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I Dwelt in High Places:
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Date first posted: Apr 2023
Most recent update: Apr 2023
This eBook was produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan
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MISS BOWEN'S new novel has an Elizabethan setting. The character of the Queen figures in the earlier stages of the story at the Mortlake home of Dr. John Dee, her court astrologer. John Dee and Sir Edward Kelly, his extraordinary assistant, a man so remarkable that it is not yet known if he were charlatan or genius, are two of the main characters. They set out from Mortlake in quest of strange adventures and finally arrive at Prague, the home of the alchemists, and secure the attention of the mad Emperor Rudolph—himself an "adept." Edward Kelly gains complete domination over Dee and finally succeeds in winning from him his young and beautiful wife. The story is not a fantasy, but combines with the quest for the unattainable the sternest and most gorgeous realities of life. Miss Bowen makes splendid use of her material and has written a wonderfully effective novel of an heroic and gallant, if fantastic and wild adventure, against the lurid and magnificent background of the Renaissance.
To My Son
On His Entering The College
Of St. Peter At Westminster
Where Dr. John Dee's son, Arthur,
was received on May 3rd, 1592
I dwelt in high places and my place is in
of the cloud.—The Book of Ecclesiastes.
Behold, He cometh with Clouds, and every eye
shall see Him.—The Book of Revelations.
A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and
of the shadow of death, without any order, and
where the light is as darkness.—The Book of Job.
JANE DEE pretended to herself that she had not heard the bell of the great door ring; it seemed, after all, but a tinkle in the sweet rushing and sighing of the March winds that filled the house by the river with the rumour of tumult. She was very tired after many weeks of anxiety and work, the coming and going of strangers, the illness of Arthur, her eldest child, the trouble with a dishonest maid and that strange frightening affair with Barnabas Saul, her husband's assistant.
It was so soothing to sit alone in the large parlour and to know that there would be nothing to do till supper-time when Ellen Cole would bring the two children home from Petersham, where they had gone to see Nurse Garrett, when her husband would come down from his laboratory and there would probably be visitors who would sit in the lamplight and talk of matters which she, Jane Dee, did not understand.
The wind blew down the wide chimney shaft and stirred the flames from the sea-coal fire beside which the exhausted woman sat sunk in the deep tapestry chair with arms, her hands interlocked behind her head and her long limbs outstretched. She could see, through the long, diamond-paned window, the grey river hastening by and, on the further bank, the bare willows, dragged sideways by the winds, the perished weeds and grasses of last year, beaten and broken above the soggy earth.
Trailing, loose clouds, one close above another, flew seawards. Jane Dee, watching this movement of river, clouds and willows, all swift, grey and flowing in the same direction, away from Mortlake, away from London, from England, out to the ocean, felt a sensation of release and freedom, as if her soul were loosened from her body and escaping down the river.
The bell tinkled again.
Jane Dee did not move. She hoped that whoever was without would go away believing the house to be empty. So many people came to see her husband on selfish errands, many of them consuming food that she, the anxious housewife, could ill afford, or staying for days in the spare room above the hall and demanding service that she could ill provide.
And so long a pause passed that Jane Dee believed that she had indeed deceived the person without and that he had departed. Her body, beautifully formed, relaxed in her shabby, heavy gown, and the pure outline of her face and throat sank against the faded cushions, while her large, dark eyes gazed drowsily at the passage of the clouds and water, the bend of weed and willow without the long window.
She was twenty-five years old, highly born, finely bred. An expression of proud resignation on her delicate face masked restless discontents. Nervous outbursts of violent temper had already marred her small features with fine lines of passion and regret, but her brow was noble, her movements full of grace, and there was about her all the dignity of a woman faithfully devoted to tedious duties, who never thought of her own pleasure or convenience.
Even now, as she sank into a half sleep, little worrying questions shot through her tired mind. Would Ellen Cole be able to get something for the baby's cough from Nurse Garrett? Could she be trusted to see that Arthur did not slip into the river on the way home? Would the new maids really arrive to-morrow?—and be of any use? Would that horrible affair with Barnabas Saul damage her husband? How would she contrive if some money did not come in soon?
They would have to sell something more—one of the standing cups with covers, perhaps. How she disliked seeing the good pieces of plate go out of the house!
The bell rang again, the sharp sound of it penetrated her drowsy worries. She sat up quickly, then rose with a sigh. Perhaps, after all, she had better go; it might be a messenger from someone important—even, perhaps, from the Queen.
As she moved towards the great outer door she frowned with vexation. Why must her husband choose to-day to send the two menservants, Benjamin and George, on some crazy errand in Robin Jacke's boat up the river, and why could not Roger Cook or one of the other assistants sometimes hear the bell?
It was all very well for them to shut themselves up in a distant part of the rambling old house and refuse to disturb themselves for anything; no one cared for her peace and quiet.
She opened the door in a temper, a vast rush of soft wind blew over her, and she found herself face to face with a stranger.
"My husband can see no one," said Jane Dee coldly, but she was conscious of a sudden exhilaration. The wind blew her clothes away from her body, her hair away from her face and she knew, for a second, the sensation of being disembodied, of mounting the wind and flying away from Jane Dee and all her cares and labours.
The stranger stood silent a second, holding his wide-leaved hat; his thin cloak blew about him and his head was slightly bent against the wind.
Jane Dee observed, curiously, the graceful shape of his person, and the intent stare of his pale, grey eyes. There was something remarkable in the silent persistency of his attitude.
"My husband will see no one," she repeated with less confidence. The wind rushed past her into the house and she put up her hand to catch at her flying locks.
"May I come in and tell you my business?"
"That would be no use, I know nothing of my husband's affairs."
But Jane Dee was slightly flattered, because no one had ever before treated her as anything but a housewife.
"You must know something of this, it has to do with Barnabas Saul."
She frowned, for this was an unpleasant subject.
"Come inside, then, sir, for I can hardly hear for the wind."
He was instantly across the threshold and she closed the heavy door. She frowned again, for her peaceful afternoon's rest was spoiled. She wished that she had gone to her own room where she would not have heard the bell, instead of yielding to fatigue and the fascination of the gray river view from the long window of the panelled parlour.
Yet she sighed as well as frowned; perhaps it was fortunate that she, instead of her husband, should deal with the vexatious matter of Barnabas Saul.
She sank into the tapestried chair beside the windblown fire and asked the stranger to tell her quickly what his errand was. She was unconscious that she was a beautiful object at which to gaze, for her worn dress was a pleasing grey-green, like the river without, and her black hair, slightly dishevelled, fell in lines of natural grace around her pale, serious face, while her attitude, weary and dignified, was unconsciously lovely. It was years since she had thought of herself at all.
"Have you come from Barnabas Saul? My husband will not take him back. He may have been acquitted," she added defiantly, "but I never believed him to be anything but a poor trickster."
"I daresay he was only that. No—I do not come from him. But to take his place."
"No!" exclaimed Jane Dee violently. "No!"
The stranger smiled and cast full on her his pale, sad glance. She rose, anxious to get him out of the house.
"My husband will have nothing more to do with that. He was cruelly deceived by Barnabas Saul. You must go at once."
"Is not Dr. Dee searching for a skryer, one who can see the spirits?"
"No. He will not meddle any more, I tell you. He is not interested in any magic."
"Surely you mistake, or else you are afraid of me, Mrs. Dee?" The stranger smiled gently. "My name is Edward Talbot; I can skry very well. I have a number of spirits at my command. I feel sure that Dr. Dee would wish to try my powers."
Jane replied vigorously.
"It is a mischievous folly. My husband, who has so much learning and wisdom, has been tempted to experiment; but it has already been worse than useless. A costly waste of time. I am sure that he will never try anyone else. He and his assistants are now much occupied in other studies."
Mr. Edward Talbot made no effort to move, though the lady stood impatiently, half-turned towards the door; and his very immobility caused her, against her own wish, to give him a keen consideration.
He was about her own age, very finely and strongly built, dressed elegantly in grey; his features were small, the nostrils flaring widely, the mouth beautifully shaped and pale; his eyes, very large and set wide apart, were extraordinary, light as silver, with a metallic gleam, so that he sometimes appeared blind, yet full of a brilliant life, of tenderness, humour and passion, and delicately set under straight, thin brows. The whole face was resigned in expression and of a peculiar, tragic beauty. He wore, what Jane Dee had only seen on much older men, a close cap of black silk, so tight fitting and drawn so low over brow and neck that none of his hair was visible. She disliked him intensely; he filled her with a shuddering apprehension of unnameable disaster.
He smiled as if he saw her fear and her weakening.
"I will remain here until Dr. Dee comes down from his laboratories. I am sure that he will give me a trial."
Jane Dee had not told the truth when she had said that her husband was not searching for a slayer. Despite the many failures that he had had, and the trouble with the rogue Barnabas Saul, who had been arrested for sorcery, despite the fearful dangers attending a study that might any moment contravene the laws and provoke the most frightful punishments, John Dee was still searching for someone who would help in the occult experiments that he could not resist.
Jane Dee felt uneasy. If this strange young man whom she disliked so much did wait for her husband and tell him that she had tried to 'turn him away, Dr. Dee would be very vexed and chide her for an ignorant, wilful woman. It would be better to face the danger boldly and to appeal to her husband to have done with this most perilous matter.
"Stay here, then," she said quietly. "I will go to Dr. Dee myself. Does he know your name or have you any friend of ours to answer for you?"
"None," replied Edward Talbot. He spread his hands to warm before the flaring fire, and she noticed how beautifully shaped they were and that on one index finger was a ring of polished jet.
John Dee was working in his laboratory with his assistants. This room, with adjacent workshops, occupied a large portion of the upper storey of the ancient house which he had inherited recently from his mother. He had added various buildings to the original structure and incorporated with it several cottages where his assistants and many of the strange guests whom he entertained were lodged.
These annexes were approached by a stairway from the laboratory, and had their own yard, so that Dr. Dee was shut away when at work from the original house and garden where his family resided, with Ellen Cole, the children's nurse, George and Benjamin, the two menservants, and two maids who were constantly being changed.
Jane Dee very seldom came to the laboratories; she was not interested in them, and she had a great deal to do in her own apartments. As she went down the long lobby which led from the house to the workshops she caught glimpses of the river from the low-set windows. The wind still blew strongly and the tide was racing to the sea.
The floor of the passage was very uneven, there were cobwebs and dust in the window frames and the plaster was flaking from the walls. Jane Dee sighed. This part of the house was beyond her province. She often complained of the inconvenience of the arrangements of the old building, but sometimes she was glad that she lived in this ancient house, which had been standing when her grandfather was young. She liked the garden, sloping to the river, the landing stage and the ancient arch, she even liked the low, rambling rooms, with the long windows, the rich, deep-cut panelling and the carved, painted roses on the ceiling. Often, too, when she was most vexed and weary she liked to think of the ghosts of all the other women who had toiled there and that some day she, too, would join them—a shadow among shadows.
She had to pass through the long library before she came to the laboratory. This was a place she could not see without great respect and awe, for she knew it to contain one of the most valuable collections of books and manuscripts in the world, said to be worth a very large sum of money, perhaps as much as two thousand pounds.
In this long, low room, which had been built in the old days for music and dancing, were several valuable scientific instruments which Jane Dee always regarded with exasperated admiration, so marvellous were they to her, and so incapable did she feel of even remotely understanding their purposes.
There was the quadrant made by Richard Chancellor, the explorer, who had perished years ago in the distant, dreadful White Seas; there was, swinging in a frame, a radius astronomicus or telescope, and two globes made specially for John Dee by Gerard Mercator, together with several compasses and theories, and many great chests full of boxes containing deeds, records, seals and coats of arms, all of great value to heralds and antiquaries, but depressing Jane Dee with a sense of dusty futility.
She would rather have seen great stores of household linen, shelves filled with jars of conserves and balm, bottles of medicine and wine, fine stores of soap and candles, good bales of woollen cloth and barrels of dried fish for Lent, all of which commodities the house at Mortlake was very deficient in.
Jane Dee knocked at the door of the first laboratory, then entered nervously without waiting for an answer.
There were three laboratories as well as rambling workshops beyond, and garrets filled with all manner of objects for chemical and mathematical research. All this portion of the house smelt of the fumes of strange compounds which were constantly being dissolved into vapours.
Jane Dee hesitated on the threshold. The room looked towards the river and was full of grey light that flowed through the northward windows. Roger Cook, the eldest of the assistants, sat at a long table covered with glass retorts and limbecks that shone like bubbles; he was mixing a red paste on a little square of alabaster and his demeanour was, as usual, melancholy and sullen. He pretended not to see Jane Dee, but hunched himself more closely over his work.
John Dee was standing at a sink in the corner, showing Mr. John Lewis, the doctor's son, how to draw essential oils. This youth was the last and youngest of the assistants, and Jane Dee disliked him because her husband had promised him a hundred pounds if he would help him in some discovery on which he was engaged, and Jane Dee could not endure to think of so much money being paid away for nothing when they were in debt with so little coming in.
She sympathised with Roger Cook, who was bitterly jealous of this diligent, quick young man who had become at once such a favourite with his master.
"Sir, Dr. Dee," she said, for she was always very formal with him. "There is someone to see you whom I cannot be rid of." Vexation made her voice shrill. "Yet he has brought no word from any friend and seems to me a rogue."
"Why, Jane! You should not have come yourself—taken the trouble—"
"There are no maids," she reminded him quietly. "Ellen Cole has taken the children to Petersham and you sent the men up the river, I don't know why, so I had to go to the great door myself."
"Ah, yes, I am sorry, Jane," he looked at her remorsefully. He was always very kind and gentle with her even when she was sullen or angry, but often, for hours together, he would forget about her and her troubles and burdens; she believed that he had no idea of her anxieties and fatigues. She had never loved him, but she felt a great respect for his wisdom and learning, and an irritated compassion for his lack of all practical qualities, and even, at times, an affection for his candid, childlike goodness. He was thirty years older than Jane. They had been married three years and she was entirely devoted to his interests.
He wiped some drops of oil from his hands and set her a chair, while he questioned her about the persistent stranger.
Jane Dee watched the scudding clouds driven by the flying east winds and answered reluctantly. She was annoyed at the quick interest that her husband showed when he heard that the man claimed to be a seer of spirits.
"I should have thought that you would have had a lesson with Barnabas Saul," she said sharply. "This is such another—an evil creature, I'm certain."
Roger Cook gave her a dark glance of sympathy. He had been unable to see any spirits himself and loathed those who claimed that they could do so.
"I might try him, Jane. You know how long I have searched for this—"
"But why? It is dangerous, forbidden by law—"
"Only dealings with evil spirits or the souls of the dead are forbidden, Jane. I have told you so often," he added gently, "that I do not propose any matter that touches secrecy or magic."
"People think that you do; all manner of slanders and rumours go up and down."
"The vulgar always look askance at wisdom and learning, Jane. I am protected by the Queen, who is herself greatly interested in the possibilities of these experiments."
"If you are obstinate in this, Dr. Dee, you will ruin us all." The tired woman spoke with great earnestness, nervously clasping her hands. "You neglect the work that brings you just fame and the money that we so much need, for idle, perilous speculations. You lay yourself open to the tricks of rogues and cozeners, you expose yourself to the derision of serious men."
"Mrs. Dee speaks very wisely," said Roger Cook with a scowl. "I shall go and speak to this impostor, and if he be saucy, hand him over to the law. Perhaps he will not be as lucky as Barnabas Saul."
"Ah, Roger Cook, for a long while you have been picking and devising a quarrel with me. I have had much to endure from your melancholy, jealous humours."
Dr. Dee spoke regretfully; he was fond of Roger Cook, who had worked faithfully under him for fourteen years, and who only of late had revealed himself as morose and lacking in understanding and sympathy. John Lewis, although pretending to occupy himself with the phials of oil, was listening eagerly to the conversation; though he had no psychic powers himself, he was intensely interested in the subject.
Dr. Dee questioned his wife gently about the appearance of this stranger and she replied shortly, affecting forgetfulness, though the figure of the young man with the small features, large grey eyes and close black cap was as vivid before her as if he and not her husband stood before her outlined against the windy grey beyond the window.
John Dee was a tall, spare man, alert and vigorous, who, though fifty-five years of age, seemed only in the prime of life; his features were precise and clear cut, his deepset eyes, heavily lined and shadowed from excessive use, sparkled from a continual enthusiasm; a close-cut, thin beard shaded his jaw and chin; his dress was severe and neglected. As he took off his work apron his wife addressed him with asperity.
"Where have you sent George and Benjamin? I have no one in the house to-day at all."
"They have gone to Henley to fetch the Arabic book I lent to Mr. Dalton."
"Was there need for two of them to go?"
"The book is very precious, Jane."
"And of more concern than my comfort, I suppose!"
To distract her he took a morsel of feathers from the window sill and showed it to her on the palm of his fine hand.
"Why, Dr. Dee, what is that but a dead sparrow?"
"The cat caught it—you will notice, Jane, that it never has had but one wing—that is all Nature gave it."
Roger Cook exclaimed rudely:
"There are many like that, who fly lop-sided and drop to the ground and are devoured in the end."
"And there are those who are not winged at all, but must always crawl, Roger Cook," replied John Dee mildly, as he slipped into his furred gown and left the laboratory.
When John Dee entered the large panelled parlour the stranger was standing by the fire, which now burnt clearly, for the wind had abated. The clouds were torn apart in the west, and a dull red stain began to flush the tossed heavens. Mr. Edward Talbot was looking at this prospect which was clearly visible from the long, low window, when Dr. Dee spoke to him:
"Sir, why have you sought me out?"
"Dr. Dee, you are the wisest man in England. You possess all the worldly learning of which man is capable. In history, logic, geography, languages, chemistry, mathematics, in curious, rare knowledge, in the wonder of experiments with optics you have no equal."
Dr. Dee accepted these words, which were spoken without flattery, without embarrassment; his reputation was perfectly established in Europe.
"Worldly learning," repeated Mr. Edward Talbot, with his air of quiet self-confidence emphasised. "And now I hear that you, replete with this knowledge of earthly matters, would study the world of spirits."
"Only if this may be done with reverence and piety. Far be it from me to dabble in magic or any form of sorcery—"
"Yet you, yourself, Dr. Dee, were once arraigned for the practice of witchcraft?"
"I thought that most men had forgotten that; it must have happened before you were born—"
"Yet I have heard of it. Before the Star Chamber and Bishop Bonner in '53, was it not? A man named George Ferrys accused you of, by spells, blinding one of his children and killing another?"
"That is so," replied Dr. Dee with some anger. "But I was cleared of all suspicion. The charge was the invention of malicious ignorance. At the time I was writing two books for the Duchess of Northumberland, one of which, Ebbs and Floods, was much commended."
"That, too, I know. Yet I believe that you have been much vexed by spiteful rumours that you deal in black magic? Even your late medium, Barnabas Saul, was accused of sorcery."
"But acquitted. Yet now he says he can see no more spirits."
"Did he ever see them?" asked Edward Talbot sharply.
"I do not know. For myself, I can see nothing. I have to thank my God for many talents, for much industry of mind, but that gift has been denied me." John Dee spoke sadly and, stroking his thin beard, looked away across the room, to the river without.
The deepening red light of the sky was reflected on his face, at once noble and simple, that Edward Talbot was subjecting to a passionate scrutiny.
"Barnabas Saul had some such power, as I believe. He had a spiritual visitor when he lodged over the hall, here, in this house. And I myself had strange dreams when he was here. He saw figures in the cristallo. And one directed me to go to Oundle in Northampton, to look for some books buried there."
"You search always for buried treasure? For books and manuscripts, eh, Dr. Dee?"
"I have always tried to preserve the treasures of the monasteries which have been, all over the country, dispersed and destroyed. I petitioned the late Queen, in '56, to allow me to found a national library. I have saved much by my own endeavours."
"Were the books discovered at Oundle?"
Mr. Edward Talbot laughed softly and the sound caused Dr. Dee to come sharply to a sense of the impropriety of this conversation wherein he was being questioned by an utter stranger, as equal to equal. Jane Dee had often, harshly enough, chidden him for his easiness and self-absorption which allowed all manner of people to take advantage of him. He glanced apprehensively at the young man, as if to discover his charm, for some fascination he undoubtedly exercised.
"And now, sir, you must explain yourself. Who are you?"
"My name is Edward Talbot." The green-grey eyes were full of fire and candour. "My history is curious and not easy to be believed. It would be tedious to tell it now. I have studied at Oxford. I have wandered much, particularly in Wales, the land of the mystics. I have some knowledge which you may, on examination, test." John Dee was greatly attracted by the eager, wild face, the quick ardent words, and by the mention of Wales, for he much cherished his own Welsh descent, but, simple-minded as he was, he reminded himself: "The last man cozened me."
"Have you anyone to speak for you, Edward Talbot? Not only am I loath to waste time, but to practice these matters with a cheat is, in a certain sort, blasphemy."
"I have kept myself hidden from all. I have something precious to conceal." The soft, caressing voice that was touched by an accent strange to John Dee, sank to a whisper. "Something that I can show only to you—a manuscript."
John Dee's face was sharp with interest.
"Where did you find it?"
"In the most sacred spot in Britain—Glastonbury, and with it were two phials of red and white powder."
"What are these?"
"Though I have studied alchemy, I do not know. Nor can I decipher the manuscript. But I can guess what precious secret I have stumbled on."
Dr. Dee controlled his excitement.
"The elixir? So many have been deceived. But in Glastonbury! What is it like? Have you tried any experiments with it?" He checked himself. "But it was as a seer of spirits that you came to me?"
"That is part of the same mystery. The spirits do visit me. But I have not the globes, the tables nor even the peace of mind necessary." He clutched the arm of the elder man. "Look yonder! See, the clouds have fled, and what glory stains the sky!"
Infected by this enthusiasm, which amounted to exaltation, John Dee gazed from the window. An aurora borealis of crimson, scarlet, gold and violet brightened the eastern and northern heavens, and was reflected in brilliant flakes on the river, still agitated from the rage of the lately hushed winds. The reflection of this almost intolerable blaze was in the panelled parlour and dimmed the glow of the sinking fire.
"You see," cried Mr. Edward Talbot wildly, "the very heavens send an omen to mark my coming to you."
He stood with his face turned to the window, and the fiery glow stained his features red and gave a look of flame to his strange eyes, over which the straight brows frowned.
John Dee was much moved by this face, which had at that moment an unearthly beauty, tragic, wistful and almost terrible.
"Fetch your manuscript, Mr. Talbot, and bring that and the powders to me."
Jane Dee also watched the extraordinary sunset which cast such furious colours into the east and north. The willows on the opposite bank were now dark and insignificant, the mud and dead weeds on the river bank were transformed into lines and droplets of light, where the blaze caught the rain drippings. Jane thought of the marvellous Elixir of Life and Philosopher's Stone of which she had heard so much, and which was capable of turning all that it touched into gold. Her husband had often spoken to her of this but he had not yet tampered with hermetic experiments, or so she believed. Yet, with what reverence would he speak of Roger Bacon, Saint Dunstan, Raymond Lull, Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus, who had always striven to achieve illimitable knowledge, to set free the spiritual elements in all chemical substances and metals, and to attain god-like powers of wisdom, of healing and to learn secrets hitherto unguessed at by man!
How often had not her husband spoken to her of the vapours rising from his retorts, the souls of the various substances being compounded, and of the strange shapes, some menacing, some gentle, with which these spirits escaped into the air.
Gold! Jane Dee leaned further from the window and watched the transient glitter on river and puddle, the vapours which seemed to burn in the harsh blue heavens; the metal weather vane on Mortlake Church appeared to be on fire. She knew that the discovery of the transmutation of metals, the knowledge of how to make gold would be as nothing to her husband compared to that other wisdom he hoped to attain, but, for herself, she would very gladly have had a little of the precious metal, even if it were only to the value of a hundred pounds.
Though her husband was so famous, so sought after, so learned, though he held the envied post of Astrologer to the Queen, the only sure income that he could count on was eighty pounds a year which came from the Midland rectories which he held as sinecure through special dispensation of Archbishop Parker; the rest of his revenue had to be made up from odd, erratic gifts from the Queen and other patrons, like the Walsinghams or the Burleighs, by fees from pupils and presents from visitors who came to see the famous library or to have their horoscopes cast, from the Mortlake property John Dee had lately inherited from his mother, and, too frequently, by loans or the sale of some valued object given to the astrologer by a wealthy client.
Jane Dee frowned; mentally, she accused the Queen of being fickle and forgetful—how often had she not promised her faithful servant whom she valued so highly some benefice or lucrative post? More than once she had named him Provost of Eton and then, at the last moment, the coveted place had been given to another.
Thinking of these things, Jane Dee forgot the sunset and went sadly downstairs. She and Ellen Cole would have to set out the supper, probably there would be visitors, and Roger Cook would be asked in, and her husband would forget that they had no cook and ask why there was no hot dish, but only cold pies, pressed beef and cakes.
Ellen Cole had returned with the two children; she was taking off their cloaks in the panelled parlour; her arms, she said, were aching from carrying the heavy baby, Katherine. And what a sunset! Petersham fields had seemed alight.
"What did Nurse Garrett say of Kate, Ellen Cole?"
"She gave me some drops for her. She said that she was thriving finely."
Jane Dee took the baby greedily; when she had a child held to her breast she felt at peace, whatever her troubles. She much disliked sending her children out to nurse and having to go long walks to see them for a brief space when she longed to have them about her always in the house. She was unhappily conscious that perhaps little Kate had been weaned too soon because she had been impatient to fetch her from her foster-mother at Petersham.
Jane Dee leaned back in the shabby chair, clasping the heavy, drowsy child close under her chin, while she watched Arthur, half asleep from the walk and the wind, nodding on the stool at her feet. His perfect little face was stained by gingerbread crumbs, his bright hair stood up in little curling feathers on his head, he stared into the fire that Ellen Cole was replenishing; he was half asleep. Only in her children did Jane Dee feel a complete satisfaction; she hoped that she would have a large family, but she was torn by worrying fears as to how many children could be supported and educated. And this conflict between maternal desire and worldly prudence angered her and her anger turned on her husband, who had so little concern in practical matters and could not understand her great need of comfort and protection.
So when John Dee came in from the garden with mud on his habit, her private musings caused her to give him cold looks.
But he did not observe these, being occupied by the marvel of the light in the heavens, and the strange visit of Mr. Edward Talbot.
"He is a rogue if ever there was one," said Jane Dee, scornful above the sleeping child on her bosom. "I hope that you turned him away. Who is there to supper tonight?"
"Sir George Peckham, who comes to consult me about charts and rudders—he goes exploring in North America and brings his sea master, Mr. Clement. He has promised us some fish for Lent, Jane," added John Dee, seeing her weary, sullen look.
"Ay, promises!" She rose and gave the child to Ellen Cole; her hour of peace was again disturbed; she knew how these seamen ate and drank and talked.
"And, Jane, Sir Harry Lee brings his brother who has been in Muscovy. Did you note the sky, Jane? It was a portent, surely, like the meteor last August—"
She paused at the door, her keys in her hand.
"A portent of what?" she asked suspiciously. "You have sent away that Edward Talbot?"
"He has gone," evaded Dr. Dee. "He lodges at Petersham."
"Do not allow him here again. Though I cannot see the spirits I know that that man will bring misfortune."
She went out into the great kitchen; the two menservants had returned and were getting up the fire. Their appearance was a new vexation; they would want beer, bread and meat, and would be in her way while she was preparing the supper.
As she unlocked the case that contained the scanty store of nutmegs, cloves, ginger and pepper, she questioned them as to the success of their journey.
This had proved fruitless; Mr. Dalton was away from home and had taken the precious manuscript with him and then the servants had hired horses to return because by river it took so long. So good shillings that Jane Dee could have well spent herself had been wasted as well as the time of the servants, who were well paid and ate a great deal.
Jane Dee turned aside sharply to hide the vexation on her face. The colour had faded from water and land, all was dull and grey; the pale sky had the appearance of being bitterly cold.
John Dee's guests came late that night and talked much of the voyages they had made and the voyages they hoped to make, and the newly discovered lands and seas of which the astronomer had made maps and charts. They told many marvels to the learned doctor, whose soul dwelt half in a world of phantasy and speculation, and such talk was sufficient to dissolve the walls of the old house at Mortlake and send him voyaging on vast and desolate oceans or through untracked forests.
He rejoiced that he lived in these modern times, when, as it seemed, most unexpectedly, and surely through the wish and guidance of Divine Providence, all the world was opened up to eager adventurers, and every day brought some marvellous discovery, either in the realms of Nature, or in those of science, or in the finding of strange countries and peoples.
He had travelled much, but he would have liked to have been off again with these bold, eager men, searching for the strange, the unknown and the beautiful. They lacked money; although such enterprises as theirs were generally profitable, it was often difficult to raise sufficient shares in the companies that financed these voyages of discovery, and Mr. Clements, the sea master, asked Dr. Dee with a laugh if it were not possible for him to discover the Philosopher's Stone and give them a few scrapings of gold with which to fit out their ships?
This brought back his visitor of that afternoon to the astronomer's mind and he felt a glow of pleasure and excitement at the thought of Edward Talbot and his queer grey eyes, his self-confident, excitable manner and his talk of the great book found in the ruins of Glastonbury, perhaps on the very spot where Saint Dunstan had practised his magic, and of the red and white powder which might hold some long-sought and tremendous secret of transmutation.
He said nothing of this, but told his guests that he was in a like state to their own—always on the verge of some discovery, and always lacking the means to proceed further in his studies, hampered by the need for pence. His experiments, he reminded them, were near as costly as their voyages; they would be surprised, he was sure, if they were to see his account at the glass-works at Chailey, or what he owed John Fern the potter, who lived by the ferry, for making him all his vessels and building his brick furnaces, while as to what he spent in chemicals, in books, in costly instruments, it was not to be mentioned.
Jane Dee listened with antagonism to all this talk. It sounded to her like boasting; though she did not doubt the wisdom of her husband, nor the courage of the other men, she felt that all of them would have done better to set their minds to simpler things. She thought of all the women she knew who were married to plain men who went about their business and kept out of debt and could afford silk dresses and chains and horses for their wives.
She sighed in vexation as she ncticed the amount of food and drink consumed, the number of candles that were burnt down to the sockets, and all for the sake of talk about wild, barbaric lands like Cathay and Muscovy, and frozen seas where there were nothing but bears and ice floes, where the bodies of adventurous men bleached.
She left them at last, leaving them to their charts and designs, their talk of compasses and winds and waves, and they did not notice her going. She went upstairs thinking anxiously of the morrow and of the money that must soon be found somehow to pay the servants, and for food and interest on loans; the old house was mortgaged and her own marriage portion had long since been spent, and all they could obtain from the Queen and their other patrons were words and vague promises.
Jane Dee looked at her children who slept in little beds either side Ellen Cole in the large room over the parlour.
The river was still and sparkled with reflected stars. She paused by the window to look out over this dark but peaceful prospect. The red lantern of a barge passed slowly by; there were other lights, warm and kindly, glimmering in the windows of farm houses on the north bank, across the obscure fields.
Jane Dee felt comforted. She was not like her husband, versed in astronomy and astrology; the stars were to her but so many lights, far away and mysterious, and yet the sight of them gave a sense of protection. She stood for a while with the curtain in her hand, looking from the prospect of the river, the dark fields, the garden and the stars, to the two sleeping children. Then she went softly to her own large bedroom with the sloping floor and the worsted hangings worked in pale green wool, the labour of herself and her mother in the days before she was married.
She undressed in the dark to save the candle, putting her clothes carefully, one by one, on the large, old chair that had belonged to her husband's mother.
The starlight, which glowed through the low, latticed window, was sufficient to show her the large bed with the handsome curtains of twill lined with silk. She thought that they might perhaps sell these and replace them with something cheaper. The night seemed very still after the sudden dropping of the wind which had sighed round the old house for so many days. In this soft darkness she found it difficult to believe in the brilliant colours of the marvellous sunset. Like an evil vision, too, in the remembrance, like a phantasy wrought from her fatigues and fears was the figure of Edward Talbot; she hoped that she would never see him again.
It was nearly dawn before the two gentlemen adventurers at last rolled up their maps and charts and put away their note-books, called up their servants, and rode away from Dr. Dee's house at Mortlake.
The astronomer had no thought of sleep. He took the last candle which remained from his wife's cherished store and went through the quiet darkened house to his laboratory.
Edward Talbot had been in his mind all the evening, and he went directly to the small attic above his workshop in which he kept his shewstones. He had two of these; one had been left by a friend who was also an alchemist, and one he had purchased himself some years before. This was of opsidian, a ball of volcanic lava from Ethiopia, polished till it shone like glass; the other was a globe of pure crystal. It was in this that Barnabas Saul had seen his few visions. John Dee had tried several mediums with both the shewstones, but the results had been disappointing. This, however, had not in any way shaken the astronomer's faith. His entire being moved in a world very far from everyday matters and there was nothing to him strange or terrifying in the thought that he might get into direct touch with the Angels of God.
He had had, himself, strange experiences, deep dreams and tumultuous visions, and voices singing in his ears. But the power of seeing the angelic beings whom he knew surrounded him had been denied him, for that he must be dependent on another person, and though he had been several times deceived and cheated, his faith in the possibility of finding this person was by no means shaken.
He handled the two globes, both of which gleamed and glittered in the light of his one candle, and, with increasing excitement, he thought of Edward Talbot. His desires were all sincere and unselfish; he had no worldly ambition and felt no hankering after any of the lures which usually serve as baits for mankind. Money, in itself, was nothing to him, nor were honours nor titles, nor the favours of princes, yet he was always in need of money for he spent lavishly on his books, his instruments, his studies, and he was often, too, deeply galled to think of poor Jane, so careful, so anxious, so uncomplaining, so often put to great straits from which he could not relieve her. Almost he wished he had not burdened himself with a wife and children. When he had taken Jane Fromont for his second wife, he had believed that the Queen's deceptive promises would, at last, resolve themselves into some definite benefit for himself. But this has not been so, and he was at present in severe pecuniary difficulties, owing at least three hundred pounds, with nothing certain coming in beyond the eighty pounds from his two Midland rectories, and a few odd golden angels which might be expected from the casting of horoscopes or the drawing of charts and maps.
He put his little candle on the plain table before him and sat down between the two globes, each of which was in a specially constructed wooden frame.
He was fifty-five years of age, healthy, and full of vigour. He had never known an unworthy thought and what he had ever experienced of base and ugly in his dealings with his fellows he had soon forgotten. He had travelled much, read much, experimented much, and his mind had journeyed to the furthest limits of human knowledge, to those infinite spaces where the finite mind reeled, the senses dazzled, and human calculation seemed but a straw borne along the wind of eternity.
He had for himself seen so many marvels that he was ready to believe anything; he thought that only the ignorant and the stupid were incredulous. The study of chemistry, of optics and of mathematics had taught him that many things which might appear miracles or magical to the vulgar, were, in reality, but the result of the sequence of natural laws. He was warmly conscious of living in an age of transition, when many old beliefs and superstitions were cast aside like worn-out garments, and the blinding light of truth was let in to what had been dark places.
He had seen, for instance, the astronomical system of Claudius Ptolemeus of Alexandria overthrown. These beliefs, the result of centuries of study and observation, had held the obedient reverence of mankind for nearly fifteen hundred years. Who had ever dared to dispute that the earth was the stationary centre of the universe, round which moved eight transparent crystal spheres, each of them containing a heavenly body—the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the fixed stars, with a ninth sphere named Crimum Mobile or sometimes the "Motion" which gave the motion to all the others? These spheres, revolving round each other, produced each a several note of music named the "Music of the Spheres."
This Ptolemaic system, as set forth in the Almagest, as the Arabians named this syntax of astronomy, had been spread throughout the world and was universally regarded as unchallengeable, until Nicholas Kopernicus, a professor of Mathematics at Rome, evolved, from his own studies, an entirely new theory. He taught that the Moon revolved round the Earth, and that the Earth was merely one of a number of planets revolving round the Sun; that the apparent motion of the heavenly bodies from East to West was caused by the actual motion of the Earth upon its axis.
Nicholas Kopernicus had had the prudence to keep his discoveries known only to the few until he was on his death-bed, but John Dee owned a copy of his work on the Solar System and had been one of the first Englishmen to study the new theory.
He thought of it now with excitement and elation—if it were possible for the wisdom of the ages to be thus scrolled up like a badly-written page of manuscript cast into the fire and regarded no more, if the mind of this one man, Nicholas Kopernicus, could re-cast the celestial system, if ordinary men like Mr. Clements, who had sat below an hour or so before, with his drink and his food and his charts, could go out and discover new seas, new lands; if man could be inspired to mix from the minerals of the earth compounds that could heal or blast; if, by Divine grace, it were to be permitted for the first time that the great sciences of optics and mathematics and chemistry should be laid bare to the human intelligence, why should it not also be permitted in this great, adventurous epoch that man should converse directly with the spirits of God?
John Dee was almost tired of intellectual knowledge. He could not remember when he had not been a diligent scholar in every branch of learning, all had come to him so easily. He had been a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, at the age of fifteen. As a young man he had discussed mathematics as an equal with the learned men of the Dutch universities, Gerard Mercator, Gemma Frisius, and Antonius Gogava.
How long ago it seemed since he had been a student at the University of Louvain, even then famous for its learning, graduating as a doctor before he was twenty years old. Famous men of all nations had come from the brilliant court of Charles V. at Brussels to see and discourse with the famous young Englishman. And afterwards he had lectured in mathematics at the College of Rheims, in Paris. The audience had been older than himself, and so large that the school would not hold it. In those years he had come into close touch with every man of note in all branches of learning; he had had correspondents in the Universities of Orleans, Cologne, Heidelberg, Strasburg, and the great universities of Italy. All that seemed very long ago, and, in a way, useless now.
He had read and written on almost every subject open to the play of the intellect of man. He was a personal friend of all the great men of England, flattered by them, consulted by them, often spending his time and energy in the service of their whims and fancies. He was Astrologer to the Queen; she regarded him with a strong affection and undertook little without seeking his advice. He had to live at Mortlake to be near the Queen's palaces of Richmond, Sion House, Hampton Court, Nonesuch and Greenwich, and yet the Queen would not give him some substantial salary or place which would keep him from worldly want and anxiety as to the future.
And as he sat between his two globes, the dark sphere and the light sphere, in the glimmer of his one candle, looking at the stars which gleamed between the folds of the drugget curtain at the narrow window of the garret, the old man wondered if he had placed too much dependence on an earthly sovereign, considered too much worldly wisdom and the acquiring of worldly knowledge.
Every subject that man had ever studied, every school of thought, every speculation of ancient and modern wisdom, was debated in the valuable volumes which formed his precious library. He himself had written much, rapidly and carefully. There was, surely, something beyond all this, a Divine wisdom, which the humble in spirit and the pure in heart might reach without the intervention of books or writings or experiments with limbecks, retorts and furnaces.
He knew himself to be a sincere and pious Christian and such was his exalted state of mind that he felt no presumption in daring to hope that God would give him a direct guidance by means of his angels in order that he might achieve that high and pure wisdom which would bless the world with a flood of enlightenment and healing, as grateful to the corrupt and sluggish ignorance of mankind as a flow of crystal water in a parched, neglected desert.
Surely, he thought, sitting sunk in his chair and looking at the strip of stars between the drugget curtains, this man, Edward Talbot, might have been directly sent to him, at this, the hour in which he had come to the limits, as it were, of his present knowledge, exactly when his insatiable desire for intercourse with the angels of God had become almost intolerable, when his longing to lay himself and all he knew at the Divine service, had become almost insupportable.
He was, at least, sure that Edward Talbot was no ordinary man. The manner of his coming had been strange; how peculiar was his person, at once beautiful and wild, and his address, ardent and full of self-confidence, how gentle and appealing! If it had not been for poor Jane Dee he would have had the man up at once into his laboratory and let him sit before the crystal and search in its depth for the figure of an angel.
The old man rose and went to the window and pulled aside the worn, dusty curtain. The colourless light of dawn was over the flat landscape, the wet fields, the huddled farms and among the leafless trees. The stars were fading behind the pale vapour, the river was flowing steadily eastwards.
John Dee, though weary, felt exalted and indulged in phantasies. He saw himself wandering away from Mortlake and his daily burdens, cares, worries and interruptions, going away with Edward Talbot—yes, he surely would be his chosen companion—they would travel together through the mystic valleys of Wales—they would climb those veiled hills, they would search through the mysterious fields of the Isle of Avalon! Had not Edward Talbot said that he had discovered a marvellous book which he could not decipher among the ruins of Glastonbury, the cradle of Christianity in England, where St. Joseph of Arimathea had planted one of the thorns from the crown of Christ, which might be seen even now, blossoming fairly at Christmastide.
This was the manner of hidden treasure that attracted John Dee. He did not care much for gold, greatly as he needed it, and sorely as he was often pricked by the lack of it. But these books, manuscripts and precious secrets of the wise men of the past had always lured him. When he was a young man he had gone abroad searching in Holland and Germany for such volumes, many of which he had found. He remembered copying out such a one—a treatise upon shorthand and cipher by the Abbot Trithemius of Wurzburg. He had done it in ten days with the help of a Hungarian nobleman and when he had brought his copy back he had taken it to the Queen and she had read it with him in her little private walled garden at Richmond Palace. And afterwards, in a princely and heroical fashion, she had comforted and encouraged him in his philosophic and mathematical studies.
But all this was over now and seemed, indeed, very long ago.
John Dee closed the curtains. He was touched by a sudden panic fear—supposing that Edward Talbot did not return, or supposing that he came back and refused a glimpse of his precious manuscripts and mysterious powders?
John Dee took an olive wood rosary from his girdle and went into the neighbouring room, which was fitted up as a small oratory, and there prayed, very earnestly, that it might be permitted to his simplicity, purity of intention and singleness of purpose, that the Angels of God would commune with him.
At twelve o'clock of the next day Edward Talbot returned to Dr. Dee's house at Mortlake.
The astronomer had sent Mr. Lewis to watch for him so that Jane might not be disturbed by the sight of the man to whom she had taken such an unfortunate and unaccountable dislike.
Mrs. Dee was occupied with her new maids and it was not difficult for the astronomer's assistant to look out for Mr. Talbot and bring him quietly and quickly to the laboratories.
As he entered the first room where John Dee awaited him, the astronomer scarcely dared glance at him, so afraid was he that the impression he had received yesterday would not be confirmed, and that the personality which had appeared to him so magnificent and peculiar, might now be faded and commonplace. But one glance at the person of Edward Talbot reassured him. Here was no ordinary person, but one full of a strange fire and vitality—a very Mercury himself.
"Have you brought the book, Mr. Talbot?" asked the astronomer anxiously.
The young man shook his head. He was very pale and still wore the close black cap. His hat he carried under his arm.
"No, I have hidden it carefully. I do not wish to carry either that or the powder abroad in daylight."
"It would have been safe enough," replied John Dee with gentle dignity. "I and my menservants often go abroad with such treasures, and we are not molested. This is a peaceful place. But," he added, with an eagerness he scarcely tried to disguise, "come with me and see if any vision is allowed you in the shewstones." And he took the young man by his short grey cloak and led him up the wooden stairs to the garret where he had the two globes of opsidian and crystal.
John Lewis was very desirous to follow, but his master told him to stay below and beguile Roger Cook, who was not by any means to know that spiritual experiments were taking place.
When they had reached the little attic where he had spent a portion of the night between the two globes, John Dee was trembling with excitement. He saw that Edward Talbot was looking at him very curiously.
To turn the subject a little and give himself a certain pause in which to collect his strength, he asked the young man which, among his studies, was his favourite delight?
Edward Talbot shook his head.
"I have not gone very deeply into any matter save this of magic," he replied.
"Then you have missed much," replied the astronomer. "Have you not studied music and harmony?"
Mr. Talbot appeared to be giving very little heed to the questions, but was looking quickly and easily about the room, taking in, it seemed, the details of all the objects therein.
"My favoured study, and this after many years delving into all the sciences, is mathematics," said John Dee.
He put his thin white hand lovingly on the opsidian globe.
"I know very little of that," replied Edward Talbot.
He was staring at the black globe, his broad lids drooped over his pale eyes, his mouth was rather grimly set.
"I am sorry for that, Mr. Talbot, for mathematics, next to theology, is most divine, most pure, ample, profound, subtle, commodious and necessary."
"I have done very well without it, Dr. Dee."
"But you will find, if you wish to progress in your studies, it is most necessary. Do you not remember what Plato said: 'Mathematics lifts the heart above the heavens by invisible lines, and by its immortal beam, melts the reflection of light incomprehensible and so procures joy and perfection unspeakable.'"
The young man shook his black-covered head impatiently.
"I hear very little of such matters from the angels. I believe when I get into divine company mathematics is of little account."
There seemed a touch of flippancy in this remark, which caused Dr. Dee an unpleasant shock. Was it possible that he had again met with a cheat and cozener like Barnabas Saul?
He put courteously a chair for the young man, who took it with a certain restless impatience as if he would be done with talk and would be on with some action. But Dr. Dee, with a last lingering of worldly prudence, made some effort to question this new disciple, assistant, whatever he might prove to be, as to his ability and knowledge.
He asked him something about optics and if he had ever heard of the convex mirror which he, Dr. Dee, possessed, and on the young man shaking his head and impatiently professing ignorance, he passed on to other matters such as mechanics, and asked him if he had heard of the water mills at Prague, where long deal boards were sawn without any man being near; if he had ever heard of the diving chamber supplied with air, or of the brazen head made by Albertus Magnus, which spoke; of images, which, by means of perspective glass, could be thrown into the air; or the sphere of Archimedes, and of that famous German workman who was able to make an insect of iron which buzzed about the guests' table and then returned to his master's hand again as though it were weary?
"Do you speak of magic?" asked Edward Talbot. The smile on his pale, beautifully-shaped lips had something of a sneer.
Dr. Dee became angry.
"All these things are easily achieved by skill, will, industry and ability duly applied. If any student or a modest Christian philosopher did these and such like things, mathematically and mechanically, would you count him to be a conjurer?"
"I believe he would be so named by the vulgar, Dr. Dee."
"Have you not the knowledge, Mr. Talbot, to see that such accusations are but the folly of idiots, and the malice of the scornful, who seek to injure one like myself who seeks no worldly gain nor glory, but only asks of God the treasure of heavenly wisdom and knowledge?"
"There are many stories told of you, Dr. Dee, and have been for years, which incline the ignorant to believe that you are a conjurer and sorcerer."
John Dee's anger flared away. He replied with a wistful mournfulness:
"It is an age of wonders, and I cannot understand the incredulity of mankind. If I wish to find more cause to glorify the eternal and almighty Creator, shall I be condemned as a companion of hellhounds, and a caller of wicked, damned spirits? How great is the blindness of the multitude as to things above their capacity!"
"Do you know too much to be deceived?" asked Mr. Talbot with a keen eagerness.
"I have had many years of study and I have fished with a large and costly net and been a great while a-drawing of it in with the help of Lady Philosophy and Queen Theology and shall I at length, catch nothing but a frog, nay, a devil?"
"Then, sir, if you are so sure of yourself, you will be able to know if these spirits which I, by chance, may raise, are of God or the Devil."
At this the astronomer was dismayed. A certain fear, that he might not thus be able to distinguish among the spiritual creatures that might appear to him, did trouble him.
"God knows," he said simply, "my intentions are pure."
Edward Talbot was looking at the crystal shewstone.
"What have you, or any of your slayers, seen in this?"
Dr. Dee recounted quietly that an angel named Annael had appeared in that stone to Barnabas Saul, and to some others.
"Have you yourself seen this angel, Dr. Dee?"
"No, I think I told you that I myself cannot see."
Edward Talbot went up to the opsidian stone and stared into it.
"Iwill try what I can do," he said, "though this is not set as it should be on a table with the seals on the feet and the figures on the underside. But," he added with emphasis, "if my coining here is to be blessed and you and I are to work together, Sir, to the glory of God, surely there will be some sign given us."
John Dee bowed his head, trembling with hope and expectation.
"I will go into the oratory and pray," he said, but Mr. Talbot did not answer. He went on his knees before the small frame in which was set the crystal and he begged the astronomer to draw the drugget curtains closely across the windows and so to shut out the view of grey river, grey sky and windbitten banks.
Dr. Dee eagerly did this and brought a small cushion for the skryer to kneel on, which was refused.
Edward Talbot crossed his hands on his breast, closed his eyes and fell to mumbling prayers and entreaties. His voice was low and seemed shaken by a great passion, both of appeal and complaint, as if he struggled with one whom he both desired and loathed.
Dr. Dee thought that he had become at once unconscious and was in a trance, such as Barnabas Saul used to fall into before he saw his visions or the angels spoke through his lips. The figure of the young man, shadowy in his grey clothes and black cap among the shadows affected the astronomer with a certain sense of pathos. He felt immensely attracted towards this mysterious stranger, who had not yet told him anything of himself nor satisfied him as to his history or the extent of his knowledge.
He tried to keep his mind from such worldly matters, for he felt the moment to be holy and set apart from common things. He took his beads tightly in his hands and passed into the oratory, casting himself before the altar and endeavouring to shut from his mind all emotions save his intense desire to communicate with the angels of God.
He succeeded, as he often could succeed, in snatching away his spirit from his surroundings, so that he did, indeed, seem wrapped up in a cloudiness which was not without its shoots of glory. He scarcely knew where he was till he heard a faint cry which brought him to his feet and sent him hurrying into the outer room. And there he saw Edward Talbot stretched between the two shewstones, calling out like one muttering in his sleep.
John Dee knelt beside him and half lifted him up.
The skryer at once opened his pale eyes and smiled.
He had seen, he said, Uriel, the spirit of light, who had told him that these experiments were to be blessed, and that if implicit obedience were given to the spirits, great benefits and glories might result.
Tears of joy came into the astronomer's tired eyes. Before he took any heed of the skryer who had proved so overwhelmingly successful, he clasped his hands and gave thanks to God for thus acceding to his humble and earnest petition for light and wisdom.
Edward Talbot sat up and asked for a glass of water. He seemed much overcome by giddiness and faintness and his features were of an almost mortal pallor. The astronomer was about to comfort him with kind and grateful words, but the young man sprang up with a sound like a sob, and with a movement as if he were in a violent temper, hastened from the house.
During the whole of April Edward Talbot came secretly to Dr. Dee's house and conducted experiments in the little room above the workshop which was next to the oratory.
Every time he knelt before the shewstones the angels appeared and gave minute directions as to what was to be done to secure the revelations they would finally make.
Dr. Dee got down from his shelves the Liber Mysteriorum (Book of Mysteries) in which he had begun to note the results of the sittings with Barnabas Saul and some others. He still knew nothing of Edward Talbot, nor did he trouble to ask, for he was confident that the angels would not have chosen an unworthy medium.
But there were others in the establishment at Mortlake who were not so easily satisfied. Private as the sittings were kept, Roger Cook had jealously pried them out.
After a passionate protest to his master, which was met by a quiet rebuke, Roger Cook went to Jane Dee and asked her, brusquely, if she knew that the stranger, Edward Talbot, to whom she had taken such a dislike, was frequently and secretly visiting her husband?
"He comes up through the cottages and tenements, very often when it is twilight or very early in the morning before any one is astir, and the new assistant, Lewis, the doctor's son, lets him in, or else it is your husband himself who does not disdain this office."
"Are you certain of what you say?" asked Jane Dee, with an accent and look of great alarm.
"I have seen it with my own eyes. They try to call up spirits in the room beside the oratory, where Barnabas Saul used to practise. It is nothing better than black magic—necromancy, and the man is a rogue. What account has he given of himself? Who knows, what he is or where he has come from?" Roger Cook hurried along violently in his anger. "Here I have worked and toiled for fourteen years, to be entrusted with no secrets, and this stranger must come along and be taken into his confidence within a few hours!"
"Do you suppose he has seen any spirits?"
"Dr. Dee says that he has—Uriel, the Spirit of Light, and the Archangel Michael have appeared to him. One of them gave him a ring with a seal, which Dr. Dee showed me. Either," added Roger Cook furiously, "he lies and cheats or he is raising devils."
"This has been concealed from me," said Jane Dee. "Indeed, I know not what to do. I feared as much when that man first came here, I had a keen apprehension, even at the very look of him."
She glanced up at the blunt features of the man who had lived in this house so much longer than she had and who she both liked and trusted.
"You know, Roger Cook, how little power I have in this. Am I likely to be listened to? If this fellow be a rogue or an angel I shall not be able to dislodge him."
"He is no angel. I think he has an evil look. I would I had leave to find out something of his history—I would swear his name is not Talbot."
"But would my husband with his great learning be so easily deceived?"
"On the question of these psychic matters he is like a child," replied the astronomer's assistant bitterly. "He believes what he wishes to believe and sees what he wishes to see. And I will not deny," he added grudgingly, "this wretch has a strange power about him. I myself have felt it, even when I have passed him in the passage of an evening, or seen him in an early morning mounting the little wooden stairs to the garret."
At this Jane Dee felt a great and almost overwhelming uneasiness. Perhaps the man was a devil or an emissary from Hell sent to trap the soul of her husband in revenge for his daring adventures into occult knowledge.
"Oh, Roger Cook, I know not what to do. I am overburdened. You know our position—it is very bitter. We are much in debt and I can get no more credit. If Sir Francis Walsingham and Lady Warwick had not sent a few nobles yesterday, I do not know how I should have bought the food we must have nor paid the servants. We have sold almost all that we can sell."
"This fellow will prove costly," said Roger Cook, absorbed in the one grievance. "He says that the angels have ordered a table on which to set the globes. It is to be of sweet wood and have special seals. That will cost some money. And who knows what other wild expenditure he will not lead your husband into? Have you not noticed, Mrs. Dee," he added eagerly, "how, lately, he has refused to see almost everyone, even his oldest friends, what long hours he spends apart from you—how distracted he is when he is in your company, how little heed he gives to your complaints and demands? He will become completely absorbed in these dreadful studies and blast himself, you, and his family."
Jane Dee rose up with nervous haste.
"I thank you for what you have told me, Roger Cook. I will try to find out from my husband how far he is besotted with this fellow." And, being quick tempered and stung by a sense of injustice and her own grievances, Jane Dee ran at once to the laboratory, almost stumbling in her haste as she traversed the dusty passages, and panting and a little dishevelled in her shabby gown, confronted her husband with her angry grievance.
"Roger Cook tells me that this stranger—this Edward Talbot, comes frequently and secretly to the house, that that is where you are occupied all these hours when I am left alone, that is where our substance has been going. Why was all this concealed from me?" added the angry woman, on the verge of tears. "It was not because you are ashamed of what you do?"
The astronomer answered mildly. He was never affected by outbursts of feminine passion, and used to the moods and humours of his Jane, who he regarded with tenderness, reverence and loyalty.
"I kept my dealings with Mr. Edward Talbot secret so as not to disturb you, Jane. Because I thought if he were a cheat you need hear no more of it. But he has proved himself not to be, and I meant this very day to tell you of his comings here—to acquaint you with the progress of our studies."
Jane Dee heard these words with despair. She leant in the window place and began to weep violently, her husband, the while, comforting her with much affection and many gentle caresses.
But she was not appeased and soon launched out in a furious attack not only upon Mr. Edward Talbot, but on her husband himself, on the folly and wickedness of his experiments, on their present desperate straits, on their desperate lack of money and the whole galling situation, which fretted her to the bone. But her rage was like a sea spending itself on a rock. His patience was immovable, and at the end of her storm, he informed her that Mr. Edward Talbot would soon be taking up his residence in the room above the hall, where Barnabas Saul had lately lodged.
The table commanded by the angels was duly set up by the end of the month. It was called the Table of Practice and made of sweet wood and was about a yard high with four legs.
Talbot said the angels would reveal certain characters which were to be written with sacred sweet oil, such as was used in churches, on the sides. Each leg was to be set on a seal of wax, and a seal of the same pattern was to be set in the centre of the table (all to be made with clean, purified wax), nine inches across and an inch and a quarter thick, with a mystical figure below, which Dr. Dee found, something to his disappointment, to be no more than an ancient charm which had been in use for some years during the Middle Ages, which contained, within a cross, the initials of the Hebrew words, "Thou art great for ever, O Lord."
But Edward Talbot assured him that this had been especially commanded by the angels.
On the upper side of the seal was a table of forty-nine squares, built up with the seven names of God. Each name was to bring forth seven angels, and each letter of the angels' names was to bring forth seven daughters, and each daughter was to bring forth her daughter, and every daughter a son and every son his son.
Edward Talbot insisted that this seal was not to be looked upon without great reverence and devotion.
The Table of Practice was set upon a square of red changeable silk, and a red silk cover with tassels at the four corners to hang below the table was prepared to be laid over the seal.
Mr. Talbot then placed the crystal globe in its frame in the centre of the cover, resting on the seal beneath the silk. For his own use he ordered a green chair which was to be placed before the Table, while Dee, with the Book of Mysteries, had a desk moved into a corner of the room where he might sit and note what the spirits said.
Usually the spirits remained in the globe, but sometimes they stepped down into a dazzling beam of light and moved about the room. Sometimes they were not seen at all but only a voice was heard. The sittings usually began by a gold curtain appearing in the globe and ended by a black cloth being drawn across the crystal.
John Dee did not himself see the spirits, but only listened to the relation of their appearances and actions in words given him by Edward Talbot.
The sittings had been going on for a month and these elaborate and costly preparations had been carefully made and still the spirits had done nothing but promise that when all was complete they would make astounding revelations.
It was at this moment that Dr. Dee decided that Edward Talbot should reside in the house at Mortlake. The young man had still not revealed anything about himself, either of his life in the past or his hopes in the future. He was sullen when the conversation turned on any topic save that of his spiritual visitors, but the night that he was to take up his residence in the house at Mortlake he admitted that his name was not Talbot but Kelley, and that he would prefer in the future to be known as Edward Kelley.
It was a lovely evening in April when Edward Kelley arrived to take up openly his residence with Dr. Dee. He had no baggage nor furniture of any kind with him. He still wore his grey suit and cloak, his tight, black cap and broad-leaved hat in which he had first appeared more than six weeks ago in the panelled parlour on the night of the Aurora Borealis.
Jane Dee had not seen him since but she forced herself to meet him when he arrived and in a voice full of apprehension and fear she frankly told him her mind.
"Mr. Talbot, or Kelley, or whatever your name may be, I do here protest against your entry into my husband's house. I neither like your person nor your business and you shall get little comfort or fellowship from me."
The young man looked at her without resentment. His expression was rather one of wistful longing.
"These are vain words, Mrs. Dee, for the spirits have said I am to be tied in long companionship with your husband and it is very needful that we keep together, and it is most likely that we shall embark on many long and strange adventures. I therefore pray you, be patient."
He flashed his light look round the room and then added:
"As for worldly means, be not troubled, for a rich patron is even now on his way to relieve us of all anxiety. The spirits have told me so."
Jane Dee felt sick at heart and broken in body, as she always did after her violent outbursts of temper. She knew that she had lost both dignity and grace and entirely failed to achieve her purpose.
Her husband had been concerned and most kind, but it was quite clear that Edward Kelley, who she regarded as a base adventurer and a low impostor, was firmly established in her household.
She was further disturbed by fears that she had been wrong in her estimation of this strange young man; her conviction that he was a cheat began to waver wretchedly and she was tormented by doubts that she had misjudged him and perhaps offended the angels, his guardians. But the greatest of all her troubles was the fact that she herself had felt his peculiar influence. Although at first he had violently repelled her, she now was conscious of his magnetic fascination and when in his presence she could not altogether disbelieve in him. The glance in his pale eyes, the sound of his low voice with the peculiar accent that was unknown to her, stirred in her, most disturbingly, echoes of old dreams that she had believed were dead with childhood.
So she fell into a sullen acquiescence in the new order of things while Edward Kelley was closeted daily in the chamber fitted up for shying next the oratory. But still the angels dealt in nothing but promises, vague as those the Queen had offered throughout twenty years to her patient astrologer and mathematician.
The stranger came and went lightly in the house at Mortlake, causing little trouble in the establishment. He was enclosed in a deep reserve and full of self-confidence, and Jane Dee contrived to run her household on odd monies borrowed from friends or sent as gifts by compassionate patrons. All the assistants save Roger Cook had been dismissed. There was no need for their services since John Dee was now never in the laboratories.
This was a saving of expense, yet it filled Jane Dee with a certain dismay, for it was a sign that the natural order of their lives was being interrupted.
Roger Cook was sufficiently skilled in chemistry to continue work on his own, and he remained enclosed in the laboratories, coming out seldom, and then only to scowl or pace up and down the windy riverside gardens in a melancholy mood.
Then he went away suddenly, and was gone a week and more, and when he came back he seemed in a boisterous good humour and told Jane Dee that he had some fine news for her and what it was she should soon know. Then he asked that Dr. Dee and Edward Kelley might come down to supper that evening to celebrate his return.
It had recently been their custom to long overpass the meal hours and remain shut in the attic chamber until all the household were abed, even for the whole night, as far as Jane Dee knew, for she often did not see her husband for days together.
John Dee, however, accepted the suggestion of Roger Cook with his ancient kindness. He had always been very anxious to effect a reconciliation between Kelley and Cook; he hoped that the three of them might work together in the pursuit of enlightenment and wisdom.
The lovely spring evening was flushed with light warmth and colour; the windows of the panelled parlour were open on the sloping garden; the silver-grey river flowed steadily beneath the long boughs of the willows, which were yellow in the first tender leaves.
Jane Dee, graceful and quiet in her faded shabby gown, was soothed by the peace of the scene. She was in a mood to remember her blessings, the cares of that day, and many other days past, dropped from her. She thought of her children, in good health, and serenely asleep upstairs. She felt happy in the protection of the old house which she loved, and the future, which only a short time ago had seemed vague and dreadful, she was content, in that hour of repose, to leave in the hands of God. Then she could not fail to observe with gratitude how strong and vigorous her husband seemed, how full of joy and exultation was his manner.
At Edward Kelley she looked very little, for she tried to forget his presence. He had changed in nothing since she had first seen him a few weeks ago; he seemed to have no other garments but the grey suit, nor ever to take from his head the black cap which he kept tied under his chin.
She set her pies, her boxes of spice, her flagons of wine, and her glasses and plates on the boards, for the new maids were by no means to be trusted, and left alone, would place all awry, and she wondered at the demeanour of Roger Cook, for he who so long had been sullen, gloomy and melancholy, seemed now in the highest of good spirits.
This beautiful evening, thought the tired woman, this sweet air and the feeling of promise that comes with the spring, surely lightens the burdens of us all.
And in her heart she thanked God that this was so, and prayed that some small amount of worldly luck might come their way to ease them of those earthly anxieties which were their only care.
During supper Roger Cook asked, in tones that sounded respectful, about the angels—how many had appeared, what they had said, and what the final purpose of their communications might be?
Dr. Dee answered:
"We have trouble with the spirits, because of the disbelief of Edward Kelley. There are many of them and they appear daily, but his want of faith provokes them."
At that Roger Cook looked at Edward Kelley and laughed boisterously, but Dr. Dee took no heed of this rudeness and went on with much gravity and reverence to describe the angels who had appeared in the shewstones and spoken to him through the lips of Edward Kelley. He declared that he was carefully putting down all these conversations in his Book of Mysteries in which he had already detailed the sittings of Barnabas Saul and, looking earnestly at the man who had been with him for fourteen years and whom he liked and trusted, and of whose good opinion he was desirous, Dr. Dee said:
"You must understand the attitude of mind with which I approach these communications from holy spirits. From my youth upwards I have prayed for pure wisdom, such as might be to God's honour and glory—"
"They are sought very easily," interrupted Roger Cook, "by legitimate means."
"Is it not legitimate," asked Dr. Dee mildly, "to invoke the aid of God? Do we not read in His books and records how Enoch enjoyed His favour and conversation? How He was familiar with Moses, and how that to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and sundry others, good angels were sent to instruct them? Even to satisfy their desires, doubts, questionings of Divine secrets? Was there not a shewstone which the high priests used by the ordering of God Almighty Himself?"
"These are the mysteries of God," replied Roger Cook sourly, "and are not for our inquiry."
"You have no faith, Roger Cook. Have you forgotten that God did not refuse to instruct the prophets, nor to give answers to ordinary people on common needs as Samuel for Saul, seeking for his father's asses being gone astray?"
Edward Kelley put in his word.
"Surely our lack of wisdom is to us of more importance than the value of an ass or two could be to the father of Saul?"
"Juggling and conjuring," sneered Roger Cook, with a dark look at the last speaker, "and a blasphemous and dangerous use of the names of things holy and spiritual."
"You think that I am very ready to be cozened by the Devil. You know me, Roger Cook, you have laboured with me for many years. Why should you suspect me of the filthy abuse of such powers as I may have in myself or may find in others? Do you think that I wittingly would invocate and consult spiritual creatures of the damned regions, Angels of Darkness, forgers and phantoms of lies and untruths?"
"I do know you," replied the apprentice sombrely. "I know you very well, John Dee. I think you are a man who might easily be cozened, not only by damned spirits and angels of darkness, but by a common rogue—" he looked full at Edward Kelley who ignored the insult and continued to eat and drink daintily.
Jane Dee had forgotten her food and sat with her elbows on the table and her head propped in her hands and listened eagerly. First her mind was on the side of Roger Cook, then her heart was on the side of her husband and Edward Kelley.
She reminded herself perpetually of her own great ignorance and feminine foolishness, and that she was unfitted for anything save the simple ordering of affairs and the care of children. It might be that angels came daily to the old house; surely her husband was too wise a man to be utterly fooled!
She ventured to look furtively at Edward Kelley, where he sat so quietly, allowing the other two men all the discourse.
The lovely last light of day, conflicting with that of the candles which stood on the board, was full on his face, and at the sight of the beauty of it her heart shook a little and the colour came into her cheeks. She felt a poignant kinship with him, the kinship of youth.
He must be, she thought, about my own age.
Roger Cook took a great drink of wine and his eyes sparkled with triumph. Seldom had he been in a more lively mood.
"Listen, Dr. Dee," he said. "We will have no more talk of angels or magic or figures in the shewstones, nor of Uriel nor of Michael, but we will come to plain talk of a common scoundrel," and again he looked at Edward Kelley. Then, leaning forward towards where Dr. Dee sat, he demanded: "What do you know of this man?"
"And what right have you, Roger Cook," replied the astronomer with dignity, "to make such a question—and before Mr. Kelley's face?"
"Before any man's face," replied Roger Cook, scornfully. "I have been, as you know, away a week, and I have not misused my time. I have been looking at the records of this rogue who sits so boldly at your board."
At that the stranger did look round, but he was unmoved.
"That is impossible, Roger Cook," he remarked. "You do not know who I am, from where I come, nor what my actions have been."
"Do I not?" replied the other violently. "I have taken some pains to find out. Your poor wife was able to tell me something!"
"Wife!" repeated Jane Dee under her breath, then bit her lips, and looking down, pulled to pieces a morsel of bread on the table cover.
"I did not say I had not a wife," replied Kelley coolly. "There is nothing dishonourable in that matter. She lives quietly with her parents at Chipping Norton. The spirits," he added, "bade me take her and bade me leave her." And, fixing his eyes on Dr. Dee, he added, "It was in my mind, even to-day, to ask that she might be brought to Mortlake."
"I do well believe," cried Roger Cook bitterly, "that you have sufficient impudence to make such a demand, and that John Dee has sufficient simplicity to grant it." And then, suddenly springing to his feet, he exclaimed, pointing a finger at the young man in the black cap: "Were you not at Oxford under the name of Talbot, and did you not leave there suddenly in disgrace? Did you not stand in the pillory at Leicester for coining base money and did you not suffer another punishment for forging ancient title deeds? Have you not been accused more than once of practising black magic? Ay, I have heard the story of what happened in Walton-le-Dale churchyard when you dug up a corpse for the purposes of your vile practices. And took money from a noble young gentleman for consulting the dead as to his future?"
"Roger Cook," replied Edward Kelley firmly, "these are lies invented by your malice."
And with a noble calm he continued to eat and to drink.
"His demeanour," said Dr. Dee, "answers your charge, Roger Cook, which proceeds, as I fear, from a deep and unworthy jealousy."
At this the apprentice fell into a violent rage, striking the table with his fist till the boards shook.
"Wait, then," he shouted, "until this felon is arrested in your presence and brings on you disgrace and ignominy!" And he added on a harsh sob: "Either he or I must leave this house!"
Dr. Dee rose.
"Then it must be you, Roger Cook. This man, though in an earthly fashion a stranger to me, has been chosen by the Divine guides to be my constant companion and helper. We are to stay together; we are to follow the same adventures and face the same truths. I say," added the old man on a note of exaltation, "this Edward Talbot has been appointed to stay by me! Through him I am to learn the wisdom for which I have sought so long. Through his lips the angels speak."
"And from mine," said Roger Cook, "come only the words of common sense. I take my leave, leaving you in the power of this rogue and cozener."
"Truly," remarked Edward Kelley, sipping his wine "we were better without the company of one so wilful and so violent."
"I go," sighed Roger Cook, turning towards the door, "and I go never to return."
At that the generous heart of John Dee was touched. He turned after the angry man and caught him by the sleeve.
"No, Roger Cook, do not leave me like this after fourteen years of close work together and the sharing of many secrets and all the understanding and goodwill that has been between us! You have been like a son to me, Roger Cook."
"Were I indeed your son," replied the other, much moved, "I should kick from the house that wretch who steals your confidence."
And with that he pulled his sleeve away from the astronomer's trembling fingers, opened the great door and went out.
The three of them remained silent and looked from the window. They saw Roger Cook go down the garden path and out by the landing step and walk away along the river, where his figure was soon lost in the twilight behind the budding boughs of the willows.
John Dee returned to the table; he was shaken and troubled. He felt that he had lost one who, despite his moods and tempers, had been a faithful servant, a loving friend. The old house would seem desolate without Roger Cook.
Jane Dee had also risen and turned to the hearth where a small fire burned; the evening was yet chilly. She looked over her shoulder at the young man in grey at the table and said:
"Is none of this charge true, Mr. Kelley? Do you declare to us that it is all the invention of poor Roger Cook's jealousy?"
The young man looked up and turned full on her his remarkable pale eyes, which she could never endure without flinching; she turned her head aside.
"When the time comes I shall reveal myself—what I am, what I have been, what I have done," he replied. "Dr. Dee is satisfied as to my learning and as to my usefulness. Surely that, for the moment, is sufficient."
Jane Dee shuddered.
"One whose ears have been nailed to the pillory might wear a black cap tied beneath his chin," she said, in a low tone.
At this, Edward Kelley sprang up in a fury to which the rage of Roger Cook was as nothing. His features became distorted into a hideous expression; his whole body trembled as he leaped up and dashed down the glass that he held.
"If I am to be doubted, if I am to be questioned," he shouted, "my power will go! Evil spirits will take possession of me! I see them coming up through the floor even now, the whole black crew of them! I thought I had found a harbourage, and to! I have fallen into a trap! Seek the spirits for yourself, John Dee!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "And you, woman, be prepared to take the consequences of driving me hence!"
He tore at the neck of his grey coat as if he were choking. The sudden transformation from his placid, scornful demeanour to this outrageous fury held both John Dee and his wife immobile. The woman, indeed, cowered away against the chimney corner, for it seemed to her as if she really saw an evil spirit let loose in the old panelled parlour, for Edward Kelley's body seemed to lash about as if it were in the control of something stronger than himself, and it was with a movement as if he were swept away by an invisible power that he flung himself across the room, pulled open the door and disappeared.
John Dee went to the window. The figure of the young man was already lost in the gloom.
"We are well rid of a terrible creature," sobbed Jane Dee, but her husband did not reply. He felt utterly forlorn.
The next day the Queen came riding over the fields from Richmond Palace and stopped at the wall of Dr. Dee's house at Mortlake. He saw her from the window and hastened down to the great door where he stood, bowing his welcome and his obedience.
The sight of the Queen had caused a spark of hope to revive in his tired heart. She had not, after all, forgotten him. Perhaps she had words of comfort for him in his trouble and distress. Perhaps some of her long promises would bear fruition at last, and he would have some good news to take in to Jane—a benefice, perhaps, or the Provostship of Eton.
This was the first time that he had felt any pleasure since the violent departure of Edward Kelley. He had locked up the room with the shewstones next the oratory and closed his Book of Mysteries. As he had no assistants the laboratories were empty also; the ancient house seemed desolate.
The black curtain had been drawn between John Dee and the angels and he felt like one shut out from Paradise.
The Queen, easily riding her white horse, saw him where he stood in the great door, and made a light movement with her hand for him to approach. She had only three gentlemen with her and she was plainly attired in a green habit which blended with the landscape.
She seemed to him, as indeed she seemed to many, to be something more than a mere woman. Something more, perhaps, than mere humanity.
She took her mask off and held it in her hand while she looked at him kindly. She had visited him twice before—once on the day when his young first wife had been carried to church in her coffin, and once on the day of his mother's funeral. She reminded him of this, smiling, and said she hoped that this, her third visit, had not fallen out on the occasion of any melancholy event.
"Madam," replied the astronomer, "we are all very well in health, though something troubled in mind and spirit, and my Jane is a little sunk with household cares."
"That I can understand," replied the Queen. "But should not I also be a little sunk, John Dee, who have a larger household than hers to attend to?"
Her manner was very kind. There was a soft grace and an elegant courtesy in all that she said and did which did not fail to enchant any to whom she spoke or on whom she looked. John Dee gazed up at the woman who to him was England, and took a great comfort from her serenity; her long pale face, so finely shaped, held a dignity more potent than any beauty, her dark eyes expressed an unflinching courage and the small head crowned by the close-curling red-gold hair was held as high and proudly as if it were always crowned.
She drew off her right, heavily fringed gauntlet, and gave her beautiful hand to John Dee to kiss. While he did so he glanced at her companions—Leicester, Walsingham and Sidney—all his good friends.
"What have you read in the skies for us of late?" asked the Queen.
John Dee did not reply immediately. He was half-tempted to tell the Queen of his experiments with Edward Kelley. He had always found her intensely sympathetic in such matters. But the abrupt and angry departure of the medium gave the whole affair a taint and he was silent.
The Queen sighed with a certain restless impatience. She put on her glove and her bright glance wandered away along the river. John Dee's hopes fell, there was no good news, then, nothing for him—as usual!
"There is one just come to England who is inquiring about you, Dr. Dee," said the Queen. "He is a Polonian Count, of great wealth and influence, they say, and, as I hear, a favourite of King Stephen. We entertained him at Greenwich, and he spoke of your collections and wished to see them."
"My house is always open, madam," replied John Dee, rather sadly. He had so many visits from curious foreigners, and they usually resulted in so little benefit to himself.
The Queen smiled pleasantly.
"Well, if he wants anything of you, John Dee, make him pay. We hear that he has great wealth. Yet there is some doubt whether he be not something of an adventurer, who has partly fallen into disfavour with King Stephen. We are making inquiries."
She turned her horse's head. John Dee, making a last snatch at a disappearing chance, said desperately:
"My lord Leicester knows that my estate will not allow of my entertaining of foreign princes." And, as the Queen looked over her shoulder, he added: "Your Majesty sees that I am, as ever, a beggar."
"Then we, as ever, must send you a gift," replied the Queen graciously.
So the Queen had come and gone, and this time not left behind her as much as a promise. John Dee had to return to the house with no good news for Jane. He entered the panelled parlour reluctantly, partly because he feared the violence of his wife's distress when she should learn that there was nothing to be hoped for from the Queen, save, perhaps, at the utmost, a few angels to pay for the entertaining of this foreigner, and partly because he dreaded that peculiar emptiness with which the old house oppressed him since the departure of Edward Kelley.
But Jane Dee's generosity was equal to her quick temper, and in this case overcame it. She saw, by her husband's look and movement as he entered that he had been disappointed. She went up to him warmly and flung an arm round his neck.
"Never mind if the Queen gives nothing, sweetheart, we ought to be happy—you and I and the children. Yes, we ought to be happy," she repeated, with an accent of defiance.
"I am happy enough, Jane," he replied, much touched, "and doubly blessed in you. Your great pains and loyalty have brought peace and quietness into my household, but I am troubled because I feel I have not been careful enough of your concerns and those of the children, and now, I am nearly an old man, and so placed that it would seem that soon I shall not know where to look for bread."
At these words a pang of dreadful fear smote Jane Dee's anxious heart. She thought that the case must be desperate indeed thus to affect her husband, who was so slow to take alarm at worldly mishaps. But she clung to him the tighter and tried to speak what comfort she could.
"We have so many friends," she urged, "surely they will do something for you? Will Lord Leicester or Sir Francis Walsingham see all your labours thus go miserably unrewarded?"
"I have never relied on earthly friends," replied the mathematician, "yet many of them have been very good and gracious to me."
"I know what you would say," interrupted Jane Dee quickly. "You are putting your trust in the spirits. You are sorry that Edward Kelley has gone!" On a frantic accent she added: "Since it grieves you, I am sorry, too, but I did not send him away; it was Roger Cook's fault. You know that I did not send him away, though I did not like him nor believe in him. I put up with everything rather than grieve you."
"You were very patient, Jane, and it was Roger Cook's fault. He is a morose, melancholy fellow, and has long been seeking an excuse to break with me, yet I am sorry he has gone."
"I, too, miss him very greatly," said Jane Dee.
She withdrew herself from her husband's arms; the glow of her generous impulse, her kind sympathy towards her husband was over. The future looked grey, and worries began to encroach upon her peace of mind—debts and lack of money, an uncertain future, all the assistants, too, gone now and one maid dismissed yesterday because there was not money to keep two.
The house was too large for their cramped means, the children, every month, were costing more, and, almost the worst of all these pains and discomforts, was the queer ache she felt at the void left by the departure of Edward Kelley.
"There is this Polonian Count—one Adelbert Laski, who would see my collections and library, and be entertained, Jane. I think Lord Leicester will send us some money, and we must do what we can."
"Will this prince help us at all?"
"He might buy some of my books if I am prepared to part with them."
"You must come to parting with your books, it seems to me," sighed Jane, "for, indeed, we shall soon have nothing else left to sell."
And she bit her lip in vexation at herself, for she had nearly been reminding him that she had already sacrificed all her buckles, chains and rings, and she knew that the mention of this was very grievous to her husband.
To keep her mind off the subject she asked abruptly:
"Did you think to make any inquiries as to whether Roger Cook's accusations about Edward Kelley were true?"
The mathematician shook his head sadly.
"What would be the use of that, Jane. I have no talent for such a search, no clue as to where the man came from, and as to who he is. Besides, what does it matter?" he added with simple dignity. "If he were sent from the angels, then I must accept whatever instrument they have chosen. And if he be but a common thief, it is not worth our pains to make inquiries after him."
John Dee went heavily to his empty laboratory. He had no heart for experiments. There were several horoscopes to be cast, but he was in no mood for elaborate drawings, charts and designs, the reading and interpretation of the conjunction of the stars.
He was, instead, irresistibly attracted to the little upper chamber where stood the crystal globe on the beautiful table of sweet wood—the little garret room, which seemed to him still haunted by the presence of the angels, and he mounted the wooden stairway to the secret place where he and Edward Kelley had so often sat, Kelley kneeling before the crystal and he at his desk in the corner, writing down the angelic conversation in the Book of Mysteries.
He was puzzled to find this door open, because he thought he had left it locked. He pushed it wide with a certain eagerness, and at once saw Edward Kelley in his grey suit and black cap, kneeling before the crystal, his face in his hands.
"Oh, Edward Kelley!" he exclaimed joyfully. It seemed to him the young man had been brought back by a miracle. John Dee had forgotten that his assistant had taken the keys of the house away with him and might easily have entered through the tenements and cottages where the workpeople used to live.
Edward Kelley said, without looking up:
"Evil spirits have left me and the good angels have brought me back." And then, as Dr. Dee advanced and laid a hand on his shoulder, he asked in a trembling voice: "Am I accepted? Will you have patience with me after my late wicked behaviour?"
"Had I not patience," replied the mathematician with sincere humility, "I had not been fit to learn spiritual mysteries."
"Perhaps I have been sent to you to try this same patience," said Kelley, and, in contrast to the penitence of his last words, there was a sly humour in his tone as he glanced at Dr. Dee. He looked ill. There was no longer any beauty in his changeable face, which was drawn and yellow, as if from an ague, and, as he rose, John Dee observed that he held in his hand a crystal, the size of an egg and very bright and clear.
"This," he added, "was given to me by Michael, who appeared with his fiery sword and placed it in my hand and said: 'Go forward, take it up, and let no mortal hand touch it but thine own.' He told me, too, that you and I, John Dee, must be united in this holy work, as if we were one man. You are to be master and I am to be minister." And he placed the small crystal in front of the larger globe on the table of sweet wood with the interchangeable red silk coverlet.
"You have seen the spirits again, then, already? asked the mathematician, and his whole being glowed in a flame of thankfulness and gratitude.
"Yes, I have seen them."
Edward Kelley went again to his knees, put his hand before his eyes and said:
"These are the words the spirits spoke to me early this morning, when I came here secretly and knelt before the shewstone. Do you take them down."
Then as John Dee went to his desk in the corner and unclasped the large Book of Mysteries and began to write, Edward Kelley recited these words in a high, clear and unnatural voice, and, as he wrote them down, the mathematician forgot his troubles, the disappointment caused by the Queen's visit, and even all his doubts concerning the man who knelt before the shewstone.
"Your voices are but the shadows of the voices that understand all things. The things you look on because you see them not, indeed you also name amiss. We are fully understanding; we open the eyes through the sun at morning and the sun at night. Distance is nothing with us, unless it be the distance which separates the wicked from His mercy. Secrets there are none but what are buried in the shadows of man's soul. Iniquity shall not range where the fire of His piercing judgment lights."
After delivering this message the medium seemed much exhausted; he fell forward on his knees. John Dee hastened to raise him up and asked him if he had anything more to say concerning the spirits, and, still as if he were in a trance, Kelley muttered that a pretty girl angel of seven or nine years had appeared.
Her name was Madimi. She was attired in a gown of changeable green and red with a train, her hair was rolled up before and hanging down very long behind.
"Do you not see her?" cried Kelley, gazing before him with his pale eyes. "She is playing by herself, in and out behind the books—they seem to give way, one pile after another while she passes between them."
"What does she say?" demanded the mathematician. He turned his eager tired gaze on the rows of books that lined the shelves in the garret, and he thought that he could see them fall one on the other and the leaves flutter as the light spirit moved.
"She says," muttered the skryer, who seemed half-unconscious, "that we are not to think of ourselves, that we are to stay together and obey the angels in all things. She says that my trouble is caused by the evil angel, Belmagel, the firebrand who has followed my soul from the beginning. She says I am a young man but an old sinner. Ah! The crystal is shooting fire into my eyes!" he gave a scream of pain, "and I can see no more!"
But after a little while, leaning forward and sobbing, with his hands to his eyes, Edward Kelley declared that he could see the spirits again, not now in the crystal, but moving about the room on beams of light, and that they gave messages of hope. There was to be a journey and quests, and much treasure to be found. A rich noble patron was coming, and it was not the Queen.
After saying so much, Kelley fell down in an exhausted state. John Dee brought a cushion for his head, disposed him comfortably and left him.
That evening John Dee was summoned to Greenwich where, in the Earl of Leicester's apartment, he was presented to Graf Adelbert Laski, who received him very favourably, and told him, when they were alone together, that he wished to see him, not so much in order that he might enjoy his collections, famous as these were, but that they might study magic together, in which he, the Polonian prince, had already made some progress. He arranged to come to Mortlake in two days' time.
When Dr. Dee returned and told this exciting news to Kelley, the medium showed no interest.
He had forgotten, he declared, what the supposed angels had said, and he was no longer inclined to believe them. He thought that they were evil spirits, and that it would be better to give up gazing into the globe, and he took himself off for a day's angling in the Thames.
Jane Dee saw him go with both terror and relief. She was glad to be rid of him, and yet she felt desperate at the thought that he might not return. She tried to still her tumultuous heart by making active preparations for the reception of Graf Laski, towards which the Earl of Leicester had sent twenty angels. Without this money they could not have entertained the foreigner, and even with it there was a pinch to prepare the state that such a great personage would demand.
The Lord Adelbert Laski came, by water rowed down the Thames from Oxford, where he had been honourably used and entertained. He was in the Queen's barge, covered by the Queen's cloth and rowed by the Queen's men. The Regal trumpeters attended him.
"See," said Edward Kelley, when all this pomp and parade drew up with a flourish of trumpets at the water stairs of the ancient house at Mortlake, "is not this the wealthy patron who the spirits have promised?"
"I thought," said Jane Dee, "the spirits no longer were visible, because of your idleness."
She spoke in tones that were half defiant, half frightened, and Edward Kelley answered her with a smile, that the spirits had reappeared, St. Michael with his head bound in a mourning scarf, because of the medium's misdeeds, and had assured him that all were to hope for the best of fortune, which might be found through the means of this Adelbert Laski.
The Polonian prince proved to be a very imposing personage, of tall stature and gracious presence. As he had come from Oxford with almost royal honours, the Queen's mathematician received him with the deepest respect, but Jane Dec found time for a word with Mr. Camfield, an Englishman in his suite, and learnt from him that it was by no means certain whether Laski was a great prince or a mere adventurer.
The Queen had sent to Poland for advices as to whether he still enjoyed his great estates or whether he had fallen into disgrace with King Stephen Bathory. In brief, information was sought as to whether this nobleman, who took such state on himself, was in truth in favour with the King of Poland, or had merely fled to England, as to an asylum.
Jane Dee cherished this knowledge in her heart while she waited at her anxiously plenished board seeing to the comfort of the illustrious guest, using all her arts and graces to gloss over deficiencies in the service, the plate and in the food.
She did not like Adelbert Laski, who fell at once into a great familiarity with her husband. He was plainly a learned man and obviously a handsome one, but there was, the apprehensive woman thought, something sinister in his long, smooth face and slanting eyes, his full lips, curiously puckered at the corners, and rounded chin.
He soon turned the talk to magic and conducted a learned conversation in which Edward Kelley joined, eagerly, and half the dishes that Jane Dee had so painfully prepared were left untouched, for the three of them went up early to the chamber beside the oratory where the angels appeared.
Jane Dee went out into the garden, where the children, in charge of Ellen Cole, were playing about the water steps. The coming of this sumptuous foreigner much troubled her, and yet excited her, too. It had certainly fallen very pat on the angels' prediction of a rich patron, and her wishes coloured her hopes. She allowed her fancies to run into a possible future where this great nobleman would pay her husband a fixed and certain sum, say two hundred pounds a year, so that he could continue his studies, and they might all be comfortable. But with these tremulous hopes still ran a doubt as to Edward Kelley and the truth of his visions, for Jane Dee, with the direct simplicity of one whose native intelligence is not confused by learning, thought shrewdly:
"How is it that my husband never sees the angels, and only Edward Kelley, and all the messages come through his lips? Does not this make it very possible for him to cozen and cheat?"
And she thought that she would like to go to the little room where the shewstones were set out and herself see if the spirits would commune with her.
"Surely if they are of God they would, for He must know my anxious heart and my pure motives."
It was six of the clock before the Polonian prince left the old house at Mortlake, the marigolds in the garden were beginning to close, and Jane Dee had sent Ellen Cole upstairs with the children. The oarsmen and the Queen's servants, wearing the Tudor livery, were making the great State barge ready, but still her husband and Adelbert Laski lingered on the steps, talking together eagerly.
She had no mind to interrupt them; they certainly had forgotten her, a mere women suitable for nothing but to look after her house and the children. Curiosity stirred her as to Edward Kelley; she wondered if the angels had appeared at the sitting with Laski; if he had convinced the Polonian prince of his sincerity and truth?
She entered the low, ancient house which was flushed by the first glimmer of the setting sun which brightened all the west. The windows were open and a gentle breeze fluttered the shabby curtains and stirred the old, threadbare, dark hangings on the wall. The house was silent, the servants were all in their own quarters eating and clearing away the remains of the feast which had been of such unusual magnificence.
Jane Dee turned down the long passage which led to the laboratories. As she entered the first one she thought of Roger Cook and felt a pang of regret, almost of remorse, as if she had been responsible for the violent departure of this faithful servant and friend.
She looked about for a while with a sense of repulsion at the curious retorts and vessels, maps, charts and instruments, and at the warm sunlight falling on the cold furnaces, which had not been lit since Roger Cook and John Lewis had left.
Realising that she had come for Edward Kelley and that he was not there, she said to herself:
"What have I to do with him?"
But curiosity and some unconfessed emotion stronger than curiosity urged her on. She picked up her long skirts and lightly mounted the open wooden stairway which led to the garret where she knew the experiments took place.
There was no answer to her rapping on the door. She tried-the lock, it was open. She entered, and there was Edward Kelley seated in the window place with his head on his breast and a look on his face as if the life had left him. She went up to him quickly, not conscious of her own actions; she saw through the window the small figures of her husband and the Polonian prince still talking on the river steps and they seemed like something out of another world, or a dream.
"Edward Kelley," she said, "are you ill?"
At that he looked up at her; the lids were drooping over his wide, pale eyes. She took his hands and found them cold.
"Your blood is chilled," she said, "come downstairs, there is still a fire and I will put warm cloths to your feet and give you something hot to drink."
But he shook his head. She was awed by his look and his silence, and went on her knees beside him in the window place and asked in a hushed voice:
"Did the spirits appear?"
"You think I am an impostor, Jane Dee. You think I am very base and unworthy. No doubt you believe the slanders of Roger Cook, but I say I am a high creature and in touch with the angels. Yes, they came, and the Polander was convinced."
The woman felt a thrill of relief, of pleasure and she knew, for she was quick and shrewd in judging herself, that this was not so much because of the possible good fortune which might come to them all from securing the patronage of Adelbert Laski, but because it proved that Edward Kelley was not a rogue.
"If I could see the angels!" she said wistfully.
"You do not believe in me even now!"
He sprang up and stood over her and smiled as if he were pleased to see her kneeling there, almost as if she crouched at his feet.
"Well, I tell you that they are there. Has not your husband," and he pointed to the desk in the corner, "written of them in his book—all our conversations?"
"Do you see them only in the crystal?" she asked, still regarding him fearfully.
"No! Sometimes they come on beams and walk about the room."
"And does my husband never see them?"
"He hears their voices, Mrs. Dee. Often they speak to him directly."
"If only they could speak to me, Edward Kelley!"
"You are a foolish woman," he replied scornfully, and she was silent, knowing that the accusation was just. He added, as if he were on the verge of one of his mounting tempers: "I will not be interfered with nor spied upon. Why did you creep up here just now? What the angels say we must do. My fate is bound up with that of your husband's, and you cannot separate us."
"If these matters be of God, I do not wish to; but though I am only a woman and not in any way learned, I cannot but remember that my husband has been cozened before."
Edward Kelley's mood suddenly changed. He was, for this, the strangest creature that she had ever met—one moment volatile, and the next melancholy—sullen and gay within a half minute.
He laughed now agreeably and said:
"Maybe you have the gift of seeing. Come and look in the crystal—one of my angels, Madimi, is a woman. Perhaps you can see her."
Jane Dee rose from her knees, and, forcing her courage, approached the crystal to which Edward Kelley pointed. Pale to the cold lips she gazed within, gazed long, and with a sincere and passionate prayer in her heart. But she could see nothing, only different degrees of gleaming light in the crystalline depths of the globe.
Out of these she could make no shapes whatever, nor did any voice sound in her ear.
Edward Kelley caught her hand and drew her impatiently to the ball of opsidian, which stood on another frame in the further corner of the room.
"Gaze into that, Jane Dee, and see if sight is given you."
The nervous woman, so desperate in her desire to have some confirmation of this man's spiritual errand, saw nothing in the black globe but a smooth, polished surface on which the window cast a star.
"I see nothing," she panted, turning and facing him. "Nobody sees anything but you. You have some power—that is certain—and I am doubtful where this power comes from."
"Do I disturb you, Jane Dee?" he asked in a tone strangely joyful. He took both her hands in his cold palms.
"Only because you disturb my household," she answered bravely.
He seized upon the confession in this half-admission.
"In what other way should I disturb you, Jane Dee?" And he answered himself. "In the way that a man disturbs a woman!" He flung away her hands. "You are married to one much too old for you."
"Will you leave us!" she cried, her tone touched by panic. "Will you leave us! We were happy until you came."
He smiled, lips, nostrils, eyes, raised in merriment.
"I shall go at my own good time, Jane Dee, and not before."
That evening John Dee was full of the visit of the Polonian prince, from which he predicted great good fortune. Laski, it appeared, had interested the spirits at once; they had appeared in the crystal and given him much advice, which he had taken eagerly. Michael had even deigned to give the foreigner hints on how he was regarded at the English Court, warning him of Burleigh and Walsingham, and hinting to him of the Queen's dubious attitude and the inquiries that were being made about him in his native country.
Laski had been considerably impressed and had promised to come again in a day or two to consult again with these wonderful angels who spoke by the lips of Edward Kelley.
"What has that to do with us?" demanded Jane Dee nervously and impatiently.
Her husband, who was greatly excited by the events of the afternoon, replied:
"It seems that all our fortunes are bound up together, and some adventure or quest is near at hand in which we shall be concerned with this Polonian prince." He smiled tenderly and added: "Be not so anxious, my faithful Jane, for he is a rich man—the Palatine of Siradia—and has promised me that I shall not be concerned as to worldly anxieties while I work for him. This is an earnest of his promises." And the mathematician, with the simple air of one who gives a bauble to a child, put a red silk knitted purse full of gold angels into his wife's lap.
The sight of the money threw Edward Kelley into one of his wild moods. He at once demanded three pieces to buy boots, hose and to hire a horse; late as it was, he wished, he said, to go to London, or at least to Brentford. He had friends who he wished to meet and he might be out all night.
The mathematician found these requests unreasonable, and said so with some show of authority.
"Remember, Edward Kelley, that I still but try you. I am by no means certain of your honesty and zeal. The other day you would be for hours fishing, now you would go merrymaking or carousing with friends, and at this time, too, when we are straitened in means and anxiously awaiting events."
But Jane Dee said scornfully:
"Let him take his share of the money. That is what he means, I think. He has earned it."
She opened the red purse and put half of the contents, five angels, on the table. Kelley snatched them up, saying sullenly:
"I do not think to continue in this traffic. There is Mr. Harry Lee of Islington, who makes like experiments with yours, John Dee, and he has offered me forty pounds a year to see the spirits with him. What are these spirits that come to us here? What do they tell us that we do not know already? What authority have we for supposing this Laski to be a great man in his country? Those ten angels may be all we shall ever see of his money. As for me, I think to take ship at Newcastle and go to the Baltic Seas—yes, and that within eight days."
This burst of rebellion and rude ill-humour on the part of his skryer, just when matters seemed at such a favourable conjuncture, utterly confounded John Dee.
"If it is the forty pounds that moves you," he said, "I and the Polonian prince between us could surely promise you fifty."
"If he be worth as much," put in Jane Dee, with an angry look. She took pleasure in wounding Edward Kelley and, through him, wounding herself.
The young man laughed in their faces.
"I waste my time here. How many hours have I given to this study? Had I applied them to an exact science I might by now have been a learned man."
He flung out of the house.
"Now he has the money," said Jane Dee sharply, "he will not return and we are well rid of a rogue."
But her husband, who had the truly philosophic mind, refused to be thus downcast. He bade one of his menservants, Benjamin, follow Edward Kelley and bring reports of his actions.
Before dark the man had returned to say that Mr. Kelley had gone to a tavern at Brentford and there met some low fellows, seemingly by appointment. They were gambling and carousing in the inn parlour, and Mr. Kelley looked likely to stay all night and to become very drunk; it was market day and there was plenty of money in the town.'
John Dee received this bad news in silence. But his wife exclaimed passionately:
"I think we have got a very devil among us."
Jane Dee lay awake that night listening, against her will, for the return of Edward Kelley. She envied her husband his peaceful slumbers. More than once she rose out of her bed and lit a taper and went to the latticed window and looked out on to the garden, which was full of roses and marigolds, and the full-leaved willows and the river beyond, all sweet and rich and still beneath a high, mounting moon.
With the first shiver of the dawn she heard the great door open and close gently. Her heart bounding, sent the colour into her cheeks. She rebuked herself bitterly: "For what is this, but a misfortune come back?"
She put on her dress, slowly, carefully, with cold fingers. She snuffed her taper and went downstairs, walking gently for fear of a creaking board.
He was there—asleep on the old settle by the dead fire. A pile of cushions was pulled under his head. The slack lines of his body were graceful in his drunken sleep. His breath came in ugly snores and his face was slightly distorted.
The pale woman shaded her light with a shivering hand and looked at him long and intently, as if she would surprise his secrets from him.
He wore the grey suit in which he had first come to Mortlake. It was stained and worn and the hose rolled down and one of the latchets of his shoes broken. His coat and shirt were open at the neck and the strings of the black bonnet that he always wore were unfastened.
Jane Dee's labouring breath nearly blew out her taper. She stood quiet, struggling for control, and through her disturbed mind darted all this strange, wild creature's words to her, the sudden manner of his coming and Roger Cook's accusations, given in this very room, with flushed face and pounding fists.
The dawn, very pale and slow, was creeping through the low window. Some dark roses tapped against the panes; the river was a distant light, paler than silver.
Jane Dee felt cut off from both day and night in some world of her own.
She set the taper on the old tapestry chair where she had so often sat with her children, and with the lightness of a woman used to dealing with sleeping infants she bent over the drunken man and further loosened the strings of his black cap, and turned back the flaps of it. Damp bright hair fell out in rings of chestnut gold.
Jane Dee flushed. The falling of those tight-pressed locks about his face altered his aspect, making him at once more youthful and more terrible. Her excited fancy depicted him, as he lay there, as a fallen angel, thrown before a celestial sphere. Gently, as if she dealt with a sleeping child, she moved the locks of hair aside. He lay on his back, with his chin upwards, so that she could see when she had put aside his hair that both his ears were mangled, the lobes torn away and shrivelled.
What had Roger Cook said: "Nailed to the pillory for forgery, for coining, for blasphemous rites with the dead!"
She pushed back the sweat-damped curls, drew down the black cap, blew out her taper, and in the dark stumbled up to her bed-chamber.
John Dee was awakened by the passionate weeping of his wife. He was distressed but not alarmed for he was used to these moods of hers, in which she would weep with a force that seemed to dissolve her very soul.
He tried to comfort her, but she remained sunk in the pillows, refusing his caresses. So consistent was her grief that he believed at length that she had something dreadful to tell him, yet, when she had a little commanded herself, all she had to say was:
"It is nothing. I had a fearful dream."
The next day found Edward Kelley in a very reasonable, penitent mood. He expressed himself most dutifully to John Dee, declaring his sorrow for the outburst of the night before. He declared that the crew of evil spirits had again tempted him to defy his employer and the good angels and to spend the night in debaucheries at Brentford on Graf Laski's fee. He was now miserably repentant and declared that these attacks, under the influence of Michael and Madimi, would become less and less frequent, and he implored the mathematician, in view of the importance of the affair before them, to forgive his shortcomings.
The sittings were resumed at once and Michael appeared and administered to the medium a sharply-pointed reproof, telling him that he had better fish after truth than spend so much time angling in the Thames and that debaucheries like those of the night before at Brentford were like to ruin all.
But Edward Kelley, making a second, and this time almost hysterical profession of amendment, the angels became reconciled, gave a number of messages for Laski, and hinted again at the great importance of the adventure or quest which was soon to be undertaken.
Upon this, Dr. Dee asked Madimi, the gentle child angel, if the Polish prince were their friend, if he had any money, and if he were like to do much for them.
The answer was in the nature of a rebuke.
"You have no faith. He is greatly your friend, and intends to do much for you. He is prepared to do you good, and you must be prepared to do him service. Those who are not faithful shall die a most miserable death and shall drink of sleep everlasting."
With this the angel disappeared, like a strong spark of fire, Kelley said, as he shook himself with a sigh out of his trance. The mathematician thought this was a favourable moment to ask him to bring the book and the powders which he had spoken of on his first coming to Mortlake, but which he had not yet produced.
Still maintaining his meek mood the medium replied that he would fetch them that very evening from where he had them safely hidden.
"I am longing to see," said John Dee, with a throb in his heart and in his voice, "if I may by any means decipher them and if any of my experiments will produce any results with the powders."
He held out his hand with a touching gesture of friendship, and again made promise of the offer of fifty pounds a year.
"If you have the means," said Kelly rudely.
John Dee, with the mildness that he now opposed to all the moods of this strange creature, replied simply that the angels had said that Laski was their friend and that he had money.
Kelley then changed the subject and complained moodily of the language the spirits used. They were, he declared, much too learned for him, speaking Greek and Arabic, of which he knew nothing—not even the alphabet.
"Unless they speak some language which I understand I shall express no more of this gibberish," he said impatiently.
John Dee looked sadly at his medium.
"I think you strive to find some excuse to be gone from me."
He took down a large Geneva Bible which he always kept besides the Book of Mysteries in which he inscribed the angelic conversations.
"Come hither, Edward Kelley, place your hands on this and swear to be faithful to me, or else at once leave my service, for of these constant fits and caprices and uncertainties, I will have no more. If you must, leave me; if you will stay, swear fidelity to me and let me hear no more talk of your being gone to Islington, or taking ship at Newcastle."
Edward Kelley came over at once to the Bible on which he laid his long and singularly beautiful right hand.
"Trust and fidelity," he cried wildly, "must go in both directions! You shall swear to me, John Dee, to be my faithful friend!"
"I will take the same oath. I should never ask what I would not give," replied the mathematician gravely. "Have I not trusted you, Edward Kelley, even sometimes against all reason, and, as it seemed, common sense and prudence? Did I listen to Roger Cook's slanders?"
At this Edward Kelley replied curiously:
"I think your wife did."
John Dee did not reply to this. He clasped the other's hand as it lay on the Bible and so the two plighted their faith, one to another, to preserve brotherly and friendly fidelity during their lives. And after the oath the mathematician, much moved, besought God to turn this covenant to His honour, glory and service.
Graf Laski soon returned to Mortlake, this time spending the night and straining to the utmost the resources of the twenty angels which the Queen had sent to John Dee for the distinguished foreigner's entertainment.
John Dee could not obtain from his friends at Court, such as Raleigh, Leicester, or Sidney, any sure news as to this Adelbert Laski, who was, undoubtedly, a great nobleman, almost a prince, in his own country, but who might be out of favour with the King, Stephan Bathory, and bankrupt. But the mathematician did not greatly trouble himself about these intelligences, for he relied on what the angels told him of his new and magnificent patron, and which was more favourable.
Kelley had brought the book. The powder he still retained, pretending that he had misplaced it. John Dee believed this to be a lie, but with none the less eagerness, applied himself to an attempt to decipher the manuscript.
He had by now in a strange way used himself to the character of the man who was so closely and so curiously allied to him. He was prepared to accept Edward Kelley's moods and tempers, furies and tempests, for the sake of his extraordinary powers, and to believe the strange creature's tales about the crew of devils, headed by the evil angel, Belmagel, who plagued and tormented him. Great was the mathematician's faith and very pure his simplicity of mind.
He found that he could not decipher the manuscript, which was not in any language, but consisted of ciphers, designs and devices and figures, very neatly drawn and exquisitely and accurately disposed on pages of thick parchment. Kelley could be no help for his mathematical knowledge was as slight as was his learning in ancient languages. His tale of how he had found the manuscript in Glastonbury was also confused.
Adelbert Laski, Palatine of Siradia, now in the confidence of the two, could make nothing of the manuscript either, nor would the spirits help.
At this juncture, it being the end of July, the Queen, who was then at Greenwich, proceeded with her Court, with music and singing and flags and trumpeters, from Greenwich to Sion House, passing Dee's door and stopping there to speak to him. But though she so royally offered this mark of favour she gave nothing else besides gracious words, not even promises, and more than ever did the mathematician's mind turn away from his hopes of the English Court towards the strange and peculiar adventure that seemed offered him.
It was Jane Dee who brought his mind from these curious issues to a practical affair.
"This man Kelley has a wife. What has he done with her? Why does she not ever come here? Did he not say he thought of asking for a lodging for her with us? I greatly pity her, poor soul."
John Dee replied that Kelley had told him that he had parted from his wife, whose people did not favour him. He himself could not abide her, so she was still residing at Chipping Norton.
The skryer, who walked very softly and often came in unawares upon others, entered at this point of the conversation and declared, with a peculiar grimace, that if Mrs. Dee wanted his wife, she could have her. And the next evening, at sunset, with one hair trunk carried by a hired porter, Joan Kelley arrived at Mortlake.
She was about nineteen years of age, and very pale and silent. Jane Dee was eagerly kind to her and passionately cross-examined her as to what she knew of her husband and how she had come to make such an ill match, and if there were any great affection between them and if it were really her preference to come to Mortlake, or had she wished to stay with her parents?
Joan Kelley had very little to say for herself; she seemed at once apprehensive and resigned. She would not relate anything of how she had met her husband, nor of his wooing and winning of her modest person.
"I'll swear it was all strange enough," said Jane Dee, with a certain bitter scorn that caused the girl to wince away.
"Yes, and strange my coming here, Mrs. Dee. I should have a house of my own, or at least a room, but here I am neither guest nor servant." And with dignity the poor creature added: "I do not even know if I am welcome to my husband. The last time he saw me he said that he disliked me."
"You must be sorry," replied Jane Dee compassionately, "that ever he came to be a concern of yours. Surely he is a miserable husband for any woman. And yet, perhaps," she added swiftly, "you, loved him?"
The girl did not reply to this. She said:
"I would do my duty as a wife, but I would not stay here to put any one at odds."
Jane Dee contended with herself a little space in silence, and then she said frankly:
"It is true that my household has lately been much disturbed, but I must consider, above all, my husband's interests. He has engaged Mr. Kelley to work for him at fifty pounds a year, and it is not fitting that you should be separated from your husband. Stay here, then, and share his room and take your place at our board. If idleness oppress you, you may help Ellen Cole with the children, or myself sometimes with the servants."
So Joan Kelley became part of the household at Mortlake. She was of a humble submissive disposition, reserved and neither gay nor sad. Her husband gave her but a harsh greeting. He insisted that she should be lodged far from him, in the closet next to Ellen Cole's chamber, so that her position, save for the kindness of Jane Dee, would have been little better than that of a servant.
The while Graf Adelbert Laski came to and from Greenwich and sat with John Dee and his slayer in the little room next to the oratory and communed thus daily with the angels, the two women went about their quiet duties, mended and baked, darned and sewed, helped Ellen Cole with the children, and directed all the little tedious duties of the day.
They did not, for all their courtesy towards one another, learn to know each other in the least, though Jane Dee often thought as she glanced up curiously at the pale, passive face of Joan Kelley: "There is one secret between us—that of the mangled ears." And on this would always follow the wild and bitter question that she was ashamed to answer: "Why do I not reveal him as an impostor?"
The Polonian prince had taken a deep fancy to Edward Kelley. He declared frankly to the mathematician that he delighted in the company of the turbulent young man, and this apart from his powers as a medium with the spirits. This prince had been so far as lavish with his money as with his promises. Several purses of angels had found their way from John Dee's indifferent fingers to his wife's business-like clasp.
The household ran smoothly under the favours of this new patron. There was a perceptible easing of care and anxiety. It was not yet clear quite on what errand Adelbert Laski had come to England, nor yet quite what was his position in his own country, to which he spoke of soon returning, and even suggested taking Edward Kelley with him.
He had frankly admitted that he was not so much interested in intercourse with spirits as in the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. He had, himself, some pretensions to the Polish crown, which had lately been lost by the Austrian Emperor, whose side he had taken, to Stephan Bathory, and, as John Dee already well knew, money would be the great need in such an enterprise.
But the mathematician had never made any serious search for the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone. Hermetic Wisdom was his goal, and that divine enlightenment besides which the purest of earthly metals would be but dross.
John Dee was now completely under the influence of Kelley and did not question in the least the reality of the visions which he daily carefully entered in the Book of Mysteries, and, since he had taken the oath on the Geneva Bible to be faithful to his master, Kelley had shown himself agreeable and submissive.
It was, then, the more disappointing to the mathematician, that one day, returning from a visit to Walsingham at Ranelagh, he should discover Kelley and his wife in a high altercation, Jane Dee was abroad, and the two were quarrelling loudly in the empty house, he storming in a tempest of fury and rage, she, weeping and protesting, her sobbing and tearful replies being quite overborne by his spate of injurious words.
John Dee soon learnt the cause of this terrible scene. Kelley had heard from his brother, Thomas, that there was a warrant out to apprehend him as a felon for coining money, and his wife's mother, Mrs. Cooper of Chipping Norton, having heard of the affair, had sent for her daughter home again, and Kelley had forbidden her to go. Not that he cared for her company, poor, miserable wretch that she was, but he would not have this stain on his dignity and honour that her leaving of him might mean.
The fiery young man flung this explanation at John Dee with so many hot oaths, curses, and bitter, revengeful language that the mathematician was touched with a great pang of compassion that any Christian should use such speech and be of so revenging a mind. He was also distressed, as he took occasion to say, that his own credit should be endangered for embracing the company of a disorderly person:
"Especially, Edward Kelley, if you be arrested at Mortlake, which will be no small grief and disgrace."
"Do you not, then, believe in me, and will you not stand by me, even after the oath which we both took upon the Bible? This is the work of my enemies, and I shall surely be revenged upon them."
John Dee turned to the trembling, weeping girl who was leaning in an exhausted fashion on the back of Jane Dee's worn chair. He asked her gently to tell him what she knew of the affair, and she said: "Nothing—only that she had had this letter from her mother, summoning her home, saying that she was married to a cheat.
"I would I had not married you," stormed Edward Kelley. "It was the work of my evil spirits!—it is the cursed Belmagel, who inspired me to take such a piteous burden on to me. See!" he mocked. "She has no courage, no spirit! Every slander she hears she believes. And as for you," he cried in a towering fury, "you do not believe in me, either! I will be away; I will go to Islington or to Brentford! God be thanked that I did not bring you my powders. As for my book, I will have it back again, others may decipher it if you cannot. An angel came to me this morning," he said with increasing wildness, "yes, stood on my very pillow and told me to go swiftly away, for if I stayed I should surely be hanged."
"I believed in you and in your dealings with the angels," replied Dee, with grave dignity, "but as for these doings and sayings of yours now, they are not meet and fitting. I have said that I will protect you; I will listen to no slanders about you. Edward Kelley, I believe in you."
The young man was very pale, his voice had sunk to a whisper; he held on to the curtains at the window as if too exhausted to hold himself upright and breathed heavily.
"You do not! You do not even mean to keep your promise. Therefore if I might have a thousand pounds to tarry, yea, a kingdom, I cannot. I release you from your promise of fifty pounds yearly to me. I cannot stay, I will not stay! And, again, I cannot abide my wife, I love her not—nay, I abhor her. And here in this house I am misliked because I favour her no more."
"I have not spoken of you and about your dealings with your wife," said John Dee, amazed, for indeed, he had been too absorbed in the spiritual communings to concern himself about the unhappiness of Joan Kelley, who was to him but a shadow, another woman in a household of women.
This seemed to lash Kelley into a further outburst of fury that overcame his physical fatigue.
"Not you, perhaps," he shouted with an accent of furious scorn, "but Jane, your wife I She has spoken to me; she has pretended that she would have me take my wife into favour; she has put her upon me, and would make me share bed and board with her as if she did not know how things were with me, as if she did not understand it all. She keeps up a pretence with me, I say, and I will not stay."
He opened the window with desperate haste, vaulted the sill, and was gone through the gardens. They saw him running, red and white roses making a pattern on his fugitive figure.
John Dee turned to the young woman, who was sobbing quietly.
"What have you to say, Joan Kelley? Do you believe in this man or no? Will you go with him or return to your parents? You anger him by your silence. You should have defended him and shown yourself his friend."
The girl shook her head, more in bewilderment, it seemed, that in denial.
"I shall return to Chipping Norton," she replied, and went out of the room heavily.
Edward Kelley went to the stables, mounted the mare that he had hired with some of the money that he had left on his first visit, and cantered away towards Brent-ford.
Such was the commotion that Jane Dee came in hastily to ask of her husband what had happened.
It was about seven o'cicck in the evening, the old house stilled by twilight.
"Jane, this man is marvellously out of quiet against his wife, for her friends have made bitter reports against him behind his back and she has been silent. Jane," added the mathematician, much moved. "I beseech the Almighty God to guide him and defend him from danger and shame."
"Why should you make such a prayer? How often has this man disturbed us with his sudden goings and his sudden returnings, and how often have we not heard him named cozener and cheat and still we will take no heed of it?"
"Jane, there is talk now of a warrant out to apprehend him. They call him coiner and forger. It might be, for all that, true that he is the instrument of the angels. The Polonian prince loves him, Jane, and comes here chiefly for his sake."
"He will return," said she, "as he has done after other of his wild moods."
John Dee replied gravely:
"I doubt not that God will be merciful to him and bring him at length to such order that he shall be a faithful servant unto the Lord."
At ten o'clock that night John Dee was sitting in the little room next the oratory, entering the last conversation with the spirits, that he held very clearly in his mind, into the great Book of Mysteries. A single candle was alight and though it was past eleven o'clock it was midsummer and scarcely dark.
Up the wooden stairs came softly Edward Kelley, unbooted. He had come in a boat from Brentford. John Dee, with the greatest gladness, saw him enter, but continued writing in his book, and seeming to take all calmly and to allow events to have their own course.
Kelley remained for a space inside the door.
"I have lent my mare," he said, "and so have returned."
"Well done," replied Dr. Dee quietly.
Edward Kelley tiptoed across the room and sat down in his usual chair by the shew-table. He at once took up some books which Laski had sent that day from Greenwich. They were Dutch and German volumes on magic.
"The angel Madimi is here," he said. "Cannot you hear her pat the books?"
And John Dee, in the twilight, heard the light strokes as the angel struck the parchment covers of the heavy tomes.
"She is here," whispered Kelley drowsily. "She is speaking to me. Take down her conversation; ask her questions."
John Dee took his pen and paper and said:
"Mistress Madimi, you are welcome in God, for good, as I hope. What is the cause of your coming?"
"To see how you do," replied the little angel.
"I know you see me often," answered Dr. Dee, "but I see you only by faith and imagination." And with emotion he added: "Shall I have any more of these grievous pangs?"
The angelic reply to this was:
"Curst wives and great devils are sore companions." Dr. Dee then asked:
"With respect to the Lord Treasurer, Mr. Secretary, and Mr. Raleigh, I pray you, what worldly comfort is there to be looked for? However, I do principally put my trust in God."
With a light laugh the angel replied:
"Madder will stain, wicked men will offend and are easy to be offended."
"And being offended," cried the mathematician, "will do wickedness—the persecution of them that mean simply."
"Or else," said Madimi, "they were not to be called wicked."
At this Kelley impatiently interrupted and said:
"Will you, Madimi, lend me a hundred pounds for a fortnight?"
The angel's reply was scornful.
"I have swept all my money out-of-doors."
And Dr. Dee put in:
"As for money, we shall have that which is necessary when God sees fit."
Kelley drooped forward in his chair, a huddled outline in the increasing dark, which was only fitfully dispersed by the one candle burning on Dr. Dee's desk. And through his lips came the faint voice of the angel.
"What dost thou hunt after? Speak, man, what dost thou hunt after? Thou lovest not God. Lo! behold, thy bragging words are confounded. Dost thou love gold and silver?—the one is a thief and the other a murderer. Wilt thou seek honour?—so did Cain. It is a just God that loveth me, all just and virtuous men much delight in me; therefore, be thou virtuous."
"These reproofs are addressed to me," cried Kelley, wildly, in his natural voice. "See! She is summoning my evil angel and his fourteen wicked companions. It is even they who have possession of me. She is ordering them to return to the spirit of darkness. The hand of the Lord is heavy to smite evil! The light of His eyes shall dispel darkness."
Kelley sprang to his feet. He said he could see the whole black hideous crew of grinning, squealing shapes sink down through the oak floor of the chamber. A movement like the rush of a wind came and plucked them by the feet away.
With a great cry he added joyfully:
"I am lighter than I was, and I seem to be empty and returned from a great amazing, for this fortnight I do not well remember what I have said or done."
John Dee gave a cry of thankfulness. The thin voice of the angel murmured through the dusk:
"You are eased of a great burden. Love God. Love thy friends. Love thy wife."
After the wild scene of the casting out of the evil spirits, Edward Kelley sent for his wife from Chipping Norton, and she came, meek and obedient as always, and took her place in the household. She did not complain at all, though she was little better than an unpaid servant, and her husband, despite what he called "his lively repentance and reconciliation with the angels," took little notice of her. The only person who showed her any friendship was Jane Dee, who, at this juncture of affairs, felt not only a pity for the lonely creature, but for herself an intense need of a friend.
She was clear headed, and, for a woman, not ignorant.
She saw that affairs, both spiritual and temporal, were becoming entangled in a gross disorder. They were still without any prospects whatever of money save that which was given them, liberally, but casually and uncertainly by Graf Laski, and the long burden of uncertainty and anxiety was beginning to prove too heavy, even for the loyal fortitude of the mathematician's wife.
She felt, too, what she had not known since her marriage, a great unrest and desire to be away from Mortlake, even from England, and to join in those adventures which were taking place all over the world—the discovery of new worlds, the pursuit of new thoughts. She longed to be on a quest, even if it were but a quest of clouds. She often sat in the evenings, now honey-sweet with summer enchantment, by the old steps at the water gate, and watched Arthur playing among the tall rushes with Ellen Cole, and sailing little boats of paper on the verges of the swift river.
But mostly she did not watch the child, but the clouds which paused high above the flat, opposite banks, the willows and the blossoming fields, and the low orchards, where the fruit was beginning to glow among the curling leaves. In these clouds she saw celestial palaces and angels' shapes and white-winged horses springing forward into the eternal blue.
She did not disguise from herself that it was the coming of Edward Kelley which had thus altered her disposition.
"I do not know if I believe in his angels, but at least he has made me discontented with the commonplace of every day."
She tried to take Joan Kelley into her confidence, and, drawing her away from those tasks in which she seemed to delight to absorb herself, took her one evening to walk along the path towards Richmond; the river was one side of them hastening impatiently towards the sea, the fields, full of faded flowers and grasses seeding to the haysel, lay on the other hand, and above were the clouds, so high, so brilliant, formed of the most transient vapour, and yet eternal.
Both the women were shabbily dressed. Their hands were a little coarsened from housework and their faces showed fatigue, but they moved with a tender grace and their dull clothes blended with the soft colours of the landscape.
"Joan," said Jane Dee, "tell me something of your husband. Last time I asked you evaded me, but now there is this trouble and you have been back to your parents. You have met his brother, too, Thomas, I think?"
She checked these hurried questions, and, with a smile which she hoped would reassure the younger woman, added:
"I wish to know for his own good, Joan. He is, in a way, under my husband's protection, and we have heard that there is a warrant—"
"I have heard no more than that, either," replied Joan. "What do I know of his past? He came to Chipping Norton," she turned her cool, clear eyes, which were very sad for one so young, on her companion and said simply: "You will understand the rest of it. I know nothing about him."
Jane Dee believed that she did understand the rest-of it. The man had a curious fascination; he had, in a manner, bewitched this girl, taken her away from her parents and married her. But for what purpose? His aversion from her he could scarcely conceal.
"It is important, Joan, that we should know if he is in danger from the law or not. Why cannot he say what he has done and who he really is?"
The girl did not reply. The tips of her fine fingers touched the spikes of the tall, flowering rushes which grew along the edge of the river. Two white swans passed them and Jane Dee sighed:
"How happy those birds are and how pure they keep their plumage!" Then, on an impulse of affectionate tenderness she added: "Joan, it seems that we are to be much together; cannot we be friends and in each other's confidence?"
"But I have no confidence to give," replied Joan Kelley. "I am married to this man, but I have neither home nor future that I can see."
"But he and his angels promise great things. My husband has him under his protection. He has engaged him at a wage to work for him."
Joan smiled and replied:
"But with Edward nothing is certain."
Jane Dee felt this to be bitterly true. The man might go as he had come, and she was profoundly disturbed at the knowledge that this thought stung.
"Perhaps," she exclaimed hurriedly, "this prince Laski will do something for us."
She paused in her walk and took the small, slightly roughened hands of Joan Kelley.
"He must have loved you once," she said earnestly. "For your own sake and his, make him love you again. Make him love you, Joan."
She stopped, for she heard the note of panic that was creeping into her own voice. She knew that it was for her own protection that she made this demand on the forlorn young wife.
When the two women returned to the house they found Edward Kelley in a rare mood of excitement and exaltation. He had been to London by water and had purchased a fine green suit of clothes. He had also seen the Lord Laski and dined with him at a tavern in the Strand. He smiled agreeably at the two women, but Jane Dee averted her eyes from his cold, brilliant glance.
"How did you get the money for it, Mr. Kelley?" she asked. "Surely my husband has nothing to give you?"
She spoke with bitter irony; she had not herself sufficient with which to pay the household expenses for another week.
Edward Kelly replied with gay candour that Graf Laski had given him some money and made a proposition which was exactly in line with the advices and warnings given by the angels.
"We are all to go to Poland with this lord. He is to be our protector. Through his means we are to bring to pass many wonders. We shall go to the Court of the King of Poland and to that of the Emperor at Prague. Graf Laski, the Palatine of Siradia, will give us lodgings—noble lodgings, in his castle at Lask. Very likely he will become king and we shall be the foremost of all his Court."
Joan Kelley turned aside as if she were used to such enthusiastic promises and went into the kitchen to help Ellen Cole to set the supper and to make the most of the depleted store of provisions, which Jane Dee's thrift had so patiently husbanded. Edward Kelley did not seem to notice the going of his wife, but continued to speak to Jane, directly and personally.
She moved aside into the window place and looked out into the thickening twilight through which the marigolds, folded on themselves, burnt ruddy gold.
"Would you not delight to leave Mortlake, Mrs. Dee? Are you not tired of this monotonous round? Think of all the things there are in the world and we have never seen any of them. You have never left England, I suppose?"
"I suppose that it would be very convenient for you to leave England now?"
"You think of that slanderous talk with which they trapped my wife away from me," he replied without anger. "You cannot inflame me by that, now."
"The fact that you might be wanted by the law for forging has nothing, I suppose," said Jane, "to do with the fact that you are eager to combine some plan with this foreigner to leave England?"
He answered nothing and laughed, jingling some coins he had in his purse.
"I can do much better for myself than I do here. What is forty pounds a year, ay, or fifty, compared to what I might make!"
"Remember," said Jane Dee, and she was speaking more to herself than to him, "that we know nothing of this Polonian prince, nor if he be wealthy or bankrupt. Nor if he be in favour with the King of Poland or no, or what his influence be with the emperor. And would you be so lunatic as to suggest that we all travel so far on so slender a hope?"
"Better a slender hope than none," replied Edward Kelley with sudden gravity. "It seems to me that your husband gets little encouragement from the Queen. What is an odd purse of angels, or a present of plate, or a glittering promise, compared to what is due to one of his talents, industry, and great insight?"
Jane did not answer, for this was very true. She knew, besides, that she wanted to set out on this wide, fantastic Journey, this quest, for what? She turned round, a sudden gaiety of youth eclipsing her fatigue.
"What are we really going for, Edward Kelley? Why does Graf Laski want to take us?"
"He believes in the angels," said Edward Kelley, and he smiled at her intensely and strangely. "Do not you, Jane Dee, do not you believe in them—in my angels who bid us all leave Mortlake?"
She answered shrewdly, yet with a laugh:
"I take this Polonian prince to be but a worldly man. I think you have offered him certain other inducements besides the command of the angels."
"I have told him of my book and my powders."
"You think you can make gold? Is that the bait you have had in mind?"
"Why should I not make gold? It has been done before and may be done again. It is but to come upon the secret, either through long siege or chance luck."
"My husband has made no pretences as to that!" said Jane.
She was suddenly troubled.
Edward Kelley, who was extremely quick and sensitive in his observation, saw her clouding and said:
"You are a woman. Leave it all to us, to your husband and to me. Make ready as soon as you can."
She shook her graceful head, although a wild exultation caused her heart to beat quickly.
"You will never persuade my husband, at his age, and after his long habits to undertake this journey." And as she spoke she felt like a creature in prison, for she knew that she greatly longed to be away from Mortlake, following Edward Kelley wherever he might go, and she was bitterly ashamed of herself for this, and also for not betraying him to her husband for the rogue he undoubtedly was.
"How easily he fools everyone," she thought scornfully. "Were I but to ask him to remove his cap before my husband and this Polonian prince, where would his pretences be? Yet I shall never betray him, for that would be to betray myself and to lose all the sparkle there is in life."
She looked at him straightly and in silence, but, like a cry, was the thought in her heart:
"What should I do if he went away?"
Dr. Dee made no opposition to the suggestion that came simultaneously from the angels and Graf Adelbert Laski that they should all leave Mortlake for that nobleman's estate in Poland.
The mathematician had, in his youth, seen much of the world and the prospect of travel did not, in itself, excite him, but it seemed to excite violently Edward Kelley, who had never left his native land. Nor did the promised meeting with nobles, princes and kings deeply affect one who already knew how much the promises of royal patrons might be trusted. Dr. Dee agreed to the proposed journey because it was the direct command of the spirits and these seemed to fit miraculously into this desperate junction of material affairs. Michael, Uriel and Madimi all promised him the attainment of perfect wisdom if he would put himself under the protection of this strange new patron. Nor did the astrologer ask any credentials of the Polonian prince; his grave, austere simplicity and honesty of purpose accepted, with complete trust, the patron who was vouched for by archangels.
Although John Dee was sometimes very practical and careful about small details, even noting the expenditure of a few pence in his diary and concerning himself anxiously with little matters about the servants, the health of the children and the food that his wife put on the table, yet he would for months together forget all these things and in all large affairs he understood nothing of worldly matters and had no regard for material thrift or practical economy.
It was therefore the gorgeous Polish prince and the restive, impetuous Kelley who arranged between them this journey which was to bring them all the attainments of their hopes—wisdom, gold, ease, comfort, power; for Adelbert Laski the Crown of Poland, for John Dee a supreme and superhuman gift of healing and enlightenment, for Edward Kelley all that he required of the lures of this world.
These two both appeared to have great reason for hurry. Laski's mission, whatever it was, in England had not been successful, it seemed, and he was most desirous of returning to his own country and looking after his affairs there, which he had left, he confessed, in a state of tumult. Whatever Edward Kelley's reason might have been for wishing to leave the country, he was as urgent about his departure as if indeed there had been a warrant out against him.
Jane Dee and the meek, slighted Joan were both infected by this excitement and swept away by a certain splendour in this sudden resolve which was to change so violently all their lives.
Graf Laski bade them to be secret about the journey and by no means to mention it at Court. It was very certain that the Queen would not care to lose her mathematician and astrologer. However ill she paid him, however often she deceived him by false promises, she liked to keep him always near her, but John Dee agreed that it would be no straining of his loyalty if he were to depart quietly without Her Majesty's permission.
Laski, also, had his doubts both of Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burleigh, who suspected him, he said, of plotting against the present King of Poland.
It was therefore arranged that the departure from Mortlake should be sudden and private, and for these reasons it was somewhat hurried, for Laski and Kelley both began to be nervous of it being blown abroad that they had come to a sudden resolve of leaving the country. Therefore John Dee was not able to provide better for his house and all the valuable books and instruments that it contained, than by leaving it to his brother-in-law, Nicholas Fromond, who promised to come and reside in it with his family and to look after the property until the owner's return; his absence would not be more, they all thought, than something over a year and a half.
Jane Dee reminded her husband that they should appoint someone to receive the rent of his two livings which were their sole income, and this he promised to do, but it soon went out of his memory.
At three o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, September 21st, the party left the riverside house in wherries. It was a beautiful day; the blue sky flushed with gold, and golden all the willows on the river banks.
As Jane Dee stepped into the boat and looked back at the house where her children had been born, she felt a sudden wrench of homesickness and a panic longing to return and take up the old life, however monotonous and dreary it might be, and continue to the end, in the home to which she had first come as a bride, for it was a home, the old, rambling house at the riverside, with the sloping garden and the water arch, where little Arthur liked to play, the familiar fields beyond, the little farms of neighbours, and the familiar church where they went on Sundays.
Where she was going, she thought, she was like to be homeless, for a while at least, and set among strangers.
But she controlled her fears, her doubts and her hesitancies, and tried to put out of her mind what she knew of Edward Kelley. She sat down beside his wife and the nurse and the three children—Arthur, Katherine and Rowland, born since the skryer had come to Mertlake.
The three women, their occupations being gone while they travelled, were little regarded by the men and each felt herself to be but a hindrance. They sat with outward patience and inward trouble while the boat was pushed off and rowed down the river.
Edward Kelley was in the best of high spirits and talked much with Adelbert Laski, who had put a dark cloak over his fine clothes. John Dee, a grave austere figure, sat apart and his wife wondered, with a passionate intensity, what his thoughts might be.
She could not understand one at once so wise and so simple, so learned and so credulous. She clasped her youngest child, Rowland, just brought back from nurse, to her heart and sat with a brooding face.
They reached Westminster and went ashore until it was dark, the men walking in the orchards near the Abbey church; the women seated on a low wall. Edward Kelley was still strongly insistent that they should take every precaution for secrecy. That night they went by other wherries from Westminster stairs to Greenwich, and stopped at the riverside house of a potter who had worked for John Dee. There was a little space for rest and refreshment. A great tylt boat rowed up to the quayside house and took the party out to two vessels which Dr. Dee had hired, and which were lying seven or eight miles downstream. Jane Dee, a little, huddled figure on the wide dark water, felt lost in the chill darkness; the children slept heavily.
The Polonian prince, the mathematician, and Edward Kelley, with their wives and these children embarked at sunrise on Sunday morning on a Danish double fly boat. A boyer which accompanied them had on board Laski's servants, two men hired by Dee and two horses.
The wind was blowing from the north-west and filled the pretty sails against the golden sky.
Jane Dee gave the children into the charge of Ellen Cole and Joan Kelley, and stood on the deck with a strange and intoxicating sense of freedom. She wondered that she, who had lived placidly so long, should have in her this wild desire for change and adventure. The moment was transient, poignant and beautiful.
Edward Kelley came and stood beside her. He had taken off the black cap and his long, bright hair was falling on to his shoulders, and over this he had tied a broad-leaved hat. She smiled faintly at this instance of his carelessness. He was, then, so sure of them all. Probably he would soon think nothing of allowing John Dee, and even Laski, to see his mangled ears. Doubtless he had a good story to account for them, yet her smile was not all of contempt. She was glad to see him there; she was glad to stand beside him on board the strong ship, with the water below and the sky above.
They sailed immediately, but the wind was against them and they anchored on the spits. And there, the wind changing to the north-east, they were nearly driven aground during a night of tossing anxiety, which Jane passed without sleep and without fear. By dawn, however, the two ships had made Queenborough Head, where the travellers were landed in small fishing boats which brought them to Queenborough Town up the crooked creek.
Jane Dee and her husband and Edward Kelley were in one boat which was nearly upset in the attempt to ride the waves at the landing place. An oar was lost, and the water came in, wetting the woman's skirts almost to her knees. Edward Kelley was sitting beside her, and without a word he stooped down and bailed the water out with his large, stiff leather gauntlets.
She watched him with extraordinary pleasure; at that moment everything about him was beautiful—his face, his figure, his actions. She felt neither the wet nor the cold and the warm colour came into her face, making her also beautiful.
John Dee expressed great gratitude for this assistance.
"Edward Kelley," he declared, "you have saved our lives." Then, cheerfully, as they were borne on fishermen's backs through the ooze and mud, "God be praised for ever that all that danger is ended with so little grief or hurt."
But while Dr. Dee was trying to shake something of the wet slime from his robe, exclaiming that he was "foul arrayed," Edward Kelley had given Jane Dee his hand and brought her skilfully from the boat to dry ground. She did not take her cold fingers immediately away from his, which were wet from the ocean. They stood together for a second, hand in hand, the little crooked town behind them, the sea before, and in front, rising out of the misty horizon, an enormous white cloud which surged upwards with a triumphant movement into the very height of the heavens.
The little party stayed for three days in Queenborough. The women, during this time, were wholly occupied in washing and mending clothes which had been torn or fouled during the journey from Mortlake, and in making small purchases, such as their limited means allowed, of necessities and comforts which they feared they would not be able to buy abroad.
Edward Kelley took no notice whatever of Joan, his wife, but the girl's spirits seemed to rise. She, too, felt the influence of the adventure and enjoyed the prospect of strange things to come. She laughed with the children, the colour came more frequently into her face, and she showed herself sensible, useful and sweet-tempered. But, just before they were about to start at dawn on the 27th of September and sail out into the grey-green Channel, Ellen Cole discovered a strange panic homesickness and nothing would do but she must return to Mortlake. The two women, then, took the children alone.
After forty-eight hours' sail, they landed at Brill, and found themselves all in good health and cheerful, having had no losses nor unexpected expenses nor sicknesses so far on the journey.
At the inn where they stayed here Edward Kelley set up the table of sweet wood with its seals and the red cloth which he had brought most carefully from Mortlake, and placed on it the crystal. In this appeared Laski's guardian angel, Jubanladec, who told them that their quest would prosper and gave them his blessing.
At the end of two days they hastened on as fast as they were able along the Dutch canals on the slow, heavy barges. At Rotterdam they changed their vessels for an Amsterdam hoy and passed through Tergowd and Haarlem to Amsterdam. Here the heavy goods were sent round by sea to Dantzig and they proceeded to Enkhuisen and sailed up the Zuyder Zee to Harlingen.
The canals now became much narrower and they had to leave their large boats for the small scuts, which brought them, crowded and uncomfortable, to the majestic capital of Friesland, dark Leewarden, and there they went always slowly by water to Dokkum in West Friesland.
There the travellers paused.
They had come so quickly and through so much that was strange to most of them—even John Dee had never been to Holland before, and Adelbert Laski had only passed through it once hastily—that they scarcely realised how far they were from home, nor how strange everything was about them in this remote, grey tranquil north.
Jane Dee, silent with fatigue, sat in the low, shining clean room of the inn at Dokkum.
The unreality of the strange journey made dream-like to her that swift passage through the flat country where the horizon was so low and the sky so immense, where everything man made was so clean and bright and shining against the misty cold colour of nature, where life seemed to pass with a perfect tranquillity and a deep peace, which at once pleased and frightened her disturbed heart.
Sometimes she would think, seeing the placid waters flow by the little farm and cottages on the banks of the canals, the tall trees and the tall spires rising so hopefully heavenwards, and the clean women and children going to and fro: "Oh, that I might live here for ever, lulled and enchanted!" And then, again, with a spasm that was like terror, she would think: "Oh, that I might get away to some country where there is noise and movement and tumult!"
In this inn at Dokkum Edward Kelley again set up his crystal. It was a Sunday evening and a gale of autumn wind sounded without while the three men sat in Edward Kelley's bed-chamber and watched him, kneeling before the table and the globe.
Gabriel instantly appeared, impatiently flinging aside the gold curtain.
He approved of their journey and their conduct so far, but his mood was relentless and austere. He gave them high and difficult rules for their manner of living. Above all, they were to stay together, and in brotherly charity.
"Bear your own infirmities and so the infirmities of others with quiet and hidden minds. Bridle the flesh. Riotousness is the sleep of death and the slumber of destruction. Feed the soul but bridle the flesh, for it is insolent. Look to your servants. Make them clean. Let your friendship be for the service of God. All friendship else is vain and of no account. Persevere to the end. Many men begin, but few end. He that leaveth off is a damned soul."
The travellers were satisfied and stimulated by these austere exhortations. John Dee was happier than he had ever been in his life before. When the next day they put out into the grey sea again and sailed beyond the island towards Embden, he felt truly lifted from the ground, and so near to the ultimate wisdom which he desired that it seemed to him he had but to put out his hand and take the scroll on which all was written.
Jane Dee watched Edward Kelley, with whom she had not spoken since they had stood, their fingers touching, in the ooze and slime by Queenborough Quay. She brooded over her knowledge of his torn ears. And over her own conviction, which was deeper than the knowledge that he was a rogue who misled them all, that in some strange way, she, too, was happy because this strange man was continually in her company. She had much leisure in which to dream at this interval.
It was the deep purple of the last dusk when the travellers arrived at Embcien. The city gates were shut and they slept that night on shipboard. It was now past the middle of October, but, save for an occasional gale of wind, it was still warm and pleasant weather.
In the morning, when the city gates were opened, the Polonian prince went ashore and took rooms at "The White Swan," on the quay. He declared that he would have to wait on the Landgraf and obtain money, for they had come to an end of that which they had brought with them from England.
He put the English travellers in charge of two of his servants and said he would rejoin them at Hamburg. John Dee received this news with grave serenity, but Edward Kelley seemed a little disturbed and excited at thus being forced to part from his patron, and began to murmur that it was ill-providing to start the journey without sufficient money to conclude it. And he ex-expressed more than one impatient hope that the Landgraf would soon bestow on them the necessary means. The spirits, he added, would be bitterly offended at any delay.
While they were at Embden they lay at "The Three Golden Keys," by the English or Consul's House, and then, still under the guidance of Laski's Polish servants, they took a small boat and sailed up the Ems to Leer, and thence to Stickhuysen and Apen, and thence to Oldenberg. After a stay there and a night in another small, simple village, they came to Bremen where they lodged at an old widow's house, "The Sign of the Crown."
Here, Edward Kelley, who was still restless and impatient, declared, whether Dee wished it or not, that he would again consult the spirits, and he set up the table and shewstones and demanded advice from his celestial guides.
Neither Uriel nor Michael nor the pleasant little female angel appeared this time, but Ill, the merry angel who was clothed, like a Vice in a morality play, in a ragged white coat.
This spirit's words jarred upon their mood for they were light and mocks g.
"Room for a player," he exclaimed, "who would have thought I should have met you here?"
In a tone of rebuke Dr. Dee replied:
"It is by the mercy of God that we are here. By your will and propriety and the power of God you are here."
Edward Kelley also reproached the spirit for his light speech, and added:
"I do not understand your words, I do only repeat your sayings."
The spirit then turned from Kelley to Dee.
"Sir, here is money, but I have it very hardly. Bear with me, for I can help thee no more. Come on, Andras, where are you, Andras?"
Andras the other spirit, in a bare and shabby gown like a London apprentice, appeared, but empty handed. He remarked scornfully:
"Here is one of those who forgets his business as soon is it is told him."
Upon which Andras replied:
"Sir, I went half-way."
And the other spirit cried:
"And how, then? Speak on."
Andras excused himself thus:
"Being somewhat weary, I stayed; the rather because I met my friends."
And Ill retorted:
"Then you are a cockscomb. Well, thus it is. I placed thee above my servants and did what I could to promote thee. And I am rewarded with disloyalty and having brought up an idle person. Go thy way. The officer shall deliver thee to prison and there thou shalt be rewarded."
Dr. Dee interrupted the quarrel between the two spirits to ask about Graf Laski, on whose fortunes they all hung, and whether he had yet received the loan from the Landgraf, and whether they should all arrive safely at Cracow or Prague, or the place appointed for them, and if they had not all faithfully obeyed the injunctions given them at Mortlake?
Both the spirits evaded these direct questions, and replied by giving Edward Kelley a vision of Vincent Seve, Laski's brother-in-law, who was still in England.
Staring into the crystal, Edward Kelley saw this Graf Vincent in a black satin doublet, cut with cross-cuts and a ruff, and a long cloak edged with blue lace. As Ill, the merry, gibing spirit, was pointing out this vision, he suddenly fell all in pieces, as small as ashes. The vision, however, continued. Kelley saw the Graf Vincent again, walking down by Charing Cross. With him was a tall man with a cut beard, a sword and sky-coloured cloak. They went on towards Westminster and overtook a gentleman on horseback, with five followers in short capes, with long moustaches.
This cavalier was a thin-faced man, with a stiff cloak to his waist and a gilt rapier. His horse wore a fine velvet foot-cloth. They were very merry; Vincent was laughing, showing two broad front teeth. His fingers were crooked and he carried a little stick. Upon his left hand a scar was very plainly to be seen. He had very high, straight, close boots. They arrived at Westminster church, where many people were coming out. A number of boats were in the river, in the gardens at Whitehall a man was grafting fruit trees. The thincheeked man and Graf Vincent went up the steps of Westminster Hall.
"And then," said Edward Kelley with a sigh, "all the show vanishes away."
John Dee sighed also. Very little satisfaction had come from this interview with the spirits, and in the practical matter of money which was likely to be so soon and so sorely needed, the angels had proved no help whatever. The astrologer wondered why there should be this long vision of Graf Vincent, who was of no interest to any of them.
For several hours the two men sat patiently in the small, closet-like bedchamber, Kelley kneeling in front of the crystal until he was much exhausted. But he was rewarded with nothing further save a glimpse of a man coming out of Denmark with a bag of amber. Dr. Dee felt that their patience was being much tried.
The next day the travellers left Bremen, crossed the River Elbe and went, by carriage and wagon, tediously to Hamburg, where Graf Laski joined them. He gave them a little money, but seemed gloomy and said nothing of the success of his mission to the Landgraf. He told them to go on to Lubeck, where he would follow them. He showed impatience at the recital of the last vision of the spirits and soon left them.
In this town the spirits again appeared and made the most extravagant promises. The crystal became bright golden as if on fire; Kelley said this extraordinary light came from the wings of Michael.
The archangel said that John Dee should have almost immediate ease from his tedious labours and journeyings, and offered him glorious visions of princes in rich glossy sables, kings seated on thrones set with goodly stones, who should soon all become suppliants to the English alchemist for the riches of his wisdom. And other things besides wisdom were promised; the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, the transmutation of metals, were all indicated by the spirits as achievements that John Dee might consider would soon be within his grasp. The book and powders of Edward Kelley were again mentioned. The mathematician was much distressed by the spirits' urge for him to make another attempt to decipher the mysterious manuscript discovered at Glastonbury.
John Dee, for all his noble faith and candid credulity, was not as dazzled by these promises as he would have been two years ago at Mortlake. He had been travelling for two months, risking his life in a foreign land; he had no more prospects than when he had started. He knew no more of Graf Adelbert Laski than when he had left Greenwich with him in the wherry loaded with all he loved.
Falling on his knees beside Edward Kelley, who was gazing fixedly into the crystal, he demanded leave to ask questions.
"Am I to stay here and not go on with Count Laski? Where am I and my family to spend the winter?" The spirits were, as usual, evasive.
"Spend the winter where you will. Are you so unwise as to go with Laski now? Let him go before and provide for himself and the better for you. In the summer, when it is more fair, you can follow. The weather now will be hard and the travel unfit for children. Heap not up thy wife's sorrow."
To this, which sounded like a rebuke, Dee replied humbly:
"I desire to live in peace that my spirit may the better attend to the service of God."
"Well," demanded the spirit impatiently, "are you contented?"
The philosopher murmured:
"God knows I am half-confounded."
And he then made an anguished appeal for information of affairs. at home, for, since he had left Queenborough, he had heard nothing of England. The spirit was ready with ill news.
"Your brother is clapped up in prison, how like you that? You housekeeper, I mean."
"He talks of Nicholas Fromond, whom I left in charge of the house at Mortlake," explained John Dee, and the angel continued:
"They examined him. They say that thou hast hid divers secret things. As for thy books, thou mayst go look for them at leisure. It may be that thy house may be burnt for a remembrance of thee, too. Well, if they do it, so it is. I have given thee my counsel, and desired to do thee good. The choice is thine."
That evening, Jane Dee spoke to her husband, and with an impatient passion demanded of him how near they were to the end of their journey?—if affairs went well with him?—what solid hopes he had from Adelbert Laski, and if he still had complete trust in Edward Kelley?
"Do you not trust him, Jane?" he asked.
They were together in their bed-chamber, the yellow light of the rush fell over the mean bed with the coarse linen sheets. There was a wood fire on the hearth that scarcely stirred the chill in the air. It was very cold, both the man and the woman, strangers in this northern country, shivered before the invisible menace of the coming winter.
Jane Dee unlaced her dark, worn bodice; she was much fatigued. She stood by the fire and let the light, if not the warmth, play over her cold body.
"Trust him? I do not know." Her voice was low and wild. "We broke up our lives at his bidding, and what has come of it? What have you but promises?"
"It is true, Jane—I have nothing else. Sometimes I mistrust the fellow."
"Have not we left all we had—little enough—" said the woman bitterly, "but still, all we had, at the bidding of a rogue? Maybe he was but a rascal who fled to keep himself from the pillory and the prison! You made no inquiries as to whether there really was a warrant out against him or no."
"I did not like to interfere, Jane. I left all in the hands of the spirits."
"If the spirits be but illusion?"
The woman held out her cold hands to the faint blaze.
"If this Polonian prince has but brought us here because he hopes that you have the secret of making gold?"
John Dee looked startled. He turned his sunken, tired eyes on his wife.
"I have never made any pretence to that."
"No," she replied passionately, "but perhaps Edward Kelley has."
"Then he, this Polonian prince, has been deceived. I have not even experimented much in that direction."
"I know," sighed Jane Dee, in a sunken, tired voice, "but Edward Kelley has some powder. How is it that he has been able to deceive us all?" she demanded angrily.
"Jane, I am not sure that he has deceived us. I cannot disbelieve in his angels."
"Yet it is always he and not you who sees them, hears them!"
"You know," replied the astrologer reproachfully, "that I have never had this power."
"Perhaps no one has it," she murmured; "perhaps it is all an illusion."
Dr. Dee took his wife's hands.
"Pray with me, Jane."
They went down, by common impulse, on their knees on the alien hearthstone, the old man and his young wife, who looked more like his daughter, as she knelt beside him, unconscious of her beauty, her gleaming hair fell thickly over her bare shoulders and open bosom. So absorbed was she in his prayer, which she echoed in her heart, that she completely forgot herself.
John Dee prayed to God, to the Author of all truth and the guide of such as put their trust in Him.
"I most humbly beseech Thee, consider these promises thus to me propounded. If they be true and from Thee, confirm them. If they be illusions and not from Thee, disprove them, for hardly in my judgment they do or can agree with our former precepts and orders taken by Thee."
"Amen," came Jane Dee's voice behind the tightly clasped hands pressed to her lips. "Amen."
The rushlight flickered and went out in an icy draught. In the dark, so faintly stained by the firelight, John Dee raised his hands above his head in an agony of supplication:
"O Lord, I doubt these promises of ease, wealth and honour. I suspect the whole apparition of the angels to be an illusion. O confirm my judgment, or disprove it."
On the morrow, Jane Dee was up early for her husband was ill with the ague. She had piled many blankets upon him and had blown up the fire in the room and had come down to stir the sluggish servants to get her a hot posset.
She found Edward Kelley already abroad, for he was seated in the chimney corner, drawing in his great book of designs and symbols which he carried about with him. These, he said, were the angelic charts. He put them down at the direction of the angels, and afterwards strove to interpret them.
He wore the green suit that he had bought with the first money given him by Graf Laski, which was now something soiled and tattered and he had put over it a heavy coat, for the winter had begun to be very bitter, and the cold was felt even in the house. He was without cap or hat and only his bright tangled hair hid his ears.
Jane crept up to the fire with her copper pot in her hand and began to heat water, not looking at him. The rosy flush of the flame was over her pure profile and the long line of her throat.
Edward Kelley closed his book and leant towards her.
"Do you repent leaving Mortlake, Jane Dee?" he asked.
Without turning her head, she replied:
"It is useless for me to repent anything, all has been done without my will."
"All is for the best," he assured her. His voice was warm, low and slightly hoarse.
She shivered in all her limbs as if she also had an ague.
"My husband and I prayed last night, Edward Kelley. We begged God to enlighten us if we be here under an illusion or no."
"And what was the answer?" he asked, very soft.
"There was no answer, except my husband had one in his heart."
He snapped his great sheepskin-covered book together and rose to his full, graceful height, stretching his arms above his head, as if he were stiff.
"Do you not perceive these doubts be the temptations of a very foolish devil?"
He suddenly bent down where she knelt, close over the fire, holding her pot by a long, wooden handle.
"Are you not glad to be here, Jane Dee?"
At that she did turn quickly and looked full at him. She was too sincere and moved to be alarmed or shy.
"Why should I be glad, Edward Kelley?"
The beauty of his face was exceedingly painful to her, for it was ruined—the blasted beauty of a fallen angel already corrupting in hideousness. Disaster was in his eyes and pain unimaginable upon his lips.
"You will persuade your husband to believe in me and my angels."
Without moving, she answered:
"Where is your wife, Edward Kelley? You slight her very cruelly."
"You know I have an aversion from her. You know some other matters also, Jane Dee. But you are a coward and will not admit anything. Never mind, I know how to wait."
She rose from her knees and moved away. She pulled the bell and told the stupid and sullen servant to go in and finish heating the water and bring it up to her husband's room.
John Dee soon recovered of his ague and was very impatient to be on, and though it was then the full depth of a rigorous winter, the party again set out and travelled more than two hundred miles, southward, through the dark, marshy district between the Oder and the Warthe, where the frozen pools reflected a sky like a grey goose's breast. Here they had to employ five-and-twenty men to cut the ice for their coaches for a distance as long as two English miles, and a strange Christmas, brief and golden as a vision dreamt while the candle burns down, passed them on the way. It was slow travelling by day, through cold and across frozen lands, and strange sleeping at night in alien houses, among foreigners.
The second month of the New Year they reached Lask, the Graf's property, where they were given the provost's fair house by the church. The little town was silent and snowbound; the travellers were faint with homesickness. But John Dee was ill again with ague and the two women were much occupied in nursing him, which helped to still their own secret pain.
Edward Kelley set up the shew-table and another angel, Nalvage, who in appearance was like the late King Edward, showed in the crystal, and, after revealing many cabalistic signs, bade them, despite the severity of the weather, move on to Cracow.
Outside the narrow window the snow heaped up softly against the narrow windows, and a great depth of cold clouds hid the stars.
Jane Dee found Edward Kelley's wife crying in a lonely corner of the dark old house by the church at Lask. Not only was the girl bitterly homesick, but she was suffering from some especial unkindness from her husband, but what it was she would not disclose.
Chipping Norton, the kindly faces of her own folk, and her pleasant English girlhood seemed very far away from the tired, exhausted creature. To Jane Dee, also, the adventure had lost something of its high exaltation.
They found themselves in the depth of a winter more rigorous than they imagined winter could be, many hundreds of miles away from home, in a place where ever news took two or three months to reach them and depen dent upon a patron who, so far, had no more redeemed his promises than had the Queen.
They were lodged in one of his houses, certainly, and he had maintained them partly at his expense, but Jane Dee could discern no sign of those glories, splendours and luxuries which the angels had so frequently promised in Mortlake.
She took Joan by the shoulders and drew her closely to her bosom with the tenderness of an elder sister. She liked this docile creature who bore a hard fate so uncomplainingly.
"What has happened now, Joan? You must keep up your spirits, though I confess myself that my heart is heavy."
"We have all been bewitched," said Joan Kelley. With a sigh of fatigued relief she put her arms round the other woman's neck. "If it had not been for your kindness—"
Jane Dee interrupted warmly:
"How could I have contrived, without you, Joan, with the children, and only these strange, foreign servants, whose language I do not understand?"
Then, with a return of the fortitude and cheerfulness that was natural to her:
"Perhaps we complain too soon; perhaps we are cowardly, and our trust is not sufficient. I and my husband went on our knees to God, but He made no sign either way. But it may be," she added, with an eager passion, "that what the angels said is true."
Joan Kelley lifted cheerful eyes.
"Do you believe in my husband?"
"I try to. I must!"
Jane Dee thought of the pierced ears and nearly spoke of them, but the words would not pass her lips, for it seemed to her that to mention this would be to confess her own treachery and duplicity. It was many months since she had taken the cap from Edward Kelley's head in the panelled parlour at Mortlake. To speak now would be to raise a question as to the reason for her long silence.
"Your husband believes," said Joan Kelley with a sigh.
"Yes. Though he is afflicted with an ague, he sits closeted with Edward Kelley and asks the angels all manner of questions as to when we are to move and when they order that we must go to Cracow. And then he asked for a cure for his ague, and if some treasure may be sent to us." The woman's hands rose and then fell in a gesture of despair. "And all this comes to nothing."
"Jane," suggested the tired girl faintly, "would you not speak to this strange prince, this Adelbert Laski, and ask him yourself what he intends for us and under what expectations he has brought us here?"
"You guess what that is?" asked Jane Dee fearfully. "I am afraid to say."
"Then I will speak. I believe that this Polonian prince has brought us here because he thinks that our husbands know the secret of making gold. Only yesterday they were asking the spirits about the red and white powder found at Glastonbury, and the book that my husband cannot decipher. Do you think, Joan, that your husband has any such secret?"
Edward Kelley's wife shook her frail head.
"I know nothing of this man at all. You have seen the aversion he has from me, and how he leaves me alone, day after day, night after night. But I know," she added reluctantly, "that he lived in great poverty and secrecy when he was in England, and I do not think if he had known how to make gold that would have been his way of life."
This was the common explanation of the matter, and Jane Dee sighed to hear it. She remembered when Edward Kelley had gone to Brentford to get drunk on the first money he had received from Graf Laski, and his eager ride into town to buy hose and riding boots and hire a horse. All these were the actions of a man avid for money. She remembered, too, how quickly he had snatched at the salary of £40 a year, offered him by the man at Islington, using this as a means to force her husband to pay him yet more.
"He has no such secret," she said sadly, as she kissed the girl's tear-stained face and put her from her.
"I will see Graf Laski," she added resolutely. "I shall have a chance when my husband is in bed with his ague. I shall tell him quite clearly that he has been deceived, and entreat him, if he brought us for nothing but that, to let us return to England."
Jane Dee was not long in finding her opportunity. On the following day her husband could not leave his bed, not even to go into the next room and watch while Kelley gazed into the shewstone. Shivering with his ague, though still cheerful and confident, he lay in the high, dark bedroom in the old house by the church, which his wife so detested.
This continued illness of the mathematician had put Kelley into one of his wild, tempestuous moods. He would not remain in the house, he declared, but must go out into the town of Lask to look for a metal smith, who might make three iron hasps and padlocks to keep the table for the shewstones secure and private, also a pedestal for the crystal to rest on the table, for what he had was too low.
He had seen, he added, the angels even that morning and they had repeated their advice that everyone was to go to Cracow.
Jane Dee stood at the door of her husband's room and refused Edward Kelley permission to pass in with this message.
"We will none of us go to Cracow in the dead of winter," she said, frowning.
"If you disobey the spirits," he answered her rudely, "you cannot expect any favours."
"And no favours have they given me," said Jane Dee.
She suspected that he would endeavour to force past her into her husband's presence, but he turned away and went slowly down the stairs.
Jane Dee followed him, and in her bitterness and distress she was almost forced to say: "I have been led and deceived by a rogue." But she was silent, because she did not want utterly to lose his confidence, and also because of that strange, unbidden tenderness and rising passion that she felt for this man.
He looked at her and opened his lips as if about to speak, but no words came. The house was intolerably dark because of the high wall all round the garden outside, and the snow falling heavily from a sky that looked like ashes.
Jane thought that the very worst of the days in England, when the future seemed most uncertain and the present most vexatious, had been fair and sweet compared to this. They had at least been surrounded by friends, with the Queen near at hand, the men like Walsingham and Burghley, Sidney and Rayleigh, to send them pleasant words with a purse of angels or a cup with a standing cover which could be pledged for good money.
At this Edward Kelley spoke.
"I see it is to you, Jane Dee, and not to these others that I must kneel."
"No doubt," said she, "in the end, you and I will deal one with another."
She turned away into a little room she kept to herself, and affected to busy herself by taking their few clothes out of the press and turning them over and mending them. They had had to buy furs and cloaks of serge against the long travelling in the winter. It was difficult to keep the children warm. Arthur often cried and asked why they could not go home. She had to thank God that they were all yet in health.
As soon as Edward Kelley had left the house Jane Dee dropped her pretence of a task, put on her coarse hood, lined with wolfskin, and without calling up one of the foreign servants, whom she so disliked, she set off for the Castle.
She knew that Adelbert Laski, the Palatine of Siradia, was there, and this was a lucky chance for her, since more often than not he was abroad, either in Cracow or Prague or in his other property at Kesmark, where his wife was, a woman who the angels said was no friend of the English adventurers.
As Jane Dee went on her way, holding her cloak before her face, for the snow was thick and stinging, she puzzled her mind as to some conclusion about this man—why he had brought them there and who he might really be, what plot or intrigue it was in which he was concerned? She walked as quickly as she was able to; the weather impeded her, at the corners of the narrow streets the wind blew the snow in gusts into the hollow of her hood.
The Castle was like a shadow against the flying flakes, grey turrets and grey walls. She had a fair excuse for her visit. She told the porter she had come to say that it was useless for his master to attend the conferences with the spirits that day, for her husband's ague had increased in the night. She added that she had some message for the Palatine's ears alone.
She was instantly admitted into a small apartment, to her mind, very rudely furnished. It had nothing of the luxury she was accustomed to in great English houses; the furniture was old, the walls bare and dirty. Through the high, pointed window fell the bitter grey light of the snow-filled sky.
Graf Laski, the Palatine, was standing by the hearth, on which the great scarlet and golden flames struggled up the shaft, down which the melted snow fell now and then, hissing on the glowing logs. Jane Dee looked at this man more shrewdly than she had ever looked at him before. He seemed very different from the light, volatile, impressive creature who had been rowed down the Thames in the Queen's barge with trumpeters and music. His aspect was grey, and the anxious woman thought, slightly sinister; his coat was unbuttoned on a shirt of cut-work, and his long hair fell forward from his face, so that the firelight, gleaming through it, made it like a network of red gold beside his long, strange profile.
He received her very courteously, and, she quickly perceived, with no interest whatever in her, as a woman or a personality. He had probably scarcely noticed her in his visits; she had been, to him, only like a nurse or a servant in the background.
"My husband is ill."
"Yes, yes, so much I heard from your message. And I am not to come to-day. But what of Mr. Kelley? Cannot he and I converse with the spirits without the aid of your husband?"
Jane Dee sat down in the chair which he offered her and loosened her cloak and shook the melting snow from the hem. It was an old, high-backed chair covered with worn tapestry and reminded her of that in which she had so often sat in the panelled parlour at Mortlake with the children asleep on her knee, or playing at her feet.
"Mr. Edward Kelley does not come into this argument," she said. "And I know nothing of him. It is of myself and my husband and my family that I would speak."
He looked at her impatiently, yet with a certain realisation for the first time of her personality. Jane Dee sighed, as if very tired, for this interview was a considerable nervous effort.
"I want to know, Graf Laski, why you brought us here, so many hundreds of miles into this strange land of yours? We have already cost you much money and are likely to cost you much more."
"Your husband knows why you came, Mrs. Dee—your husband and Edward Kelley. We followed, all three, in the direction of the spirits."
"The spirits may be an illusion, Graf Laski. Even my husband himself sometimes says so, and in his rages Edward Kelley will swear that he does not believe in them, or that, if they do exist, they are but phantoms and damned souls. Surely a man like you has some other warrant than the commands of spirits?"
Adelbert Laski put his fine hand to his bare throat. He had seated himself on a low stool by the fire and the amber red light was full over him. Jane Dee, looking a him very keenly, thought that he appeared ill, haggard and anxious, even as she was herself.
"Do you not know my hope, Mrs. Dee?" Then he added abruptly, without waiting for her to answer his question: "I believe that your husband and Edward Kelley know how to make gold. They have a red and white powder and a mysterious book."
She raised her hand and let it fall wearily.
"Do not put your trust in that. My husband knows nothing of these things. He has not even experimented in that direction. His quest is for wisdom, for the eternal peace that heavenly wisdom brings. His desire is to please God and to be the interpreter of God's wishes to mankind."
Jane Dee spoke these words with great dignity. Graf Laski laughed a little, but replied:
"My desire does not rise so high. I want to discover how to make gold. I want the crown of Poland."
"And do you think," asked Jane Dee, "that you will achieve these ends with the help of a man like Edward Kelley?"
He looked at her sharply and demanded:
"What is Edward Kelley to you?"
With the energy of one, who in a passion of self-scorn turns a sharp weapon on himself, Jane Dee replied:
"I think he is a rogue and an impostor. He has a young wife whom he married in some caprice, and whom he treats very ill. She knows nothing of him and if she did she would not speak for it is a brave, loyal creature. But this she could not disguise: that this man was in poverty when she met him and his poverty has continued. Why, did you not see yourself, Lord Laski, how he grasped the few nobles you gave him and went to Brentford to spend it on a riot?"
"That may be," replied the Polonian prince, smiling. "It might even be that the fellow is a rogue, yet he might still have this secret. They experiment, they confer constantly. Any day they might discover the transmutation of metals, the Philosopher's Stone, and then I should be the most powerful man in the world."
"I think you are deluded," replied Jane. "I take this man to be a scoundrel, and I believe he contrived and urged this journey that he might be away from the officers in England who wanted him for forgery."
"What have you against this man, Mrs. Dee?"
She smiled ironically as she thought how startled her questioner would be if she gave him the truthful reply to that demand.
"We have all been deceived," she said heavily, "we have been taken from our homes and our country, brought here to this fearful place in this dreadful weather for the sake of a prison-bird."
"Do you think that Edward Kelley has your husband deluded?" asked Adelbert Laski with a touch of anxiety.
She was sorry when she saw his ravaged face, for she believed that he must have much upon this enterprise to be so concerned.
"I do so believe," she replied firmly. "Do you not mark how the angels evade and hesitate? What did they not say, even yesterday?: 'Wise as I am, I know not yet what to advise.' And when they are asked for anything practical, be it but a handful of money, they have some excuse not to give it. And observe, Lord Laski, that none save Edward Kelley see these angels? Is not that so? Though you have been present when he has been gazing into the shewstones, have you seen anything?"
"Nothing. Yet Kelley looked like a man inspired. I swear he is no ordinary mortal. Never before has anyone held me so fascinated, and I do not believe that a common cheat could thus dupe me."
"So I also thought," said Jane Dee, "and yet this happened." She added quickly, covering up these words of which Graf Laski took no heed: "You deal with me frankly. If these two have not the secret of making gold, what use are they to you? Are you the wealthy man we thought you in England?"
"I have nothing. I do not know, even, if I could raise the money to take us all to Cracow. My estates are most heavily mortgaged, and on the Kesmark property I have raised a loan which by the end of next April I must pay. Without the help of the Angels or the Emperor I know not how it can be met."
A shock of keen disappointment fell like a cloak of lead on Jane Dee's spirit. She scarcely knew how to support this revelation as she forced her courage and said bravely:
"My husband is a great man and famous all over Europe. Surely there is someone who would do something for us, apart from the spirits and the hope of gold?"
"I want us all to go to the capital," said the Palatine. "Perhaps the King, Stephan Bathory, would do something for us." And then he added sharply: "And what do you know, Mrs. Dee, of either the gold or the spirits? I believe in both." And he struck his chest with emphasis, rising to his full height. "Yes, I believe in both. It is your woman's timidity which refuses to allow you to credit Edward Kelley. You dislike him because he has upset your life, taken you away from your home. One day you will know him for the great man that he is."
Jane Dee rose and leaned against the high-backed chair.
"Have you seen him," she whispered, "without his black cap? His ears are torn where he has been twice nailed to the pillory."
"That is a vulgar interpretation, Mrs. Dee," Graf Laski said hastily. "I have seen Edward Kelley without his cap and he has given me the explanation of the wounds in his ears. It was when he was struggling with a crew of evil spirits who sometimes possess him. They grasped him by the ears to drag him away and left their mark on him."
Jane Dee picked up her clumsy, fur-lined cloak. As she put it over her shoulders she said:
"I do not doubt Edward Kelley's evil spirits, Graf Laski. They are such as you and I shall never see."
He answered loudly and nervously:
"You cannot shake me! You cannot shake me! Tell Edward Kelley that I shall come over to-night both to see your husband and to sit with him while he gazes into the shewstone."
When Jane Dee returned to the house by the church which she could by no means think of as home she found Edward Kelley waiting for her, and the look on his face made her shudder and gave her a strange sensation of creeping belief in his supernatural powers, for he was glowering at her in a fury and his first words were:
"So you went to Lord Laski to betray me, eli! You told him that I was an impostor, that I could not make gold, and that I never saw the spirits!"
"How did you know that, Edward Kelley?"
She was really frightened and had to sit down and hold her heart while she stared at him wildly. His face was transformed; the pale eyes seemed to flare in the deep orbits, his colourless lips were twisted back from the teeth, he looked half-beast, half-angel and wholly damned.
"I know everything—all you do and say, Jane Dee."
She tried to shake off the spell which he undoubtedly exercised upon her.
"No doubt you have your spies everywhere," she said, and went upstairs to her husband's bedroom, as to a place of refuge; she locked the door, but no one tried the handle.
That evening Adelbert Laski came again to the provost's house. John Dee put on his fur robe, trembling with ague as he was, and was helped into the cabinet where the shewstone was placed on the sacred table. And the spirits showed themselves unrelenting. The whole party was to go to the capital, where the greatest good fortune might be expected from the patronage of the king.
Jane had the bitter humiliation of realising that her visit to Graf Laski had been without any fruit. He was as infatuate as ever with Kelley, and so was her husband, and the long forward journey to the capital of Poland was resolved on without any opportunity for further discussion.
The English travellers reached the fortified town of Cracow, at once a university, a royal residence, and the burial place of the Polish kings, by the middle of March, after travelling tediously from the north-west across the flat plain between the Vistula and Rudowa.
After lodging for a while in the suburbs by the Church of the Visitation, John Dee hired a house in Saint Stephen Street. He took it for a year and engaged a maid-servant by the name of Mary, a manservant named John Crocker, and a boy.
The house was old, high and dark, but it was a better semblance of a home than any Jane Dee had had since she left Mortlake, and she began to have hopes which she could not consider unreasonable, that, even if the angelical promises proved deceptive, and Edward Kelley never discovered how to make gold, still her husband might find some honourable employment with Stephan Bathory, who was acclaimed everywhere as a wise king and a great man.
The house was narrow and there seemed many stairs in it for the number of rooms. It was not very well furnished, and there were numbers of things needed which there was no money to buy. But they had brought a certain amount of furnishings with them from England and at last Jane Dee, after seeing these dragged for many hundreds of miles, found uses for them, and a pleasant accupation in arranging the rooms for the children and herself.
In this task she was diligently helped by Joan Kelley and Mary, the maid. The house was draughty, and though the spring should have been in the air, the snow was still continuous.
Graf Laski, who had been expected to be there to present the travellers at once to the king, who was in residence in the royal palace, lingered behind at Lask or Kesmark. The delay caused Edward Kelley to turn restive.
He harped much on the question of money and asked how they were to live without means. He sharply rebuked his wife when she demanded of him a few guilders with which to buy clothes, for her own garments were much worn. Even with the help of Jane Dee she could not turn them about much longer.
The top room under the high-peaked roof of the tall house was used as a study by John Dee, and there the shewstones and the table, that had travelled so far, were again set up.
The spirits appeared almost at once and began to dictate cabalistic signs and symbols, elaborate diagrams and drawings. Though Kelley executed these with the most exquisite draughtsmanship and careful precision, he affected himself unable to understand them and began to talk of a waste of time and tedious labours for nothing, and to express, to the mathematician's profound distress, his complete disbelief in the angels.
John Dee protested against this incredulity, which was, he was certain, ruining their standing with their angelic guides.
"Your wilful fantasy," he declared, "perverts your reason, and whereas you find fault with our instructors, I, who, much more narrowly pursue their words, know that they give direct answers to my questions. Except, indeed, when you misreport them or I make a mistake in reading, hearing or writing."
But Edward Kelley said he wished he were in England and might have nothing more to do with any spiritual creatures, and that if the books and drawings were his he would burn them all, including the famous Book of Mysteries.
John Dee, in his credulous simplicity, prayed that Edward Kelley might be brought safely through this great storm of temptation of doubting and mistaking. For himself, he bore all patiently for the sake of God.
Then for a day or two Edward Kelley became submissive, saying:
"I am contented to see and make true reports of what the spirits will show, but my heart stands against it."
But at last, after three more days of his slaying, he impatiently confessed himself bewildered and exhausted, for he was no mathematician, with the elaborate diagrams and signs dictated by the angels, and in a fury he scattered all the papers on the floor, and left the house, taking with him what was left of the money which Graf Laski had given him on their departure from Lask.
John Dee could do nothing to meet this disastrous outbreak, but deeply engaged himself in prayer. It was then May, and as yet nothing practical had come out of their travels or their delays.
Graf Laski paid a brief visit to the tall, dark house in Cracow. He seemed a man distracted and almost beside himself. Whatever his intrigues were (and this mattered little to the English adventurers), they appeared to have ended in disaster. He admitted that he was out of favour with King Stephan; his own vision of the Crown of Poland was growing dim. He showed himself to be considerably vexed at the absence of Edward Kelley, who had gone no man knew where, but, judging from his former outbreaks, it was more than likely that he was spending his time, health and substance in low debaucheries in the worst quarters of the town.
Jane Dee, with a bitterness that seemed out of all measure even to her keen misfortune, exclaimed:
"Lord Laski, did I not tell you this fellow was a rogue?"
Her husband rebuked her gently.
"No rogue, Jane, but one who is often tempted, and one who often falls. He will yet return and be penitent."
Dr. Dee's patience and humility, his patient cheerfulness, held them all up. Passion-tossed and doubtful as they were themselves, they sheltered in the citadel of his intense faith.
Laski, who was still endeavouring to raise money to redeem his Kesmark property, lodged in a Convent of Franciscans, and from there sent daily inquiries as to Edward Kelley. On the third day after the skryer's disappearance the faith of John Dee was justified.
He was kneeling, alone in the high, peaked upper room, praying before the shewstone, which to him was nothing but a globe of light, when the door opened softly and Edward Kelley crept in with the same furtive silence that he had used when he had returned after his outbreak at Mortlake.
Although overwhelmed by joy at this sight, John Dee continued to pray.
Edward Kelley crept across the darkening room, for it was the hour of twilight, and knelt beside him with the grateful humility of a returned prodigal. The black cap was undone, the long strings hanging beneath his chin and the tangled locks of bright hair falling either side his bare throat. His face was hollowed and colourless as he clasped his hands and gazed into the globe of crystal.
Instantly there appeared Gabriel, holding a dart, like a flame of fire, upright in his hand. Edward Kelley I began to weep, declaring that the angel was pleading with him with such tenderness and affection that he was abashed to the earth by shame and grief and penitence for his wrongdoing. Clasping his hands and weeping, the repentent skryer promised to renounce all the errors of the blasphemous doctrine he had hitherto held and all his disbelief and questionings of the wisdom of the spirits.
At this display of emotion, Gabriel, with the remark that "For the chosen there is no sin," disappeared. It was, Kelley declared, part of his punishment that he should have to kneel now for hours before the stone without either cloud, veil, or voice appearing, which, to one of his impatience, was no light pang.
Yet, he declared passionately, he was prepared to endure this punishment, and the time thus spent was better employed than the hours consumed in any human follies.
John Dee, full of joy and greatly uplifted by this conversion of one so beloved, so necessary to him, rose to his feet, but Edward Kelley remained on the ground, and, with a passionate outburst of tears, opened his tumultuous heart.
He had intended, he said, when he had last left the house, never to return. The evil spirits had wholly taken grip of his soul. He had found, he thought, the secret of the Glastonbury book. It had meant what he so greatly coveted—riches and power. But Gabriel had come after him and brought him back, and here he was, at John Dee's feet, and there he would remain. This conversion was final and complete.
"I no longer fear," he cried, "poverty. Life eternal is more than riches and wealth. I will doubt no more, I will believe."
The mathematician, much pleased, long-suffering, and full of love for the young man, raised him from the ground and kissed him on both of his cheeks, which were wet with difficult tears. And as he did so he murmured an eager prayer of thanksgiving for Edward Kelley's conversion and for the defeat of the devils, and prayed for them both that they might have continual zeal, love of truth, purity of life, charitable humility, and constant patience to the end.
Then Edward Kelley went down the long, dark stairs to the small room on the street, where Jane Dee was just lighting the lamp, and setting it on the supper table. He was unkempt and dishevelled and his eyes were red from tears.
She looked at him steadily over the small flame and said nothing.
He went up to her and fell on one knee and took the hem of her dress and kissed it, and Jane Dee did not even look down at him. When he rose he said:
"You knew that I should return."
And she had nothing to say, save:
"Go to your wife, Edward Kelley."
Edward Kelley's patient, docile mood continued. When Laski came to the house in Saint Stephen Street the next day and climbed up to the little study under the peaked roof, the sittings were at once successful and Michael appeared and promised that Laski should be King of Poland.
But this prophecy was confused by the appearance of several curious images—a figure in black wax, a dead hand and a man like an Italian, carrying an iron chest.
Then, leaving the crystal, Edward Kelley had direct visions. Four magnificent castles at the four corners of the compass, and from every castle was a cloth, the sign of majesty. At the East, red, like new smitten blood, at the South, lily-white, at the West, green, garlic-bladed like the skins of many dragons, the North, hair-coloured, black—like bilberry juice. Four trumpeters issued from the castles, the trumpets were the shape of pyramids, wreathed. Three ensign bearers with the names of God on their banners followed them. Seniors, kings, princes and train-bearers, angels in four phalanxes like crosses, all in their order, marched to the central court and arranged themselves about the ensign.
Edward Kelley explained the complicated allegory thus:
"The castles are watch-towers provided against the Devil, the watchman in each is a mighty angel. The ensigns publish the redemption of mankind. The angels of the air which come out of the crosses are to subvert whole countries, without armies, and in the war waged against the Powers of Darkness." And he began to absorb himself totally with these elaborate complications, taking himself up with tables of letters, the explanation of the names of the King, angels and seniors.
But, on Graf Laski showing some impatience on being plunged into these labyrinths of symbols, the spirits became again practical, and said they were about to reveal the healing medicines, the property of fire, the knowledge, finding, and use of metals, the virtues of stones, and the understanding of arts mechanical. They ended by wanting to know why the adventurers had not gone to the Emperor, or to the King of Poland, and John Dee offered simply his old excuse of poverty.
He then asked for some news of his house at Mortlake and of how his name stood at the English Court. He was reassured. The angels declared that his property had been sealed by the Queen's orders and that she often had her astrologer in her mind, and would stay his good friend on his return.
Graf Laski had received money from the sale of some of his property and, urged by the constant advices of the spirits, decided, despite the expense, to take Dee and Kelley with him to Prague, city of the alchemists, where the sombre and melancholy Emperor, self-absorbed in Strange experiments and curious learning, lived lonely in his great, dark-palace. But the women were to be left behind in Cracow.
"How do you like that, Jane Dee?" asked Edward Kelley, coming upon her where she sat, tired and forlorn by the spent fire.
Her husband was abroad with Graf Laski. They had gone to wait on some man who had promised them introductions to the Emperor's Doctor of Medicine, Centias. Jane Dee had believed that Kelley was with them, and he came upon her by surprise, and took her, as it were, disarmed, for at his question she began to weep. The children were all long since abed, the youngest had been ill for some days and only that evening had begun to recover. His father, coming out of his deep absorption in spiritual matters, had tenderly treated the child and it was through his skill that he had mended. Upon which, as a thanksgiving vow, John Dee had promised that for all the Saturdays of his life he would eat but one meal.
"I did not think you would return," said Jane Dee. She could not for sheer relief check her tears, they streamed down her unprotected face until Edward Kelley put his handkerchief into her hand and then she wiped her eyes, childishly.
"I am going to Prague, sweetheart," he said, "to make the fortunes of all of us."
"Your wife," said she, "is upstairs much fatigued. She has been toiling with the children. Are you and I to talk like this down here?"
"We will talk as we may, how we may in what little space is given us," replied the young man.
He went on his knees by her humble chair and took her hand, which trembled from fatigue and was worn from much work.
"You believe me to be a poor rogue," he said. "Yet I know you are sorry to think that I shall go to Prague and leave you alone here."
She looked down on him with a weeping tenderness. The citadel of her pride and fortitude was in ruins.
"It is a strange thing to happen to me," she whispered, "that you should come as you did that day at Mortlake. Do you remember how I opened the door? The wind was flying past with a sigh. It seemed to me that it came into the house and you followed it."
"And I have thought of you, Jane Dee, night and day ever since."
"I do know you for a poor rogue," she said sadly. "You deceive my husband, you deceive this Polonian prince. There are no angels and no devils come to you save those you carry in your own heart, Edward Kelley." She added on yet a deeper note of wild sadness, as he made no movement: "If Edward Kelley be indeed your name, for I doubt if I shall ever know anything of you, nor where you come from, nor where you will go to."
He rested his cheek against her hand where it lay on the arm of the chair.
"Poor Jane," he said, "you will not believe in the spirits, but I have seen them—angels and archangels, in air and in flame, on the roll of the tempest, and in the waves of the ocean. They brought me to you," he added. "They brought us together."
She looked long at the worn beauty of his face. It seemed to her as if she stared at him across a mist. Their strange relations with one another had been rendered even more extraordinary by the wild and remarkable life they had both led since they had met. His acquaintanceship with her had meant the uprooting of all her old customs and traditions, the leaving of all that was dear and familiar to her, the casting of a cloak of unfamiliarity, of the incredible and the marvellous over all her life, which had been so homely and simple. She asked curiously:
"Why do you not love your wife, Edward? She is so good and patient. Why did you take her from her home but to illtreat her?"
He answered sullenly:
"I was misled."
"You have broken her heart, Edward, and now, I suppose, you would try to break mine."
He did not answer, but remained in his relaxed attitude like a tired child. Under the flaps of the black cap, between the folds of the bright hair she saw hi: torn ears, and she asked herself with a wonder in which there was no longer any self-scorn, for she had bowed to her destiny: Who was this creature whom she regarded with such a tender passion? Some jailbird, some wretch who had stood with his ears nailed to the pillory, to be pelted and jeered at by the vulgar? Some man who had forged and coined, for all she knew, robbed and murdered?
But it mattered nothing. He had come into her life out of the storm, like some wild creature escaping the hunters might have fled to her lap for safety. She did not believe in his angels, but she thought they might both very well be damned.
"You know," she said, "it is my husband who saves us both. He is a man without guile, of spotless life and upright faith. Were it not for him you would be revealed as a poor rascal. And I should be but 2 silly woman, adrift and helpless."
He raised his pale eyes, and looked at her with 2 mocking question in his glance.
"What does your husband, then, make of us, Jane Dee?"
"He gives us dignity. He protects you and gives me power."
With her worn and tired hands she raised his face. He made no opposition as she gently put him from her and rose.
"I shall always be loyal to my husband, Edward Kelley. That is not only my duty, but my salvation.'
"You do not know me, yet," he answered. "How patiently I can wait, how diligently I can labour!"
She moved towards the door. She was bitterly conscious of the strangeness of her surroundings. How alien was this country, how remote this chamber! She moved as if in the dark depths of a dream, and it was difficult for her to keep a grasp on reality. She asked the question that had been long in her heart, and which she had never meant to put into words:
"Why did you come to Mortlake? Was it because of my husband's fame, because you thought he was both learned and credulous, to be the mask and cloak for your designs?" As he did not reply, she came to the heart of her question: "Why did you stay, Edward Kelley? Why, though you have gone away so often, have you always returned?"
"You know the answer," he replied wearily. "Yet, I suppose you want to hear me say that I stayed and I returned because of you."
She closed the door on him and went upstairs.
How dark and narrow the stairs were, how strange and alien was the tall house with the peaked roof The winter was over at last; there was a creeping warmth in the thick air. Jane Dee felt homesick for an English summer. She opened the heavy, dark door of the children's sleeping-room and thought: "Surely we are the strangest pair of lovers."
She entered the room where the rushlight burnt on a small table beside the children's bed. Joan Kelley was half asleep in a deep chair. A psalter had fallen out of her hand and lay on the floor. Jane Dee picked it up and laid it lovingly on the girl's lap. The children were sleeping very peacefully. Through the high window fell a faint glimmer of moonshine.
The journey to Prague was decided on, Graf Laski having found the means thereto and there being, besides, very good hopes of an audience from the Emperor. The three adventurers, who approached the same goal with such different hopes and expectations, consulted together.
Edward Kelley was excited in a manner which it was impossible for Dr. Dee, so well used to the company and kindness of the great ones of the earth, to understand. The mathematician even gently rebuked his tempestuous assistant, reminding him that they were acting under Divine guidance and if they received, or no, patronage from the Emperor, it would be at the angels' will. And with a grave and anxious dignity, he reminded both the Polonian prince and Edward Kelley that they had not undertaken this strange quest for material advantages but in the highest interest of transcendental philosophy and hermetic wisdom.
"It is not the base minerals and volatile chemicals that we must seek to transmute," he said, "those are but symbols of the transfiguration which must take place in ourselves, when, the great secret being in our possession, we shall be as gods."
Graf Laski listened to this without much attention. He always paid more heed to Edward Kelley than to the elder man, who so far exceeded him in worth and reputation. He said:
"Although the Emperor will no doubt be greatly impressed by the endeavours of John Dee to labour after the divine wisdom which is to transmute mankind into a heavenly likeness, there is no doubt that he is even more interested in the manufacture of gold."
"Of that I know very little. I take it to be a secret that will only be given us when the angels will. I cannot decipher the book which Edward Kelley found in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and which contains, he supposes, the directions for the projection of the red and white powder."
Graf Laski, looking keenly at Edward Kelley, remarked: "In that the Emperor will be particularly interested. You know that he is an adept himself and far advanced in hermetic law." And the Count added, with a straight look at the young man: "It is useless to attempt to deceive him, or to provoke his curiosity. He has imprisoned several alchemists in the White Tower."
John Dee answered this remark:
"Why should we seek to deceive the Emperor, since we have been divinely guided into his presence?" And he asked Laski, Palatine of Siradia, what manner of man this Imperial Hapsburg was, who dwelt lonely in Prague, the city of the alchemists, and gave, it was said, a cloistered life up to many strange pursuits. Graf Laski replied:
"He is very melancholy. He reads every strange book on which he can lay his hands."
"I wonder," interrupted Dr. Dee with eager simplicity, "if he has read my Monas Hieroglyphica, which I dedicated to his father, Maximilian II."
"Very likely," replied Laski, with some impatience. "He knows all the tongues, ancient and modern. He paints pictures, too, with great cunning and works very delicately in iron. It is difficult to see him, and very often difficult to understand what he says, but I hope he may be favourable towards us."
Dr. Dee added with the same simplicity:
"I have had friendships from the Emperor Charles V. and his brother, Ferdinand, and from this prince's father, and what to us is the countenance of princes when the very heavens are opening before us?"
Kelley and Laski exchanged shrewd glances which the mathematician did not perceive, for he was wrapped in his own mysticism which prevented much of earthly matters and common affairs being apparent to him. The Pole began to discuss the practical aspects of the journey to Prague—where they should lodge, and through whom they should present their petition to the Emperor.
The Poionian prince said he would send his secretary with a letter from John Dee to the Spanish Ambassador, Don De Sancto Clemente, and with it was to go a copy of the book which he had just mentioned that he had dedicated to Rudolph's father, Maximilian. Laski also thought that he would get Dr. Hageck to lend his house by Bethlem in Old Prague (the Altstadt), which would do very well for Dee and Kelley while they waited the pleasure of the Emperor.
All this being decided upon, the Polonian prince turned abruptly to Edward Kelley and asked him, with the air of one who brings another to the point, to tell him the exact story of his powders and the book, which hitherto the young man had skilfully or sullenly evaded. And now, in his eager mood, for he seemed on the very crest of the wave of good fortune and good humour, Kelley began to relate, scarcely pausing for breath, the story of how he had come by the powders and the book, by means of which he had first sought an introduction to the household at Mortlake.
He said he had had a reason to depart secretly into the Welsh mountains where, under a name that was not his own, he lodged at a lonely tavern which was near a high mountain and a great lake. The innkeeper showed him the book which he said had come from the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, founded by St. Dunstan, where it had been no doubt hidden by the last Abbot, who had been hanged by the late King Henry.
"Though I could not read the book, my curiosity was inflamed, for I perceived it to be full of mysteries. With the book had been discovered two small ivory bottles, one containing a red, and the other a white powder, These this wretched ignorant man had given to hip children to play with, which they were doing on the edge of the lake the day I heard this tale. The ivory wa: so fine that by holding up the bottles to the light you might perceive that one was pure white and the other flushed red. The stoppers were firmly fixed and none of the precious powder had been spilled.
"I gave twenty shillings to the man for the book and the bottles and thought at once of Dr. Dee.
"I took them to him at his house at Mortlake and we have been working together since."
"But without result?" asked Adelbert Laski. Before the mathematician could answer, Edward Kelley replied:
"That I may not say. The time is not yet ripe. I labour continually."
These words surprised Dr. Dee, for he was not aware that Edward Kelley conducted any experiments by himself, nor indeed did he know that his assistant had sufficient knowledge either of chemistry or mysticism to undertake such sacred labours.
The Polonian prince bade Edward Kelley look very carefully to his powders and his book. The Emperor was sure, he said, to ask for a demonstration, and he repeated that the Hapsburg was not a man to be easily deceived, for he had a great knowledge of these affairs and had made many experiments himself, having on one occasion it was believed, made gold, but only in a small quantity, and after melting more ducats in the crucible than the value of the ore which was finally produced. And he added that Heinrich Khunrath, the celebrated doctor of Dresden and follower of Paracelsus, had had many consultations with the Emperor on this matter, but had displeased His Majesty by maintaining that the true end and object of the alchemist was psychic and not material.
"Then," added the prince, "there was Michael Maier, one of the Emperor's physicians, who had been to England to seek with the Kentish mystic, Robert Fludd. He was an adept and was supposed to be searching for the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone. But he concealed his knowledge behind much obscure symbolism, and the Emperor, though he valued him as a doctor of medicine, has long since given up hope that he will ever be able to manufacture gold."
After listening to this, which seemed to be given as a warning, John Dee said, with simple dignity:
"If this Emperor Rudolph is seeking for nothing but gold, surely he will be disappointed in everything."
The two English crystal-gazers and the Polish prince viewed the outline of Prague against the midsummer heavens with something of the same ecstastic hope the pilgrims from this world to the next might view the outline of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The city of the alchemists lay amid woods rising on hills on the bank of the Vlata. The towers of the churches and the watch towers on the walls seemed innumerable; a gloomy power and a secret might was expressed in the impressive outline of the Ottokar and Hradcany towers which rose from the opulent colourings of trees in the full leafage of August.
The town was very magnificent, but sombre and mysterious. Most of the streets were narrow, dark and winding, and seemed, despite the brilliance of the midsummer sun overhead, to remain in perpetual shadow.
The house of Dr. Hageck in the Altstadt, which the physician had generously lent to the two alchemists, was near the old Rathhus with the splendid clocktower, and the Carolinum, the university where John Huss had answered the summons of the Emperor.
The alchemists found the house, which had been so generously put at their disposal, greatly to their liking. It was small and dark, but well kept and well furnished, and there was an excellent study which had been, nearly a hundred years ago, the abode of some mysterious alchemist who had been on the same quest as themselves.
Simon, the name of this eager student, was set up in gold and silver letters in different parts of the room. Over the door and between the windows were long Latin inscriptions and cabalistic hieroglyphs referring to the mystic search for the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. There was also among the familiar paraphernalia, to which both the adepts were so used, of furnaces, retorts and scales, many excellent carvings and paintings of birds, fishes, flowers, uncouth monsters, and strange imaginings.
In the highest spirits, Edward Kelley at once set up the shewstone, placed the crystal in its frame on the seals and the red cloth.
Madimi, who had grown from a lovely child into a beautiful woman, at once appeared in the crystal and Dee asked her news of his wife and children, left at Cracow, and the angel replied that they were well and directed him to write to the Emperor Rudolph.
This John Dee did. It was, perhaps, the happiest moment of the alchemist's life, not only because he seemed so near the attainment of a lifetime's stupendous hopes, but because of the changed demeanour of Edward Kelley. He seemed to have thrown off the evil spirits and to show a true penitence and a complete conversion to things of light from things of darkness. The long-suffering mathematician sincerely rejoiced. He loved the wild young man like a son and through him, erring and human as he was, did he feel most in touch with that countenance of God, which he had so long sought.
A week passed and there was no reply from the Emperor. This did not in the least shake the confidence of John Dee, but he was much disturbed by an ugly episode which forced him to write in the margin of his diary:
"Satan is very busy about Edward Kelley at this time." One hot evening while the astrologer was seated in his study with the windows open, working instead of going down to supper, he was surprised by a shout in the street and, looking down, saw the city watchman, who warned him to keep better prudence in the ordering of his household. The amazed mathematician, who had heard nothing, peered from the window and saw, seated on a stone at the corner of the street, the Palatine's servant, Alexander, holding his head and groaning, as if he were greatly hurt.
At this Dr. Dee went down and found that the man had been quarrelling with Edward Kelley and with young Simon, son of the doctor who had lent them the house, and who had come unexpectedly to Prague in the absence of his parents and who lodged with the Englishmen.
The mathematician, standing in the hot street, endeavoured to get the truth from the serving man, who told him this story:
Edward Kelley had bought a clock for five ducats from Simon. There had been some dispute over this bargain, and it had ended by the Englishman having to add a quarter of wine to the money. On this, both he and Simon had become drunk and quarrelsome, and when Alexander endeavoured to separate them, they had both set upon him with many foul and evil terms.
"Here is a scandal which will damage me in all Prague and maybe with the Emperor himself," said Dr. Dee sorrowfully. He was the more shocked and disappointed as he had just been rejoicing at the conversion of Edward Kelley.
With a heavy step, that showed something of his age, lie went back to the house and there was the relapsed slayer lying drunk on a bench within the door as he had once lain in the house at Mortlake. And then John Dee saw for himself, as Jane, his wife, had seen so long ago, the mangled ears exposed under the bright hair and the untied black cap.
He went to his study much disturbed and prayed for help with the bitterness of dismay, lest, after all, he might have been cozened.
When Edward Kelley recovered from his drunken sleep he was in a raging fury that frightened all who beheld him. In vain John Dee endeavoured to restrain him. Nothing would content him but he most go after the Palatine's man and, seeing him pass at this moment in the street, he rushed up and took a stone and hurled it after him as if he had been a dog.
Struggling in the grip of the old man and Simon, the doctor's son, Edward Kelley, like one indeed possessed, shrieked out:
"Send for your wife, Dr. Dee. She alone can lay this spirit. Send for Jane Dee to come to Prague."
His face was distorted and foam hung on his lips while the chords in his throat and on his forehead stood out most painfully. He was only overcome by sheer force, and the outbreak ended in a violent fit of hysteric sobbing.
Dr. Dee noted in his diary:
"The rage and fury were so great in words and gestures it might plainly prove that the wicked enemy sought either Edward Kelley's own destroying of himself or of me. This may suffice to notify the mighty temptation and vehement working of the subtle spiritual enemy, Satan, wherewith God suffered Edward Kelley to be tempted and almost overcome, to my great grief, discomfort and most great discredit if it should come to the Emperor's understanding. I was in great doubt how God would take this offence, and devised with myself how I might with honesty be cleared from the shame and danger. At the least it would cross all good hopes here with the Emperor for a time until God redressed it."
In the chamber of Simon the alchemist, with the mystical gold letters on the wall, John Dee knelt and prayed beside the unconscious body of Edward Kelley. The young man was overcome by wine, or fury, or an infernal possession.
He had lain for hours since the scene with the Palatine's servant; occasionally his limbs and his features twitched and he cried out as if in torment. John Dee persuaded himself that he could see the devil running up and down the inert body, prayers seemed of no avail, though it was with a pure and sincere heart that the mathematician sent up his petition.
The globe, a mere flash of hollow light, stood useless on the shew-table. The furnace, which cost so much to light and to maintain, was sinking out, for John Dee had sent away the youth who blew the bellows. The Book of St. Dunstan and other learned and mystic manuscripts were scattered indifferently on the table by the high, tall, narrow window. Without his beloved assistant, Dr. Dee could do nothing. He saw the golden gates shut in his face as he was about to enter them; he saw the heavenly city vanish as he was about to pass through the walls. He saw the vision which had been secured to him by a heavenly promise, suddenly vanish.
He was left old and poor and hopeless, kneeling in the hot, midsummer twilight beside the body of a drunken man.
There were no angels then in the alchemist's chamber and little hope in his heart. His very prayers returned heavily upon him, as he had noticed sometimes vapours from the crucible returned, rising a little way but to sink down to earth again and vanish. He felt that Satan and his crew had triumphed and the dark, spired, mysterious and secret city of the alchemists was crowded about him like prison walls.
He lifted the sweat-damped curls from the young man's hollow cheeks and looked at the torn ears. How often had he seen this hideous disfigurement in some low gutter rogue!
He thought of the wild story that Edward Kelley had recently told of his sojourn in the Welsh mountains, what lay behind it, or could the story be believed at all? The old man's faith was not yet shaken. He could not bring himself to distrust the angelic voices. It had been too much of an ecstastic happiness to believe in them. Nor could he bring himself to distrust Edward Kelley, for he loved him. Yet into this double belief which was both noble and simple, there crept for the first time, a thread of doubt. And the old man checked his prayers to ask himself: "If I have been cozened what would there be to live for?"
The young man rose, poising himself on his elbow. He lay stretched on cushions arranged on three chairs. Alexander, Graf Laski's man, and Simon the doctor's son, had brought him laboriously up the narrow stairs; their rage against the turbulent foreigner had sunk, for they were convinced that he was possessed by devils.
Kelley, thus raised on his elbow, stared at John Dee with his pale eyes as if he did not know him. The mathematician's glance was all love and kindness. Although this lapse on the part of his assistant had struck down both his heavenly and his earthly hopes, no blame nor reproach was in his heart.
"You watch by me? You pray by me?" asked Edward Kelley, curiously. "You, on your kness by me!"
"The evil ones triumphed and the spirits entered into you," said the old man simply. "Are they gone, Edward Kelley? Are you again free?"
The young man replied sullenly:
"I do not know. My head aches, ay, and my heart also. I would I were at home again. I do not like Prague."
"I have comfortable letters from England," said Dee quietly. "The Queen holds me in her remembrance. She writes of me kindly. Walsingham and Burleigh remain my friends. They are all eager for our return."
"For our return! For yours, you mean." Edward Kelley gave his strange, wild smile. "Do not think there is anyone in England who would welcome me home."
He sat up and began to laugh, clasping his beautiful hands round his lean knees and hunching his shoulders up to his mangled ears. He looked like a devil in that moment, but the old mathematician was not in the least awe of him. It was to him as if he looked at a crystal vase and saw in it a fair and angelic form held down by a devil. So he saw Edward Kelley, his body the vase and within it the two creatures, good and evil, struggling for supremacy. He said tenderly, speaking to that soul which the devil then held:
"Edward Kelley, is it true that you fled from England because you feared a prison? That you urged this journey on Graf Laski, the Palatine, and on me to escape punishment for some crime? Do you remember the evening when Roger Cook was flung out of my house at Mortlake? He had said evil things of you. Were they true?"
"Could you believe them?" asked Kelley with a grin. "Could you see me digging up a corpse at midnight or standing in the pillory at Leicester? Could you see me forging and coining?"
"God knows, you have great skill of hand. Your penmanship is wonderful."
"I will skry no more. I will not gaze in the crystal. I do not believe in any of the angels."
"Edward Kelley, how often have you repented? How often have you broken your promises to the angels, to me and to God."
"I am a poor, sinful man," said the skryer sullenly. He rose from the chair and went to the window. The twilight was thick in the narrow streets of Prague. High above the tall houses a few stars sparkled. The heat was intense.
The patient and long-suffering old man rose stiffly from his knees. His ageing limbs often ached after his long exercise at prayer.
"Has the Emperor written?" asked Edward Kelley.
"No—though through the Spanish Ambassador he very courteously acknowledged the book I sent. He said that he would read it."
"What use is that to us?" said the young man bitterly.
And John Dee could not refrain from replying, though in no tone of rebuke:
"Maybe his Imperial Majesty would have sent for us, Edward Kelley, had you not made this disgraceful brawling in the streets so that it attracted the attention even of the city watchman."
To this the young man replied scornfully:
"If the Emperor is an adept he must believe in devils as well as in angels, and he knews that one is often as powerful as another. Therefore it should not surprise him if the forces of Satan sometimes get hold of me."
He threw the window open and, muttering how close and airless the city was, thrust out his head and peered up and down the street as if expecting someone. Then he looked back into the room again and said in his wildest, most inspired tones:
"But fear nothing, John Dee. The Emperor will send for us soon. The angels have said it." Then he added on a note of sudden harsh authority: "Have you obeyed their other commands?"
"And what was that, Edward Kelley?"
"Did they not tell you to send to Cracow for Jane Dee?"
"I see no purpose in that," replied the mathematician gently. "I have heard from the women, and they are very well. And here we are well, too. It would lead to nothing but trouble and expense."
"Send for her, I say," cried Edward Kelley, stamping his foot.
"And for your wife?" asked the old man without guile.
Edward Kelley laughed wildly.
"For my wife! Leave her where she is. You know that I abhor her." And he added violently: "I must have been beguiled by Satan when I married a barren woman!"
Jane Dee and Joan Kelley lived in a peaceful monotony at Cracow. The children and the house claimed all their time. They could not afford many servants; the ways of the country were still strange to them and though they had a small supply of money, they were greatly concerned as to how long this might have to last them, and so they lived meagrely, and spent as little as they could, though all of them were very shabby, and the women had no jewels, not as much as a silver ring between the two of them.
Jane Dee no longer tried to force the confidence of Edward Kelley's wife. She knew now that the girl had nothing to tell her. The young man had come to Chipping Norton in the same way that he had come to Mortlake. One day a knock on the door and he was there, never more to be forgotten or refused.
The summer was very hot, and there was talk of plague in the city. The two women watched and guarded the children jealously. Jane Dee was much touched by the strange girl's devotion.
She gave a constant and an unremitting care to these children, who were none of her own kin. Arthur, who began to do his lessons from a horn book his father had left him before the journey to Prague, loved her.
"Would it not be strange," mused Joan Kelley, wistfully, "if one of us were to die in this foreign land? And I think that it very well might be I," she added, without regret or misery. "Surely there is no use for me in the world, for I have no children and am hated by my husband."
Jane Dee wanted to comfort her, but could not approach this gentle reserve. She wondered what the girl knew of the understanding there was between Edward Kelley and herself. She despised herself, and her blood burned in shame, yet she was happy at this secret joy.
She thought: "If he is a devil or inspired by devils, then I am damned, yet I do not regret it, though life is short and one is in Hell for so long."
A letter came from John Dee, begging them to come at once to Prague. Jane read it aloud by the last light of day as the two tired women were combing their hair before they went to their beds.
"Though this is costly and inconvenient, the angels have directed it. You are to help in saving the soul of Edward Kelley."
There was no message for the slighted wife.
Jane Dee put the letter in her bosom and made preparations for the journey; she had known that such a summons would come; she was very tender with the children and with Joan.
The day that John Dee received the letter from his wife to say that she had started on the journey to Prague, he received a summons to visit the Emperor. This excited the Palatine as much as if their fortunes were already made. He began to talk of what he would do when the Emperor's patronage was assured—how he would redeem his estates at Kesmark and Lask, and, attaching himself to His Imperial Majesty, keep great state at Prague, his ultimate design still being the Crown of Poland.
Edward Kelley looked at him rather scornfully. As soon as he had known of the summons to the Hradcany he took what little was left of the money that Laski had given Dee and went out into the town and bought himself a suit of clothes, well cut and fashionable, such as he considered suitable for a court.
The others had no such preparations to make; the Palatine was always richly dressed and John Dee never changed his sober, black clothes, now often pressed and darned, which he had brought with him from England.
While they awaited the return of Edward Kelley from his frivolous errand, Adelbert Laski told John Dee that he himself had been present when the Emperor had made some experiments in the presence of his mine-master, when he had converted three pounds of mercury into gold with one grain of some powder which had been enclosed in gum and put into the wax of a taper which was lighted and then placed at the bottom of a crucible. It was the Emperor himself who made these experiments. He poured four ounces of quicksilver on the wax and put the whole into a fire of charcoal. They then began blowing, the three of them with separate bellows. In about half an hour, on removing the charcoal they found the melted gold was over-red, the colour itself being green. The mine-master then said it was necessary to put some silver into the mixture, which the Emperor did, taking the coins out of his pocket. The whole then poured out in perfect fusion into an ingot which was very fine gold. On melting it again it became very soft. The master of the mines said it was more than twenty-four carats.
The sequel of this story was dismal. The mine-master had no more than this one grain of powder, which had been given him by an anonymous adept who he had met by chance in the mountains. He had had several ounces of the powder but had been robbed by highwaymen who had taken all from him except this one grain, which he had been able to conceal under his finger-nail.
The success of the experiment had, however, greatly exalted and encouraged the Emperor. No doubt the memory of it would contribute to the favourable reception which (Graf Laski hoped) he would give to the English alchemists.
The Palatine of Siradia and the two crystal gazers waited in the guard-room of the palace.
This was a high and gloomy structure, seemingly very little inhabited, save by soldiers and there were but few of them, drawn together in groups, standing in dark alcoves or posted as sentries outside the high doors. It was very silent, only a whisper now and then broke the sombre stillness.
John Dee, used to the gay palaces of England, thought this seemed more like a prison than a royal residence, and a chill seemed to come upon Edward Kelley's volatile spirit. But Laski, to whom the place was familiar, was confident.
He sent a message to the Lord Chamberlain, Octavius Spinola, to announce that they awaited the Emperor's pleasure in the ante-room of the north wing where His Majesty resided.
After only a very short delay, this nobleman came out himself into the guard-chamber and went very courteously up to Dr. Dee and said that the Emperor would see him and him alone, since the summons had been neither for Edward Kelley nor for the Palatine—only for the English adept, with whose great fame and wisdom the Emperor had long been acquainted. And, thereupon, taking no heed of the scowl of Kelley or the discomfort of Laski, Spinola very pleasantly took John Dee by the sleeve and led him through the dining hall to the Privy Chamber and there, pushing him gently through the door, closed it behind him and left him alone with the occupant of this small room, who was a man who sat at a round table of mother o' pearl under a high-set window.
The chamber was circular and full of shadows. It was lit only by a broad shaft of light which fell from this north-placed window. There were shelves all round the wall on which were large caskets with seals attached. The man at the table had a great chest and standish of silver in front of him, and a pile of books on which he rested his elbow, sinking his chin in his hand.
He was dressed in a shabby black suit, much like that worn by Dr. John Dee himself, and the English mathematician knew that he was in the presence of the Imperial Cesar.
Rudolph of Hapsburg smiled without speaking, and regarded the mathematician keenly with his very curious glance. His remarkable face had an expression that John Dee had never seen on a human countenance before, save, perhaps, sometimes, and then for a second only, on the distorted visage of Edward Kelley when he was in one of his furies or trances.
The Emperor was very fair; his wide lids came half-over his prominent blue eyes, so that he seemed to be drowsing into a sleep. Yet the glance under the thick white lashes was very fierce and gleaming. His nose was high, his face long, his complexion very pale, and his expression of half-drugged imbecility was emphasised by his full, parted lips and underhung jaw, so characteristic of his illustrious House.
If John Dee had not known of the Emperor's wisdom, of the profoundity of his studies and the extent of his knowledge and that he was the anointed Caesar, he would have thought himself in the presence of something at once base and evil. Even as it was, and firmly as he was entrenched in his belief and the divinity of his mission, the mathematician was slightly confounded by the fixidity of the Emperor's stare, the unchanging blank expression on the pallid face of this man sitting behind the large silver casket, with his elbow on the pile of books.
John Dee made his reverence and waited for the illustrious prince to speak. But Rudolph remained so still that it seemed to Dee, accustomed to English vivacity, that he might be facing a waxwork. Then, slowly and deliberately, the Emperor beckoned him forward with his long, white finger, and when John Dee approached said, in English, and in a low voice, without altering his expression in the least:
"Can you make gold?"
"Sir," replied John Dee, in all the pure courage of his veracity and sincere faith, "that is the least of the things of which I have come to speak to your Majesty."
"It would be enough for me," replied Rudolph. He then took Dr. Dee's book from among the pile of those near him and politely thanked him for it, saying, however, that it was too hard for his capacity. Then his broad lids drooped, as if he were unutterably weary, quite full over his eyes, and he said in a dead voice:
"Why did you come to Prague?" Adding: "Say on—all that is in your mind."
His tone, his manner and his looks again reminded John Dee of the tone, look and manner of Edward Kelley when he was in one of his trances or possessions.
"For more than forty years I have sought, but not found, wisdom in men and books. Then God was graciously pleased to send me his light, Uriel, who, for two and a half years with other spirits, has taught me and finished my book for me and brought me a stone of more value than any earthly kingdom."
John Dee gave the story of his life at great length and Rudolph remained as if asleep or drugged, until the stone was mentioned, and then he slowly lifted his lids a little and asked if it were the Philosopher's Stone, and where it might be?
"It is at the house of Dr. Hageck, who has kindly allowed me lodgings. The experiments are not yet Finished, but I have good hope."
"Always the same story," replied Rudolph, in an expressionless voice. "I have been many times deceived."
"Of what use is gold to your Majesty compared to heavenly wisdom? I have a message to you from Uriel. He bade me tell you to turn from your sins and look to God."
"Ha!" said Rudolph, without moving.
John Dee added:
"I am to show you the holy visions. My commission is from God. I feign nothing, neither am I a hypocrite, an ambitious man, or doting or dreaming in this cause. If I speak otherwise than I have just reason, I forsake my salvation."
This was checked by the Emperor saying suddenly:
"I will send some one to your house to examine the stone. Have you made experiments with mercury, with sulphur, with magnesia?"
"Sire, the stone is none of these, but something which the angel Uriel gave my assistant, Edward Kelley."
Rudolph's long, sensitive fingers suddenly and lightly rested on Dr. Dee's sleeve, and he gave a displeasing smile, which showed the deformity of his curious jaw.
"The stone, the stone," he said. "Have you made a projection with it?"
"Not yet. The angels say' that the time is not ripe. And as for the stone, Uriel gave it to Edward Kelley. I have not yet seen it."
Rudolph blinked, his smile twitched into a grimace.
"I will send you Dr. Curtius of the Privy Council, a wise, learned and faithful councillor. He will listen to you on my behalf."
"Your Majesty will not see the heavenly visions?"
"Another time," said Rudolph, "another time."
He waved his hand in dismissal, sunk back in his chair, his lids drooped over his eyes as if he were already in a deep sleep.
John Dee took his departure. The Hradcany was full of shadows, of winding stairs, of locked doors. The idle soldiers stared from under their plumed hats as the Englishman passed.
When Edward Kelley learnt the result of his companion's interview with the Emperor, which was not told him until both had returned to the house near the university, he burst into a great fury and cried out against all—angels and human beings—who had alike, he declared, cozened them.
"Do you not see they do not care for heavenly wisdom or angelic visions? They wish for nothing but gold. These visits of the spirits bring us no profit, and I, for one, will skry no more."
As John Dee was about to protest bitterly against this blasphemy he added with a deeper scorn than he had yet allowed himself to show towards the mathematician:
"Do you not see that that is all that any of them care about? What does this Laski want but gold? What does the Emperor want but gold? What does anyone to whom we may go want but gold? Leave off, then, these vain communications with the spirits, these delvings into these symbols and mysteries that have no explanation and let us indeed see if we cannot make that which is every man's desire."
John Dee began to plead with the angry young man who interrupted him contemptuously and said:
"Take your servant, John Crocker, or take your boy Arthur, when his mother brings him to Prague and let either of them look into the crystal and interpret the spirits. As for me, I am done with it."
He used now a different tone from any he had employed before; he seemed not to be in a trance or frenzy, but a worldly man speaking plain sense. Dr. Dee's heart was chilled within him. He felt that life would be impossible without the daily visits of the angels, but to all his entreaties Edward Kelley replied rudely with the vexation of a man labouring under a vast disappointment.
The next event proved Edward Kelley to be right in his doubts of the Emperor's friendship or patronage. Dr. Curtius came several times to the house near the university and had long conversations with Dr. Dee. There were messages of friendship and goodwill from Rudolph, but these, like the Queen of England's promises, and those of Graf Laski, proved delusive.
When Jane Dee arrived in Prague she found the household unsettled and distraught.
Edward Kelley had constructed a laboratory for himself and was privately, Dr. Dee feared, making experiments with the red and white powder out of the ivory bottles and the stone given him by Uriel, and endeavouring, all unlearned as he was, to himself decipher the Glastonbury book. While it had been reluctantly forced on the understanding of Dr. John Dee that Dr. Curtius and his master cared nothing for the angels, but very much for the possibilities of the stone of which the Englishman had spoken to Rudolph.
This stone Dr. Dee could not even get hold of, for Kelley kept it concealed. Graf Laski also seemed disappointed at the result of the visit to the Emperor and to have lost much faith in the two crystal gazers. He gave them no more money; he seemed to take no more interest in the affair.
Kelley would only leave his laboratory to talk of starting for England at once. He would have to sell his clothes, he said, to pay for the journey.
"Uriel makes promises," he declared wildly, "but when will he give us meat, drink and clothing?"
The Spanish Ambassador, however, himself a descendant of Raymond Lull, had shown himself friendly. He had often invited Dr. Dee to dine at his table, and had told him to take no heed of the jealousies of the courtiers who stood between him and Rudolph.
But nothing had come of this advice and they were brought to great penury which was augmented by the arrival of the two women, the children and the servants from Cracow.
So it was heavy news that John Dee had to tell his wife. He had also been slandered and called at the Spanish Ambassador's table "a bankrupt alchemist," a "conjurer" and a "necromancer," who had beguiled Laski, and now, was endeavouring to deceive the Emperor.
Even Dr. Curtius, who had shown himself a friend to the Englishman, was obliged to confess that the reports of the visions (which, by Dee's express wish, he had put before the Emperor) Rudolph regarded as either incredible or impossible.
Rudolph would not even see the glass which Dee had invented for making observations on a dark night, nor his inventions connected with the quadrant and astronomical tables which he explained to Dr. Curtius and wished to take to the Palace.
"It is the doubting spirit of Kelley which hinders us," said Dee sadly from among these broken hopes and fading dreams.
His wife answered nothing, but pressed his hand and kissed his cheek, and thought how old he looked, more like her father than her husband.
She went up very sadly with a heavy step to the little room which had been set apart for her. Her health was poor—she had suffered much from the fatigue of the journey.
She had hardly sunk in a chair by the window, and rested her aching head against the mullion, when Edward Kelley broke into the room, with no regard for her privacy and throwing himself on his knees by her side, wept in her lap. She caressed his hair as if he were a tired child.
"Why did you send for me?" Jane asked gently. "Can I save you from your delusions or your wicked hopes, or your deceptions?"
He pressed his face against her knee and looked up at her with his pale eyes full of a vague expectancy.
"You do not believe any of my magic, Jane Dec, and yet you had to come."
"I was summoned by my husband," she said, but she knew that he would not heed this evasion.
"You do not understand me." His slight body drooped as if he were greatly fatigued and his voice was tired. "I am nearer the goal than he is, with all his wisdom. I shall yet attain something."
Jane leant back against the old faded chair and still allowed the young man to rest his head against her knee. Her face was full of a placid and serene grace, and her fatigue had given her an earthly look of pallor and resignation. She wished to fall asleep and dream, yet all her thoughts were clear as pure water. She could see all the events that, to an outsider, might seem like episodes in chaos, which had bound her to Edward Kelley, jointly connected, like buds branching from one stem—his coming to Mortlake and his cozening of her husband, the arrival of Laski and their setting out on this wild quest; the travelling from one strange city to another and the deep winter in the outlandish country, and her struggles against her fate, and yet her bittersweet enjoyment of that same fate, his wife, always like a shadow, silent, but not reproachful, at her side, and now this, the two of them together, broken by a common sorrow in the strange room of the house that belonged to neither of them in the dark city of the alchemists.
Her breath came in short pants through her half-open mouth, and her long lashes made a shadow on her thin cheeks. She said, in a drowsy voice:
"What thoughts have you brought here with you?"
And he answered:
"You know all my thoughts, Jane Dee, and knew them from the first."
She said heavily, as if making an effort over her senses, an effort that was against her own secret will:
"I have the little children to think of, and your wife, and the good old man, and the servants. Somehow we ought to save them. Soon we shall have no money, even for food or drink."
Edward Kelley rose suddenly, as if strength had been slid into him, like wine poured suddenly into a cup.
"I will make the fortunes of all of you," he declared. "The Emperor shall become our patron and we will enjoy riches, luxuries without end."
His face was distorted in the shadows, which lay thickly over him, one upon another, little shadows of common things.
"I will give you, within a fortnight, a gold chain of a fine design set with rubies."
Jane Dee shook her head.
"It is long since I have worn any ornaments and still longer since I ceased to desire any," she smiled, "and you know that these luxuries, honours, pomps and parades are not what my husband came so far to seek." She rose wearily. "But a little money we must have."
"You shall have more than a little money, Jane Dee."
"When you try to delude me, Edward Kelley, we are very far apart. You know that I do not believe in your angels, nor in your powers." And she looked at him candidly, but with much sweetness, fully expecting a complete confession.
The young man shook his head sullenly:
"You do not know me as well as you think you do, Jane Dee. It is true that I do juggle with stars and planets, that I hold in my hand secrets that the common man cannot begin to comprehend. It is true that I am sometimes confused by the fumes of the mysteries that I seek to penetrate."
She interrupted him, speaking gently and with much patience:
"It is true, also, Mr. Kelley, that you are a rogue and a vagabond and have stood in the pillory. You have been in prison for crimes both vile and petty."
The young man answered quietly:
"Yet it is true, is it not, that you have a deep faith in me beyond all that? You have never denounced me, but always in your heart you have taken my part. Is it that you cannot help loving me, Jane Dee?"
She did not answer; she did not seem to hear. She stood drooping, with her hand on the doorknob, and he added with a wild accent:
"Sinful as I am, lost as you suppose me, you cannot help a bitter anxiety for my wretched person, for my damned soul."
Jane Dee shook her head without replying, or even looking at the speaker. She was now so merged in the shadows that he could only see a faint, misty whiteness where her face was, but his talk was intimate and confident as if they stood heart to heart.
"Yes, you have loved me in spite of everything, and I shall always remember that. I shall not be ungrateful." She spoke then:
"Have you such a blind confidence in me that you are sure that I shall not betray you?"
With a sudden subtle and bitter irony, as if he disliked her, Edward Kelley replied:
"I have full confidence in myself and that is sufficient. I shall obtain more than you imagine is possible, Jane Dee. Nothing I have set my mind on can escape me."
"I am not frightened of you," said Jane Dee—"least of all when you threaten."
She left the room and went slowly down the dark stairs. She felt the exhausted repose of one whose life has reached a climax; all familiar things looked dim and strange to her. She began to count over how many houses she had dwelt in since she had left Mortlake. They would have to leave this one soon, she knew. Dr. Hageck could lend it them no longer. Where would the money come from to pay for the hire of another?
John Dee, to his surprise, was summoned again, through the intervention of the Palatine, as he supposed, to the Castle on the Hradcany. His worldly affairs were then at a pinch which disturbed him, armoured as he was by his mystic transports against most earthly vicissitudes. The angelic hosts, in whom he most fervently believed, were trying his patience to the utmost. Edward Kelley had shown again his doubting spirit, and had affected to treat with the utmost scorn the last communication made by the angels. He had shown a restless impatience at taking any sittings at all and continually urged the mathematician to endeavour to discover another slayer, telling him again to take John Crocker, his boy, or Arthur, his little son, and he had evaded the promise so often made to Dr. Dee that he would soon take the Sacrament.
The English adventurers had had to hire a house close to the market place in Old Prague. This was rented at seventy thalers a year. Dr. Dee, as he made his way to the Hradcany, wondered where he was going to get this money. Adelbert Laski had not given him any gifts or fees, or mentioned expenses for some time, and already the English adventurers had been forced to sell some of the goods which they had brought from Cracow, parting with some of the good English blankets and beautifully-made instruments that Dr. Dee had, with such trouble and expense, brought from England.
News from home, too, had been unsatisfactory. The viler inhabitants of Mortlake had raided his house, and, as far as he could understand, had destroyed much of value, a thought from which John Dee had to turn his mind, for it made him sick with anguish. His Midland rectories brought him in no money, for during his absence the rents had not been paid.
He nervously fingered the edges of his worn gown as he made his way through the dark, short and narrow streets that broke in, one on another, like the segments of a puzzle. Had he followed what appeared to be a heavenly light, but was merely a false flare leading him to a bog or quagmire? And the horrible little doubt of Kelley again pierced his trusting mind, yet he could not believe that God would so far deceive him and suffer him to be entirely shamed. His confidence was in his own purity of intention. He knew, as no other man could know, his own absolute integrity.
His material burden had lately been added to. His son Michael had been born as soon as they removed to the new house by the market place. He had been baptised with some parade by the Court chaplain in the great Cathedral of St. Vitus, with the Spanish Ambassador for godfather. But despite these honours, Jane was put to it to find linen for the infant.
There were now four children to provide for, and that very morning, just before the summons to the Emperor had come, Jane, lying still and pale in her bed, had simply entreated her husband to make some provision for meat and drink for the family.
"I think," she had whispered, "that if we fall into extreme and open poverty, that actions whereby you, sweetheart, are vowed and linked with the heavenly majesty, will be discredited."
And she had patiently reminded him that they had pawned to the Jews all that they could in decency spare, and that there was nothing left to part with but their very clothes and the vessels from which they ate and drank. She had told him how she had heard from the very servants whom they had hired, from the Palatine, that the whole city was full of malicious slanders and ugly rumours against them.
In his bewilderment and distress, Dr. Dee had taken poor Jane's petition to Edward Kelley, who was sitting in the room he had fitted up as a study, with the shewtable before him. Yet he was not gazing into the crystal, but reading in the Glastonbury book, or rather endeavouring to decipher the curious diagrams and characters therein.
Dr. Dee, with grave dignity, put the case before him.
Neither their honour nor their fair fame would suffer them to remain much longer in such straits, he had said, and Edward Kelley had given him a squinting glance, and closed the book with a snap and risen impatiently.
"Tell Jane Dee the spirits say she is only a woman, full of infirmities, frail in soul. Bid her be faithful and obedient as she is yoked. She and her children shall be cared for." And he had flung away into the inner room which he had fitted up as a laboratory and in which he often worked alone, turning the key on the inside so that Dr. Dee could not enter.
The mathematician had sorrowfully gone downstairs and indited a letter to the Queen and his friends at home, and this had scarcely been sealed when there had come the summons from the Emperor. So it was with a little more hope that the old man made his way through the close and winding streets. Again and again he looked up to where the gloomy turrets of the towers pierced the waning summer blue, and were outlined darkly against the great fleet of swift clouds which rose impetuously into the upper air. How many of these towers there were! From a distance the town lay on the great plain like a monstrous crown, with many jewels and points.
On the summit of all these towers were leaden figures, of cocks, or warriors, or haloed saints or maidens, and from these flashed dazzling sparkles of light as the sun cast lovely beams from under the thick, dense, curdling vapours.
When he reached the Hradcany, Dr. Dee found that he had arrived before his time, and that the Lord Chancellor, who had sent the summons, was not yet ready to receive him, so he went down into the famous Hall of Vladislav, which had been much neglected by the present Emperor, and was used as a common meeting place or exchange for traders and business men.
This high, vaulted building, with the low, small windows, was gloomy and sombre, and Dr. Dee felt ill at ease among so many foreigners, most of whom gave him evil looks and nudged each other and glanced at him over their shoulders, or conversed openly about him in their various dialects, of which he could not understand much. And his heart became heavier as he realised how much jealousy there was against him, and how hard it would be for him to find any place at the Emperor's Court. Indeed, the Spanish Ambassador had already warned him of this difficulty.
He was sad, too, that this noble hall (the like of which was scarce in Europe, so long, high and broad it was and yet without pillars), which had been built for a coronation and for Bohemian nobles to do homage to their sovereign in, should be put to these mean uses—for base traders to haggle with no more restraint than they did in Chepe, or the alleys round St. Paul.
So he returned to the north wing of the Palace, where the Emperor lived, passing through the Spanish and German Halls, which contained the incomparable rarities collected from all distant parts of the globe, and waited in the guard-chamber until he was sent for. The soldiers eyed him gloomily; he was conscious here, as he had been in the Halls of Vladislav, of much hostility.
Spinala came courteously as before and conducted him into the presence of the Emperor, but not, this time, into the closet where he had formerly stood before Rudolph, but into a magnificent laboratory such as John Dee had never hoped to see in all his life. This was the first of a series of workshops which the Emperor had constructed at considerable cost.
This Hapsburg cared nothing for politics, nor for the various struggles and convulsions that distracted his unwieldy dominions, nor for the intrigues of his brothers Matthias and Ernest. He lived in a world apart, occupying himself solely with science, art and magic. It was told of him that once, on the occasion of a riot in the streets of Prague, he had himself thrust his head out of one of the workshop windows which overlooked the narrow streets and bade the fellows below cease rioting, for they disturbed him at his labours.
This room into which John Dee was led had a high light, part of the roof being glassed over, so that it seemed as if the ever-changing clouds came into the chamber, and the light was therefore cold and shadowless from morn to eve. Fair-haired German boys, in the royal liveries of black and silver with double-headed eagles on their coats, were on their knees, blowing patiently at long bellows which kept at an even ternperatare fires in two huge brick furnaces, over which stood, or were suspended, shining vessels of brass, copper and iron. The walls were painted or carved with mystic symbols, many of which were unknown even to Dr. Dee, and on long shelves stood retorts and limbecks, like monstrous bubbles which caught the light in faint gleams of blue and green. In jars, on which were written curious signs, were chemicals and compounds, dried leaves and roots; in tall bottles were oils, some pure, some stained, and, on a side table nearest the light, was an elaborate apparatus for distillation, crucibles, dyes, pigments and an alabaster tray full of mercury, held to be, by so many adepts, the male parent of gold.
Rudolph sat near this table which was in a projecting windowplace, so that lie and it were glassed all round and the flying clouds encompassed them. They were high up above the city which could be seen far below them, like a painting in little, enclosed in the scroll of an initial letter of an old manuscript. Rudolph wore a stained apron over a ragged doublet, over his breast a bright steel collar of the Golden Fleece. He held in his long hand a saucer, in which some compound was dissolving. The faint fumes of this faded into the air before his face, obscuring his features with a light vapour. He stared at the Englishman as if he did not recognise him, so John Dee, who had entered the laboratory alone, was obliged to present hinrelf and his claims again to the notice of His Imperial Majesty.
Rudolph listened in silence; his lids were lower, and his full mouth was convulsed by a barely perceptible twitching. There was a pause in which Dr. Dee waited patiently.
"Can you make gold?" demanded the Emperor suddenly.
"Sire, when I last had the honour of seeing your Majesty, I told you that I had not made any experiments as regards that mystery," replied Dr. Dee sadly. "Rather have I toiled after heavenly wisdom, beside the attainment of which the making of gold is as nothing."
"Will heavenly wisdom build you great palaces and monstrous forts?" asked Rudolph. "Will it paint you pictures and carve you statues? Have you seen those beautiful paintings which I have brought from Italy, or my curios and rarities? They were all bought by gold."
He passed to the table and put down the saucer that he held and raised the alabaster dish with the quicksilver, looking with gloating eyes as the marvellous substance divided, sub-divided, and then ran together again. It was stuck with grains of gold. Rudolph took up a fine square of white silk, poured in the mercury, and then squeezed it, so that the mercury fell on to the alabaster dish and left the grains of gold in the handkerchief. He showed this to Dr. Dee and gave a low, cunning laugh.
"There is gold."
"Has Your Majesty come on the secret of transmutation of metals?"
The Emperor shook his head, and his long, ragged, fair locks fell forward, almost obscuring his face.
"I have had a good many impostors before me," he replied, "and I have lodged them all in the White Tower, and when torture was applied to them, it was very evident that they did not know how to make gold." He put one of his long, white fingers on John Dee's worn doublet.
"Would a turn or two of the rack or the pulley force your secret out of you?" he demanded. Under the broad, white, drooping lids his eyes flamed. "Old man, if you have a secret, why do you not disclose it, and if you have none, why do you come to me?"
"Your Imperial Majesty has misunderstood me," replied John Dee with dignity. "I have explained my mission and my desires to Dr. Curtius."
"Curtius, Curtius," muttered Rudolph. "He does not know what he is talking about. Edward Kelley, now, your companion, Curtius told me he could make gold, that he had a portion of the Philosopher's Stone and that he could transmute base metals into gold. Why does he not do so?"
"He awaits the commands of the angels," Dee said. "But making of gold has never been any great matter to me, Sire. My work I have held to be greater than money, honours, pride and jewels."
"Yet pride makes you speak thus," replied the Emperor. "Maybe what you cherish so is but a temptation of Satan." He gave his unpleasant smile as he added: "Many a saint has fallen into the pit he has digged for himself by thinking he has a perfect knowledge of God's will. I know something of your partner. His evil living is notorious; he is much given to wayward passion and wild outbreaks, there is nothing about him either pure or holy. Why should the angels discourse with such as he?"
"Maybe in an endeavour to save his soul," replied John Dee, trembling, "for which reason I also cleave to him. With many a parable and with many an exhortation the angels have bidden us labour together. Why, Sire, should I question the heavenly commands? Maybe God has chosen a base instrument to work his ends."
Rudolph stared moodily at the quicksilver on the alabaster dish. He broke it with the point of his finger and watched it run together again. A deep melancholy had descended upon him like a veil. He seemed to have forgotten to whom he spoke, to take no interest in the matter under discussion. In a hoarse, indifferent voice he said:
"If you or your man can make gold, let me hear of it; otherwise, go your way."
Then he raised his fair head and gave Dr. Dee such a drowsy and inturned squinting look that the Englishman knew he was in the presence of a madman.
Edward Kelley had partaken of the Sacrament, to the great joy of John Dee. From that very day he had disappeared, and his friend sadly feared that even at the moment of his great regeneration, he had returned to some of the dark byways where he spent the evil hours of his life.
It was candlelight when he returned and he seemed neither drunk nor sober, but in a state of wild exaltation. He wore the green suit that he had bought for his first visit to the Palace, and it was very soiled and tarnished and open at the throat and torn on the shoulder as if he had been in some scuffle. His hands and face were newly washed and his shining hair combed straight over his deformed ears.
He put his hand in his pouch and went to where Jane Dee was sitting by the window and threw into her lar a long chain—it might be two yards—of finely-worked gold. Each link was set with a balas ruby. As she looked at it she went pale and red, then took it up in hei cold fingers and handled it, all without apeaking, bui John Dee exclaimed much and a wild hope flashed in his patient eyes:
"Have you come upon the secret, Edward Kelley?" he asked in awe-stricken tones.
The young man laughed.
"Last night I made a projection with the two powders found at Glastonbury. I took the gold that I made this afternoon to a goldsmith. He declared it to be finer than any that was ever minted in Prague and with the ducats he gave me I bought this chain."
A heart-felt joy and gratitude shone on the worn face of the old man. He saw himself at the climax of hi: career, the heavenly portals opening before him, and never for a second did it occur to him that the supreme moment had been given, not to him, but to Edward Kelley, and that he had been even excluded from the triumphant experiments.
Jane Dee ran the chain in and out of her fingers and in a constrained voice asked:
"Why did you put your ducats into this extravagant purchase, when we cannot pay the rent and get food and drink?"
"Since I can make gold, is there any need to hoard it? Are we not now secure of everything—the patronage of the Palatine, ay, of the Emperor?"
He sat down at the poorly plenished supper board and ate the coarse bread and drank the rough wine with the avidity of a man who had long been without food, and Dr. Dee, like one in a trance, went upstairs to his private chamber to give thanks unto God for a miracle.
When he had gone, Jane Dee rose and, coming to the board, put the chain down by Edward Kelley's plate.
"By what evil means did you get this? You have robbed it, or stolen it, and come upon it by false pretences," she said, without force or venom, however, and even with a gentle caress in her voice.
He replied, with his glass of poor wine in his hand:
"Why should you so utterly disbelieve in me? I came upon it honestly. Did I not promise it to you?"
"And what of your wife?" she asked, "who has scarce a petticoat or a cloak to her name?"
"You know," he replied, with simplicity, "that all I can do is for you. As for Joan Kelley, she is no concern of mine."
Jane Dee continued to finger the chain.
"However you got this, you must take it out and sell it, and we will live on whatever you get for it."
He shook his head. A smile of sweet cunning gave a curious wistful beauty to his pale face.
"I am now secure of the patronage of the Emperor. Do not try to bewilder, depress, or confuse me in this difficult game I play, Jane Dee. I will see you housed in a palace, clad in velvet and brocade. I will see all your children in high places."
"Away with these vain boasts," she interrupted. "Let us get back to England. This is like a foul dream to me, this city, so dark and the houses so high and so full of many fumes."
"You are a woman, sick with foolish fancies. Wear your chain; I believe it is the first ornament you have had since I came to Mortlake." And as she still stood with it in her hand he rose and, taking it from her slack fingers, put it twice round her long, white neck.
The richness of the jewels looked sad on her poor attire, and seemed to stress her worn features, her faded hair, her dimmed eyes. Young as she was, all her beauty had almost entirely gone. She had neither bloom nor lustre, neither richness nor colour, yet there was a certain graceful loveliness in her fading, which was pure and simple like that of a flower, with no hint of corruption or decay.
"You want to make a mock of me," she said, and she smiled with her pale lips, round which the fine lines were already gathering.
And he replied, taking her hand in his:
"I see you as you were, Jane Dee, when you were a little maiden, perhaps of fifteen or sixteen years, and you stood in a field with the flowers hiding your knees. Somebody flung round your neck a double chain of buttercups, with here and there a cluster of red hawthorn. That is what I thought of when I bought for you the chain of gold and rubies."
She took her hand from his and sat down at their plain board, drinking the common wine with him, strangely adorned for that poor room, her jewel the one rich thing in the alien chamber.
During that winter Edward Kelley made several projections with the stone given him by the angels or from the two powders he had discovered and bought in Wales; he never was explicit as to either of these marvels or as to his use of them.
One experiment was made in the presence of Dr. Curtius; a single paring of the stone made a large ingot of gold and such was the virtue of the projection that a large ruby, pure and brilliant as a drop of heart's blood, was left besides in the crucible.
It might have been considered that the quest of the adventurers was now at an end and they had achieved their desire, and might under the patronage of the Emperor, have attained all the riches and honours which they could possibly have desired. But, as Edward Kelley put it, the angels wished them to be subject to further temptations.
When Dr. Curtius, in much exaltation, went to the Hradcany with the report that the English adept, Edward Kelley, really had made gold, he found the Emperor fallen into one of his melancholy trances, which alternated with fits of violence so terrible that he had been shut away by his physicians in two dark leathern padded chambers in the north wing of the Palace. In the elaborate work-rooms and laboratories the furnaces were damped down and the assistants were idle until His Imperial Majesty should come to his senses again.
To add to this misfortune, Kelley lost, temporarily, as he declared, the power of making gold. The formula, that had been so successful once, did not work out satisfactorily the next time. The mercury, sulphur and magnesia did not coalesce, and when Dr. Curtius came eagerly to a second, third and fourth experiment there was nothing to show him but failure.
Jane Dee had nothing to say about these disasters. She took her gold chain set with the rubies, which Edward Kelley had bought her, to the Court goldsmith and sold it for sufficient ducats to keep the household for several weeks.
There was, for Dr. Dee, yet another darkening of the prospects which had been so bright. Edward Kelley stubbornly and sullenly refused to skry any more. He would not look, even for a second, into the crystal, but occupied himself solely with his chemical experiments. Upon this the astrologer, in despair, endeavoured to use John Crocker, the servant, as a medium, but the man saw nothing but changing crosslights in the globe. Then, though with much misgivings and in face of vehement opposition from Jane Dee, he took the child Arthur and set him in front of the shewstone. The boy saw nothing but whirling beams and stars and frightened himself so that he fell down in a fit and lay for several weeks deadly ill. Jane Dee was incessantly up and down the dark narrow stairs nursing him, the infant Micheal at her breast, and Roland and Katherine following, holding by her skirts.
Joan Kelley laboured patiently in the kitchen, mending and washing the linen, and turning about their effects so that they might make before the people of Prague, so evilly disposed against them, some decent appearance.
Edward Kelley, who continued to profess a deep disbelief in the angelic spirits, made a proposal which came, he said, not from heaven, but from his own common sense.
This was that they should forsake Laski, who no longer paid them anything and the Emperor, who was indubitably mad, and seek another patron.
What about Stephan, the great and glorious King of Poland, who held his Court at Cracow? Surely he was desperately in need of money and would give them every encouragement. And Kelley thought, he added, that it would be better for them to leave Prague. They had attracted some strange company to the hired house, many of whom Kelley believed to be spies. One of them, an Italian pervert, Francisco Pucci, Kelley was convinced to be a Jesuit in disguise. He had been imprudently admitted to the sittings at the shewstone, and soon after, the officers of the law had entered Dr. Dee's house and seized three copies of his manuscripts, which were publicly burned in the early days of April. These were: The Book of Enoch, The Forty-Eight Keys of the Angels, and the Book of Earthly Victories, all of which had been written down from spirit revelations since Edward Kelley had come to the house at Mortlake. Dr. Dee had wept to see The Book of Enoch taken away. It was a copy made by Kelley and contained wonderful examples of his beautiful penmanship and accurate draughtsmanship, for it had hundreds of diagrams composed of an infinite number of minute squares, each containing a letter or figure in every possible combination and order.
Soon after this, His Holiness, Sextus V., issued a Papal Edict, banishing Dee and Kelley from Prague within six days, and though neither the insane Emperor or those who ruled in his name, took any notice of this, it added to the uneasiness of the English adventurers. The dark menace of the city of the alchemists was stressed.
John Dee wrote to Walsingham, hinting, in obscure and mystical language, that he and his partner had come upon the secret of secrets, and at the same time sending anxious inquiries after his worldly goods, and begging that Thomas Digges, the mathematician, might be sent to Mortlake to see what had really happened to his house, library and goods.
Meanwhile, the recanted Roman Catholic, Pucci, was busy about them, nosing and spying, seeking to make, as Kelley declared, all places unsafe for them; he even urged them to go to Rome, and it was Jane Dee who was the first to declare this to be a trap. Her husband agreed with her and decided to accept no such invitation, especially as this was coupled with the proviso that they should practise no more magical arts.
Edward Kelley began to importune the Palatine for some of the money due to them, but the Polonian prince, who had been elated by the first successful projection and was profoundly discouraged by the failures that followed, promised no more than to take them to Cracow and introduce them to King Stephan Bathory.
The King of Poland received the two English alchemists with stately courtesy. He was seated by the south window of his banqueting-chamber in his Palace of Cracow. Behind him was the garden which he was laying out with every costly device that taste could contrive. The trees were new-flowering in red and white against the sky, of a pale, emerald colour, and gardeners were setting rows of plants in exquisite parterres.
This Stephan Bathory of Transylvania was a very different ruler from the Emperor Rudolph. He was no visionary and had no belief in magic nor interest in alchemy, but was a practical man of affairs, and a statesman of great intellect who had reigned gloriously, showing a rare and magnificent toleration for Protestants and Jews alike. He received the Palatine of Siradia with grave civility (though he read the man very plainly, and knew that he conspired for the Polish crown), and turned on the two Englishmen his serene and magnificent gaze, examining them carefully while they exchanged stately and formal compliments in Latin, in which tongue he, the king, was highly accomplished.
Adelbert Laski spoke for the two Englishmen who he had induced to leave their own country, and begged the king to take them into his service and give them a yearly wage.
"Undoubtedly, sire, they know the secret of making gold and the Philosopher's Stone, but, there is a considerable charge involved. If your Majesty would bear that and pay their expenses while they are at their labours, success would be assured."
The King turned his calm noble face towards Dr. Dee.
"Can you make this stone?"
"I cannot make it, sire, but the angels will show me the secret. Already Edward Kelley has done it."
The King then looked again at the younger alchemist. His serene expression did not betray his thoughts as he remarked:
"Surely your own Sovereign would be grateful for the exercise of your powers. Is your Queen so wealthy that she disdains the subject who can make gold?"
John Dee sighed. He felt old and weary; his was such a long and, as he felt, complicated story. How explain to this foreign prince the impulses that had driven him forth from his own country upon the long quest which he had undertaken, which had nothing whatever to do with the making of gold? He replied simply:
"Sire, this gold is not much in my heart. By a twist the things to which I gave little importance have become the end of our adventure."
"You do not speak very clearly," smiled Stephan Bathory. "You converse with the angels, you say?"
"If your Majesty will but see the shewstone," began Edward Kelley, putting himself forward and not wincing before the keen gaze of the wise and vigilant prince.
"May I behold the spirits?" smiled the King.
"I behold the spirits," replied Kelley, unabashed, "and interpret them to your Majesty."
"It seems, on those terms, that anyone might be cozened by any rogue," replied the King, with an ironic courtesy. "This is all past my understanding. I am a plain man of affairs, and have my own business to mind."
But he agreed, as a matter of courtesy, to allow them to bring the crystal to the Palace, where, in his private chamber, he would assist at the skrying of Edward Kelley. His Vice-Chancellor and chief Secretary and others coming in, bringing letters and bills for him to read and sign, put an end to this interview. But, in a few days, the two came back to the Palace at Cracow, Kelley carrying the shewstone, and in the King's inner closet it was set up and Edward Kelley knelt before it, upon which Uriel and Michael at once, he said, appeared and made long and rambling prophecies as to the future of Stephan Bathory.
The King interrupted the sittings. He rose and, tapping the Palatine on the shoulder, said:
"Let these two return to Prague; they may get more encouragement from the Emperor than from myself, for indeed I can promise nothing. I am neither convinced that angels are present, nor sanguine that they will ever appear. I believe that God has reserved to himself three things—the creation of something out of nothing, the knowledge of futurity and the government of the conscience."
Edward Kelley, at this, rose to his feet with an evil Look and a sullen leer, which the King, observing, smiled slightly and passed out of the room. Adelbert Laski, confused and humiliated, followed him.
In the corridor, outside the private room where Edward Kelley angrily and John Dee sadly were packing Lip the shewstones, the seals and the table, the King remarked to Laski:
"The young man is a common rogue, but for the old man I am very sorry."
So John Dee and Edward Kelley, who were now abandoned by the Palatine, returned to Prague.
The disguised Romanist and Papal spy, Pucci, for they felt him to be no other, was still at their heels, and they had no money, save the fee which King Stephan had given them for the expenses of their journey, and which John Dee did not want to take, for it had been given in kindly contempt, but which they were forced to accept, for they had no other means.
Now all seemed in the depths again, but Kelley, who was very energetic in misfortune, set about discovering a new patron, and was so wonderfully rewarded in his efforts that John. Dee became heartened again and believed that they really were under Divine protection, for the slayer had gone to wait upon the Viceroy of Bohemia, Wilheim Ursinus, Graf Rosenburg, who was believed to be profoundly interested in alchemy, and who had heard with the greatest excitement of the arojections which the Englishman had made.
This was a very powerful protector; he was a Knight of the Golden Fleece, and had great influence with Rudolph, when his Majesty was in his saner moments. Both he and his brother, Graf Peter, were great patrons of art and letters and flowers of the Bohemian nobility.
Graf Wilheim at once behaved with a lavish generosity towards the Englishmen that they had not hitherto experienced. He offered his protection and influence to the two alchemists, and at once obtained from the Emperor permission for them to reside in any of his towns or castles and then made them the offer to go and reside in his Castle of Trebona, or Wittingau, in South Bohemia, and there to stay as long as they would, making their alchemical and philosophical experiments in peace. And he undertook to pay their just expenses, and to give them a respectable salary.
When Edward Kelley brought this news, for it was he who conducted all the negotiations with the new patron, to the little hired house near the market place, John Dee fell on his knees, with tears in his eyes and his trembling old hands crossed on his breast and thanked God for having at last brought him into a peaceful haven and made an end of all his tribulations, trials, and wanderings. He felt he had survived a bitter test, that he had been asked to endure much, but had, in the end, been highly rewarded.
Edward Kelley did not remain to listen to the old man's pathetic rejoicings and thanksgivings. He went out to seek Jane Dee. On the way to her room, he passed his own wife on the stairs, and for once in a way gave her a greeting, taking her by the arm and asking her with a smile if she would not be glad to have a settled home at last?
"You know," replied she, "that I am glad of nothing. What is my life to me but duties from morning to night and no solace nor pleasure?"
"You were always a dull, poor creature," greeted her husband, flinging the woman from him so that she stumbled down two or three steps and had to catch at the rail. "And I wish I could think of some device whereby I should not have to take you to Trebona."
She made no demur at his ill treatment; it was largely her resignation which angered him against her. He went upstairs gaily to the room where Jane Dee sat. It was one that she kept for herself and for her children, where she had set up her spinning wheel and did her mending and her sewing of their poor, much-used garments.
When he entered she looked up eagerly; she could not but be infected by his joy and eagerness. He stood inside the door panting like one who has come in after a long running and told her his news, of the fine new patron who had been raised, as it were, out of the ground for them, who had promised so much, yes, even all their hearts' desires.
Jane Dee put her hand, which was tired with plying the needle, before her weary eyes and wept a little. She could not resist this weakness—it seemed so good to think at last of being in some haven.
"For the children's sake," she murmured, and with great sincerity, for it was long since she had ceased to think of herself, save only in dreams, where she was, in a fashion, disembodied. Yes, that was the great relief—housing and food and clothes, and some schooling for the children. The two elder were now in need of a master; she had taught them all she knew of book learning.
"Are you glad, Jane Dee? Have I pleased you? I have done this—I, by all my labours." Edward Kelley lightly struck his breast. "I, who you despised so much, have achieved this for you, while your husband prayed and dreamed."
"It is true I am glad of the pause from wandering and of the shelter." Jane Dee dried her tears and bit her lower lip. The case had another aspect—was she so pleased to be enclosed with Edward Kelley in a common household for an indefinite period? She was fortified against him, it was true, but how long would she remain so sure of herself?
She looked at him with terror in her tear-stained eyes.
More than ever he seemed to direct her destiny, more than ever it seemed impossible to avoid him, and more than ever she had great and perpetual need of him. She bent down and took the young child Michael from his cradle and held him against her breast like a shield.
Edward Kelley smiled. He seemed pleased by her terror, and softly left the room and, avoiding the chamber where John Dee prayed, went up to his own apartment and sat, deep in thought in the twilight.
Graf Rosenberg's castle at Trebona stood lonely in the gentle scenery of the Ludnitz, near the River Moldau. There was a town hall, a barracks, and a few small houses gathered round the Viceroy's great dwelling. The gardens were very beautiful and had been most diligently laid out and cared for, regardless of cost, by the Viceroy of Bohemia, who was magnificent in everything he undertook. These gardens were not so famous as those in his castle at Neuhaus, near Prague, yet Dr. Dee found them nearly as magnificent as those he had admired in Stephan Bathory's palace at Cracow.
It seemed to the old mathematician, whose health had been much shaken of late by his many disappointments and hardships, and by the long tribulations with Edward Kelley's moods, tempers and fits of devilish possessions, as if the angels' promises had at last been redeemed. This patron, who had arrived so suddenly and, as it seemed to the alchemist, so strangely, not only promised but performed substantial benefits. Here was none of the vague elusiveness with which the mathematician was too used from his own Queen, from the Emperor, and even from Graf Laski.
Rosenberg was not only rich but generous. He promised them all that they should need and gave them, in his handsomely appointed castle, a large suite of rooms looking out upon the gardens, workmen to build a laboratory and to fit up one of the chambers as a chapel.
This Wilhelm Ursinus, then Viceroy of Bohemia, was a man in middle life, of an ardent and choleric temperament. He was supposed to have, more than anyone else, power over the wavering mind of Rudolph IL He did not stay for long at a time at Trebona, but came and went with the eager intensity of one on urgent business—from Vienna to Prague, from Krumau to Vienna, and from one to another of his various castles. But every few weeks or so he was at Trebona, superintending the building of the furnaces, and taking his part in the sittings at the crystal.
He often took Edward Kelley with him on these journeys, so that the young man would be absent two, three weeks, or a month at a time, leaving his wife, John and Jane Dee.
Though the Castle of Trebona was lonely, it was not desolate nor gloomy, and a constant stream of visitors came, attracted by the fame of Dr. Dee, and the noise which had been sent abroad about the experiments he was making, both with the crystal and with the transmutation of metals. Pucci, the Italian Jesuit, came and sought out the alchemist and brought another priest with him, but John Dee took all he said to be but a bait or a trap and would not have him in his confidence.
English travellers to Bohemia also arrived at Trebona, and some of them brought news and letters from England and the matter of these was that John Dee should return—both his Queen and his friends desired his presence in London. But the mathematician was obeying a higher power than the Queen of England; he waited the good will and advice of the angels. He did not voice the secret uneasiness that was growing within him, despite all this good chance, and which was founded on the fact that Edward Kelley showed a greater and greater reluctance to skry at the crystal and, when he was at Trebona, spent more and more time closeted in the laboratory which he had fitted up very completely and luxuriously at Graf Rosenberg's expense.
This nobleman had just married. His wife was young and seemed much in awe of her husband, who treated her with kindness, and yet with a certain obvious exercise of authority that kept her much in her place. She could not speak English, but Jane Dee had learnt a little German and in this the two women conversed, haltingly. Alien as they were to one another, they felt at least sympathy. With gentle smiles and sighs they conveyed one to another their understanding of each other's plight, how they had been, like most other women, forced to follow the fortunes of men which they did not understand.
The young Countess liked to take Jane Dee's children and nurse them on her knees and to make them little presents of linen caps and velvet coats and embroidered gloves which she worked herself.
The weeks passed by very quickly, Jane Dee thought. Time seemed to have no longer much meaning. It was to her as if she stayed by the roadside and watched strangers travelling to unknown places; she saw the days and the weeks pass in Trebona and was neither satisfied nor fretted. She observed Edward Kelley come and go, and he also was a shadow among shadows. Often she would stand at her window and see him ride out across the drawbridge down the one crooked, winding street of the little town. And then again, by chance, she would be looking out across the dusk, by idle chance, and see him riding in with his cloak flying and the long hat with a heron's feather on his flat cap. He was very richly dressed now, and wore gold rings and a bright clasp of gold at his throat. He spoke to her very seldom, and once, as he came upon her by chance, he asked if she were not sorry that she had parted with the gold chain which would have shown finely in their present magnificent condition? But Jane did not answer, she was not sure of the future, for which she waited with a passivity of one drugged both by familiarity with dreams and the strangeness of actuality.
The winter was very cold, the air bright and clear; the castle was warm and comfortable, with thick hangings on the walls, a generous spread of rushes, and even carpets underfoot, and huge fires burning on every hearth, very different from the small, dark, chill houses in which Jane Dee had lived since she left Mortlake.
Just before Christmas there came one Thomas Simkinson, from Hull, who had been sent by a friend of Dee's, Edward Garland, who was then in Russia, to search them out. The Emperor of Muscovy had given him a sealed letter which was for John Dee, and by the means of this Simkinson, it came to the hands of the mathematician and with it the letter from Edward Garland, saying that these promises might surely be relied upon.
The Emperor offered the sum of two thousand pounds a year, free diet from the royal kitchens, and five hundred horses to convey John Dee from wherever he might be to Moscow.
Prince Boris had, Garland wrote, promised a thousand roubles from his own purse besides the Emperor's allowance.
Soon after the arrival of Thomas Simkinson, Edward Garland came himself and repeated all the promises made by the other Englishman. These two were dressed very finely in furs and stamped, embroidered leathers lined with velvet. They had with them eight Russian servants in bearskins, and Graf von Rosenberg entertained them with lavish hospitality and listened eagerly to their tales of Muscovy, which was a country of which few men knew much, and he asked why it was that the Emperor Feodor Ivanowitch made such extravagant offers to the Englishmen.
Edward Garland said the Tzar wished for the mathematician's advice about the discoveries to the North-East, for he was well known to have helped Adrian Gilbert and others, and to be very skilful at drawing maps and compasses.
"There are other weighty occasions, also," added Garland with a knowing smile, and Edward Kelley, who had come quietly into the room and stood in the warm, fire-laden shadows by the window, put in on a laugh:
"He thinks we can make gold."
"The man who makes gold needs not the favour of any Emperor!" replied Garland.
"It has got abroad that I made gold in Prague," boasted Edward Kelley.
And the two Englishmen said that they had heard as much, but also that further projections had been difficult through the loss of the formula.
"But we work," interrupted John Dee eagerly. "We work. Often Kelley is labouring day and night. He neglects the holy spirits: I hope they will not be angered thereat."
Then the Englishmen got up and moved nearer the fire. They had taken off their fur coats, but still looked foreign in their high, coloured, leather boots and jackets of skin, laced with scarlet and blue silk. They laughed, half-impressed, half-incredulous, and cried:
"Make us some gold, Edward Kelley!"
"Do you believe that I can?" asked the young man.
He had lately come from Prague, where he had received, by what means and for what reason Dee could not understand, five hundred ducats from Graf Laski. He had spent these on clothes and looked very fine in a fashionable suit of yellow with little silk tags and points.
"Do you believe in me or not?" he insisted.
Edward Garland replied gravely:
"I have travelled too far and seen too many strange things to doubt anything. This modern age is an epoch of wonders. Who knows what may be discovered or performed from one day to the next? Things are now possible which our fathers would have rejected as frantic impossibilities. The powers of man seem daily to stretch farther in every direction. I have, for myself, seen many strange things," he repeated, stroking his cold cheek as he stood by the fire and looking slantwise at Edward Kelley. "I have voyaged in lands which our fathers did not know existed. I have spoken with men like Tycho Brahe. I have seen wonders," he repeated. His chin sank on his breast and he stared into the flames.
His two companions nodded, but Edward Kelley gave a little cunning laugh and fingered the strings at his wrist.
"The round furnace was completed to-day," he bragged. "I will go and make you some gold."
Edward Kelley went slowly towards his laboratory, which had been indeed fitted up with great magnificence, and though it was not on the same scale as that owned by the Emperor Rudolph in Prague, yet still, by Graf Rosenberg's directions, it was one of the finest in Germany. But, on his way there, the young alchemist paused and went to another portion of the castle, where Jane Dee had her household.
In the large room where the women usually worked, Edward Kelley found his own wife and the children and two maidservants of the Countess Rosenberg. At this he turned away with a scowl, and at the door turned and rudely asked his wife where was Jane Dee.
The girl, without malice or unkindness, but with a meek acceptance of her fate that should have moved him to regret but did not affect him' at all, replied that Jane Dee was in the outer room, making some preparations for Christmas. They had brought in a fir tree from the grounds and were sticking it full of candies and bright toys, fastening little candles to it by means of metal spikes.
Edward Kelley went into this room and saw Jane Dee standing by the table on which stood the conifer. She still wore her plain, mended gown of faded stuff, which had done her such good service on their travels and, though their present prosperity was tempting, she was terrified to spend money that they might, by some sudden change of fortune, require, so all that was given her for her own account she hoarded.
The room was lit by a lantern that hung from the ceiling. The light fell on the tree and on the woman, and all the glittering toys and glass bells and balls, packets of sweets in bright papers that were scattered about. For the rest, the large chamber was enveloped in pools beyond pools of shadow, for the fire had sunk low and the red, hot, crumbling log gave but a glow on the hearth.
Edward Kelley went up to Jane Dee and, putting his hand in his pocket, took out the chain he had given her in Prague.
"This is yours," he said. "Perhaps, now, you will wear it."
"Where do you get all this money?"
"Graf Laski gave me five hundred ducats. I spent much of it in redeeming this chain from the man to whom you so foolishly sold it."
"Foolishly!" said she, with her hands full of bright toys, her eyes full of tears. "It was for bread for us all."
He laid the chain down among her Christmas trifles; he seemed to have suddenly lost interest in it.
"Well, it is yours again. Wear it now. Are you content here? You have everything the heart could desire?" As she did not reply, he added with emphasis: "It is I who did this. I found the patron. I made the gold. I gained the confidence of these great ones. If the Emperor of Muscovy asks your husband to come to his Court, it is not because of his great learning and reputation, but because it is rumoured that I can make gold."
Jane Dee answered quietly:
"I have seen that of late you set yourself up, Edward Kelley, even above my husband, to whom you first came as an assistant, almost as a servant. It is you, and not he, who go on journeys with Graf Rosenberg."
"Dr. Dee is an old man and not fit to travel. Must I be hampered by that?"
"I hope that you will be loyal to him. He shows no rancour, no malice, no jealousy, for he is above all such defects. Yet, were you to slight him it would surely break his heart. He has suffered much and laboured long, and he believes himself in sight of the goal—in sight of the attainment of heavenly wisdom."
Edward Kelley laughed and picked, with his beautiful fingers, at the yellow tags at his waist. He was exceedingly graceful in his well-fitting clothes, and had lost lately much of his pallor and haggard emaciation. Good food and high hopes had given him a lustre which he had hitherto lacked, and added to the self-confidence which he had always owned. To everyone save Jane Dee he was most arrogant.
"I see these things," she continued, "but my husband does not. John Dee is single hearted, and wrapped more in the other world than in this."
"The man is old and much of his learning is dead or foolish. I have found out from him all that I wish to know."
Jane Dee, with raised hands, instantly checked these contemptuous words.
"I will not hear you speak so of my husband. This is what I feared from the first. You basely delude him, and now would basely boast of it. Do not be too sure of me, Edward Kelley, I might even now turn my husband's heart from you and expose you for the rogue that you are."
"You would not dare so far hurt yourself. You know, too, that you would be wrong. I am not utterly a deceiver or a trickster."
"I will not have my husband hurt."
"Soon, Jane Dee, you will be put to the test. What I have in store for you, you would never guess at. Put on the chain," he added, in a peremptory tone and, taking it, threw it round her long, white neck, where it gleamed and glittered in the light of the high lantern on her slender bosom and shabby gown. It was the second time that he had done this; the two occasions became fused in their minds.
She did not try to remove the ornament, but went on with her preparations, fixing the small, coloured candles on to the metal spikes and hanging the globes of coloured glass on the boughs of the small, dark fir tree and he left her, with the smile of a man who wastes his time, and went into his laboratory.
Edward Kelley was late for supper that night. The meal was served with much extravagance in the great Mall and at his long and shining board, loaded with noble pieces of plate, carved crystal and lustred potteries from Italy, the Viceroy of Bohemia entertained all travellers that came that way, and there was seldom fewer than forty or fifty men who sat down in the great vaulted hall and were waited upon by the serving men in the liveries of Rosenberg.
The nobleman had returned unexpectedly, with his usual air of haste and importance, and sat at the head of the table on a chair raised higher than the others, with gilt arms, curved and carved into the shape of lions' heads.
He was a fair man, eager eyed and clothed in red velvet, with a shirt of puckered needlework, and on his breast glimmered the Golden Fleece.
He spoke very eagerly to Edward Garland and Thomas Simkinson, inquiring from them news of Muscovy that huge, strange country about which so little was known, and the voyages they had made in the Baltic and the talk of the North-East and the North-West passages, and what difference these discoveries, if they came to pass, would make to Europe. And he complimented Dr. Dee greatly on the offer which had been made him by Feodor Ivanowitch, and said it was the most princely proposal he had ever heard.
But he also much commended the old man's resolution not to forsake his loyalty to his native sovereign.
"Yet I hope, Dr. Dee, that you will not return, even to England just yet, but stay for a while in Rosenburg until I have learnt something of your wisdom."
And, leaning down the board to where Dr. Dee sat in his worn, darned black garments, Graf Rosenberg laughed and said there was much talk all over the Empire of the doings in Trebona Castle, which were, by the vulgar, basely added to, and over coloured, so that there was talk of nightly revels, of demons and witches in the moat and round the towers, and he added, with the serenity of a man who does not have to account for his actions:
"What we do would be dangerous, were I other than I am." And he asked if there had lately been any sittings with the spirits?
To this Dr. Dee replied reluctantly and sadly:
"No, for Edward Kelley has refused to skry, but remains, when he is here, in his laboratory, and often he is not here, but away in Prague, or even Vienna."
At this the Viceroy laughed towards the two Englishmen who had come with the message from the Emperor of Muscovy.
"Has it got so far as Moscow," he said, "that Edward Kelley can make gold?"
And at that moment the door at the end of the long hall opened and the man of whom they spoke came in, excusing himself for being late for supper. He looked very young and sprightly, he had the air of a city gallant. His hair was curled over his mangled ears, and he smiled with an expression of triumph as he approached the head of the table and, opening a napkin he held in his hand, he showed the Viceroy two ounces of gold, which he declared he had just made with a simple projection of mercury. He said no more than that, but sat down in his place and drank copiously, his pale eyes flashing over the brim of his goblet, as the gold was passed round the table from one to another, exciting murmurs of amazement and enthusiasm.
The Master of the Count's Mines was there, and he declared that he could, without any test, warrant this to be pure and, perfect gold. John Dee's heart seemed to sing within his breast among the babble of talk in which the two Englishmen from Muscovy joined with great excitement. Edward Kelley sat silent, his pale eyes flickering and flashing above the brim of the goblet he held to his lips.
The younger alchemist began to assume authoritative airs. From the pupil he had become the master. It was to see him that so many visitors came to Trebona. It was with him that Rosenberg was closeted hour after hour, day after day. It was to ask his advice that astronomers, alchemists and seekers after the Philosopher's Stone wrote and sent messages to Trebona. It was to Edward Kelley that Graf Laski had given the five hundred ducats, three hundred of which had gone to redeem the jewelled chain.
Everyone was attracted to Edward Kelley. It seemed that he had but to meet people for them to love him, and this in spite of all his wayward qualities and passionate tempers and known evil ways of life.
The Viceroy of Bohemia, himself, took much pain: to endeavour to reconcile Kelley with his wife, and though this was without result, he never ceased to have a concern in the young Englishman's affairs.
Standing, as it were, apart from all, Jane Dee noted this change in the relationship of her husband and his assistant and that Edward Kelley began to take the most arrogant airs. When Rosenberg was not there he ruled the castle as if he were master, and all the servants were expected to do his bidding. He refused to skry any more, and often broke into fits of discontent.
What, he said, was a miserable fifty pounds a year to a man who was the close friend of princes and nobles and who could make gold? He had found the secret of secrets; he knew how to transmute metals. He had found the secret of projection and he was the possessor of the magic powder. The formula was costly and difficult; it was at present a matter of chance if it were successful or no, but if he had money to experiment, he could, at will, make countless piles of ducats, and turn even the kitchen pots into pure gold.
He told John Dee bluntly that he would devote himself to the profitable course and would spend no more time crystal gazing, and added that the angels now appeared to him in his laboratory without the aid of the crystal; there was, for instance, a little spirit named Ben, who had shown him how to distil oils from spirits of wine, over a retort in two silver dishes placed one upon another, with a hole through the middle and a sponge between them in which the oils would remain.
This spirit had prophesied the death of all the sovereigns of Europe and had told him to beware of Edward Garland, who was a spy sent by Burleigh to see what they were doing, and he had concluded with a menace: Unless the two alchemists were obedient in everything to the heavenly voices power would be taken from the magic powder and they would no longer be able to make gold.
"But if you will skry no more, how are we to know what the spirits intend for us?"
At which the young man answered angrily:
"Have I not told you that they come to me secretly in my laboratory and tell me all straightly?"
"And am I to be dependent on you, Edward Kelley? Will you not share with me the great secret of secrets which you say you have discovered? Will you not let me partake of these spiritual communications?" And he added: "Only this morning I learnt that you have bribed away from me my best workman."
"What do you require with workmen, John Dee, seeing that your experiments come to nothing and mine are successful?"
"I think you undermine me with Graf Rosenberg," said Dee, without malice.
He felt no jealousy whatever at Kelley's triumphant success. He was only grieved by what seemed to him ugly characteristics in the young man, his lack of generosity, kindness and candour. The mathematician was also hurt that one for whom he had done so much and who had lived with him so long like a son should have no confidence in him. And without reproach, but very earnestly he added:
"What have I done to you, Edward Kelley, that you should seek to keep me outside everything? Almost all you know you have learnt from me!"
And Edward Kelley, drooping his wide lids over his pale eyes, replied:
"I had the book and powder before ever I came to you."
"I think you have learnt something from me," insisted the old man gently. "But we cannot quarrel. I know I have been true and honest in what I have myself believed. I expect and hope the same of you. Do not think that I hanker after worldly rewards, Edward Kelley. Five Emperors would have pampered me—I have received all the earthly honours that a man may have, and it is very little to me. I ask no more than a maintenance for my family; I desire to deceive no one."
At that Edward Kelley began to tremble with rage.
"Do you think that I deceive anyone? Has not Rosenberg himself discoursed with the spirits? Has he not seen me make the gold?"
"Of this I know nothing, since I have been excluded from your sittings and from your laboratory."
"Perhaps I have been deluded," said Edward Kelley, speaking at a tangent, and more to himself than to John Dee, as it seemed. "What have these spirits done for me? How many of their promises have they redeemed? Did I not say from the first that I was not seeking heavenly wisdom, but rather earthly good?"
"That you seem to have, Edward Kelley. You have found your wealthy patron. You have discovered, you say, how to make gold. What more do you require?"
The young man burst out passionately:
"I am most unhappy."
"You lead a reckless and disordered life, Edward Kelley," cried the mathematician sadly. "How often have I wrestled in prayer for your good, humbling myself before God that you might be turned from your miserable ways? Reconcile yourself to your wife, live soberly. Have not the angels themselves commanded this again and again?"
"I am weary of the angels and their sayings," shouted Edward Kelley in a transport of fury. "I have a bitter aversion from my wife. I have been married to her four years and she is barren. What does that mean to me, to whom generation is the root principle of alchemy? Is it not by the marriage of copper and mercury that we get gold? Am I to be fruitless for ever because, prompted by the Devil, I chose the wrong woman?"
"Why do you so set yourself against this poor creature, Edward Kelley? She is docile and lively, and all love her. It seems as if she pleased everyone save yourself?"
"Let her please who she will," flung out Edward Kelley sullenly. "There is another who pleases me."
"Whoever this other is, she may not lawfully be yours, therefore, take your mind off her."
"Perhaps she may be mine, and lawfully, too," said the wayward young man. "Everything shall be possible to me."
He turned his strange eyes full on Dr. Dee and began to laugh loudly and bitterly, then left the old mathematician, violently banging the door after him.
Again John Dee felt himself old and forsaken. He had no refuge, save in his prayers, and of late it had seemed to him that the heavens were closed against him.
But there was one who joined him in his desolation. Jane Dee searched all over the castle for her husband.
When she found him, praying, lonely, she went on her knees by his side and wept upon his breast, and he folded her closely to him, thankful for this sweet comfort. And when their vehement prayers were finished, he raised her to her feet and they stood together, trembling, he old and she weak, and both afraid of one who they loved.
"Let us get back to England. The Queen desires it, as these Englishmen said, and Walsingham will not be your friend if you stay away too long. It is all strange here and I fear we shall never be happy in this place."
Holding her close, the old man asked simply:
"Jane, do you think that Edward Kelley with rancour and dissimulation turns all against me and undermines me with Graf Rosenberg? But, then, you were always angry and contemptuous about him, Jane. You do not believe in him like I do, like I must. He has found the secret of secrets."
"But he does not tell it to you. Are you sure that he does not cozen everyone?"
The old man began to shake violently so that she was forced to put him into a chair and hold his hands. It seemed as if he had an attack of the ague, as it had overtaken him that other dreadful winter at Lask.
"I could not endure that, Jane! I could not endure to believe that the angels were all false. For five years I have lived with them and believed in them and heard them speak, ay, and seen their movements across the room. No, Jane, it cannot be but the tricks of a rogue. Never tell me that, for it would be enough to shake one's faith in God Almighty."
She went on her knees beside him and endeavoured to soothe him with gentle caresses, while he clung to her and murmured:
"Do not try to make me disbelieve in the angels again. Why, I think if I could not longer trust in them all would be quite dark."
"If Edward Kelley were to refuse to skry for you any more you would no longer see the angels—you would be shut out in the darkness."
"That is an awful thought, Jane. Pray that Edward Kelley may not be so unkind."
Down the old man's kind, worn face two difficult tears ran slowly, so that she hid her face and wept for her pain and for his desolation.
It was a long while since Dr. Dee had made any entry in the Book of Mysteries, and the last had been rambling and incoherent, for he could, with great difficulty, interpret the sayings of Uriel, Michael and Madimi, but he now began to make entries in his other diary which he had scarcely opened since he came from Mortlake, and one of these was made in great pain of heart.
"The Lord Chancellor came to Trebona, and went away after three days. The rancour and dissimulation now evident to me. God deliver me; I was not sent for."
It was at last clear to him that he must stand aside. All the favour and patronage of Rosenberg and Laski and the Emperor himself were for Edward Kelley and Edward Kelley's great secret. With a shaking hand, the old man finished the entry:
"Till now I was chief governor of our philosophical proceedings, but little by little I became hindered and crossed by fine and subtle devices made first by Bohemians, somewhat by Italians and lastly by my own countrymen."
He still could not endure to believe that the five years' quest had been, as far as he was concerned, a failure, ay, and a failure as far as Edward Kelley was concerned also, for, as to his own part, he considered the making of gold trivial compared to the high wisdom which had been promised them by the angels. He tried to take his mind off his great distress by thinking of worldly matters and, in his most beautiful hand, sat down and carefully penned a letter to the Queen, congratulating her upon the great victory which the English Navy had lately achieved over the Spanish Fleet. There were many friends of Dr. Dee in that engagement—Frobisher, Drake, Hawkins and Lord Howard of Effingham, whose wife had been a friend of Jane Dee.
As he wrote the letter a yearning for England came over him, a longing for the grey-green river and the low, dull-coloured willows, and the grey clouds, which seemed but a hand's space above the housetops, and all the pleasant greenness of Richmond and Mortlake and the gay little town of Brentford. And he thought, for the first time since he had started on this quest, and with a certain shock, that then surely he had been truly happy—he and Jane and the two children and the servants and Roger Cook. Ah, he had forgotten Roger Cook! How long it seemed since the impetuous assistant had made his accusations against Kelley and left the house, never to return!
Dee put his hand before his eyes and he could see the figure of the man going off in the twilight. He had forgotten Roger Cook, who had been with him, faithful and diligent, for fifteen years. And in the letter of compliment to the Queen, he spoke wistfully of his return, and asked for a safe conduct through all the countries he must travel before he could reach England again.
He was not yet certain that he wished to leave Trebona, for he could not bring himself to admit the complete black failure which threatened to engulf him with the departure of the angels, but this gesture towards his native country pleased him, and he liked to dwell on the thought of his return and of his treasures at Mortlake. He hoped that the wretched people who had broken into his house had not stolen his lodestone nor destroyed his precious watch clock, made by Bibbley, which measured the seconds of each hour.
It was apparent, even to John Dee, that Edward Kelley intended to play the master. He no longer used even a shadow of deference towards anyone, but quarrelled with those whom he could not subdue, among whom was the tutor, John Basset, whom Dee had engaged to teach the children the Latin tongue for seven ducats for the quarter.
Kelley made a hurly-burly with the pedant on the least excuse, and quarrelled with all the visitors, English, Hungarian, Bohemian and German, who came to Trebona.
More than this, he showed himself arrogant and contemptuous towards all the books, the table, the figures and symbols which Dr. Dee had taken down on the days when they used to skry together, and kept himself in the set of apartments which Rosenberg had had newly decorated for him, and when he was sent for would not even come, though sometimes his haughty humour would melt and he in his turn would send for Dr. Dee, with such peremptory messages as: "You study too much, come and pass the time with me at play." To which curt invitation the old man, still with his double hope of the redemption of the angelic prophecies and the regeneration of Edward Kelley's character, would meekly respond.
Sometimes Dr. Dee, though quite conscious of, as he noted in his book, "the great and wonderful unkindness used towards me," would even consent to obey a brief summons from Kelley to go to his laboratory and see him make some experiments, such as the distilling of sericon which he had learnt from Sir George Ripley's book, The Compounds of Alchemy.
On one of these occasions Dr. Dee took the chance to point to all the books which Kelley had in a corner of the room, and to ask why they did not take up this study again, to skry in the crystal and endeavour to interpret and decipher the figures which the angels had given them?
Upon this Edward Kelley fell into a wonderful rage. With a brusque movement of hand he sent over his desk lamp so that the glass was broken, the spirit of wine spilled out, and a great flame rose up and began to burn all the linen and printed volumes among which was the very book of St. Dunstan which he had himself had in the old days at Mortlake.
Kneeling on the side of his brick furnace, Edward Kelley watched these books burning, and merely sneered. But John Dee, with single-hearted enthusiasm, thrust his hand into the flames which were scrollinground the loose leaves of the paper manuscripts and pulled the Glastonbury treasure out of danger and cast it down on a chair. The other offered no help, and, though John Dee finally knocked out the flames with the end of his robe, several of the books of tables, diagrams and curious figures were hopelessly scorched, burnt and ruined.
Soon after this destruction of the books, John Dee was disturbed in the night by a loud knocking on his chamber door. He rose up in a pleasant alarm, thinking this was, at last, a summons from Rosenberg, or maybe important messages from England, and leaving Jane sleeping, he took up the rushlight, threw on his robe and opened the door. And there was Edward Kelley, standing in the corridor, a small lamp in his hand and a look of madness on his face.
"The angels have appeared again, and we are to obey them in everything, else all is lost!"
"God be thanked, Edward Kelley, that you have again looked in the crystal!"
"Do not stop to thank God but come with me."
The young man's strong fingers closed round the old man's thin wrist. He drew him out into the corridor and shut the door behind him.
"Will you listen to me, John Dee? Will you do what the angels say? I am tired of waiting. Five years there has been of this probation; surely I have served long enough!"
The old mathematician could not thoroughly understand these wild words. He saw that the young man was in a state of exaltation. His eyes were wide open and his lips very pale and drawn at the corners.
"The angels," thought John Dee, "have rebuked him for his late unkindness and unworthiness. Perhaps, after all, they have converted him and he will take the Sacrament again and all will be peaceful and agreeable."
Edward Kelley drew him along the corridors, up the stairs, down some stairs to his part of the castle.
"I was in my laboratory, working as usual. You know that though sometimes I find the formula, sometimes I lose it. The experiments are not always a success. A great and devilish rage will of ten get hold of me in my disappointment and I would willingly turn from God and raise the devil."
John Dee begged him not to say those sinful words, especially in the middle of the night when there might be ghosts or evil spirits about. The young man laughed long, loudly and impatiently, and continued to drag the mathematician with him, walking so quickly and so vigorously that the old man almost stumbled in enforced haste.
"Surely, Edward Kelley, the spirits will wait for us!"
"Uriel said, 'Haste, haste!' and Michael bid me have great speed. They came to me in my laboratory and stood either side of me, one with a bright sword, the other with a garland. They said that through this means we should be reconciled and made perfect."
"What means, Edward Kelley? Have we not always been diligent and obedient. I, at least," panted the hastening old man, wistfully.
"The words they spoke were unfit for any godly creature to hear," cried Kelley, in a tone of fierce rebuke. "So damnable a doctrine could not be pronounced by the angels of God. I fear they are, after all, but evil spirits."
Dr. Dee knew not what to make of these incoherent ramblings which Edward Kelley almost shouted at the top of his voice. When he reached the laboratory the old man sank into the leather chair where Edward Kelley so often made himself comfortable before the wide hearth with his wine and his book and his wild dreams.
It was late spring and the air very warm and sweet. The window of the chamber stood open and Dee could see a galaxy of stars in the deep blue heavens. This gave him a sense of comfort, for he felt near to the familiar spirits who loved him. The crystal, which gleamed in the light of the lantern, which Kelley put down on the table nearby, was set up in its frame on the red cloth on the shew-table, and Kelley, kneeling down at once in a state of ecstasy, began a long and involved wrestling with the spirits. His voice rose, first shrill then low and Dee rapt, though spent, in the great chair, could make nothing of it all.
He thought that there were two, then several voices in the chamber, that of Kelley and those of the angels. He began to tremble with a return of one of his agueish attacks, and, in a voice full of fear, besought Edward Kelley to tell him the meaning of his tribulations, and at length the young man, turning round and looking over his shoulder with a diabolical grin, said:
"The angels say things which I cannot bring myself to repeat. They make remarks which are hideous to hear; they show me strange and repulsive visions. They threaten that unless they are obeyed all will be lost."
"What are their commands?" shivered John Dee. "Endeavour to interpret clearly, Edward Kelley. This may be a matter of great moment."
"They say that we are to share with each other in all things."
"I believe," replied the old man, "that we have done so. I am not conscious that I have kept anything back from you, Kelley, though I believe you would not share your secrets with me."
"From now on I will do so. I will endeavour to obey the angels. But you do not understand. I will deal no more with the creatures; they are damned spirits."
He struggled to his feet with an effort as if he were held down by arms invisible to Dee, and cried out in a voice full of horror:
"Are the commandments of God to be broken?"
"Do the spirits advise any such blasphemy?" asked Dee in bitter alarm.
Kelley ran forward, overturned the lantern so that the whole room was in darkness and the only sparkle of light they had was the distant glitter of the stars without the narrow window.
"The spirits say," he whispered, and his voice was harsh and raucous, "that we are to share everything, even our wives."
Out of the dark the old man shrilled his fierce protests. He was broken by grief and amazement.
"Is it possible that good angels should propound so hard and impure a doctrine? They are, as you say, damned devils, Edward Kelley, and we have been sorely deceived."
"They must be obeyed, they must be obeyed!" moaned the young man from the dark. "They say we are fools and have little understanding. They ask us would we be lords, gods, arbitors of the heavens. They turn their faces away," he screamed in anguish. "They say, 'Your own reason rises up against my wisdom. Behold you are free, do that which most pleases you.'"
John Dee tried to pray. Fumbling in the dark, he went on his knees by the great chair. With a cry of pure anguish, he said:
"Have I not offered my very soul as a pawn to discharge Edward Kelley, the crediting of him with the good and faithful minister of Almighty God? Has it not been my life's work to withdraw this young man from any kind of association with the bad spirits who were with him before he came to Mortlake, and is this to be the end of it all?"
There was a silence, then, from the thick dark came Kelley's panting voice:
"Then if they are devils we have been deceived. The virtue will go out of the powders and we shall be begggrs indeed. And the wisdom that was promised you, John Dee, and which was about to be bestowed on you, will, after all, be withheld and we shall remain in darkness."
The old man, still humbly on his knees,' began to weep. He felt Kelley's cold fingers touch his cheek.
"Rise up, John Dee. Go back to your wife. All is over; we shall see no more spirits."
With a little fumbling he lit the lamp again and raised the old man to his feet and put the light in his hand.
"This is the end."
"God help me!" broke from the old man in piteous anguish. "I know not what to believe."
"Prove for yourself whether we should have obeyed or not. If these bitter calamities come upon us we shall know that we were advised by angels."
In the little light of the new flame his face looked distorted. Drops of sweat stood upon his forehead and his hair hung dank on his torn ears. He seemed then angel and devil both to the man who had so steadfastly and passionately believed in him for five years. One damned, and yet one who had tasted heaven, like an angel who had been immediately, on his first sin, cast down from Paradise.
It was the chill and heavy hour of dawn when John Dee returned to his wife's chamber. She was lying awake, and there was a look of terror in her eyes. He stumbled into the room, and had not the strength to close the door behind him, but went on his knees on the bedstep and hid his face in the coverlet, and at the sight of his white hairs thus brought low she gave a cry of pure love and compassion and rose and went and knelt beside him.
"What turn are our bitter fortunes to take now?" she asked. "What have the angels told you?"
"Jane, get me a little cordial or a tincture of the sage leaves such as you will find in the bottle in the cupboard by the fireside; I feel myself much shaken. I have been arguing and talking and praying with Edward Kelley. Many times I wanted to come to you but he always detained me and began again."
She took the old man's fur-lined cloak from a chair and laid it over his shoulders as he knelt.
"Do not disturb yourself so much, sweetheart; we shall cut away from this rogue and return to England, even as you suggested yesterday. Leave him here with Graf Rosenberg and any other dupe who he may find. Who is he but a common scoundrel?"
She had never spoke so definitely before of Edward Kelley, and her husband looked at her with a weary amazement.
"His ears," said she over her shoulder, where she stood by the little cabinet by the fireplace. "You have seen those?"
John Dee did not answer.
"This is a common trickster who has stood in the pillory. He has never seen any angels. He does not know how to make gold. He is very clever at cozening. Satan best knows how he has done the trick. Let him deceive who he can while you and I, sweetheart, and the children, get free of all this devilment."
"God help me, it is no better. I am not altogether persuaded, Jane. When I look at the man I cannot disbelieve him. A common rogue and a scoundrel, maybe, yet, by chance, the instrument of God, for it is hard to believe that his making of gold is a trick. I thought even now I heard the voices—like the shrieks of an owl in the room—saw the flash of Michael's sword."
"What did these spirits say? Was it of such importance that you must be summoned in the middle of the night to hear it?"
"Jane, he said that we are to be cross-matchedthat I am to take his Joan, and he is to have you. That the angels will give no further protection save on this condition."
Jane Dee stood silent; she leant her head against the wall, and her hand with the glass in which she had been about to mix the cordial sunk back at her side. She had nothing to say, while the old man feebly and piteously recounted what he could remember of the fierce, vehement and bitter arguments of Edward Kelley, who, while he himself protested against the blasphemy of the suggestion, had emphasised the penalties in store if it were not complied with.
When he had at last fallen silent out of sheer fatigue, Jane, still leaning against the wall, fell weeping and trembling, and thus stood for a full quarter of an hour unable to command herself to say a word, so that her husband became frightened for her reason and even for her life. It was he who, in the end, rose and mixed the cordial and tried to force it through her lips, but she put it aside and broke out into a fury of anger.
"Never leave me, John Dee! Day and night never leave me! Oh, my God, I have given myself to be used in what I thought was Thy service! I have gone hither and thither like a beggar; I have tasted every humiliation and misfortune. May I now rather be turned into a stone than suffer this shame!"
"Jane! The angels say that it is not shame, that it is not to be imputed to rashness, presumption, or wanton lust! The angels say that we must tread underfoot all human timorous doubts. That the true original power and authority of sins, releasing or discharging, is from the Creator. The angels exact blind obedience. Mr. Kelley himself seemed much upset. He washed his hands of the whole matter, protesting he did not believe so damnable a doctrine could be commanded."
In a halting voice the old man added, standing by the immobile, weeping woman:
"Jane, if this be not obeyed, the angels will appear no more."
"We must go away," she said dully. "We must go away at once."
"Yes, Jane, yes, there is nothing else for it. We must leave Trebona. If we cannot achieve the money we must walk."
She looked round the room as if already in her mind she was taking down and packing her belongings. Then she lost her control again and broke out into such a miserable weeping that her husband could not endure the sight of her anguish and desperately besought her to calm herself. She did not seem to listen to him, or indeed to see him any more, but after a while broke off her weeping suddenly and put on her old worn gown with the furred sleeves and looked roundjor a light, but then saw it was not necessary—the dawn was full in the room.
"I had forgotten what hour it was," she murmured, and so, barefoot and scantily dressed, she went down the corridor to the room where Joan Kelley always slept lonely. She woke the girl, then went on her knees beside the bed and told her for what purpose John Dee had been roused in the middle of the night.
The two women clung together for a space, weeping and comforting each other, then Joan Kelley whispered:
"I will leave early with Edward Garland and his wife. They travel to-day to Bremen; they will, out of charity, see me on my way to England."
Jane Dee packed her worn trunks with the clothes that she and Joan Kelley had made with such labour out of such poor and scant material. She put her little hoard of money in a belt, hidden under her skirt, for she did not wish to be dependent on her husband; she was exhausted by her mighty struggle, but she did not doubt either her strength or her victory.
She went about her accustomed labours with a precision and an exactitude as if she were in no way troubled. She was, by now, well used to organisation and controlling children and servants, to travelling with discomfort and difficulties from place to place, and adapting herself to the ways of foreigners. She was sorry to leave the Castle of Trebona, for there she had had what she greatly valued—ease and order about her and sufficient money for all their needs. She had liked the carefully-arranged days, the elder children's hours with the tutor, the younger children's routine with their nurses, herself superintending all. She had enjoyed this compact and quiet household, which she had, from her own energy and care, created in the wing of the castle which was far removed from the comings and goings of Graf Rosenberg and his guests, the experiments of the alchemists, and all the hurly-burly of the Viceroy's life which was full of actions and excitements that mattered very little to Jane Dee.
Now this had come to an end and to the prudent woman the future looked dark indeed. If they were deprived of the patronage of Rosenberg, where were they to look? No doubt he would provide the means for their long and costly journey to England. But when they had reached England, what would life be—the old house in Mortlake again? The house which had been broken into and wrecked by the vulgar? The long waiting for possible patronage from the Queen, from Walsingham and Burleigh, while the added difficulties of the long war with Spain, which would mean an increasing penury at the English Court?
Jane Dee did not sigh; she set her lips firmly. This was a future that must be faced. She would not give in nor slacken in her effort. There were the children to be educated, and the old man to be cared for. She tried to turn her thoughts from contemplation of the confusion which Edward Kelley had wrought in their lives and in her heart; she concentrated all her faculties on what must be done, and done quickly.
Then she thought of one whom she had a little forgotten—Joan Kelley. She went to the young woman and found she had made ready for her departure with the Garlands; she was quite composed and had thought out her future actions.
"I have a brother who is very fond of me and he will come as far as Bremen for me at least. I have spoken to the Garlands and they understand the case."
Jane Dee did not reply. She knew that everyone understood Kelley's brutal treatment and absolute neglect of his wife.
"They are willing to take me away. It is like being let out of a prison, is it not?"
"I shall be heartsick for your company," said Jane, then fearfully: "What did you tell them—nothing of what passed last night?"
"No; I said that his growing unkindness was more than I could endure, that he threatened my very soul. And that is true, is it not?"
She was kneeling on the floor folding together her garments into a little hair trunk.
"You know, Jane," she said earnestly, "that I love him, that nothing but this would have induced me to leave him." Then, as the elder woman did not answer: "Do you think he is a devil or possessed by a devil or damned angel?"
Jane Dee forced herself to reply:
"I think he is but a common rogue."
"There is some power about him," whispered Joan Kelley fearfully; "everyone who meets him feels it. These men are like his slaves, they believe all he says. Edward Garland told me that though he might be a bad husband, he was a great man and knew many wonderful secrets."
"He is not even very learned," said Jane Dee, "only very clever and giving himself the air of having knowledge. He has learnt much from my husband, but nothing deeply, nor profoundly."
"I think that he bewitches people," insisted Joan Kelley.
Jane looked at her curiously.
"I suppose if he were to send for you you would come back to him?"
"Not to be sold," said the girl. "Anything but that!" She looked up, her arms full of coats, and asked in a tone of awe:
"Would your husband have permitted it? Would he have carried his obedience to the angels to such a pitch?"
"Do not ask me," replied Jane Dee. "Sometimes the old man does seem to me bewitched."
And then Joan Kelley said something which struck the root of the matter:
"Why did my husband propose this bargain?" And she answered herself simply: "It must be that he loves you, Jane."
Jane Dee shuddered. She, too, went on her knees and began hastily to help put away the clothes, most of which were her own, cut about and altered, for Edward Kelley had never given his wife money to buy anything.
"What will you do for means, Joan? I have a little hoard, I could give you a few ducats." She frowned anxiously. "You must not be at the expense of the Garlands. Oh, the chain," she cried suddenly, rising, and she ran into her own apartment and brought out the chain which Edward Kelley had twice given to her.
When she returned, Joan Kelley was at the window, crying softly. In the courtyard below, the cavalcade of the Englishmen and their servants was almost ready to start.
"You must not cry, Joan, you must go down quickly before he guesses of your departure, for surely he will go into one of his furies and prevent your leaving him. Take this chain, Joan, it is rightly yours. It is worth, I think, three hundred ducats. You may sell it at the first town you stop at. Give it to Edward Garland and let him do the business for you. The money will see you safely to England."
"Edward bought it for you," said Joan, drying her eyes.
"But it is very fitting that it should be for your service. Wear it round your neck under your cloak. Let no one see it until you are far away from Trebona, then give your confidence to Edward Garland, who is an honest man."
Edward Kelley's wife made no further protest. She was in the habit of obeying Jane Dee. For a moment the two women clung together; Joan Kelley felt lonely and frightened, only the knowledge that she was escaping the devil could have given her strength for this adventure.
She ran downstairs and sent a servant up for her trunk; she had nothing but that for personal baggage. And then she got quickly into the wagon that was waiting in the courtyard where Mrs. Garland already sat.
There was a little delay for compliments from the Steward, in the name of Graf Rosenberg, who was then at Prague, and then the travellers started, and Jane Dee, standing at the door, watched the cavalcade pass down the narrow, crooked streets towards Nuremberg.
As she returned to her room she felt desolate for the loss of Joan Kelley, who she had grown to love exceedingly for the five years during which the? had been constant companions, but she was fortified by the knowledge that she had made a triumphant move in the difficult game that she was playing. Edward Kelley knew nothing of the departure of his wife.
He remained closed in his laboratory till long past midday; after the ecstasies of prayer, the feverish arguments of that exhausting night, he lay in a heavy sleep as if he were drunk. And John Dee, without food or drink, continued to pray in his oratory.
Jane Dee, though she went about her duties quietly, was much concerned at the long absence of her husband, by his refusal to listen to those who went to bid him down to the midday meal and then to supper, for she feared that he was working himself into some exaltation in which he would bring himself to the point of acceding to this last monstrous command of the angels. She shuddered to think that he might be brought to such a point that he would surrender her to Edward Kelley rather than forego his belief in the sanctity of the visitors in the crystal, or in the good faith of Kelley himself.
She was shrewd enough to realise what he would forfeit by relinquishing a belief that had been as the sun in the sky to him for five years. Her heart ached at the thought of what he must lose. She wondered at the justice of God, who should allow one so single-hearted, so pure-minded to suffer so deeply. But she thought:
"If I allow him to continue in his delusion we shall all be degraded, perhaps beyond redemption. We shall become a by-word and a laughing-stock. The children will never dare to mention who their parents were."
She struck her gentle breast and addressed herself with piteous entreaties:
"It is only you, Jane Dee, who can save him. You must be neither confused nor misled nor listen to your own heart and desires. Oh, God, help poor Jane!"
That evening there arrived a messenger from Pague summoning Edward Kelley to the capital. Rudolph II. had returned to his senses, and had been so impressed by Graf Rosenberg's account of the gold making at Trebona that he at once sent for the alchemist, promising him a house and servants, as much money as he desired for his labours and a knightly title. In this invitation there was no mention of Dr. Dee.
While the messenger was detailing to Edward Kelley, who had remained sullen in his apartments, this golden news, John Dee came to his wife, exhausted, worn and trembling after his long prayers.
He refused the food and wine that she had kept ready for his chance coming, set her aside, and sank down in the window-place and opened wide the casement so that the evening air blew full over his face.
He looked very old, she thought, and near death. Her whole being melted in pity towards him. She called up all her strength to meet the words which she knew he was going to say, and after a pause, during which he had sat with the wind blowing on his face, he spoke:
"Jane, I see there is no remedy for it. We must do as the angels say. You must leave me and go to this man. If it offend not God, it offend not me. Let this be as the angels have ordered." Crossing his breast, he repeated again: "The angels."
Jane Dee replied quietly:
"This bargain cannot be. Joan Kelley has ridden away with the Garlands this morning because of this shameful proposal."
"If the angels are thwarted they will come no more," cried the old man piteously. And he added: "As I came from the oratory just now I heard that the Emperor had sent for Kelley. See, this is the climax of our fortunes."
"Let him cheat the Emperor as he has cheated us. Punishment will come in time."
"Jane, Jane, do you think he has cheated us? Do you think the angels are but lies?"
"Is it not now proved?" she asked vehemently.
"Our disgust and doubt, Jane, may but show our lack of faith."
"I have faith in God," replied the woman, "but not in Edward Kelley."
She saw that her firmness impressed the old man, and she approached him eagerly, exerting all her strength to persuade him.
"I have sent away his wife. I have given her the gold chain with which he presented me twice. We must also escape."
"It will be nothing less than an escape, it seems to me, for we have to elude the designs of a wicked man."
"I loved him like a son," lamented John Dee, shaking his head.
"Sometimes," replied the woman quietly, "we do love what it evil. It is for us to overcome that passion."
He looked at her searchingly and she returned his gaze steadily, for she knew that he would never surmise her secret. He was so wrapped in other worldly affairs that he had little leisure or art whereby to read this human heart, and Jane Dee smiled in pity of his blindness and a certain scorn of her own safety.
"The Emperor has not summoned you," she reminded him. "When Graf Rosenberg comes to Trebona he is closeted with Kelley, and you are not sent for. Your best workmen are taken from you, the finest laboratories are given to this man. He who began as your assistant and sucked all your knowledge from you, has become your master. He sets his foot on you and has become so presumptuous that he has the effrontery to make you a proposal such as I think no man ever made to another before."
"But, if it came from God, Jane—God, who is above all laws—"
"It does not come from God for it is contrary to God's commandments," she replied firmly. "It comes, I think," she used the expression that she had used to Joan Kelley, "it comes from a common rogue."
John Dee slowly repeated these two terrible words which to him were seal of the ruin of all his hopes.
"A common rogue, Jane! Have we been deceived for five years by a common rogue?"
"I was never deceived," she reminded him quietly. "You would not be bridled nor persuaded."
"I am not altogether persuaded now, Jane. The angels said many wise and beautiful things; they gave me much strange knowledge. If all this were the invention of Edward Kelley, he is, at least, a remarkable man."
But even this, in her bitter scorn and sorely wounded pride, she would not concede.
"He has read many books and filched much from you. No doubt he is clever at penmanship and drawing diagrams. Has he not twice stood in the pillory for forgery?"
"Jane, we do not know as much."
She said strongly:
"Let him go. We can live our lives without such as he."
"But if the angels never come again, Jane?"
"We do not want such angels that this man can summon."
She laid her fine but firm hand on his shoulder and looked straightly into his poor, tired face, into his dim eyes, stained by the difficult tears of age.
"If no more angels come, sweetheart, if there is darkness and silence about you, cannot you wait patiently until this short life ends?"
"Not so long for me, Jane. Short, indeed, for me."
"No, nor for me, either, as I think," she replied bravely. "Though I am only thirty-two years of age, I do not feel as if I had so much more of mortal toil before me."
"Jane, do not leave me! I could not endure that you should go first."
She smiled tenderly as if at the caprice of a child.
"And just now you would have parted with me to Edward Kelley."
"I was bemused by long prayer, fasting and watching. I see now that the thing could not be done. Why did he suggest it, Jane?"
At this she was at a loss how to frame her answer, for here was a subject that must never be put into words.
"Very likely it was mere insolence—a test of your submission," she replied at length, and she added proudly: "Why should he desire me? There are many more beautiful women in Prague and Vienna, easily at the beck of the man who can make gold. Look at me—I am worn, I am faded, I am aged before my time, I am full of the cares of four children. I am a woman twelve years married; is it likely that Edward Kelley, or any other man, would desire me?"
"You are beautiful to me, Jane. I have much admired and commended your care and patient and loving kindness. I was pleased to think that you were happy here in Trebona, Jane, and had about you comfort and luxuries. That we had found at last a secure patron—"
"Edward Kelley's patron," she interrupted—"not ours—and one who we must leave."
"Then we put to sea, Jane, like rudderless ships. You know how little there is to be hoped for from the Queen, who ages and grows obstinate.
"Yet let us at least return to England. It is time Arthur went to school. There are your rents to collect, and the house at Mortlake to set in order."
At these practical remarks, he gave her a loving smile.
"There is my faithful Jane—always busy with small cares."
"These are not small cares, John Dee, but the things whereby we live."
"Can you endure another journey, Jane? It will take us nearly a year to arrive in England."
"I can endure anything," she replied, "save to stay under the same roof as Edward Kelley."
Jane knew that she would not so easily be able to leave Trebona. There were many excuses to be made, many people whose opposition must be met and put aside. There were explanations to be given to Graf Rosenberg, to his wife, and to all their train of followers; to those learned men who came so frequently to Trebona, and who expected John Dee to live permanently in Bohemia.
But she did not falter nor slacken her preparations for the journey.
Most to be feared was the parting from Edward Kelley. She knew he would not lightly allow her to go. She did not ask her husband what had passed between them, nor did he offer to tell her; she kept her mind as best she might off the matter, but Edward Kelley's sullen fury might be guessed in that, even in the glow of his sudden golden fortune he did not come abroad and as usual flaunt himself when he was happy and triumphant, but remained closed in his own apartment. And on the second day after the coming of the Emperor's messenger, her husband told her that he had written out a prayer or covenant—a devout and holy document, wherein he had declared with a sincere and open heart the purity of his intentions and his honest doubt that he had been deceived in Edward Kelley, praying the Lord to guide him.
He had left this paper on the altar in the Castle Chapel and scarcely had he risen from his knees after this action, when Edward Kelley had broken in, torn the document into pieces and cast it down on the chapel floor, setting his heel on it and turning on the mathematician a look so diabolical that he could no longer doubt that he was in the presence of a damned soul stained by all manner of impurity and guilt.
This revelation, so terrible to the old man, he bore with a fortitude that surprised his wife. It was as if he, in his turn, had received a certain supernatural strength. He went up to his own room with a steady step and, taking down the Book of Mysteries, Liber Mysteriorurn, in which were recorded all the angels' biddings and all their sayings, mystical, strange and wonderful, he wrote in it, with his beautiful clear hand, an account of the last damnable command from Uriel, Michael and the little angel named Ben.
The Book was not yet filled; there were many blank spaces, and, as he turned them over thoughtfully, he wondered when he should write in this again—if he would ever find another medium like Edward Kelley, if there would be any more angelical sayings to write down, if the angels would ever visit him again. And at the thought of the blank years ahead and the great and heavenly joy which had now dropped entirely out of his life, he suffered a sharp pang as if someone had driven a knife in his heart, and leant back in his chair, almost deprived of life. Through all his troubles, difficulties, battles and moments of despair with Edward Kelley, his occasional doubts as to the origin of the angels, through all his material troubles, the lack of money, the moving from place to place, the impossibility of convincing the Emperor or the King of Poland, the struggle to find a patron, he knew that he had, during those five years, been happy, for he had felt himself, during many mystic and marvellous hours, in direct communication with God. And more, he had even felt himself at one with God, and so believed that he had attained, or was on the verge of attaining, that perfect wisdom, that unity with the Almighty which to him was the end and be-all of Hermetic philosophy. Now all was over—a quest of clouds, indeed! Cloudswhich had been sometimes menacing, sometimes stormy, sometimes pure, sometimes golden, but alwa ys luring, beckoning up and on. And now they were gone, dissolved, vanished, like those airy shapes which rose from the crucible in which chemicals melted over the clear fire of the furnace. Gone—all gone, and before him nothing but the increasing darkness of a weary old age, with all his long and painfully accumulated knowledge which he had been piling up since he was a boy of fourteen heavy on his back, like a great burden of rubbish, useless to him, but not to be cast away.
Making a strong effort over himself the old man closed the Book of Mysteries and fastened the clasp, but at the thought that he might never open it again such a pain overcame him that he laid his head on the cover and wept.
Edward Kelley attired himself in the finest of the suits he had lately had made by Graf Rosenberg's tailor. It was the dress of a nobleman, as befitted one who had been suddenly called into the favour of the Emperor, who was to take a prominent place at Court, one to whom the Emperor had sent a bag of ducats and promise of a title.
He took much care in this attiring, and arranged his bright hair precisely over the tattered ears. It was no longer necessary to wear the black cap; a clever barber, such as he could now afford could do this business for him.
After these preparations, shaved, powdered, perfumed and in every point neat and splendid, Edward Kelley sought out Jane Dee. Nor did she refuse to receive him, for she knew that she must come to this meeting before they left Trebona.
As he entered her apartments where he had not been for some time, he noted with a jealous eye her preparations for departure. Trunks and bales filled and ready to be fastened stood against the wall; the hangings, lent for her greater comfort and luxury by the Countess Rosenberg, had been taken down and lay ready to be returned to the kind mistress of the castle. And Jane had put off the richer dress of green velvet which the Countess had given her lately and sweetly begged her to wear, and wore again that well-mended, but graceful gown which she had brought with her from England, which her own hands had often scoured and turned, and now of a faint, indescribable colour like leaves at the end of autumn.
Her face was very smooth and pale, and her eyes reddened by weeping or sleeplessness, and even her mouth was colourless and slightly parted over her glistening teeth. Her long, very fine hands, which lately had grown much thinner, were busy with a length of mending, as she sewed together the ripped lining seam of a fur coat. Money was plentiful enough while they remained in Trebona, but Jane knew her husband's recklessness and complete inability to be economical, and she saved what she could, even in the midst of plenty.
Edward Kelley came and stood in front of her with great familiarity.
It was March, still cold, and generous fires burnt on the wide hearths.
"You try in every way to spite me," he said, narrowing his pale eyes in her direction. "Why do you dress yourself like that, in rags? You are as plain as on the day when we first met."
"There is no reason why I should go splendidly," she replied. "I dress as befits my means and my prudence."
At that he left that subject and began to rage at her for the sending away of his wife.
"You were no longer fit to be her guardian, Mr. Kelley. She has returned to England, where she will be safe."
"You try to thwart me, Jane Dee. Do you think that you will win in this struggle? It is useless," he added rapidly, "for you to shut yourself away and defy me. I know you very well."
"If you knew me well enough, Mr. Kelley, you would spare any more words, for you would be aware that they would be hopeless."
"You think, then, to return to England?"
She dropped her sewing and looked at him steadily.
"To return to England and never to see you again."
He laughed in her face; his manner was full of suppressed excitement.
"You cannot have heard all my news. You do not know who I am now—Sir Edward Kelley, a great man with the Emperor. He has given me an estate and a title. He tells me I may establish myself in Prague as a Councillor of State."
"I should not have thought," replied Jane Dee coldly, "that the Emperor would have been so easily deceived. But he is, no doubt, as they say, mad."
"Therefore," replied Edward Kelley insolently, "he will better serve my turn. Do you not see that the world is at my feet? I have discovered all that your husband was seeking after. It is mine, I say—mine, and not his."
Jane Dee shook her noble head.
"You are wrong, Edward Kelley. My husband did not seek for what you sought, nor have you found what he desired."
"Come with me to Prague, Jane. I can make you almost a queen. Do you not realise that I have discovered how to make gold?"
"I realise," she countered sorrowfully, "that you have found out how to trick men into believing that you can make gold."
"Still no belief in me, still no faith! What will satisfy you!"
"I require no satisfaction, Mr. Kelley. We are parting so soon; what does it matter what we think, one of another?"
"We shall not part, Jane Dee. Do you think that I have laboured so long, endured so much, travelled so far, to be at last disappointed of all?"
"But you said just now that you had attained all!"
"Am I to be disappointed of you, Jane? You were my all. It is for you for whom I have laboured so long!"
A faint colour came into the woman's pale face. She turned aside and looked into the fire.
Five years—almost to a day—since he had come to Mortlake, and they had been together, she seated and he standing by the fire in much the same attitude as they held now. And then she had known both her own heart and his. She had nothing to say to him, but he continued talking vehemently, putting before her all that she might have if she would but follow him to Prague.
"And it can be in honour, Jane Dee. Your marriage with the old man may be dissolved. I can persuade him that Heaven wills it."
"You cannot persuade me, Edward Kelley." And for the third time she used that expression which she believed fitted him best: "I know you for a common rogue!"
At that he stood still and silent for a space, and she looked up at him with a certain compassion for his hurt. He was then in his thirty-first year, good-living and luxurious appointments had made of him a fine personage, he possessed more than beauty; so strong was his curious attractions (which no one could meet him without perceiving) that it seemed to Jane Dee as if, instead of standing several feet away from her and with averted face looking at the flames, he was standing close to her and had her firmly by the hand so that she could not depart from him.
"This old man, this old, foolish man," he began to murmur—"for what is his knowledge but a burden to him? What will he ever do with the remainder of his life? The Queen of England is avaricious and half ruined by the Spanish Wars. What will she do for him? There is no fortune before him nor before you or his children. You will become old and poor and despised."
"Maybe," said Jane Dee quietly, "for you such a life is not possible."
"I want to take you away with me—come to Prague, to Vienna. Now I have the Emperor's favour we can go where we will. Have you not longed and dreamt, Jane Dee, of such splendour and liberty, of ease of mind and comfort of body?"
"And damnation of soul, as I think," she added softly, her elbows on her knee and her pale face propped in her hands. She felt her body very weak, but her spirit strong and upright within her. She thought that even if he fell into one of his furies and raged and stormed she could face that tempest.
But what he did do was harder to endure.
He turned suddenly and went on his knees beside her as he had done before when she had pitied him.
"I love you, Jane—you, and you only! Does it matter to you? We were meant to be together always, to help and comfort each other, Jane. You have known me from the first."
She looked down at him tenderly.
"From the first, Edward."
"A common rogue, you said, and I was no better than that when I came to Mortlake. I had stood in the pillory, Jane. I had had my ears nailed to the wood."
"I knew, I knew," she murmured.
"I had been in prison—no matter where, nor for what offence."
"No matter," she repeated.
"I will not tell you my real name, nor where I came from, nor what I am, you know enough of me, Jane."
"Indeed I know enough."
"I was glad to fly from England, Jane. This quest that was so much to your husband, was to me an escape from the law, you know that."
"Yes, I know that."
"But now I shall go back to England triumphantly. They will not care who I was if they thought I could make gold. The Queen herself, Burleigh, Walsingham—all would welcome me."
"Do not boast to me," she said, but tenderly, as if she rebuked a child. "We must part. Your tricks can serve no longer, Edward. Why must you push it all to an extreme?"
"I could wait no longer for you," he muttered mournfully. "Besides," he added—there was a note of sincerity, she thought, in his voice—"the angels do speak to me—I swear they do. Maybe I do not always interpret them aright, but I hear voices and I see visions. Before God, I can swear that."
"I should swear nothing before God were I you, Edward Kelley, for surely you have offended Him." And with infinite passion she added: "Perhaps the angels deceive you as you deceive others."
"Sometimes I think so, too. Sometimes, I think that they are but hallucinations, or evil dreams, or the spirits of the damned. But never doubt, Jane, that I have some power. Even to this making of the gold I will not confess that I cheat. No, I will not confess!"
He seemed deeply frightened, and a light distortion passed over his face. He clasped his hands and still at her knee and catching at the worn borders of her shabby gown, he cried out to her as if he were pursued, and entreated her to save him.
"Only you can do it, Jane? only you? Am I not worth more to you than that old man? He will go peacefully to his grave, wrapped in his dreams, but I need you. Supposing I were to be lost and damned, Jane, and you, comfortable with your old husband and your family, were to think of it and hear me crying out, perhaps in Hell—"
He hid his face in his hand and long shudders shook his slender body. Jane Dee looked at him compassionately but unshaken. She knew no tremors, doubts nor fears; her faith was single, simple and infinitely strong. Nothing to her could obscure right and wrong. She knew neither subtleties nor hesitation and duty to her could never have either two names or two faces.
She rose up very gently and left him kneeling there, his face hidden on the arm of her chair, and she said without reproach or malice or as if she were in any way using rebuke or menace:
"You have chosen your way, Edward Kelley. What you pursued you have found. What you strove for you have gained. You have the Emperor's favour; you say you can make gold. You believe in your angels and they have not lied to you. Be content, then. As for your poor wife, she is moved from your malice—I am glad I have done that. I gave her your chain!"
He looked up, angry at that.
"My chain, which I took so much trouble, first to buy, and then to redeem for you!"
"It was more becoming that she should have it. It will take her comfortably to England. She loved you, Edward Kelley, but has wasted her whole life because of your trickery."
"I cannot think of her," he said angrily.
He got to his feet and his eyes showed flushed with fury. She thought that one of his storms of fury was about to overtake him, and she smiled at him in pity.
"Do not think to frighten me by passion or tempests. I am not to be moved, either by one way or another. This thing has worked itself out. You are no longer my husband's partner nor a member of my household. The preparations are long and tedious, but as soon as we may, we shall leave Trebona."
"So shall I," he said softly. "I go to Prague. I tell you the Emperor will receive me with all honour. My Patent of Nobility is coming any day. Think of that, Jane Dee—common rogue you called me, and I shall be a nobleman, and perhaps wear the Golden Fleece. I shall have a train of servants and a fine house."
"It is a perilous elevation," she replied quietly. "This Emperor Rudolph is a fickle man. I hear that his favour is easily lost. There are many who promised they could make gold, rotting now in the White Tower."
"I am safe," he replied, with a burst of his arrogant self-confidence. "I only require you for my perfect happiness. Come with me to Prague. Bring, if you will, the old man also. I can tell the Emperor that he is indispensable to me—that we are in a partnership that shall not be dissolved, and I am dependent on him for the success of my experiments."
"He would not go with you now. Neither would I. I am very tired, Edward, and we waste time and words." She looked at him yearningly and saw his face twitched into a grimace as if he were about to cry. He took his kerchief from his pocket and held it before his lips; she thought he stifled a sob. She knew him, she thought, through and through, and in truth she knew him as well as anyone would ever know him, and yet she was in a wonder as to what was false in him and what was true—a strange, unstable, wild creature I She pitied him as much as she loved him and she wondered a little why they had not been allowed to meet when she was free. Surely if she had been his wife she could have turned him to honourable ways and saved him from the pit to which she saw him hastening.
"How cold, cruel and bitter you are," he whispered, "to thus abandon me."
She did not answer this futile reproach; a great lassitude was over her; this was the end, and she wondered what she would do in the future if duty should be insufficient to fill the long, grey days.
He leant his head on the stone beside the mantleboard and began to sob. She looked at him in his grace and beauty and piteous finery, in all the trickery of ornament and riches of which he was so childishly proud. She had conquered and she knew that he knew it. He would not trouble her again; his last wild tricks, his last desperate throw, had failed.
She said simply and tenderly:
"God save you, Edward Kelley? God bless you, even yet!"
And she left him.
One of Edward Kelley's assistants, John Carpio, an Italian, came to Dr. Dee and told him, with much awe, that his master had broken up the shew-table and flung down both the crystal and the opsidian stone. He had torn the red cloth and smashed the seals, made with such eagerness and care, and he had forbidden Carpio or any other of his assistants to mention again the angels, Uriel, Michael, Madimi, or any, as he called it, of "that damnable crew."
John Dee stood silent; the partnership was indeed dissolved. Then he forced himself, after a while, to speak kindly to John Carpio, who was an honest, diligent fellow, and to ask him to fetch the two stones, the crystal and the black, and bring them secretly away from Kelley's apartment to his own.
"They are mine and I would like to take them to England. If any of the seals be unbroken, bring those, also."
In the back of his heart was the wild hope that he might find another skryer who would be able to converse with the angels.
John Dee made his preparations for departure from Trebona. He bore himself with great courtesy towards Edward Kelley and even seemed to rejoice at the good fortune which the young alchemist had received in the summons from the Emperor.
Graf Rosenberg made no difficulties at the household which he had so long sheltered at the Castle of Trebona being broken up. Nothing mattered to him but the retention of Edward Kelley, the man who knew how to make gold. But he behaved very generously to John Dee, the mathematician whose knowledge had proved so useless, and loaded him with presents and promised to pay the expenses of his journey.
Safe conducts had come from the Queen, and with them letters from Burleigh, urging the two alchemists to return. Burleigh had already heard rumours that Edward Kelley was able to make gold and that he was likely to come high in favour with the Emperor. Sir Edward Dyer, the Queen's agent in Germany and the godfather of Arthur Dee, had indeed written home to the Lord Chancellor, giving many accounts of Kelley's miracles, reporting that he could, indeed, make gold, that he himself had seen hoops of silver and rings of gold made by the alchemist, so that Burleigh replied eagerly:
"If his knowledge is as certain as you make it, what would you have me think could stay him flying to the service of his own sovereign? If he is afraid of old reports, actions and disgraces being brought up against him, let him be assured that he shall have his Queen's protection against all impediments that shall arise." And the anxious statesman concluded with a practical request that Kelley should send her Majesty:
"As a token, a good round sum of money, say enough to defray the charges of the Navy for this summer."
The Lord Chancellor also asked for a prescription for the Philosopher's Stone with a proof of manufactured gold and begged:
"Something of your operation to strengthen me before next winter against my old enemy, the gout."
These letters from his one-time patron, in which there was no mention of himself, could not but cause a pang to Dr. Dee, and he noted that Edward Dyer, once his own especial friend, had forsaken him for Kelley now that he could make gold, while these lavish promises of patronage only raised a smile on the lips of the young alchemist.
He told Dyer, who much followed him about, and all his other friends that he would prefer Prague to England. Upon which Dee said mildly:
"Do not let them think that you are afraid to face them at home. Burleigh is not a fool, nor is the Queen. If you do not return they will think you a cheat."
"You did not use to speak to me like that," replied Kelley, with his wild smile. "If you would return to England why do you not get you gone; your preparations take too long."
But these were at length complete. Graf Rosenberg was not at Trebona, and did not return to bid farewell to the alchemist, though he had so profusely provided for all his expenses.
John Dee, on the day before he left Bohemia, arranged in his own room various precious articles which he did not wish to take with him to England. Foremost among them was the convex glass which the Queen had so often admired, that which he had taken out into his garden to show her when she came to see him the day that his young first wife died. Edward Kelley had often envied it and now longed for it to present to the Emperor, and John Dee gave it him simply together with the powder, the book, and such as remained of the burnt manuscript of St. Dunstan, and many piles of diagrams and designs which Kelley had taken down at the dictation of the angels.
Edward Kelley received these treasures carelessly. John Dee could not understand why he seemed to be so uneasy, as if devoured by a secret frenzy.
"You have had all you wish, Edward Kelley. It is my heart and not yours that should be broken."
To which Kelley replied, biting his forefinger stained by chemicals:
"I will not leave you." Adding wildly: "I will rejoin you at Städe. I shall accede to Lord Burleigh's request. I shall return to England and put my powers such as they be, at the service of the Queen."
"That is as God may direct," replied the old man gravely; "but between you and me the partnership is dissolved."
Three new coaches were built in Budweis for the long journey, a dozen coach and saddle horses were sent from Prague, three waggons were hired for the goods, books, furniture; there was an escort of twenty-four soldiers. The whole expedition cost six hundred pounds, John Dee spending nearly all of the profuse treasure which the Viceroy had sent him, and making, as usual, no count for the future.
On the day that this train of coaches and waggons of servants and soldiers was waiting ready in the courtyard, Edward Kelley was not to be found. John Dee, a little wistfully, asked a bellows-boy if his master was not coming to bid them farewell, and the servant said he had not seen him since the night before, when he had locked himself into his laboratory.
This seemed, to the gentle old man, an unkind parting, after so many years together. He still could not quite believe in the duplicity of Edward Kelley, nor in his fabrications of those heavenly interviews, the old man clung tenaciously to the last shreds of hope that after all, some, at least, of the heavenly visions might be true.
"Perhaps he will join us at Städe. He has been summoned to England, you know, Jane. Perhaps, after all, he dare not disobey."
"He dare not obey, I think."
"But, Jane, even if he is the rogue you think him, all would be forgiven now, if he can make gold."
"Do you still believe he can make gold? No, that is why he is afraid to return. He may be able to deceive the Emperor, but would not be able to deceive Burleigh and the Queen."
But Jane herself, in her neat faded dress, and her mended furs, waited a little on the steps of the castle and lingered over her farewells. There were so many kindly people to thank—servants and guests and assistants. She went from one to another with a word of gratitude and regret for all, but still she glanced over her shoulder through the dark empty doorway, up the dark empty stairs, thinking perhaps one other might come and once more look at her with his strange pale eyes, say some word of defiance or remorse or anguish, but no one came, and the moment for departure could be no longer delayed.
Jane took her seat in the coach beside her husband, the youngest child on her knees, and as they were about to start a servant came running to the coach window and told them that he had learnt that Edward Kelley, with John Carpio and the other assistants, had ridden with the dawn to Prague; he had seemed distracted and had left no messages.
"It seems as if we should never see him again," sighed John Dee mournfully, as the beautiful Hungarian horses began to draw the coach out of the courtyard. "Prague! Yes, he has gone to the Emperor. He will be a great man, Jane, while we return empty-handed, nay, more, despoiled."
The old man spoke without irony and looked towards his wife for comfort, and she smiled at him tenderly. She understood his pain and that helped to ease her own dreadful sense of loss, of frustration and futility.
As the cavalcade began to take the long road towards Nuremberg Jane Dee closed her eyes in the dark corner of the coach. Her destiny had come upon her unawares, stealing from her all happiness and pleasure, but not her strength of spirit nor her peace of mind.
For a moment she imagined herself in Prague with Edward Kelley, free of fatigue, of duty, of disappointment, at ease with one human being who to her meant the completion of existence. The wife of Edward Kelley, the man who could make gold, Emperor's favourite in the city of alchemists, the man who she herself had so often and with such emphasis named "a common rogue." The slow rumble of the coach wheels, creaking over the rough road fell into the rhythm of that phrase: "A common rogue, a common rogue."
She opened her eyes, violently disentangling herself from dreams; she saw her husband's face, distorted by sorrow. "He may openly lament, but I can never show my grief. He has lost his angels. What have I lost?" And the sound of the wheels taking her further and further away from Prague ground out the refrain: "A common rogue, a common rogue."
On Christmas Day, after a year and a half of travelling, John Dee and his wife entered the old house at Mortlake, which was dark with an atmosphere of disillusionment and weariness.
Jane's brother had not kept it carefully; the furniture had been damaged by the crowd when they had broken in to destroy what they considered the doctor's magical instruments; very many of his famous and costly books were ruined or stolen. The tapestries, such as they were, had gone from the walls, and the garden was quite neglected; rank, broken weeds obscured all the parterres and hid the paths. A fall of snow had blocked the door and the returned travellers had to wait while it was shovelled away.
Yet to Jane, standing chilled in the cold, nipping wind, there was a certain pleasure in the sight of the swift, grey river and the low grey clouds and the drooping, bare willow trees and the fiat land on the north bank, this landscape, cold, dull and bitter as it was, was home and not without a certain power to soothe.
There came poignantly to her recollection, the day when Edward Kelley had come to this very door now defaced by disuse, when she herself had admitted him, and he had walked into her house, and in her life to be the centre of her thoughts for five years.
They had not been without news of him during their homeward travels; he was now Sir Edward Kelley, and great at the Emperor Rudolph's Court; across Europe crept rumours of the wonders he could do; he had resisted all the baits offered by Burleigh, all the lures cast out by Walsiegham. Safe in Prague, the city of the alchemists, he made gold for the insane Emperor, rings, hoops, chains, cups of gold, piles of ducats.
Jane thought of that as they passed over the threshold of their ruined home, as she contemplated their hopeless prospects, poverty for them, gold for Kelley.
How fantastic it sounded! But the man himself seemed to her unearthly, and sometimes she thought of him as an evil, perhaps a lost spirit; she was not dazzled by his present fortune.
The despoiled house looked sad enough. Jane disposed her tired children as best she might and set about with her implacable diligence and energy to re-create her home, making beds, getting her fires lit, arranging for a meal, while her mind was busy on the problem of the future. Her husband was in as bitter straits as he had been when he had left Mortlake six years before; Graf Rosenberg's money had been spent on the long and costly journey home, the quest, undertaken with such an eager heart and a high hope, had proved a delusion, such golden fruit as their joint labours had brought forth had gone to Edward Kelley.
The patient woman checked her bitterness by the thought of her husband's pain. When she had made a little order in the panelled parlour and left the children in the care of the hired servants, she went down the long passage to the workshops and laboratories where she knew the old man would be among his ruined treasures.
She was secretly remorseful that she had ever disliked these things and grudged the money that he spent on them, for now they were all broken and cast down by the vile hand of ignorance, and with them, she knew, was the bruised heart and spirit of John Dee.
The day when Edward Kelley had first come to Mortlake was with her; she had shivered then as she shivered now, hurrying through the dark passage; she sheltered her little lamp with a shaking hand, the faint beams showed her the flaking plaster on the walls, the cobwebs, the marks of damp, her quick feet disturbed dust on the floor: "How can I still this desolate misery? Only by not thinking of myself."
She found him where she had known he would be—old, lonely, standing in the flickering light of a rush taper, looking at his wrecked quadrant and his files of torn and cast down books, at his smashed instruments and broken furnaces, all the precious treasures of a lifetime overturned, ruined, queer, distorted, black shapes, thick powdered with dust in the cross light of his small taper and her small candle.
Jane Dee moved towards her husband; gaping chests filled with torn manuscripts, open books with the leaves defiled by filth and ripped across, impeded her way. His back was towards her; he stood in front of the light, which cast his huge, wavering shadow black over the cold furnaces and dimmed the glitter in the broken glass of the smashed retorts.
She put her hand on his worn sleeve; she was proud then that never, for a second, had she thought of leaving him for the place where she really wished to go.
"Jane, all lost, all ruined, all gone!"
The woman thought, "This is the misfortune that we tried to escape from—we fled many hundreds of miles and have returned to meet it."
She saw that he had set up in front of him on a pile of slashed books the two shewstones, the opsidian and the crystal. She felt confused and faint with distress and remorse.
"No more angels, Jane; no more visions."
She rested her face against his sleeve. Perhaps he would have preferred to remain in his delusion? To have gone with Kelley to Prague, to have kept the angels, Uriel, Madimi and Michael and lost her, poor Jane? Perhaps she had sacrificed her own vague, restless, intense desires for nothing, perhaps it would have been wise and kinder to have assisted in the imposture, to have ignored the evil aspect of the bargain, to have dissimulated and led the old man, cheated but happy, to his grave.
These were the first doubts of herself that she had had and they did not long obscure her single-minded purpose.
"Sweetheart, I have lit the fires, the children are asleep, and there is some supper ready. To-morrow we will put the house in order."
She took up the shewstones in her cold, tired fingers and put them inside the desk; as she touched these strange objects that Edward Kelley had so often handled, it seemed as if his fingers closed upon hers and the violence of her emotion became more than she could endure.
She looked round for help and saw the high-set window square above the disorder of the neglected room with the broken treasures, After a wild day of clouds and snow the heavens were clear at last, and on seeing the familiar stars the astrologer's wife felt a chill peace descend upon her disappointed and tired spirit.
Jane Dee took up the old life of anxiety, of borrowing, of selling, of accepting charity from friends. Behind all these shifts and contrivances her spirit remained untouched, pure and austere, like a mountain spring behind dark rocks. She had her poignant pleasures—her eldest son, Arthur, went to Westminster School, with a letter from his father to Mr. William Camden, then second-master of Saint Peter's College, and his friend. John Dee wrote affectionately of his son's hasty disposition on an anxious Jane's behalf:
"Sir,—My wife had delivered to him some more apparel and furniture in a little chest with lock and key, with some towels to wipe his face on after the morning and other washings of hands and face, willing him to buy a stone bason and a pot of a potter to have always clean and wholesome water in for his use...and I beseech you of one thing more: that his writing, both of Roman and secretary's hand, decay not, but rather be amended, for a fair writing is often times a good grace to matter very simple."
Jane Dee found a moving sadness in taking her eldest boy to school, in packing the little chest, in sewing his shirts, and giving him the instructions that she knew he would not heed. Soon he would not need her any longer. She would, if she lived, be only an ageing woman, contriving, anxious, overworked. All her life had been service; she asked herself if one who toiled incessantly for others could be wholly unhappy.
The girls went to school at Mortlake. They were all healthy, docile and lively; their mother kept from them the lack of money, of certainty, and tried to'make the old house cheerful.
She inquired at Chipping Norton after Joan Kelley, but the girl had not returned home. And presently there came letters from Sir Edward Dyer, saying that Kelley had followed his wife's movements and had finally summoned her to him at Prague, where they now lived in great state in the house given them by the Emperor.
"I hope," said Jane Dee, "that he is kind to her."
And something dark, odd and menacing loomed on the threshold of her thoughts. She looked curiously at herself in the little mirror they would soon have to sell, because it was too costly a rarity for her to be able long to keep it. She appeared already an old woman—there was no colour either in her face, her hair, or her eyes. Her grace was eclipsed also, she stooped and walked slowly. Her comfort was in the children, the bold boy at Westminster School, the pretty girls with their tutor, the little children at her knees—in them and in the grey river which she could see from her bedroom window, flowing steadily to the sea.
For a long while there came no news of Edward Kelley to the house at Mortlake, and then, suddenly, this: he had been arrested at Prague in the midst of his splendour and sent to the Castle of Purglitz.
Sir Edward Dyer sent this account of the affair:
One of the Secretaries of State, escorted by a large contingent of the Imperial Guards, had broken into Edward Kelley's house to take him while he was at dinner. But he had received some warning and had ridden off an hour or two before towards Rosenberg. He, however, being weary, had stopped at Sobislaus and there had been tracked down by the soldiers, who seized him while he slept and rudely dragged him off to prison, disregarding Kelley's appeal to Rosenberg, who was Burgrave of Prague as well as Viceroy of Bohemia. Sir Edward Dyer did not give the reason for the Emperor's sudden rage.
John Dee much wondered about this strange event.
Had Rudolph discovered Edward Kelley to be a cheat? Had he found out that the making of gold was a trick? Was it neither of these, but a mere falling of the Caesar into his usual melancholy and madness?
Dr. Dee took Dyer's letter to Jane, where she sat glancing down at the river in between her busy work with her needle; she gave him, as usual, the ready kindness of her smile. When she had heard the news from Prague, she still smiled.
"There ends many dreams," she said.
It was all in that, doubts, reasonings, deductions, hopes and regrets. There was nothing left over which she could make words. Her smile deepened.
A VERY old, beggared, ruined man lived in a cottage at Mortlake—a little, mean, half-tumble-down place on the river bank close to the large house used for tapestry-making, which had once belonged to the old man himself, but had long since, with all his other possessions, passed out of his hands. He had outlived all his friends, and the people of Mortlake, Richmond and Brentford knew John Dee only as a name, and had forgotten his fame, glory and great exploits.
The children were afraid of him, for he was supposed to be a wizard and the new king had raised a great hue and cry against witchcraft, and it was very dangerous to be charged with the practising of black magic. Up and down the land witch hunts went on, and John Dee's frantic petition to Parliament that he might not be confounded with devil-worshippers, and raisers of hellish imps, went unheeded as the babblings of an old, forgotten pedant.
His wife was dead. Though Jane had been so much younger than her husband, she was dead long ago, with three of her daughters, of the plague. Two of the boys, Michael and Theodore that were born abroad during the quest, were dead also in their tender years, and Arthur and Rowland were grown men, away on their own business. There remained to the old man only his daughter, Kate, a quiet, gentle woman who performed without complaint the duties of servant and nurse.
There was one other who came to see the old man daily, and to talk with him on matters that none but these two could understand, and this was Roger Cook, who, after a lifetime, had returned to his old place and his old master. Often John Dee, who was eighty years of age, would forget much of his learning, and even his present circumstance of beggary and of ruin, and would sit, happy in his poverty, at the door of his tenement, looking out at the swift river, and talking of Mr. Kelley's powder and the angels who had appeared in the shewstone.
One evening—it was July, and brilliant weather—as he sat at his poor door, looking at the river, which the sunset turned to the colour of flame, he called Roger Cook, and began to tell him of the days in Prague and Cracow, when Edward Kelley had made gold—"bars of gold, lumps of gold, showers of gold, piles of gold dust, hoops and rings of gold, gold like the river yonder, Roger Cook."
"And," he added, "it is a long time since I have heard from Mr. Kelley. I wonder how he continues in the favour of the Emperor? Is the Queen at Greenwich, Richmond, Isleworth or Nonesuch? I must send her another petition, for I am being reduced to beggary. It is a long time since the Queen came to visit me; I should like a sight of her barge on the river."
"It is merciful," thought Roger Cook, "that the old man's memory fails him." The Queen had been dead and lying in Westminster, close to the school where Arthur had gone years ago with his locked chest, on the return from the fruitless quest, and Edward Kelley was long since slain in prison, and the Emperor who had glorified him had been deposed, and was kept closed away as a lunatic. And in England everything was changed with the coming of a foreign king, who was afraid of witches and devils.
"Gold, all gold!" repeated John Dee, looking at the river. "But gold was not the object of the quest, was it, Roger Cook? No, I wished to attain wisdom—it was that I sought for."
He put his quivering hand on Roger Cook's rough sleeve.
"Have you seen my great jewel, the shewstone, in which the angels used to appear, Uriel and Michael?"
In his pity Roger Cook replied:
"No, I have not seen it, Dr. Dee—it must be a great treasure."
"Go and fetch it. Kate will tell you where it is. Bring it out and let us set it here in the sunshine, and perhaps the angels will appear again. Bring, too, my Book of Mysteries, which you will find with the Bible by my bed."
Roger Cook turned into the cottage. Katherine Dee was laying the supper.
"The old man fails; he has asked for his crystal and his Book of Mysteries."
"It were kind to take it," replied Katherine piteously, "Allow him to think that the angels have come again."
In a chest of sweetwood Roger Cook found the crystal (carefully preserved, when almost everything else had been sold) which Edward Kelley had set up nearly thirty years before on the grand and costly shew-table with the scarlet cloth. By the bedside he found the Bible and Dr. Dee's diary, in which the entries had become of late very scarce, and were written in a shaking hand, and near this the Book of Mysteries, in which nothing had been written for twenty years.
Roger Cook viewed these objects with a profound melancholy. His own life had not been successful nor happy. He could remember the ardent days of his youth when he too had hoped to surprise some marvellous secrets in the laboratory of Dr. Dee. And this was all that was left for either of them to content themselves with—a globe of common crystal, a book full of rhapsodical accounts of the vision of an impostor.
Roger Cook knew that the old man had recently tried several skryers, but none of them had seen anything in the globe. But he took the smooth ball and the Book to where the old man sat, in patient resignation, his tall figure, in the shabby gown bent slightly forward, his hands on his knees, and his eyes fixed on the glittering golden river.
"Ah, that is my precious jewel. Bring out a stool and set it here in the moonlight, Roger Cook."
The other obeyed and the crystal gave out long sparkles and flashes of broken light.
It was an extremely beautiful evening; the weathervane on Mortlake Church flashed in the heavens like a low-suspended star.
"See," cried John Dee, "I am not in my dejection and beggary utterly forsaken and alone; the angel appears in the stone. Do you not see him, do you not hear his voice?"
"I both see and hear it, master," replied Roger Cook dutifully.
He looked keenly at the old man, and though he had thought just now that his powers had failed, it seemed to him that in reality John Dee's mind was clear and strong, and he knew well what he was saying, what he was listening to and what he was seeing.
"Roger Cook, it is Raphael. He has a message for me again, at last, after so long. He says that I am to go on a long journey—to friends beyond the ocean, to seekers of wisdom from the directions in the Book of Saint Dunstan, the jewels beyond price are to be made known to me. He tells me to set my worldly affairs in order by all means possible."
"Who is to go with you on this journey?" asked Roger Cook quietly. "Did Raphael say that, master?"
The sun was fading; the river and all the world had turned a tender, violet-grey.
"He said that I cannot be without my daughter, Kate, nor without you, Roger Cook, my best friend. He makes many promises. He says the king will be kind to me, that I shall have all my honours returned to me."
"Will you trust to such bare promises, master?"
"He, Raphael, himself, will accompany me as he did Tobias, even to the end of the journey. Take up the Book of Mysteries, Roger Cook, my eyes are no longer strong, and write therein these messages."
The old man was silent for a space, staring into the crystal which no longer, after the withdrawal of the sun, flashed light.
"There are other things I would ask Raphael. Where is my silver double-gilt bell salt? I have been bereaved of my own goods. Why do I daily miss something from my house?"
Roger Cook was silent. He knew that Arthur Dee, who was a struggling doctor and had as much as he could do to provide for his own family, had taken away these things to sell secretly for the maintenance of his father and sister. Roger Cook made a little money himself—he drew astronomical charts, and made distillations—which was spent in maintaining the household.
"The Emperor," continued the old man—"did he not promise to send me money?"
"The angel," said Roger Cook, "for I hear his voice now, clearly, tells you to let it go and speak no further of it. The Emperor of all Emperors will be your comfort. You have no need of Rudolph, nor of the Queen, nor of the King, nor of any earthly monarch."
The old man turned his dim eyes from the dim crystal.
"Write in the Book, Roger Cook, write in the Book."
And to please him, his friend went into the house and fetched an inkhorn and quill. Seated on the doorsill, he began to write down what the angel Raphael had just said to his master.
"It is strange, is it not," said Dr. Dee, in a clear and reasoning voice, "that Jane and Edward Kelley, who were both so young, should die, and I be left?"
"Maybe," said Roger Cook, "you will soon, master, know this and all other mysteries."
"When I take the journey with Raphael—when I take the long journey to meet my friends and discover the great secret."
Katherine Dee came out of the cottage to say that the supper was ready and the air getting chill. Between them they helped the old man within doors, Roger Cook carrying reverently the shewstone and the Book of Mysteries. They humoured him by talking of preparations for the journey—the final and triumphant quest.
After that Raphael was with him daily, giving him instructions, comfort and advice. When he went abroad with his slow steps, his trembling frame supported on the arm of his daughter and Roger Cook he did not see the scornful glances of his neighbours, who looked with contempt at a tedious old fool who had outlived his time. He did not hear the half-frightened jeerings of the children, who, at a safe distance from Roger Cook's stick, hooted and whistled after the old wizard who could bewitch cattle, who collected egg shells and sent witches to sea in them to raise storms.
He saw none of these things for the angel Raphael was with him always. And John Dee was happy, for he was assured at last of the triumphant issue of the quest.
On the last day of the year, Raphael vanished into the azure glory of eternity and he took John Dee by the hand and led him with him, far beyond the quest of clouds, so that those who came to bury John Dee and take him to his grave in Mortlake Church, were surprised by the look of joy on his face. His last words were:
"Happy is he that hath his skirts tied up and is ready for a journey for the way shall be open to him. The burr cleaveth to the willow stem, but on the sands it is tossed as a feather without dwelling."
He remembered these sentences from the past; Gabriel had spoken them long ago at Cracow, by the mouth of Edward Kelley.
Roger Cook carefully put away the shewstones, in which no one would ever again behold an angelic vision, and closed the Book of Mysteries, in which there were to be no more entries.
JOHN DEE, M.A. of Cambridge (usually referred to as Doctor John Dee on the strength of a presumed but untraceable degree granted by the University of Louvain, where he was a student from 1548-50) is one of the almost forgotten figures of the great Elizabethan age. His career, of which such abundant details have been preserved, has long been clouded by legend and obscured by calumny.
His long life (1527-1608), covered the English Renaissance, the material and spiritual glories of the reign of the last Tudor, the outburst of national pride and creative energy which followed the defeat of the Spanish Fleet in 1588, to the fin de siècle, weariness and dis-. illusion mirrored in Hamlet. He lived through events so important as to be mentioned in the briefest text books—the massacre of Saint Barthlemy, the rise and fall of the Medici-Valois group, the execution of Mary of Scotland, the accession of her son to the English throne, the accession of Henri Quatre to that of France, the discoveries of men like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh in the New World. He might, if he had chosen, been present at the first productions of the "William Shakespeare" dramas, and read the first editions of Cervantes and Montaigne; he might have handled, fresh from the printing press, the translation of Ovid by Arthur Golding, that had such a marked effect on English letters, or North's rendering of Plutarch, which served as the basis for Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra.
In the realm of science in which his own interests lay, he was contemporary in his youth with Nicholas Kopernicus, who performed that extraordinary feat of the human intellect, the discovery of the falsity of the Ptolemaic system of the Universe, which mankind had implicitly followed for nearly two thousand years, and, in his old age, with Tycho Brahe and Galileo.
It is a striking tribute, both to the learning and the intellect of John Dee that he warmly supported the Kopernican solar system when even men of the calibre of Francis Bacon hesitated to accept it; this philosopher wasted years of study in an attempt to reconcile the beautiful fantasy of the ancient Egyptian with the pure logic of the modern Pole.
At the same time John Dee reserved to himself an implicit belief in astrology; he never seems to have doubted his ability to read the stars or to cast a horoscope. Astrology and astronomy were then synonymous, and the former term which, to our ears, denotes some quasi charlatanism, fantastic or even comic, was in the 17th century applied to what was considered a grave branch of science which was firmly believed in by learned men until a much later date. Though John Dee lived almost to the dawn of the age of reason and logic as represented by philosophers and scientists like Newton, Locke, Spinoza, Des Cartes and Liebnitz, yet he suffered grievously from the Act against Witchcraft (1604) which was the Law of England for a century and a half, and saw the publication of Demonologie, the curious and passionate assertion of the belief of James Stewart in a personal Devil of the crudest type, with ability to perform endless evil conjuring tricks at the invocation of wicked persons.
The outburst of ignorant malice, spiteful bigotry, interested loyalty, superstitious fear and genuine religious zeal that followed these two events, swept away John Dee, "the late Queen's conjuror," into a dishonourable obscurity, from which his reputation has hardly yet, perhaps never will, recover.
In vain did the old, ruined man passionately petition the fanatic King at Greenwich (June 5th, 1604) that he might be cleared from the grievous slanders that named him "a conjuror or caller or invocator of devils." The astrologer was so much in earnest that he offered to share the hideous punishments then being dealt out to the is so-called witches if any evil practices could be proved against him. He was, perhaps, fortunate in that he was merely ignored by both the King and Robert Cecil, and not dragged out to perish on the rack or at the stake, with many who were as innocent as himself.
Though his name is mainly associated with his extraordinary angelic visions and a vague reputation for necromancy and magic, the scientific attainments of John Dee were solid and astonishing; he suffered much from being in advance of his times in some directions and bewildered or misled by the limitations of contemporary knowledge in others.
He was equipped with all the learning possible to his period. He was a great mathematician, perhaps the first of his time—esteeming "mathematics as only second to theology." This comparison between pure science, mathematics and ispeculative philosophy, theology, shows the then prevalent weakness of reasoning, which John Dee could not rise above, and which was the root of all his troubles. Despite their keen interest in logic, their erudition, their anxious searching into new byways of knowledge, few of these. 17th-century scientists (if so they can be named) were able to distinguish fact from fantasy, or to wholly shake off superstitions weighty with the traditions of centuries and often heavily enforced by the powerful commands of religion. It is significant that to all these men the fumes that rose from the chemical compounds in their crucibles, linrbecks and retorts were spirits or ghosts; it was the great chemist, J. B. Helmond, who first named them gases. Indeed, it is no overstatement to say that the most learned men of the 17th century had to struggle through a thicket of ignorance, confusion, delusion and error, which could scarcely be conceived by the most casually educated person of to-day.
The savants of that period had to labour with problems that are now explained to and easily solved by every schoolboy, and to struggle to attain, by way of infinite difficulty, much knowledge that is now so commonplace as to be despised. This was the age that bred both Paracelsus and Giordano Bruno, both Kopernicus and James I.
John Dee endeavoured to accomplish several works of definite usefulness; the reform of the Calendar, the foundation of a National Library, the recovery and preservation of the books and MSS. scattered at the dissolution of the monasteries, the search for and purchase or copying of, rare and valuable Continental books, the collection and annotation of genealogies and documents of antiquarian interest such as deeds, charters, etc.
He was an authority on optics and was employed by such navigators as Adrian Gilbert to draw maps and charts—Mercator was to him "my Gerard." It is not difficult to understand how such a man, already in years and the author of elaborate and enthusiastic books on almost every known branch of knowledge, should have felt it neither strange nor impossible to extend his researches beyond what only a later age somewhat hesitatingly decided are the bounds of human learning. The man of science became the mystic without being conscious that he had changed the direction of his studies. As Gilbert or Raleigh were prepared to encounter any wonders in their pioneer voyages, to accept with nothing but the simple zest of discovery tailed men or gold mines, geese growing on trees, giants, dwarfs, or any other marvels, so John Dee was prepared to step from the mysteries of the refraction of light or the wonders of the early telescope to what was to him the hardly vaster mysteries of Angelical conversations.
Alchemy was not to be, for many years to come, discredited, in the last half of the 16th century it was revered as perhaps the first of the sciences and so curiously bound up with transcendentalism that though it at one end attracted the rogue, the charlatan and the fool, at the other it attracted such men as Thomas Vaughan in whose brother's poems is a distinct flavour of the highest type of Hermetic philosophy.
Indeed, the Silurists and mystics of the late 17th century, Donne, Vaughan, Crashaw, Herbert, Campion, may be described as the fine flower of that strange plant that had roots in the "broyling" kitchens of the almost mythical Geber.
It is not yet clearly known how far the researches of the alchemists were for an earthly or a heavenly prize; in the opinion of some commentators, the bewildering formula, designs and rhapsodies of their writings, does not refer to the transmutation of metals, but to that of the soul of man. Their goal was not, such argue, the making of gold from base substances, but the making of a perfect creature from frail humanity; the "secret of secrets," "elixir of life," "Philosopher's Stone," etc., is not, therefore, a solid substance, but the attainment of that divine wisdom which shall make mankind as God—the very Promethean fire itself. And all the half incomprehensible, often purposely misleading and confusing, rigmarole and jargon of alchemistical writings, is to be taken symbolically. This is obviously, to a certain extent, true, and there seems little question that from this angle John Dee regarded alchemy; his quest was for the divine wisdom that should at once coalesce and explain all his own undigested learning—"the pure and perfect chrysolite" that should raise him into a sphere of intellectual and spiritual supremacy that he could yearn after without being able to visualise. On the other hand, it has been abundantly proved that very many alchemists were simply searching for the means to make gold and that Elixir which should bring perpetual youth, health and felicity. Mingled with the flock of quacks who preyed on the credulous with wild tales (the type so bitterly satirised in The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson) were numbers of earnest men, genuine chemists as far as their knowledge went, who sincerely believed that the transmutation of metals was the possibility it has since proved to be. Undoubtedly, many of them thought they had discovered the great secret, to attain which so many lives, fortunes and reputations had been wasted.
And here a fascinating enigma arises: how was it possible for these men to so delude themselves and others as to leave behind the numberless circumstantial accounts by eye-witnesses that such seeming miracles did take place?
It seems impossible to credit that these early chemists had sufficient knowledge really to perform anything like the manufacture of even some substance that passed for gold, yet, on the other hand, it is difficult, even allowing for the mass of falsehoods, legends, inaccuracies and cunning confusions that obscure the subject, utterly to discredit the often repeated testimony of those who have left evidence behind that they did see the transmutation and handle the resultant gold. One of the most remarkable of these testimonies is that left by a man of undoubted veracity and enlightenment, F. F. Helvetius; this was published at the Hague in the year 1667. J. B. Helmond in De Vita Sterna, declares that he made gold and handled the Philosopher's Stone.
When we come to the problem of the "sittings," which occupied so much of John Dee's time for nearly seven years, we are on even more debatable ground. There seems, indeed, hardly any advance from Elizabeth's day to our own in what is now termed Spiritualism. John Dee's reverent and careful account of the conversation of the angels through the medium, might have been written to-day at any seance, save that the language is more beautiful and the thought more noble than that usually employed or expressed by modern seekers after psychic knowledge. The vistas opened are the same, the mysteries hinted at or half-revealed, the same, the symbolism has the same turn and the solution is left, then and now, equally in the balance.
Be it noted, however, that Dr. Dee and his medium never endeavoured to raise the spirits of the dead. Though they are so often falsely described as necromancers they never indulged in what, to Dee at least, would have been the horrible blasphemy of meddling with departed souls. The bold scenes in Macbeth, presumed to have been written just before the death of John Dee, show us the kind of creature who was believed to deal in such horrors. These were the sort of rites that John Dee most abhorred, from which he endeavoured so eagerly and piteously to disassociate himself. He conversed, be it emphasised, only with the pure Angel of God, who had power over all devils and imps of Hell.
This fact makes the "sittings" recorded in the Liber Mysteriorum more mystical and dignified than are many of present-day seances, when Auntie Mary and Uncle Tom will return to utter banalities through the medium of the illiterate lispings of some Indian child or Eastern sage who has to spell out the longer words.
Dr. Dee had a higher ambition than the desire to speak to the spirits of the dead; he stretched out to God Himself, and his angels spoke, often tediously, often incoherently, but never in a babble of childish patter, their language was always beautiful and they often expressed themselves in passages of great power and splendour. This brings us to the crux of the whole problem: who was this medium through whom alone John Dee could converse with the angels? The accounts that we have of the man who named himself Edward Kelley are confused and full of error; he has become even more a legend than has his master. It is almost impossible to discover the real man under the mass of error, prejudice and tradition that have grown up around his name. But the final verdict would seem to be that he was an arch impostor, a heartless charlatan who cozened a trusting old man, a rogue with a criminal record, wanted by the law, whose miserable end was a just punishment for his rascally career.
Edward Kelley must have been, however, more than a common rogue, just as John Dee was more than a common dupe. Though his learning fell far short of that of his master, it was, for his age, considerable. He must have been, somewhere, well educated to have been able, as he was able, to cope at the age of twenty-six with the most erudite man in England. His draughtsmanship as shown in the most complicated designs and diagrams is as remarkable as the beautiful penmanship of Dr. Dee. Edward Kelley was able to hold his own in any company and possessed, to an extraordinary degree, that fascination known as a magnetic personality. And this, despite his frequent rages and furies and his lapses into vulgar debaucheries, his laziness, selfishness and rudeness.
If one assumes that the angelic conversations were his sole deliberate inventions, they show him to have been a person of considerable literary ability, some poetic vision, a profound insight into character, and one possessed of at least the knowledge of much grandeur of thought, high moral precepts and desirable virtues. It is very noteworthy that the medium constantly repined at the spirits and their sayings, was often in fierce rebellion against them, while they, in their turn, frequently rebuked him for his evil life, lack of faith, and general irreverence.
If this was play-acting on Kelley's part, it was very cunningly done and the double part of heavenly denouncer and earthly backslider must have been difficult to sustain. It seems reasonable to believe that Kelley, probably a Kelt of peculiar upbringing and partially crazed by the half discoveries of his own day, then so bewilderingly blending with the half-delusions of the past, was possessed of some clairvoyant powers; he may have been often self-hypnotised, self-deluded, entirely confused, and the rages that passed as diabolic possessions may have been the conflict of a divided personality. It must be confessed, however, that save for dubious previsions of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the execution of Mary Stuart and a statement about the wrecking of Dr. Dee's house in Mortlake made before the news came to hand, Kelley's revelations contain nothing extraordinary and are, too often, a farrago of nonsense.
By what trick he persuaded so many people that he had actually made gold can never now be known. It cannot have been easy to deceive Rudolph II., himself an adept who had already been severely taken in by false alchemists, or John Dee himself, or men like Dr. Curtius. The facility with which a belief in the discovery of the great secret was accepted, is shown by the letters of the great Lord Burleigh piteously entreating Kelley to return to England and put his knowledge at the service of the Queen, or to send enough money to pay "for the Navy next winter," or "one coin" as an earnest. Arthur Dee, the Westminster schoolboy who learnt his lessons from William Camden and became a doctor at the Court of Russia and a friend of Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich, firmly believed in the truth of Kelley's assertions. He often declared that while in Central Europe he again and again had seen gold made.
Af ter his parting with John Dee at Trebona, Edward Kelley returns to the mystery from which he came.
This novel, I Dwelt in High Places, makes no attempt to solve that mystery or to impose the deliberate inventions of fiction on to known truths. No imaginary character is used, and for that reason I have felt obliged to keep to what facts we possess about these people and to interpret them by what insight and understanding I may command. It is rather the reconstruction of a dead dream, perhaps a dead nightmare, than the chronicling of sober fact that I have felt myself engaged on, for John Dee's visions were very real to him and there was much that was, surely, other worldly about Edward Kelley. It may be added that there is less of legend or fable in this novel than in many accounts of these two men that profess to be history. I have tried to see through the eyes of the three characters concerned—Dee, Kelley and Jane Dee, without adding any incidents invented by myself, or putting forward any personal opinions or speculations.
This note is for the possible reader interested in the groundwork of novels founded on fact, it may be easily ignored by those who like their fiction to be fiction.
In the hope that this same possible reader may be desirous of extending his acquaintance with the subject of Queen Elizabeth's astrologer, the following notes are added:
The first "life" of John Dee was that by Dr. Meric Causabon. It is a notice attached to the first edition of the Liber Mysteriorum, 1658.
Though Causabon was very fair to Dee, the psychic conversations were to him "a work of darkness."
The next account of John Dee is in the Latin Vitae Eruditissimorum et Illustrium Virorum, by Thomas Smith, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1707.
There follow many articles in various books, dictionaries and magazines of which the more important are the "lives" in the Biographica Britannica and the National Dictionary of Biography, both of which are extremely unfavourable to John Dee.
A careful, sympathetic and most useful life of the astrologer appeared in 1909—John Dee, by Charlotte Dell Smith.
The accounts of Dee given in books on necromancy, alchemy, etc., are mostly inaccurate and highly fanciful. A. E. Waite, for instance, in his Lives of the Alchemistical Philosophers, even, among other errors, gives the name of the Emperor who received Dee in Prague as Maximilian. A well-known German book on the subject is Culturhistorische Bilder aus Böhmen, by H. Svatek.
All the above are based largely on Dee's own biographical writings. These consist of—The Diary (original MS. in Ashmolean College Bodleian Library, Oxford, transcribed by J. O. Halliwell Phillipps and published by the Camden Society, 1842). The Liber Mysteriorum (the first five books in the Sloane MSS. British Museum, the other twelve published by Meric Causabon, 1659). The Compendious Rehearsall (the MS. partly destroyed by fire), but transcribed and finally printed by the Chetham Society, 1857, under the title—Autobiographical Tracts of Dr. John Dee, Warden of the College of Manchester.
In this work, Dee gives a list of his other writings which then amounted to forty-nine. Considerably more are known to have existed, many were never printed. All are now rare.
In the Sloane MSS. British Museum, is The Book of Enoch and the Claves Angelicae, which contain the elaborate diagrams taken down during the "sittings" with Kelley. The famous Cristallo and several of the tablets and seals used by Dee and Kelley are now in the British Museum; they came from the collection of Sir Thomas Cotton.
A catalogue of Dee's famous library has been made by Dr. Montague James and printed for the Bibliographical Society, 1921.
The angelic conversations in I Dwelt in High Places are those actually recorded by Dee, the letters quoted are also genuine.
The astrologer's house at Mortlake stood till well on into the 19th century. He was buried in Mortlake Church; according to tradition his gravestone was at the upper end of the chancel, had a brass upon it, and was removed during the Protectorate.
Legend says that the children who had dreaded him as a wizard during his life always chose his tomb to play upon.
There was some doubt as to what actually was the mirror that John Dee prized so highly, that was shown to Queen Elizabeth, and finally passed to Rudolph II. From Dee's description it appears to have been similar to the mirror at present in the Dublin Museum, which the author saw a few years ago, and which is remarkable enough to have seemed very startling in the 16th century.
In conclusion, it may be noted that, despite the "Biblical" flavour of the angelic speech, the Authorised Version had not appeared at this period; Dee and Kelley, like "William Shakespeare," probably used the Geneva Bible, Covendale and Tyndale's translation from the Greek version, 1525.
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