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Truth and Baskets

Title: Truth and Baskets

Author Eglantine_br

Rating G

Word Count 1431

Truth and Baskets

“Skerries was his name?”

Christofer asked this again though she had told him already. Mistress Smith had recovered herself pretty completely now. Christofer had fetched a clean damp cloth at her direction, and her arnica salve. She sipped at the wine he had heated for her, and tried a smile. In the light of the hearth I could see that she was still pale, but she was fitting this day into her past already.

He was doing the same. It quieted him. There was no evidence here of the roaring boy of Hog lane, or the sharp tongued brittle poet. His hands were kind, and his brow contracted with worry. He eased himself down to sit at her feet, at the hearths edge.

“Aye, Skerries the other man called him.”

“The other man, can you describe him?”

“Hmm. He was plump, his hair brown, but balding, you know, on the sides. He was dressed like a tradesman, a leather jerkin, but clean. His speech was – just ordinary.”

Mistress Smith made a regretful moue at the description. “I am sorry, Doctor Marlowe. I suppose that could be anyone, but he said he knew you. He pushed past me-- I tried to stop him.”

Her smile had gone again and her hands clenched, and I could see, in the slant of the light, how her skin was thin with age.

“I do know him.” Christofer's voice was low and flat. “I will see that he never troubles you again. I am sorry I brought this  to your door.”

We sat a little longer, in silence. Eventually she stood, shook her heavy skirts out and doused the light. The fire on the hearth was burned down now to a tumble of grey and red. Kit and I went up the stairs in that light, as children do.

He was ahead of me when we came to the chamber door. He put up a hand to stay me, and went in first. His step had changed. I followed behind, through the door. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it could could have been worse. The untidy books and papers seemed the same. The small bed and the small hearth the same. I could not see anything missing.

Kit had a bag of papers he had brought from Norton Folgate. They were not something he had made much use of, as far as I could see. We all have our bits of writing spoiled at birth, half-monsters with just  a little brilliance. It would be odd if he did not have such waste papers. I had thought little of them.

He went to the bag now, pulled everything out of it. His mouth was tight. He shuffled through them. I was too far away to read, but I could see that they were dense with ink. I could see places where he had numbers written, places where things were crossed out. (He had done this sensibly, with a single thin line, so that the words, however halt, might be retrieved later upon need.) I could see places where the walk of prose had turned all at once to the gallop of poetry. There were even small drawings, here and there, in the margins. I saw a little sailboat, and a windmill, and something that might have been a dog.

I looked to my own papers. Nothing had been taken. I could not remember if I had left them more orderly than they were now. My books were unharmed. My money-- such as it was-- was still there.

Kit was shoving the papers back into his bag with careless speed. He tossed the bag back to the floor. He gave me a one sided smile. It was a smile that covered anger, and his shoulders were raised up tight.

“I will right this Kyd,” he said. “This is my fault.”

I dropped off quickly, and dreamed of being nine, and a sunny doorstep I had loved. But I could feel, through my dreams, that it took Christofer a long time to find sleep.

Tom Kyd was a considerate bed-mate. He kept to his own half, and he did not snore or kick. If he prayed before sleep he did so silently, and did not make a show of it. He smelled all right too, Kit thought. Kyd settled himself for the night with a minimum of fuss. The puppy got between them as usual, greedy for the heat, It had muddy paws by the end of the day, but no fleas as yet.

There had been no bad dreams since the last night at Scadbury. But tonight, Kit realized he was afraid to sleep. Better not to think of it. Thinking of them made them come. He knew what to do. He knew how to plod his tired mind through thickets of thought so dense and dull that sleep came as a relief. Better that than let his thoughts run as they pleased.

He was not the only one with nightmares. Francis Walsingham had said something once about that. It had been a small remark, half buried in a flood of other things. It was a subject touched obliquely only. No, don't think of that. Go the other way. Finally, running ciphers in his head, Kit dropped off.

Morning came soon. He opened his eyes to a sharp clear sunlight. He could hear the scratch of Kyd's pen. He could smell the ink. Kyd looked up and gave an absentminded smile, then put his head down and went right back to work. He was eating a piece of bread with his left hand. He was getting crumbs everywhere. Kit smiled in return. No need to speak and risk breaking in when the words were coming. Kit sat up, pulling the heat of the blankets close.

It was good to sit this way, with his chin on his knees, letting the day begin slowly. Good to be warm. So many years Kit had been pried out of bed before he was ready. So many mornings standing, shivering, kneeling, his belly clenched and empty. He had prayed, in unison with the other scholars. He had prayed to be made a good boy. But it had never happened. And he had imagined all those prayers, like gossamer, pure and fine as spider silk, borne on the wind, up and far. Far and far, and maybe never finding a place to rest. He had pictured the whole round earth wreathed in silken prayer, all alone among the stars. And he had wept alone. Nobody knew that. He would never tell. Many boys wept alone, after all. It was the nature of boys. Easy not to tell when nobody asked why. Easy enough to cause himself other reasons for his own misery.

Well here was a pretty start to the day. Enough. He pushed the covers back, and dressed quickly. The floor was cold.

“Bread and butter.” Tom Kyd said indistinctly. “And eggs.”


“Mistress Smith has been.”

Kyd nodded at the basket on the table, gesturing with his chin. It was a fairly pointed chin, and good for indicating with. And both his hands and his mouth were occupied with bread and butter and ink and paper. It was exciting to watch.

There on the table, as always was the basket. She crept in, in the blue of the early mornings, and left it for them. On fish days it had little fishes, or sometimes eels. Once she had made them ginger cake. Kit could not think why he did not wake when she came in the room. Her steps were not quiet. But for some reason he slept through her prodding the fire up in mornings, and her setting the basket down with two pewter plates. And he and Kyd woke each morning to the basket of food. She even included a bone for Pup sometimes.

Well, Kit thought, as long as she did not visit his bath again, he was well content.

He took the bench across from Kyd. The bread was good and the eggs were gold and white, and the sun shone on his back as he ate. It was good, all good.

“What do you think abou---”

The rap at the door was sharp, metallic, imperious. It would accept no delay.

Kyd put his bread down, and his pen, carefully.

“I'll get the door,” he said.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2013 09:10 am (UTC)
Wonderfully atmospheric you transport us to the period perfectly. I particularly like the line about writings killed at birth that are like monsters I think we all have a few partially headless hydras in our files
Jun. 14th, 2013 03:44 pm (UTC)
I certainly have some pieces of monster writing. It is straqe thinking about what their daily life must have been. I mean, it wasn't all knife fights and clever wit. It couldn't have been. They had to have spent quite a lot of time observing, thinking, and you know, actually writing.

We don't have much of Kyd's stuff left. But the Spanish Tragedy was a huge hit. I think he most likely did lots of other stuff before and after. But writing a description of someone writing is not all that riveting, so I mostly have to show their adventures and off-work moments.

I am so glad you feel as if you are there. (I feel that way too.)

Funny how you come to love the people you write about. Even the bad ones.

Jun. 14th, 2013 11:50 am (UTC)
Well, you can't leave it there, gal!

Jun. 14th, 2013 03:44 pm (UTC)
Well I know who is at the door...
Jun. 14th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
I think it's marvelous that you transport us right there to see and feel and think along with your characters. I love the part about the prayers being 'gossamer silk'.
Jun. 14th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
Marlowe's faith, or lack of it, is a real puzzle. He certainly said some things that were outrageous at the time, (And Outrageous even now.)

As for what he actually believed, we will never know. He was accused of being an atheist. I don't think the word had quite the same narrow meaning back then that it does now.

But I think he was lonely. There were so many things he could not tell anyone.
Jun. 15th, 2013 08:39 pm (UTC)
Honestly, your writing is beautiful. That image of the gossamer prayers wreathing the world is just stunning. Somehow it makes me think of the music of the spheres.

I like Kyd, he seems like a very solid, self contained individual, Kit is more fluid, he blurs at the edges.

We all have our bits of writing spoiled at birth, half-monsters with just a little brilliance.
I love this bit too. Funnily enough, I was thinking of having a plot bunny amnesty at following_sea. Perhaps we can find people to adopt our little monsters.
Jun. 15th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
Let the wild rumpus begin!

Have you ever seen a picture of an ovum? Sort of big and orange and serene with sperm spiraling off like ribbons? It looks like a planet-- that was another way I pictured the world and the prayers. Sort of all the possible hopes and futures. They spin too.

I think the music of the spheres is more polite though!

Yes, Kit is a blurry guy.

It hurt me to write of him praying to be made a good boy. But it fit in the socket with that snap you get sometimes, that tells you that piece is right. (Does that make sense?)
Dec. 18th, 2016 10:31 am (UTC)
The gossamer prayers would have seemed more ethereal if the other day I hadn't been reading about how you wished you could shoot parachutes out of your butt to avoid awkward social encounters. That is all that spider silk is going to make me think of from now on.
Dec. 18th, 2016 12:53 pm (UTC)
Hee. That sure would be useful!
Oct. 4th, 2016 01:13 pm (UTC)
Interesting that two of your writings in a row concern tormented (and beautiful) young men fighting off nightmares. Both successfully, this time. And yet the overall tone of both is quite cozy. I especially like the sunshiny breakfast at the end, and the fact that Kit subconsciously knows Mistress Smith's tread and that she is no threat.
Oct. 4th, 2016 04:54 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Some deep part of Kit has her filed under 'mom.'And she is very fond of Kit, and of Tom Kyd. She does not know that Kit is a spy of course, but she knows that the world is a dangerous place, and that young men need kindness and a safe place at the end of the day. She is happy to provide that.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )