding noise: an axe striking wood.

“Jack’s men drove pilings into the mud,” was Bob’s guess, “and stretched chains between ’em, to stop the horses. This they would’ve done in the highest and driest parts, where the best footing was to be had; which tells us that the flanks are now in a mire. Someone is trying to chop through a piling with an axe.”

“There are nails embedded in that piling, then, and his axe is already ruined,” announced Isaac absent-mindedly, without taking his eyes off the hooker.

“Sir Isaac has good ears,” Daniel explained to the incredulous Bob.

“Then he’d best plug them,” answered Bob and picked up a musket. A moment later the boat flinched from its recoil as he fired it into the air. He handed it to one of the dragoons, who set about furiously reloading.

“As long as you are wasting balls and powder, waste them on the parapet,” said the Colonel.

Within a few moments, several other muskets had been fired at the top of the tower, and a large glutinous mass of smoke had been set adrift on the calm evening air. No answering fire came back from Shive Tor. But the little fusillade had the effect Bob wanted: the dragoons off the Isle of Grain were dismounting, sending their horses back to dry land, and advancing on foot. Daniel was noticing that they now looked like dark motes against the gray sand. A few minutes ago their coats had been a proud red. The difference was not that they were all covered in greasy mud now (though they probably were), but that it was getting dark, and the colors were draining from everything. The evening star had come out, very bright, near the Tor.

A colossal thud came out of the far west. It was impressive enough to divert Isaac’s concentration from the hooker. “What was that?” he demanded-the first voice to violate the stillness that had descended upon all.

“A lot of powder was touched off at once,” said Colonel Barnes. “On a field of battle, it would signify a dreadful accident. Here, I guess it was the bridge over Yantlet Creek being demolished by a mine.”

“Why did you mine the bridge, Colonel?”

“I didn’t.”

Isaac was gobsmacked. “Then-who did!?”

“Now you ask me to speculate, Sir Isaac,” Barnes said coldly.

“But you have men posted at that bridge,” Isaac said.

“Or had, sir.”

“How could it have been mined, when it was under guard?”

“Again, speculation: it was mined in advance, the mine concealed from view,” Barnes said.

“Then, pray tell, who put fire to the fuse?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“No man was needed to put fire to it,” Daniel said.

“Then how was it lit?” Barnes demanded.

“The same way as that was,” Daniel answered, and shrugged an arm free of the blanket to point at the Tor.

Moments earlier he had seen a blue spark in his peripheral vision, and mistaken it for the evening star coming out near Shive Tor. But by now it had become brighter than any heavenly body save the Sun, brighter by far than any Comet. And it was not in the sky, but in one of those small irregular windows in the wall of the Tor.

Everyone was now looking at it, though it was growing brilliant enough to burn the eyes. Only Daniel and Isaac knew what it was.

“Phosphorus is burning inside the Tor,” Isaac remarked, more fascinated than alarmed.

“Then someone must be in there,” said Bob reaching for a musket.

“No,” Daniel said. “It was lit by an Infernal Device.”

The door of the Tor swung inward, shouldered out of the way by a waxing draught. The archway was a gem of yellow light. A small mountain of split and dried cord-wood had been piled on the floor, and had now been set a-blaze. Sparks had begun to fountain up into the sky, jetting through orifices that had been hacked through the upper floor and the roof.

“It is an admirable piece of work,” said Sir Isaac Newton, flatly and with no trace of rancor. “The rising tide obliges all to run inward to the Tor. But packed as it is with excellent fuel, this will soon become a furnace, and anyone near it will be roasted like a suckling pig. It truly is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Barnes stood up in the boat, putting all his weight on his one leg and bracing his peg against a bench. He cupped his hands round his mouth and bellowed towards the darkling isle: “Turn back! Retreat! There is not room for you here!” And then he fell back on his arse as the boat was lifted and shoved by a tidal swell. “I do not wish to hear my First Company being drowned,” he said.

“Colonel, let us row toward the Isle of Grain-you can warn them all, and rescue most,” Daniel suggested.

“Leave me on yonder vessel,” Isaac demanded, gesturing toward the hooker, which was now upright and adrift.

“I cannot abandon Sir Isaac Newton on a derelict fishing-boat!” shouted Barnes, exasperated.

“Then do you stay with him, Colonel,” suggested Sergeant Bob, “and take a few men. I’ll row toward the land, advancing with the tide-warning the men off as I go, rescuing the mired.”

A thud and crackle from the Tor as a floor-beam gave way. A billion orange sparks spewed from the openings and schooled in the dark.

“I too shall remain with Sir Isaac,” Daniel heard himself saying, like a man lying in state, listening to his own eulogy. “We’ll get the hooker clear of the fire, and navigate by the stars. Sir Isaac and I have some knowledge of the stars.”

The Monument


SUNSET

“FIRE,” SAID JACK, down on a knee, perspective glass steady on the railing.

This command-given in a mild conversational tone-was not answered with the expected hellish noises and exhalations. He peeled his eye from the lens and was abruptly reminded that he was two hundred feet above London. A bad time for a dizzy spell. He spanked the railing, clenched his eyes shut, and announced: “The Scotsman is inside the White Tower; I say, Fire!” Then he opened his eyes, got up, and backed round the stony bole of the Monument, for these things were as likely to explode as to fly. He heard Jimmy and Danny murmuring to each other, then a sputter as the fuse caught, then running feet. The lads came into view. Immediately a basilisk-sound, half hiss and half scream, erupted on the other side and rapidly dwindled.

Jack ran around to see a ray of black fog cantilevered out over the city. On the near side its billows were weirdly lit up, like a squall-line at sunset. But this paled and dissolved in a few moments. The only evidence that remained of this grievous and execrable crime against all known precepts of safe rocketry was a house with a hole in its roof, just short of Mincing Lane, and a gossamer thread connecting said hole with the large pulley lashed to the lantern of the Monument above their heads. From there it ran almost straight down into a polished copper kettle about three paces away from Jack, between the feet of a large Red Indian. The Indian grabbed the thread in one hand lest all of what remained be sucked from the kettle by its own weight.

Jack looked over the railing and saw the filament plunge down and away toward the east. He lost track of it in the Monument’s shadow. But he could see a lot of boyish ferment on the roof of the Church of St. Mary-at-Hill, five hundred feet away: some leaping, some hopping into the air, some hurling of stones with strings tied to ’em. To any observer who did not know, as Jack did, that a thread of silk was floating in the air a few yards above these people’s heads, it would have looked like the cavorting of men and boys made mad by witchcraft or syphilis, a kind of Bedlam al fresco.

A distant rocket-scream sounded from near the Tower of London. Such was the speed of this second rocket’s flight that by the time its sound carried to the top of the Monument, and drew Jack’s gaze that way, it was gone, and there was nothing to be seen but a black rainbow bent over Tower Hill and the Moat, connecting the Barking Churchyard behind All Hallows Church to the battlements of the White Tower. “Not a pot of gold, but close to one,” Jack remarked. He was fortunate enough, now, to be looking in the right direction to see yet another dart of white flame jump up from the River Thames, pulling a shroud of black powder-smoke behind it. It reached apogee above Tower Wharf and then winked out. Momentum carried it north over the Outer Wall to crash in Tower Lane. “Damn, too short!” Jack cried, as the sound of the launch reached them.

“They’ve spares on the barge, Dad,” Danny said.

He glanced down onto the Church of St. Mary-at-Hill. The men and boys on the roof had settled down noticeably-in fact, most of them were running away, which was, of course, the normal practice, from the scene of their crimes. Only two remained. One was working on his lap. The other was acting as a sort of lookout. He needn’t have bothered; the rocket that had screamed over his head a few moments ago had ignited a fire in the attic of that house on Mincing Lane, and there, rather than the church’s roof, was where the attentions of the (paltry number of mostly self-appointed) authorities and the (vastly more energetic and numerous) Mobb were now directed.

The one who had been working on his lap suddenly sprang back, jumping to his feet, and elevated his chin, as if he had released a carrier pigeon and were watching it take flight. The Indian beside Jack began to pull in string, hand-over-hand, as rapidly as he could. “Look out below!” called Jimmy, as he picked up the copper string-vat and simply dropped it over the rail.

A curse from Danny: “Hit the Lanthorn Tower this time.” Then another whooshing scream from the river. Jack glimpsed another smoke-prong in the distance.

The kettle made a funny noise, a cross between a splat and a bong, as it hit the pavement below them. Tomba was grinning beneath a perspective glass. “Men in kilts on the battlements of the White Tower,” he announced.

“And just what are those men doing?” inquired Jack, whose attention was fixed on the roof of the church of St. Dunstan-in-the-East, where a scene had just played out remarkably like that moments earlier on the roof of St. Mary-at-Hill.

“It appears that they are drinking usquebaugh and line dancing,” returned Tomba.

“One day your wit shall be the death of you, and my hands around your throat shall be the instrument,” Jack remarked calmly.

“Some of them are pulling in the string from Barking Churchyard,” Tomba returned, “others raising a banner.”

“Raising a banner!? I gave no instructions touching a banner,” Jack hollered.

“A Cross of St. Andrews, and-”

“Oh, Jesus Christ. Is any of those Highlanders concerning himself with a pulley?”

“The pulley is being worked on-hold-oh, my God!” Tomba exclaimed, and drew back from the perspective glass laughing.

“What is it?”

“The rocket. It nearly knocked one of them down,” Tomba explained, as yet another basilisk-shriek reached them from the river.

“So the last one flew true?”

“Skipped across the roof of the White Tower itself like a flat stone on a pond,” confirmed Danny, who had watched with his naked eyes. “Passed between a Scotsman’s legs and smacked into the north parapet.”

“I hope that the Scotsman has had the presence of mind to stomp on the string.”

“They appear to be pulling it in-there’s a chap working by the pulley now-good! The pulley is threaded-”

“The roof of Trinity House is cleared!” Tomba mentioned, having trained his spyglass on a building halfway between them and the White Tower.

“Take up the slack smartly now!” Jack called down over the railing. He was awash in fiery light up here. The men at the base of the column were toiling in blue dusk, pulling in loose thread from above as fast as their hands could move. They were working in a clear space, a sort of defensive perimeter that had been set up round the base of the column. Around it the black lint of the Mobb was rapidly gathering, kept at bay by very large hoodlums with whips, and archers who had scaled the plinth of the great column to take up sniping-positions under the wings of its dragons.

“What rumor did you put out?” Jack asked of Jimmy. Directly below he could see the flattened kettle gleaming like a newly minted coin.

“That Jack the Coiner would appear atop the Monument at sundown and throw guineas,” Jimmy answered.

“Barking Churchyard is clear!” announced Danny, which meant that although none of them could see it, the silken filament now stretched in a single uninterrupted catenary from the great pulley, above their heads, across a distance of a bit less than half a mile to a similar device that the Scotsmen had strung from the southeastern turret of the White Tower. From there it ran over the inner and outer walls, above the Wharf, to a barge that had drifted down the river during the last hour or so and then tossed out an anchor. Though this would not have been obvious to anyone viewing it from the level of the water, it was plain from this elevated viewpoint that a great wheel, several yards across, was mounted in that barge. Its axis was vertical, so its rim was parallel to the deck. It was not a mighty sort of wheel, not like an anchor cable’s windlass, but more like a spinning-wheel laid on its side. A dozen or more crewmen stood around it, and now, evidently on some signal from the White Tower, they began to turn that wheel-reeling in the same string that they had sent rocketing over the battlements a minute ago. Within a few moments the result of their exertions could be detected up atop the Monument. For a change in the string’s angle was plainly visible as the tension increased.

“Supply!” screamed Jack to the men below, who were gathered round an exceptionally large wagon chocked at the foot of the Monument. A patchwork of work-out sails had covered its contents until now. These were flung off to expose a huge cylindrical vat in which miles of cordage had been expertly coiled. But this was not ordinary line, of uniform thickness. That up here at the top of the Monument, running through the pulley at an accelerating clip, was fine silken cord. But what was emerging from the vat was noticeably coarser. And what was coiled in the bottom-most part of the vat was as thick as a man’s wrist.

“Righto,” Jack said, and caught the eye of the Indian. “And so ’twould seem that very soon I shall require the Chariot of Phaethon. And another for His Reverence.”

His Reverence let it be known that he was amused. The Indian heaved a sigh and shambled through the door to begin the long journey down stairs.

“What are you snickering at?” Jack demanded, making a semicircular excursion round the column to discover Father Edouard de Gex. The Jesuit had, for lack of a better word, cornered the four Jewish tourists at the southwestern vertex of the platform. At his feet rested a black strong-box. The lid was open. Diverse gnarled keys and hand-hammered padlocks littered the deck all round. He had mostly emptied the casket by this point, but some of its contents could still be seen: it had been full of small leathern bags, each bag filled with something of High Specific Gravity that clinked as de Gex transferred them one by one into a stout ox-hide satchel. A second satchel, already full, sat next to the one he was packing.

“You lay a curse on yourself without knowing it,” de Gex answered. “You should call it the Chariot of Apollo.”

“Apollo is the sobriquet of Leroy-I was trying to show deference.”

“All right, Helios then. Never Phaethon.”

“Half the young blades in town are rattling about in Phaethons,” Jack returned, “why can’t I fly above London in one?”

“Phaethon was a sort of bastard son of Helios. He borrowed his papa’s gleaming Vehicle and went for a heavenly Drive. But seeing the great height to which he had ascended, and terrified by the Heroes, Legends, and Titans hung in the sky by the Gods as Constellations, he lost his wits; the chariot ran out of control, scorching the earth; Zeus struck him down with a thunderbolt and he crashed into a river. So when you refer to your conveyance as the Chariot of Phaethon-”

“The import of your Tale is not lost on me,” Jack let it be known, watching de Gex transfer the last of the clinking bags into the satchel. Then, in a different tone, he reflected: “It is curious. I always phant’sied that the rites of the ancient Pagans, prosecuted as they were in airy temples by naked maidens and prancing butt-boys, and enlivened by feasts and orgies, must have been infinitely more diverting than the insufferable ceremonies of Christians; yet the dramatick yarn of this Phaethon, intoned by Your Reverence, is as dry, tedious, and didactic as the litanies of the Baptists.”

“I am speaking to you, Jack, of your pride, of your ignorance, and of your doom. I am sorry that I can not make it any more festive.”

“When night fell, who rode the moon-chariot?”

“Selene. But that was of silver.”

“If those layabouts on the barge do not spin that wheel any faster, we shall be compared to her.”

“The twilight will linger for a while yet,” de Gex predicted.

Jack went to inspect the rope coming up from below, and passing over the pulley and out into the air above London en route to the said barge. He was surprised to find that it had already waxed to the thickness of his finger. Surprised, and a bit dismayed, for he’d been hoping that it would snag on a weathercock somewhere and snap while it was still slender and fragile. But now that it had achieved such a thickness it was unlikely to break. He would actually have to do this thing.

Some minutes passed. London as always continued in roiling feverish busy-ness: the Mobb around the base of the Monument, swollen to a thousand, chanting for their promised guineas, here parting to make room for a mad dog, there clumping to assault a pick-pocket. The fire brigades at their pumping-engines in the Tower hamlets and now in Mincing Lane, surrounded by more of the Mobility, protected by cordons of lobsterbacks. The Highlanders atop the White Tower, victorious but somehow forlorn, as no one seemed to have noticed what they’d accomplished. The men on the barge spinning the giant wheel, like the main gear of an immense clock. The ships on the Pool as ever, going about their toils and quotidian adventures perfectly oblivious to all of these things.

Phaethon himself was just in the act of crash-landing on the upper Thames, some leagues to the west of town. With any luck he’d set fire to Windsor Castle on his way down. The radiance of his final approach sprayed flat across London and made the whole city jagged and golden. Jack looked at it all, most carefully, as he had once looked out over Cairo, and indeed the place suddenly looked as queer and as outlandish to him as Cairo once had. Which was to say that he saw all through a traveler’s dewy eye, and perceived all that was overlooked by the Cockney’s brass-tacks stare. He owed it to Jimmy and Danny and all his posterity to look at it thus. For de Gex was right, Jack was a bastard who had ascended to a great height and hob-nobbed with Heroes and Titans and seen things he was never meant to see. This might be the last time in many a generation that a Shaftoe might gaze down from such a vantage-point and see so much so clearly. But what was he seeing?

“Dad,” Jimmy was saying, “it’s time, Dad.”

He looked over. The rope was as thick as his wrist now, and it no longer moved; it had been tied off down below, the plinth of the Monument pressed into service as a bitt. Half a mile distant, out in the river, the barge had chopped its anchor-cable, and flung great bags of heavy fabric-sea-anchors-into the river. The flow of the Thames had inflated them. They pulled the barge downstream with immense force, exerting tension on the full length of the rope that could be sensed from here-for the rigging that bound the great pulley to the top of the Monument had now begun to groan and tick like that of a ship that has been struck by a blast of wind. Riding on that taut hawser, now, above their heads, was a traveling block: that is to say a grooved pulley spinning on a well-greased axle in a casing of forged iron. Dangling from it were two chains that diverged slightly and fastened to opposite ends of a short length of plank. Jimmy was gripping one of those chains, Danny the other. The Chariot of Phaethon was available for boarding. Everyone up here-even the Jews, who’d left off being scared and were now fascinated-was looking at it significantly, and then looking at Jack.

“All right, all right,” said Jack. He strode to it. De Gex handed him one of the two satchels and Jack slung it over his shoulder. “Padre, I’ll see you anon,” Jack said dismissively. Even de Gex sensed that he should draw away now. Jack climbed up to the plank, which hung about at the level of the railing. Seating himself upon it, and situating the heavy satchel in his lap, he braced his feet on the rail as if afraid the boys might pitch him off before he was ready. Which was a quite reasonable fear, as he was set to give them Advice.

“Now, lads,” he said, “either this’ll work or it won’t. If it goes awry, never forget there’s other places to be besides England; you’ve seen more of ’em than most, I don’t need to tell you twice. The Great Mogul is always hiring good mercenaries. Queen Kottakkal would be delighted to have you back in her court, to say nothing of her bedchamber. Our partners in Queena-Kootah would give you a hero’s welcome at the foot of Eliza Peak. Manila’s not such a bad place, either. I do not recommend that you go to Japan. And remember, if you go the other way, to the shores of America, and travel west long enough, you ought to cross the path of good old Moseh, assuming the Comanches haven’t made him into moccasins. So there’s no purpose to be served in tarrying here, lads, if I end up at Tyburn. Just do me a favor before you leave.”

“All right,” said Jimmy grudgingly.

Jack had avoided looking into his sons’ faces during this Oration, because he reckoned they’d not wish to be seen with tears streaming down their faces. But looking up at Jimmy now he saw dry eyes and a quizzical if impatient phizz. Turning the other way, he saw Danny gazing distractedly at the White Tower.

“Did you hear a single fucking word I said?”

“You want us to do you a favor,” Danny returned.

“Before you embark on a new life overseas, assuming that is your fate,” Jack said, “find Eliza and tell her she is my true love.” And then he jerked the chains loose from the restraining grip of first Jimmy, then Danny. He leaned forward, pushed off against the rail with both feet, and launched himself into space above London. His cloak spread in the wind of his flight like the wings of an eagle, revealing, to anyone who might be gazing up into the sky, a lining made from cloth-of-gold that glistered in the rays of the setting sun like the chariot of Apollo. He was on his way down.

Worth’s Coffee-house, Birchin Lane, London


SUNSET

DAPPA STOOD FROZEN for a count of ten. As if standing still would make him white.

“Sir,” said Jones, chuckling, “why, this looks like you! What’s it say?”

Thank God for Jones, and for his being such a perfect imbecile. Many a ship’s officer, caught in storm or battle, and seized by a natural tendency to freeze up in terror, was moved to action by the vivid helplessness of his crew.

Dappa’s body was not answering well to commands from the quarterdeck, so in stepping forward he bashed the table with the brawn of his thigh, nearly toppling it. But he got the libel in his hand and snatched it away. He looked round the coffee-house and met a few eyes, but they showed nothing beyond momentary curiosity at the unbalanced movements of the Blackamoor. None of them had seen this handbill.

“What’s it say?” Jones repeated.

Dappa shoved it into the hip pocket of his coat, where it was about as welcome as a turd. But at least it was hidden. “It says something that is not true, about me,” he said, “a perfect and abominable lie.” And he wished that he could have said it in a low and quiet voice. But passion made him squawk like a strangled hen. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think. “An attack,” he said, “ ’tis an attack on me by Charles White-a Tory. Why on me? No reason. Thus ’tis not an attack on me but on what I am a part of, namely, Minerva.” He opened his eyes. “Your ship is under attack, Jones.”

“I am well enough accustomed to that, sir.”

“But not with cannonballs. This is a paper attack. Shore artillery is firing on you-what must you do?”

“Firing on us, you mean, sir,” Jones returned, “and since shore batteries are difficult to silence, we must move out of their range.”

“Correct. But the indenture that we came here to sign-it must be signed or our obligations to the ship-chandler shall not be met. We must meet those obligations, Jones, or our credit and our good name will be spoilt, do you understand? Mr. Sawyer is honest, as such men go-when he comes here, pretend to read whatever he places in front of you, and sign it. Then run down to the river and hie to Minerva and tell the Captain to begin raising anchor now.”

“Are you going to leave me alone here, sir?” Jones inquired.

“Yes. I shall try to get back to the ship. If I’m not aboard at the next high tide, though, then you and Minerva must leave me.” Dappa glanced up toward the window and saw the worst thing he could have seen: the tout who had been handing out the libels had hunted them through the crowd, and was now pressing his shiny face against the window. He met Dappa’s eye. Dappa felt the way he had once in Africa, a little boy playing near the river, when he had looked up and seen the striped eye of a crocodile looking back at him. It was as if a thousand ancestors were standing round him in a great invisible chorus, screaming, “Run! Run!” And run he would have, but for the knowledge that he was the only black man in a mile, and could never run far or fast enough.

A shadow fell over the coffee-house now, like that of a cloud passing before the sun. But it was not a cloud, but a great black coach, drawn by four black horses, pulling up in front of the coffee-house, coming to a stop.

The tout paid no mind to the coach-and-four. He had got a wild triumphal look on his face-the only thing that could have made him any less pleasant to look at. Keeping his eye fixed through the window, he began sidestepping toward the entrance.

“Repeat the instructions I gave to you,” Dappa said.

“Wait for Mr. Sawyer. Look at the indenture like I’m reading it. Sign it. Run to the ship. Get underway at high tide with or without you.”

“And when you return from Boston, God willing, we shall sort it out then,” Dappa said, and stepped out from behind the table. He began moving toward the door.

Before he could reach it, the door was pulled open from outside. The view into the street was blocked by the glossy black flank of the coach. Dappa drew his right hand up his hip, twitched the skirt of his coat behind him, and reached around to the small of his back. There, in the waistband of his breeches, was a dagger. He found its handle with his fingers but did not draw it yet. The tout appeared in the doorway, blocking his way out, ecstatic, hopping from toe to toe like a little boy who needed to piss. He looked to one side, desperately wanting to catch someone’s eye-to get a witness, or recruit an accomplice. Dappa supposed he was looking at whomever had pulled the door open. The tout’s head swivelled round to bear on Dappa again, and he raised one hand and pointed his index finger at Dappa’s face, like aiming a pistol. He had dropped his stack of handbills and they were blowing round his ankles, tumbling into the coffee-house.

A larger man came into view just behind the tout, and over his shoulder. He was blond and blue-eyed, a young bloke, better dressed, and he had something in his hand: a walking-stick, which he was tossing straight up into the air. The brass handle at its stop leaped above his head. He caught the stick about halfway along its length and in the same motion snapped it down. The brass ball at the top stopped hard against the back of the tout’s head. The tout’s face and then his whole body lost tone, as if all 206 of his bones had been jellied. Before the tout could fall to the ground and block the door, the blond man stepped in beside him and checked him out of the way. The tout disappeared from view, except for his feet, which lay twitching on the threshold. The big blond man allowed his walking-stick to slide down through his fist until the brass grip was back in his hand. He bowed to Dappa in the most genteel way imaginable and extended his free hand toward the carriage, offering Dappa a lift. And it was not until that moment that Dappa recognized this man as one Johann von Hacklheber, a Hanoverian, and a member of the household of the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm.

DAPPA WAS IN THE WOODEN womb of the carriage. It smelled like Eliza’s toilet-water. Johann did not climb inside with him but closed the door, slapped the side, and began distributing commands in High-Dutch to the driver and a pair of footmen. The footmen sprang from their perch on the back of the vehicle and began wading through the litter on the street, snatching up every copy of the libel that they could find. Dappa watched this through the coach’s window, then, when it began to lurch forward, drew the shutters, leaned forward, and buried his face in his hands.

He wanted to weep tears of rage, but for some reason they would not come. Perhaps if this had unfolded into a speedy and clean getaway he might have relaxed, and then released the tears. But they were on one of the most congested streets in all of London. Yet he felt no urgency to give the coachman instructions, for it would be a quarter of an hour before they came to any sort of turning-point. That would be at the intersection with Cornhill, a hundred feet away.

After some moments he reached into his pocket and took out the handbill. He smoothed it out on his thigh and cracked the window-shutters to spill light on it. All of which required conscious effort and a certain fortitude, as in all ways he wanted to lean back and enjoy the gentlemanly comfort of this coach and pretend that this wretched, abominable, vile, vicious thing had never been done to him.

He did not know exactly how old he was-probably about three score. His dreadlocks were black at the tips but gray at the roots. He had circumnavigated the terraqueous globe and knew more languages than most Englishmen knew drinking-songs. He was an officer of a merchant ship, and better dressed than any member of the Kit-Cat Clubb. And yet this! This piece of paper on his thigh. Charles White had printed it up, but any Englishman could have done the same. This particular configuration of ink upon the page had made him into a hounded fugitive, laid him at the mercy of a loathsome street-corner tout, forced him to flee from a coffee-house. And it had put a cannonball in his stomach. Was this how Daniel Waterhouse had felt when a stone the size of a tennis ball had dwelt in his bladder? Perhaps; but a few minutes’ knife-work and such a stone was gone. The cannonball in Dappa’s stomach was not so easy to remove. Indeed he knew that it would return, every time he recalled the last few minutes’ events, for the remainder of his days. He might be able to reach Minerva and sail out of range, but even if he were in the Sea of Japan, Charles White’s cannonball would hit him in the belly whenever his mind was idle and his thoughts returned to this day. And return he would, like a dog to his vomit.

This, he now perceived, was why gentlemen fought duels. Nothing else would purge such dishonor. Dappa had killed several men, mostly pirates, and mostly with pistol-shots. The chances were better than even that, in a fair duel, he could put a pistol-ball into Charles White’s body. But duels were for gentlemen; a slave could not challenge his master.

Stupid idea anyway; he needed to get to Minerva, to escape. The coach was negotiating a right turn onto Cornhill, therefore working its way back round toward the Pool. If it had turned left it would mean they were taking him toward Leicester House, where Eliza lived with a nest of Hanoverians. Yes, better to get out of town.

And yet the notion of challenging Charles White to a duel, putting a bullet in him, had seemed so delicious. Really the only thing that had given him any satisfaction since the shock of seeing his own name on this document.

He opened the shutters a bit more and looked round through the side and rear windows. Johann was looking right back at him from no more than twelve feet away. He was following in the wake that the coach had made through the crowd. He told Dappa, with a sharp movement of the head, to close the shutters. Then he turned round to look behind him. Dappa saw now that they were being tailed, at a leisurely walking pace, by a pair of men, each of whom was clutching a copy of the handbill. Scanning the width of Cornhill he saw more copies of the libel being handed out. He supposed that the only thing that prevented a hue and cry from going up was the reward, and the fact that those who seized him would not wish to divide it by the whole number of the Mobb. So for the nonce his pursuers were only two, and they were being held at bay by Johann, who had a sword; but Charles White could stamp out new pursuers as fast as printing presses could be operated.

How strange a thing that was! How could he have explained it to the villagers he’d grown up with in Africa? These bits of metal, put in a frame, smeared with black stuff, and pressed upon these white leaves, had the magical property that they would make one man out of a whole metropolis into a terrified fugitive, while every other man whose eyes were exposed to the incantation would become his implacable pursuer. Yet the same bits of metal put in the same frame, but in a different arrangement, would have no effect. Indeed, Dappa wondered whether he might print up some handbills naming Charles White his escaped slave, and putting some price on his head.

The notion was appealing-even more so than that of putting a lead ball through White’s body. But it was idle to think of such things. Escape Dappa might hope for. Revenge was not to be thought of.

They had come to the broad intersection of Cornhill and a large north-south-running street that changed its name from corner to corner. If they turned left here they’d be north-bound on Bishopsgate, headed for the South Sea Company, Gresham’s College, and Bedlam. More likely, though, they would go right, placing them south-bound on Gracechurch Street. This soon became Fish Street Hill and ran past the Monument straight down to London Bridge.

The coach halted in the middle of this intersection, for an uncommon number of persons were gathered here. When Dappa looked out the right side he tended to see the backs of their heads, and when he looked to the left he tended to see their faces; for most of them were gazing at some spectacle to the south. Dappa could not tell what. He looked to the left, trying to read the answer in their faces. He found no useful information there, save that what they were looking at was rather high up in the air. But he did catch sight again of South Sea House, a very large compound one of whose gates was situated a couple of hundred yards away, on the left side of Bishops-gate. It was bigger, and newer, than the Bank of England. It was, in a way, the Anti-Bank; its collateral, the Thing of Value against which it lent money, was the Asiento: the trans-Atlantic slave trade, wrested from Spain last year in the war.

A sudden exclamation came up from the crowd. Dappa glanced to the right, and thought he perceived a trail of black smoke drawn through the air from near the top of the Monument. And then he made a second glance, for the lantern at the top of that colossal spire was disfigured by some sort of jury-rigged block-and-tackle device. A vulgar entertainment for the Mobb, was his guess.

But back to South Sea House. The sight of this evil place, looming like a pirate-ship off his larboard beam, had caused certain notions to fall together within Dappa’s mind. A plan-not a sketchy one but a Plan whole and entire-had suddenly presented itself in his mind, and it was so obviously the right thing to do that he put it into effect with no deliberations whatsoever. For this Plan had the miraculous effect of removing the enormous ball of lead from his stomach.

He dropped to his knees on the floor of the coach and flipped the libel over on the facing bench. Out of his pocket came a pencil, and touching it to his tongue, as if this would put eloquence into it, he wrote

Your grace, my lady-

Johann did his duty bravely and well. Pray do not rebuke him when this carriage is found empty.

When last you and I conversed, we spoke of my career as author of books, and teller of slave-stories. A similitude was formed, in which my works to date were likened to so many balls of grapeshot, which when fired at our Enemy pose a nuisance but can never send any slave-ships to David Jones’s Locker where they ought to be all. You exhorted me to leave off gathering more grapeshot and to turn my efforts to finding a single cannonball.

Until today, I assumed that the cannonball-by which is meant, the story that will convince Englishmen, once and for all, of the absurdity and the enormity of slavery-would be found in some slave-auction in Sao Paulo, Kingstown, or Carolina. But to my surprise I, this afternoon, found that cannonball in the pit of mine own stomach. Minerva sails on the morning tide but you may find me in a gaol somewhere in London. I shall require paper, ink, and your prayers.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Dappa

Leaving this on the bench he flung open the door on the carriage’s left side. A small open space welcomed him, since no spectators would stand where the view to the south was blocked by the coach. Johann did not mark him; he was as fascinated as anyone else by the spectacle at the Monument. Dappa strode, but never ran, north through the crowd onto Bishopsgate. He phant’sied he might hear reward-seekers pursuing him through the crowd; never mind, if those did not, others would soon enough.

In a few moments’ time he was seated in a coffee-house literally in the shadow of South Sea House, sipping chocolate and pretending to read the Examiner. As if he’d a right to be there.

Busy men were all around him, unrolling documents on tables: charts of the Bights of Benin and Biafra, loading-diagrams of slave-ships, ledgers heavy with human assets. Familiar names flew around the place: Accra, Elmina, Ijebu, and Bonny. He felt, strangely, at home. Even more strangely, he felt at peace. Flipping the newspaper over, he licked his pencil again, and began to write.

Shive Tor


DUSK

IN A FEW MINUTES SIR Isaac was on the deck of the hooker, his hair gleaming like a comet’s tail in the fierce light of the burning Tor. Daniel stood near him, flat-footed under the weight of his Blanket, peering from beneath his rumpled Cap. A team of four dragoons were bent over the hooker’s rail, straining to heave-ho Colonel Barnes aboard without snapping off his other leg.

Very quickly the longboat rowed away from them, for the water was now deep enough that it could move free of the dredged channel. The hooker drew a bit more water than that, and was confined to the channel for the time being. Pulling his cap off so that he could feel the flow of air over his scalp, Daniel verified his suspicion that the burning Tor was drawing in a powerful flood of air, some of which was catching on the hull and the bare spars of the hooker. She was being sucked directly into the pillar of fire, like a moth into Vulcan’s forge.

Barnes was aware of it. The dragoons had begun exploring the ship, looking for an anchor, or anything that would serve the same end. There were none, as the anchor-cables had been chopped through in the coiners’ haste to escape.

“Is there anything that seems heavy down there?” Barnes demanded of a dragoon who had been groping around belowdecks.

Isaac pricked up his ears, as he too was very keen on finding something heavy.

“Only a great bloody chest,” the dragoon answered, “too heavy to move.”

“Did you look inside of it?” Isaac inquired, tense as a starving cat.

“No, sir. ’Tis locked. But I know what’s in it.”

“How do you know what is in it, if you did not look inside?”

“Why, I can hear it, sir. Ticking away just as steady as you please. It is a great big clock.”

As if the tips of their noses were joined by a hawser that had just snapped taut, Daniel and Isaac swiveled their heads toward each other.

Daniel spoke to the dragoon, though he was looking Isaac in the eye. “Is it so heavy that it could not be carried abovedecks and hurled over the side?” he asked.

“I heaved with all my might and could not budge it a hair’s breadth, sir.”

Daniel was asking himself whether he ought to let the dragoons know what was obvious to him and Isaac: that they were trapped on a derelict vessel with a ticking Infernal Device. But Isaac made up his mind quicker, and said: “Pray forgive Dr. Waterhouse’s curiosity on so trivial a matter. He and I are amateurs of clock-work. As we have little else to do just now, perhaps he and I shall retire belowdecks and amuse ourselves with Horologickal chit-chat.”

“And I’ll join you,” said Barnes, who had caught on, “if you’ll have me, that is.”

“Please be our guest, Colonel,” said Daniel. He then led Isaac and Barnes toward an open hatch, which, against the fire-lit deck planks, stood out as a crisp black rectangle.

The White Tower


DUSK

FATHER EDOUARD DE GEX of the Society of Jesus stood up on one leg, for he’d damaged an ankle, and turned around to survey the debris trail he had left across the roof of the White Tower. Chiefly he desired to know where the contents of his satchel were. It seemed a good deal lighter now than when he’d jumped off the Monument a few moments earlier.

Under the groaning rope, and interspersed with flattened Scotsmen and their far-flung dirks, sporrans, and tam-o-shanters, was a Milky Way of coins and the small leather bags they’d just sprayed out of. De Gex hobbled back along his track snatching them up and stuffing them into his bag. Ashamed to see a man of the cloth performing stoop-and-pick labor in their midst, the stunned and bruised Highlanders drew themselves up, shook the dust from their kilts, and went to work gleaning coins and wee bags from the roof.

But de Gex did not leave off collecting and counting them until he had worked his way back to the west parapet. There he encountered the first man he had knocked down: a bulky fellow with a patch over one eye, who spoke to him in tolerable French. “In the name of the Auld Alliance,” said he (referring to an extremely spotty but ?on-spanning series of diplomatic trysts between Scotland and France) “I bid you welcome to the Tower of London. Please consider it the property of France-”

“Pourquoi non? Since it was built by us.”

“-and yours to command!”

“Very well, my first command is that you take down the banner of MacIan of MacDonald!” answered de Gex.

Lord Gy was not pleased to hear this. That much was on his face, as plain as a laceration. But he bore it with the insolent calm of one who has heard worse and would like you to notice that he is still alive. “I apologize,” he said, “the lads were a trifle high-spirited. The sobriety and discretion of Paris are foreign to young blades who have just galloped down from the heather.” And making a small bow, he turned in the direction of the banner. So did de Gex.

But both of them were astonished to find no banner at all: only a flag-pole that had been severed at waist level by one stroke of a very good blade. Next to it, the banner-carrier-a being made entirely of freckles, perhaps fourteen years old-was sitting in a gun-slit pinching a bloody nose.

Rufus MacIan hurried over to make inquiries. Edouard de Gex, after the obligatory rolling of the eyes, looked about and noted, for the first time, that Jack was nowhere to be seen. In the commotion of de Gex’s descent upon the White Tower, Jack must have taken the matter of the banner into his own hands. He must then have gone down stairs; and the nearest way down would have been through a door, now standing open, in the round turret that held together the northeastern vertex of the building. That turret loomed above the place where MacIan was interrogating the bloody-nosed freckle-boy, and it was obvious that MacIan would be headed that way in a moment.

De Gex commanded the Highlanders around him to remain at their posts, and strode toward the round turret. Several of the Scotsmen affected not to have grasped his order, and followed him; but MacIan, who was now aimed for the same door, turned round, his face very choleric, and bit off a few words in Scots that sent them all glancing away. He entered the round turret only two strides ahead of de Gex.

“Pity,” said the latter, looking around the perfectly barren room, “all the astronomical devices are gone.”

Lord Gy was already in the stair, on his way down. “Eh?”

“Didn’t you know? This was where Flamsteed worked, in the days before the Royal Observatory was moved to Greenwich. The Prime Meridian of the English once passed through this room-”

Which was perfectly trivial and beside the point, as de Gex well knew. But he did not like the look on the face of Lord Gy, and wanted to break his concentration. The gambit might have worked on a French nobleman whose social reflexes had been trained to quivering perfection in the salons of Versailles. It failed on Lord Gy, who had ascended to the nobility by cutting such a Frenchman in twain, and who at this moment looked as if he were ready to do it again.

The purpose of the round tower was to support a spiral stair. Finding Jack was a matter of winding down and gazing into each doorway that presented itself. They shortly tracked him down on the middle of the building’s three floors. This space, formerly the royal court of a King, had been given over in recent centuries to the storage of official documents. Jack was squatting with his back to them in the middle of a cavernous fireplace shaking powder from a horn onto the Scottish banner, which he had folded a couple of times and stuffed beneath an andiron. On his career through the former throne-room he had swiped an armload of rolled-up papers from a dusty shelf and piled them under and around the banner to serve as kindling.

“Jacques-” de Gex began.

“Pardon me while I destroy the evidence, your virginity.”

“Ye baistart!” exclaimed Lord Gy.

“Did I say, destroy the evidence?” Jack said, looking over his shoulder to see MacIan. “I meant that this sacred banner became torn and dirtied in the fray, and the only respectful way to dispose of it now is by a cleansing flame.” And he held a pistol-an unloaded one, as it turned out-next to the banner and pulled the trigger. Sparks from the flint sprayed across powder-smeared fabric and became something more than sparks. A fizzy conflagration spread across the banner, like flames across a field of harvested stalks, only faster. Jack recoiled, staggering out of the fireplace to get clear of the smoke. Since a draught had not yet been established in the chimney, a good deal of the smoke followed him-indeed, was sucked into his wake so that he seemed to be trailing it behind him like a rocket. “Right, let’s go somewhere we can breathe,” Jack suggested, and strode past de Gex and MacIan, headed for the stair.

Now de Gex had seen a few duels in his day. These were at least as formal, and as premeditated, as weddings. But he’d also seen a sufficient number of sudden murderous stabbing-brawls to have understood that even they were not as spontaneous as they looked.

If you were strolling in the gardens of Versailles, you might one day hear sudden noises, and turn around to see, some distance away, one fellow-let’s call him Arnauld-going after another-call him Blaise-with a drawn blade. From which, if you were a careless observer, you might think that Arnauld had just snapped without warning, like an ice-covered bough falling from a tree. But in truth the Arnaulds of the world were rarely so reckless. A careful observer, watching Arnauld for two or three minutes prior to the onset of violence, would see some sort of exchange between him and Blaise-a calculated insult from Blaise, let us say, such as a refusal to let Arnauld through a door ahead of him, or a witticism about Arnauld’s wig, which had been so very fashionable three months ago. If Blaise were a polished wit, he would then move on, blithe, humming an air, and giving every appearance of having forgotten the event.

But Arnauld would become a living Exhibit. Symptoms would set in that were so obvious and dramatic as to furnish a topic of study for the Royal Society. Why, a whole jury of English savants could stand around poor Arnauld with their magnifying lenses and their notebooks, observing the changes in his physiognomy, noting them down in Latin and rendering them in labored woodcuts. Most of these symptoms had to do with the Humour of Passion. For a few moments, Arnauld would stand fast as the insult sank in. His face would turn red as the vessels in his skin went flaccid, and consequently ballooned with blood from a heart that had begun to pound like a Turkish kettle-drum signalling the onset of battle. But this was not when the attack came, because Arnauld, during this stage, was physically unable to move. All of his activity was mental. Once he got over the first shock, Arnauld’s first thought would be to convince himself that he had reined in his emotions now, got himself under control, was ready to consider matters judiciously. The next few minutes, then, would be devoted to a rehearsal of the recent encounter with Blaise. Affecting a rational, methodical approach, Arnauld would marshal whatever evidence he might need to convict Blaise of being a scoundrel, and sentence him to death. After that, the attack would not be long in following. But to one who had not been there with those Fellows of the Royal Society to observe all that had led up to it, it would seem like the spontaneous explosion of an Infernal Device.

De Gex was standing behind MacIan and had watched the banner-burning over the other’s epaulets. The backs of MacIan’s ears had gone cherry red. He’d not so much as twitched an eyelid when Jack had strode past him to the stair. De Gex knew what would be coming soon. There was nothing he could say now to interrupt the proceedings going on in MacIan’s brain: the marshalling of the arguments, the sure and inevitable judgment. But there was something he could do. He let his satchel down to the floor, and reached silently into the pocket of his cassock. It was not a lined pocket, but a slit that went all the way through the garment, and gave him access to what was beneath.

Father Edouard was a member of the Society of Jesus, but he was a participant in the society of men-to be specific, the men of London, the most beastly city he had ever seen, though he’d circumnavigated the globe. In his waistband, his fingers found the hilt of a splendid watered-steel dagger he’d picked up from a Banyan in Batavia. He drew it silently from its leather sheath. MacIan still hadn’t moved. The room was silent except for the crackle of the flames spreading to the pile of ancient documents Jack had strewn around the flag. De Gex broke the silence, a little, by stepping forward.

But this triggered a greater sound from behind him. Before de Gex could turn to see what it was, his dagger-hand had been seized from behind and twisted up behind his back. The fingers opened and the weapon dropped, but did not fall to the floor; it was intercepted by another hand. An instant later that hand appeared in front of him and brought the dagger to his throat. He had been embraced from behind by a man who smelled of sweat-sodden wool, of horses, and of gunpowder. One of the Highlanders had tailed him silently down stairs.

“Ye ir a man of kirk, so a sal gie ye benefit of clergy,” said the Highlander into his ear, “binna ye speik sae much as a word, an then it’ll be atwein ye and St. Peter as ti whaur ye sal be expoondin yeir next sermon.”

Rufus MacIan turned around. His ears were no longer red. With barely a glance towards de Gex he strode to the spiral stair and followed Jack down to the first storey.

IT WAS PACKED TO the ceiling with gunpowder. Not wanting to blow what remained of his clan to kingdom come, MacIan removed a pistol from his waistband, made sure it wasn’t cocked, and laid it on a sill before turning his attention into the great room that accounted for most of the first floor.

“What were you thinking?” asked Jack.

Jack the Coiner was standing at the head of an aisle between stacked powder-kegs. He had not drawn his blade, but he had pulled it a few inches out of its scabbard to loosen it, and he was standing in a sideways attitude that, in a society where men routinely ran each other through with swords, was implicitly menacing.

MacIan kept his distance. “I dinna expect to live this lang,” he said, “I hae nae thoughts concerning what we should dae after.”

“Let me supply you with some thoughts, then,” said Jack. “We are finished here.”

“Finished!?”

“We have done all that we needed to do,” said Jack, “excepting some trifles in the Mint which Father Edouard and I shall attend to after you and the others are…gone.”

“Gone!? An how dae ye expect to hold the Tower of London agin a Regiment, with nae one to man the defenses?”

“It was never my intention to hold it,” Jack returned. “So fly. Now. Escape to the heather. Savor your revenge. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless you prefer to go out as a hero of the United Kingdom, defending this house of your Stuart queen.”

“Now that is insufferable,” said Rufus MacIan. “That isna to be endured.” Both hands came up in front as if he were going to clasp them in prayer. But they did not bate before his face, but kept rising and reaching back until they had found the handle of the Claymore projecting up above one shoulder. With one jerk it was out and in front of him. Suddenly Jack’s weapon was likewise exposed, a handsome watered-steel blade, curved like a saber, and, in the Turkish way, slightly broader at the tip than at the guard. He held it in one hand. It would be an odd, ragged, improvised sort of duel: a medieval longsword against something that was not a cutlass and not a rapier.

“Very well,” Jack said, “hero of Britain it is, then.”

Jack had the lighter and swifter blade. It would be suicide for MacIan to stand and await an attack, because it was unlikely he could move the Claymore fast enough to parry it. So he came on like a bull from a chute, feinting this way and that to make Jack commit himself, then winding up and swinging the weapon down at Jack’s head with all his might. It was a blow that could not be fended off with any lighter weapon, and so Jack was obliged to spin back and away. MacIan pursued him into an aisle between stacked powder-kegs. In these narrower confines he would have less room to swing his long blade. But Jack had done nothing to break the momentum of the great sword and so MacIan was able to swing it around and ring down another terrible blow at Jack’s head. Jack barely had time to get his sword-hand up. If he had held his lighter weapon horizontally, trying to bar altogether the descent of the Claymore, it wouldn’t have gone well for him. But he had the luck, or the presence of mind, to make the pommel the highest part of the weapon, and leave the point angled downwards toward the floor. The Claymore came down with little loss of speed, but it was deflected laterally, missing Jack and crashing into the stone floor, where it sent a shower of sparks against the base of a keg of gunpowder.

There was, in Rufus MacIan, a responsible and level-headed military officer. For the last few moments this person had been muscled out of the way by another that shared the same skull: the raving Celtic berserker. The sight of those sparks striking that keg caused the latter to vanish like a will o’ the wisp and the former to be reinstated. There was a momentary pause as Rufus MacIan waited to see if they and the White Tower were to remain in existence. But the sparks winked out, and nothing happened.

“Lucky that,” MacIan remarked, and cleared his throat, for suddenly his lungs were congested. He noticed that Jack was standing rather close-too close to be struck with the long Claymore. Indeed, he had his foot on the tip of MacIan’s sword. Rufus MacIan coughed, and felt something hot and wet soaking his beard. Glancing down, he noticed the hilt of Jack’s sword, all encrusted with heathenish designs, pressed up against his chest.

“Oh, it’s because I am a lucky lucky fellow, my lord,” said Jack-though MacIan was feeling oddly distracted, and the words did not really register. “In every respect, save the one that most matters.”

“TO THE PYX, THEN,” Jack said, stepping back and snapping his sword horizontally through the air. Blood rushed down the blade, jetted from the tip, and struck a nearby wall with a sizzling noise, making a long dripping slash across the dry stones.

De Gex was frozen for a three-count. He rolled his eyeballs down in their sockets to verify that his dagger was now lying on the floor, i.e., no longer anywhere near his throat. The weight, and pressure, and the fragrance of the Scotsman were all gone. He bent down and snatched up the dagger, then spun around to face Jack-and nearly lost his footing on a spreading hot puddle. The Highlander who’d been holding him at bay was curled up on the floor, eyes half open, face gray.

“That was very risky,” remarked de Gex.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we’re going to begin accounting for risk now?” Jack returned, astonished. “Do you have any idea what just nearly-”

“That will do,” said de Gex crisply, for he knew that once Jack had got into a mocking mood it was as difficult to cure as the hiccups.

They descended to the first floor of the round turret. Though the most ancient door of the White Tower was situated in the opposite corner, along the Inmost Ward, a more recent one was available at the base of the turret stair. It deposited them upon a strip of green on the north side, between the White Tower and a row of storehouses that lined the inner surface of the curtain wall. Here Jack broke his stride for a moment, because the storehouses were as regular as shocks of grain in a field-row, and offered no points of reference by which he could establish his bearings. But raising his sights above their saw-toothed roof-line he saw the slotted parapets of three bastions behind them. Here, the fire that still burned in the Tower hamlets north of the moat came in useful, as very little light was now left in the sky. But the red fire-glow shone crisply through the crenellations on those bastions. Being now a dungeon o’ learning where the Tower was concerned, he knew that these three were, from left to right, Bowyer, Brick, and Jewel Towers.

Someone was hollering to him from high above. Jack couldn’t make out a word. He spun on his heel, leaned back, cupped his hands round his face, and bellowed: “Run away!” to the Scotsmen on the roof of the White Tower. Then he continued striding north across the green with de Gex. He was looking for a portal that would take him through the line of storehouses and get him to the base of Brick Tower-that being the middle of the three bastions. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the twilight, he thought he could see it: a break in the half-timbered house-fronts, right in the center. It was a wide gate where wagon-loads of stuff could be trundled in or out. Standing in it were two men, one a giant and the other the size of a boy: Yevgeny and Tom the Black-guard.

“I have found the way through to the sally-port,” Yevgeny announced.

“You have a Yeoman?”

Yevgeny pointed to a Beefeater who was standing inside the storehouse with his arms pinioned behind his back.

“I’m glad you’re finally here, mate,” said Tom to Jack, “I been trying to explain to the Muscovite, here, this ain’t the right way in!” He hooked a thumb back over his shoulder. “This here is Brick Tower! Jewel Tower’s the next one down!” Tom stepped forward onto the green and pointed down the line to the bastion that stood in the northeast corner of the Inner Ward. A dozen or so men, who from their looks could have stepped off Blackbeard’s flagship a quarter of an hour ago, were Loitering with Intent in that vicinity, and looking shrewdly at Jack.

“And of what significance is that?” Jack demanded.

An awkward silence.

Tom could be seen looking a bit pale.

De Gex sidled up and whispered something into Jack’s ear.

“Oh, yes, of course, the Jewel Tower,” Jack said. “That’s where they keep the, what do you call them-”

“The Crown Jewels, sir,” whispered Tom, now quite rattled.

“Yes, now I see where you are going-yes-of course! The Crown Jewels. Right.” He considered it for a good long time. “Would you like to have a go at stealing the Crown Jewels, then, as long as we are here?”

“I thought that was the entire point of the Lay, sir,” Tom answered, seeming very boylike indeed now.

“Oh, yes! To be sure!” Jack hastened to say, “by all means, yes, that’s all I’ve ever wanted, really, to have some great bloody lump of gold with jewels stuck in it to put on my head. Diamonds, rubies-I’m mad for them really-go! Run along!”

“Don’t you wish to-?”

“You’ve done splendidly to this point, Tom, and that lot in the corner seem trustworthy. Go and see what you can find in Jewel Tower and I’ll meet you back here-”

Yevgeny cleared his throat.

“Strike that, I’ll meet you at, oh, Black Jack’s Boozing-Ken at Hockley-in-the-Hole tomorrow evening, after the bear-baiting.”

Jack had accompanied these improvised remarks with any amount of nods, gesticulations, nudgings, and shovings, all directed toward the a-mazed Tom and all meant to impel him toward the fabulous Jewel-trove in question. Finally Tom began to move that direction, but he walked backwards, keeping a sharp eye on Jack. “D’you really think Black Jack’s Boozing-Ken is a good place to be cutting up the Sovereign’s Orb?”

“Cut it up where you will, bring me some bits in a sack. Whatever you think is fair. Off you go, then!”

Tom-who was about halfway to the claque of piratish-looking blokes-scanned the roofs of the storehouses while Jack spoke these words, expecting that this was all a sort of test of Tom’s loyalty, and that if he made the wrong move he’d get a crossbow-bolt through the heart. But there was nothing to be noted save a few furious Highlanders starting to boil from the door of the White Tower. Which anyway forced him to make up his mind. “Right!” he exclaimed, then turned, and sprinted for the Jewels. Jack did not even see this, for he’d already bolted, along with de Gex, into the portal where Yevgeny had been awaiting them. Yevgeny barred the heavy storehouse door behind them.

“Your name?” Jack said to the Yeoman Warder.

“Clooney! And whatever it is you want-”

“Why, Yeoman Clooney, you make it sound as if I am some sort of nefarious villain. All I want is for you to be my boon companion these next several minutes, and to survive the night in good health.”

“I should not love to be your companion for any length of time.”

“Then I shall remind you that I am, in truth, a nefarious villain. You may follow me on your own two feet, or I shall have the Rus put a leash around your neck and drag you up and down stairs on your beef-stuffed belly.”

“I shall walk,” announced Clooney, eyeing Yevgeny. By this time he had probably watched the Muscovite do any number of appalling things and was more afraid of him than of Jack.

A brief, dark, tortuous walk through the bowels of the Tower followed. After the third change of direction Jack became utterly lost. He guessed that they’d broken the plane of the curtain-wall and entered the bastion of Brick Tower.

Then a stone stair was before them, descending into a gloom that was beyond the power of their lanthorns. A man more superstitious than Jack might have recoiled, seeing it as a prefigurement of prison, death, and descent into the world below. But in the catalog of gloomy and hair-raising locations into which Jack had ventured during his lifetime, this scarcely rated notice. Down the stairs he traipsed, turning left at a landing, and then jogging left again at the foot of another flight. They must now be down in some oubliette of the Normans. But passing through a door, he found himself under the sky on, of all things, a street: Mint Street. Directly across that street was a house, a wreck of a thing, nearly black with soot. The door of this house stood open, and a single light burned within. Door and street were guarded by three men-men well known to Jack-each of whom carried the ne plus ultra of Mobb control weapons, a blunderbuss. And not without effect, for what crowd there was-a few grubby Mint workers-remained far away down the street, ready to duck for cover behind the elbow of Bowyer Tower if there was need.

There was no need. Jack checked his stride in the middle of the street, set his black satchel down as if to rest a weary hand, and turned around to see what was keeping the others. This movement caused his gold-lined cloak to swirl around him in a flourish that could not be missed by the cowed Mint-men. As it turned out, the black-robe was right on his heels. So Jack turned again, snatched up his satchel, and carried it into the house of the Warden of the Mint.

It was abandoned. Warden of the Mint was a profitable sinecure, usually granted to some man who knew little and cared less about coining but who had places in high friends. Such a man would not dream of living in this house, even though it was provided by the government for his use. He would as like live by a knacker’s yard on the outskirts of Dublin than dwell on this smoky street in the midst of soldiers. And so most of the place went unused. But not all. Following the glimmer of lamp-light, Jack descended a stair to a vault-door, which hung open.

The vault itself was barely an arm-span in width, and the apex of the arched ceiling was scarcely high enough for Jack to stand upright. It was dank and dripping, for it was down close to the level of the moat. But it was soundly made. At the far end stood a table. On the table was a black chest with three hasps. Two of these were going unused at the moment, and opened padlocks dangled from their loops like freshly killed game from the butcher’s hook. The third hasp was still closed by a padlock the size of a man’s fist. Sitting before it on an overturned basket was a bulky man whose face was obscured by black hair hanging down. He was peering at the lock from a few inches away, gripping it in one great hand while the other manipulated its inner works with a steel toothpick. None of which was in the least remarkable to Jack, for he had expected all of these things, except for one.

“That’s it?” he exclaimed.

“This is the Pyx,” answered the man who was sitting on the basket. He spoke as if he had entered the serene trance of a Hindoostani mystic.

“You know, in any other country, they’d go to a bit of trouble, wouldn’t they, to make it be dazzling. But this is just a bloody box.”

“All objects that perform the essential functions of a box, are unavoidably boxy,” said the other. “If it makes you feel any better, the locks are excellent.”

“Those two don’t appear to have been excellent enough,” Jack remarked.

“Ah, but this one. I am guessing that the other two were those of the Comptroller and the Warden. But this is the lock of the Master.”

“Newton.”

“Yes. Some admirer-some royal sycophant from the Continent-must have given it to him.”

Jack was conscious now of de Gex breathing behind him. He said, “You of all people ought to be more alive to the passage of time.”

“But Saturn was Time’s lord, not its servant.”

“Which are you?”

“Both. For most of the day and night, time oppresses me. It is only when I am at work on the innards of a clock-or a lock-that time stops.”

“The clock stops, you mean.”

“No. Time stops, or so it seems. I do not sense its passage. Then something interrupts me-I become aware that my bladder is full, my mouth dry, my stomach rumbling, the fire’s gone out, and the sun’s gone down. But there before me on the table is a finished clock-” now suddenly a snicker from the mechanism, and a deft movement of his hands. “Or an opened lock.” Saturn could not stand in this confined space, but he sat up straight, heaved a vast sigh, then drew the padlock out of the loop of the third hasp with great care, not wanting to bang it up on the way out.

“I thought you said that Newton’s lock was something extraordinary,” Jack said.

Saturn held it up near a candle-flame so that all could admire its Baroqueness. It had been fashioned after the style of the portico of an ancient temple. The style was Classical. But the tiny figures all around were seraphim and cherubim, rather than the gods of Olympus, and the inscription on the frieze was in Hebrew. “It is the Temple of Solomon,” Saturn explained.

“There is no keyhole!” Jack said.

The front of the temple, between the pillars, was closed by a small doorway with more Hebrew on it. Saturn flicked this open with a blackened fingernail to reveal, hidden beneath, an impossibly complex keyhole, shaped like a maze. It had been cut into a block of what appeared to be solid gold, which was shaped like a flame burning on the temple’s altar.

“You were right,” Jack said, “it’s bloody amazing.”

“Decorative,” Saturn admitted, “and clever. But still a lock.”

He flipped open the vacant hasp, then grabbed the handle on the lid of the Pyx, and pulled.

The Pyx groaned open. Jack stepped forward. De Gex hastened to his side.

Shive Tor


TWILIGHT

ABOVEDECKS, BY THE LIGHT of the flaming Tor, the soldiers toiled with poles, pushing the hooker back from the conflagration one yard at a time. Below, in the gleam of a lanthorn that Colonel Barnes had had the presence of mind to bring over from Atalanta, Sir Isaac Newton and Daniel Waterhouse regarded the big locked chest, and listened to it tick.

Barnes had worried the point of a bayonet under the edge of the iron-bound chest and tried to lever it up, but they had seen no movement. “It is not that this is heavy, though it is,” Barnes had announced, “it is rather that the whole thing has been bolted to the very keel of the ship. And the bolt-heads are presumably locked up safe inside it.”

Isaac was saying nothing. Indeed, he had been perfectly silent ever since he had descended into the hooker’s hold with Daniel, and found it empty, save for the ticking chest.

For once, Daniel had Isaac at a disadvantage. Isaac had boarded this hooker still believing that he had sprung a trap on Jack the Coiner and was about to recover Jack’s hoard of Solomonic Gold. That he’d been trapped by Jack was only just now trespassing on the frontiers of his awareness, and would take a good long time to march in to the core of his brain.

Daniel’s instinct, of course, was to withdraw to the bow or stern, to get as far away from the device as he could. With luck he might then live through the explosion. But it was now clear that the hooker’s keel would be snapped like a twig, and she’d go down fast in the cold dark water.

Daniel went abovedecks, carrying the lanthorn so as to literally leave Sir Isaac in the dark. He was afraid that if Isaac had light he might try to tamper with the Device. Barnes followed Daniel.

Shive Tor had become a red-hot obelisk jutting straight up from the sea.

The hooker’s rigging had been sabotaged and her rudder cast away, so all she could do was drift where the currents and the winds might take her. This was very much in doubt, for the flows of the Thames and of the Medway here joined to war against the incoming tide in a wild melee of tows and vortices. But they would tend to drift into the center of the estuary, where the united rivers would flush them out to sea. The shore of the Isle of Grain was not so very distant; perhaps there was still time to summon Sergeant Bob, who was rowing about in yonder darkness salvaging the men of the First Company from the inrushing tide. Bob could not have failed to note the burning of the Tor; but he would have no way of guessing that an Infernal Device was bolted to the keel of the hooker.

Out of the hooker’s butchered rig the dragoons had chopped down two spars, and were using them as push-poles, standing at the gunwales and hugging the spars to their chests (they were heavy) to jab them into the mucky bottom. When Daniel had gone below with Isaac a few minutes ago this had been strictly a matter of keeping the hooker from getting sucked into the flames of the Tor, and it had not been especially difficult, in that the water had been barely deep enough to float the vessel, so that the spar-tips found the bottom easily. Now it was different. They’d put a safe distance between them and the cherry-red pillar. The light was fainter now. It created extreme contrasts between what was lit and what was in shadow, so Daniel’s mind labored to construct a picture of events from a few strewn arcs, points, and patches of light, and dreamlike snatches of men’s faces. But he could see that the dragoons were leaning dangerously over the sides, struggling to maintain control of the spars, most of which were now submerged. The tide had moved in on them, or they had pushed themselves out into a river-channel. At any rate, they were fast losing the power to affect their own movements.

The Tor-which was really the only thing visible outside of the ship-had until recently remained in a fixed position off their larboard quarter. But now it was executing a swift and dramatic traverse across the horizon, and it was dwindling. They were being pressed out to sea by the force of the rivers.

“What happens if you fire a musket while the ramrod is in the barrel?” Daniel inquired of the darkness.

“Sergeant Shaftoe thrashes you within an inch of your life!” answered a dragoon.

“But what happens to the ramrod?”

“Flies out like a spear, I suppose,” said the dragoon, “unless it jams in the barrel and the whole thing blows up in your face.”

“I would like to make a hole in a locked box,” Daniel explained.

“We’ve an axe,” said the dragoon.

“This box is bound and sheathed in iron,” said Daniel.

But he had already discarded the idea of firing a ramrod, or aught else, into the ticking chest. For all he knew, this was as likely to detonate, as disrupt, the Infernal Device.

A sense of relief now washed over him as he came to a realization: they were altogether doomed.

He went belowdecks to inform Isaac. Daniel might have expected Isaac to be furious over having been left in the dark. But as the light of the lanthorn invaded the hold, it revealed Isaac curled up on the decking with one ear pressed against the side of the chest, like one of Queen Anne’s physicians trying to make out whether she was still alive.

“It is a Tompion balance-spring movement,” Isaac proclaimed, “of curiously massive construction-like a watch wrought for a giant. But well-wrought. There is no grinding in the bearings, the gears mesh cleanly.”

“Shall we try to force it open?”

“The art of building lethal traps into lock-boxes is far more ancient than that of constructing Infernal Devices,” Isaac returned.

“I understand,” said Daniel, “but if the alternative is to do nothing, and be blown to bits-” But he stopped there, for Isaac’s eyelids had fluttered shut, his lips had parted, and he shifted to press his skull even harder against the cold iron frame of the chest.

“Something is happening,” he announced. “A pin was engaged. A cam revolves-” he opened his eyes and drew back as if it had only just entered his mind that he was in danger. Daniel caught one of Isaac’s hands and assisted him to his feet-then caught him in his arms as the boat was heaved beneath their feet by a swell coming in from the sea.

“Well,” Daniel said, “are you ready to find out what comes next?”

“As I told you, there is some mechanism-”

“I meant, after we die,” Daniel said.

“For that I have long been ready,” said Isaac; and Daniel was put in mind of Whitsunday 1662, when Isaac had repented of all the sins he had ever committed, and begun a ledger of sins committed since then. Did that ledger still exist somewhere? Was it still blank?

“And you, Daniel?” Isaac inquired.

“I made myself ready twenty-five years ago, when I was dying of the Stone,” Daniel said, “and have oft wondered when Death would bother to come for me.”

“Then neither of us has anything to fear,” said Isaac. Which Daniel agreed with on a purely intellectual level; but still he flinched when a hefty mechanical clunk sounded from the chest, and its lid sprang open, driven by a pair of massive springs. Daniel missed what happened next because (as he was ashamed to realize) he had jumped behind Isaac. But now he stepped clear. He let the lanthorn drop to his side. It was no longer of any use. The chest was emitting its own light. Fountains of colored sparks gushed from several metal tubes that splayed from its rim, a bit like the iron pikes that adorned London Bridge’s Great Stone Gate. Their light blinded him for a few moments. But when his eyes adjusted he saw a little carved and painted figure-a poppet-jutting from the top of the box, bobbling up and down atop a coil spring that had thrust it into the air. The poppet was adorned with a motley fool’s cap with wee bells on the ends of its tentacles, and its face had been carven into a foolish grin. Illuminated from beneath by the fizzing sparklers, it wore a ghoulish and sinister aspect.

“Jack in the Box!” Daniel exclaimed.

Isaac approached the chest. The poppet had sprung up out of a mound of hundreds of coins. These had avalanched over the rim of the chest when the lid had sprung open, and were still tumbling to the deck in ones and twos. One of them rolled to within inches of Isaac’s toe. He stooped and picked it up. Daniel, ever the lab-assistant, held the light near to hand. Isaac stared at it for a quarter of a minute. Daniel’s lanthorn-arm began to ache, but he dared not move.

Finally it occurrred to Isaac to resume breathing. A tiny smacking noise came from his mouth as he re-animated his parts of speech.

“We must get back to the Tower of London straightaway.”

“I am all for it,” Daniel said, “but I’m afraid that the currents of the Thames and the Medway disagree with us.”

Book 7


Currency


There was the usual amount of corruption, intimidation, and rioting.

–SIR CHARLES PETRIE, DESCRIBING A PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION OF THE ERA

Hanover


JUNE 18 (CONTINENTAL) / 7 (ENGLISH) 1714

Do not pity me. I am at last going to satisfy my curiosity about the origin of things, which even Leibniz could never explain to me, to understand space, infinity, being and nothingness…

-SOPHIE CHARLOTTE, QUEEN OF PRUSSIA, ON HER DEATHBED AT AGE THIRTY-SIX

“ONCE UPON A TIME there was a penniless orphan girl named Wilhelmina Caroline, or Caroline for short. Father was a brilliant if odd man, who died young of the smallpox, leaving Mother at the mercy of his son by an earlier marriage. But this son had inherited neither his father’s wisdom nor his love for the beautiful mother of Caroline; and, conceiving of her as a wicked stepmother, and of the infant as a future rival, he cast them out. Mother took little Caroline up in her arms and fled to a house deep in the woods. The two lived almost as Vagabonds for some years, making occasional sojourns in the houses of more fortunate relations. But when the compassion of her family was spent, Mother was left with no choice but to marry the first suitor who came along: a brute who had been hit on the head when he was a child. This fellow cared little for Caroline’s mother and less for Caroline. He relegated them to a miserable life on the fringe of his household while he openly made love to his vile, ignorant, and wicked mistress.

“In time both stepfather and mistress died of smallpox. Not long after, Caroline’s mother also perished, leaving the little girl alone, penniless, and destitute.

“Only one heirloom passed to Caroline upon her mother’s death, for it was the only thing that could not be separated from her by pestilence or theft: the title of Princess. Without this inheritance, she would soon have ended up in a poorhouse, a nunnery, or worse; but because, like her mother before her, she was a Princess, two wise men came and bore her away in a carriage to a palace in a distant city, where a clever and beautiful young Queen named Sophie Charlotte took her under her wing, and gave her all she needed.

“Of all that was offered to Princess Caroline in the years that followed, two mattered above all others: first Love. For Sophie Charlotte was both an elder sister and a foster mother to her. And second Knowledge. For in the palace was a great library, to which Caroline was given a key by one of the wise men: a Doctor who was the Queen’s mentor and advisor. She spent every minute that she could in that library, doing what she loved most, which was reading books.

“Years later, after she had grown to a woman and begun to have children of her own, Caroline was to ask the Doctor how he had been so clever as to know that she would want a key to the library. The Doctor explained: ‘As a little boy, I lost my own father, who, like your royal highness’s, was a well-read man; but later I came to know him, and to feel his presence in my life, by reading the books he left behind.’ ”

Henrietta Braithwaite trailed off hereabouts, and shaped her brow into a tasteful and courtly little frown. Her finger plowed a crooked trail back up the terrain of the last paragraph, like a pig’s snout rooting for a truffle. “Rather fine to this point, your royal highness, but the story becomes confused when this Doctor enters into it, and you begin to jump back and forth between tenses, and tell things in his voice-pray, how does a Doctor enter into a f?ry-tale anyhow? Up to here, it’s all palaces, stepmothers, and houses in the woods, which fit. But a Doctor-?”

“Es ist ja ein Marchen-”

“In English if you please, your royal highness.”

“It is indeed a f?ry-tale, but it is also my story,” said Princess Wilhelmina Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, “and my story has a Doctor in it.”

She glanced out a window. Today’s English lesson was in a salon of the Leine Schlo?, on the side that faced away from the river. The view was across a small paved courtyard that spilled onto a busy Hanover street. Leibniz’s house was only two or three doors down-near enough that she could shout a philosophical inquiry out the window and half expect to get an answer back.

“The next chapter will treat of persons, and happenings, not found in f?ry-tales,” Caroline continued, after a pause to get the English words queued up in the right order. “For what I have written on the leaves you hold in your hands only goes up to when Sophie Charlotte died-or, as some say, was poisoned by the Prussian court.”

Mrs. Braithwaite now turned in a workmanlike effort to conceal her horror and loathing of the fact that Princess Caroline had given voice to this thought. It was not that this Englishwoman had any particular love for the courtiers who infested the Charlottenburg. Mrs. Braithwaite, wife of an English Whig, would have taken Sophie Charlotte’s side in just about any imaginable debate-supposing she had the kidney to choose sides. What troubled her was Caroline’s forthrightness. But the ability to say things directly, and get away with it, was a birthright that came along with the title of Princess.

“It has indeed been an eventful nine years since that dolorous day,” Mrs. Braithwaite allowed, “but it would still read much like a f?ry-tale to the common reader, if you but changed a few words. The Doctor could become a wizard, the aged Electress a wise Queen-no one in England would object to that change!”

“Except for all those Jacobites who want Sophie dead,” Caroline returned.

This was a bit like sticking her leg out in front of Mrs. Braithwaite when she was trying to tiptoe, skirts hiked up, down a turd-strewn alley. The Englishwoman faltered and pinkened but did not come to a full stop. As everyone in Hanover, including Caroline’s husband, had noted, she was the very soul of poise and grace. “The other characters and events of your last nine years-the handsome and brave young Prince, the long war against an evil King, a lost kingdom across the sea, rightfully yours, which sends emissaries-”

“Emissaries,” Caroline said, “but other busy persons too, not fit for f?ry-tales at all.”

Mrs. Henrietta Braithwaite, Caroline’s dame du palais and English tutor, was also the official mistress of Caroline’s husband. Caroline did not really object to her “brave young Prince” having sex all the time with the wife of an Englishman-and a rather dodgy Englishman at that. On the contrary. Sex with the Electoral Prince George Augustus had been mildly pleasant more often than it had been downright painful. But most of the time, like trimming one’s fingernails, it had been a body-chore that no longer seemed gross after it had been done a few hundred times. Four children-one Prince, three Princesses-had ensued so far, and there would probably be more, provided George Augustus did not spill all of his seed into Henrietta Braithwaite. The arrival of this Englishwoman at the Court of Hanover two years ago, and her speedy promotion to maitresse en titre of Young Hanover Brave (as Caroline’s husband was styled by Whiggish Brits), had relieved Caroline of one of the less fascinating tasks that she had to put up with as a wife and a Princess, and given her more time to sleep at night and to read during the day. So there was not anything like rancor between her and Henrietta.

But relations between one who was a Princess and one who was not were governed, not by what the Princess was really feeling and thinking, but rather by certain forms that were supposed to ensure the steady functioning of the Court, and, by extension, the s?cular world. By those lights, Caroline-who was married in the sight of God to George Augustus, and who had been endowed by her mother with the incredible and priceless faculty of generating new Princes and Princesses-stood in the same wise, to the likes of Henrietta Braithwaite, as Hera to some dung-flecked shepherdess who had lately been rolling in the clover with Zeus. Caroline was expected to remind Mrs. Braithwaite of her inferiority from time to time, and Mrs. Braithwaite was expected to receive it meekly and submissively. As how could she not, for the grandchildren of Caroline would reign over the British Empire while the Braithwaites would spend their lives losing at cards and killing themselves with gin in mildewy London salons.

“It is with the greatest pleasure that I shall read the next chapter of your royal highness’s f?ry-tale,” Mrs. Braithwaite predicted. “In this Household it is an oft-told tale that when your royal highness was stricken with the smallpox, two years after your wedding, his royal highness George Augustus spurned the counsel of the physicians, and placed his own life at risk to sit by his young bride’s bedside and hold her hand.”

“It is true. George did not leave my bedside until I was well.”

“To me-as to every other woman who can never hope to be the object of such pure adoration-that is a f?ry-tale we would fain read over and over, until the pages crumbled,” said Mrs. Braithwaite.

“I may write it then,” answered Princess Caroline, “or I may keep it to myself, as a thing rightfully mine, and not to be shared with any who does not merit it.”

Some two years earlier, at a courtly soiree that had brought many noble persons together, Princess Caroline had overheard another Princess saying something rude about Sophie. The words that had passed between them were long since forgotten. What was remembered was that Caroline had thrown a punch at the other Princess. It happened to land on the jaw. The other Princess was carried out of the room, feigning unconsciousness.

It was not really in Caroline’s nature to do some of the cruel things that a Princess was required to do. But as her f?ry-tale had mentioned, she well knew that being a Princess was the only thing that had kept her from ending up as a child whore in a Saxon mining-camp. So to pretend otherwise-to play with the ancient laws of Princesshood-was idle.

Suddenly weights were falling and springs unwinding in the belfry of the big old church across the square from Leibniz’s house. A large piece of metal was mercilessly pounding on a bell, which stood still for it, quivering and moaning. Here in the Leine Schlo? it was time for Caroline to leave off of the ritual drubbing of Mrs. Braithwaite, and to go out on her daily excursion to Herrenhausen. A skirmish of curtseys got the Englishwoman out of the Presence without violating any etiquette-laws.

Minutes later-having nipped into several nurseries and schoolrooms along the way to kiss her little Prince and Princesses good-bye-Caroline was in the courtyard of the Leine Schlo? telling the stable-hands that they had got it all wrong. Herr Schwartz, the retainer who was in charge of the stables, had reached an age when he phant’sied he could foretell the weather by the pains in his joints. Today, his hip and his elbow were united in prophesying rain. Accordingly, he had given orders for the coach-and-four to be made ready. But Caroline’s senses assured her that it was a perfect sunny day, and too sultry to be pent up in a wooden box. So she chided Herr Schwartz, in a playful way, and ordered that her favorite mare be saddled. The mount was led out, ready to go, before she had finished uttering the command-Herr Schwartz knew her well enough. She hitched up her skirts, ascended a little Barock stair, and perched on the saddle. A few moments later she was riding out onto the street without so much as a look back. She knew that a small escort would be not far behind; or if it weren’t, the persons responsible for deploying her escort would be sent down in disgrace and replaced with others.

Anyway, the Leine Schlo? was not the sort of thing any cultivated person would take the trouble to look back at. The hundred or so paces that separated it from Leibniz’s house vaulted an architectural chasm. Leibniz’s house was much bigger than a bachelor really needed, because he cohabited with a library. It was one of those Hapsburg wedding-cakes, thickly frosted in high-relief friezes of queer and heinous goings-on from the Bible. Next to it, the Leine Schlo? need never worry about accusations of gaudiness. In a continent that was now freckled with more or less embarrassing knock-offs of Versailles, the Leine Schlo? was Proud to be Dowdy. It was trapped between the sluggish Leine on one side and an ordinary Hanover street on the other, and so it would never have gardens or even a decent forecourt. To be sure, embedded in the heart of the Schlo? was a single, stupefyingly gaudy room called the Rittersaal, built by Sophie’s husband thirty years ago after Leibniz had come back from Italy bearing evidence that he was at least as Royal as his Sophie. But no common person riding along the street or floating down the river past the Schlo? would dream that anything colorful, ornate, decorative, or lively was contained in those walls. It was a mashing-together of several blocky, four-storey wings ventilated by many rectangular windows, all of a common size, and arrayed in rows and columns. The first thing Princess Caroline saw every day, when she opened her eyes, parted her bed-curtains, and glanced toward her window to check the weather, was two intersecting stone walls of window-grid, marching off in an infinite logarithmic progression.

Merely seeing it would put Leibniz into a funk. What was only boring to Caroline was troubling to him, because he felt partly responsible. The Doctor had grown up in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War when many towns did not have buildings at all-only ruins and shanties! The structures that survived were round-shouldered half-timbered things, as same and yet as various as a basket of apples. But the buildings of today were informed by geometry; which meant that each one betrayed the particular Idea of geometry that its architect had drilled on in school. A hundred years ago this might have meant parabolas, ellipses, surfaces of revolution, involutes and evolutes, and parallel curves. Now it meant Cartesian rectilinear coordinates-the cruel gridiron to which all of those soaring arcs had been lashed fast by the toiling algebraists. A plaything for hares had fallen among the tortoises. The non-helpless minority of Christendom-those who could read, who could travel, who were not starving-had (Leibniz brooded) got only the most superficial notion of what had been happening in Natural Philosophy and, rather than going to the trouble of actually understanding it, had fastened on to the Cartesian grid as a relic or fetish of enlightenment. A result was grid-buildings. Leibniz could not bear to look at them because more than anyone else he was responsible for Cartesian coordinates. He who had launched his career with an epiphany in a rose-garden! So he and Caroline tended to meet, not in the waffle iron of the Leine Schlo? but out beyond the ramparts along the gently curving banks of the Leine, or at Sophie’s garden.

Leibniz was out of town. Caroline did not know why. Court-rumors from the East had it that the Tsar’s new fleet was massing in St. Petersburg, making ready to sally into the Baltic and ream it clear of troublous Scandinavians. Caroline and most of the other people who mattered in Hanover knew that Leibniz had something going on the side with Peter Romanov. Perhaps this accounted for the savant’s absence. Or perhaps he’d merely nipped down to Wolfenbuttel to sort his books, or journeyed to Berlin to settle some tussle at his Academy.

Hanover was a city, and a city was, above all else, an organism for repelling armed assaults. The Leine, which flanked Hanover on the south and east, had always had some part to play in keeping the place from being sacked and burned. This explained why the Schlo? rose straight from the river’s bank. But the precise nature of the Leine’s military duties had changed from century to century as artillery had gotten better, and gunners had learnt math.

Just past Leibniz’s house, Princess Caroline turned left towards the river, and so began a sort of voyage through time. This began on a quaint, curving Hanover street, which looked essentially medieval, and concluded, a quarter of an hour later, on the outskirts of the city’s fortification complex: a sculpture in rammed and carved earth as a la mode, and as carefully tended, as any lady’s hairstyle in the Grand Salon of Versailles. The Leine threaded its way through this in whatever way was most advantageous to the engineers. In some places it had been compressed into a chute, like meat funneled into a wurst-casing, and in others it was given leave to spread out and inundate ground that was considered vulnerable.

Fort-makers and fort-breakers alike were playing a sort of chess-game with geometry. Light, which conveyed intelligence, moved in straight lines, and musket-balls, which killed over short distances, nearly did. Cannonballs, which broke down forts, moved in flattish parabolas, and mortars, which destroyed cities, in high ones. Fortifications were now made of dirt, which was cheap, abundant, and stopped projectiles. The dirt was mounded up and shaved into prisms-volumes bounded by intersecting planes. Each plane was an intention to control its edges. Lines of sight and flights of musket-balls were supposed to skim along these, seeing and killing whatever presented itself at the creases. It was hoped that cannonballs would come in perpendicularly and dig their own graves, as opposed to glancing off and bounding to and fro like murderous three-year-olds. Cavalry-stables, infantry-barracks, powder-houses, and gangways were etched into the dirt-piles in the places where cannonballs were least likely to reach. The human parts were utterly subordinated to the demands of geometry. It was a desert of ramps and planes.

All of which was actually somewhat interesting to a Princess who had learnt geometry sitting on the knee of Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. But artillery got better very gradually, and gunners now knew all the math they would ever know, and so none of this had changed much during the decade or so that Caroline had been passing through it almost every day. Riding among the fortifications was a time to brood or to day-dream. Her senses did not engage the world until she was crossing over the second of two causeways, strung across an inundated waste, put there to keep Louis XIV’s guns at a decent remove. The extremity of the fortifications was a timber gatehouse at the place where the planking of the causeway turned into gravel.

From here Caroline could look down a straight riding-path to Sophie’s orangerie, at the corner of the gardens of Herrenhausen, a mile and a half away. The Allee was striped with four parallel queues of lime trees washed with pale jackets of green moss. These lines of trees staked out three ways that ran side-by-side to the royal house. The road in the center was broad, suitable for carriages, and open to the sky. The entire length of it was visible; there were no secrets here. But it was flanked on either hand by narrower paths, just right for two friends to stroll arm-in-arm. The branches of the trees met above these paths to cover each with a canopy. Gazing down the length of the Allee, Caroline saw the entire mile and a half foreshortened into a single compact view, interrupted here and there by a little straggling line of courtiers or gardeners cutting across.

Sophie was as much an imperialist with her gardens as Louis XIV was with his fortresses. If nothing were done to stop them, her hedges and floral borders would someday collide with his barriere de fer somewhere around Osnabruck and conclude a stalemate.

Caroline’s first stroll in the gardens of Herrenhausen had been ten years ago, when Sophie Charlotte had brought the orphan princess out from Berlin to be flirted with by George Augustus. Young Caroline had known Electress Sophie for a few years, but had never before been granted the honor of being Summoned to Go for a Walk.

Leibniz had walked with them on that occasion, for he and Sophie Charlotte shared a kind of Platonic infatuation with each other. As for Sophie, she did not mind having the Doctor tag along, as it was often useful to have an ambulatory library in which to look up obscure facts.

The plan had been of admirable simplicity and, as one would have thought, fool-proof. The garden, which measured five hundred by a thousand yards, was edged by a rectangular riding-path, which in turn was framed in a waterway. Sophie, Sophie Charlotte, and Caroline were to set out from Herrenhausen Palace, which rose up above the northern end, and execute a brisk lap around the path. Leibniz would do his best to keep up with them. The exercise would bring color to Caroline’s cheeks, which normally looked as if they had been sculpted out of library paste. Just before they completed the circuit, they would dodge in to the maze, where they would bump into young George Augustus. He and Caroline would “wander off” and “get lost” in the maze together-though of course Sophie and Sophie Charlotte would never be more than two yards from them, hovering like wasps on the other side of a thin screen of hedge, jabbing away whenever they perceived an opening. At any rate, through some winsome union of George’s level-headedness and Caroline’s cleverness, they would escape from the maze together and part company on blushing terms.

The Electress, the Queen, the Princess, and the Savant had set out from the palace of Herrenhausen precisely on schedule, and Sophie had put the plan into execution with all the bloody-minded forcefulness of the Duke of Marlborough staving in the French lines at Tirlemont. Or so it had seemed until they got some two-thirds of the way round the garden, and entered into a stretch of the riding-path that was overhung with branches of large trees, seeming wild and isolated. There, they were ambushed by a sort of raiding-party led by Sophie’s son and heir, George Louis.

It happened near the wreck of the gondola.

As a fond memento of his young whoring days in Venice, Sophie’s late husband, Ernst August, had imported a gondola, and a gondolier to shove it round the perimeter of the garden, along the waterway that Sophie called a canal and that George Louis insisted on calling a moat. Maintaining a gondola in North German weather had proved difficult, maintaining gondoliers even more so.

At the time of this, Caroline’s first garden-walk, Ernst August had been dead for seven years. Sophie, who did not share her late husband’s infatuation with the fleshy pleasures of Venice, and who felt no affinity with his phant’sied Guelph relations, had suffered the gondola to run hard aground on a mud-bank. There, ice-storms and earwigs had had their way with it. By chance, or perhaps by some ponderous scheming of George Louis, the mother and her entourage encountered the son and his at a place on the riding-path very near the wrack of the gondola, which rested askew, occasionally shedding a dandruff of gold leaf into the canal, almost as if it had been planted there as a memento mori to make young princes reflect on the fleeting and fickle nature of their youthful passions. If so, George Louis had misread it. “Hullo, Mummy, and to you, Sissy,” he had said to the Electress of Hanover and the Queen of Prussia respectively. And then after a few pleasantries, “Is it not sad to come upon the dingy old ruin of Papa’s gondola here among all of these flowers?”

“Flowers are beauty that lives and dies,” Sophie had answered. “Does this mean that when the petals begin to fall, I should order my garden plowed under?”

There followed a complicated silence.

If this had been Versailles, and if George Louis had been the sort who cared, Sophie’s remark would have fallen into the category of “warning shot fired into the shoulder”: nonfatal, but enough to render the victim hors de combat. But in fact this was George Louis’s back yard, and he was not one who cared-supposing he even noticed. Sophie’s remark had taken the form of a similitude between wilted blossoms and the decaying gondola. George Louis had difficulty with such constructions, as some men could not see the color green. And further he had, for better or worse, the vis inertiae of an ammunition cart. It took more than warning shots to stop him, on those exceptional occasions when he got moving. Sophie, of all persons in the world, knew this. Why, then, did she bother? For by making the analogy to flowers she was in effect speaking in a secret language that her son could not decypher. Perhaps the Electress was thinking out loud; or perhaps the message was intended for others.

Years later Caroline was to understand that it had been intended for her. Sophie was trying to teach the little Princess how to be a Queen, or at least, how to be a Mother.

One of George Louis’s companions had worked at least some of this out, and now stepped forward. His motives could only be guessed at. Perhaps he wanted to receive Sophie’s next shot in the breastbone, to show his loyalty. Perhaps he hoped to deflect George Louis. Perhaps he wanted to be noticed by Caroline, who was not, as yet, betrothed. At any rate, he made a courtly bow, letting everyone get a load of his plumage. “If it please your royal highness,” he said in strangely distorted French, “a gardener might be instructed to pinch off the dead blossoms, to give the garden a more pleasing aspect.”

This was Harold Braithwaite, who had begun coming over from England round about then to escape prosecution in London and to curry favor in Hanover. He had done something reckless, and got lucky, at the Battle of Blenheim. Now he was an earl or something.

“My English is not good enough for me to understand your French,” Sophie had returned, “but I collect that you were setting in front of me some advice as to how I should manage my garden. Please know that I love my garden as it is: not only the living but also the dying parts of it. It is not meant to be some phantasm of eternal and perfect life. Such a garden did exist once, or so the Bible instructs us; but it was brought to an ill end by a snake who fell out of a tree.” This with a very dubious head-to-toe look at Braithwaite, who turned magenta and backed off.

George Louis had been a bit unnerved, not by the content of Sophie’s remarks (which seemed to have quite flown past him) but by their tone, which was that of a Queen at war rejecting a proffered treaty. Another man would have sensed danger, recoiled, and made amends. But inertia was all for George Louis. “I don’t care about flowers,” he said. “But if we cleared the gondola out of the moat, there would be room for galleys at Carnival.”

It was an old family tradition to stage a Venetian-style Carnival in the spring.

“Galleys,” Sophie had repeated in a distant tone, “aren’t those the Ships of Force that are paddled around the Mediterranean by stinking, wretched slaves?”

“Such are too large to fit in our little moat, Mummy,” George Louis had returned helpfully, “I had in mind little ones.”

“Little ones? Does that mean, only a few oar-slaves?”

“No, no, Mummy. Just as Louis XIV at Versailles stages floating processions and mock sea-battles upon the Canal, for the entertainment of all the persons of consequence who dwell there, so might we enliven our next Carnival with-”

“If the next is any more lively than the last, it is likely to kill me!”

“Lively, yes, Mummy, our Carnivals have always been so. And fittingly for a sort of-”

“A sort of what?”

“Queer, peculiar family tradition. Delightful to us. Perhaps a bit impenetrable to outsiders.” A tiny glance towards Braithwaite.

“Perhaps I do not wish to be penetrated by outsiders.”

The War of the Spanish Succession was at its zenith. Marlborough, at the head of mighty Protestant legions, was storming round Europe at will. The Whig Juncto in England was trying to get Sophie to move to London to be a sort of Queen-in-waiting until Anne sputtered out. And so perhaps George Louis could be forgiven for seeming a bit preoccupied with his place in the world. If so, no forgiveness seemed to be coming from Sophie’s direction. George Louis kept at it nonetheless, a breakaway ammo cart plunging down a bank. “This house, these gardens, are soon to become, to Britain, what Versailles is to France. Our home, Mummy, is to be a place of great consequence. What was a place for the femmes to dally in the garden, is to become a site of important conversations.”

“Oh, but it already is, my little prince,” Sophie had returned, “or I should say it was, until ours was interrupted, and replaced by this one.”

This had seemed merely funny to Caroline, as in truth they had been discoursing of the tendency of a cousin of theirs to gain weight when her husband was away at the front. But she did not smile for long. It had become apparent to all that Sophie was very angry, and so her words lanced out into a febrile silence. “The blood of the house of Plantagenet flows in these veins,” she said, exposing a milky wrist, “and in yours. The little Princes in the Tower died, the Houses of York and of Lancaster were united, and six perfectly delightful ladies sacrificed themselves on the bed of our ancestor, Henry VIII, to make it possible for us to exist. The Church of Rome was cast out of Britain because it was an impediment to the propagation of our line. For us, the Winter Queen roved across Christendom as a Vagabond through the Thirty Years’ War. All so that I could be born, and so that you could. Now my daughter rules Prussia and Brandenburg. Britain shall be yours. How did it all come about? Why do my children rule over the richest swath of Christendom, not his?” She pointed to a gardener shoving a wheelbarrow of manure, who rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“B-because of that divine ichor that runs in your veins, Mummy?” answered the Prince, with a nervous glance at the wrist.

“A shrewd guess, but wrong. Contrary to what your sycophants may have been telling you, there is nothing ichor-like and certainly nothing divine about the contents of our veins. Our line does not endure because of eldritch contaminants in our blood, or anything else hereditary. It endures because I go for walks in my garden every day and talk to your sister and your future daughter-in-law, just as my mother, the Winter Queen, did with me. It endures because even in the fifteenth year of war I exchange letters almost every day with my niece Liselotte at Versailles. You may-if it pleases you-flatter your vanity by phant’sying that riding across the countryside in hot pursuit of vermin is a kingly pastime, and makes you fit to one day rule a dominion that stretches to Shahjahanabad and to Boston. I shall allow you that much folly. But never shall I suffer you to trespass upon what keeps our line alive down through plagues, wars, and revolutions. I say that you are guilty of such a trespass now. Get out of my garden. Never again interrupt us at our work.”

This, which would have reduced any other man in Europe, except Louis XIV, to a lump of smouldering coal, only elicited a blink from George Louis. “Good day, Mummy, good day, Sissy,” he announced, and trotted away, followed by Braithwaite and the other courtiers, who rode stiff and red-necked, pretending they had not heard it. Caroline and Sophie Charlotte exchanged warm looks behind Sophie’s back, trying not to get the giggles.

Leibniz had dropped onto a bench like a sack of turnips kicked off a cart, and put his head in his hands. He pulled the wig back to expose his bald skull, glistering with sweat, so that the breeze could stream over it. This had only made Caroline more disposed to giggle, as it seemed that her teacher was being comically faint of heart.

Later she had come to understand matters more clearly. Sophie would die one day, and George Louis would be Elector of Hanover, King of England, and Leibniz’s boss. On that day Sophie Charlotte would still be the Queen of Prussia, and Caroline might be the Princess of Wales; but Leibniz would be the strange, incomprehensible man who had too much influence with those ladies who had ruled and humilated George Louis all his life.

Leibniz’s anxiety on that score had increased tenfold a short time later when Sophie Charlotte had suddenly taken sick and died. If he’d been spending a lot of time talking to Russians since then, it might be so that he would have at least one safe harbor in which to live out a future exile.

But Caroline had no intention of allowing that to happen.

THE HERRENHAUSER ALLEE was bedded in a swath of pleasant countryside that had been allowed to grow a bit wild. No one would devote time or money to keeping it up, partly because it was in the flood-plain of the Leine, and partly because it was in obvious jeopardy of being gobbled by any future expansions of Sophie’s garden. So by default it had become a sort of park, shaped liked a folded fan, narrow near the city but broadening toward the Palace of Herrenhausen. The result-intended or not-was that at the outset of the journey Caroline felt pent between a high road on one side, and the Leine on the other. These were equally laden with traffic, f?ces, and flies. But as she rode up the Allee, the road and the river insensibly spread away from her. By the time she got to the place where she could see archipelagos of green fruit hanging in the windows of Sophie’s orangerie, she was riding up the center of a cone of silence, smelling nothing but the freshness of growing things.

A foreign princess paying a call would here swing round the fronts of the Orangerie and other outlying pavilions and enter into a street lined, for some distance, with the summer palaces of diverse noble families. Herrenhausen Palace had started as one of these, and grown. It looked across the road to an older and smaller garden that cushioned the family sepulchre. The visitor would allow some hours to be announced, greeted, introduced, and otherwise processed by the Court before being let into the Presence. Caroline instead nipped in through a side-gate and approached the Palace from the garden side. Her mare knew where to take her, and where to stop, and which of the stable-hands was most likely to have a green apple in his pocket. Caroline was afoot in the northeast corner of Sophie’s garden without suffering her train of thought to be interrupted by anyone. Not for a Princess were idle pleasantries. Caroline could not say hello to some random Countess in a Herrenhausen salon without giving the encounter as much forethought, and as keen attention, as George Augustus would devote to mounting a cavalry charge. If she were to say it in the wrong tone of voice, or give the Countess more or less attention than she deserved, the news would be all over Hanover by sundown, and a fortnight later she could expect a letter from Liselotte in Versailles inquiring whether it was true she was having an affair with Count so-and-so, and another from Eliza in London wanting to know if she had quite recovered from her miscarriage. Better to slip into the place incognito.

This end of the garden, closest to the Palace, was divided into a grid of squarish parterres, perhaps tennis-court-sized. What drew the eye here was not the plantings but the statuary: the inevitable Hercules, Atlas, amp;c. The Gods and Heroes of Rome rose out of a sort of fanatically maintained tundra: boxwood cut down into micro-hedges no more than a hand’s span high and wide, and flowered figures crowded with bees maintaining a continual low hum of golden commerce. It was a fine place for high-strung nobles-to use Sophie’s phrase, the sort who took every fart for a thunderclap-to promenade about for a few moments before darting back into the Palace to regale the court with tales of their wilderness adventure. Really it was nothing more than a roofless annex of the Palace. Herrenhausen rose above these parterres in a moderately impressive way, while its wings, only a single storey high, reached out to embrace them. The central structure of the Palace couldn’t have housed Louis XIV’s gardening implements. A mere dozen windows were distributed among its three floors. But Sophie liked it that way. Versailles was a penitentiary for every person of consequence in France, and needed to be large. Herrenhausen was a place for getting things done, and needed to be small and tidy.

Caroline knew that she had likely been sighted from certain of those windows, and so she turned her back on the Palace and began to march away, following a gravel division between parterres. Shortly she arrived at a high hedge trimmed into a slab-wall, and penetrated it through a square opening. If the garden was a palace built of living things, then the parterres were its formal parlour, whence passageways led off to more private and peculiar spaces beyond. To one side was an outdoor theatre, walled by hedges and guarded by marble cherubs. To the other was the Maze where she had begun her courtship with George Augustus. Caroline, however, went out the back. A row of small reflecting ponds formed a quiet buffer between the front and the back half of the garden. Each was surrounded by a garden plot a little less austere than the parterres. Passing between two of these, she twirled round for a glance back at the Palace. On the parterres she had been exposed to view from any window. Now she was about to lose herself in the garden, and wanted to be certain, first, that she had been noticed. Indeed, a contingent of stable-hands had rushed together with a squadron of porters and footmen at the very head of the garden, where a pair of stairways curved down from the main floor of the Palace to the level of the ground. They were setting the stage for the ritual masque that was played every time Sophie emerged from her dwelling. Caroline only watched it until she noticed herself smiling.

She turned round again and plunged through a higher and darker barrier: a row of trees trimmed to form a wall as high as a house. In the back half of the garden, plenty of mature trees and dense hedges made it possible for her to phant’sy that she was a day’s ride from the nearest building. This part was loved not only by her and Sophie but even by George Louis, who at fifty-four still went riding along the surrounding path, imagining that he was out patrolling the wild marches of some frontier duchy. Here one’s lines of sight, and vectors of movement, were funneled into narrow clefts between stands of trees. Sounds carried oddly, or not at all. It seemed ten times the size of the front half.

A teeming buller had started up back in the woods. At first it might have been mistaken for a gust of wind becoming snared in the branches of the trees. But it grew relentlessly, and began to take on spattering and searing overtones. Somewhere far outside the boundaries of the garden, a man was hauling on a great wheel, flooding buried pipes that conducted Leine-water here. Caroline picked up her skirts and rushed to a nearby intersection of diagonal ways where she turned inwards toward the great round pool that stood in the center of the garden’s darker and wilder half. It had already been brought to a rolling boil. A vertical jet had emerged from a stone orifice in the center and shaped itself into a blunt probe, fighting its way upwards like a sailmaker’s needle pushing through a stack of heavy canvas. As it grew, it began to cast off a mantle of writhing vapor. From here, this looked almost like smoke generated by its rubbing against the air. The jet grew higher and higher until it seemed finally to reflect off the white sky (for the day had become overcast). There it shattered into an incoherent cloud of white spray. The whole garden now was suffused with the roar of the artificial tempest, perfecting the illusion that it was some wild and remote place. The clouds of mist hurled forth by this fountain spread outwards from the pool and infiltrated the corridors among the trees, blurring details of what was near and erasing what was more than a bow-shot away, so soon did things in this gleaming cloud lose their distinctness and fade into the darkness of the trees.

The land about the garden was flat, and provided no heights from which to spy down into it. There was a church-steeple nearby, with a black pyramidal roof that loomed like a hooded Inquisitor glowering down on the pagan spectacle below. Supposing anyone was watching from that belfry, by walking round the pool Caroline could vanish behind the upside-down cataract of the great fountain. By the same trick the gloomy spire was eliminated from her prospects and she was left perfectly alone.

The breeze was out of the south. It stretched the fountain-mist out into shimmering, rippling curtains that raced across the pool and rushed up the broad path that led directly to Sophie’s house. The Palace was visible indistinctly, as if seen in a befogged mirror. Caroline thought she could resolve a white frock on one of the stairways, and a white head of hair above it, and a white arm waving off the carriage that had been trotted out, and shooing away the offered sedan chair.

Sophie always told Caroline to stand in the mist because it was good for her complexion. Caroline had managed to get married and have four children notwithstanding all grievances that might be leveled at her skin. But she always tried to stand in the mist anyway because she knew it would please Sophie. It was cold on her cheeks, and smelled fishy. The sheets and vortices of mist looked like pages of ghostly books tumbling towards her. Over the pool they were so white and substantial she could almost read them. But once they hurtled past her they quickly paled and vanished, diluted by vacant air.

A man was standing near her at the rim of the pool. He was already too close. A stranger should never have been in the garden anyway! But she did not cry out, for he was very old. He was not looking at Caroline, but at the fountain. He was habited something like a gentleman, but no wig covered his bald pate and no sword dangled at his side. He was encompassed in a long traveling-cloak. This was no mere affectation of style, for the garment was rumpled and spattered, and the man’s boots had not been touched by a servant in weeks.

When he sensed that Caroline was looking his way, he reached into a cloak-pocket, drew out a gravid purse of crimson leather, and worried it open with parsimonious movements of his worn-out fingers. Out of it he plucked a large golden coin. This he flipped into the air above the pool. It shone, a yellow mote, for an instant before the silver torrent smashed it down into the pool.

“A penny for your royal highness’s thoughts,” the man said, in English.

“To me it looked like a guinea,” she returned. She was annoyed beyond words that this interloper was here; but she was well-brought-up, and would no sooner let her annoyance be known than George Augustus would fall off his horse while inspecting the royal guard.

The old man shrugged, then pulled the purse all the way open and turned it inside out with a thrust of his thumbs, disbursing a shower of golden guineas into the pool.

“A village could live on that for a year,” Caroline observed. “When you have excused yourself I shall have those coins taken up and put in the poor-box.”

“Then do you be prepared for your Lutheran vicar to send them back to you with a curt note,” the old man returned.

“To what effect?”

“He might write, ‘Your Royal Highness should save these artifacts and give them to paupers in England, where they have some worth, because the Sovereign says they do.’ ”

“This is a very odd conversation-” Caroline began.

“Forgive me. I come from people who are no respecters of royals. Our byword is the equality of all men before God. And so when a Princess inflicts upon me an odd, unlooked-for conversation, I cannot rest until I have sought her out and repaid her.”

“When and where did I do you this injury?”

“Injury? Nay, ’twas a sort of curious favor. When? Last October, though you must have set it in motion long before. Where? Boston.”

“You are Daniel Waterhouse!”

“Your humble and obedient servant. Oh, how it would goad my father to hear his son saying that to a Princess.”

“You deserve honors, Doctor, and all the comforts I can afford you. Why are you come to me in the style of a Vagabond? And why do you open with these queer remarks about guineas?”

Daniel Waterhouse was shaking his head. “Queen Anne has writ another of her letters to Sophie…”

“Oh, dear.”

“Or rather Bolingbroke has, and set it before the poor woman to paw her signature at the end. The letter has been sped hence by a delegation of Englishmen: a few Tories, to inflict the humiliation, and some Whigs, to suffer it. The former are grand and consequential-many who would be in Bolingbroke’s graces vied for few positions. But for the whipping-boy slots, there was very little enthusiasm shown, among Whigs. Rather, a few dried-up third-raters had to be herded aboard the ship at Tower Wharf, like so many Blackamoors on the Guinea coast. I construed this as an opportunity to come and repay my debt to your royal highness.”

“What, with guineas?”

“Nay, not a monetary debt. I refer, again, to when you surprized me in Boston with a queer and unlooked-for conversation, which led presently to sea-voyage and adventure.”

“It pleases me to be having the conversation,” Caroline said, “and to be sure, I should like nothing better than to be repaid with a sea-voyage and an adventure. But such things are for picaroon-romances. Not for Princesses.”

“You shall have the voyage soon enough, though it be nothing more than a Channel crossing. Once you set foot on English soil at Greenwich, an adventure-of what sort I daren’t guess-will be inevitable.”

“That much was true whether or not you came here,” Caroline said, “so why did you come? To see Leibniz?”

“He is not in town, alas.”

“It bears on the guineas, does it not?”

“It does.”

“Then by the same token it must have something to do with the man who makes them: Sir Isaac Newton.”

“Leibniz told me that you required little instruction-that you worked things out for yourself. I see that this was more than avuncular pride.”

“Then I am sorry to let you know I have come to the end of my deductions. I asked you to go to London. It pleased me very much that you did. You have sought out Sir Isaac there, and renewed your old acquaintance with him-this is praiseworthy.”

“Only in the sense that a geek at a fair is to be praised for swallowing a sword.”

“Pfui! To cross the Atlantic in winter and enter into the Lion’s Den is a Herculean labor. I could not be more pleased with what you have accomplished to this point.”

“You forget that I do not care whether you are pleased. I do nothing to earn your praise. I have undertaken this work simply because I phant’sy that my ends are akin to yours; and to those ends, you have provided me with some of the means.”

Caroline had to turn her face full into the mist to cool it now-like a red-hot iron that must be tempered in water lest it shatter in proof.

“I have heard that there were still men like you about England,” she said finally, “and it is good that I have now met you privily and in advance, lest I should spoil my first weeks there crying ‘Off with his head!’ several times each day before breakfast.”

“What is at issue today, is whether you, or George Louis, or Sophie, shall ever reign in England at all,” Daniel Waterhouse said. “Or will a Jacobite Mobb, or a Stuart King, cry off with your heads?”

This thought was less frightening than it was interesting. Princess Caroline quite forgot her anger, and entertained it. “Of course I am aware that England contains many Jacobites,” she said. “But the Act of Settlement has been the law of the land since 1701. Our right to the throne cannot really be in question, can it?”

“We decapitated Sophie’s uncle. I was there. There were sound reasons for it. But it brought unforeseen perils. It put the heads of Princes and Princesses into play, as it were, like kick-balls on a field, to be booted back and forth by whichever gang of players was most numerous, or most adroit. Do you believe what some say, that Sophie Charlotte was assassinated in Berlin?”

“We will not speak of it!” Caroline announced; and here she really would have ordered his head to be struck off if any guards had been in earshot. Or done the deed with her own hand, given a sharp object. Her rage must have showed, for Daniel Waterhouse now raised his white eyebrows, elevated his chin, and spoke in a voice that was so soothing and gentle that it dissolved like sugar in the murmur of waves along the pool’s edge.

“You forget that I know Leibniz, and that through him I shared his sweet love for that Queen, and his grief. Grief and anger.”

“He thinks she was poisoned?” This was one of the few topics Leibniz refused to discuss with Caroline.

“The manner of her death is not as important as the consequence. If half of what people say about her is true, she had made Berlin into a Protestant Parnassus. Writers, musicians, and scientists converged on the Charlottenburg from every quarter. But she died. Quite recently her husband went to join her. Where the former King of Prussia amused himself by attending the opera, the new one plays with toy soldiers…I see amusement on your face, your royal highness. Familial affection, I think this must be, for this cousin of yours who adores parades and goose-stepping soldiers. But to those of us who do not share in the family joke, it is dreadfully serious. For the war is over; most of the great conflicts have been sorted out; Natural Philosophy has conquered the realm of the mind; and now-today-as we stand here-the new System of the World is being writ down in a great Book somewhere.”

“The System of the World-that is the title of the book we have anticipated for so many years from Sir Isaac Newton. A new volume of Principia Mathematica…or am I mistaken?”

“Indeed. But I refer to a different unfinished work: mine and yours. We have lost Sophie Charlotte, and with her we have lost Prussia. I do not wish to lose you, and lose Britain. Those are precisely the stakes.”

“But this is why I have sought you out in Massachusetts!” Caroline protested. “I cannot manage a house divided between partisans of Leibniz on the one hand, and of Newton on the other. As German and British dominions are united under one crown, so German and British philosophy must be brought together under a grand unification. And you, Doctor Waterhouse, are the one-”

But she was speaking into a cloud. Daniel Waterhouse had vanished. Caroline looked far up the path to see a crone storming towards her with a letter whipping back and forth in one hand.

Sophie as usual moved at the pace of a dragoon. But the garden was large. Caroline would have a few moments, yet, to collect herself. She turned toward the fountain, for if shock were still written on her face it were better that Sophie not read it. But all told, she was not as rattled by the conversation just finished as the average Continental princess might have been. For as long as she had been in Hanover, strange people had been coming over from England, bearing cryptic messages and making odd requests. None of it made much sense to her, since she’d never visited the place. She and George Augustus had been invited to come over by some people called Whigs-a challenging term for Germans to pronounce-but some other English called Tories were dead set against their coming. It was all academic anyhow, since George Louis had forbidden his son and daugher-in-law to leave.

High above her head, where the towering water-jet surrendered to gravity, Caroline could see clumps of water that somehow held together even as the rest of the flow shattered. These could be seen as dark streaks against the incoherent spray. But those water-clumps came down with much greater speed and force than the dissipating clouds, and as they fell, each broke apart into a shower of smaller lumps that left spreading comet-trails behind. Swarms and squadrons of these comets raced down to the pool, messengers carrying strange information from above.

She strolled round until she was very close to where most of the plume struck the pond. The spray made a solid white hiss and roar, and her dress grew heavy as it stole water from the air. She tried to follow the comets. When they smashed into the foaming surface of the pond they made indistinct noises, like individual voices trying to shout messages in the midst of the Mobb. But whatever intelligence the comets were carrying down from on high was swallowed up by the pool. When the bubbles burst and the froth died away, nothing was left but the clear water of the pond, a bit choppy from the breeze. Caroline supposed that the information was still there to be decyphered, if she’d only stand and stare into the pool long enough. But all she could make out was a constellation of yellow speckles on the stone floor of the pool.

“This cannot be a coincidence.”

“Good morning, Grandmama.”

Sophie was staring at the coins. At eighty-three she had no difficulty seeing them without glasses. She could even tell heads from tails, and recognize the portrait of Queen Anne stamped into the former.

“I see that bitch going and coming,” she remarked.

Princess Caroline said nothing.

“It is a symbol, a sign,” the Electress of Hanover announced, “planted here by one of those horrid visiting Englishmen.”

“What do you think it signifies?”

“That depends on what you think of the English money,” Sophie replied. “Which is the same thing as to ask, is it worth anything?”

This, being oddly similar to some remarks made moments ago by the horrid visiting Englishman in question, caused Caroline to look away from the coins, and gaze into Sophie’s face. In order to do this Caroline had to look slightly down, for Sophie had lost a few inches of height. She had the loose skin that one would expect in a woman of that age, but this had lent to her eyes a marvelous clarity. The walls of Herrenhausen and of the Leine Schlo? were adorned with old family portraits, not only of Sophie and her sisters but of their mother. These women stared out from the canvases with arched brows, enormous eyes, and tiny mouths, seeing much and saying little. They were certainly not the first girls in a salon that an insecure young man would approach, and engage in conversation. Now Caroline knew as well as anyone that portraits of royals must be taken with a grain of salt. But the visage she was regarding now did not look all that far removed from the ones in those paintings. The eyes, the mouth were the same. More so the feeling of self-possession, of completeness, the sense that this woman was by no means standing around waiting to be joined, or wishing that someone would talk to her. The only changes were in clothing. Sophie, though never responsive to fashion, had adopted the fontange, a tall vertical screen of white lace that rose from the hairline, added some inches to her height, and kept her thinning white hair out of view, and out of the way of those wonderful eyes.

Caroline had a funny thought then, which was that Sophie and Daniel Waterhouse might be a match for each other. For he had great staring eyes too, and a disposition to match Sophie’s. They could threaten to chop each other’s heads off well into the Eighteenth Century.

“Have you spoken to any of the English? I mean the ones who have just arrived, not of the Braithwaite type.”

“Briefly.”

“Come, I wish to be away from those coins, and that woman,” Sophie said, turning her back on the pool and leaning towards Caroline, knowing that she’d find a strong arm there. The two women clasped together like halves of a locket and began to walk away from the pool’s rim. Sophie steered Caroline firmly in the direction she wanted. But she had nothing further to say for a little while.

This half of the garden was partitioned into quadrants, each of which was laid out around a fountain much smaller than the great one in the center. Small paths radiated from each of those fountains, sectioning each quadrant into several pie-wedges. Each of those wedges-thirty-two all told-had been made into a little garden-plot, and each was a bit different: some as clean and tidy as parlours, others as dark and overgrown as the Thuringer Wald. Sophie steered Caroline to one that was screened by a high wall of trimmed trees. Passing through a gap they found themselves in a pleasant green atrium with a little pool in the center, and stone benches around it. Sophie let it be known that she wished to sit on one of these-unusual since for her, a walk in the garden was precisely that.

“One of the English was using a funny word yester evening-‘currency.’ Do you know it?”

“It is the quality that a current has. They speak of the currency of the River Thames, which is sluggish in most places, but violent when it passes under London Bridge. It is just the same as our word Umlauf-running around.”

“That is what I supposed. This Englishman kept discoursing of currency in a way that was most fraught with meaning, and I thought he was speaking of some river or drainage-ditch. Finally I collected that he was using it as a synonym for money.”

“Money?”

“I’ve never felt so dense! Fortunately, Baron von Hacklheber is visiting from Leipzig. He was familiar with the term-or quicker to decypher it. Later I spoke with him in private and he explained all.”

“What an odd coinage.”

“You are too witty for your own good, girl.”

“The Englishmen cannot get away from this topic. Their relationship to money is most peculiar.”

“It is because they have nothing but sheep,” Sophie explained. “You must understand this if you are to be their Queen. They had to fight Spain, which has all of the gold and silver in the world. Then they had to fight France, which has every other source of material wealth that can be imagined. How does a poor country defeat rich ones?”

“I think I am supposed to say ‘the grace of God’ or some such-”

“If you please. But in what form is the grace of God manifested? Did piles of gold materialize on the banks of the Thames, as in a miracle?”

“Of course not.”

“Does Sir Isaac turn Cornish tin into gold in an alchemical laboratory in the Tower of London?”

“Opinions differ. Leibniz thinks not.”

“I agree with Baron von Leibniz. And yet all the gold is in England! It is dug up from Portuguese and Spanish mines, but it flows, by some occult power of attraction, to the Tower of London.”

“Flows,” Caroline repeated, “flows like a current.”

Sophie nodded. “And the English have grown so used to this that they use ‘currency’ as a synonym for ‘money’ as if no distinction need be observed between them.”

Caroline said, “Is this the answer to your question-how does a poor country defeat rich ones?”

“Indeed. The answer is, not by acquiring wealth, in the sense that France has it-”

“Meaning vineyards, farms, peasants, cows-”

“But rather to play a sort of trick, and redefine wealth to mean something novel.”

“Currency!”

“Indeed. Baron von Hacklheber says that the idea is not wholly new, having been well understood by the Genoese, the Florentines, the Augsburgers, the Lyonnaise for many generations. The Dutch built a modest empire on it. But the English-having no other choices-perfected it.”

“You have given me new food for thought.”

“Oh? And what think you? What think you now of our prospects, Caroline?”

To Sophie’s generation of royals, this question was shocking, absurd. One who was heir to a throne did not have to think about his prospects. Royal succession just happened, like the tide coming in. But it was different now; and Sophie deserved credit for having adjusted to this new state of affairs, where many of her contemporaries had passed from ignorance to indignation to senility.

Caroline answered: “I am pleased by the cleverness of this trick that the English have played, to win wars against their betters by tinkering with what wealth is. Because of it, I do not have to marry some inbred Bourbon, as poor Eliza did, and live out my days at Versailles, or in the Escorial. But I am troubled by the uncertainty that all of this brings. To paraphrase a wise man I know, it is as though a new System of the World has been drawn up. And not by us but by some strange Natural Philosophers in a smoky room in London. Now we must live by the rules of that System. But it is not perfectly understood; and I fear that where the English have played a trick with money, to gain a temporary advantage, some other trick might be played upon them to reverse the field.”

“Just so! And now you have come round to the meaning of Anne’s letter!” Sophie proclaimed, and flogged the parchment several times with her ivory fan. At the same time, the tree-wall behind them let out a gasp as it was struck by a fist of cold air. The wind had changed from south to west; new weather was coming; Herr Schwartz’s joints had not misled him. The tree-wall flexed toward them as if trying to spread shelter above their heads, and a dry sleet of brown leaves and twigs made the air and the ground restless with tiny itchings and fidgetings. Sophie-who of all persons was least disposed to take a fart for a thunderclap-paid this no heed whatever. Perhaps she was too absorbed in conversation to care. Or perhaps she was so comfortable in this place that she could not muster any sense of concern.

If Sophie did not wish to speak of the weather, ’twere hopeless, as well as rude, to force the topic, and so Caroline contented herself with gestures: she arched her back against the cool breeze, clasped her hands together on her knee, and glanced skyward. Then she responded, “The Queen’s letter has to do with money?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, she doesn’t know what money is. And would never write of anything so vulgar even if she did. The letter concerns family matters. Several paragraphs are devoted to your husband.”

“That is even more chilling to me than this recent change in the wind.”

“She refers to him by his English titles: Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton, Baron Tewkesbury,” said Sophie, reading the outlandish names from the letter with parched amusement.

“Now you are teasing me, by not reading what the letter says.”

“I am not teasing you but doing you a favor, dear heart.”

“Is it that bad?”

“It is the worst yet.”

“Has my father-in-law seen it yet?”

“George Louis has not read it.”

“My husband and I would be in England now,” Caroline complained, “and he would be sitting in the House of Lords, if George Louis merely had the backbone to let us go. Another such letter from Queen Anne only cows him all the more, and delays our departure another month.”

Sophie smiled, showing sympathy. “George Louis cannot read this letter if you and I get caught in a rain-shower, and the ink is dissolved.”

A cold drop came through the sleeve of Caroline’s dress and sent a thrill up her arm. She laughed. Sophie did not move. A raindrop pocked into the letter. “However,” Sophie continued, “you must not deceive yourself. My son won’t let you go to England, it is true. But this is not simply because Queen Anne hates the idea. George Louis has his shortcomings. No one knows this better than his mama. But spinelessness is not among them! He keeps you and George Augustus pent up in Hanover, because he is envious of his son-his poise, his battle-glory-and distrustful of his son’s women.”

“You mean Mrs. Braithwaite?”

Sophie flinched. “She is a dust-mote. Everyone knows that except you. You, Eliza, the late Sophie Charlotte, and I-the women who walk in the garden-are to George Louis like some witch-coven. He is appalled that his son and heir is comfortable among us, and shares intelligence with us. For this reason he will never give George Augustus, and you, leave to move to England. He may use this as an excuse-” and she held up the letter so that many collected raindrops, black with dissolved abuse, tumbled down over the Queen of England’s signature “-but you must never be deceived.”

A strong wind-burst came through now, and cracked a branch somewhere. All the rainwater that had gathered on the leaves above was knocked loose and rushed down around them. Sophie looked around herself for the first time, becoming aware that this might develop into something more than a June shower. Her starched fontange was beginning to wilt.

But now it was Caroline’s turn to be oblivious to weather. “When we sat down here you said that the letter had some import, having to do with currency-?”

“Not the substance but the tone of it,” Sophie returned, raising her voice to match the volume of the wind. “Her previous letters, you know, written after the Whigs invited your husband to England, were petulant. Bitter. But this one is-or was-written in a haughty tone. Triumphant.”

“Something has changed in the last month or two-?”

“That is what she believes, I fear.”

“She phant’sies we are never coming at all. She’s going to give the throne to the Pretender.”

Sophie said nothing.

“But the throne is not all hers to give away. Parliament has some say in the matter. What could have occurred in the last few weeks to give the Jacobites such confidence?”

“A blow has been struck against the currency. An interruption in the flow.”

“That is just the sort of thing I was talking about a moment ago.”

“Perhaps you are a witch, dear, with powers of divination.”

“Perhaps I receive unscheduled visits from ‘horrid Englishmen.’ ”

“Aha!” Sophie glanced in the direction of the great fountain.

“Something must have gone awry at the English Mint.”

“But Sir Isaac Newton has charge of the Mint! I have been studying it,” Sophie said proudly. “When I’m Queen of England we shall all go to the Tower of London and see it.” Then she slapped her knee, meaning it was time to get up. For it was absolutely raining now, and search parties had probably been sent out from the Palace. Caroline got to her feet and gave Sophie an arm, helping her up off the bench. Meanwhile Sophie went on, “Sir Isaac has reformed the English coinage, which was the world’s worst, and now it is the best.”

“But this proves my point! All you are saying is that English coins have an excellent reputation…Let’s get out of here.” Caroline led the way this time, ushering Sophie out the nearest gate and onto one of the radiating paths. But then she pulled up short. The way back to the Palace was not obvious, even to one who knew the garden well. Sophie sensed her hesitation. “Let us wait it out in the pavilion,” she decreed, inclining her ruined fontange toward a diagonal path that would conduct them to the edge of the garden, where a stone dome overlooked the canal.

Caroline did not favor this idea because it would take them to a distant and unfrequented corner, and the way was hemmed in by dense wooded plots that were black and opaque and loud in the rain.

“Don’t you think we should return to the great fountain? Someone should be looking for us there.”

“If someone finds us, we shall have to stop talking!” Sophie answered, very provoked.

That was that. They turned their backs on the fountain and entered into a cleft between stands of trees. “It’s only water,” Caroline said philosophically. But Sophie seemed to have had quite enough of it, for she yanked on Caroline’s arm and began pulling her onwards, trying to quicken their pace. Caroline let herself be pulled.

“I take your point,” Sophie said. “A coinage based upon silver and gold has a sort of absolute value.”

“Like Sir Isaac’s absolute space and time,” Caroline mused. “You can assay it.”

“But if value is based upon reputations-like stocks in Amsterdam-or upon this even more nebulous concept of flow-”

“Like the dynamics of Leibniz in which space and time inhere in relationships among objects-”

“Why, then, it becomes unknowable, plastic, vulnerable. For flow may have some value in a market-place-and that value might even be real-”

“Of course it is real! People make money from it all the time!”

“-but that sort of value cannot survive the refiner’s fire at a Trial of the Pyx.”

“What on earth is a Pyx?” Caroline asked. But no answer was coming. Sophie pulled sharply on her arm and at the same moment fell into her. Caroline had to bend her knees and whip her free arm round Sophie’s shoulders to avoid falling down. “Grandmama? You wish to go in this way?” She glanced at the dark stand of trees to the left side of the path. “You wish to visit the Teufelsbaum?” Perhaps Sophie had changed her mind, and wished to take shelter under the trees instead of going all the way to the pavilion.

Some sound came out of Sophie’s mouth that could not really be understood. The clatter of raindrops on leaves made it difficult to hear even well-spoken words. But this utterance of Sophie’s had not been well spoken. Caroline doubted that it was even words. Relying on Caroline for support, Sophie shuffled and hopped on one leg until she had brought them face to face with an iron gate. For the plot of the Teufelsbaum, the Devil’s Tree, was surrounded by a wrought-iron fence as if it needed to be kept in a cage.

Sophie nodded at the gate, then looked up at Caroline with a kind of lopsided sneer: half of her face pleading, the other half sagging and vacant. Caroline reached out for the handle of the gate. At the same moment that the cold wet iron touched her skin she knew that Sophie had suffered a stroke. For this was not the first half-paralyzed face Caroline had ever seen. The symptoms were more difficult to recognize in a face she knew so well and loved so much. For a moment she froze with a hand on the gate-latch, as if some spell had turned her own flesh to cold iron. She ought to go for help, to find the doctors.

But then Sophie did something telling, which was that she looked up and down the garden path, and she did it furtively. This from someone who had never been furtive in her life.

Sophie could not speak and could hardly stand up, but she knew what was happening. She was afraid of being seen. Afraid of being rushed to the Palace, bled by the surgeons, pitied to her face and mocked behind her back. Her instinct was to hie to the deepest and darkest part of the garden and to die there.

Caroline shoved the gate open and they stepped into the dark.

The Teufelsbaum was a curiosity that Sophie had brought back from the family holdings in the Harz Mountains: a worthless tree that crawled along the ground and climbed up things, with all the mass and might of a great tree, but the writhing habit of a vine, enclosing other things and growing round them. Its boughs twisted round and divided and forked and kinked bizarrely. The bends looked something like elbows and knees, and the smooth bark and sinewy shape of the wood made the whole thing look like unidentifiable limbs of strange animals, melted into one another. The woodcutters of the Harz hated it, and cut it back wherever they could, but here Sophie had given it leave to spread. Now the Teufelsbaum returned the favor by embracing Sophie and Caroline in its sinuous arms. Caroline settled Sophie down in a crook of the tree, up off the cold ground, and then sat on a flat place and cradled Sophie’s head in her lap. The rain-shower had now abated somewhat, or perhaps the leaves gentled it. Time became stretched and immeasurable as they listened to the rain, Caroline stroking Sophie’s white hair, and holding the one hand that had not lost its power to grip back. But the garden was a place of quiet and of relaxation. Presently Sophie relaxed her grip on Caroline’s hand, and on the world.

Caroline had a long list of questions she had been meaning to ask Sophie, concerning how to be a Queen. She could have asked them there under the Teufelsbaum, but it would have been tactless, and Sophie would not have been able to answer.

Or rather she couldn’t have answered with words. Her true answer, the one that mattered, had been arranged long in advance: it was this moment and this place. Sophie’s dying here was the last thing she said to Caroline.

“I am the Princess of Wales,” Caroline said. She said it to herself.

Westminster Palace


11 JUNE 1714

Resolved, Nemine contradicente, that the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution, That a Reward be settled by Parliament upon such Person or Persons as shall discover a more certain and practicable Method of ascertaining the Longitude, than any yet in Practice; and the said Reward be proportioned to the Degree of Exactness to which the said Method shall Reach.

-Journals of the House of Commons, VENERIS, 11° DIE JUNII; ANNO 13° ANN? REGIN?, 1714

IN WESTMINSTER, A HALL darkened Thames-

bank, like a load of gloaming spilt by a sloppy sky-god during the primordial rush to raise the vault of the stars. Efforts had been made to pretty it up, or at least screen it behind new work. The marshes from which it had upheaved had been filled and flattened to support the Hall’s contagions and encrustations. Some of these were styled as minsters, some as forts, others as houses-all mere words, since none was ever put to its builders’ purpose. A man debarking on that Bank and tunneling into the Pile, if he had a compass, and became not a-mazed in the gaudy labyrinth of out-buildings, might penetrate to the Hall.

It was empty. Oh, law-courts, screened behind plank barricades, had colonized the southern corners, and shop-stalls ran like baseboards along the sides, so that the persons who came and went through the emptiness could buy books, gloves, snuff, and hats. But these only pointed to the problematic immensity of the Hall; for what was the point of putting up a building so large that it could not be used until smaller buildings were erected within it? The carven angels at the ends of the out-thrust hammer-beams looked out on a tub of gray space. The bareness of the place, the splintery time-stained reach of its roof-timbers, betrayed it as a somewhat oversized Dark Ages Viking-Hall. Beowulf could have strode in to the place at any moment and called for a horn of mead. He would have felt and looked more at home there than any of the periwigged Persons of Quality who darted across its stone floor, nervously, like stoats trying to make it across a darkling sandbar before owls could stoop on them. The smaller buildings huddled against Westminster Hall, stealing integrity from its flying buttresses, were better suited for plots, machinations, skullduggery, and arcane rites: the timeless occupations of men. So into the peripheral warrens they scurried, abandoning the hall to those bleak angels.

If this grave void at the heart of Westminster had any purpose, it was like the empty chamber that made up most of a violincello. The strings, bridge, bow, and the player itself were all to the outside. Nothing moved, nothing happened in the dark cavity; yet none of it would work unless it were built around a central emptiness that held the parts in their proper relation to one another, and withstood the relentless pulling of the strings while sympathizing with their tiniest stirrings.

There was only one man on this day who did not quicken his steps to cross that floor. It was an elderly knight who had arrived at the north end of the place in a black sedan chair, and bid his porters let him off there. He alit near the pillory, where a fat man was being whipped, writhing and hopping as each new stripe decorated his back, but refusing to cry out. The old man from the sedan chair swung wide of the post so he wouldn’t be flecked by hurtling blood, and stepped into a gap between a pair of coffee-houses that had been troweled onto the ancient facade of the hall, nearly hiding its main entrance. He needed no wig, for his hair, though thin, still grew long and straight, and smallpox had left little mark on him. And he needed no powder, for his hair had been white as salt for half a century. He strolled the length of the Hall slowly, raising his protruberant eyes to meet the gaze of certain of those omniscient angels, paying others no mind. He glanced about from time to time, as if his ears could detect echoes and discern resonances to which all others were deaf. In time he reached the south end of the vault where traffic was funneled between the two makeshift law-courts. With a visible hardening of his face he forced himself into a dissolving noise beyond. He was gone from the Hall. Perhaps he had changed it in his passage, added some faint strain that echoed after he was gone, and echoes there still.

Tribes, clans, factions, sects, classes, houses, and dynasties had raised their standards, and seen them thrown down, in the Hall’s out-buildings for six hundred years. It was to Power what Covent Garden was to vegetables. No point in trying to follow the ins and outs, until you stepped over the threshold. At the moment, as for the past centuries, there was here a thing called Parliament, consisting of two parallel or alternate renderings named Commons and Lords, each the ground of an on-going war between Tories and Whigs, the sons and heirs of Cavaliers and Roundheads, the sons and heirs of Anglicans and Puritans, amp;c., amp;c. Each styled itself The Party and the other The Faction. Milling about in the gloom behind them, brandishing money and weapons, were descendants of ancient warlords, currently going by the names of Jacobites and Hanoverians. The battle itself was carried forward daily with words as many as granules of gunpowder on a battle-field.

The silver-haired knight had been summoned into a high-walled Gothick chapel that for quite some few years had been claimed, occupied, and defended against all comers by the body calling itself Commons. It was dominated by the Tories just now. His summoners were a committee or subset of Commons that happened to consist largely of Whigs. Why had a body of Tories suffered a band of Whigs to form a committee that could arrogate to itself the power to summon Knights into this hallowed Chapel that they used as their Clubb-house? Why, only because the subject of that committee’s deliberations was so abstruse, so recondite, and, in a word, so boring that they were only too pleased to let Whigs expend their powder on it.

“I HAVE BEEN made aware of four diverse Projects for discovering the Longitude,” said Sir Isaac Newton.

“Only four?” asked Roger Comstock, the Marquis of Ravenscar: a Whig, and the bloke who had invited Newton here. He belonged to Lords, not Commons, and was therefore a guest in this chamber. “At the Royal Society, it seems we are exposed to four a week.”

That Roger did not belong to this body at all, would seem to call in question the propriety of his having invited a stranger to come and address them. But he had many friends in the room willing to overlook this and other enormities.

“I know of only four, my lord, that are true in theory. Of the others I make no account.”

“Is that of Messieurs Ditton and Wiston among the fortunate four, or the phantastickal multitude?” asked Ravenscar.

Everyone in the chapel began barking like a dog except for him, Newton, and Messrs. Ditton (who had turned the color of a pomegranate seed, and begun moving his lips) and Whiston (whose eyelids thrummed like hummingbirds’ wings as sweat coursed in gleaming rills from under his wig and pincered in on the corners of his eyes).

“Their theory is as correct as their ambitions are feeble,” answered Newton.

The House of Commons became silent, not out of shock at Newton’s cruelty, but out of professional admiration. “Supposing their scheme could be executed-a supposition that might be debated, at the Royal Society, as long and as fiercely as the late War was in this House-I say, disregarding all of the practical difficulties entailed in their Project, and supposing it were effected by some latter-day D?dalus-it would not suffice to navigate across an ocean, but only to enable the most diligent mariners to avoid running aground, when they wandered close to a Shore.”

General amusement in the Chapel now, occasioned by the facial expressions of Messrs. Ditton and Whiston, who were no longer even putting forth the effort to be angry or agitated. They now looked as if they were resting on slabs at the College of Physicians, about halfway through their own autopsies.

Not partaking of the entertainment was the Marquis of Ravenscar, who had just been handed a slip of paper by a page. He opened and read it, and for only a moment looked as dismayed as Ditton and Whiston. Then he got the better of himself. Like the deaf dinner-guest pretending that he heard the bon mot, he adopted a knowing grin, and allowed the mood of the House to infiltrate his phizz. He glanced down to review the documents spread out on the table before him, as if he had forgotten the subject of this hearing and needed to jog his memory. Then he spoke: “Merely to avoid ramming the odd continent is a low bar. What of the other three Projects that are true in theory? For it seems to me that if such Herculean efforts are to be made to practice a scheme, they were better directed to schemes that should enable our sea-captains to discover the Longitude anywhere.”

Sir Isaac Newton’s answer comprised many many words, but contained no more than the following information: that one could do it by telling the time with an excellent sea-going chronometer, which no one knew how to make yet; or by watching the satellites of Jupiter through an excellent sea-going telescope, which no one knew how to make yet; or by looking at the position of the moon and comparing it against calculations derived from his, i.e., Sir Isaac Newton’s, lunar theory, which was not quite finished yet but would be coming out any minute now in a book. In the timeless and universal manner of authors conversing in public places, he did not fail to mention its title: Volume III of Principia Mathematica, entitled The System of the World, available shortly where books are sold.

The Marquis of Ravenscar only heard this peroration in its general outlines because he spent the whole time jetting notes onto scraps of paper and stuffing them into minions’ hands. But when his ears detected a lengthy silence, he said: “These, er, calculations-would they be similar to what are already used for finding latitude? Or-”

“Infinitely more complex.”

“Oh, bother,” said Ravenscar distractedly, still scribbling notes, like the naughtiest schoolboy in the entire history of the world. “I suppose every ship would then require an extra deck crowded with computers, and a flock of geese to keep ’em in quills.”

“Or else we should need every ship to carry an Arithmetickal Engine,” Newton returned. Then, not trusting the House to detect his sarcasm, he went on: “-a chim?rical phant’sy of the Hanoverian dilettante and plagiarist, Baron von Leibniz, which he has abjectly failed to complete lo these many years.” And it seemed as if Newton were prepared to enumerate the Baron’s defects at much greater length, but he was interrupted, and distracted, by the hot arrival in his palm of a note still damp from Ravenscar’s quill.

“So the lunar method too requires an apparatus we do not know how to make yet,” Ravenscar said, moving to sum up with an abruptness, a dispatch, that had not been seen in this House since the last time a Papist had tried to blow it up. The benches rustled with the stirrings of many expensively clad arses. A positive start was running through the Chapel.

“Yes, my lord-”

“And so it is your testimony that our ships shall persist in running aground and slaughtering our brave mariners until we shall learn how to make certain things we do not know how to make yet.”

“Yes, my-”

“Who shall invent these remarkable devices?”

“Projectors, entrepeneurs, adventurers, my-”

“What incentive could lead such a man to wager years of his life on attempting to devise a new Technology-if I may borrow a word from Dr. Waterhouse-that may turn out to be infeasible?” Ravenscar asked, standing up, and holding out his hand to let it be known that it was now permissible for someone to hand him his walking-stick. Someone did.

“My lord, some monetary-” testified Sir Isaac Newton, standing up as well-for he had read the note.

“A monetary prize-a Reward! To be awarded to such Person or Persons as shall discover a more certain and practical Method of ascertaining the Longitude? Is that your testimony? Yes? Sir Isaac, once again the Heavens resound with your brilliance and all Britannia gapes in awe at your lapidary ingenuity.” Ravenscar was crossing the floor while he thus orated, a novelty that roused to full wakefulness many a senior back-bencher who had lost, or never found, the faculty of walking and talking at the same time. “ ’Twere a crime to waste any more of the time of the world’s foremost savant on details,” Ravenscar proclaimed, arriving at Newton’s side and snatching his arm. “I have unbounded confidence that Mr. Halley, Dr. Clarke, and Mr. Cotes can bat down any further questions from Commons-as for myself, I have business with certain troublous Lords-I may as well see you out, Sir Isaac, as we go the same way!” By that time he and Sir Isaac were out the door, leaving a House of more or less dumbfounded Commons; Ditton and Whiston, half-murdered but still breathing; and the three lesser savants mentioned, who had been summoned as mere acolytes to the High Priest, and been left in charge of the Rite.

NEWTON NEARLY LOST AN ARM in the lobby of Commons, for he moved left-towards Lords-as Roger Comstock, the Marquis of Ravenscar, who had possession of the arm, moved right-towards Westminster Hall. “We are summoned by Lords,” Ravenscar explained, re-socketing Newton’s shoulder-joint, and trying it with a wiggle, “but not to Lords.” Dodging round a few bends and negotiating diverse stair-flights they came into the cleft between the two plank law-courts, and entered the great Hall again-just as devoid of Vikings, and strewn with inappropriate modern-day Englishmen, as ever. A man in quasi-genteel clothes browsed a bookshop, to let all the world know he was literate; a straw projected from his shoe, as a signal to barristers that he would give false testimony in exchange for money. A stirring in the air created a serial heaving down rows of sunfaded, smoke-stained, bullet-holed banners: the colors of French regiments that had been taken by Marlborough at Blenheim and other places. These had been hung on the walls to add a bit of color, and been promptly forgotten. A fair bit of noise was coming into the north end of the Hall from the New Palace Yard. The man who’d received the whipping there earlier had been left in the pillory, and a few score common Londoners had gathered in his sight, to fling handfuls of mud and horse-manure at his face in hopes that they might induce suffocation. This sort of thing was common enough in London that most persons could will themselves not to see it. Ravenscar, uncharacteristically, was gazing directly at the scene. His eyes were too old, and too far away, to resolve the details; but he knew what it was. “Ah, fortunate man!” he said wistfully, “if only I could trade places with him for the next hour!”

Newton straightened up and, prudently, slowed down. He glanced up and around as if wondering whether any of the over-looming angels had heard. “Where are we going, my lord?”

“Star Chamber,” Ravenscar announced, simultaneously tightening his grip on Newton’s arm lest these fell words cause the eminent Natural Philosopher to spin away and make a break for it. Sir Isaac did no such thing; but he was startled. He had expected that Roger Comstock would name one of the buildings of the Exchequer, which in recent decades had advanced far, and on a broad front, from the Hall’s northeast corner, so that they nearly filled the space between it and the River. Star Chamber, on the other hand, was small, and ancient; Kings of England had used to meet there with their Privy Councils. “Who has summoned us?” Newton asked.

As if the answer were self-evident, Roger said, “The Eel.” Saying out loud this mysterious epithet seemed to bring his concentration back. “We are only seconds away from the place. We could get more time by walking slowly; but I wish to stride into the place enthusiastically. The importance of this cannot be overstated. You must therefore listen carefully, Sir Isaac, as I’ll only have time to say this once.

“It seems,” Roger continued, “that I have only been given leave to distract myself with Longitude so that my honorable lord, Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, could prepare some sort of poppet-show. The invitation was sprung upon me while you were testifying. I am sure Bolingbroke would fainer have tied it round an arrow and shot it into my stomach, but such proceedings, though frequently seen in Lords, are still frowned upon in Commons. You, Sir Isaac, have been given a Backstage Pass to the poppet-show, which makes me suspect that you shall be called upon to play the lead role.”

Sir Isaac Newton now became quiet and still, which was his customary way of showing rage. “It is an affront. I came here to discourse of the Longitude. Now you say I am caught up in an ambuscade.”

“I beg of you, Sir Isaac, be anything but affronted. For it is when men become old and important, and peevish over the odd ambuscade, that they become most vulnerable to just such tactics. Be baffled, unconcerned, gay-what’d be best of all, sporting about it!”

Newton did not look very sporting just now. The portal to Star Chamber was now as large in Ravenscar’s sight, as the whale’s maw to Jonah. “Never mind,” he said, “be as affronted as you please-just don’t volunteer anything. If you see what appears to be an opening in debate, remember that it was ingeniously laid down in front of you by Bolingbroke, as coquettes drop handkerchiefs at the feet of men they would ensnare.”

“Has anyone ever actually done that to you, Roger?” They had been joined by Walter Raleigh Waterhouse Weem, a.k.a. Peer, who was, like Roger, a Whig Lord. “I’ve heard of the practice, but-”

“Nay, ’twas just a figure,” Roger admitted.

But this Weem/Comstock insouciance-in truth a sort of Yogic exercise to relax nerves-misfired in Newton’s case. “What’s the point of participating in a debate if I’m to disregard every opening?” he demanded.

“This is no more a debate than is Hanging Day at Tyburn Cross. Viscount Bolingbroke would be our Jack Ketch. Anything we are allowed to say shall be strictly in the nature of Last Words. Our reply, supposing we can muster any, shall consist of deeds not words, and it shall be delivered…outside…of…this…Chamber!” Roger timed it so that he stepped over the threshold at the moment he uttered the last word. Newton dared not respond, for the Chamber was crowded with Lords Spiritual and Temporal, Knights, Courtiers, and Clerks. And it was as silent as a parish-church when the vicar has lost his place in the middle of the sermon.

“SOMETHING MONSTROUS WAS MADE to happen in the Tower of London a month and a half ago.”

It was terribly unkind for Roger to have dubbed one of his fellow-men “The Eel.” And yet a visitor from another place and time, blundering into Star Chamber, not knowing any of the men in the place, would have been able to pick out the one Roger meant. Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, and Secretary of State to Her Britannic Majesty, was strolling about the open center of the chamber as he talked. All others were backed up against the walls, like so many small fry sharing a tank with something toothy and sinuous.

“London’s Persons of Quality-members of the Party and of the Faction alike-have done what they could to draw a curtain over the late events in the Tower, and to promulgate the sham that it was a momentary up-welling of the Mobb, quickly suppressed by the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard. A stable-fire on Tower Hill distracted the locals, and laid a smoke-pall over all-fortunate, that. It shall be writ down in history-books as a civil disturbance, if it is noted at all. But it would be a moral as well as an intellectual sin to mistake the events of April 23rd for anything other than a whited sepulchre. The matter must be investigated. Those responsible must be held to accompt. My lord Oxford, in his capacity as Lord Treasurer, has disappointed me by failing to do anything about it.”

This frank and frontal assault on his fellow Tory Lord was new. It created a buzz in the room. Bolingbroke held his tongue for a few moments, and let his gaze stray over the heads of some of the wallflowers. These reacted as if they’d been switched across the face by a horse-tail. Bolingbroke was not looking at them, however, but simply gazing in the general direction of the various offices, courts, and receipts of the Exchequer.

After that, Bolingbroke’s words poured out into a carefully maintained silence. Even men who were under attack (several of Oxford’s lieutenants had been shouldered to the front rank) said nothing. This was, in other words, no kind of Parliamentary proceeding. Depending on the diurnal velleities of Queen Anne, Bolingbroke was either the first man in England, or the second, after Oxford. Today he certainly believed he was first; he might have come here direct from the right hand of the Sovereign herself. Though Star Chamber was, like Commons and like Lords, an appendage of Westminster Hall, it had nothing to do with Parliament-which was a place to discuss things-and everything to do with Monarchy of the ancient, off-with-their-heads school. The murderous Court of Star Chamber had been abolished during Cromwell days, but this room still did service as a venue for the Privy Council to effect their plans and resolves-some dictated by primordial ceremonies and others improvised moment-by-

moment. This seemed to be one of the latter. In any case, no one spoke unless Bolingbroke asked him to; and he hadn’t asked.

“In the Tower of London is a place called the Mint,” Bolingbroke continued, allowing his gaze to slide over Newton’s face. Newton did not glance away-a detail, but a noteworthy one. Roger Comstock, or any other worldly man, would have advised Sir Isaac to lower his gaze, as this was thought to have a calming effect on mad dogs and Lords of the Council alike. But Newton spent most of his time in other worlds. Those aspects of this world considered most important by men like Ravenscar and Bolingbroke, Sir Isaac was most apt to find trivial and annoying.

Bolingbroke did not know Isaac Newton. Newton was a Puritan and a Whig, Bolingbroke a man of no fixed principles, but with the brainstem reflexes of a Jacobite Tory. Bolingbroke was one of those hommes d’affaires who had sought and obtained entry to the Royal Society because it was the done thing. Out of its recondite deliberations, certain Whigs such as Pepys and Ravenscar had summoned forth magic: Banks, Annuities, Lotteries, National Debt, and other eldritch practices that had conjured latent money and power from out of nowhere. One couldn’t blame a man like Bolingbroke for thinking that the Royal Society was, therefore, all about power and money. Newton’s abandonment of Cambridge for the Mint only confirmed as much. If Bolingbroke had known of Newton’s true reason for being at the Mint-if full understanding of Newton could have been inserted, whole, into the mind of Bolingbroke-it would have been necessary to carry Her Majesty’s Secretary of State out of the room on a door, and give him tincture of opium for days. As it happened, he assumed that Newton had taken the job because the highest thing a man could aspire to was to be a time-serving hack with a sinecure, a pompous title, and as few responsibilities as possible.

And now Newton was staring him directly in the eye. Only a few men in all of Christendom had the kidney for a staredown with Bolingbroke, and until this moment, Bolingbroke had thought he knew who all of them were. For this was his first encounter of any significance with Newton, and his first hint that Newton was at the Mint for reasons that were not obvious.

“How stand matters in the Realm of the Coin, Sir Isaac?” Bolingbroke inquired, manipulating his snuff-box-which gave him a pretext to break contact with Newton’s blood-freezing glare.

“Her Majesty’s coinage has never been more sound, my lord-” Newton began, then stopped as Ravenscar put a hand on the small of his back. Bolingbroke had spun away as if to hide from Sir Isaac, while exhibiting to a rank of his supporters an expression of surprise and mirth that had come over his face. For as any well-brought-up person ought to discern, Realm of the Coin was a play on words, a mere witticism, tossed out as a sort of ice-breaker, to establish a feeling of welcome and camaraderie, while giving Newton an opening to respond with a bon mot of his own. Newton had missed this, which showed lack of breeding, and taken it as a literal request for information, which showed he was oddly nervous, keyed-up, trigger-happy. Odd, that! Why so defensive? Bolingbroke took snuff and composed himself, then turned back around to face Newton-but not before all of these things had been communicated to the men standing behind him, and registered on their faces, visible to everyone else in Star Chamber. All were mortified on Sir Isaac’s behalf, except for Sir Isaac, who clearly just wanted to be asked questions so that he could answer them and get away from these people.

“Of course, Sir Isaac-more on that anon. I welcome you, and only wish that more Lords of the Council had not seen fit to attend you.” This as an aside between two players on a stage. Then, a straightening and clearing of the windpipe, and a soliloquy: “Her Majesty’s coins come out of the Mint. Her Majesty’s name and her noble visage are impressed upon every one of those coins. Coinage, therefore, has ever been a State, as well as a Treasury matter. Much as Charing Cross, over yonder, is neither the Strand nor Whitehall, but rather the crux and joint of the two, so coinage is a sort of con-fusion of State and Treasury. The Secretary of State has some interest in it,” Bolingbroke continued, meaning himself. “This marks the beginning, though ’tis far from being the end, of the public phase of the Secretary of State’s investigation. I have been pursuing it quietly for some weeks now, and had not intended to make it known so prematurely; but when I learned that Sir Isaac Newton, who has the honor to be Master of the Mint, was coming to Westminster to testify on some trifling matter ginned up by the fevered minds of the Faction, I resolved to invite him to this Chamber that his visit would not be a perfect waste of his time.”

Bolingbroke’s coiling movements about the room had now led him into a position whence he could gaze directly into Newton’s face across some yards of rather good wool carpet. “Sir Isaac,” he said, “my investigation has already established that you were absent from the Tower on the day of the assault. But no doubt your famous curiosity got the better of you when you returned and found that a small war had been conducted there while you were out. You must have looked into those events, asked questions of those who were there. What conclusions have you reached as to the true nature and purpose of the outrage?”

“My lord, it was an attempt-mostly successful, I am sorry to say-by a gang of Black-guards, very likely led by no less than Jack the Coiner himself, to steal the Crown Jewels,” said Sir Isaac Newton. Behind him, Ravenscar was wondering if he would get away with elbowing Newton in the throat to disable his voice-box.

“Perhaps it would help to clarify your mind as to that, if I told you that my investigators have already captured some of the Black-guards in question. Oh, they attempted to flee to Dunkirk in a boat that was overhauled and searched by a brig of the Royal Navy,” Bolingbroke explained, amused by Newton’s naivete, but tolerant for now. “The missing jewels were recovered. The men were kept apart and questioned separately. They have testified, to a man, that even when Jack the Coiner had gained the Inmost Ward, and held the Tower in the hollow of his hand, as it were, standing within bow-shot of the open and unguarded Jewel Tower, he did ignore the lure of those baubles, and held them of no value. Instead he made straightaway for the Mint, and went to the vault where the Pyx is kept.”

“That is absurd,” Newton said. “The Pyx holds but a few samples of pennies and guineas. The Crown Jewels are infinitely more valuable.”

“The theft of the Crown Jewels was an improvisation, carried out by ignorant pawns who never knew the true purpose of the assault. This much is proved by the ease with which those men were captured. I say that Jack the Coiner went to the Pyx.”

“And I hear you saying it, my lord; but I say nothing was stolen from that Vault.”

“Note the careful selection of words,” Bolingbroke mused aloud to a squadron of smirking Tory admirers. “Is this a sentence, or a mathematickal riddle?” Then he whirled to face a closed door, which led not to the exit but to an inner chamber. “Bring it in!” he commanded.

The door was heaved open by a page, revealing several men who had been loitering within. The biggest led them out. He was booted and spurred, and dressed very well, complete with a cape. Dangling on his breast was a silver medallion in the shape of a greyhound. Four other men, similarly got up, followed him, each holding an end of a pole. They looked almost like porters carrying a sedan chair, and this caused a frisson to charge through Star Chamber as everyone phant’sied that the Queen herself was being hauled out. But the burden of those poles was smaller, yet heavier, than the Queen. It was a boxy thing hidden under a velvet cape.

“You’ll all know Mr. Charles White,” said Bolingbroke, “Captain of the Queen’s Messengers. And, as of some weeks ago, provisional commander of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard, in relief of the disgraced Colonel Barnes.”

A murmur of diffident greeting welled up about the place and collapsed to silence as the four Queen’s Messengers set their mysterious fardel down in the center of the floor, directly between Newton and Bolingbroke. Charles White, who as the proprietor of a bear-baiting ring in Rotherhithe knew a few things about how to play on the anticipation of an audience, allowed a five-count to elapse, then stepped up smartly and whipped off the cape to reveal a black chest with three padlocks suspended from its hasps.

“As my lord commanded,” White said, “direct from the Mint in the Tower of London, I give you the Pyx.”

“OH, PRAY DON’T BE SO absurd, this is not a Trial of the Pyx!” Bolingbroke exclaimed some time later, when everyone had calmed down a bit, and stopped murmuring in one another’s ears. “As every man in this Chamber ought to know, a Trial would require the presence of the Queen’s Remembrancer, as well as the Lord Treasurer, who has not seen fit to be with us this day. Oh no no no. Quite absurd. This is not a Trial, but a cursory Inspection, of the Pyx.”

“Pray, what is the, er, procedure for such an inspection, my lord? It is a thing I have never heard of,” said Ravenscar. He was acting as a second for Newton, who was still unable to speak; or so Ravenscar guessed from the fact that beneath Newton’s thinning white hair his scalp was red, and covered with goosebumps.

“Of course you have never heard of it, for it is extraordinary. It has never been done before. It has never been necessary. For until recent times, the Pyx was always looked after by guards who could be trusted. To guard it has been a duty of the Tower garrison. Several regiments have had the honor. Of late it has been entrusted to the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards: a regiment that enjoyed flashes of distinction until my lord Marlborough quite lost his way, and quit the country. Under a Colonel Barnes it fell into degeneracy. He has been relieved of his commission. There is an old master sergeant of that Regiment, a Robert Shaftoe. This Chamber will no doubt be astonished to learn that Sergeant Shaftoe is none other than the brother or half-brother of one Jack Shaftoe, thought to be the same person as Jack the Coiner. In spite of which, this Robert Shaftoe was allowed-through a systematic dereliction of responsibility by Marlborough, extending over many years-to remain in the regiment, under the pretext that he had become estranged from Mr. Jack Shaftoe and had not seen him in many years. It is he, and others like him, who have been given charge of the Mint in general, and the Pyx in particular, since the war ended and their Regiment was brought home. After the events of April 23rd, as I have said, Colonel Barnes was relieved, and more recently Robert Shaftoe has been moved to new quarters. Oh, he still resides within the Tower, no longer in his accustomed billet. He has been given lodgings of a rather different character. There, he has had conversations with Mr. White. Thus far, these conversations have not been terribly illuminating-but I trust this will change, as Mr. White has shown himself to be a skilled and forceful seeker after the truth. Since these changes were put into effect, the Pyx has been safe from any tampering-I dare say, as safe as the Crown Jewels. But it is impossible to know what might have been done to it during the year that it lay bare to the irresponsibility, if not the outright depredations, of Colonel Barnes and Sergeant Shaftoe. And that is why we are gathered in this Chamber today for an event without precedent: an Inspection of the Pyx.”

“AND SO, TO SUM UP, I must confess that I too was absent during the onslaught of these Black-guards-

a shame that I shall never out-live,” said Charles White, who had just related, to an astonished Chamber, an improbable yarn about a wild goose chase down the River Thames: a venture that had been undertaken on the strength of assurances from Colonel Barnes and Sir Isaac Newton that it would culminate in the capture of Jack the Coiner, but that in fact had ended with a fire in a broken-down, abandoned coastal watch-tower, and a lot of confused and misled dragoons storming around in benighted mud-flats. A boat or two had been sighted, and pursued, until darkness had fallen. Sir Isaac had been rescued from a drifting wreck where he and another aged Whig Natural Philosopher had been found down in the bilge playing with a jack-in-the-box.

“Your sense of duty is an example to us all, Mr. White,” Bolingbroke protested, in a voice soaked with amusement over the concluding detail of the jack-in-the-box. “If you were misled, ’twas only because the Byzantine intrigues that were afoot on that day, are so alien to the mentality of an honest Englishman. Tell me, when you returned to the Tower, and found that indescribable scene, were you concerned as to the Crown Jewels?”

“Naturally, my lord, and hied thither straightaway.”

“Does anyone really hie nowadays?” asked Roger.

Perfect was the silence at his levity.

Charles White cleared his throat and continued. “Finding several of the jewels missing, I supposed, at first, that this explained all.”

“In what way, Mr White?” Bolingbroke inquired, now in a sort of friendly cross-examination mode.

“Good my lord, I reasoned that the Black-guards had been after the Crown Jewels, and that all of the day’s happenings in the Tower had been parts of their plan to steal them.”

“But you are using the past tense, Mr. White. Your opinions on the matter have undergone some change?”

“It was not until some weeks after, when some of the Black-guards were caught, and made to tell what they knew, that I began to perceive faults in that hypothesis.” He pronounced it wrong.

“But it seemed a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, didn’t it? No one would have found fault with it, had the prisoners not given us the information that Jack the Coiner evinced no desire to see the Crown Jewels.”

“It did indeed seem reasonable, my lord, or so I tried to tell myself for quite some little while; but viewed with a more critical eye, it does not hold up.”

“Why does it not, Mr. White?”

“The journey downriver, which I have just related, was, as my lord will have plainly seen, a diversion, meant to remove me and the first company of Guards from the Tower.”

“So it would seem.”

“It must therefore have been arranged, with some cunning and forethought, by some who were secretly confederated with Jack, and who would profit by the success of Jack’s undertaking.”

“A reasonable enough supposition,” Bolingroke allowed. Then he reminded White, “We look forward to a confession to that effect from Sergeant Shaftoe.”

“Consider it done my lord-but Robert Shaftoe is just a sergeant. A very senior one, true, but-”

“I do take your point, Mr. White. Perhaps Colonel Barnes ought to be questioned. He would have the authority-”

“Would have, my lord, but-and I have turned this over in my mind a thousand times-Colonel Barnes did never exercise any such authority on that day. I requested that he send a company on the expedition to Shive Tor, because, to hear Sir Isaac tell it, we would need a whole company, or more, to subdue the small army of Black-guards we would find there.”

“Mr. White. Certainly you are not accusing yourself of complicity!”

“Even if I did, my lord, ’twould never stand; for the record now shows that the true butt at which Jack the Coiner aimed his shaft was not the Jewels but the Mint-to be specific, the Pyx. And how would I benefit from some compromise of the Pyx?”

“How could anyone conceivably benefit from it?” Bolingbroke wanted to know.

“It is of no account,” Isaac Newton broke in, “as the Pyx was never compromised!”

“Sir Isaac Newton! We’ve not heard from you yet. For the benefit of those here who have never seen the Pyx, would you be so good as to explain its workings?”

“It would be my pleasure, my lord,” said Newton, stepping forward, eluding the hand of the Marquis of Ravenscar who had groped forward, out of some instinct, trying to yank him back from the abyss. “It is closed by three locks-all three must be removed for the lid to be opened. The top, as you can see, is fashioned with a hatch, devised in such a way that a small object may be deposited into the Pyx without opening the locks. But it is impossible for a hand to reach in and remove any object.” Newton operated the mechanism, letting everyone get a look at a pair of swinging doors rigged just as he had claimed.

“How is the Pyx employed at the Mint?” Bolingbroke inquired, accurately feigning the sort of elevated curiosity that was good form at Royal Society meetings.

Newton responded in kind. “Of every lot of coins that is minted, some are plucked out, and deposited. I shall demonstrate, behold!” Newton opened his own coin-purse and spilled a guinea and some pennies-freshly minted, of course-onto his hand. He borrowed a sheet of foolscap from a clerk, laid it on the Pyx, arranged the coins in the center of the page, and then rolled and folded the paper around the money to make a neat little packet. “Here I have done it with paper-at the Mint we use leather. The Sinthia, as we call this little packet, is sewn shut. The worker writes on its outside a notation as to when the sample was taken, and stamps it with a seal, kept for that purpose alone. Then-” Sir Isaac slipped the Sinthia into the Pyx’s hatch, and tripped the mechanism. It vanished and dropped within.

“And from time to time, as is well known to that scholar of all matters monetary, my lord Ravenscar, the Pyx is brought hither to the Star Chamber by order of the Privy Council,” Bolingbroke said, “and opened, and its contents assayed by a jury of goldsmiths drawn from the most respectable citizens of the City of London.”

“Indeed, my lord. Anciently it was done four times a year. Of late, less frequently.”

“When was the last Trial of the Pyx, Sir Isaac?”

“Last year, my lord.”

“You say, ’twas around the time that the hostilities on the Continent ceased, and the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard returned to garrison the Tower.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And so the Pyx, as of April 22nd, contained samples of all lots of coins minted during the months that the Black Torrent Guard controlled the Tower.”

“Er, indeed, my lord,” said Newton, wondering what that had to do with anything.

Bolingbroke was only too happy to lead him out of his confusion. “Mr. Charles White is of the view that those who were responsible for the assault on the Tower, phant’sied that they could somehow benefit more from compromising the Pyx, than from stealing the Crown Jewels! How could such a thing possibly be, Sir Isaac?”

“I do not know, my lord, and I hold it to be idle, for the Pyx was never compromised.”

“How do you know that, Sir Isaac? Jack the Coiner might have spent as much as an hour with it.”

“As you can see, it is sealed with three padlocks, my lord. I cannot attest to the other two, for one is the property of the Warden of the Mint and the other belongs to the Lord Treasurer; but the third is mine. There is only one key to that lock, and I am never without it.”

“I have heard that there are men who can open a lock, without a key-there is a word for it, they say.”

“Lock-picking, my lord,” someone said helpfully.

“Trust a Whig to know such a thing! Could Jack have ‘picked’ the locks?”

“Locks such as these, perhaps,” answered Newton, passing his hand over two of them. Then he turned his attention to a third, much larger and heavier. He hefted it like Roger Comstock cupping one of his mistress’s breasts. “To pick this one is almost certainly impossible. To pick it and two others in an hour is absolutely impossible.”

“So a clever fellow could get the Pyx open in an hour, if he had your key, by ‘picking’ the other two locks. But without your key-impossible.”

“Just so, my lord,” said Newton. He was distracted by violent stirrings in his peripheral vision, and glanced over to see Roger Comstock now frantically waving his hands about and drawing his finger convulsively across his throat. But Newton seemed to take these gestures as an inexplicable roadside mum-show.

Bolingbroke noticed, too. “My lord Ravenscar has imbibed too much coffee again and come down with the spasms,” he guessed. Then he turned his attention back to Newton. “Pray take your impregnable lock away, Sir Isaac.” He turned around and gestured at a pair of fellows who were standing together in a corner, each nervously fingering an elaborate key. “The Warden of the Mint has joined us,” Bolingbroke said, “and even the Lord Treasurer has deigned to send a representative bearing his key. We would view the contents of the Pyx.”

It was three-quarters filled with a jumble of leathern packets. Newton’s paper-packet had tumbled down into a corner. He bent down to retrieve it; and though Newton was oblivious to this, others in the room noted that the eyes of White and Bolingbroke tracked every movement of Newton’s, as if they were expecting to catch him out in some sleight-of-hand.

“Is this what you expected to see when the lid was opened, Sir Isaac?” asked Bolingbroke.

“It appears to be in order, my lord.” Newton reached into the Pyx a second time, plucked out a Sinthia, glanced at it, and dropped it back in. He plucked out another. This time, he hesitated.

“Is everything quite all right, Sir Isaac?” Bolingbroke inquired, the soul of gentlemanly concern.

Sir Isaac raised the Sinthia higher, closer to window-light, and turned it this way and that.

“Sir Isaac?” Bolingbroke repeated. The Chamber was very still. Bolingbroke flicked his eyes at the Warden of the Mint, who stepped forward and stood on tiptoe to peer over Sir Isaac’s shoulder. Newton had frozen.

The Warden of the Mint’s eyes widened.

Newton dropped the packet into the Pyx as if it had caught fire. He staggered back, towards the Marquis of Ravenscar, like a blinded duellist seeking refuge among his friends.

“My lord,” explained the Warden, “something’s a bit queer about that last packet. The handwriting-it looked forged, somehow.”

Charles White raised a knee and kicked the lid of the Pyx. It closed with a boom like a cannon-shot.

“I say that the Pyx is evidence in a criminal matter,” Bolingbroke proclaimed. “Put the locks on it again, and bring out my seal. I shall set my seal on this evidence to show any further tampering. Mr. White shall return the Pyx to its customary station and use in the Tower but he shall keep it under heavy guard, twenty-four hours a day. I shall bear these tidings to the other Lords of the Council. We may safely presume that the Council will order a Trial of the Pyx forthwith.”

“Good my lord,” said Peer, stepping forward, “what evidence suggests that such tampering occurred? The Warden has asserted that one of the packets looked a bit queer, but this hardly constitutes proof. Sir Isaac himself has said nothing at all.”

“Sir Isaac,” said Bolingbroke, “what is perfectly clear to most of us, is impenetrable to this Whig. He requires evidence. No man is more eligible to testify in such a matter than you. Is it your testimony, before this assembly, that all of the coins in this Pyx were minted in the Tower, under your direction, and placed therein by your hand? I remind you that every coin in the Pyx is subject to assay during a Trial, and that you are under an indenture to Her Majesty; the consequences of a failed Trial are severe.”

“By ancient tradition,” said Roger Comstock behind his hand, “false coiners are punished by amputation of the hand that did the deed, and castration.” From anxiety he had moved on briefly to horror; but now from horror to fascination.

Newton tried to answer, but his voice did not work for a moment, and only a bleat came out. Then he swallowed, grimacing at the pain of swallowing, and got out the words: “I cannot so testify, my lord. But without a more thorough examination-”

“There shall be one anon, at a Trial of the Pyx.”

“I beg my lord’s pardon,” said Peer, who had out of some blind herd instinct blundered out to act as scape-goat for his entire Party, “but why bother to have a Trial of the Pyx, if the Pyx has been tampered with?”

“Why, to get all false coins out of it, so that we shall know that all coins put in thereafter shall be genuine samples of the Mint’s produce-and not frauds put in as a desperate gambit to hide long-standing flaws in the coinage!”

“The poetry of it!” Roger exclaimed, though these reflections were concealed under a hubbub, the sound of Parties and Factions mobilizing and arming. “Sir Isaac dares not assert that the Pyx is clean, for fear that Jack may have salted it with debased coins-which would be found out at the Trial, and laid to Sir Isaac. To save his hand and his balls, he must admit that it has been compromised; but in doing so, he calls his own coins into question, and names himself as a suspect in the assault on the Tower!”

“My lord,” said a Tory, “it is suggested that a year’s coin-samples are now simply gone-stolen by Jack the Coiner! If that is so, how can we gauge the present soundness of Her Majesty’s coinage? Our enemies in the world shall say that the Mint has spewed out false and debased guineas for a year or more.”

“It is a question of extraordinary gravity,” Bolingbroke allowed, “and I say that it is a State affair, since the security of our State is founded on Trade, which is founded upon our currency. If it is true that the conspiracy has deprived us of our Pyx, why then we can only prove the soundness of our money by collecting samples of coins that are in circulation, and bringing them in for assay.”

Ravenscar had told Newton not to pick up any handkerchiefs dropped in his way by Bolingbroke: advice that Newton, with the serene confidence of a man who had nothing to hide, had steadfastly ignored. Now was not the time for him to mend his ways. “But my lord, I protest!” he said, “there is a reason why the method you have just described is never used, and it is that a sampling of coins in circulation shall perforce include a number-an unknowable number-of counterfeits, slipped into circulation by the likes of Jack Shaftoe. ’Twere unfair and unreasonable to lay at my feet an assay of counterfeits!”

Bolingbroke seemed impressed by Newton’s sheer consistency. “Sir Isaac, as a part of my investigations, I have read an Indenture with your name on it, kept under lock and key in the Cloisters of Westminster Abbey, just across the way. We can stroll over and have a look at it, if you should like to review its contents. But I can tell you that, in this solemn contract, you are sworn to pursue and prosecute coiners. Until now I have assumed that you were tending to your duties. Now you astonish this Chamber by testifying to the contrary! Tell me, Sir Isaac, if we make an assay of circulating coins, and discover that they are rife with base metal, is it because you have failed in your duty to prosecute coiners? Or is it because you have debased the coinage produced by the Mint, to enrich yourself and your Whig backers? Or did you debase the coinage first and then allow coiners to flourish in the Realm, so as to cover your traces? Sir Isaac? Sir Isaac? Oh well, he has quite lost interest.”

In fact, Sir Isaac had lost consciousness, or was well on his way to it. During the last speech of Bolingbroke he had gradually softened and crumpled to the floor of Star Chamber, like a candle placed in an oven. He was breathing fast, and his extremities had gone into violent trembling, as if he were having fever-chills; but the hands pressed to his forehead felt a dry and cool brow and thumbs touched to the base of his heaving neck were drawn back in alarm at the furious drum-beat of his pulse. He was not so much sick as seized in an unstoppable paroxysm of mad, animal terror. “Get him into my coach,” commanded Roger Comstock, “and take him to my house. Miss Barton is there. She knows her uncle well, and she shall tend to him better than-God forbid-any physician.”

“You see?” Bolingbroke was remarking to Charles White, who was standing at his side, in the role of wide-eyed ’prentice a-gawp at the Master’s skill. “It is not necessary to bite their ears off. Oh, this is nothing. I have seen others drop dead in their shoes. One needs an apoplectic for that.” He seemed ready to offer up more advice in this vein, but his attention was drawn by the Marquis of Ravenscar, standing serenely on the opposite side of the Chamber as other Whigs bent their backs to the very odd job of dragging out Isaac Newton. Ravenscar held out a hand. Someone slapped a walking-stick into his palm. He hefted it. Charles White, anticipating physical violence, took half a step forward, then realized he was being absurd, and brought his hands together in front of his silver greyhound medallion, absent-mindedly rubbing at an ancient dagger-scar that went all the way through one palm. Bolingbroke merely elevated an eyebrow.

Roger Comstock raised his walking-stick until it was pointed up at the starry ceiling, and brought the butt of it to his face, then snapped it down briskly. It was a swordsman’s salute: a gesture of respect, and a signal that the next thing to come would be homicidal violence. “Let’s to the Kit-Cat Clubb,” he said to Peer and a few other Whigs who had not yet been able to get their feet to move. “Sir Isaac has the use of my coach; but I am in a mood for a walk. God save the Queen, my lord.”

“God save the Queen,” said Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke. “And do enjoy your walk, Roger.”

Garden of Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover


JUNE 23 (CONTINENTAL)/12 (ENGLISH) 1714

“I LOVE YOU.”

“I loaf you.”

“I love you.”

“I lubb you.”

“That’s not quite it.”

“How can you tell? This ‘I love you’ strikes my ear like the sound of a tin sheet being wobbled. How can I say ‘ich liebe dich’ with such noises?”

“To me you can say it any way you please. But you need to work on certain vowels.” Johann von Hacklheber raised his head out of Caroline’s lap, faltered-his ponytail had snagged in a pearl button-worked it free, sat up, and spun around on the bench so that he could get face to face with her. “Watch my lips, my tongue,” he said. “I love you.”

There the English lesson ended. Not that the pupil had failed to observe the master’s lips and tongue. She had done so most attentively-but not with a mind towards improving her vowels. “Noch einmal, bitte,” she requested, and when he arched his sandy eyebrows and opened his mouth to pronounce the “I,” she was up and on him. His lips and tongue went through the movements for “love,” but Caroline felt them with her own lips and tongue, and heard not a thing.

“That was much more informative,” she said, after a few more repetitions of the etude.

His ponytail was coming undone, which was largely her doing, for she had her hands to either side of his head and was tugging blond locks free from the black ribbon that bound them in back, bringing him into a state of beautiful deshabillement. “They say that your mother was the loveliest woman in all of Versailles.”

“I thought that honor was reserved for the King’s brother.”

“Stop it!” She gave him the tiniest tap on the cheek-bone. “I was going to say, she gave her looks to you.”

“What are you going to say now?”

“I am about to ask where you got your wit from, for it is not as pleasing to me.”

“I do beg your royal highness’s forgiveness. I did not know that you had such affection for the late brother of the King of France.”

“Think of his widow, Liselotte, who lives still, and who exchanged letters almost every day with the lady we are laying in her tomb today.”

“The connexion was so tenuous I-”

“No connexions are tenuous on a day such as this. All Christendom mourns for Sophie.”

“Excepting certain drawing-rooms in London.”

“For this one day, spare me your wit, and let me enjoy your looks. You need a shave!”

“The Doctor must have taught you about solstices and equinoxes.”

“What does that have to do with shaving? Behold, if I were wearing gloves, they should be snagged and ruined by these boar’s bristles!” She dug a thumb in along his jaw-line and shoved the skin up to his cheek-bone. No longer did he look like the son of the most beautiful woman in Versailles, and no longer were his vowels perfectly formed when he said, “A tryst in the garden at dawn’s first light is a romantic conceit, and I do confess that this peachy morning-light makes your face more radiant than any flower, and more succulent than any fruit-”

“As it sets your golden mane, and your spiky hog-bristles, aglow, my angel.”

“However, as we dwell at above fifty degrees of latitude-”

“Fifty-two degrees and twenty-odd minutes, as you’d know, if the Doctor had drilled you as he did me in the use of the back-staff.”

“In any case, given that we are within a few days of the Solstice, ‘dawn’s first light,’ at this latitude, works out to something like two o’clock in the morning.”

“Pfui, it’s not that early!”

“I note that your Ladies of the Bedchamber have not had a crack at you yet-”

“Hmph.”

“Which suits me very well,” Johann added hastily, “as powder, lacings, and beauty-spots can only detract from one who is perfect to begin with.”

“ ’Twill be double powderings and lacings this day,” Caroline lamented. “The usual one, that I may receive our noble and royal guests, and a second, for the funeral.”

“It is well that you have a sturdy husband to take the brunt of the ceremonies,” Johann reflected. “Stand behind him, fan yourself, and look bereaved.”

“I am bereaved.”

“You were, and are becoming less so by the day, I think,” Johann said. Which was not the gentlest thing he could have said. But he had spent enough time among royals to know their heart-ways. “Now your mind has already begun to turn elsewhere. You are getting ready for the burden to fall on your shoulders.”

“I wish you had not reminded me. Now the mood is spoiled.”

Johann von Hacklheber got to his feet. He was careful to take Caroline’s hand in his own first, and to keep it clasped. “Oh, I’m afraid the morning was ruined for me before it began. I have an extraordinary engagement. One that I could not get myself out of by pleading, ‘I am very sorry but I shall be busy at that hour cuckolding the Prince of Wales.’ ”

She smiled, though she tried ever so hard not to. “He’s not technically the Prince of Wales yet. We have to go to England and get coronated.”

“Crowned. Try pronouncing that-it’s got a W in the middle of it. I shall see you in a few hours, my lady, my princess.”

“And-?”

“My lover.”

“Fare well on your mysterious errand-my lubber.”

“Oh, ’tis nothing-just an insomniacal Englishman who wants to go for walkies.”

“Val-kees?” Caroline repeated. But Johann had tossed the troublesome word over his shoulder as he unlatched an iron gate, and stepped out into an avenue of the great garden. All she heard after was the clank of the gate closing, and the diminishing crunch-crunch of Johann’s boots on the gravel path. Then she was alone under the writhing limbs of the Teufelsbaum.

She had not mentioned to Johann that this was the place where Sophie had died. She had been afraid that having such a thing in his mind would make him less amorous. Perhaps she needn’t have worried, for nothing seemed to make men of his age (he was twenty-four) less amorous. As to herself, she had lived through the deaths of her father, her mother, her stepfather, her stepfather’s wicked mistress, her adopted mother (Sophie Charlotte), and now Sophie. Death and disease only made her more amorous-eager to forget the bad parts of life and to enjoy good flesh while it lasted.

Now she distinctly heard another gravel-crunch. It seemed to come from one of the triangle of paths that outlined this plot where the Teufelsbaum grew in its iron cage. Her hope that Johann had changed his mind was evanescent, for the first crunch was not followed by a second. After a rather long time she did hear another, but it was faint and prolonged, as if a foot were being placed very cautiously. This was followed by a “Ssh!” so distinct that she turned her head around to look.

Everyone who mattered knew that Caroline’s husband had a mistress named Henrietta Braithwaite, and anyone who bothered to ask around could find out that Caroline had her Jean-Jacques (which was the pet name that she used for Johann). As a setting for trysts, intrigues, and tiptoeing about, the Grosse Garten almost aspired to the level of Versailles. So it was not as if Caroline had any great secret to keep here. She was not worried about eavesdroppers. Of course there were eavesdroppers. This was, rather, a point of etiquette. For such persons to be audibly shushing each other, a few yards away, was like farting at dinner. Caroline inhaled deeply and fired off a sharp sigh. That should fix them!

But she’d never know whether the message had struck home, for now iron wheel-rims, and the shoes of a four-horse team, could be heard above all else. This team was coming her way, and the horses were blowing as if very tired. Had they been driven all night? If so, they weren’t the only exhausted horses hereabouts. The nobility of Europe were converging on Herrenhausen, using Sophie’s funeral as an excuse to stage a reunion of the largest, most bizarre, violent, and incestuously cross-linked family in the world. Caroline had scarcely been able to sleep last night for all the nocturnal arrivals.

She rose from the bench. Through the tree-limbs she glimpsed a couple of tawny blurs loping down the path. “Scylla! Charybdis!” called a gruff voice, and they stopped.

Stepping away from the bench and ducking under a low-hanging bough, Caroline saw a pair of large dogs, panting and drooling. She was protected from them by the iron fence, and saw no danger in moving closer, picking her way over Teufelsbaum-limbs that undulated along the ground, unable to decide whether they were roots, branches, or vines. Along the path came the team-four matched sorrels-and behind them a black carriage, once shiny, now dusty all over. Mud-comets radiated from the wheels and lashed the polished wood. Nevertheless she could make out the arms on the door: the Negro-heads and fleurs-de-lis of the House of Arcachon quartered with the gray pinnacle of the Duchy of Qwghlm. Above that, an open window. Framed in it, a face strikingly similar to the one she’d been kissing a few minutes earlier-but without the bristles.

“Eliza!”

“Stop here, Martin.”

Eliza’s face was now blocked from view by a spray of leaves, but Caroline could hear the smile in her voice. Martin-evidently the driver-reined in his team. Their gait collapsed and they pocked gradually to a stop, taking the momentum of the carriage in the breeching straps slung round their backsides.

Caroline had by now advanced to the iron fence. The Teufelsbaum had been pruned back from it, leaving a clear space for the gardeners to walk the perimeter. Caroline hurried along for some yards, letting her hand count the iron verticals, in case her gown-hem should snag on a shrub and trip her.

A pair of footmen had clambered down from their perch on the back of the carriage, moving as if splints had been bound to their arms and legs. No telling how long they had been standing there, hands stiffening round the railings as they held on for dear life. Eliza lost patience with them and kicked the carriage door open. The edge of it nearly sheared off a footman’s nose. He recovered in time to set down a wee portable stair and assist the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm down to the path-though to be honest it was not so obvious who was assisting whom. The mastiffs Scylla and Charybdis had circled back. They had planted their eyes on Eliza, and their butts on the path, where they were sweeping out neat gravel-free quadrants with their tails.

Eliza was dressed for mourning, hard travel, or both, in a dark grim frock, with a black silk scarf over her head. She was in her mid-forties, and if she were starting to gray, it was not easy to tell, as she had been light blond to begin with. An attentive observer-and this Duchess had many-might phant’sy that the gold was now alloyed with a small proportion of silver. The skin around her eyes and the corners of her mouth gave a fair account of her age.

The number of her male admirers had not diminished over the years, but their nature had changed. When she’d been an eligible mademoiselle at Versailles she had caught the eye of the King and been pursued round the place by a horde of lust-blind fops. Now, having passed through marriage, maternity, smallpox, and widow-hood, she was the kind of woman that important forty-, fifty-, and sixty-year-

old men were always talking about in hushed corners of Clubbs and Salons. From time to time one of these would screw up his courage, sally forth from his redoubt, and buy her a chateau or something, always to retreat, defeated but not humiliated, honorably scarred, and ennobled in reputation, clustered around by other gentlemen who desperately wanted to know what had happened. To be spurned by a lady who was rumored to have bedded the Duke of Monmouth, William of Orange, and Louis XIV was to enter into a sort of communion with those figures of legend.

None of which mattered to Caroline, of course, for Eliza never spoke of it, and when the two of them were together, it was of no account to either one of them. But when they were in the company of others-as they would be for most of the day-she had to forcibly remind herself of it. To Caroline the reputation of Eliza was nothing, but to others it was all.

“I’ll walk in the garden with her royal highness, Martin,” Eliza called. “Drive to the stables, tend to the animals, and tend to yourself.”

It was not entirely usual for ladies of Eliza’s rank to be so concerned with such minutiae; but she had much concern for details, and little for class. If Martin was surprised he didn’t show it. “My lady,” he answered placidly.

“Our grooms and stable-hands will see to the animals-you may tell them I have said so,” said Caroline. “You look after yourself, Martin.”

“Your royal highness honors me,” said Martin. He sounded weary-not of the long night drive, but of noble and royal ladies who phant’sied he was incapable of looking after his own horses. He allowed the team to move forward, taking up the slack in the harness. The two footmen, finally unlimbered, sprang back to their perches, and the dogs began to whine, not knowing which group to follow. Eliza silenced them with a glare and Martin summoned them with a grunt.

“Let’s to the gate, and not converse through bars of iron,” Caroline said, and began to walk in the same direction as the carriage was moving. Eliza walked abreast of her on the gravel side of the fence. They were separated by an arm’s length, but the Princess was on a march through the forest while the Duchess strolled on a groomed path. “You couldn’t possibly have come all the way from London-?”

“Antwerp.”

“Oh. How is the Duke?”

“He sends his respects, and his condolences. He was a great admirer of Sophie, as you know, and much desired to attend her funeral. But the late reports from London are most troubling to him and he did not wish to put himself so far out of his countrymen’s reach.”

They had come to the gate. Caroline reached for the latch but Eliza was quicker; she got it open and stepped through it decisively, closing with Caroline and flinging her arms round the taller woman’s neck with a kind of passion, even abandon. A very different thing from the restrained and courtly greetings that would fill the rest of this day. When she let go, which was a good long time later, her cheeks, which were devoid of any powder or rouge, were shiny with tears.

“When I was a girl of some sixteen years, I was sorry for myself, and angry at the world, because I had been separated from my mother, first by Slavery and then by common Mortality. Now, as I reckon the sum of your losses, I am ashamed that I ever so indulged myself.”

There passed a moment when Caroline said nothing. This was partly because she was touched, and almost embarrassed, by this bold statement from a woman so renowned for wit and discretion. It was also partly because of a noise behind her. Martin had gotten his team to negotiate the sharp turn at the plot’s acute vertex, which had not been easy, and was now rumbling along another side, not far away.

“Sometimes I think that I am the sum of my losses,” Caroline finally said. “And if so, then every loss that I suffer enlarges me. I hope my discourse does not strike you as too grim,” she added, for a little sob-shudder had run through the Duchess’s body. “But this is how I make sense of my world. And if you must know, in some moments I phant’sy that I am a sort of heir to the Winter Queen-though I am not linked to her by blood-and that it is my destiny to go back to England and reclaim it for her. That is why I asked you to buy Leicester House, for she was born there.”

“I did not buy it but invested in it,” Eliza returned.

“Then I hope your investment will turn out to have been a prudent one.”

“Why shouldn’t it?”

“Your tidings from Antwerp-and other news that has reached me of late-make me doubt whether I shall ever see Britain, much less rule it.”

“You shall, my dear. What concerns Marlborough is not the fate of the Realm but of a single Regiment, near to his heart, lately fallen under the sway of Jacobites. He is fretting about certain of his officers and sergeants, trying to make out what has become of them.”

“What has happened to one Regiment might happen later to the whole Realm,” Caroline said. Then she looked away, distracted by an eruption of barking on the far side of the vast Gordian knot of the Teufelsbaum. Martin was chastising the dogs in Dutch. They had probably lit out after one of the garden’s regiment of squirrels.

When she turned back, she found that Eliza had been appraising her. The Duchess seemed to approve of what she had seen. “I am most pleased that my son has found you,” she said.

“So am I,” Caroline confessed. “Tell me truly, now-did you enter the garden in search of me, or of him?”

“I knew that the two of you would be together. It would appear that I just missed him,” Eliza said, and reached out to pluck a long blond hair from a pearl button at Caroline’s midsection.

“He hoped you’d come-and knew you’d do so without warning. He has gone for a walk with an Englishman.”

Eliza got a wary look and stepped forward, pressing Caroline aside with a firm hand. Her other hand strayed to the waistband of her frock. A man came crashing through the Teufelsbaum, headed directly for them. Meanwhile Scylla and Charybdis were pelting hell-for-leather around the fence, trying to find a way in.

The man emerged into plain view and stopped. The first thing they noticed about him was that he was brandishing a dagger; the second, that he was one of Eliza’s footmen. His wig had been stripped off as he’d charged through the reaching arms of the Teufelsbaum, but he was recognizable by his livery. Less so by his face, which was red, and distorted by fear and rage-battle-lust, Caroline thought.

“Jan? What is it?” Eliza demanded.

Jan ignored the question. He scanned the path until he was certain that Scylla and Charybdis had found it, and were circling around to guard the rear. Then he spun round, turning his back on Eliza and Caroline, searching the woods.

Something slammed into Caroline’s shoulder. It was Eliza’s body. Caroline tried to plant the opposing foot wide, to absorb the blow, but Eliza had expected this, and had already swung a leg around and hooked Caroline’s ankle. Both of them fell down. Caroline hit the ground first. Eliza, rather than smashing full-length into Caroline’s body, took most of the impact on her hands and knees, and wound up straddling the fallen princess, looking about herself alertly.

The second footman had circled around the other way, and now joined Scylla and Charybdis at the gate. He too had a dagger out. But Eliza stayed over Caroline, refusing to let her up. Presently the carriage roared and rattled back up the path, drawn by four insanely irritated horses who were controlled only with difficulty by poor Martin.

“What happened?” demanded Eliza, as Martin was reining them in.

Martin was in no great hurry to respond either. He stood up and scanned the woods on all sides. He had a pistol out, and was careful to keep its barrel perfectly aligned with his gaze, so that shooting could follow seeing in an instant.

“Opposite, on the far side of this weird tree, the dogs scented men who had bad intentions,” he finally said, in a mild voice.

Ever the Natural Philosopher, even when pinned to the ground under a Duchess, Caroline inquired, “How do you know it wasn’t a well-intentioned squirrel?”

“The dogs told me as much by their emotions,” Martin returned, plainly irritated to have been questioned on such a matter. “They followed the scent from the iron fence-which these men must have vaulted-to a neighboring part of the garden, yonder, before I called them back, and told them to go and find my lady. Then, as I was rounding the corner, over there, trying to get back to you, I glanced over and saw two men running as fast as they could down the path.”

“Towards us?”

“Away from you, my lady.”

“Bows? Muskets?”

“They had neither, my lady.”

This was the signal for Eliza to get up at last. She extended a hand and did the work of hauling Caroline to her feet, as the footmen were still prowling about with daggers drawn.

“That was an unusual procedure,” Caroline remarked.

“It is not so unusual in Constantinople.”

“Where did you hire your staff?” Caroline wondered.

“The deck of a privateer in Dunquerque. I once had a friend in the business, one Jean Bart, who doted on me, and wanted to see that I was well looked after.” Eliza turned her attentions back to Martin. “Could you recognize those two men if you saw them again?”

“My lady, they had covered themselves in long dark hooded robes, such as friars wear, and the hoods were drawn up over their heads. I wager we might find those robes discarded on the ground within a musket-shot of where we now stand-”

“And the assassins will have blended in among the funeral-guests before we get back to the Palace,” Eliza concluded.

“More than likely,” Caroline agreed; then: “I beg your pardon, did you say assassins!?”

“THE LETTER BY which Princess Caroline summoned me was sealed in the presence of Enoch Root, and put into his hand before the wax had cooled. He traversed the west road from here to Amsterdam in no particular haste-but without let or delay. A day after, he was in Scheveningen, and three days after that, in London. A wait of one week sufficed to get him aboard a New York-bound ship. The voyage was not particularly lengthy. After no more than a night’s rest on the island of Manhattan he proceeded on horseback to Boston. He delivered the message into my hand on the day he arrived. It had never left his person since the moment it was sealed in the Leine Schlo?.” The strange old Englishman nodded down the leafy prospect of the Herrenhauser Allee toward the smoky bulk of Hanover’s fortifications.

The young baron, noting that he had fallen a pace behind, hurried along to draw abreast. “Did you and Enoch-I call him Enoch, for he is an old friend of my family-”

“I thought he was supposed to be a member of your family, long ago, when he affected a different name.”

“That is another conversation for another day,” said the Baron, in good English. “I say, did you and Enoch discuss the matter aloud, in the presence of others, in Boston?”

“In a tavern. But we were discreet. I did not mention the author of the letter even to my own wife. I told her only that someone of great importance had asked for me.”

“What of the letter itself?”

“That’s a different matter. Mr. Root did allow some persons to see the Seal. So it could be inferred that I had been summoned from Hanover.”

“Pray continue.”

“Well, ’tis very simple. I was aboard Minerva that very night. We were held back by contrary winds for a month. Then one day a whole bloody pirate-fleet descended upon us. My god, what a thing it was. In all my days I have never lived through such a-”

Johann von Hacklheber, sensing that his Narrator was about to wax discursive, interrupted: “Pirates are said to be as common along the New England coast as fleas on a dog.”

“Yes, we had some of that type, too,” said Daniel Waterhouse, strangely enthusiastic. “Caitiffs in row-boats. But we shook those off easily. I am referring to a literal fleet of formidable pirate-ships, under a disaffected British sea-captain named Edward Teach-”

“Blackbeard!” said Johann, before he could stop himself.

“You have heard of him.”

“He has already been the subject of picaroon-romances, which are sold by the barrel-load at the book-fair in Leipzig. Not that I would ever read such a thing,” Johann said, and then waited tensely, fearing that this Daniel Waterhouse was the sort who would miss the jest, and assume he was being a snotty little baron. But the old man caught it, and batted it back: “In your researches, have you learnt that this Blackbeard is aligned with Jacobite interests?”

“I know that his flagship is christened Queen Anne’s Revenge, and I collected, from this, that he had some axe to grind.”

“He assaulted the ship I was on-Minerva-and sacrificed one and possibly two ships of his fleet to get at me.”

“To get at Minerva, you mean, or-”

“To get at me, I say. He asked for me by name. And any other sea-captain would have given me up; but Otto van Hoek would not give a pirate a wormy biscuit, much less a passenger.”

“Now, if I may play devil’s advocate,” Johann said, “for Enoch to come into this Bostown, which you describe as a sort of backwoods encampment, waving a document with a Hanoverian seal, must have drawn attention. Your departure must have been the talk of the town.”

“No doubt they are talking about it still.”

“In every port are men of low character who pass along such intelligence to criminals, pirates, and the like. You said that a whole month elapsed while you were becalmed-”

“I should rather call it, ‘bestormed,’ but yes.”

“That is more than enough time for word to have spread to every pirate-cove in New England. This Teach must have heard the news, and surmised that you were a man of importance, who might be held for ransom.”

“This is what I was telling myself all the way across the Atlantic, to calm my nerves,” Daniel said. “I even trained myself to overlook the chief fault in that hypothesis, which is that, outside of Barbary, pirates do not, as a rule, hold hostages for ransom, and especially not old men who are likely to drop dead at a moment’s notice. But when I reached London, efforts were made to blast me, or someone close to me, to pieces. And during the months since, I have had intelligence from two distinct sources, one high, one low, that there is, here in Hanover, a spy who passes information to the Jacobites in London.”

“I should like to know more concerning that,” said Johann, who had been trying a moment ago to soothe the old Englishman’s ridiculous fears, and now found himself in need of some soothing.

“An old acquaintance of mine-”

“Acquaintance, but not friend?”

“We are such old friends that we refuse to speak to each other for decades at a time. An Infernal Device, packed with gunpowder, exploded. It might have been meant for me, for him, or for both of us. He has begun to investigate the matter using his own resources-and you may be assured that his resources vastly exceed mine in almost every respect. He has heard that highly placed Jacobites-”

“Bolingbroke?”

“-highly placed Jacobites are receiving information from a source close to the Electoral Crown-someone who, to judge from the timeliness and accuracy of his despatches, comes and goes freely in the Leine Schlo? and in Herrenhausen Palace.”

“You said that you had a low as well as a high source?”

“I know a man with many connections among London’s Flash: coiners, Black-guards, et cetera-the same element from which Blackbeard recruits his seamen and what I shall politely call his ‘longshoremen.’ ”

“You trust such a man?”

“Unaccountably, irrationally, inadvisably, I do. I am his father confessor. He is my disciple and bodyguard. It is another conversation for another day-”

“Touche.”

“This fellow has made inquiries. He has found evidence that the order to hunt me down was despatched to Ed Teach from London.”

“I did not think pirates took orders from London.”

“Oh, on the contrary, it is an ancient, celebrated practice.”

“So by combining these data you have settled upon a hypothesis that some spy here became aware of the letter that her royal highness sent to you via Enoch Root; that this spy sent word to an important Jacobite in London; who then sent a despatch to Ed Teach off the coast of Massachusetts, using some London Black-guard as his Mercury.”

“That is my hypothesis, admirably stated.”

“It is a good one. I have one question only.”

“Yes?”

“Why are we walking down the Herrenhauser Allee in the wee hours of the morning?”

“What, the sun’s been up for hours!”

“My question still stands.”

“Do you know why I came to Hanover?”

“Certainly not for the funeral, as Sophie was alive when you got here. If memory serves, you were a part of the delegation that brought Sophie the letter that is said to have killed her.”

“I haven’t heard anyone say that!”

“Its contents are said to have been so vexatious as to have struck the Electress dead on the spot.”

“The Viscount Bolingbroke is known to have a genius for such word-play,” Daniel mused, “and he probably penned it. But it is neither here nor there. Yes, I was included in the delegation, as a token Whig. No doubt you have already met my Tory counterparts.”

“I have endured that honor. Again, why are we walking down the Herrenhauser Allee at this time?”

“It occurred to me, on the journey hither from London, that if the Jacobites did have a spy in Hanover, why then my Tory companions would make every effort to arrange a tryst with him, or her. So I have been alert since we arrived-while spreading the rumor, and fostering the illusion, that I was senile, and deaf to boot. Yester evening, at dinner, I heard two of the Tories asking questions of a minor Hanoverian noble: what is that park that extends from the Herrenhauser Allee north and west to the banks of the Leine? Is it solid ground, or marsh? Are there any notable landmarks, such as great trees or-”

“There is a noble oak-tree just ahead and to the right,” Johann remarked.

“I know there is, for that’s just what this Hanoverian said.”

“So you guessed that they were arranging a spy-tryst, and needed to choose a place. But how did you settle upon such a horrid time of day?”

“The entire delegation shall attend the funeral. Immediately after, we depart for London. This was the only possible time.”

“I hope you are right.”

“I know I am.”

“How do you know it?”

“I left word with the servants that I wanted to be awakened at the same time as the other Englishmen. A servant woke me up at dawn.”

With that Daniel Waterhouse cut sharply in front of Johann von Hacklheber, forcing the younger man to shorten his stride. Daniel stepped off the central road of the Allee and passed between two of the lime trees that screened it from the narrower paths to either side. Johann followed him; and as he did, he glanced down the length of the road and saw a lone man on horseback approaching from the direction of Hanover.

Daniel had already hiked off into the adjoining park and found a winding lead between shrubs and trees. Johann followed him for a minute or so, until his peripheral vision was darkened by the crown of an enormous oak. In the distance he could hear voices conversing, not in German. It struck his ear rather like a sheet of tin being wobbled.

He nearly tripped over Daniel, who had squatted down behind a bush. Johann followed his example, and then his gaze. Gathered a stone’s throw away beneath the spreading limbs of the oak, and looking for all the world like artists’ models posing for a pastoral scene, were three of the English Tories who had come with Daniel from London.

“Sir, my admiration for your work is mingled with wonder that a man of your age and dignity is out doing things like this.”

Daniel turned to look him in the eye; and his creased face was grave and calm in the morning light. He looked nothing like the daft codger who had come to dinner yesterday evening and embarrassed the other English by dribbling wine down his shirt-front.

“Listen to me. I did not wish to be summoned by your Princess. Summoned, I did not wish to come. But having been summoned, and having come, I mean to give a good account of myself. That’s how I was taught by my father, and the men of his age who slew Kings and swept away not merely Governments but whole Systems of Thought, like Khans of the Mind. I would have my son in Boston know of my doings, and be proud of them, and carry my ways forward to another generation on another continent. Any opponent who does not know this about me, stands at a grave disadvantage; a disadvantage I am not above profiting from.”

It was then that the hoof-beats out on the road turned into soft thuds as the lone rider from Hanover drove his mount off the beaten track and into the park. He was headed directly for the oak. At a glance they could see he was richly attired, hence, probably had begun his ride in the Leine Schlo?. On a second look Johann recognized him. He crouched down lower and spoke into Daniel’s ear: “That is the Englishman-supposedly a staunch Whig-Harold Braithwaite.”

“IT SEEMS SO OBVIOUS in retrospect,” Johann lamented, a quarter of an hour later, after they had stolen back through the park to the Allee, and begun walking back toward Herrenhausen Palace.

“Great discoveries always do,” Daniel said, and shrugged. “Ask me some day how I feel about the Inverse Square Law.”

“He and his wife came here, what, five years ago, just as things began to go awry for the Whig Juncto. Oxford and Bolingbroke were plotting the Tory resurgence, getting the Queen’s ear-as I recall, there had been a run on the Bank of England, occasioned by rumors of a Jacobite uprising in Scotland.”

“Is that what Braithwaite said when he showed up here penniless? That he’d been ruined in the bank run?”

“He mentioned that the Mobb had rioted against the Bank.”

“That it did. But this has little to do with Braithwaite. He is the sort of Englishman who is exported with great enthusiasm by his countrymen.”

“There were rumors-”

“Just enough, I am certain, to make him out as a saucy picaroon, and get him invited to dinner.”

“Indeed.”

“The true story is depressingly familiar. He spent his inheritance gambling. Then he became a highwayman-not a very good one, for on his first outing he scuffled with one of his victims, and gashed him with a cutlass. The wound suppurated, the victim died, the victim’s family-Tories, who had money-posted a reward so high that every thief-taker in London cleared his calendar. Braithwaite fled the Isle, perhaps the only prudent thing he has ever done.”

“He painted himself as an arch-Whig.”

“In that there was some truth, for his oppressors were Tories. But he has no principles whatever.”

“That much is now proved. But why would such a man act as a spy for the Tory Lords?”

“His legal situation is awkward. This means he might benefit enormously from some adroit manipulation of certain affairs in London. He must make his peace with whatever Faction has the power to assist him; behold, the Whigs are out, and the Tories are in.”

“What did you think of the letter?” Johann asked; a non sequitur that prompted Daniel to twitch his head around. They had come so close to the end of the path that they could smell the green fruit in the orangerie, and hear the stables and kitchens awakening: sharp crisp sounds hushed and muffled by the distant teeming of the great fountain.

“What do you mean, mein Herr?” Daniel asked, slipping unconsciously into etiquette now that they were in earshot of a palace. For they had moved off the Allee and were passing between stables toward the parterres at the garden’s northern end, where a few early-rising nobles were already out stretching their legs.

Johann continued, “I mean, how was it written-the letter you received from Caroline? Was it in French?”

“No, English.”

“Good English?”

“Oh yes, very proper. I see where you are going now.”

“If it was in proper English, then her English tutor must have helped her write it. And that is Mrs. Braithwaite.”

“It shall be most awkward,” Daniel pointed out, “if the mistress of the Prince of Wales proves to be a spy for men who are dead set against his family acquiring the Crown.”

“I know the woman. She is immoral but not malicious, if you know what I mean. After she helped Caroline write that letter, she probably mentioned it, innocently, to her husband, who, as we have seen, is the true spy.”

“Difficult to dispose of him, without a scandal in the household-” Daniel observed.

“Oh, not really,” Johann murmured.

Now that they had entered the garden, his notice had been drawn by a coach and four emerging from the hill of mist that shrouded the environs of the great fountain. As its outlines became more distinct, he remarked, “That looks like my mother’s carriage,” and then, “but the lady looking out the window, there, is not my mother but Princess Caroline. Odd for them to ride, when they could walk. I shall go and bid them good morning.”

“And I shall excuse myself,” said Daniel Waterhouse, “as there is no plausible excuse for me to be seen in such company.”

Princess Caroline’s Bedchamber,


Herrenhausen Palace


LATER THAT MORNING

“MRS. BRAITHWAITE, I SHALL depend on you to have the ivory thing near to hand at all times,” said Princess Caroline.

“I know just where it is, my lady.” Henrietta Braithwaite rose from the stool where she had been fussing with the Princess’s wig, twirled herself about in beautiful and attention-getting style, and crossed the room to where a selection of implements was arranged on a tabletop. These could have been mistaken for the trade-tools of a cook, physician, or torturer, save for the fact that the surface on which they rested was a slab of polished pink marble, topping a white-and-gilt dressing-table-cum-sculpture done up in the new, hyper-Barock style named Rokoko. It was adorned, for example, with several cherubs, bows drawn, eyes a-squint as they drew beads on unseen targets, butt-cheeks polished to a luster with jeweler’s rouge. It had, in other words, all the earmarks of a gift that had been sent to the Princess by someone with a lot of money who did not know her very well. On it were diverse mortars and pestles for compounding makeups; trowels, spatulas, and brushes for inflicting it; and certain objects whose purposes were not so obvious. Henrietta picked up a long-handled implement whose business end consisted of a gently curved tongue of polished ivory, stained pink around the edges from use. “See to it that it has not become stiff, as sometimes happens when these things get old,” Caroline commanded, “and inspect it for any rough edges-last time, I got an ugly welt.”

“Yes, my lady,” said Mrs. Braithwaite. With a curtsey, she turned her back on the Princess. Three other ladies-in-waiting were engineering her clothes, hair, and jewelry, some of which were already mounted on Caroline, others on wooden effigies. The Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm sat across from her, keeping her company. She was already dressed, albeit more simply. For anyone below the rank of Princess, dressing for mourning could be a simple undertaking. Eliza’s yellow hair was screened behind a fontange of stiff black lace and the rest of her was in black silk. It was expensive and well executed as such costumes went, but still deserved the name traditionally given to such garments: weeds.

“My son has reprimanded me,” announced the Duchess.

Caroline gasped and put a hand to the base of her throat in a gesture of mock outrage, as she understood that Eliza was being facetious. Henrietta Braithwaite, who knew the Duchess only by gossip, had to turn around and look to discern as much. Then, realizing she had been obvious, Henrietta turned back to the work at hand: running her fingertips over the ivory tool, inspecting for rough places.

“And why would such a well-brought-up young man speak to his mother so?” Caroline demanded.

The Duchess leaned closer, and spoke a bit more softly. All of the ladies in the room suddenly found ways to do whatever they were doing in nearly perfect silence. On the pretext of needing better light, Henrietta Braithwaite turned towards a window, bringing one ear to bear upon the target.

“I am sorry!” the Duchess said. “Until he told me, I had no idea that I had stupidly interrupted something! I thought I had found you alone in the garden.”

“You did find me alone-but only because, when he heard a carriage approaching, he took flight, not knowing it was only you.”

“Isn’t that just like a mother! Interrupting her son at such a moment! You should have shooed me away!”

“Oh, no, it is perfectly all right!” the Princess assured her. “We were never truly alone anyway, for I thought I could hear one or two people skulking about.”

“Spies!?”

“Oh, no, Eliza, this is not some Byzantine, spy-infested court such as Versailles. Doubtless they were some guests, here for the funeral, who simply forgot their manners.”

“Those must be the ones my dogs barked at. Naughty dogs!”

“It is nothing. This evening, at dusk, Sophie shall be at rest across the way. The English delegation, and most of the noble and royal visitors, will have departed. Then he and I shall meet where we met this morning, and resume where we left off.”

“I thought my son seemed…frustrated.”

“It is good for men to be frustrated,” Caroline announced, “that is when they behave in the manner that is most pleasing to us, with beautiful displays of daring and gallantry.”

The Duchess considered this for a long time before answering, “There is truth in that, your royal highness. But some day when we have more time I might tell you a tale of one whose frustration became perhaps too enormous.”

“What did he do then?”

“Behaved in a manner that was perhaps a bit over-daring, and too gallant, and kept it up for rather too long.”

“All for you, Eliza?”

Again this had to be considered. Eliza, who had shown no reluctance to discuss Caroline’s affairs of the heart in front of an audience, was suddenly reticent. “At the beginning, perhaps it was all for me. As it went on and on-it is difficult to say. He became rich, and powerful after a fashion. Perhaps he then began to act out of a desire for worldly increase.”

“So out of love for you, he did deeds of phantastickal gallantry and daring over many years-then went on to become rich and powerful? Why haven’t you married him yet?”

“It is complicated. Some day you will understand.”

“I see that my words have struck deeply into your heart, Eliza, for all of a sudden you are patronizing me.” Caroline said this cheerfully enough.

“Please forgive me, your royal highness.”

They were into it now.

“I do know something of complications-not a hundredth of what you do-and I know that there is always a way to surmount them. Do you love him?”

“The man I spoke of?”

“Is there any other man under discussion?”

“I believe that I did love him once, when he had nothing.”

“Nothing except you?”

“Me, a sword, and a horse. It was later, when he began to conceive absurd schemes for getting things, that we fell out.”

“Why should he concern himself with getting when he had you?”

“That is what I tried to tell him. It hurt my feelings, in a way!”

“If half the stories are true, you could have made more than enough to support yourself and him as well-ah, there’s the rub-it was masculine pride, wasn’t it?”

“That, and a perverse desire to better himself-to prove he was worthy of me, by becoming more like me. What he did not understand-and what I could not tell him-was that I loved him precisely because he was unlike me.”

“Why don’t you tell him now? Is he coming to the funeral?”

“Oh, no no no! You don’t understand, highness, I do not speak of recent events. This happened thirty years ago. I’ve not seen him since. And be assured he is not attending the funeral!”

“Thirty years.”

“Yes.”

“Thirty years.”

“…”

“THIRTY YEARS! Longer than I have been alive. The whole time I have known you, this has been going on!”

“I should not say anything was ‘going on.’ It is an episode of my girlhood, forgotten.”

“Yes, I can see how well you have forgotten it.”

“…”

“Where is this man? England?”

“Two people can be a world apart, even when both are in the same city-”

“He’s in London!? And you have done nothing!?”

“Your royal highness-”

“Well, this is another good reason I must go there and become Princess of Wales, or Queen as the case may be, so that I can wield my monarchical powers to patch up your love life.”

“I beg you not to-” said the Duchess, looking thoroughly rattled for the first time. Then she stopped, for there had been an interruption.

“The rite is about to begin, your royal highness,” announced Henrietta Braithwaite, gazing out a window over a crowd in black wool and black silk, funneling itself toward the entrance of the family chapel. She turned to face the Princess, then cast her eyes down in submission, and held up the ivory tool. “This is smooth,” she added. “Be assured that no matter how many times we are forced to use it, your royal highness may go out this evening perfectly unmarked.”

“Henrietta,” said the Princess, “my life would not be the same without you.” An ambiguous statement-but Mrs. Braithwaite chose the most flattering interpretation, and responded with a curtsey and even a blush.

“I HAVE A PROBLEM, MADAME,” said the dark lean figure who had marred Eliza’s peripheral vision for the last quarter-hour, “and you have an opportunity.”

“Ugh, not another one!” Eliza said, and turned finally to confront this fellow, who had been following her around like a doppelganger despite her efforts to shake him off in the crowd of mourners.

They were outside the Palace of Herrenhausen, among the parterres of the northern end of the garden. Inside the palace was a private chapel, not nearly large enough to contain all of the mourners. Sophie’s funeral service had begun an hour ago. Caroline and other members of the family were within; the others were scattered like a flock of black doves across the white gravel of the paths.

In the corner of her eye Eliza had noticed that this troublesome man was dressed in black, and that his wig was white; but the same was true of every man here. Now, looking him squarely in the face for the first time, she saw that the white mane, though it was certainly fake, was no affectation. He was quite old.

“Even on the brightest days I have no desire to be pestered by men with opportunities. On a day like this-”

“It has to do with our absent friend.”

Eliza was almost certain this meant Leibniz. He had not arrived yet. The remarks that several courtiers had made concerning his absence were like wisps of smoke concealing an underlying fire of gossip. Who could this fellow be, then? An old Englishman who knew her, and was a friend of the Doctor-

“Dr. Waterhouse.”

He lowered his eyelids and bowed.

“It has been-?”

“To judge from appearances, a hundred years for me, and half an hour for you. If you prefer to go by calendars, the answer is twenty-five years or so.”

“Why have you not come to call on me at Leicester House?”

“Before I received your summons, I accepted one from another Lady,” Daniel said, glancing toward the Chapel entrance, “and it has kept me busy. I do hope you will forgive my rudeness.”

“Which rudeness? Not calling on me? Or pursuing me with an opportunity?”

“If you are discomposed by it, consider that I am acting as a proxy for the Doctor himself.”

“When I first met the Doctor he was at work on a scheme: a windmill to pump water from the mines of the Harz,” Eliza recalled fondly. “He hoped they would then produce enough silver to finance his world-library-cum-logic-mill.”

“Odd that you should say so. When I first met him, which was at least ten years before you did, he was working on the mill itself. Then he got distracted by the calculus.”

“What I am trying to say to you, in a gentle way, sir, is that-”

“The Doctor’s schemes are mad? Yes, I had already taken your meaning.”

“As much as I love the Doctor and his philosophy, and as much as you do-”

“Stipulated,” said the old man, and smiled warmly, pressing his lips together to hide whatever dental wreckage might be underneath.

“If he cannot make his project succeed with the resources of the Tsar at his back, what use am I?”

“It is of this that I wish to speak to you,” Daniel began. But the doors to the family chapel now swung open. Sophie’s coffin was borne out by a lot of Kings and Electors and Dukes.

They set it on a gun carriage, drawn by a single black horse. The rest of the family came out of the chapel. The coffin and carriage set out, followed by all of the mourners who were fit enough to accompany Sophie on her last walk. A procession took shape, moving southwards down the central axis of the garden towards the great fountain. Daniel strolled along at the rear of the column. Presently Eliza found him.

Daniel said, “You have probably guessed that Leibniz’s absence has to do with the work that he is doing for the Tsar. I believe that the Doctor is in St. Petersburg now.”

“Then no further explanation for his absence is wanted,” Eliza said. “For news to reach him there, and for him to make the journey back, when there’s a war on between the Russians and the Swedes-”

“Impossible,” Daniel agreed. “And you have not even addressed the question of whether he would be allowed to leave.”

A pause, a few steps down the gravel path, before Eliza answered, in a different voice altogether: “Why shouldn’t he be allowed to leave?”

“The Tsar is not renowned for his patience. He wants to see something that actually works.”

“Then our friend may be in grave difficulties indeed.”

“Not so very grave. I have been attending to it.”

“In London?”

“Yes. The Marquis of Ravenscar has supplied funding to erect a Court of Technologickal Arts in Clerkenwell.”

“Why?” Eliza asked sharply, thus proving that she knew something of the Marquis.

“Longitude. He hopes that some invention for discovering the Longitude shall be devised by the men who toil in this Court.”

“And they are-?”

“The most ingenious horologists, organ-makers, goldsmiths, mechanicks, and makers of theatrickal Machinery in all of Christendom.”

The procession had reached the plaza surrounding the great fountain, which would probably be described in any number of diaries this evening as howling with grief, and filling the heavens with its tears. They made a slow orbit around it, reversing their direction, and then began to trudge back toward the Palace. Eliza’s black fontange trapped some fountain-mist and began to wilt.

“If Leibniz is trapped between Peter the Great at one end, and Roger Comstock at the other, I fear he is beyond your help, or mine,” Eliza said.

“It is not so dire. What is wanted is not capital but financing.”

“Something in the nature of a bridge loan?”

“Possibly. Or, perhaps, an independent investment in an allied enterprise.”

“I am waiting,” said Eliza with the diction of one who is biting on a musket-ball waiting for the barber to saw her leg off.

“Your expertise with commodities is celebrated.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You know of Bridewell-where whores are sent to pound hemp and pick oakum.”

“Yes?”

“To build the Logic Mill we shall need a large, inexpensive force of workers to carry out certain operations of a repetitive nature. We have made discreet inquiries among the wardens of Bridewell. We are optimistic that an arrangement can be made to put those women to work at a new task. No longer will they produce hemp.”

“And so the price of hemp will rise,” Eliza concluded. “This is not an investment opportunity but more in the nature of a Hot Tip, sir. And a reminder, as if I wanted one, of why Natural Philosophers are not often seen haunting the ’Change-except when one has been put in the pillory by his creditors.”

“If the ‘hot tip’ makes you money, why, then, you might be able to invest in-”

“Stop-don’t say it-I already know: The Proprietors of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire.”

“Indeed, madame.”

“It is beyond astonishing. After all these years, we have come full circle: the Doctor wants me to invest in an amazing new device for pumping water out of mines!”

“In truth, the Doctor knows very little of the Engine for Raising Water by Fire.”

Now there was another interruption in their discourse as the procession met and absorbed the mourners who had stayed behind at the Palace. Several of these had boarded sedan chairs or carriages, which enlarged and enlivened the procession. A diversion round one wing of the Palace got them out of Sophie’s great garden. The main road from Hanover westwards ran across the other front of the Palace. They crossed over it directly, but slowly, for a crowd of common people of Hanover had come out to stand here and pay their respects to their Sovereign. Once again, Eliza found Daniel in the crowd.

“Then this is not a silver-mining scheme? For I have had enough-”

“As have I, madame,” Daniel returned.

“Tin-mining I might consider, for Cornwall is famed for it.”

“And lead, and others as well. But this is not about silver, tin, lead, or any other metals, noble or base.”

“Coal?”

“Nay, ’tis not a question of any sort of mining! I speak to you rather of Power.”

“It is a frequent topic of conversation in many settings high and low,” Eliza observed, glancing in the direction of the King of Prussia. He was walking arm in arm with Caroline. They were interrupted by a pair of Prussian ladies, probably Countesses or something, who threw themselves at Caroline and took turns pressing their soggy cheeks against hers several times each. Caroline exchanged politenesses with them, and then made her escape, as the gun-carriage had finally plunged across the road and entered the older and smaller garden that spread away from the Palace on that side. The crowd of mourners, pursuing the coffin, thinned out suddenly. Caroline turned around and found Henrietta Braithwaite in formation behind her. The Princess thrust her face forward, adopting the pose of a ship’s figurehead, and closed her eyes. Mrs. Braithwaite stepped in close, raised up the implement with the curved ivory blade, and scraped it quickly down Caroline’s left cheek, then her right, shaving off the cloud of tear-caked face-powder, and the slick of rouge, that had been deposited by the mourners. Caroline opened her eyes, mouthed “Danke schon,” and spun away. Mrs. Braithwaite wiped the ivory clean with a rag that had already seen a lot of use today.

“I am using the word Power in a novel sense,” Daniel explained, when the milling and jostling of the crowd had brought him and Eliza together once more. By this time they were halfway along the path that ran from the main door of Herrenhausen Palace straight up the middle of the Berggarten (as this park was called) to an extremely squat and heavy Doric temple that sat in the middle, guarded and shaded by fine old trees.

Daniel continued, “I use it in a mechanickal sense-to mean a sort of general ability to effect change, in a measurable way. Pumping water out of mines is one thing to spend Power on, but if you had a fund of such Power you might put it to other uses as well.”

“Such as pounding hemp?”

“Or moving the parts of a Logic Mill. Or other purposes we have as yet failed to imagine. Once this Idea or conception of Power has entered your mind, madame, you shall find it difficult to shake off. Everywhere you look you shall see opportunities to put Power to use; and you shall see so many enterprises that suffer from a want of Power that you shall wonder how we have gotten along without it.”

“There is much to consider in your discourse, Doctor, and little leisure, here and now, to consider it. I would be alone now with my grief for Sophie.”

“And I would too, madame, and I thank you.”

“When we are back in London I should like to see this Court in Clerkenwell, and hear more of your plans for the women of Bridewell.”

They had reached the stone temple, and pooled round it. The building was windowless. A pair of doors in the front gave entry to private crypts within; but those were storage for dead cousins and stillborns. The doors were not used today. In the front portico two immense slabs had been set into the floor, cut with the names of Johann Friedrich-the one who had brought Leibniz to Hanover-and Ernst August, Sophie’s late husband. A fresh rectangular hole, of equal size, had recently been let into the floor, and a grave dug in the earth beneath it. A slab bearing Sophie’s name lay to one side, ready.

The rest of the proceedings, then, were of an obvious nature. All grieved, some more sincerely than others, none more so than Caroline. But when the grave had been filled in, with handfuls of dirt from the family, and shovel-loads from almost as sad laborers, Caroline could be seen dusting the dirt from her hands, and uttering some witticism that caused several around her to erupt in shocked and shocking laughter. The procession made its way back to Herrenhausen in a gradually improving mood. None was gayer than Princess Caroline. But only Henrietta and a few others knew that she had something to look forward to.

THE SOLSTICIAL DAY HAD STRETCHED into its eighteenth hour. The English delegation had stayed long past its scheduled date of return so that they could represent Her Britannic Majesty at the funeral, and in doing so they had emptied their purses and worn out what little welcome they had enjoyed to begin with. With a celerity that was conspicuous, verging on rude, they got out of town, banging away along the west-road in a train of carriages and baggage-carts, hoping there’d be enough daylight to reach the inn at Stadthagen.

They had left behind one of their number, a frail codger, who was rumored to have been an indifferently clever chap in his prime, but who now was sadly far gone, and probably never should have attempted such a journey in the first place. He had become debilitated by the long journey to Hanover and was in no condition to make a forced march back to the Dutch coast. Some kind-hearted member of the Hanoverian court had stepped in and offered to arrange a slow and easy return journey for this man, one Dr. Waterhouse, and even to send him in a coach full of nurses and physicians if need be. The other English had accepted this proffer hastily, and with more than a few winks and smirks-seeing it as a calculated attempt by some nobody to get himself Noticed in London.

More than half of the other noble and royal funeral-guests had already gone, many headed eastwards toward Braunschweig, Brandenburg, and Prussia, others going back to wherever Sophie had family, friends, or admirers, which meant radiating to all points of the compass.

Most of those who had stayed behind at Herrenhausen had done so for a reason. That reason was George Louis, Elector of Hanover, out from under his mother’s thumb at last, and next in line to the British throne. And so in spite of the long hours of afternoon sun, the mood of the place had gone just a bit chilly.

Or so it seemed to Baron Johann von Hacklheber as he strolled through the garden, on another sort of mission entirely. Like a black bumblebee he was zigzagging from one flower-bed to the next. He was gathering a bouquet to award to his lady love whenever she showed up. The fundamental laws of the universe governing young men waiting for young ladies applied here as everywhere else, and consequently it was becoming a very large arrangement. Some while ago it had grown too large for one person to hold. In fact it had now become a sort of flower-dump atop the pedestal of a conveniently located statue. Every time Johann added to the pile, he would say a little prayer to Venus-for she was the pedestal’s tenant-and look up at the Palace of Herrenhausen, and lock his gaze on a window in the west wing where Caroline was being fussed over by her attendants. As long as the lace curtains remained drawn, she was a work in progress. So Johann would step back, examine the flower-pile, and ponder the balance of its colors and the variety of its shapes. He would hold an imaginary colloquy with the mute and unhelpful Venus. Then he would launch out in search of the one blossom that would make it perfect. The garden was parted into polygons-triangles and quadrilaterals mostly-and as the wait stretched out he measured with his strides many of their perimeters. A gardener of a suspicious temperament, observing his movements from a distance, might think he was some sort of spy performing horticultural espionage.

Anyone observing him more closely, though, would note that he spent more time gazing outwards toward the perimeter than in on the flower-beds. On the road that surrounded the whole garden, along the bank of the enclosing canal, a sparse but relentless traffic of riders went pointlessly to and fro on expensive horses. Mostly they traveled in groups of two and three. Spurs were jingling all round. Their sound infiltrated the garden’s humid fragrant air like midsummer f?ry-bells. When groups met, murmuring picked up where jingling left off. Someone unaccustomed to Courts in general, and Herrenhausen in particular, would have found it as annoying as it was mysterious. Johann von Hacklheber was used to it, understanding that courtiers literally had no other way to spend their lives. Once more he was put in mind of the wisdom Sophie had shown in situating the riding-path on the extreme frontier of the garden-shouldering all equestrian conspirators out away from the part she loved.

Spotting a likely rosebud, he drew his left hand up the outside of his thigh, black wool purring under his fingertips, and over the line of tiny silver buckles that fastened his rapier’s black leather scabbard to the end of a broad black leather strap-a baldric, it was called-slung diagonally over his body. Continuing up and back, his hand passed under the skirt of his black wool coat, peeling the hem up to expose its black satin lining. He bent his elbow and supinated his wrist. The back of his hand glided up his buttock and over the black leather belt that kept his breeches from falling down, and stopped above his left kidney. He closed his hand on something hard: the handle of his dagger, which lived in an angled scabbard fastened to his belt at the base of his spine. An outward movement of his elbow drew it from its sheath. He got it out in front of him smartly before his coat-skirts could settle back upon the blade and be damaged by it. This precaution would not have been necessary with many daggers of recent make, which were designed for poking, parrying, and nail-paring, and had little to nothing in the way of a cutting edge. Johann owned several such. But all of them were gloriously decorative, and so did not go well with the funeral-weeds he wore today. The same was true of his collection of swords, which was neither especially large nor small compared to those of other gentlemen. But in the back of his wardrobe he did have this old set, which he’d inherited from a great-uncle. It had been made in Italy at least a hundred years ago when styles of sword-fighting, and hence of weapon-making, had been rather different. The rapier was huge. Its blade was a good eight inches longer than his arm, and somewhat broader than was common today, bringing its weight near the practical limit of a one-handed weapon. The edge had been notched in practice or combat, and re-ground, so many times that the blade no longer looked straight, but instead, as one sighted down it, rambled from side to side.

But in this it had nothing on the dagger, which was a serpentine blade of watered steel, astonishingly sharp on both edges. This style had become necessary when some Italian fighters, more sophisticated than Johann would ever be, had learnt the trick of reaching out with one hand to grab the blade of the foe’s dagger. The tactic actually worked, if the grip was firm and the dagger’s blade was straight; but it was most inadvisable to try it with a dagger such as this one. At any rate, the hilts of this dagger and this rapier were comparatively simple: Renaissance rather than Barock, and a world away from Rokoko. The scabbards were as plain as they could be, being simple undecorated black leather. Johann had belted them on this morning. Round midday he had finally stopped whacking the huge scabbard against tables’ legs and funeral-guests’ ankles. Now he was using the dagger to harvest flowers.

The light now came predominantly from the orange western sky, not the direct rays of the sun. The bouquet had to be re-examined in this new light. Johann returned to Venus, sheathing the serpentine dagger with extreme caution, and devoted a few moments to sifting through the pile of blossoms he’d made. Then he looked back at the palace, more out of habit than hope. But he noticed that clear orange sky-light was now shining in one side of Caroline’s apartment and out the other. The sheers had been drawn back from the windows; she was on her way. In a panic-convinced, suddenly, that all his flower-hunting efforts had been misspent-Johann rummaged through his harvest and drew out a generous arm-load of flowers that caught his fancy. He left the remainder as a sacrifice to the love-goddess and began moving toward the compound of the Teufelsbaum in the comical gait of one who is trying to put distance behind him as quickly as possible without breaking into a run. For there was only one portal in the triangular fence that imprisoned the serpent-like tree, and it was a good distance from here; meanwhile a carriage had set out from the palace stables and was moving down the garden path at a healthy clip. God help him if he were late.

Johann reached the iron gate with some moments to spare and slipped through it into the realm of the Teufelsbaum, which was an hour deeper into twilight than the rest of the garden. Having passed through, he about-faced, thrust his head back out over the path, and turned it to look both ways, making sure that no evening stroller had seen him entering the place where the Princess would soon arrive for two hours’ silent and solitary meditation.

Satisfied that no one was there, he drew back and closed the gate, carefully, so as not to make a clang. And there he stood, at attention, in the pose of a musketeer at port arms, save that he cradled a bouquet instead of a weapon. Presently a single great draught-horse boomed around the corner, constrained between a pair of long stout carriage-poles, which led back to a little coach. The driver had a terse exchange of noises with the horse. The horse slowed, passed the gate, stopped, and then (for he’d gone a bit too far, and the driver was remonstrating) backed up until the carriage’s side door was aligned with the iron gate. Quelled, the driver now set the brake, perhaps showing an excess of prudence. Johann stepped forward and opened the iron gate. Then he reached up to unlatch the carriage’s side door.

He swung it open to reveal a pair of mastiffs.

Their eyes were rolling and bulging. Their nostrils were seething, as each was being straddled by a strong man with both hands clasped around its muzzle to keep it from barking. Johann stepped out of the way. The dogs were launched.

Neither Scylla nor Charybdis appeared to touch the ground until they were twenty feet inside the gate. They bounded into the Teufelsbaum, bashing branches out of the way like runaway gun-carriages. Only after they had disappeared did they think to bark, and then as an afterthought. These were not hunters, bred to bay. They were workers.

On the path that ran along the back of the plot, hooves were cantering-then they changed over to a gallop. Johann looked up to the intersection just in time to see the rider flash across drawing a cutlass. It was one of his Leipziger cousins. From the back of the Teufelsbaum came a welter of furious barking and a yelp of pain. The two dog-wranglers-Eliza’s footmen-dove out the open door and ran after the dogs. Johann dropped his bouquet, for it had served its purpose, and followed them. He thought of drawing his rapier, but it would get hung up in the unfathomable windings of those branches. So he drew his dagger instead, and transferred it to his right hand.

He need not have bothered. By the time he stumbled to the back fence, the matter had been concluded. One of the dogs-Johann could not tell them apart in this light-was back in the corner, attending to a long dark robe that had fallen to the ground. On the off chance that the garment was a foe, he was doing battle with it. And on the assumption that it was a vertebrate, he was shaking it back and forth in a bid to crack its spinal column like a bullwhip.

The other dog was being soothed and attended to by one of the footmen-this had suffered a diagonal gash across the muzzle, which was bleeding a lot, though it was not an especially serious wound.

The second footman was kneeling beside a man in a dark robe who lay sprawled on his stomach near the fence. This footman must have been a student of anatomy, for with both hands he was methodically driving a dagger with a foot-long blade into diverse carefully selected locations in the fallen man’s back.

The injured dog-which had reluctantly been squatting on its haunches-got up. But its legs were twitching and it could not remain standing. It fell onto its side and gagged convulsively.

Johann went over to the dead man-for he had to be called dead now, even if his heart were still beating-and picked up with great care a small dagger that lay on the ground near his right hand. He raised it up into a shaft of light that still pierced the branches. One edge was red, and glistening wet, with the dog’s blood; but the entire blade gleamed with a shiny brown coating glazed with an oily rainbow sheen.

“Don’t touch it,” said a familiar woman’s voice. “Some are absorbed through the skin.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“I CANNOT IMAGINE A STATE of affairs more awkward than this,” Eliza thought out loud. They were walking back toward the palace, she picking up her skirts and breaking into a run from time to time to keep up with his strides. Normally Johann was more considerate. This evening, his mind was elsewhere. She wanted it back.

“Two dead assassins in the Electress’s-I mean, the Elector’s garden? Yes, I should say so.”

It was only a few moments since they had witnessed the terminal moments of some unpleasantness in the canal. They were walking along one of the garden’s transverse paths, glancing to the right at every intersection, looking for a straight route back to the palace. Now suddenly they saw it sprawling against a purple and orange sky at a distance of some five hundred Johann-paces, or seven hundred of Eliza’s. Johann snapped the right turn like a soldier at drill, and stormed on.

“No, the hashishin are easily managed,” Eliza said. “One died in the woods, the other in the canal-we’ll say that the latter got drunk, fell in, and drowned. The former has already vanished.”

“Then what is so damned awkward about it? By your leave.”

Eliza let it be seen that she was exasperated. “Think, son. Spies are ubiquitous, obviously. But this spy works for the Jacobites, and he-or to be precise, his wife-is Caroline’s lady-in-waiting-”

“She can be replaced.”

“-and the declared mistress of George Augustus!”

“Again, Mother, almost the whole point of mistresses is that they may be hot-swapped.”

“Caroline says that her husband is quite infatuated with this Henrietta. Short of actually dragging the corpses of the hashishin into his Presence, it is difficult for me to see how we can get him to comprehend-”

“Pardon me for interrupting, Mother, but Caroline also says that Henrietta is unlikely to be the spy. So perhaps it is Harold Braithwaite we ought to be speaking of.”

Eliza did pardon the interruption, if only because she had to stop talking anyway to catch her breath.

“They are married to each other, the Braithwaites are,” Eliza reminded her son, “joined together in God’s sight.” They had plunged out into the northern half of the garden, nearer the palace. This meant they’d emerged from a realm of higher trees, and deeper shadows, onto an open flat plain of clear light. A row of four rectangular pools stretched across their way. The water was perfectly smooth, and reflected the fiery colors of the heavens, creating an illusion that these were but Hell’s sky-lights, lit from below.

Johann had a ready answer to this, but he bit it off. Fifty more strides along, he said: “If spoken to in the right way he might elect to remove himself.”

“In a minor provincial court, who would mind such an arrangement? But when George Augustus is King of England, it will not be acceptable for his mistress’s husband to be permanently absent.”

“Very well, Mother, I agree with you! It is most awkward.” Johann spoke the last sentence sotto voce as they were drawing near to a couple of strolling courtiers-like Braithwaite, English Whigs who’d moved here recently to curry favor with the man they were gambling would be their next Sovereign. They had names and even titles; but for all that it really mattered, they could be called Smith and Jones.

“I beg your pardon, sirs, but have you any notions as to where I-we, rather-might find Mr. Braithwaite?”

“Yes, mein Herr, we spied him not a quarter of an hour ago, showing some French guests round the garden. They went to see the Maze,” said Smith.

“The Maze, now that is an excellent place for such an a-mazing fellow.”

“No,” said Jones, “I do believe that that is Mr. Braithwaite and his party, just yonder, bound for the other side of the garden.” He pointed to several men in black struggling across in front of the palace.

“Finished with the Maze so soon!” exclaimed Smith.

“I’m sure it is but a miserable imitation of the French labyrinths, and quite disappointing to his companions,” Johann said.

“They are going to the theatre, I’ll wager,” said Jones. “Oh, there is no play to-night. But they might be going to have a look round.”

“And who better to escort them than Mr. Braithwaite, who is an actor of note,” reflected Johann. “Mother, would you please go to the palace and relate all of the very latest gossip to our friend? She will be on tenterhooks.”

Eliza suddenly looked young, because uncertain. She glanced after Braithwaite.

“I shall be in with you momentarily, after I have spoken to Mr. Braithwaite concerning his travel plans.”

“Is Mr. Braithwaite to go on a journey?” asked Smith.

“A lengthy one, ’tis rumored,” Johann confirmed. “Mother? If you please?”

“If these two gentlemen would be so good as to accompany you-” Eliza suggested.

Smith and Jones exchanged a look. “Braithwaite is a merry sort of chap, he shan’t be offended if we cross paths with him-?” said Smith.

“I see no reason to suppose otherwise,” said Jones.

“Very well. I will see you in a quarter of an hour,” said Eliza, in adamant maternal style.

“Oh, Mama, it shall not even be that long.”

Eliza departed. Johann stood for a few moments, watching her go, then announced, distractedly: “Let’s to it. We are losing the light!”

“Er, why do you need light, my lord?” Smith inquired, after he had caught up, which took some exertion. Jones was already miles behind.

“Why, so that Mr. Braithwaite can see the going-away present that I will give him!”

THE GARDEN-THEATRE WAS A SLOPING rectangle of ground, walled in by hedges, and guarded by a picket line of white marble cherubs. These were charming in daylight but now took on the spectral, glabrous appearance of stillborns. A raised stage was at one end. Several of the French guests had climbed atop it and were amusing themselves with the trap-door. Braithwaite stood below the stage, in the orchestra, conversing with a man who like everyone else was dressed in black. But his clothing did not consist of the usual breeches, waistcoat, amp;c. but rather a ground-seeping cassock with a hundred silver buttons. As Johann drew nearer he recognized the man as Father Edouard de Gex, a Jesuit of noble birth, who’d figured into some of mother’s more disturbing Versailles anecdotes.

Johann stopped about ten paces short of this pair-close enough to interrupt their conversation. Bringing both hands together at his left flank, he gripped the junction of scabbard and baldric with his left, and the hilt of the rapier with his right. He drew the blade out a foot or so-enough to loosen it. But knowing the weapon was too long to pull free in a single movement, he then raised the whole rig-rapier, baldric, and scabbard-up in front of his face and lifted it clear of his shoulders. A sideways gesture sent the leather goods hurtling away into the cheap seats, leaving him free of all encumbrances, with exposed rapier in hand. His left hand was now free