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Carey, wishing still to meet clear of the eyes and ears of Somerset, joined me some few streets east, and we walked along the Thames.
“I see you now carry a blade,” he said, noting the rapier I had relieved from our company’s stores the morning I left for Stratford, and that was now my constant companion. “May I see it?”
I drew the sword and handed it to Carey. He made a brief inspection of it and passed it back. I placed it back in its scabbard, and he reached over and took my right arm near the wrist and squeezing up toward the elbow.
“I would recommend something heavier, but fear you wield as much as your stature can bear. I can at least hope that its presence will serve deterrent, but recommend, should you again face threat that you make more use of your legs than your arms.”
“Always my first instinct, my Lord.”
We past a short distance in silence and in the smell of the river in the summer sun – that of fish and of filth, of fair water and foul waste, the river being the fat vein on which the city fed, and that sewer into which it emptied, standing symbol of man’s penchant to despoil most that on which he did most depend.
“I was sorry to hear of your son,” he said.
“And I that this sorry business did delay my office,” I replied.
He made a soft grunt of excuse. “I am impatient by nature, but I prithee know my sorry true. Such words beyond that seem too many or too few, and I have no gift for them anyway.” A pause. “So, what news?”
I told to him the scheme of lands and shares I had heard from Heaton, my telling oft interrupted by his temper, his brother, by the tale’s end being dead many times over and by imaginative and unpleasant means; some other parties to this scheme, too, being much abused, and then he took some minutes to reclaim himself, until his breath came more steady.
“These vultures took scent of my father’s death and then schemed to abuse the carrion of his estate for their foul purpose,” he said. “The prospect of his recovery making their plot void, I fear some hand in its membership then murdered him, or perhaps all hands, in conspiracy.”
“It is a company of some weight and to make charge of conspiracy on this alone would be a tricky business,” I said, “especially since involvement of any beyond your brother may be most difficult to prove.”
Carey nodded. “I shames me to think it, but my brother alone is of such character that he would this deed commit himself, just for his own benefit, and likely even take some joy in it. I can, at least, make this entire enterprise known, and put out the fires of greed they have lit beneath their boiling cauldron of speculation, leaving them all to suffer with the cold soup of their losses.”
“You may wish wait, my Lord, as we still have some chance to trace this matter back to its true author. Did any in your circle know of the hideous-nosed man?”
Carey shook his head. “I made broad inquiry, but none recalled him, and he would be easy recalled. Though it now seems, perhaps, that any that did know of him would have good cause to say other.”
“More cause than you know, my Lord.” I told him what I had learned from his servants, of the man’s ploy as doctor, fearing another bought of his tempers. He seemed instead only saddened.
“I remember Mary, as she was most kind to my father in his illness and he did much favor her company. My brother again in play, wanting make her servant to his lusts and then having her discharged only on account of some pox? An easy tale to credit given both his character and his appetites, but could it be he suspects your true mission and would have her beyond our questioning?’
“Perhaps my Lord, but current past our knowing.”
He shook his head slow. “I shall ask audience of the Queen and relay to her such as we know. I will not have these vultures continue to profit by my father’s murder only in satisfaction of my wrath.”
“As you will, my Lord, but would it be wise to wait some few days? Once the parties to this scheme see it known, they will make quick to cover what signs they may. As we now know of their scheme and they do not know it, we might better focus our efforts.”
“Focus how?” asked Carey
“You can ask after our deformed assailant more close in the acquaintance of those we know involved, but not to them direct, and perhaps hear of such in service to one or another of the conspirators. And having Mary’s name, and her being of some remarkable beauty, I can seek her out and have her testimony in this matter.”
Carey made a kind of laugh, as if in observance of some irony.
“How is it now my timid playwright has such an appetite for this work, for on my first offering it to you, you took some pains to it avoid? I would have thought you happy to have it done.”
And I had to reflect a minute, it not occurring to me that, in my encouraging Carey I was extending such charge that I did so fear.
“It may be a weakness of my art, my Lord. Having such a story begun, I must know its end.”
“Than I shall count myself blessed by the service of your curiosity,” Carey said. “And I shall make those inquiries you recommend.”
He turned back toward Somerset, and I continued on toward Bishopsgate, knowing I had in my last answer to him been false. It was not curiosity that now compelled me, but rather the sense that my conscience, which I had long considered to be well or at least sufficiently formed, had in late days been shown to me much wanting in its constitution and leaving me such distressed in my own company that I could not, I think, keep it much longer were I not amended. I cannot know what lies beyond this life, and I do increasingly fear nothing, but the thinking that my son’s eyes might be now upon me, and not clouded in childish worship, but instead invested with such vision as to know the truth of me whole weighed heavy. I would at least this office perform, full and in good conscience, if only for my own selfishness, for I could bear no longer such thoughts and melancholies that did of late oppress me on my own account. I seems a man must serve something, thus our human appetite for gods, as they give us compass. And perhaps I had at last found one worthy of my worship.
Truth seemed as fair a god as any.