Читать онлайн «Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: Two-Book Edition»
Norfolk approaches him. He stands far too close. His eyes are bloodshot. Every sinew is jumping. He says, ‘Substitute nothing, you misbegotten –’ The duke stabs a forefinger into his shoulder. ‘You … person,’ he says; and again, ‘you nobody from Hell, you whore-spawn, you cluster of evil, you lawyer.’
He stands there, pushing away, like a baker pressing the dimples into a batch of manchet loaves. Cromwell flesh is firm, dense and impermeable. The ducal finger just bounces off.
Before they left Esher, one of the cats that had been brought in to kill the vermin gave birth to a litter in the cardinal’s own rooms. What presumption, in an animal! But wait – new life, in the cardinal’s suite? Could that be an omen? One day, he fears, there will be an omen of another sort: a dead bird will fall down that smoking chimney, and then – oh, woe is us! – he’ll never hear the last of it.
But for the while the cardinal is amused, and puts the kittens on a cushion in an open chest, and watches as they grow. One of them is black and hungry, with a coat like wool and yellow eyes. When it is weaned he brings it home. He takes it from under his coat, where it has been sleeping curled against his shoulder. ‘Gregory, look.’ He holds it out to his son. ‘I am a giant, my name is Marlinspike.’
Gregory looks at him, wary, puzzled. His glance flinches; his hand pulls away. ‘The dogs will kill it,’ he says.
Marlinspike goes down to the kitchen, to grow stout and live out his beastly nature. There is a summer ahead, though he cannot imagine its pleasures; sometimes when he’s walking in the garden he sees him, a half-grown cat, lolling watchful in an apple tree, or snoring on a wall in the sun.
Spring 1530: Antonio Bonvisi, the merchant, invites him to supper at his fine tall house on Bishopsgate. ‘I won’t be late,’ he tells Richard, expecting that it will be the usual tense gathering, everyone cross and hungry: for even a rich Italian with an ingenious kitchen cannot find a hundred ways with smoked eel or salt cod. The merchants in Lent miss their mutton and malmsey, their nightly grunt in a featherbed with wife or mistress; from now till Ash Wednesday their knives will be out for some cut-throat intelligence, some mean commercial advantage.
But it is a grander occasion than he thought; the Lord Chancellor is there, amongst a company of lawyers and aldermen. Humphrey Monmouth, whom More once locked up, is seated well away from the great man; More looks at his ease, holding the company captive with one of his stories about that great scholar Erasmus, his dear friend. But when he looks up and sees him, Cromwell, he falls silent halfway through a sentence; he casts his eyes down, and an opaque and stony look grows on his face.
‘Did you want to talk about me?’ he asks. ‘You can do it while I’m here, Lord Chancellor. I have a thick skin.’ He knocks back a glass of wine and laughs. ‘Do you know what Brandon is saying? He can’t fit my life together. My travels. The other day he called me a Jewish peddler.’
‘And was that to your face?’ his host asks politely.
‘No. The king told me. But then my lord cardinal calls Brandon a horsekeeper.’
Humphrey Monmouth says, ‘You have the entrеe these days, Thomas. And what do you think, now you are a courtier?’
There are smiles around the table. Because, of course, the idea is so ridiculous, the situation so temporary. More’s people are city people, no grander; but he is sui generis, a scholar and a wit. And More says, ‘Perhaps we should not press the point. There are delicate issues here. There is a time to be silent.’
An elder of the drapers’ guild leans across the table and warns, his voice low: ‘Thomas More said, when he took his seat, that he won’t discuss the cardinal, or the Lady either.’
He, Cromwell, looks around at the company. ‘The king surprises me, though. What he will tolerate.’
‘From you?’ More says.
‘I mean Brandon. They’re going to hunt: he walks in and shouts, are you ready?’
‘Your master the cardinal found it a constant battle,’ Bonvisi says, ‘in the early years of the reign. To stop the king’s companions becoming too familiar with him.’
‘He wanted only himself to be familiar,’ More suggests.
‘Though, of course, the king may raise up whom he will.’
‘Up to a point, Thomas,’ Bonvisi says; there is some laughter.
‘And the king enjoys his friendships. That is good, surely?’
‘A soft word, from you, Master Cromwell.’
‘Not at all,’ Monmouth says. ‘Master Cromwell is known as one who does everything for his friends.’
‘I think …’ More stops; he looks down at the table. ‘In all truth, I am not sure if one can regard a prince as a friend.’
‘But surely,’ Bonvisi says, ‘you’ve known Henry since he was a child.’
‘Yes, but friendship should be less exhausting … it should be restorative. Not like …’ More turns to him, for the first time, as if inviting comment. ‘I sometimes feel it is like … like Jacob wrestling with the angel.’
‘And who knows,’ he says, ‘what that fight was about?’
‘Yes, the text is silent. As with Cain and Abel. Who knows?’
He senses a little disquiet around the table, among the more pious, the less sportive; or just those keen for the next course. What will it be? Fish!
‘When you speak to Henry,’ More says, ‘I beg you, speak to the good heart. Not the strong will.’
He would pursue it, but the aged draper waves for more wine, and asks him, ‘How’s your friend Stephen Vaughan? What’s new in Antwerp?’ The conversation is about trade then; it is about shipping, interest rates; it is no more than a background hum to unruly speculation. If you come into a room and say, this is what we’re not talking about, it follows that you’re talking about nothing else. If the Lord Chancellor weren’t here it would be just import duties and bonded warehouses; we would not be thinking of the brooding scarlet cardinal, and our starved Lenten minds would not be occupied by the image of the king’s fingers creeping over a resistant, quick-breathing and virginal bosom. He leans back and fixes his gaze on Thomas More. In time there is a natural pause in conversation, a lull; and after a quarter-hour in which he has not spoken, the Lord Chancellor breaks into it, his voice low and angry, his eyes on the remnants of what he has eaten. ‘The Cardinal of York,’ he says, ‘has a greed that will never be appeased, for ruling over other men.’
‘Lord Chancellor,’ Bonvisi says, ‘you are looking at your herring as if you hate it.’
Says the gracious guest, ‘There’s nothing wrong with the herring.’
He leans forward, ready for this fight; he means not to let it pass. ‘The cardinal is a public man. So are you. Should he shrink from a public role?’
‘Yes.’ More looks up. ‘Yes, I think, a little, he should. A little less evident appetite, perhaps.’
‘It’s late,’ Monmouth says, ‘to read the cardinal a lesson in humility.’
‘His real friends have read it long ago, and been ignored.’
‘And you count yourself his friend?’ He sits back, arms folded. ‘I’ll tell him, Lord Chancellor, and by the blood of Christ he will find it a consolation, as he sits in exile and wonders why you have slandered him to the king.’
‘Gentlemen …’ Bonvisi rises in his chair, edgy.
‘No,’ he says, ‘sit down. Let’s have this straight. Thomas More here will tell you, I would have been a simple monk, but my father put me to the law. I would spend my life in church, if I had the choice. I am, as you know, indifferent to wealth. I am devoted to things of the spirit. The world’s esteem is nothing to me.’ He looks around the table. ‘So how did he become Lord Chancellor? Was it an accident?’
The doors open; Bonvisi jumps to his feet; relief floods his face. ‘Welcome, welcome,’ he says. ‘Gentlemen: the Emperor’s ambassador.’
It is Eustache Chapuys, come in with the desserts; the new ambassador, as one calls him, though he has been in post since fall. He stands poised on the threshold, so they may know him and admire: a little crooked man, in a doublet slashed and puffed, blue satin billowing through black; beneath it, his little black spindly legs. ‘I regret to be so late,’ he says. He simpers. ‘Les dеp?ches, toujours les dеp?ches.’
‘That’s the ambassador’s life.’ He looks up and smiles. ‘Thomas Cromwell.’
‘Ah, c’est le juif errant!’
At once the ambassador apologises: whilst smiling around, as if bemused, at the success of his joke.
Sit down, sit down, says Bonvisi, and the servants bustle, the cloths are swept away, the company rearranges itself more informally, except for the Lord Chancellor, who goes on sitting where he’s sitting. Preserved autumn fruits come in, and spiced wine, and Chapuys takes a place of honour beside More.
‘We will speak French, gentlemen,’ says Bonvisi.
French, as it happens, is the first language of the ambassador of the Empire and Spain; and like any other diplomat, he will never take the trouble to learn English, for how will that help him in his next posting? So kind, so kind, he says, as he eases himself back in the carved chair their host has vacated; his feet do not quite touch the floor. More rouses himself then; he and the ambassador put their heads together. He watches them; they glance back at him resentfully; but looking is free.
In a tiny moment when they pause, he cuts in. ‘Monsieur Chapuys? You know, I was talking with the king recently about those events, so regrettable, when your master’s troops plundered the Holy City. Perhaps you can advise us? We don’t understand them even now.’
Chapuys shakes his head. ‘Most regrettable events.’
‘Thomas More thinks it was the secret Mohammedans in your army who ran wild – oh, and my own people, of course, the wandering Jews. But before this, he has said it was the Germans, the Lutherans, who raped the poor virgins and desecrated the shrines. In all cases, as the Lord Chancellor says, the Emperor must blame himself; but to whom should we attach blame? Are you able to help us out?’
‘My dear Sir Chancellor!’ The ambassador is shocked. His eyes turn towards Thomas More. ‘Did you speak so, of my imperial master?’ A glance flicked over his shoulder, and he drops into Latin.
The company, linguistically agile, sit and smile at him. He advises, pleasantly, ‘If you wish to be half-secret, try Greek. Allez, Monsieur Chapuys, rattle away! The Lord Chancellor will understand you.’
The party breaks up soon after, the Lord Chancellor rising to go; but before he does, he makes a pronouncement to the company, in English. ‘Master Cromwell’s position,’ he says, ‘is indefensible, it seems to me. He is no friend to the church, as we all know, but he is friend to one priest. And that priest the most corrupt in Christendom.’
With the curtest of nods he takes his leave. Even Chapuys does not warrant more. The ambassador looks after him, dubious, biting his lip: as if to say, I looked for more help and friendship there. Everything Chapuys does, he notices, is like something an actor does. When he thinks, he casts his eyes down, places two fingers to his forehead. When he sorrows, he sighs. When he is perplexed, he wags his chin, he half-smiles. He is like a man who has wandered inadvertently into a play, who has found it to be a comedy, and decided to stay and see it through.
The supper is over; the company dwindle away, into the early dusk. ‘Perhaps sooner than you would have liked?’ he says, to Bonvisi.
‘Thomas More is my old friend. You should not come here and bait him.’
‘Oh, have I spoiled your party? You invited Monmouth; was that not to bait him?’
‘No, Humphrey Monmouth is my friend too.’
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