/ Language: English / Genre:sf_history,sf_fantasy,


Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson




To Mildred


The story thus far…



Solomon’s Gold




The System of the World








But first whom shall we send

In search of this new world, whom shall we find

Sufficient? Who shall tempt with wandring feet

The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss

And through the palpable obscure find out

His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight

Upborn with indefatigable wings

Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive

The happy Ile…

MILTON, Paradise Lost

The story thus far…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book 6

Solomon’s Gold


15 JANUARY 1714

In life there is nothing more foolish than inventing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have answered the question by asking it.”

“I beg your pardon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But not today,” Newcomen said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Plainly not.”

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

“What is it saying?”

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

“Who wrote that?” Daniel asked.

“I did,” said Will Comstock.

Crockern Tor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Saracen’s Head


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

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

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

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

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

“I saw no reason not to.”

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

“And Party Malice?”

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

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

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

Southern England


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

clear income, deliverable to a Fop in London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To pounce,” Mr. Threader said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you know what they were doing?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mm-Dr. Waterhouse? What?”

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

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

“I had in mind more than a penny-”

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

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

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

“Name it.”

“Who is your banker?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I’ve no idea…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To me you seem thirsty-”

“For blood?”

“For royal blood.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was the architect,” Daniel said mildly.

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


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

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

“The niece of Sir Isaac Newton.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What-your offices, Mr. Threader?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Made a Deposit into a Vault?”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, no, no.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it just another Tory land bank?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How splendid.”

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

“Or for a political party,” Daniel said.

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

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

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

“Divulging what, Dr. Waterhouse?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You may add one more!”

“I beg your pardon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No answer came back.

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

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

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

“Yes, Mr. Threader.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do you suppose so, sir?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or you,” Daniel returned.

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

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

“Ten guineas.”

“On the identity of the intended victim?”

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

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

Crane Court


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

-JOHN BUNYAN, The Pilgrim’s Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He was here this morning?”

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

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

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

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

Hanover 21 January 1714

Dr. Waterhouse,

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

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

Your humble and obedient servant,

Eliza de la Zeur

Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Get those things,” he commanded.

“Yes, Most Clement Lord.”

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

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

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

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

“What do you need, to build it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, amp; c.,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West, a Wren production, duly turning black.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

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

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

“Thank you, Dr. Waterhouse.”

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

“How long have you served here, Henry?”

“Since you moved in, sir.”

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

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

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

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

“Cart-loads, then, was it?”

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

“Hauled away where, precisely?”

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

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

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

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

“Other locations, Dr. Waterhouse?”

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

“Why those places, sir?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Indeed, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“LET’S DO SOMETHING about Longitude!”

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

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

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

“You mean, Sophie or George Louis.”

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

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

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

“Touche, Roger.”

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

“Something horrible, I heard.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I beg your pardon.”

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

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

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

“And you call yourself a man of science!”

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

“Are you suggesting I become a Republican?”

“I’m suggesting you already are one.”

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

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

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

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

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

“They say she is extraordinarily clever.”

“Yours, or mine?”

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

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

At Barton’s feet the God of Love

His Arrows and his Quiver lays,

Forgets he has a Throne above,

And with this lovely Creature stays.

Not Venus’s Beauties are more bright,

But each appear so like the other,

The Cupid has mistook the Right,

And takes the Nymph to be his Mother.

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

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

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

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

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

“Viz. Longitude?”

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

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

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

“Such as-?”

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



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

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

“I’ll use him smartly, I will!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am in your debt.”

“Not at all. May I ask what it is?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flamsteed belongs too in that Pantheon.”

“Hooke thought Newton stole his ideas.”

“Yes. He made me aware of it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I meant what I said, Sir Christopher.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you?”

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

“The Method of Lunar Distances.”


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

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

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

“Pipe-organs, you mean?”

“Yes. For churches.”

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

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

“London must be infested with them!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is really splendid of you.”

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

“I beg your pardon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brother Norman closed his eyes prayerfully, and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very true, Brother Norman.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I see.”

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

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

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

“Splendid of you to offer, but-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And he is-”

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

“Thank you for that advice, Brother Norman.”

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

“What’s a Raskolnik?”

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

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

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

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

“The pleasure is entirely mine, Brother Daniel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“What a preposterous notion!”

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

“But you did not see gold.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain van Hoek,

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

–Daniel Waterhouse

Mr. White’s Baiting-Ring


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dogs’ tails were wagging.

The crowd stopped shouting, almost in unison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“It’d be Sergeant Bob, sir.”

“Bob Shaftoe?”

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

“Where is he now?”

“On a Mint detail, sir.”

“Mint detail?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In London? I-”

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

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

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

“Not available, for what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Waterhouse,

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

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

van Hoek

Orney’s Ship-yard, Rotherhithe

12 MARCH 1714

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

Monsieur Waterhouse,

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Two of the clock, Brother Daniel.”

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

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

“Sometimes they fall asleep.”

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

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

What must Kikin make of Daniel?

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

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

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

Orney and Kikin were gazing at him most intently.

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

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

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

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


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

“It shall be done, Brother Daniel!”

“You have a fire agent in the City?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A prosecutor.”

“Let us find a prosecutor, then!”

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

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

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

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

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

A Subterranean Vault in Clerkenwell


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…and flung him bodily into Fleet Ditch.”

Everyone swallowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hence…Clerkenwell,” Mr. Kikin said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To do it in London would be difficult-”

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

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

“You should make inquiries among the Vault men!”

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

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

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

Below that the letters got small; but Mr. Kikin bent over and read the subtitle aloud: “Being a FULL and TRUE accompt of ye most surprizing, execrable and Horrid CRIMES committed by the Enemies, and just, swift and severe PUNISHMENTS meted out by the Defenders, of the Peace of that County from Friday January 1, to Saturday February 27, Anno Domini 1713/14…”

Mr. Kikin shared an amused look over the candle with Henry Arlanc. It was possible to buy these pamphlets everywhere, which implied that some people-a lot of people, actually-were buying them. But no man who was literate enough to read them would admit to it. This sort of literature was supposed to be ignored. For Mr. Arlanc to notice it was uncouth, and for Mr. Kikin to derive amusement from it was rude. Foreigners and their ways!

“Forgive me, Monsieur Arlanc, but I have not had the…er…pleasure of reading that document,” said Mr. Threader. “What does it say?”

“It relates the case of a Mr. Marsh, who was driving his wagon down Lambeth Road one night in December, when he met three young gentlemen who had just emerged from a house of ill repute in St. George’s Fields. As they passed each other in the lane, these three young men became so incensed by the odour emanating from Mr. Marsh’s wagon that they drew out their swords and plunged them into the body of Mr. Marsh’s horse, which died instantly, collapsing in its traces. Mr. Marsh set up a hue and cry, which drew the attention of the occupants of a nearby tavern, who rushed out and seized the perpetrators.”

“Courageous, that, for a Mobb of Drunks.”

“The roads down there are infested with highwaymen,” Mr. Threader said keenly. “They probably reckoned ’twas safer to go out and face them as a company, be it ne’er so ragged, than be picked off one by one as they straggled home.”

“Imagine their surprise when they found they’d apprehended not highwaymen, but gentlemen!” Mr. Kikin remarked, very amused.

“They had apprehended both,” said Henry Arlanc.


“Many highwaymen are gentlemen,” said Mr. Threader learnedly. “As ’tis beneath the dignity of a Person of Quality to work for a living, why, when he’s gambled and whored away all his money, he must resort to a life of armed robbery. To do otherwise were dishonorable.”

“How come you to know so much of it? I daresay you are a regular subscriber of these pamphlets, sir!” said the delighted Mr. Orney.

“I am on the road several months out of the year, sir, and know more of highwaymen than do you of the very latest advances in Caulking.”

“What came of it, Monsieur Arlanc?” Daniel inquired.

“On the persons of these three, valuables were found that had been stolen, earlier in the evening, from a coach bound for Dover. The occupants of that coach prosecuted them. As all three were of course literate, they got benefit of clergy. Mr. Marsh does not appear again in the Narration, save as a witness.”

“So all that we know of Mr. Marsh is that in the middle of the night he was transporting something down Lambeth Road so foul-smelling that three highwaymen risked the gallows to revenge themselves on his horse!” said Mr. Orney.

“I know a bit more than that, sir,” Arlanc said. “I’ve made inquiries along the banks of the Fleet, after dark. Mr. Marsh was indeed a London Vault-man. ’Tis considered most strange, by his brethren, that he crossed the River with a full load in the middle of the night.”

“You say he was a Vault-man,” Daniel remarked. “What is he now? Dead?”

“Out of business, owing to the loss of his horse. Moved back to Plymouth to live with his sister.”

“Perhaps we should send one of our number to Plymouth to interview him,” suggested Daniel, half in jest.

“Inconceivable! The state of the Clubb’s finances is desperate!” Mr. Threader proclaimed.

Silence then, save for the sound of tongues being bitten. A face or two turned towards Daniel. He had known Mr. Threader longer than the others; so a decent respect for precedence dictated that he be given the first chance to bite Mr. Threader’s head off.

“We have just doubled the size of our accompt, sir. How can you make such a claim?”

“Not quite doubled, sir, your Piece of Eight came up a ha’p’ny light of a pound.”

“And my guinea is several pence heavy, as all the world knows,” said Mr. Orney, “so you may supply Brother Daniel’s deficit from my surplus, and keep the change while you are at it.”

“Your generosity sets an example to us unredeemed Anglican sinners,” said Mr. Threader with a weak smile. “But it does not materially change the Clubb’s finances. Yes, we have twice the assets today as we had yesterday; but we must consider liabilities as well.”

“I did not know we had any,” said the perpetually amused Mr. Kikin, “unless you have been taking our dues to Change Alley, and investing them in some eldritch Derivatives.”

“I look to the future, Mr. Kikin. One gets what one pays for! That is the infallible rule in fish-markets, whorehouses, and Parliament. And it applies with as much force in the world of the thief-taker.”

Mr. Threader reveled in the silence that followed. Finally Mr. Orney, who could not stand to see anyone-especially Mr. Threader-enjoy anything, said, “If you mean to hire a thief-taker, sir, with our money, you would do well to propose it first, that we may dispute it.”

“Even before disputing thief-takers, if someone would be so kind as to define the term for me?” said Mr. Kikin.

“Apprehending criminals is oft strenuous, and sometimes mortally dangerous,” said Mr. Threader. “So, instead of doing it oneself, one hires a thief-taker to go and do it for one.”

“To go out and…hunt down, and physically abduct, someone?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Threader mildly. “How else do you suppose justice can ever be served?”

“Police…constables…militia…or something!” sputtered Mr. Kikin. “But…in an orderly country…you can’t simply have people running around arresting each other!”

“Thank you, sirrah, for your advice upon how to run an orderly country!” Mr. Threader brayed. “Ah, yes, if only England could be more like Muscovy!”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen…” Daniel began. But Mr. Kikin’s fascination prevailed, and he let the argument drop, asking, “How does it work?”

“Generally one posts a reward, and leaves the rest to the natural workings of the market,” said Mr. Threader.

“How large a reward?”

“You have penetrated to the heart of the matter, sir,” said Mr. Threader. “Since the days of William and Mary, the reward for a common robber or burglar has been ten pounds.”

“By convention, or…”

“By royal proclamation, sir!”

Mr. Kikin’s face clouded over. “Hmm, so we are in competition with Her Majesty’s government, then…”

“It gets worse. Forty pounds for highway robbers, twenty to twenty-five for horse thieves, even more for murderers. The Clubb, I remind you, has ten pounds, plus or minus a few bits and farthings.”

“Stiff competition indeed,” said Mr. Orney, “and a sign, to those wise enough to heed it, that ’tis a waste of time to rely ’pon thief-takers.”

Before Mr. Threader could say what he thought of Mr. Orney’s brand of wisdom, Mr. Kikin said: “You should have told me before. If the Clubb’s dues are to be pissed away on inane things, I must be thrifty. But if it is a matter of posting a reward…to catch an enemy of the Tsar…we could have every thief-taker in London working for us by tomorrow evening!”

Mr. Threader looked perfectly satisfied.

“Do we really want that?” Daniel asked. “Thief-takers have a more vile reputation even than thieves.”

“That is of no account. We are not proposing to hire one as a nanny. The viler the better, I say!”

Daniel could see one or two flaws in that line of reasoning. But a glance at the faces of Mr. Orney and Monsieur Arlanc told him he was out-voted. They appeared to think it was splendid if Mr. Kikin wanted to spend the Tsar’s money in this way.

“If there is no further business here,” Daniel said, “I thought a tour of the watch-makers’ shops of Clerkenwell might be in order.”

“To find criminals, Dr. Waterhouse, let us search among criminals, not horologists; and let us not do it ourselves, but have thief-takers-paid for by the Tsar of Muscovy!-do it for us,” said Mr. Threader; and for once, he seemed to speak for the whole Clubb, except for Daniel. “The meeting is adjourned.”

AS A WAVE PASSES THROUGH a rug that is being shaken, driving before it a front of grit, fleas, apple seeds, tobacco-ashes, pubic hairs, scab-heads, amp;c., so the expansion of London across the defenseless green countryside pushed before it all who had been jarred loose by Change, or who simply hadn’t been firmly tied down to begin with. A farmer living out in the green pastures north of the city might notice the buildings creeping his way, year by year, but not know that his pasture was soon to become part of London until drunks, footpads, whores, and molly-boys began to congregate under his windows.

As a boy Daniel had been able to open an upper-storey window in back of Drake’s house on Holborn, and gaze across one mile of downs and swales to an irregular patch of turf called Clerkenwell Green: a bit of common ground separating St. James’s and St. John’s. Each of these was an ancient religious order, therefore, a jumbled compound of graveyards, houses, ancient Popish cloisters, and out-buildings. Like all other Roman churches in the realm, these had become Anglican, and perhaps been sacked a little bit, during Henry VIII’s time. And when Cromwell had come along to replace Anglicanism with a more radical creed, they had been sacked more thoroughly. Now what remained of them had been engulfed by London.

Yet it was better to be engulfed than to be on the edge, for the city had a kind of order that the frontier wanted. Whatever crimes, disruptions, and atrocities had occurred around Clerkenwell Green while it was being ringed with new buildings, had now migrated slightly northwards, to be replaced by outrages of a more settled and organized nature.

Half a mile northwest of Clerkenwell Green was a place where the fledgling Fleet ran, for a short distance, parallel to the road to Hampstead. Between road and river the ground was low, and shiny with shifting sheets of water. But on the opposite bank, nearer to Clerkenwell, the ground was firm enough that shrubs and vegetables could be planted in it without drowning, and buildings set on it without sinking into the muck. A hamlet had gradually formed there, called Black Mary’s Hole.

A bloke wanting to leave the urban confines of Clerkenwell Green and venture out across the fields toward Black Mary’s Hole would have to contend with a few obstacles. For directly in his path stood the ancient compound of St. James’s, and on the far side of that was a new-built prison, and just beyond that, a bridewell run by Quakers. And the sort of bloke who passed the time of day going up to Black Mary’s Hole would instinctively avoid such establishments. So he would begin his journey by dodging westwards and exiting Clerkenwell Green through a sort of sphincter that led into Turnmill Street. To the left, or London-wards, Turnmill led into the livestock markets of Smithfield, and was lined with shambles, tallow-chandleries, and knackers’ yards: hardly a tempting place for a stroll. To the right, or leading out to open country, it forked into two ways: on the right, Rag Street, and on the left, Hockley-in-the-Hole, which presumably got its name from the fact that it had come into being along a bend of the Fleet, which there had been bridged in so many places that it was vanishing from human ken.

Hockley-in-the-Hole was a sort of recreational annex to the meat markets. If animals were done to death for profit in the butcher-stalls of Smithfield, they were baited, fought, and torn asunder for pleasure in the cock-pits and bear-rings of Hockley-in-


Rag Street was not a great deal more pleasant, but it did get one directly out of the city. A hundred paces along, the buildings fell away, and were replaced by gardens, on the right. On the left the buildings went on for a bit, but they were not so unsavoury: several bakeries, and then a bath where the Quality came to take the waters. In a few hundred paces the buildings ceased on that side as well. From that point it was possible to see across a quarter-mile of open ground to Black Mary’s Hole. This was, in other words, the first place where a Londoner, crazed by crowding and choked from coal-smoke, could break out into the open. The impulse was common enough. And so the entire stretch of territory from the Islington Road on the east to Tottenham Court Road on the west had become a sort of deranged park, with Black Mary’s Hole in the center of it. It was where people resorted to have every form of sexual congress not sanctioned by the Book of Common Prayer, and where footpads went to prey upon them, and thief-takers to spy on the doings of the footpads and set one against another for the reward money.

Baths and tea-gardens provided another reason to go there-or, barring that, a convenient pretext for gentlefolk whose real motives had nothing to do with bathing or tea. And-complicating matters terribly-any number of people went there for childishly simple and innocent purposes. Picknickers were as likely to come here as murderers. On his first visit to this district, Daniel had heard someone creeping along behind him, and been certain it was a footpad, raising his cudgel to dash Daniel’s brain’s out; turning around, he had discovered a Fellow of the Royal Society brandishing a long-handled butterfly net.

Just at this place where London stopped, on the road to Black Mary’s Hole, was a bit of land accurately described, by members of Daniel’s Clubb, as a swine-yard with a mound of rubble in it. As a boy looking out the window of Drake’s house, Daniel had probably flicked his gaze over it a hundred times and made naught of it. But recently he had got a bundle of letters from Massachusetts. One of them had been from Enoch Root, who’d got wind of Daniel’s plan to build a sort of annex to the Institute of Technologickal Arts somewhere around London.

For a long time I have phant’sied that one day I should find the landlord of the ruined Temple in Clerkenwell, and make something of that property.

Daniel had rolled his eyes upon reading these words. If Enoch Root was a real estate developer, then Daniel was a Turkish harem-girl! It was typical Enochian meddling: he knew there was a Templar crypt under this swine-lot that was about to be gobbled by London, and didn’t want it to be filled in, or used as a keg-room for a gin-house, and he hoped Daniel or someone would do something about it. Daniel bridled at this trans-Atlantic nagging. But Root had a knack for finding, or creating, alignments between his interests and those of the people whose lives he meddled with. Daniel needed a place to build things. Clerkenwell, though it was obviously unstable, muddy, smelling of the knacker, and loud with the screams and roars of fighting beasts, Regarded as Unsafe by Persons of Quality, was a suitable place for Daniel. He could get to Town or Country-or escape from either-with but a few steps, and none of the neighbors were apt to complain of queer doings, or pay any note to nocturnal visitors.

The parcel was an irregular pentagon about a hundred paces wide. Within it, the sunken ruin was situated off-center, away from the road to Black Mary’s Hole, near a vertex that pointed back towards Clerkenwell. The gardens of a neighboring Spaw came up close to it on one side, making the parcel seem larger than it was. It was one of countless crumbs of territory that had been worried off the edges of the Church’s stupendous holdings in Tudor days. Tracing the changes in its ownership since then had been a good job for an unemployed boffin who knew a lot of Latin-Daniel had made two trips to Oxford to research it. He had discovered that ownership of the land had passed into the hands of a Cavalier family that had gone to France during Cromwell days and, owing to an ensuing pattern of marriages, bastardy, suspicious deaths, and opportunistic religious conversions, essentially become French people and were unlikely ever to come back. Twenty-five years of almost continual war between Britain and France had left them profoundly ignorant of suburban London real estate trends. Daniel had passed all of this on to Roger at the Kit-Cat Clubb. Letters had been despatched to France, and a few weeks later Roger had informed him that he could build anything he wanted there, provided it might later be resold at a profit. Daniel had found a mediocre architect and told him to design houses with shops in the ground floor, wrapping around three sides of the property, embracing a court with the ruin in the middle of it.

As he emerged from the half-collapsed anteroom of the crypt-the last member of the Clubb to depart-white blindness came over him because of the brilliance of the cloudy sky. He shaded his eyes and looked down at the luminous grass. A small round wrinkled thing was next to his shoe, looking like a f?ry’s coin-purse. He kicked it over and realized it was a knotted sheep-gut condom.

His eyes had adjusted sufficiently now that he could look at the nearby hog-wallow without suffering too much. It was all dried up, as the tenant had been encouraged to take his swine elsewhere. Finally he could remove his hand from his brow and trace the lines of surveyors’ stakes marking the foundations of the new buildings. When walls began to rise up upon those foundations, they’d screen this yard from the road, and then the only people who’d be able to see into it would be a few of those Spaw-goers, and perhaps-if they had sharp eyes, or owned perspective glasses-inmates of the new prison on Clerkenwell Close, a quarter-mile distant. But for what it was worth, they’d be the better class of prisoners who could afford to pay the gaolers for upper-storey rooms.

ACCUSTOMED TO THE TEMPO of Trinity College and of the Royal Society, he’d thought that the Clubb’s meeting would go much longer. But Threader, Orney, and Kikin had nothing in common but decisiveness, and a will to get on with it. His watch told him he was very early for his appointment with Sir Isaac Newton. This would have been a blessing to most, for who’d want to be the insolent wretch who kept Sir Isaac waiting? To Daniel, who was looking forward to the meeting about as much as another bladder operation, it was a damned nuisance. He desired some pointless distraction; and so he decided to go call on the Marquis of Ravenscar.

There was no way to get from here to Roger’s house that was not dangerous, offensive, or both. Daniel opted for offensive, i.e., he attempted to walk through the middle of Hockley-in-the-Hole. It lay within earshot, just on the other side of some buildings. What made it offensive was the sort of people gathered there on this Saturday morning: Cockneys come up to watch fights between beasts, and to participate in others. But they also made it safe, after a fashion. Pick-pockets were all over the place, but footpads-whose modus operandi was to beat victims senseless-couldn’t work in a crowd.

At the place where Saffron Hill Road disgorged its push of Londoners into the Hole, two men, stripped to the waist, were circling around each other with their fists up. One of them already had a red knuckle-print on his cheek, and a huge smear of dirt on one shoulder where he’d tumbled into the street. They were bulky coves, probably meat-cutters from Smithfield, and at least a hundred men had already formed a ring around them, and begun to lay wagers. All foot-traffic had to squeeze through a strait no more than a fathom wide between this storm of elbows and the building-fronts along the north side of the Hole: a line-up of taverns and of smudgy enterprises that looked as if they didn’t want to be noticed.

A man was lying full-length on the ground at the foot of one building, dead or asleep, creating further eddies and surges in the crowd as people dodged around him. He looked like an apparition, a prophecy of what would become of Daniel if he were to lose his footing there. So Daniel made no pretense of dignity. He sidestepped as far as he could to the right, so that he was almost cowering against the sheer brown-brick face of a building, and shifted his walking-stick to his right hand so it wouldn’t get kicked out from under him, and put his hand through the wrist-loop in case it did. He let the traffic carry him into the flume.

He had got about halfway through, and begun to sense daylight ahead, when he sensed unease propagating like a wave through the crowd ahead of him, and looked up to see a great brute of a horse, in black leather tack with silver ornament, drawing a small carriage. Its design was outlandish: all stretched out and bent around, recalling the shape of a pouncing cheetah. In the moment before he realized that he was in trouble, his mind identified it as one of the new rigs called phaethons. It was going to squeeze through this bottleneck. Or rather, it would trot through without breaking stride, and let the pedestrians do all the squeezing.

The crowd couldn’t believe it-’twas an impossibility! Yet the vehicle, twenty feet long and eight high, drawn by a ton of prancing, iron-shod flesh, was not slowing down. The ends of the carriage-poles protruded like jousting-lances. One of those could go through your head like a pike through a pumpkin, and if you dodged that, you might still have your foot crushed under a wheel and face the always-tricky dilemma of amputation vs. gangrene. A hundred men did the rational thing. The sum of those rational choices was called panic. Daniel’s contribution to the panic was as follows: perhaps eight feet ahead of him he saw a recessed shop-doorway, and made up his mind that while everyone else was gaping at the phaethon, he could squirt forward between the crowd on his left, and the shop-window on his right, and dodge into it. He ducked under the shoulder of a bigger man and scurried forward.

Halfway there, his left peripheral vision went dark as a large number of onrushing bodies blotted out the white sky.

Daniel saw very clearly that he was going to die now, in the following manner: smashed against the front of this shop by tons of meat and bone. The shop-window would not give way; it was made of small square panes in a grid of wooden mullions as thick as his wrist. Eventually it might buckle under the pressure of the crowd, but all of his ribs would give way sooner. He tried to lunge forward another step, but it only got worse; and his foot came down too soon, on unsteady ground. He had stepped on the torso of the unconscious man he’d noticed moments earlier. He lost his balance, but gained six inches’ altitude, and this triggered some sort of climbing instinct. If the mullions of the window were stout enough to crush his ribcage, then they could at least support his weight while they were doing it. He flung both arms in the air like a Baptist in ecstasy, clutched at a horizontal bar, and pulled himself up while pushing with both feet against that sleeping or dead man, all at the same moment as he was being picked up by the mob, like a reed that has fallen into the surf, and slammed against the building. His feet were no longer touching anything. The force of gravity was countered by several different blokes’ knees, shoulders, hips, and heads, which had all struck him over the course of a brief, bony barrage. If they’d driven him under he’d be a sorry case, but they’d pushed him up. One of his cheeks had slammed up against a windowpane so hard that the glass had popped half out of its frame and was making ominous ticking noises very close to his eyeball.

He no longer needed to support his own weight, so he allowed his left hand to release its grip on the mullion above, brought it down right past his nose, insinuated his fingers between jawbone and window, and crooked his fingers over the edge of the frame, taking advantage of the loose pane by getting a bit of a handhold on its mullion, so that when the crowd collapsed he would not simply fall backwards and crack his head on the ground.

The air inside the shop felt cooler on his fingertips and smelt of pipe-smoke. He had no choice but to stare through the glass for about five seconds. In the architect’s mind’s eye, this had probably been a lovely shop-window where ladies would coo over pretty displays. And maybe it would be that some day, if Hockley-in-the-Hole ever became fashionable. But for now a board had been put up inside of it, a bit more than arm’s length inside the glass. Daniel couldn’t tell whether it was a backdrop for display, or a barrier against intruders. It had been covered with green fabric a long time ago, and the fabric had been bleached by the sun, as this was a south-facing window. It had gone nearly white everywhere except where the sun’s light had been blocked by wares, hung on that board for display. No wares remained on it now. But their caught shadows were clearly visible. Daniel’s first thought was pendulums, because the shapes were circular, depending from slim cords. But no one bought pendulums save Natural Philosophers and mesmerists. It had to have been watches, hanging on chains.

The phaethon clattered past and the crowd relaxed, presenting a whole new universe of hazards to Daniel. A lot of chaps who had been leaning against other chaps who had, in the end, been leaning against Daniel, now decided to right themselves by pushing off hard. So waves of pressure thrust Daniel against the grid, again and again, so hard that he felt it popping underneath him. One of the brass buttons on his coat shattered a pane, spraying the watch-shadows with skewed triangles of glass. Then his support went out from under him and he fell, braking himself-as planned-with the one hand he’d crooked over the windowframe. His hip swung into the store-front and cracked another pane.

Now that the loosened pane was no longer being forced inwards by his cheek, it had sprung back and trapped his knuckles under its sharp edge. He was caught on tiptoe, like a prisoner strung up in a dungeon. But his right hand was free, the walking-stick still dangling by its wrist-thong, so with some ridiculous tossing and squirming motions he got a grip on its middle, raised its knotty head, and bashed out the loose pane to get himself free. The man who’d been lying on the ground rolled over onto his back, sat up convulsively, and blew a cloud of blood from his nostrils. Daniel hurried on; and just as he walked past the front door of the building he felt it opening. Three paces farther along he heard an “Oy, you!” but Hockley-in-the-Hole had become more riotous than ever and he could plausibly ignore this. He simply could not begin a conversation with the sort of person who would lurk in the back of such a building.

He walked faster, following the leftward curve of Hockley-in-the-Hole. A miasma of watery smells, issuing from gutters and crevices in the pavement, told him he’d crossed over the entombed Fleet. He dodged right into Windmill Hill, though it was a long time since there’d been a discernible hill, or a windmill, there. He then forced himself to walk straight west, without looking back, for a hundred paces. That brought him clear of Hockley, and into the center of the largest open place in this part of town, where Leather Lane, Liquor-pond Street, and several other ways came together in a crazed, nameless interchange half the size of Charing Cross. There, finally, he turned around.

“Your watch, sir,” said a bloke, “or so I surmise.”

All the air drained out of Daniel’s lungs. For ten minutes he had felt clever and spry. Now he looked down at himself and saw wreckage. To inventory all that had gone wrong with his clothes and his toilette would take more time than he could spare; but his watch was unquestionably missing. He took a step toward the bloke, then a smaller step. But the other fellow seemed to’ve made up his mind that he’d not pursue Daniel any farther today. He stood and waited, and the longer he waited, the more he seemed to glower. He was a great big cove, built to chop wood all day long. He had the most profound whiskerage Daniel had seen in many a year, and looked as if he could grow a jet-black beaver-pelt out of his face in about a week’s time. He might have shaved forty-eight hours ago. But he’d had little incentive to do it any more frequently than that, since his cheeks and chin had suffered badly from smallpox, leaving scars atop other scars. In sum, the man’s head looked like a Dutch oven forged over a dying fire with a ball-peen hammer. His hair hung round his face in a way that reminded Daniel of the young Robert Hooke; but where Hooke had been sickly and bent, this man was made like a meat-wagon. Yet he was holding Daniel’s watch in the most curious delicate way, the time-piece resting on a half-acre of pink palm, the chain drawn back and draped over the black-creviced fingers of the other hand. He was displaying it.

Daniel took another step forward. He had the ridiculous phant’sy that the man would dart away if Daniel reached out: a reflex Daniel had learned in childhood games of keep-away, and never quite got rid of.

Something did not make sense. He looked up into the man’s gray eyes and noticed crows’ feet. He was older than he looked, probably in his forties. The beginnings of an explanation there.

“You have judged me aright,” the man said, in an encouraging tone. “I am a horologist gone bad.”

“You deal in stolen time-”

“Don’t we all, sir? Each striking his own bargain, as ’twere.”

“I was going to say, ‘time-pieces,’ but you interrupted me.”

“ ’Tis a common error of those who buy time dear, and sell it cheap, Dr. Waterhouse.”

“You know my name? What is yours?”

“My surname is Hoxton. My father christened me Peter. Hereabouts, I am called Saturn.”

“The Roman god of time.”

“And of surly dispositions, Doctor.”

“I have inspected your shop, Mr. Hoxton, quite a bit more closely than I should have liked.”

“Yes, I was just inside the window, smoking my pipe, and observing you in return.”

“You have told me in your own words that you have gone bad. You operate under an alias that is a byword for foul temper. I think I know the nature of your business. Yet you ask me to believe that you are returning me my watch, without any…complications…and you expect me to approach within your reach…” Daniel here trailed off, keeping an eye on the watch, trying not to seem as interested in getting it back as he really was.

“You’re one of those coves f’r whom everything has to make sense? Then you and I are fellow-sufferers.”

“You say that because you are a horologist?”

“Mechanic since I was a lad, clock-maker since I came to my senses,” said Saturn. “The piece of information you are wanting, Doctor, is this: this here is an old Hooke balance-spring watch, this is. When the Master made it, why, it might’ve been the best time-piece ever fashioned by human hands. But now there’s a score of proper horologists round Clerkenwell who can make ones that’ll keep better time. Technology ages, dunnit?”

Daniel pursed his lips to keep from laughing at the spectacle of this new, five-guinea word, Technology, emerging from that head.

“It ages faster’n we do. It can be difficult for a bloke to keep up.”

“Is that your story, Saturn? You could not keep up, and so you went bad?”

“I grew weary of keeping up, Doctor. That is my story, if you must know. I grew weary of transitory knowledge, and decided to seek knowledge of a more ?ternal nature.”

“Do you claim to have found it?”


“Good. I was afraid this was going to turn into a homily.”

Daniel now felt safe in advancing two more steps. Then a question occurred to him, and he stopped. “How did you know my name?”

“It’s inscribed on the back of the watch.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Very clever,” said Saturn. Daniel could not tell which of them was the target of the sarcasm. Saturn continued, “Very well, sir. A certain flash cull of my acquaintance, a file-cly with a specialization in tatlers, who had run afoul of a Harmon in Fleet Street, and been condemned to shove the tumbler from Newgate to Leadenhall, came by my ken of an afternoon, desiring employment of a sedentary nature while his stripes healed. And after taking sensible precautions, which is to say, making sure that he was not running a type of service-lay to slum my ken, I said to this buz, my business here has fallen on hard times because I cannot run it without transitory knowledge. And yet my brain has had its fill of the same, and all I wish to do is to sit in my shop reading books, to acquire knowledge ?ternal, which benefits me in ways intangible, but in no way helps me to receive and sell stolen property of a horologickal nature, which is the raison d’etre of the shop. Therefore, go ye out into the Rumbo, the Spinning-Ken, to Old Nass, go to the Boozing-kens of Hockley-in-the-Hole and the Cases at the low end of the Mount, go to the Goat in Long-lane, the Dogg in Fleet Street, and the Black-boy in Newtenhouse-

Lane, and drink-but not too much-and buy drinks-but never too many-for any flash culls you spy there, and acquire transitory knowledge, and return to my ken and relate to me what you have learnt. And back he comes, a week later, and informs me that a certain old Gager has lately been making the rounds, trying to recover some lost property. ‘What has he lost?’ I inquired. ‘Not a thing,’ came the answer, ‘he is after another cull’s lost property-some gager who was Phinneyed ten years since.’ ‘Go and learn that dead cove’s name,’ says I, ‘and the quick one’s, too.’ Come the answers: Robert Hooke, and Daniel Waterhouse, respectively. Why, he even pointed you out to me once, when you walked past my shop on your way to visit your swine-yard. That’s how I knew you.”

Peter Hoxton now extended his arms. His left hand held the chain of the Hooke-watch, swinging it like a pendulum, and his right offered a handshake. Daniel accepted the watch greedily, and the handshake with reluctance.

“I have a question for you, Doctor,” said Saturn, as he was shaking Daniel’s hand.


“I’ve made a study of you, and know you are a bit of a Natural Philosopher. Been meaning to invite you into my ken.”

“Did you-sir, did you cause my watch to be stolen!?” Daniel demanded, trying to draw back; but Saturn’s hand had engulfed his, like a python swallowing a gerbil.

“Did you-Doctor, did you fling yourself against my shop-window on purpose!?” Saturn answered, perfectly mocking Daniel’s tone.

Daniel was too indignant to speak, which the other took as permission to go on: “Now philosophy is the study of wisdom-truths ?ternal. Yet, long ago you went over the sea, didn’t you, to set up an Institute of Technologickal Arts. And here you are back in London, aren’t you, on some similar errand. Why, Doctor? You had the life I dream of: to sit on your arse and read of truths ?ternal. And yet I cannot make my way through a chapter of Plato without glancing up to see you sprawled against my shop-window like an enormous spate of bird-shite. Why turn away from the study of truths ?ternal, to traffick in transitory knowledge?”

Somewhat to his own surprise, Daniel had a ready answer, which came out of his mouth before he had had time to consider it. “Why does the minister tell mundane stories during his homily? Why not simply quote direct from sublime works of theology?”

“Anecdotes serve to illustrate the ideas he’s getting at,” Saturn surmised, “and anyway, if those ideas have no relation to mundane things, why, they’re probably rubbish.”

“Then if Newton and Leibniz are sublime theologians, sir, I am an humble vicar. Technology is a sort of religious practice to me, a way of getting at the ?ternal by way of the mundane. Does that answer your question, and may I have my hand back?”

“Yes,” said Saturn. “You have your watch, sir; you have your hand; and you have a parishioner.”

“But I do not want a parishioner,” said Daniel, turning on his heel and walking west into Liquor-pond Street.

“Then you ought to give up preaching, and those religious observances you just spoke of,” said Peter Hoxton, falling into step beside Daniel. “You are a Cambridge man?”

“I am.”

“And is not the ancient purpose of Cambridge to turn out clerics, and send them out into England to minister to the unwashed?”

“You know that perfectly well! But I’ll not minister to you or any other man, Peter Hoxton, for if ever I was a vicar, I am a fallen one now, and not fit to minister to a dog. I went astray early, and have strayed far. The only way I can think of to find my way closer to God is through the strange ministry I spoke of earlier, whereof Hooke and Spinoza were prophets. It is not a way I recommend to any man, for I am as ’stranged from the main line of religion as a stylite monk, sitting on a pillar in a waste.”

“I have strayed further and grown more ’stranged than you, Doc. I have been wandering in that same waste without any pillar to sit upon-therefore, you, perched on your post, are like a Pharos to me.”

“I say to you one more time-”

“There’s that word again! Time. Let me speak of time, Doc, and say to you this: if you continue to walk through Hockley-in-the-Hole unaccompanied, and to wander about the city as you’ve been doing, your time may be measured in days, or hours. You are not leery enough. This fact has been made note of by certain coves who make unleery gagers their prey. Every foot-scamperer and bridle-cull on the upper Fleet pricks up his ears when you trudge out to your swine-yard and disappear into your hole in the ground. Your time will be up very soon, and you will wind up as a scragg’d, naked corpse, floating down Fleet Ditch to Bridewell, if you do not make some large friends soon.”

“Are you nominating yourself my bodyguard, Saturn?”

“I am nominating myself your parishioner, Doc. As you lack a church, we shall have to worship peripatetically, ambling about the streets, as now, and making Hockley-in-the-Hole our Agora. As I am half as old, and twice as big, as you, why, many an idle cove, who does not wot the true nature of our relationship, may ignorantly assume that I am your bodyguard, and, on account of that foolish misapprehension, refrain from stabbing you or bludgeoning you to death.”

They had reached Gray’s Inn Lane. The lawyer-infested gardens and walks behind Gray’s Inn lay to either side of the road here, and beyond them were the settled confines of various Squares: Red Lyon, Waterhouse, Bloomsbury. Roger’s estate was on the far corner of Bloomsbury, where London gave way again to open countryside. Daniel did not want to lead Saturn directly to it. He stopped.

“I am dafter e’en than you guess, Saturn.”

“Why, impossible!”

“Have you heard of a pirate in America, called Edward Teach?”

“Blackbeard? Of course, sir, he is legendary.”

“I say that not so long ago, I heard Blackbeard standing on the poop of Queen Anne’s Revenge, calling for me by name.”

For the first time, Peter Hoxton was taken a-back.

“As you see, I am insane-best leave me alone,” Daniel said, and turned his back on Saturn yet again, looking for an opening in traffic on Gray’s Inn Lane.

“Concerning Mr. Teach, I shall make inquiries among the Black-guard,” said Peter Hoxton.

The next time Daniel dared to look over his shoulder, Saturn had vanished.



“A ROMAN TEMPLE, on the edge of the city. Modest. Nothing gaudy,” had been Roger’s instructions to him, some twenty-five years earlier.

“I suppose that rules out having it be a Temple of Jupiter or Apollo,” Daniel had returned.

Roger had looked out the window of the coffee-house, feigning deafness, which was what he always did when he guessed Daniel was making fun of him.

Daniel had sipped his coffee and considered it. “Among your modest and humble Roman Gods would be…let me think…Vesta. Whose temples, like your house, stood outside the old boundaries of the city.”

“Well enough. Splendid god, Vesta,” Roger had said, a bit distantly.

“Goddess, actually.”

“All right, who the hell was she!?”

“Goddess of the hearth, chaste above all others…”

“Oh, Jesus!”

“Worshipped around the clock-or the sundial, I should say-by the Vestal virgins…”

“Wouldn’t mind having a few of those around, provided they were not pedantic about the virginity.”

“Not at all. Vesta herself was almost seduced by Priapus, the ithyphallic God…”

Roger shivered. “I can’t wait to find out what that means. Perhaps we should make my house a Temple of Priapus.”

“Every shack you walk into becomes a Temple of Priapus. No need to spend money on an architect.”

“Who said I was going to pay you?”

“I did, Roger.”

“Oh, all right.”

“I will not make you a Temple of Priapus. I do not think that the Queen of England would ever come to call on you, Roger, if you lived in such a place.”

“Give me another humble, unassuming God then!” Roger had demanded, snapping his fingers. “Come on, I’m not paying you to drink coffee!”

“There’s always Vulcan.”


“Indeed, he was a bit gouty, like many a gentleman,” Daniel had said patiently, “but he got all the most beautiful goddesses-including Venus herself!”

“Haw! The rogue!”

“He was master of metals-though humble, and scorned, he fettered Titans and Gods with his ingenuity-”


“Gold and silver.”


“And of course he was God of Fire, and Lord of Volcanoes.”

“Volcanoes! An ancient symbol of fertility-sending their gouts of molten stone spurting high into the air,” Roger had said meditatively, prompting Daniel to shove his chair away several inches. “Right! That’s it, then-make me a Temple of Vulcan-tasteful and inexpensive, mind you-just off Bloomsbury there. And put a volcano in it!”

This-put a volcano in it-had been Roger’s first and last instructions to Daniel concerning interior decoration. Daniel had fobbed that part of it off on a silversmith-not a money one, but an old-school silversmith who still literally smote silver for a living. This had left Daniel free to design the Temple of Vulcan itself, which had presented no difficulties at all. A lot of Greeks had figured out how to make buildings of that general type two thousand years ago, and then Romans had worked out tricks for banging them out in a hurry, tricks that were now second nature to every tradesman in London.

Not really believing that Roger would ever actually build it, Daniel had sat down in front of a large clean sheet of paper and proceeded to pile element on element: and quite a few Plinths, Pilasters, Architraves, Urns, Archivolts, and Finials later, he had ended up with something that probably would have caused Julius C?sar to clap his hands over his laureled and anointed head in dismay, and order the designer crucified. But after a brief sell job from Daniel in the back room of a coffee-house (“Note the Lesbian leaf pattern at the tops of the columns… Ancient symbols of fertility are worked into the groins… I have taken the liberty of depicting this Amazon with two breasts, rather than the historically attested one”), Roger was convinced that it looked exactly like a Temple of Vulcan ought to. And when he actually went and built the thing-telling everyone it was an exact reproduction of a real one on Mount Vesuvius-nine out of ten Londoners were content to believe it. Daniel’s only consolation was that because of the bald lie about Vesuvius, hardly anyone knew he-or indeed any living person-had been responsible for it. Only the Gods knew. As long as he avoided parts of the world with a lot of volcanoes, he would go unscathed.

During his most melancholy times, he was kept awake at night by the phant’sy that, of everything he’d ever done, this house would last the longest, and be seen by the most people. But with the one exception of being cut for the stone, every fear that had ever tormented Daniel in his bed had turned out, in the light of day, to be not all that bad really. As he plodded westwards on Great Russell Street toward its cross with Tottenham Court Road, passing by Bloomsbury Square, he sensed a massy white Presence in the corner of his eye, and forced himself not to look at it. But at some point this became absurd, and he had to square his shoulders, perform a soldierly right-face, and look his shame in the eye. And, mirabile dictu, it was not so very bad! When it had first gone up, twenty years ago, in the middle of a hog-lot, cater-corner from a timber depot, it had been screamingly bizarre. But now it was in the middle of a city, which helped a little, and Hooke had added on to it, which helped a great deal. It was no longer an alienated Temple but the buckle in a belt of Corinthian-columned arcades that surrounded Roger’s parcel. The wings gave it proportion and made it seem much less likely to topple over sideways. The friezes had been added to the pediment and to the tablatures while Daniel had been in Boston, a tangle of togas and tridents that diverted the viewer’s eye from the underlying dreadfulness (or so Daniel thought) of the architecture. Here Hooke had done him more favors by extending the horizontal features of the Temple into the wings, giving Daniel’s phant’sies and improvisations more authority than they probably deserved. All in all, Daniel was able to stare at the place for a solid five or ten minutes without dissolving in embarrassment; London’s boundaries enclosed much worse.

For the thirtieth time since crossing Gray’s Inn Road, he looked to see if Saturn was following him. The answer was again no. He crossed Great Russell and walked up the steps, feeling like a wee figure sketched into a rendering to show the scale. Passing between two fluted columns he swept across the Portico and raised his walking-stick to beat upon one of the massive front doors (gold leaf, with details in silver and copper, all part of the metallurgical theme). But the doors were drawn open so swiftly that they seemed to leap away from him. It gave him a turn-his eye was foxed into thinking that the doors were stationary, and he falling backwards away from them. He took a step forward to compensate; and, entering the cleavage between the doors, nearly fell into the one between a pair of breasts. It required some effort to stop himself, straighten his carriage, and look the owner in the eye. She was giving him a knowing look, but the dimples in her cheeks said, All in good fun, go on, have a good long stare then!

“Doctor Waterhouse! You have kept me waiting far too long! How can I ever forgive you?”

This sounded like an opportunity for Daniel to say something witty, but it whooshed past him like grapeshot.

“Er…I have?”

Ah, but the lady was accustomed to dealing with numb-tongued Natural Philosophers. “I should have heeded Uncle Isaac, who has spoken so highly of your strength of character.”

“I…beg your pardon?” He was beginning to feel as if he should perhaps hit himself with his stick. Perhaps it would restore circulation to his brain.

“A weaker man would have planted himself right there, where you were just now standing, on his first day in London, and said to all who passed by, ‘Look! D’you see that House? I built it! It’s mine!’ But, you!” and here she actually planted her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. But it seemed funny, not in the least affected. “You, Doctor Waterhouse, with your Puritan ways-just like Uncle Isaac-withstood that temptation for, what, a little more than two months! It is a mystery to me, how you and Uncle Isaac can delay your pleasures with such stony patience, when someone such as I would become frantic.” Then, because this perhaps sounded a bit risque, she added, “Thank you so kindly for answering my letters, by the way.”

“You are most welcome, it was my privilege,” Daniel answered without thinking. But it took a moment to remember what she was even talking about.

Catherine Barton had come to London round the turn of the century. She’d have been about twenty. Her father-Isaac’s brother-in-law-had died a few years earlier, and Isaac had shouldered the load of keeping the poor survivors fed, clothed, and housed. After a short time staying in the city with Isaac, she’d come down with smallpox and fled to the countryside to recover or die. It was during that time that she’d sent a letter to Daniel in Boston, a letter no less sweet and charming for being cleverly written.

Which reminded Daniel that he ought to say something. “It is fortunate for me that, through your letters, I was able to meet your mind before I was put in any danger of being swept off my feet by…er…the rest of you.”

She’d been trying to figure out why her uncle was the way he was. And not in a conniving way, but, it seemed, out of a sincere desire to be a good and understanding help-meet to this weird old man who had become, in effect, her new father. Daniel had written eight drafts of his letter back to her, for he knew perfectly well that one day Isaac would find it among her effects, and read it. He would read it every bit as shrewdly as a challenge from Leibniz.

Everyone knows Isaac as a brilliant man, and treats him as such, which is a mistake; for he is as pious as he is brilliant, and his piety taketh precedence. Mind you, I speak not of outward, conspicuous piety but of an inner fire, a light under the bushel as ’twere, a yearning to draw nearer to God through exercise of God-given faculties.

“Your advice was of inestimable value to me, after I recovered-thanks be to God-and returned to London. And insofar as I have been of any help whatever to Uncle Isaac, I daresay what you wrote was a boon to him as well.”

“I shall not hold my breath waiting for an expression of gratitude from him,” Daniel said, hoping it sounded like a wry thing to say. She had the good grace to laugh out loud. Daniel got the impression she was accustomed to having men blurt indiscreet things to her, and regarded it as excellent sport.

“Oh, nonsense! You understand him better than any man alive, Dr. Waterhouse, and he is keenly aware of it.”

This-though she said it with dimples engaged-was really more of a threat than a compliment. What was more, Daniel knew that Catherine Barton had said it quite carefully and deliberately.

He decided to stop waiting for the formal introduction of Miss Catherine Barton to Dr. Daniel Waterhouse. It would never happen. She had vaulted over that hurdle with ribbons and skirts a-flying, and obliged him to follow. “You might enjoy a look round,” she suggested, arching her eyebrows spectacularly. She did not need to speak aloud the second half of the sentence: if you could only manage to pry your eyes off me. In truth, she was more presentable than beautiful. But she had some beautiful features. And she was very well-dressed. Not in the sense of showing off how much money she could spend, or how a la mode she could be, but rather in the sense that her attire presented to the world a full, frank, and exhaustive account of all that was admirable about her body. When she spun around to lead him across the vestibule, her skirts swirled around her buttocks and thighs in a way that made their contours fully known to Daniel. Or he phant’sied as much, which amounted to the same thing. He’d been wondering, for as long as he’d been in London, what it was about this woman that caused great and powerful men to recite appalling poetry about her in the Kit-Cat Clubb, and to go all glassy-eyed when her name came up in conversation. He should have known. Faces could beguile, enchant, and flirt. But clearly this woman was inflicting major spinal injuries on men wherever she went, and only a body had the power to do that. Hence the need for a lot of Classical allusions in Catherine Barton love-poetry. Her idolaters were reaching back to something pre-Christian, trying to express a bit of what they felt when they gazed upon Greek statues of nude goddesses.

There were plenty around. The vestibule was an oval room lined with niches that had stood vacant the last time Daniel had seen the place. The decades since had afforded Roger all the time he’d needed to bankroll raiding-parties on Classical ruins, or to commission original works. As he followed Miss Catherine Barton out of the room, Daniel spun round a full three hundred sixty degrees to scan the vestibule. The two servants who had pulled the doors open on Catherine’s command-both young men-were caught staring at their mistress’s backside. Both of them snapped their heads away and blushed. Daniel gave them a wink, turned, and followed her out.

“I have shown this house to visitors an hundred times,” she was saying, “and so all sorts of prattle is on the tip of my tongue-all of it perfectly boring to you, Dr. Waterhouse, to whom this house needs no introduction! You know we are crossing the central hall, and that the important rooms are to the left…” She meant the dining hall and the library. “And the odds and ends to the right…” (servant’s quarters, kitchen, back stairs, House of Office) “and the Withdrawing Room straight ahead. What is your pleasure? Do you need to retire that way?” she asked, glancing to the right. She was asking him if he needed to urinate or defecate. “Or is there anything you would like there?” glancing left-meaning, did he need to take any refreshment. She kept her hands clasped together in front of her bodice and pointed to the left or right with tiny movements of her eyes, obliging Daniel to gaze into them attentively. “To be proper, I should conduct you into the Withdrawing Room where we might have a great argument as to who should sit in which chair. But after the war, French manners are quite out of favor with us-especially us Whigs-and I cannot bring myself to be so formal with you, who are like another uncle to me.”

“I should only make an ass of myself-I who have spent twenty years in a wooden house!” Daniel returned. “Only tell me this, I pray you: if we go into the Withdrawing Room, can I see-”

“The volcano has been moved,” she said, quite solemn, as if afraid Daniel would be furious.

“Out of the house, or-”

“Oh, heaven forbid! No, ’tis the centerpiece of the house as ever, Doctor! It is only that this part of the house, which is to say, the part you designed, began to seem, in some of its rooms, rather more small than suited Roger’s tastes.”

“That is when Mr. Hooke was brought in to add the wings.”

“You know the story, Dr. Waterhouse, and so I shall not bore you, other than to say that the addition contains a ballroom that is at last large enough to exhibit the volcano in the style it deserves.” And with that she wheeled around and pushed open a pair of doors across the hall from the vestibule, allowing light to flood in from the windows of the Withdrawing Room. Daniel stepped in, and then stopped, a-mazed.

When this room had been laid out, those windows had commanded a view to the north across a pasture, soon to become a formal garden: a view near to Daniel’s heart, as it was practically the same as the one from the back of Drake’s old house. But now the garden had been truncated to a court-yard with a fountain in the center, and directly on the other side, a stone’s throw away, rose a Barock palace. This room, which Daniel had conceived as a quiet retreat from which to enjoy a vast prospect of flowers and greenery, had been reduced to a sort of viewing-gallery for contemplating the magnificence of the real house.

“Vanbrugh,” Catherine explained. The same one who was doing Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough.


“Mr. Hooke did the wings, which as you can see, embrace the courtyard, and connect your Temple to Mr. Vanbrugh’s, er…”

Fuck-house of the Gods was on the tip of Daniel’s tongue, but he could hardly throw stones at Vanbrugh since he had started it. All he could summon up was, “What an undeserved honour ’tis for me, that Vanbrugh should finish so grandly, what I started so plainly.”

The chairs in the Withdrawing Room were arranged in an arc facing toward the window. Catherine passed between two of them and opened a pair of French doors that in the original scheme had led out onto the long central promenade of the garden. Instead of which he followed her onto marble paving-slabs and pursued her around the kerb of an octagonal pool. It had a bronze fountain in the center of it, a great Classical action-scene: muscular Vulcan thrusting himself forth on massive but bent legs, having a go at Minerva, the cool helmet-head, who was pushing him back with one arm. Swords, daggers, helmets, and cuirasses were strewn all round, interspersed with the odd half-forged thunderbolt. Vulcan’s knobby fingers were ripping Minerva’s breastplate away to expose a body obviously modeled after Catherine Barton’s. Daniel recognized the tale: Minerva went to Vulcan’s forge to acquire weapons and armor; Vulcan became inflamed with lust and assaulted her; she, being one tough deity, held him at bay, and he had to settle for ejaculating on her leg. She wiped it off with a rag and flung it on the ground, fertilizing Mother Earth, who later bore Erichthonius, an early king of Athens, who introduced the use of silver money.

The sculpture was heavy-laden with clews and portents: with her free hand Minerva was already reaching for a rag, and Vulcan was ominously close to making contact with her creamy thigh. Smaller sculpture groups decorated the ends of the fountain-pool; at the end nearer to Daniel’s building, a babe on the lap of a fertility sort of goddess (lots of cornucopiae) being fed grapes from a bunch. Opposite, near Vanbrugh’s building, a crowned King seated on a pile of bullion. As they skirted the pool, Daniel felt a perverse urge to swivel his head and find out just how the sculptor had handled certain particulars. He was especially keen to know from where the water was spurting. At the same time, he couldn’t bear to see it. Catherine was ignoring the fountain altogether; she did not want to talk about it, had turned her face away, her posture rhyming with Minerva’s. Daniel contented himself with pursuing her across the court-yard, albeit with even less success than Vulcan.

What with so many distractions, they were inside the new house before Daniel had really had the time to examine its interior. Probably just as well; he’d gotten a vague impression of lots and lots of statues, prancing along rooftops and balustrades.

“Rokoko, it is called,” Catherine explained, leading him into what must have been the grand ballroom. “ ’Tis all the rage.”

Daniel could only recollect Drake’s house, with its bare walls and floors, and one or two plain boxy pieces of furniture to a room. “It makes me feel old,” he said, baldly.

Catherine favored him with a brilliant smile. “Some say, ’tis the result of a surplus of decorators, combined with a deficit of houses.”

And a want of taste, Daniel wished he could say. “As you are the mistress of the household, mademoiselle, I shall make no comment on what some say.” She rewarded him with dimples. Without meaning to, he had made a sly comment on her Arrangement with Roger.

Daniel found these moments slightly unnerving. For the most part she did not look like Isaac-not even the young, frail, girlish Isaac Daniel had met at Trinity half a century ago. He would never have guessed she had a drop of Newton-blood in her veins if he hadn’t known as much already. But during the moments when she forgot to hide her cleverness, a family resemblance flashed forth, and he saw Isaac’s face for an instant, as if the author of Principia Mathematica were stalking him through a darkened room when lightning struck outside.

“Here is a curious invention you may find worthy of your attention, Doctor. This way, please!”

The volcano stood at one end of the ballroom. It was a great improvement on the volcanoes made by Nature, which were so rude, irregular, and unadorned. This one was perfectly conical, with forty-five-degree-angle slopes converging on a polished brass nozzle or teat at the summit. A semi-ruined Classical temple, complete with half-collapsed golden dome, had been erected there, enclosing the vent, which could be viewed between Doric columns of red marble. The mountain itself was black marble, veined with red, and adorned with the usual tiresome menagerie of nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, amp;c., all sculpted in gold. It probably stood no more than four feet from base to summit, but was made to seem much larger by the base that supported it: a hollow plinth rising from the floor to waist level, supported all round with caryatids in the shape of Typhon and other gross earthy monsters.

“If you come round back with me, Doctor, I shall a-maze you with the most marvelous Screw.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She had opened a hatch concealed in the back, and was beckoning. He came round, squatted carefully, and peered inside. Now he could see a fat cylinder that began in a copper basin on the floor, and ran up at an angle to the summit of the volcano.

“Roger wanted so badly to have a volcano that would spew rivers of molten silver. It would have been spectacular! But Mr. MacDougall was afraid it would set fire to the guests.”

“Which would have been spectacular too, in a different way,” Daniel mused.

“Mr. MacDougall persuaded Roger to settle for oil of phosphorus. It is prepared elsewhere, and brought here in casks, and poured into the tub. The Screw of Archimedes conducts it upwards, it gushes from the summit, and runs down the slopes as the centaurs and whatnot flee in terror.”


“Oh, yes, for it is meant to represent glowing streams of liquid fire.”

“That I understand. But how do they flee-?”

“They are clock-work creatures.”

“Also the work of Mr. MacDougall?”


“I remember hiring a silversmith named Millhouse but not an ingenieur named MacDougall.”

“Mr. Millhouse hired Mr. MacDougall to do the clever bits. When Mr. Millhouse died of smallpox-”

“Mr. MacDougall took over,” Daniel guessed, “and could not stop adding one clever bit after another.”

“Until Roger cut him off-somewhat emphatically, I’m afraid,” said Catherine, and winced in a manner that made Daniel want to stroke her hair.

“Is he still alive?”

“Oh, yes, he works in theatres, making apparitions, explosions, and storms.”

“Of course he does.”

“He staged the naval battle that burned down the Curtain.”

“I believe you. How frequently does the volcano erupt?”

“Once or twice a year, for important parties.”

“And Mr. MacDougall is called back from exile on those occasions?”

“Roger has him on retainer.”

“Where does he get his phosphorus?”

“He has it delivered,” she said, as if this were an answer.

“Where may Mr. MacDougall be found, I wonder?”

“The Theater Royal, in Covent Garden, is getting ready to stage a new production entitled The Sack of Persepolis,” Catherine said, tentatively.

“Say no more, Miss Barton.”

Sir Isaac Newton’s House,

St. Martin’s Street, London


“I’VE A SORT OF RIDDLE for you, to do with guineas,” was how Daniel ended the twenty-year silence between himself and Sir Isaac Newton.

He had been fretting, ever since Enoch Root had turned up in his doorway in Massachusetts, over how to begin this conversation: what ponderous greeting would best suit the gravity of the occasion, how much time to spend reminiscing about student days in Cambridge, and whether to say anything about their last encounter, which had gone as badly as any social encounter, short of homicide, could go. Like a play-wright penning and burning draughts of a troublesome scene, he had scripted this reunion in his head an hundred times, and each time the script had careered off into a bloody debacle like the last act of Hamlet. As it seemed perfectly hopeless, and as he’d been assured by Saturn that he had only hours or days to live in any case, he reckoned, why waste time on formalities?

When the door was opened, and he first looked Isaac in the face from across the room, he did not see any trace of fury or (what would have been more dangerous) fear. Isaac looked resigned. He was feigning patience. He looked like a Duke receiving a long-lost idiot half-brother. And on the spur of the moment, Daniel said this thing about guineas as he was stepping over the threshold. The servant who’d opened the door for him gave him the same sort of look he might bestow on a gibbeted corpse suspended above a crossroads on a warm day, and closed the door behind him.

Daniel and Isaac were alone together in the study. Or Daniel assumed it was called a study. He could not imagine Isaac having a bedchamber or a dining-room. Any room he was in, was a study by default. The walls were paneled in dark wood, surprisingly uneven, almost rustic, compared to Roger’s house. The door was made of the same stuff, so that it vanished when it was closed, making it seem as if Daniel and Isaac were a pair of old desiccated specimens closed up in a shipping crate. The room had windows looking out onto the street. Their massive, elaborate wooden shutters were open to admit some of the light off Leicester Fields, but much of this was blocked by half-drawn scarlet curtains. Isaac was seated behind a great table, the sort of table Drake would’ve owned, and he was dressed in a long scarlet dressing-gown over a good linen shirt. His face had not changed all that much, though it had got heavier, and he still had the long white hair. But his hairline had jumped back, making it seem as if his brain were trying to force its way up out the top of his head. His skin had been white when Daniel had walked in, but by the time he had made it to the end of the room to proffer his hand, Isaac had gone red in the face, as if stealing the color from his robe.

“There is nothing in my life quite so irritating as to be riddled and teased with inane conundrums, meant to prove my wit, and to try my senility,” he answered. “Bernoulli-Leibniz’s pawn-sent me-”

“The brachistochrone problem, I recall it,” Daniel said, “and you solved it in hours. It took me rather longer.”

“But you did solve it,” Isaac commanded. “Because it was a problem of the calculus, meant to try whether I understood the calculus or not! Can you fathom the impertinence of it!? I was the first man who could ever have solved it, Daniel, and you the second, because you had the calculus from me first-hand. To be hectored thus, by the Baron’s lackeys, three decades after I had invented it-”

“In truth my riddle is another sort of thing altogether,” Daniel said. “I really am quite sorry to have wrong-footed you.”

Isaac blinked and heaved a sigh. He seemed inordinately relieved. Perhaps he had feared that Daniel would dispute what he had just said: You had the calculus from me first-hand. That was the key. In Daniel, Isaac saw a witness who could testify to Isaac’s priority in the discovery of the calculus. Whatever other annoying and inconvenient qualities Daniel might have, vanished when placed beside that. Daniel felt the muscles of his scalp and neck easing, felt his lungs filling with air. He was going to be all right. He’d make it out of the room whole, even if he said things that made Isaac a little angry. To Isaac, Daniel was more than a pawn; he was a rook, kept sequestered in the corner of the board until the end-game, then brought out at last to sweep inexorably down the board, driving the foe back to the last rank and forcing surrender. Isaac would put up with a lot, from a rook.

He wondered whether Isaac had, through some machinations, caused Daniel to be brought back to London. Perhaps he had exerted some action at a distance upon Princess Caroline in Hanover.

“What is your riddle, Daniel?”

“Earlier today, I was with a man who knows a good deal more than I do about money. This fellow was trying to judge the value of a guinea.”

“Of a coin that purported to be a guinea,” Isaac corrected him.

“Indeed-I say ‘guinea’ because that is what, in the end, it turned out to be.”

“He should have weighed it.”

“That is just what he did. And he could say nothing against the weight of the coin. Which would seem to settle the matter. But then he did something that to me was very odd. He put the coin in his mouth and he bit down on it.”

Isaac made no answer, but Daniel thought he pinkened again, slightly. Certainly he was interested in the story. He clasped his hands together on the table in front of him, composing himself, rather like a cat.

“Now,” Daniel said. “Even I know that coiners frequently make their counterfeits by joining two faces stamped from gold foil, and filling the void between them with solder. The solder is both lighter and softer than gold. This provides two means of detection: one may weigh the coin, or bite it. Either should suffice. In particular, if a coin has passed the test of weighing, its value should be confirmed beyond doubt! For nothing is heavier than gold. Any adulteration should be betrayed by a want of gravity. The weighing test ought to be infallible. And yet this chap-who really is extremely knowledgeable concerning coins-felt it necessary to make the additional test of biting. Is there any reason for it? Or was he being foolish?”

“He was not being foolish,” Isaac said, and stared at Daniel expectantly. His eyes were great luminous ice-balls hanging in space, like comets.

“Do you mean to say that I was, Isaac?”

“To associate with such a man? Foolish, or naive,” Isaac returned. “As you have wandered in the wilderness for two decades, I shall grant you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Then cure me of naivete, and tell me, what sort of man is he?”

“A weigher.”

“Well, he is obviously that, inasmuch as he weighs things, but you seem to invest the word with connotations that are lost on a back-woodsman such as I.”

“In spite of all my efforts to reform the practices of the Mint, and to make each newly coined guinea identical to the last, some variation in weights persists. Some guineas are slightly heavier than others. Such errors are reducible but not eradicable. I have reduced them to the degree that, where honest persons are concerned, no variation exists. That is, most men in London-and I include sophisticated men of commerce-would trade one guinea for another without hesitation, and certainly without bothering to take out a scale and weigh them.”

“I well remember when that was not the case,” Daniel remarked.

“You refer to our visits to Stourbridge Fair, before the Plague,” Isaac said immediately.

“Yes,” Daniel answered, after a moment of awkwardness.

He and Isaac had walked from Trinity to the Fair once, to buy prisms, and along the way, Isaac had made some remarks about fluxions-the beginnings of the calculus. During his recent sea-voyage from Massachusetts, Daniel had summoned that ancient memory to mind, and brought it back to life in his head, remembering certain queer details, like the shapes of the aquatic plants in the river Cam, bent downstream by the sluggish fluxion of the water. It was now obvious that Isaac had been thinking hard, and recently, about the same memory.

To go on prating of coins, when the true topic of the conversation was so close to breaking the surface, were faintly ridiculous. But Englishmen, given a choice, would always prefer the faintly ridiculous over the painfully direct. So, on with numismatics.

“It got even worse-the coinage did-later,” Isaac said.

“I remind you that I did not depart until the middle of the 1690s, when there were hardly any coins left in the country, and our ?conomy was a confetti of I.O.U.s.”

“Now England is awash in gold. The currency is as hard as adamant. Our commerce is the wonder of all the earth, and even Amsterdam is in our shade. It were vanity for me to take too much credit for this. But it is simple honesty to say, that it could not happen in the absence of this plain understanding, shared by all Englishmen, that a guinea may be exchanged for a guinea without a second thought. That all guineas are the same.”

Suddenly all that Daniel had observed of Mr. Threader rearranged, in his mind, into a novel, strange, but perfectly coherent picture; it was like watching a pile of rubble spontaneously assemble itself into a marble statue. “Allow me to hazard,” Daniel said, “that a weigher” (he almost said, “Mr. Threader”) “is a chap who to outward appearances believes what every honest, plain-dealing Englishman believes about the value of a guinea. But in secret, he takes every guinea that comes his way, and weighs it ’pon scales of the most exacting precision. Such as are light, or of the mean weight, he returns into circulation. But such as are heavy, he hoards. And when he has hoarded an hundred such-I am only making up numbers for the sake of argument-perhaps he has enough gold, in sum, to mint an hundred and one guineas. He has created a new guinea out of thin air.”

Isaac said yes by slowly blinking his pink eyelids. “Of course, what you have described is only the most elementary of their practices. Those who master it, move on quickly to more nefarious schemes.”

But Daniel was still new to all of this, and stuck on the elementary. “It would only be feasible,” he guessed, “if one were already in a line of work that involved handling large numbers of coins.”

“Naturally! And that is why the practice is so rife among the money-scriveners. I make guineas, and send them out into the country; they scurry about unraveling the tapestry I’ve so laboriously woven, and return the heaviest coins to London, where they invariably make their way to the coffers of the most vile and execrable traitors in the realm!”

Daniel recalled driving past shredded corpses at Tyburn. “You mean that weighers are connected with coiners.”

“As spinners are with weavers, Daniel.”

Daniel was silent for a moment, rehearsing every memory he had of Mr. Threader.

“That is why I was so shocked-shocked half to death, if you must know-to see you traveling in the company of one such!” Isaac said, actually shaking a bit with emotion.

Daniel was so used to Isaac mysteriously knowing things, that he was not as surprised by this very odd revelation as he ought to have been, and did not pay any particular mind to it. “For that,” he remarked, “there is an explanation that you would find miserably boring if you knew it.”

“I have made it my business to know it, and I accept that there was nothing untoward in your temporary association with that man,” Isaac returned. “If I were inclined to be suspicious, like Flamsteed, I should interpret your continued association with him in the worst possible light! As it is, I see plainly enough that you were ignorant of his true nature, and beguiled by his charm, and I trust you to heed my warning.”

Daniel was now very close to laughing out loud. He could not choose which was funnier: the phant’sy that Isaac Newton was not suspicious-minded, or that Mr. Threader possessed charm. Better change the subject! “But my question is not answered yet. Why did he bite the coin, if he had already weighed it?”

“There is a way to fool the weighing-test,” Isaac said.

“Impossible! Nothing is heavier than gold!”

“I have discovered the existence of gold of greater than twenty-four-carat weight.”

“That is an absurdity,” Daniel said, after a moment’s pause to consider it.

“Your mind, being a logical organ, rejects it,” Isaac said, “because, by definition, pure gold weighs twenty-four carats. Pure gold cannot become purer, hence, cannot be heavier. Of course, I am aware of this. But I say to you that I have with my own hands weighed gold that was heavier than gold that I knew to be pure.”

From any other man on earth-Natural Philosophers included-this would amount to saying, “I was sloppy in the laboratory and got it wrong.” From Sir Isaac Newton, it was truth of Euclidean certainty.

“I am put in mind of the discovery of phosphorus,” Daniel remarked, after considering it for a few moments. “A new element of nature, with properties never before seen. Perhaps there exist other elements of which we are unaware, having properties hitherto unknown. Perhaps there is such an element, similar in many respects to gold, but having a higher specific gravity, and perhaps the gold you spoke of was alloyed with it to make a metal, indistinguishable from gold in its gross properties, but slightly more dense.”

“I give you credit for ingenuity,” Isaac said, slightly amused, “but there is a simpler explanation. Yes, the gold I speak of is alloyed with something: a fluidic essence that fills the interstices among its atoms and gives the metal greater weight. But I believe that this essence is nothing less than-”

“The Philosophick Mercury!” Daniel exclaimed. The words came out of his mouth in a spirit of genuine excitement; bounced off the hard walls of dark wood; and, when they entered his ears, made him cringe at his own idiocy. “You think it is the Philosophick Mercury,” he corrected himself.

“The Subtile Spirit,” Isaac said, not excited, but solemn as Rhadamanthus. “And the goal of Alchemists for thousands of years, ever since the Art was taken into the Orient, and removed from human ken, by its past master, King Solomon.”

“You have been searching for traces of the Philosophick Mercury since we were boys,” Daniel reminded him. “As recently as twenty years ago, your efforts to find even the smallest trace of it had met with abject failure. What has changed?”

“I took your advice, Daniel. I accepted the charge of the Mint from my lord Ravenscar. I initiated the Great Recoinage, which brought vast tonnage of gold plate and bullion out from where it had been hoarded.”

“And you adjusted the ratio in valuation of silver to gold, so that the latter was over-valued,” Daniel said, “which as everyone knows, has practically driven all silver off the island, and attracted gold from every corner of the globe where commerce has spread its tendrils.”

Isaac declined comment.

“Prior to your-” here Daniel was about to say something like terrifying spasm of dementia but corrected himself: “change of career, twenty years ago, you were only able to work with such modest samples of gold as you could buy from local sources. Your appointment to the Mint-combined with the policies you have adopted there-have made the Tower of London the bottle-neck through which all the world’s gold flows, and put you in a position to dip your finger into that flow at will, sampling and testing the gold of many different lands-am I getting it right?”

Isaac nodded, and it seemed he looked almost mischievous, in a naughty-old-man sort of way. “The practice of all Alchemists since the time of Hermes Trismegistus has been to presume that the Gold of Solomon had been forever lost, and to attempt to re-discover his lost Art through patient trials and arcane study. This was the course that defeated me, before what you coyly describe as my change of career. But during my recuperation, as I went to inspect the Mint, and conversed with my predecessors there, I came to realize that the ancient presumption of the Esoteric Brotherhood was no longer true. If Solomon went away into the remotest isles of the Orient, why, Commerce has now gone that far, or farther, and in particular the Spaniards and the Portuguese have left no stone unturned, the world over, in their assiduous search for gold and silver. No matter how far Solomon may have journeyed, he would have left behind traces of his passage, in the form of Solomonic Gold, which is to say, gold made through an Alchemical process, bearing traces of the Philosophick Mercury. In the millennia since his kingdom vanished from the earth, this gold might have passed from one ignorant set of hands to another a thousand times. It might have been taken across wastes by caravans, forged into pagan funeral-masks, plundered from fallen citadels, buried in secret hoards, dug up by thieves, seized by pirates, made into jewels, and coined into specie of diverse realms. But through all of these evolutions it would preserve the traces of the Philosophick Mercury that would provide an infallible proof of its origins. To find it, I need not pore over ancient manuscripts for fragments of Alchemical lore, and I need not venture into far reaches to search for ancient gold with my own hands. I need only position myself like a spider at the center of the global web of commerce, and then so arrange matters that all the world’s gold would flow inwards toward me, as every point of matter in the solar system naturally falls inwards toward the Sun. If I then remained vigilant, and sampled all the gold that came into the Mint to be made into guineas, in time I should be nearly certain of finding some traces of the Solomonic Gold.”

“And now you would appear to have found it,” said Daniel, unwilling to weigh in, yet, on Isaac’s side. “How recently has this occurred?”

“For the first several years there was nothing. Not a trace. I despaired of finding it ever,” Isaac admitted. “Then, during the respite in the War, round 1701, I found a bit of gold heavier than twenty-four carat. I cannot summon words, here and now, to convey my emotions then! It was just a flake of gold leaf, found in a coiner’s shop after it was raided, on my orders, by the King’s Messengers. The coiner himself had been slain during the raid-most frustrating! Several years later, I found a counterfeit guinea that was heavier than it ought to be. In time, I hunted down the coiner who had made it, and interrogated him as to where he had obtained his bullion. He had gotten most of it from conventional sources. But he said that he had recently purchased, through a middleman, a quantity of gold in the form of sheet metal, hand-hammered, about an eighth of an inch thick. Six months later I talked to another coiner who recollected having seen a larger piece of such gold. He said it had been marked on one side with a linear pattern of scrapes, and stained on the other face with tar.”


“Yes. But I have never seen such a sample with my own eyes. I only find evidence of its existence in coins-counterfeit guineas of a level of quality such that I myself am sometimes deceived by them!”

“So, ’twould appear that whoever has this gold, has hoarded it, and used to spend it, in the form of plates stained with tar. But from time to time he will deliver some of it up to a coiner-”

“Not a coiner but the coiner. Jack. Jack the Coiner. My Nemesis, and my prey, these last twelve years.”

“Jack sounds like an interesting chap,” Daniel allowed, “and I ween I shall learn more of him from you anon-but is it your hypothesis that he has a hoard of these gold sheets somewhere, and coins them from time to time?”

“No. They’re of no use to him hoarded. If he had a hoard, he would coin every last ounce of it, as fast as his coiners could do the work. No, it is my hypothesis that Jack knows the owner of the hoard, and that from time to time that person, wanting some money to spend, takes some plates out, and brings them to Jack.”

“Do you have any notion as to who the hoarder might be?”

“The answer is suggested by the tar, and the scrapes. It is coming from a ship.”

“There is a vague association between tar and ships, but beyond that, I don’t follow you,” Daniel said.

“The information you are wanting is that, among sailors and officers of the French Navy, there is a legend-”

“Ah, in truth I have heard it!” Daniel exclaimed. “But I failed to draw the connexion. You refer to a legendary ship whose hull was plated with gold.”


“But ’twould seem that in your view this is no legend.”

“I have studied it,” Isaac announced. “I can now trace the descent of King Solomon’s Gold from the pages of the Bible, down through the ages, to the hull of that ship, and thence to the samples that I have assayed in my laboratory in the Tower of London.”

“Pray tell me the tale then!”

“Most of it is no tale at all. The Islands of King Solomon lie in the Pacific. There his gold rested, undisturbed by men, until round the time that you and I were young, and Huygens’s clock began to tick. A Spanish fleet, driven by a typhoon far off the charted sea-lanes that join Acapulco to Manila, dropped anchor in the Solomons, and took on board certain provisions, including earth to pack round the galley-stoves to protect the planks of the ship from fire. During the voyage home to New Spain, the heat of the fire melted gold-or something that looked like it-out of the sand, and it pooled to form nuggets of astonishing fineness, which were discovered when the ships broke bulk in Acapulco. The Viceroy of New Spain, then just beginning a twenty-five-

year reign, was not slow to send out ships to the Solomons to extract more of this gold, and bring it back to Mexico to be piled up in his personal hoard. At the end of his reign, he caused the Solomonic Gold to be loaded aboard his private brig, which sailed back to Spain in convoy with the Spanish treasure-fleet. They made it safe as far as Cadiz. But then the little brig foolishly sailed alone up to Bonanza, where the Viceroy had caused a villa to be built, in which he phant’sied he would enjoy a wealthy retirement. Before she could be unloaded, she was set upon in the night by pirates, dressed as Turks, and led by the infamous criminal known to us as Half-Cocked Jack, the King of the Vagabonds, and to the French as L’Emmerdeur. The gold was stolen and spirited away in long stages to Hindoostan, where most of it fell into the possession of a heathen potentate, an Amazon pirate-queen, black as char-coal, who had not the faintest understanding of what she had netted. But on those shores, Jack and his confederates used their ill-gotten gains to build a pirate-ship. And from some Dutch shipwrights they had the notion-which was in no way a faulty one, as e’en a stopped Clock is correct twice daily-that if the hull of this ship were cladded, below the waterline, with sheets of smooth metal, she would afford no purchase for barnacles, and repel the attacks of the teredo.”

“ ’Tis a wholly reasonable idea,” Daniel said.

“ ’Twas a good idea, most strangely executed! For, vain and extravagant man that he was, this Jack decreed that the metal be wrought out of solid gold!”

“So the tale told by those French mariners was in no way fanciful,” Daniel concluded.

“I should rather say, ’twas none the less true, for being fanciful!” Isaac returned.

“Do you know where that ship is now?” Daniel asked, trying not to sound nervous; for he knew.

“It is thought that she was christened Minerva. But this is not known with certainty, and is of little use, even if true, as hundreds of ships answer to that name. But I suspect that she still roams the seas, and calls at London from time to time, and that some commerce plays out between Jack the Coiner, and those who sail her. Plates of gold are taken out of her bilge-for make no mistake, they were stripped from her hull and replaced with copper, probably in some unfrequented Caribbean cove, many years ago-and delivered to Jack, who coins them into excellent guineas, with which he poisons Her Majesty’s stock of money. That is the tale of Solomon’s Gold, Daniel. I hoped you would find it a diverting yarn. Why do you look so distracted?”

“I find it very odd that the prize you have sought your entire life, should happen to rest in the hands of the man you describe as your Nemesis.”

“My Nemesis, where Mint work is concerned. In other fields, I have other foes,” Isaac reminded him shortly.

“That is beside my point. Why shouldn’t the hoard of Solomonic Gold lie in a vault in Seville, or at the Vatican, or the Forbidden City of Peking? Of all the places in the world where this gold might have ended up, why should it be in the possession of Jack the Coiner-the one man you’d most like to see being dragged on a sledge to Tyburn?”

“Because its density exceeds that of gold, it is valuable to a counterfeiter.”

“It is more valuable to an Alchemist. Do you suppose Jack knows as much, and do you suppose he is aware that you, Isaac, are an Alchemist?”

“He is a mere criminal.”

“Yes, and a very cosmopolitan one, from the sounds of it.”

“I assure you he has not the faintest comprehension of matters Alchemical.”

“Neither do I. And yet I understand that you desire this gold!”

“What does it matter? He knows that I wish to hunt him down and bring him to justice-that is enough.”

“Isaac, you have a habit of under-estimating the intelligence of anyone who is not you. Perhaps this Jack is using the Solomonic Gold to bait you.”

“What matters it if a mouse baits a lion?”

“Depends on whether the lion is being baited into single combat with that mouse, or into a pit-fall with sharpened stakes at the bottom.”

“I do not think your analogy is applicable. But I am grateful for your expression of concern. Now let us end all tedious disputes about Jack, by ending Jack!”

“Did you say ‘us’?”

“Yes! Yes, I did. As there are only two men in this room, I can only have meant, you and I. As we shared a room, and worked together, at the beginning of our lives, so shall we do now, as we near their ends.”

“What possible use could I be in helping to apprehend Jack the Coiner?”

“You have come from America on a mysterious errand. You have traveled in the company of a notorious weigher, and I am told that you are up to some occult doings in a hole in the ground in Clerkenwell.”

“Not true, unless you count real estate development as one of the black arts.”

“If you were now to announce yourself, to the criminal underworld of London, as a weigher, in possession of gold from America-”

“I beg your pardon, but I really do not wish to announce myself to the criminal underworld as anything!”

“But supposing you did, why, you might be able to establish contacts with Jack’s subtile net-work of informants and Black-guards.”

“That is the second time today I have heard ‘Black-guard’ spoken in those portentous tones. I thought a Black-guard was a boy who polished boots.”

“Some of those boys have got rather big, and found employment even lower, and even blacker,” Isaac remarked.

“Then I’ll have nothing to do with any Black-guard.”

“If you have heard some other man speaking the word to-day, ’twould seem that you already do have something to do with them,” said Isaac, amused, “which would hardly surprise me considering the company you have been keeping.”

Daniel was silent. But only because he could not divulge to Isaac that his only motive in speaking to the sort of man who spoke of the Black-guard-men such as Peter Hoxton-was to track down whatever remnants Hooke had left behind.

Isaac read his silence as submission. Given more time, Daniel might have disabused Isaac of any such ideas, and extricated himself. But a servant was knocking at the door. A minute earlier Daniel had heard someone calling briefly at the front door of the house, presumably to deliver a message, and now it had penetrated to the study, and interrupted their discourse at the worst possible moment for Daniel. He wondered whether the servant had been lurking outside the door, waiting to knock at some subtle signal from Isaac: I have sprung the trap, now interrupt us lest he wriggle free!

“Enter!” Isaac commanded, and in came the servant who’d admitted Daniel earlier, holding a rectangle of good paper with a few lines scrawled over it in a lazy, important hand. As Isaac decyphered the penmanship, and considered the import, and discussed it in a hushed, elliptical manner with his servant, Daniel had his first opportunity to review all that had passed since he had breezed into this room with a riddle concerning guineas.

What had he expected? He had expected that, at best, Isaac would be cool and distant. At worst, he’d know that Daniel was striving to preserve some memory of Hooke, and corresponding with and running errands for Leibniz, and would tear Daniel’s beating heart out of his chest then and there, like an Aztec priest. Those had seemed the most likely outcomes. If some oracle had let him know in advance that he was to have a long, cordial, even friendly conversation with Isaac, he’d have accounted it a triumph. And maybe it was-but it was Isaac’s triumph and not Daniel’s. Whether or not Isaac knew of Daniel’s concealed loyalty to Hooke and Leibniz, he had clearly got it into his mind that Daniel needed to be kept close, and kept busy.

“We’ve not even had time to broach the subject of Baron von Leibniz’s pretensions concerning the calculus,” Isaac announced in a chummy voice that was very odd coming from him, “and here it is time for me to be on my way.”

“I consider myself fortunate indeed to have taken up as much of your time as I have done,” Daniel said, trying not to sound ironic about it.

“The good fortune is all mine, and I assure you that the meeting I go to now shall never be half so enjoyable as this!” Isaac returned. “If the Mint were strictly a temple of Natural Philosophy-as it ought to be-supervising it would be pure pleasure. As it is, I waste many hours in meetings of a political nature.” He was getting to his feet.

“Is it Whigs or Tories today, then?” Daniel asked, rising. From here on out it would be all banter: pleasant noises that might as well have been spoken in Iroquois.

“Germans,” Isaac returned, offering him priority out the door. Catherine Barton, or someone, must have taught him manners.

“Really! They’ll be running the country soon enough, why are they pestering you now?”

They paused in a hall so that Isaac could shrug off his scarlet robe and have a vest and coat thrown across his shoulders by a valet. “They don’t pester me, but other men, of higher station-ramifications ensue,” Isaac said. “I would offer to convey you somewhere, but my conveyance only has room for one. May I have a hackney summoned for you?”

“I’ll walk, thank you,” Daniel said. Isaac followed him into the vestibule, which was crowded. Two large men were in here, smelling of the street. Between them stood a vertical black box, open on one side to reveal a crimson leather seat. Isaac sidled into it, smoothing the skirts of his coat under him. A servant stood at the ready to slam the door to.

“I shall hear from you concerning the proposal that I made,” Isaac predicted. “And do let’s not forget to have a conversation, some day soon, about the calculus.”

“Not a day passes without my thinking of it,” Daniel answered. With that the door was latched shut. Isaac had vanished inside the black box. His voice came out of it clearly, “God save the Queen, Daniel,” reminding Daniel that the only thing between them was a sheer black screen through which Isaac could see and hear everything, though he was quite invisible to anyone outside.

“God save the Queen,” Daniel returned, and then he followed the sedan chair out the door and onto St. Martin’s. Isaac was carried rapidly southwards, toward St. James’s and Westminster and all things great and important. Daniel, not wanting the awkwardness of walking along abreast of Isaac’s chair, went the other way.

Passing immediately through a gate at the head of the lane, he came out into an open plaza, squarish, about a bow-shot on a side. This was called Leicester Fields, and on three sides-including the one where Daniel had entered-it was now hemmed in by the sort of new town-houses that had started going up all round here after the Fire. But on the north edge-which Daniel was facing directly across a few hundred feet of open turf-it was walled off by one of the few remaining old-fashioned Tudor compounds: a congeries of red brick and half-timbered buildings called Leicester House. It had formerly been one of the few houses around London deemed suitable for royalty to dwell in, and had been used by diverse Tudor and Stuart princes as a palace. Elizabeth Stuart had dwelt there before she’d gone off to Europe to become the Winter Queen and to spawn Sophie and many others. Changes in the royal line had weakened the sentimental ties to this house, and the re-building of London in a new style had quite over-shadowed it and made it seem a mere English farm-house.

As Daniel came into Leicester Fields, he gazed in that direction curiously, trying to get his bearings, like a mariner looking for the old familiar stars. He saw a lot of horses and vehicles in front of the place, and felt a pang, supposing that the wreckers had arrived to tear it down. But as he strolled across the Fields, creating localized panics among sheep and chickens, he perceived that these were not rubbish-wagons but baggage-carts, and rather well-maintained ones at that. Among them was a carriage, a coach-and-four drawn by a matched set of black horses. A woman was alighting from that carriage, walking away from Daniel toward the house, and servants were drawn up in two lines to greet her. Daniel could not see anything of the woman, other than that she was petite, and trim. Her head was shrouded in a voluminous silk scarf covering a big hat or wig. And he was too far away, and his eyes were too far gone, to resolve lips, eyes, and noses on the faces of those servants. But something in their posture, and in the way they turned their faces and bodies toward the woman as she progressed across the court, told Daniel that they were smiling. They loved her.

At the apex of this formation, where the two lines of servants came together in front of the house’s main entrance, stood a man who was not a servant: he was dressed in the clothes of a gentleman. But there was something odd about him, which Daniel could not make sense of until he went into movement, extending a leg to make a low bow, and accepting the woman’s hand to kiss it. The man’s skin was entirely black. The woman took his arm and the black man escorted her into Leicester House; the lines of servants broke up and everyone made him- or herself busy unloading the baggage carts, amp;c.

As there was nothing more to see, Daniel turned on his heel and ambled toward the edge of Leicester Fields; and as he did, he became aware that he was only one part of a general slow evacuation. Diverse tinkers, vagabonds, strolling gentlemen, and boot-blacks were also making their way towards the exits, and in the fronts of the new town-houses around the square, curtains were being drawn.

Leicester House


HE WAS OBLIGED TO PURSUE her to the upper storey, for she talked as she went. She stormed a long dangerous wooden staircase and then faltered, only for an instant, as a great splintery-looking wooden door had presented itself in her way. By the time Dappa could get the words “Allow me-” past his lips, she’d clobbered it with her shoulder, got it open, and vanished into a big-sounding space yonder. The door remained ajar, shuddering from end to end.

He took the last few steps with some care. His legs, anyway, were unused to pushing off against things that did not pitch and roll. After all he’d been through, he didn’t want to die falling down a nasty old stairway in a strange English house.

They were now in an isosceles triangle made by the converging planes of the roof and a somewhat dodgy floor of loose deals. In any house made to normal scale it would have been pigeon-nesting space, but here it was large enough to throw a country dance.

Dappa wished he had some sailors with him, so that they could all share a good laugh at this room. Persons who fell into the habit of dwelling on dry land soon acquired queer and comical ways. They forgot that everything in God’s creation moved, and they fell into the phant’sy that an object, such as a wardrobe, could be dragged to a certain position in a room such as this one, covered with a sail, and let go of, without in any way being lashed down, and that twenty years later one might come back and find it just where it had been left.

Certain of these people then let themselves go altogether. Rooms such as this one were the monuments that they built to themselves. The draped furniture, crated paintings, and heaps of books were as chock-a-block as ice-floes driven into a blind cove by a boreal breeze. Spiders had been at work: a Navy of diligent riggers working day and night to tie it all down and lash it smartly together. Eliza was undoing their work, moving down the length of the room in carefully considered lunges and clever sideways darts. Her gown was growing a diaphanous train of cobwebs, and her wake in the air was visible as a serrated line of dust-explosions and plunging vortices. She was thinking hard about which way to go next, and had forgotten to talk.

Wee dormers were cut into the pitch of the roof every few yards, shedding plentiful light, and giving Dappa an excellent prospect of the many ways he could soil his dark suit if he attempted to follow her. Forgetting that this house could be trusted not to move under his feet, he reached up with one hand and braced it absent-mindedly on a tie-beam running between rafters above his head. A small avalanche of pale gray bat-shit tumbled down his sleeve and made itself one with the expensive black wool. “ ’Tis well my head’s grizzled to begin with,” he muttered, and then was struck by how well his voice carried down the utterly silent room.

“Beg pardon?”

“Never mind, only grumbling and muttering.”

“It is all right,” she called back in her alert way. “Do keep in mind, though, that when we are in the presence of others-especially, Persons of Quality-”

“Then you are my noble patroness,” Dappa said, “and I the ink-stained wretch. So very ink-stained, as to’ve become black from head to toe, save the soles of my feet, where I walk about collecting slave-narratives-”

“And the palm of your hand, where you grip your quill. I recognize these phrases from the Apology of your new manuscript,” she said, favoring him with a trace of a smile.

“Ah, you’ve read it!”

“Of course I have,” she answered, affronted. “Why ever not?”

“I was afraid you might have grown weary of slave-tales. I fear they are repetitious. ‘I was seized by raiders from the next village…traded to the tribe across the river…marched to the edge of the great water, marked with a hot iron, put aboard ship, dragged off of it half dead, now I chop sugar cane.’ ”

“All human stories are in some sense repetitious, if you boil them down so far. Yet people fall in love.”


“They fall in love, Dappa. With a particular man or woman, and no one else. Or a woman will have a baby, and love that baby forever…no matter how similar its tale might seem to those of other babies.”

“You are saying,” Dappa said, “that we make connections with other souls, despite the sameness-”

“There is no sameness. If you looked down upon the world from above, like an albatross, you might phant’sy there was some sameness among the people crowding the land below you. But we are not albatrosses, we see the world from ground level, from within our own bodies, through our own eyes, each with our own frame of reference, which changes as we move about, and as others move about us. This sameness is a conceit of yours, an author’s hobgoblin, something you fret about in your hammock late at night.”

“In truth, I have my own cabin, and do my fretting in a bed nowadays.”

Eliza did not answer. Quite some time ago she had reached the far end of the room, which Dappa guessed was the front of the house, and during this exchange she had been peering out across Leicester Fields through a tiny round window. If this were a ship, she’d be keeping her eye on the weather. But it wasn’t; so what could she be looking at?

“All that is wanted,” she continued distractedly, “is for a reader to recognize a kindred soul in a single one of your narratives, and that will suffice to prove, for that reader, that Slavery is an abomination.”

“Perhaps we should be printing them up separately, as pamphlets.”

“Broadsheets are cheaper, and may be posted on walls, et cetera.”

“Ah, you are far ahead of me.”

“Distribution is my concern-Collection is yours.”

“What are you looking out the window for? Afraid you were followed?”

“When a Duchess comes off a foreign ship in the Pool and travels through London in a train of a dozen coaches and waggons, she is followed,” Eliza said levelly. “I am taking a census of my followers.”

“See anyone you know?”

“There is an aged Puritan I think I recognize…and some nasty Tories…and too many curtain-twitching neighbors to count.” She turned away from the window and demanded, in a wholly new tone of voice, “Anything good from Boston?”

“They are mostly Angolans there, and my command of that language is not what it used to be. The Barkers have become so aggressive in Massachusetts-handing out pamphlets on street-corners…”

This, which he’d thought she’d find interesting intelligence, bored her right back to gazing out the window. Of course she would know precisely what the Barkers were up to in Massachusetts. “The result,” he continued, “is that the slave-owners there are more watchful than the ones in, say, Brazil, and when they see their slave having a lengthy conversation with a strange well-dressed Blackamoor-”

“You did not collect anything useful in Boston,” she said shortly.

“Am I too discursive in my responses, your grace?”

“Am I too much the Editor?” She was done peering, and was returning to him.

“This room is the reverse of a Bilge,” Dappa realized. “That is, if you took Minerva and capsized her, so that her masts were pointed straight down towards the center of the earth, then her keel would be high and dry, like this ridge-beam above our heads, and the hull-planks would form a pitched roof.”

“And it would still be crowded with stored objects, like this garret.”

“Is that what you call it?”

“Starving writers live in them.”

“Is that an offer of lodgings, or a threat of starvation?”

“It depends on whether you bring back some apt Narrations from your next sea-voyage,” she said with a smile. She’d come abreast of him now, and took his arm. “Where to next?”

“Boston again.”

They could see down those stairs now. Servants were standing anxiously below, coming in earshot. “And your grace?” Dappa added, distinctly.

“Oh-do you mean, where am I off to next?”

“Yes, my lady. You’ve just returned from Hanover, I gad?”

“Antwerp,” she whispered. “I am here now, Dappa, for-what do you call it-the long haul.”

They descended the stairs-a simple procedure made longer and more complicated than it ought to have been by the helpful strivings of the servants, and of some members of the Duchess’s household. Dappa’s ear, ever tuned to languages, picked out an exchange in German between two young women. They were dressed as if they were merely Gentle. But Dappa thought they carried themselves Nobly.

DAPPA HAD FIRST SEEN ELIZA some twenty years earlier. He’d been eager to hate her. He, Jack, van Hoek, and Vrej Esphahnian had sailed from Vera Cruz on a ship full of gold, bound for London or Amsterdam, and had diverted to Qwghlm only because of Jack’s infatuation with this woman. The letter that had lured them there had turned out to be a trick, a forgery from the hand of the Jesuit father Edouard de Gex, and Minerva had fallen into a trap laid for them there by the French. A kind of justice had been served on Jack. Dappa, van Hoek, and the crew of Minerva had been allowed to sail away, but only after the gold in Minerva’s hold had been seized by the French. They’d been left with nothing more than the thin plates of gold that had been put on the hull, below the water-line, when the ship had been built on a Hindoostan beach. That, and the ship itself. Minerva was a home and an income, but only as long as they continued sailing her to and fro. They had, in other words, been condemned to spend the rest of their lives in dangerous toils and wanderings. This suited van Hoek perfectly. Not so much Dappa.

They did not own Minerva. The owners were, in order of precedence, Queen Kottakkal of Malabar, Electress Sophie of Hanover, van Hoek, Dappa, Jack Shaftoe, and some old comrades of theirs who at last report were dwelling on the isle of Queenah-Kootah, off Borneo. For the most part these investors were far away and had not the faintest idea of how to reach them, which were good investors to have. Even Sophie reigned over a land-locked Electorate. But in time they received a message written in her hand and bearing her seal, letting them know that she was naming Eliza, Duchess of Arcachon and of Qwghlm, as her proxy, and that they should report to her whenever they dropped anchor in the Pool of London, to hand over Sophie’s share of the profits, and to be managed.

Dappa had gone to the first such meeting with dim expectations. He and the others had heard so much of this Duchess’s beauty from Jack, and, at the same time, had learned to harbor such grave reservations as to Jack’s powers of discernment, that he could only expect to be confronted with some one-toothed, poxy hag.

The event was rather different. To begin with, the woman had been all of about thirty-five years old. She had all of her teeth and had come through smallpox with only moderate scarring. So she was, for a start, not loathsome. She had keen blue eyes and yellow hair, which of course looked bizarre to Dappa. But he’d grown used to van Hoek, a red-head, which proved he could adjust to anything. Her small nose and mouth would have been considered beautiful among the Chinese, and in due time he understood that many European men’s tastes ran along similar lines. If her nose and cheeks had not been disfigured by freckles, Dappa might have been able to bring himself round to thinking she was attractive. But she was small-waisted and bony. In every way, Eliza was the opposite of voluptuous. Voluptuous was what Dappa liked, and from the looks of the sculptures and frescoes he observed round London and Amsterdam, his tastes seemed to be shared by many a European man.

The topic of their first meeting had been Accounting. And so even if Dappa had felt the slightest attraction for the woman at the beginning of the day, it would long since have vanished when he stumbled out the door of her town-house twelve hours later. Eliza, it turned out, had a vicious head for numbers, and wanted to know where every farthing had gone since Minerva’s keel had been laid. Considering all they’d been through, her questions had been impertinent. Many a man would have back-handed her across the face, most would have stormed out. But Eliza was representing one of the most powerful persons in Christendom, a woman who could destroy Minerva in so many different ways, that her only difficulty would lay in choice of weapon. Dappa had checked his temper partly because of that, but also partly because he knew in his heart that Minerva ought to keep her books more carefully. They had lost their two members who knew how to keep accounts: Moseh de la Cruz, who had gone to colonize the country north of the Rio Grande, and Vrej Esphahnian, who had given his life revenging himself on the ones who had ensnared them. Since then, the books had become a mess. He’d known for a long time that a settling of accounts would have to come some day and that it would be ugly and painful. It could have come about in worse ways than over a table with this funny-looking young Duchess.

In the years since, they’d met from time to time to settle accounts. She’d learned of his strange habit of collecting and writing down slave-stories (“Why do you spend so much of our money on paper and ink!? What are you doing, throwing it overboard?”) and she had become his publisher (“We can at least endeavour to make your hobby pay its own way.”). Years had gone by. He had wondered how she would age. Unable to think of her as a woman (for to him Queen Kottakkal, six feet tall and three hundred pounds, was a woman), he had made up his mind, after seeing a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London, that she was a f?ry. What did an old, or even a middle-aged, f?ry-queen look like?

THEY SAT DOWN now in a little upstairs chamber of Leicester House, less formal than a Withdrawing Room, and she fearlessly took a seat facing a window. Moreover, a west-facing window that was admitting red sunset-light. Dappa studied her.

“What do you see?” she asked, studying him back.

“I can no longer see you as anything other than my friend, patroness, and Lady, Eliza,” he answered. “Marks of age, health, experience, and character, which a stranger might phant’sy he perceived in your face, are invisible to me.”

“But what do you really see?”

“I have not looked at enough skinny white women to be an apt judge. But I see that bone structure is a good thing to have, and that you have it; lo, the Creator hung you on an excellent frame.”

She found this curiously amusing. “Have you ever seen an Arcachon, or an honest rendering of one?”

“Only you, my lady.”

“I mean, an hereditary Arcachon. Suffice it to say that they are not hung on good frames, and they well know it. And I owe my position in the world today, not to wit or courage or goodness, but to my being hung on a good frame, and being able to propagate it. And what think you of that, Dappa?”

“If it provides you with a sort of purchase on the sheer cliff that the world is, from which to make use of your abundant wit, courage, and goodness, why, here’s to bone structure!” Dappa returned, raising a teacup high.

She lost a struggle with a smile. Creases flourished around her eyes and mouth, but they did not look bad on her; they looked well earned and fairly won. She raised her own teacup and clinked it against Dappa’s. “Now you really do sound like the Apology of a book,” she said, and sipped.

“Are we back to talking of that, my lady?”

“We are.”

“I’d hoped I could ask you about those Hanoverian Countesses who seem to’ve joined your household in Antwerp.”

“What makes you think they are only Countesses?”

Dappa gave her a sharp look, but she had a glimmer in her eye to suggest that she was only baiting him. “ ’Twas only a guess,” he said.

“Then go on guessing, for I’ll tell you no more than you’ve already discerned.”

“Why Antwerp? Meeting with the Duke of Marlborough?”

“The less I tell you, the less likely you are to be interrogated by the sort of men who loiter in my front lawn with spyglasses.”

“Very well…if you put it that way…perhaps we should speak of my book!” Dappa said nervously.

She got a contented look, as if to say that this was a much more satisfactory topic of conversation, and settled herself for a moment-which gave Dappa a warning that she was about to unburden herself of a little address she’d composed ahead of time. “What you must never forget, Dappa, is that I myself might not be opposed to Slavery, had I not myself been a slave in Barbary! To most English people, it seems perfectly reasonable. The slavers put out the story that it is not so very cruel, and that the slaves are happy. Most in Christendom are willing to believe these lies, absurd as they are to you and me. People believe Slavery is not so bad, because they have no personal experience of it-it takes place in Africa and America, out of sight and out of mind to the English, who love sugar in their tea and care not how ’twas made.”

“I notice you do not sweeten yours,” Dappa mentioned, raising his cup.

“And from the fact that I still have teeth attached to my excellent bone structure, you may infer that I have never used sugar,” she returned. “Our only weapon against this willful ignorance is stories. The stories that you alone are writing down. I have in one of my boxes down stairs a little packet of letters from English men and women that all go something like this: ‘I have never had the least objection to Slavery, however your book recently fell under my eye, and, though most of the slave-narratives contained in it were mawkish and dull, one in particular struck a chord in my heart, and I have since read it over and over, and come to understand the despicable, nay execrable crime that Slavery is…’ ”

“Which one? Which of the stories do these letters refer to?” Dappa asked, fascinated.

“That is the problem, Dappa: each of them refers to a different one. It seems that if you put enough stories out before the public, many a reader will find one that speaks to him. But there is no telling which.”

“What we’ve been doing, then, is a bit like firing grapeshot,” Dappa mused. “Chances are that a ball will strike home-but there’s no telling which-so, best fire a lot of ’em.”

“And grapeshot is a useful tactic sometimes,” Eliza said, “but it never sank a ship, did it?”

“No, my lady, grapeshot can never do that.”

“I say we have now fired enough grapeshot. It has had all the effect it is ever going to have. What we need now, Dappa, is a cannonball.”

“One slave-tale, that everyone will take note of?”

“Just so. And that is why it does not trouble me that you failed to sweep up any more grapeshot in Boston. Oh, write down what you have. Send it to me. I’ll publish it. But after that, no more scatter-shot tactics. You must begin to use your critical faculties, Dappa, and look for the slave-story that has something to it beyond the bathos that they all have in common. Look for the one that will be our cannonball. It is time for us to sink some slave-ships.”

The Kit-Cat Clubb


“I AM QUITE CERTAIN THAT we are being watched,” Daniel said.

Dappa laughed. “Is that why you were at such pains to sit facing the window? I venture that no one in the history of this Clubb has ever desired a view of yonder alley.”

“You might do well to come round the table, and sit beside me.”

“I know what I’d see: a lot of Whigs gaping at the tame Neeger. Why don’t you come and sit beside me, so that we may enjoy a view of that naked lady reclining in that strangely long and narrow painting above your head?”

“She’s not naked,” Daniel retorted crossly.

“On the contrary, Dr. Waterhouse, I see incontrovertible signs of nakedness in her.”

“But to call her naked sounds prurient,” Daniel objected. “She is professionally attired, for an odalisque.”

“Perhaps all the eyeballs you phant’sy are watching us, are, truth be told, fixed on her. She is a new painting, I can still smell the varnish. Perhaps we should instead go sit ’neath yonder dusty sea-scape,” Dappa suggested, waving in the direction of another long narrow canvas that was crowded with stooped and shivering Dutch clam-diggers.

“I happened to see you greeting the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm earlier,” Daniel confessed.

“She goes by de la Zeur-’tis less formal that way,” Dappa broke in.

Daniel was brought up short for a moment, then finally got a wry look on his face, and shook his head. “You are strangely giddy. I should never have ordered you usquebaugh.”

“Too long on land.”

“When do you sail for Boston?”

“Ah, to business! We’d hoped to depart in the second half of April. Now, we think early May. What do you wish us to fetch from there?”

“Twenty years’ work. I do hope you shall have a care with it.”

“In what form is the work? Manuscripts?”

“Yes, and machinery.”

“That is an odd word. What does it mean?”

“I beg your pardon. It is theatre-jargon. When an angel descends, or a soul lights up to heaven, or a volcano erupts, or any other impossible thing seems to happen on the stage, the people behind the scenes, who’ve made it happen, give the name machinery to the diverse springs, levers, rigging, et cetera used to create the illusion.”

“I did not know you ran a theatre in Boston.”

“You jest, sir, the Bostonians would never have allowed it-they’d have sent me packing to Providence.”

“Then how comes it you have machinery in Boston?”

“I used the term ironically. I built a machine there-across the river actually, in a shack about halfway ’tween Charlestown and Harvard-a machine that has nothing to do with theatrical illusions. I need you to bring it to me.”

“Then I must know, in order: Is it dangerous? Is it bulky? Is it delicate?”

“In order: yes, no, yes.”

“In what wise is it dangerous?”

“I’ve no idea. But I’ll tell you this, ’tis only dangerous if you turn the crank, and give it something to think on.”

“Then I’ll take the crank off and keep it in my cabin, and use it only to bash pirates on the head,” announced Dappa. “And I shall forbid the crew to hold conversations with your machinery, unless they are devoid of intellectual stimulation: nothing beyond a polite ‘Good day, machinery, how goes it with thee, does the stump of thy crank ache of a damp morning?’ ”

“I suggest you pack the parts in barrels, stuffed with straw. You shall also find many thousands of small rectangular cards with words and numbers printed on them. These are likewise to be sealed in watertight casks. Enoch Root may already have seen to it by the time you reach Charlestown.”

At the mention of Enoch’s name, Dappa glanced away from Daniel’s face, as if the older man had committed an indiscretion, and picked up his dram to take a sip. And that was all the opening needed for the Marquis of Ravenscar to irrupt upon their conversation. He appeared so suddenly, so adroitly, it was as if some machinery had injected him into the Kit-Cat Clubb through a trap-door.

“From one odalisque to another, Mr. Dappa! Haw! Is it not so! For I take it that you are the writer.”

“I am a writer, my lord,” Dappa answered politely.

“I hope I do not offend by confessing I’ve not read your books.”

“On the contrary, my lord,” Dappa said, “there is nothing quite so civilized as to be recognized in public places as the author of books no one has read.”

“If my good friend Dr. Waterhouse were polite enough to make introductions, I should not have to rely ’pon guess-work; but he was raised by Phanatiques.”

“It is too late for formalities now,” Daniel answered. “When another begins a conversation with a cryptickal outburst on odalisques, what is there for a polite gentleman to do?”

“Not cryptickal at all! Not in the slightest!” protested the Marquis of Ravenscar. “Why, ’tis known to all London now, at” (checking his watch) “nine o’clock, that at” (checking his watch a second time) “four o’clock, Mr. Dappa was on hand to greet the Duchess of Arcachon and of Qwghlm!”

“I told you!” Daniel said, in an aside to Dappa, and put his two fingers to his eyes, then pointed them across the room toward the phant’sied spies and observers.

“You told him what!?” Roger demanded.

“That people were watching us.”

“They’re not watching you,” Roger said, highly amused. Which told Daniel, infallibly, that they were. “Why should anyone watch you? They’re watching Dappa, making the rounds of the odalisques!”

“There you go again-what on earth-?” Daniel demanded.

Dappa explained, “He alludes to a sort of legend, only whispered by discreet well-bred Londoners, but openly bandied about by drunken merry lords, that the Duchess was once an odalisque.”


“Literally a harem-slave of the Great Turk in Constantinople.”

“What a bizarre notion-Roger, how could you?”

Roger, slightly nettled by Dappa, raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

Dappa proclaimed, “England being a nation of clam-diggers and sheep-shearers, must forever be a net importer of fantastickal tales. Silk, oranges, perfume, and strange yarns must all be supplied from across the seas.”

“If only you knew,” Daniel returned.

“I agree with Mr. Dappa!” Roger said forcefully. “The story of his tete-a-tete with the Duchess is racing up and down Grub Street like cholera, and will be in newspapers tomorrow at cock-crow!”

And then he was gone, as if by trap-door.

“You see? If you were more discreet-”

“Then Grub Street would be unawares. Nothing would be written, nothing printed, concerning me, or the Duchess. No one would hear of us-no one would buy my next book.”


“Light dawns ’pon your phizz, Doctor.”

“ ’Tis a novel, strange form of commerce, of which I was unawares until just now.”

“Only in London,” Dappa said agreeably.

“But it is not the strangest form of commerce that goes on in this city,” Daniel pressed on.

Dappa visibly put on an innocent face. “Do you have some strange yarn to set beside my lord Ravenscar’s?”

“Much stranger. And, note, ’tis a domestic yarn, not imported. Dappa, do you recollect when we were being harried in Cape Cod Bay by the flotilla of Mr. Ed Teach, and you put me to work, down in the bilge?”

“You were in the hold. We do not put elderly doctors in the bilge.”

“All right, all right.”

“I remember that you obliged us by smashing up some old crockery to make ammunition for the blunderbusses,” Dappa said.

“Yes, and I remember that the location of that old crockery was pricked down, with admirable clarity, on a sort of bill posted on a beam next the staircase. A diagram, shewing how the hold, and the bilge, were packed with diverse goods.”

“There you go again with your confusion of ‘hold’ and ‘bilge.’ We do not pack goods in the bilge, as it is generally full of what I will euphemistically call water, which rapidly turns goods into bads. If you doubt it, I’ll pack some of your machinery in the bilge on our return voyage this summer, and you may see its condition ’pon arrival. If you had any idea of the foulness-”

Daniel was showing Dappa his palms. “Not necessary, my good man. Yet your lading-diagram does include the bilge, and all that lies in that foulness, does it not?”

“Are you referring to the ballast?”

“I suppose I am.”

“The ballast is carefully diagrammed, because it affects the balance and the trim of the ship,” Dappa said. “From time to time we must shift a few tons this way or that, to compensate for an uneven load, and then it is of course useful to have a diagram of where it is.”

“As I recollect that diagram, the bottom-most hull-planks of the ship are covered with flat rectangular iron pigs, laid down side by side, like floor-tiles.”

“Kentledge, ’tis called. We also have some cracked cannons and old faulty cannonballs down there.”

“Atop that, you have piled many tons of rounded stones.”

“Shingle from a Malabar beach. Some use sand, but we use shingle, because it does not foul the pumps.”

“It is atop the shingle that you pile up casks of shot, salt, water, and other heavy goods.”

“As is the common-nay, universal-practice on non-capsizing ships.”

“But I recall that another layer of ballast was shewn on this diagram. It was below any casks, below the shingle, below the scrap metal, below even the kentledge. It was the thinnest possible layer, a mere membrane, and on the diagram it looked like onion-skin. It was pressed against the tarry inner surface of the hull-planks themselves, and it went by some name such as anti-fouling plates.”

“What of it?”

“Why put anti-fouling plates on the inside?”

“They are spares. You must have noticed that we carry extra stores of everything, Dr. Waterhouse. Minerva’s hull is clad in copper sheets-she’s famous for it-and the last time we had a coppersmith make up an order of such material, we had him make more than we needed, so as to get a better price, and to have some in reserve.”

“Are you certain you are not confusing them with the spares that are stowed in crates near the foremast step? I seem to recall sitting on them.”

“Some are stored there. Others are stored against the inside of the hull-planks, under the kentledge, as you described.”

“What an odd place to store anything. To get at them, one would have to unload the ship entirely, pump out the unspeakable contents of the bilge, shovel out tons of shingle, and winch up the massive pigs of kentledge, one by one.”

Dappa did not respond, but had taken to drumming his fingers on the table irritably.

“It seems more like buried treasure than ballast.”

“If you’d care to test your hypothesis, Doctor, you may do so the next time we are dry-docked, provided you show up with your own shovel.”

“Is that what you say to inquisitive Customs inspectors?”

“We are more polite to them-as they generally are to us.”

“But politeness aside, the underlying meaning is the same. The hold may be emptied, if some official demands it. Minerva shall then bob like a cork, but she shall not capsize, thanks to the ballast. But those anti-fouling plates may not be inspected unless the ballast is removed, which would render the vessel unstable-it could only be done if she were beached, or in dry-dock-as she was just a few weeks ago. No Customs inspector ever demands that, does he?”

“This is a very odd conversation,” Dappa observed.

“On an arbitrary numerical scale of conversational oddness, ranging from one to ten, with ten being the oddest conversation I’ve ever had, and seven being the oddest conversation I have in a typical day, this rates no better than five,” Daniel returned. “But to make it less odd for you, I shall now speak directly. I know what those plates are made of. I know that you take some out from time to time, when you are in London, and I know that they find their way into the coinage. It does not matter to me how this is done, or why. But I say to you that you are putting yourselves in danger every time you spend the treasure from that bilge. You imagine that it may be fused, in a coiner’s crucible, with like metal from other sources, and that, once it has been thus con-fused, it has gone out into the world, and can never be traced back to you. But I say that there is one man, at least, who is not con-fused in the slightest, and who has drawn to within a hair’s breadth of divining your secret. You may find him at the Tower of London most days.”

Dappa had been greatly disquieted early in this little speech, but then had got a distracted, calculating look, as if reckoning how quickly Minerva could weigh anchor and get out of the Pool. “And you tell me this-why? To be good?”

“As you were good to me, Dappa, when Blackbeard called for me by name, and you refused to give me up.”

“Oh. We did not do that out of goodness, but stubbornness.”

“Then my warning to you is strictly an act of Christian charity,” Daniel said.

“God bless you, Doctor!” Dappa replied, but he was still wary.

“Until such time as we arrive at an understanding concerning the disposition of the gold,” Daniel added.

“There is something in this word disposition that makes me leery. How do you imagine we’ll dispose of it?”

“You have to get rid of it before it is found by the gentleman I spoke of,” Daniel pointed out. “But if you coin it, ’twill be as if you sailed Minerva under the guns of the Tower at noon, and ran those sheets of gold up the yard-arms.”

“But what good is it, if not coined?”

“Gold has other uses,” Daniel said. “Of which I shall tell you more some day. But not today. For we are approached by Peer, and must bring the oddness of our discourse down to a value of one or two on the scale I mentioned earlier.”

“Peer? Who or what is Peer?”

“For a man who, moments ago, was lecturing me ’pon the workings of Grub Street, you’ve not been attending to your newspapers at all, have you?”

“I know it exists, how it works, and that it’s important, but-”

“I read the papers every day. Let me tell you quickly then: there is a newspaper called Ye Lens which was started by Whigs, when their Juncto held power; several clever men write for it; Peer is not one of them.”

“You mean, he doesn’t write for the Ye Lens?”

“No, I mean he is not very clever.”

“How’d he get the job, then?”

“By being in the House of Lords, and always taking the Whig side.”

“Ah, so he is a peer!”

“A Peer of the Realm, with writerly ambitions. And as he writes for the Lens, and a lens is something you peer through, he has given himself the pen-name of Peer.”

“This is the longest prolog to an introduction I’ve ever heard,” Dappa remarked. “When is he actually going to show up?”

“I believe he-they-are waiting for you to notice them,” Daniel said, pointing with his eyeballs. “Brace yourself.”

Dappa narrowed his eyes, flared his nostrils, and then torqued himself round in his chair until he had-heeding Daniel’s sage advice-braced one elbow on the table.

Facing him from roughly twelve feet away were the Marquis of Ravenscar, planted stolidly on the booze-slickened Kit-Cat floor-boards, and an even better-dressed chap, who was dangling by both arms from one of the Clubb’s low-hanging beams, his impeccably shod feet swinging back and forth just a few inches above the floor.

When this man saw that Dappa was looking his direction, he let go and dropped to the floor with a loud, chesty “Hoo!” His knees bent deeply, creating alarming strains in the crotch of his breeches, and allowing his knuckles to dangle near the floor. After making certain he’d caught Dappa’s eye, he moved in a waddling gait to the Marquis of Ravenscar, who was standing still as a star, his face pinched up in a pickled smile.

Peer now pursed his lips, thrust them out as far as they would go, and, glancing back frequently to make sure he still had Dappa’s attention, began to make little “Hoo! Hoo!” noises while circling cautiously around Roger. After completing a full orbit of Roger, he shuffled in closer, leaned in so that he was almost nuzzling Roger’s shoulder, and began to make snuffling noises whilst cocking his head this way and that. Noting something apparently caught in the tresses of Roger’s splendid wig, he raised one hand off the floor, reached into the luxuriant mass of curls, pinched something tiny, pulled it out, examined it, gave it a good thorough sniffing, then popped it into his mouth and began to make exaggerated chewing noises. Then, in case Dappa had glanced away during this, he sidled around Roger and repeated the performance some half-dozen times, until even Roger became sick of it, raised one hand in the mildest of threats, and muttered, “Oh, will you stop it!”

Peer’s response was extreme: he jumped back out of cuffing-range, came to rest on his knuckles and the balls of his feet, made excited screeching noises (or as near as a member of the House of Lords could come to it), then sprang into the air while flinging his arms above his head. He grabbed the beam again, knocking loose a shower of dust that sifted down, stained his white wig gray, and caused him to sneeze-which was most unfortunate, as he’d been taking snuff. A bolo of reddish-brown mucus hurtled out of his nose and made itself fast to his chin.

The Kit-Cat Clubb had become quiet as a monastery. Perhaps three dozen men were in the place. By and large, they were of a mind to find nearly anything funny. Rarely did a minute tick away without all conversation in the Clubb being drowned out by a storm-burst of booming laughter from one table or another. But there was something in Peer’s performance so queer that it had shut them all up. Daniel, who had phant’sied that the crowding and the hubbub gave him and Dappa some sort of privacy, now felt even more exposed, and acutely spied upon, than ever.

The Marquis of Ravenscar swaggered toward Dappa. Behind him, Peer dropped from the rafters and got busy with a Belgian gros-point lace handkerchief. After Roger had moved along for a few paces, Peer followed him, cringing along in Roger’s wake.

“Dr. Waterhouse. Mr. Dappa,” said Roger with tremendous aplomb. “It is good to see you both again.”

“And you likewise, et cetera,” answered Daniel shortly, as Dappa had been temporarily robbed of the power of speech.

Conversations resumed, tentatively, around the Clubb.

“I pray you will not take it amiss if I refrain from picking lice out of your hair, as my lord Wragby has been so considerate as to do for me.”

“It’s not even my hair, Roger.”

“May I introduce to you, Dappa, and re-introduce to you, Daniel, my lord Walter Raleigh Waterhouse Weem, Viscount Wragby and Rector of Scanque, Member of Parliament, and Fellow of the Royal Society.”

“Hullo, Uncle Daniel!” said Peer, suddenly straightening up. “Very clever of someone to dress him up in a suit of clothing! Was that your conceit?”

Dappa was staring sidelong at Daniel. “I forgot to mention that Peer is my half-great-nephew once removed, or something like that,” Daniel explained to him, behind his hand.

“Who are you talking to, uncle?” Peer inquired, looking past Dappa’s head into a void. Then, with a shrug, he continued, “Do you phant’sy my demonstration worked? I did ever so much research, to get it right.”

“I’ve no idea, Wally,” Daniel returned, and then looked over at Dappa, who was still frozen in the sidelong-glare attitude. “Dappa, did you understand, from what you just observed, that my lord Wragby, here, is a member of my lord Ravenscar’s ape-tribe, and that he plays a submissive role, fully acknowledging my lord Ravenscar’s dominance?”

“Who are you talking to?” said Peer for the second time.

“To whom are you talking!” Dappa corrected him.

A few moments’ silence from Peer, greatly savoured by Roger and Daniel. Peer raised one hand, pointed his index finger at Dappa as if holding him at bay with a pistol, and turned to Daniel with his mouth a-jar.

“What you didn’t know, my nephew,” Daniel said, “is that Dappa was, at a very young age, taken aboard ship by pirates as a sort of pet. And these pirates, being a polyglot group, amused themselves by training Dappa to speak twenty-five different languages fluently.”

“Twenty-five different languages!” Peer exclaimed.

“Yes. Including better English than you, as you just saw.”

“But…but he doesn’t actually understand any of them,” Peer said.

“No more than a parrot does, when it squawks out a demand for a cracker,” Daniel affirmed, then let out a squawk of his own as Dappa kicked him in the shin under the table.

“What a remarkable feat! You should exhibit him!”

“What do you think I’m doing right now?”

“How was the weather yesterday?” Peer inquired of Dappa, in French.

“In the morning it was miserable and rainy,” Dappa returned. “After noon I thought it would clear but, alas, it was still overcast until nightfall. Only as I was getting ready for bed did I begin to see stars shining through gaps between clouds. Could I trouble you for a cracker?”

“I say, the French pirate who taught him that trick must have been an educated man!” Peer exclaimed. Then he got a look on his face as if he were thinking. Daniel had learned, in his almost seventy years, not to expect much of people who got such looks, because thinking really was something one ought to do all the time. “One would suppose there would be no point in holding a conversation with a man who does not understand what he is saying. And yet he described yesterday’s weather better than I could! In fact, I think I’ll use his wording in tomorrow’s edition!” Again, now, the thoughtful look. “If he could relate other experiences-such as his tete-a-tete with the Duchess-as faithfully as he recalls the weather, it would make my interview with him ever so much easier. I had come prepared to do it all in grunts and sign language!” And Peer gave a note-book in his hip-pocket an ominous pat.

“I suppose that whenever one speaks in the abstract-which is to say, most of the time-what one is really doing is interacting with some sort of image that is held in the mind,” Dappa said. “For example, yesterday’s weather is not here in the Kit-Cat Clubb with us. I cannot feel yesterday’s rain on my skin, nor can I see yester-eve’s stars with my eyes. When I describe these things to you (in French or any other language) I am really engaging in some sort of internal colloquy with a stored image inside of my brain. It is an image I may call up on demand, as a Duke might demand that a certain painting of his be brought down out of the garret. Once it is before my mind’s eye, I may see it as if it were there, and describe it.”

“That is all well and good for recollecting what you have gathered in through your senses, and stored in the garret, as it were,” Peer said. “So I could ask you to relate your observations of the Duchess of Qwghlm today, and rely on your account. But as you do not understand the conversation you had with her, or indeed the one you are having with me now, I fear your interpretation of what went on at Leicester House might be wide of the mark.” He spoke haltingly, unsure of how to converse with someone who didn’t understand what he was saying.

Preying on this, Daniel inquired, “But how could he interpret anything if he didn’t understand it?”

This stopped Peer’s gob for a few awkward moments.

“I would refer you to the work of Spinoza,” Dappa said, “whose words are of course perfect gibberish to me, but who wrote in his Ethics, ‘The order and connexion of ideas is the same as the order and connexion of things.’ Meaning that if there are two things, call them A and B, that have a particular relationship to each other, for example, my lord Wragby’s wig, and my lord Wragby’s head, and if I have in my mind an idea of my lord Wragby’s wig, call it alpha, and an idea of his head, call it beta, then the relationship between alpha and beta is the same as that between A and B. And owing to this property of minds, it is possible for me to construct in my head an whole universe of ideas, yet each idea will relate to all of the other ideas in precisely the same way that the things represented by those ideas relate to one another;lo, ’tis as if I have created a microcosm ’tween my ears, without understanding a bit of it. And some of the ideas may be records of sensory impressions, for example, yesterday’s weather. But others may be abstract concepts out of religion, philosophy, mathematics, or what have you-not that I’d know, since to me they are all a meaningless parade of hallucinations. But insofar as they are all ideas, they are all fungible. Whatever their origins may have been, they are now all con-fused into the same currency, and so I may speak of the Pythagorean Theorem or the Treaty of Utrecht as well as I may speak of yesterday’s weather. To me, they are all just crackers-as are you, my lord Wragby.”

“That is quite clear,” Peer said vaguely, for he had gone a bit glassy-eyed round the point where Dappa had begun to use Greek letters. “Tell me, Dappa, were there any German pirates aboard your ship?”

“You mean, native speakers of High-Dutch, or Hochdeutsch? Alas, they are a rare breed ’mong pirates, for the Germans fear water, and love order. Most of them were Dutchmen. However, there was a prisoner, kept in fetters down in the bilge, a Bavarian diplomat who taught me his language.”

“Right then!” And Peer flipped opened his note-book, and began to scan pages filled with laboriously botched cartoons. “Well, Dappa, you may not be aware that we Englishmen dwell on something very much like the sandbars you used to see in your rivers, save that ours is much larger, and free of crocodiles-” He held up a sketch.

“We call it an island,” said the Marquis of Ravenscar helpfully.

“There is a great river of cold, salty water,” Peer said, holding his arms far apart, “ever so much broader than the distance between my book and my pencil, separating us from a place called Europe which is full of nasty nasty apes. In your system of mental ideas, you might liken it to a lot of monkey-bands who are forever screeching and throwing rocks at each other.”

“But sometimes we cross the salty river on things like hollow logs, except much larger,” said the Marquis of Ravenscar, now getting into the spirit of things, “and throw a few rocks of our own, just to stay in practice!” He winked at Dappa, who gave back a brooding stare.

“There is a frightfully enormous and strong old gorilla, a silver-back, of whom we are terrified, just over the river.”

Dappa sighed, sensing that there was no way out. “I think I’ve seen his image on French coins, he is called Leroy.”

“Yes! He owns more bananas than anyone else, has more apes in his tribe, and has thrown a lot of rocks at us.”

“That must be very painful indeed,” Dappa said, not very sympathetically.

“Yes, quite,” said Peer. “But we have a mighty silver-back of our own, a really stupendous and deadly accurate stone-thrower, who, some moons ago, chased Leroy right up a tree! Because of this, our little band, here on our sandbar in the salty river, cannot make out whether to worship and revere our big silver-back as a god, or fear and revile him as a devil. Now, we have an enormous clearing in the jungle, actually not far from where we are right now, where we convene to make obeisance to a certain female silver-back, rather frail-and where we beat our chests, and throw f?ces at each other.”

“Ugh! Until you told me that, I was about to say, I should like to see this clearing.”

“Yes, it is rather frightful,” Roger put in, dismayed by Peer’s similitude, “but we have found throwing f?ces preferable to throwing rocks.”

“Do you throw your f?ces, my lord Wragby?” Dappa asked.

“It is what I do for a living!” answered Peer, shaking his note-book, “and what you see here is the Instrument I use to scrape my Ammunition off the jungle floor.”

“May I ask, what is special about this female silver-back, that you should brave flying f?cal material to pay homage to her?”

“She holds our Stick of Power,” Peer answered, as if that settled it. “Now, to the matter at hand. There are two tribes vying for the favor of the ancient female silver-back. The leader of one of those tribes stands before you.” He indicated Roger, who made a courtly bow. “Alas, we have been driven to the periphery of the clearing by the most incredible and sustained f?ces-barrage this jungle has ever witnessed; and the terribly, terribly mighty and enormous English silver-back I spoke of was nearly buried alive in it, and withdrew across the cold, salty river to a place named Antwerp, where it is possible for him to sit and enjoy the occasional banana without being struck in the face by a flying turd. And we who follow Roger, here, are frightfully curious to know if, and when, our big silver-back is coming back over the river, and whether he might be in a mood to throw any actual stones at any of us if, and when, he does, and whether he has any designs on the Stick of Power.”

“And what of Leroy? Is he still up his tree?”

“Leroy is halfway to the ground! And from his distance, with his failing eye-sight, he cannot easily distinguish between apes throwing stones, and apes throwing mere f?ces; at any rate, if he thinks we are distracted, why, he’ll scamper right back down to terra firma like the cheeky monkey he is, and we don’t want that.”

“If I may ask a direct question, why are you telling me these things, my lord?”

“That nice female you paid a call on earlier today,” said Peer, “that most admirable yellow-haired chimp, why, she has just crossed over the cold salty river and returned to our sandbar after sojourning, for many moons, in the jungle that lies off where the sun rises every morning, where a thousand different German-speaking ape-tribes vie for the control of individual trees, or, indeed, individual branches of trees. She came over on a giant hollow log that seemed to have a larger-than-normal number of these German-speaking apes on board. She came from the general direction of the place where our formidable silver-back has been biding his time, and enjoying his bananas. Which band does she belong to? For in the country where she was sojourning dwells another female silver-back, who has the run of several biggish trees, and who has her eye on our Stick. Does your friend belong to her tribe? Or is she in the camp of him who bides his time in Antwerp? Or both, or neither?”

Now it was Dappa’s turn to look glazed. After working this through for a moment, he guessed: “You’re trying to work out whether it would enure to your benefit to hurl some f?ces at Eliza.”

“I say, you are spot on!” Peer exclaimed. “That Spinozzel chap really was on to something!”

Roger Comstock had a particular way of holding himself, when he wanted to say something, that caused everyone within a pike-length to shut up and turn towards him worshipfully. This everyone now did, because he was holding himself in that way. After collecting himself for a few moments, he held up one hand, thumb tucked into palm, and gave Dappa another wink. “Four silver-backs.” The other hand came up, two fingers extended. “Two Sticks of Power. One of them rather firmly in the grip of Leroy and his heirs and assigns. The other, widely seen as being Up for Grabs. So, let us consider the four silver-backs.” Now he was holding up both hands, two fingers extended from each. “Two female, two male, all very very old, though, ’tmust be allowed, the one in Antwerp is as vigorous as a battle-weary sixty-four-year-old could ever be. The German female has a son, a great oafish gorilla who is going to have our Power-Stick lodged in his fat fist quite soon, if I’ve anything to say about it. Now his mum is hated by the female who presides over our sandbar today; why, she begins to screech and wave the Stick about the moment she detects a whiff of this German on the breeze. So quite naturally the son is persona non grata here. But he has a son of his own, and we’d very much like to see him swinging through English trees and eating English bananas as soon as we can get him over here. So-”

“Then don’t throw shit at Eliza,” Dappa said.

“Thank you.”

“Perhaps we should throw a bit so it doesn’t look as if we are colluding,” Peer suggested, clearly disappointed.

“Perhaps you should go pick some nits out of her hair, my lord,” Dappa returned.

“Thank you, Dappa, that will be all,” said Roger sternly, and led Peer away by the elbow.

“Before you ask,” Daniel said, “that was a ten.”

DAPPA BROODED THROUGH most of the trip to Crane Court.

Daniel ventured: “I hope I did not offend you, in the way I dealt with Peer. I could not think of any other way to respond.”

“To you, he is just a singular imbecile,” Dappa returned. “To me, he is a typical sample of the sort of bloke I need to reach with my books. And so, if I seem distracted, it is not because I am annoyed with you-though I am a little. It is because I am asking myself, what is the point of trying to reach such persons at all? Am I wasting my time?”

“My nephew simply believes whatever the people around him believe,” Daniel said. “If every man in the Kit-Cat Clubb proclaimed you King of England, why, he would fall on his knees and kiss your ring.”

“This may be true, but it does not help me, or my publisher.”

“Your publisher,” Daniel said. “The Duchess. She and you were simply talking about selling books, weren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“She doesn’t speak to you of those matters that so concern the Whigs.”

“Of course she doesn’t. Don’t tell me you were going to ask about it as well?”

“I admit to some curiosity about the Duchess, and what she is up to in London,” Daniel said. “I knew her once, Dappa, many years ago. Recently, she has let me know that she means to renew the acquaintance. I do not phant’sy this is owed to my looks, or my charm.”

Dappa offered nothing. They rattled on wordlessly for a bit. Daniel sensed that this bit of news had only made Dappa more anxious. “Will it create a tremendous hardship for Minerva if you follow my advice, and do not unload the anti-fouling plates?”

“It will create the need for a loan,” Dappa replied, “which will have to be repaid, in gold, upon our return.”

“I can arrange something,” Daniel said.

In the dim light scattering into the carriage he could see Dappa’s eyes flick towards the window, a gesture of annoyance. Daniel could guess what he was thinking: what sort of pass have we come to when we must look to an aged scientist as our banker?

HE INSISTED THAT THE DRIVER let him off at the entrance to Crane Court, rather than squeezing through that narrow arch and driving all the way to the Royal Society’s front door. The short walk would do him some good. He bid Dappa good-bye and tottered on creaky legs through the entrance. The hackney remained where it was for a few moments, keeping an eye on him. But Crane Court was an unlikely place for footpads, as they’d have no way to escape from it if a hue and cry were raised. So presently the horses were given orders to move, and the hackney clattered away, taking Dappa down to White Friars Stairs where he could find a waterman to row him down the Thames to Minerva.

Daniel was alone in the familiar confines of Crane Court; and at that moment he was struck by a monstrous thought.

Now, it had been a very long day indeed, beginning with a journey up to the Templar-tomb in Clerkenwell and continuing through Hockley-in-the

–Hole, an odd conversation with Peter (Saturn) Hoxton, a refreshing visit to Catherine Barton at Roger’s house, the long-dreaded reunion with Miss Barton’s uncle, and later the Kit-Cat Clubb. Too many threads, and too much information for his stiff old brain to cope with. Any part of the day would have given him plenty to think about during his short stroll from Fleet Street to the door of the R.S. But what his mind seized upon was Isaac’s sedan chair.

Just before and after the explosion, a sedan chair had been poised at the very place where Daniel had just alighted from the hackney, there in the arched tunnel where Crane Court debouched into Fleet Street.

Tonight his way up the Court was nearly barred by a vault-wagon drawn up to exhaust the sewage from one of the town-houses. He diverted round it, desiring to give it the widest berth possible, lest he get splashed. But just before he did, he turned round and looked back toward Fleet, peering through the arch. Golden light was gleaming through from whale-oil street-lanthorns on Fleet, just as on the night of the explosion.

On that Sunday evening, the mysterious sedan chair had been framed in the entry, dead center, a black doorway suspended in the arch of light. It had followed them to that point; paused; waited (or so it seemed) for the explosion; and then it had fled, pursued, briefly, by the hapless Watchman.

Isaac had said something, earlier today, to the effect he’d been shocked to see Daniel traveling in the company of Mr. Threader. This could be interpreted more than one way; but the most straightforward was that he literally had observed the two of them together in Mr. Threader’s carriage.

Which could only have occurred along Fleet Ditch in the minutes before the explosion. Perhaps Isaac had been in that sedan chair. Perhaps it had been nothing more than a coincidence that he had fallen in alongside Mr. Threader’s carriage when he had. Perhaps he had been on his way from some errand-and it would have had to’ve been a very dark and strange one indeed-in the dangerous alleys on the eastern brink of the Ditch, en route to his dwelling off Leicester Fields. But then why had he stopped in the entrance to Crane Court?

Daniel turned about and gazed at the arch again, trying to re-summon the fading memory.

But instead of seeing the remembered image of the black box, he saw a limbed shadow detach itself from one side of the arch and flit across the opening. It was a man who had been lurking there, and who had just made his departure onto Fleet Street. A moment later Daniel heard iron horseshoes splashing sparks on the brittle ashlars of the street. It was a rider, who had dismounted, and led his horse quietly to the entrance, so that he could spy on Daniel more discreetly. He had probably lost Daniel in the shadows of the vault-wagon and decided to call it a night.

Daniel had lost his train of thought concerning the sedan chair. He turned and walked quickly until his nostrils and his eyes no longer burned from the ammonia-cloud surrounding the vault-wagon. He was hardly surprised to hear footsteps behind him.

“Are you the gager Saturn names Doc?” said a pre-adolescent boy. “Don’t loap off, I ain’t a scamperer.”

Daniel considered stopping, but reckoned the boy could keep up with him. “Are you of the Black-guard?” he asked wearily.

“No, Doc, but I’ve my Aspirations.”

“Very well.”

“This is for you, then,” said the boy, and held out a folded stick of paper, very white compared to his filthy hand. Daniel accepted it. The boy darted back down the court and climbed aboard the vault-wagon he’d rode in on. “Lovely watch you’ve there-best keep an eye on it!” he called out, as a sort of pleasantry.

Henry Arlanc let him in, and helped stow away his coat and walking-stick. “It is a great honour to have been named Secretary of your Clubb, sir,” he observed. “I’ve just been copying out today’s Minutes.”

“You will do very well,” Daniel assured him. “I only wish our Clubb was one that met in a nice house and offered food and drink.”

“For that, I’ve the Royal Society, Doctor.”

“Yes, but you are not the Secretary.”

“I could be. If a Secretary’s job is to prick down all comings and goings, doings and discussions, why ’tis all here,” said Arlanc-strangely talkative this evening-and pointed to his head. “Why’re you peering at me so, Doctor?”

“I just had a thought.”

Henry Arlanc shrugged. “Would you like me to fetch a quill and-”

“No, thank you. This one will rest secure up here,” said Daniel, and imitated Henry’s head-pointing gesture. “Henry, does it ever happen that Sir Isaac will come here in his sedan chair, on a Sunday evening?”

“Frequently!” Henry answered. “There is always business here, pressing in on him. In the week, he has responsibilities at the Mint. Then, when he comes here, there are so many visitors, distractions. But he has learnt the trick of coming late on Sundays, when no one is in the building except for me and Madame, who understand that he is not to be disturbed. Then he can work late into the night, sometimes even until sunrise on Monday.”

“No one calls for him then, eh?”

“Pourquoi non, for no one knows he is here.”

“Except for you, and Madame Arlanc, and his own servants.”

“All I meant, sir, was that no one who would dare to disturb him knows he is here.”

“Of course.”

“Why do you ask, Doctor?” Arlanc said; an odd and rude thing for a porter to say to a Doctor.

“I phant’sied I had seen signs of his presence round the house on some Sunday evenings, and wondered if I were imagining things.”

“You have imagined nothing, Doctor. May I assist you up stairs?”


If you are reading this it means that the boy found you in Crane Court. You may wish to check your pockets, amp;c.

Know that a representative of mine is scheduled to partake of high tea with a friend of a friend of Mr. Teach on Thursday next. Inquiries will be made.

I went to your hole in the ground and chased out two culls who had gone down there, and not for the usual purpose, viz. buggery. I believe they mistook me for the Ghost of a Knight Templar, from which I conclude, they were cultivated men.



Thank you for your diligence. It is what I would expect of an Horologist.

Suppose I had come into possession of some odds and ends of yellow metal; then do you know any of the sort of men who would buy them from me? Any you particularly dislike? I ask purely as an academic exercise, on behalf of a noted Natural Philosopher.

Dr. Waterhouse


I can think of no better way to repay the hospitality you showed me at your house today, than to respectfully inform you that someone may be trying to Blow you Up. Whoever it is, would appear to be well acquainted with your habits. Consider varying them.

Your humble and obedient servant,


P.S. Concerning the other topic of our discussion, I am making inquiries.

Crane Court, London

22 APRIL 1714

…whereas here; all, as well Brandy as Wine, and all our strong compounded Drinks, such as stout Ale, Punch, Double-Beer, Fine-Ale, amp;c. are all drank to Excess, and that to such a Degree, as to become the Poison, as well of our Health as of our Morals; fatal to the Body, to Principles, and even to the Understanding; and we see daily Examples of Men of strong Bodies drinking themselves into the Grave; and which is still worse, Men of strong Heads, and good Judgment, drinking themselves into Idiotism and Stupidity…


A Plan of the English Commerce

A GUTTER RAN DOWN the centerline of Crane Court, in a weak bid to make Gravity do something useful. The slope was so feeble that when Daniel walked down to Fleet Street, he overtook a floating apple-core he’d tossed into it a quarter of an hour earlier, while standing in front of the Royal Society waiting for Saturn to appear.

Peter Hoxton nearly filled the archway. His hands were thrust in his waistcoat-pockets, his arms akimbo, giving his upper half the same general shape as the planet Saturn viewed through a telescope. He was smoking a clay-pipe whose stem was broken down to a mere knuckle-bone. As Daniel drew nearer, he took this out of his mouth and pitched it into the gutter; then froze, head bowed, as if a need to pray had suddenly come over him.

“Behold!” was the first thing he said to Daniel. “Behold what runs in your gutter here!”

Daniel drew up beside him and followed his gaze down. Where Crane Court’s gutter ran between Saturn’s feet, a sump had been formed by settling of the earth under the stones. In the deepest parts of it, the net-work of crevices between stones was plotted in brilliant lines of liquid argent.

“Quicksilver,” Daniel said. “Probably discarded from the Royal Society’s laboratories.”

“Point to it!” Saturn suggested, still staring fixedly at the quicksilver net-work.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Point to the Royal Society, and make as if you’re offering up some remark about it.”

Daniel uncertainly turned round and pointed up the center of Crane Court, though he omitted any feigned remarks. Saturn turned his head to look that way; peered blankly for a few moments; then turned his back on Daniel and shuffled off into Fleet Street.

Daniel took a few moments to catch up in traffic. The church-bells had struck six P.M. a few minutes ago. Fleet was deadly crowded.

“I phant’sied you’d have a hackney,” Daniel said, hoping to rein Saturn in by starting a conversation with him. “I did mention that all expenses would be reimbursed…”

“No need,” Saturn returned, sowing the words back over his shoulder, “the place is all of two hundred paces from here.” He was walking east on Fleet, glancing over his shoulder for openings between riders and coaches and wagons, sometimes trespassing in front of them to claim right-of-way. The general plan seemed to be that they would cross over to the south side.

“You had intimated it might be near by,” Daniel said, “but I find it startling that a house of that type should lie so near to-to-”

“To a house of the Royal Society’s type? Not at all, Doc. The streets of London are like bookshelves, you can as leave find unlike houses next to each other as find a picaroon-romance shelved alongside a Bible.”

“Why did you need for me to point at the Royal Society, just now?”

“So I might look at it.”

“I did not know one needed leave to look at it.”

“That is because you are used to the ways of Natural Philosophers, who are forever peering at whatever pleases them. There is a kind of arrogance in that, you are unawares of. In other walks of life, one does need leave. And ’tis well we are having this talk en route to Hanging-Sword-Alley. For the ken we are going to is most certainly the sort where, Doc, you do need leave.”

“Why, then, I’ll have eyes only for you, Mr. Hoxton.”

They had come already to where Water Lane broke away to the right, and ran straight down to the river. Saturn made that turn, as if he meant to ramble down to White Friars Dock. The Lane was a straight and broad cleft separating two jumbled, mazy neighborhoods. On the right, the periphery of the Temple. Typical resident: a practitioner at law. On the left, the parish of St. Bride’s. Typical resident: a woman who’d been arrested for prostitution, thievery, or vagrancy and put to work pounding hemp at Bridewell. In his more peevish moments Daniel phant’sied that the only thing preventing those on the right and those on the left from coming together lewdly in the middle of the Lane, was the continual stream of redolent carts booming down it to eliminate their steaming loads upon Dung Wharf, which could be nosed a short distance ahead.

Water Lane was lined on both sides by post-Fire buildings, kept up in such a way as to give the casual stroller a frank and fair synopsis of the neighborhoods that spread behind them; which was to say that whenever Daniel walked down this way to the river, he hewed strictly to the right, or Temple, side, trailing a hand along shop-fronts as he went. When he was feeling bold, and was surrounded by well-dressed law-clerks and brawny, honest tradesmen, he would gaze across the way and disapprovingly regard the buildings on the left side.

There, between a certain pawn-shop and a certain tavern, stretched a narrow gap that reminded him of a missing tooth in a rotten jaw. He had always supposed that it was the result of an error by Robert Hooke, the late City Surveyor, who’d done his work sans flaw in the better neighborhoods, but who, when he got to this district, might possibly have been distracted by the charms of a Bridewell girl. Noting the sorts of people who came and went through that gap, Daniel had sometimes speculated as to what would befall him if he ever went in there, somewhat in the spirit of a seven-year-old boy wondering what would happen if he fell through the hole in an out-house.

When Saturn had entered Water Lane, he had gravitated to (inevitably) the left side, which caused Daniel to lose his bearings, as he’d never seen it from this perspective. The strolling, snuff-taking lawyers across the way looked doltish.

After just a few paces Saturn veered round a corner into a narrow, gloomy pass, and Daniel, wanting nothing more than to stay close, hurried after him. Not until they had penetrated ten paces into it did he turn round to look at the bright facades on the other side of Water Lane, far far away, and realize that they had gone into that same Gap he had oft wondered about.

It were just to describe his movements now as scurrying. He drew abreast of Saturn and tried to emulate his manner of not gazing directly at anything. If this maze of alleys were as horrible as he’d always supposed, why, he did not see its horrors; and considering how briskly they were moving, it hardly seemed as if there would be time for any of them to catch up. He foresaw a long train of stranglers and footpads stretched out in their wake, huffing and puffing and bent over from side-aches.

“I presume this is some sort of a lay?” said Peter Hoxton.

“Meaning…a plan…scheme…or trap,” Daniel gasped. “I am as mystified as you are.”

“Does anyone else know where we are going, and when?” Saturn tried.

“I let the name of the place, and the time of the meeting, be known.”

“Then it’s a lay.” Saturn darted sideways and punched his way through a door without knocking. Daniel, after a clutching, febrile moment of being by himself in the center of Hanging-Sword-Alley, scrambled after him, and did not leave off from scrambling until he was seated next to Peter Hoxton before the hearth of a house.

Saturn spooned coal onto the evidence of a late fire. The room was already stuffy; these were the last chairs anyone wanted.

“This is really not so very dreadful after all,” Daniel ventured.

Saturn rummaged up a bellows, got its two handles in his hands, and held it up for a mechanical inspection. A brisk squeeze slapped lanky black locks away from his face. He aimed it at the pile of coal and began crushing the handles back and forth as if the bellows were a flying-machine, and he trying to raise himself off the floor.

Following Saturn’s warnings, Daniel had religiously avoided looking at anything. But the close, and now smoky, air of this parlour was leavened by female voices. He could not stop himself turning to look at an outburst of feminine laughter from the far end of the room. He got an impression of rather a lot of mismatched and broken-down furniture arranged in no particular way, but swept back and forth across the room by ebbing and flowing tides of visitors. There might have been a score of persons in the room, about evenly divided between the sexes, and clumped together in twos, threes, and fours. At the far end was a large window looking out onto a bright outdoor space, perhaps Salisbury Square in the heart of St. Bride’s. Daniel could not tell, because the windows were screened with curtains, made of rather good lace, but too large for these windows, and tarred brown as naval hemp by pipe-smoke. They were, he realized with a mild thrill, curtains that had been stolen-probably snatched right from someone’s open window in broad daylight. Silhouetted against that ochre scrim were three women, two gaunt and young, the other plump and a bit older, and smoking a clay-pipe.

He forced himself to turn his attention back to Saturn. But as he did so he scanned the room and got an impression of many different kinds of people: a gentleman who would not have looked out of place promenading round St. James’s Square, as well as several who belonged more to Hockley-in-the-


By his exertions Saturn had evoked light, but no perceptible heat, from the rubble of coals and ashes on the hearth. That was enough-no heat was wanted. It seemed he’d only wanted something to occupy his nervous hands.

“A lot of females!” Daniel remarked.

“We call them women,” Saturn snapped. “I hope you haven’t been peering about like some damned Natural Philosopher at a bug collection.”

“We call them insects,” Daniel shot back. This elicited a gentlemanly nod from Saturn.

“Without peering,” Daniel continued, “I can see well enough that, though it’s untidy, it’s far from loathsome.”

“To a point, criminals love order even more than Judges,” Saturn said.

At that moment, a boy entered the room, breathing hard, and scanned the faces. He picked out Saturn instantly, and moved toward him with a joyous expression, reaching significantly into his pocket; but Peter Hoxton must have given him a glare or a gesture, because suddenly his face fell and he spun away on his heel.

“A boy who snatches your watch in the street, and runs off with it, does not do so out of a perverse longing to cause you grief. He is moved by a reasonable expectation of profit. Where you see sheep being sheared, you may assume there are spinning-wheels nearby; where you have your pocket picked, you know that there is a house such as this one within sprinting-distance.”

“In its ambience ’tis rather like a coffee-house.”

“Aye. But mind, the sort who’re disposed to abhor such kens as this would say its hellishness inheres in its very congeniality.”

“I must admit, it smells less of coffee than of the cheap perfume of geneber.”

“Gin, we call it in places like this. My downfall,” Saturn explained laconically, peering over his shoulder at the boy, who was now in negotiations with a fat, solitary man at a corner table. Saturn went on to give the room a thorough scan.

“You dishonor your own rules! What are you looking at?”

“I am reminding myself of the exits. If this turns out to be a lay, I shall not bother excusing myself.”

“Did you perchance see our buyer?” Daniel inquired.

“Save my fellow horologist in the corner there, and this gager next to us, who is trying to wash away his pox with gin and mercury, everyone here has come in groups,” Saturn said, “and I told the buyer that he must come alone.”

“Gager is what you call an elderly man.”


Daniel hazarded a look at said gager, who was curled up on the floor in the corner by the hearth, no more than a sword-length from them-for the room was small, the tables close, and the separation between groups was preserved only through a kind of etiquette. The gager looked like a whorl of blankets and worn-out clothes, with pale hands and a face projecting from one end. Resting on the hearth-stones directly before him were a clay bottle of Dutch geneber and a thumb-sized flask of mercury. This was the first clue that he was syphilitic, for mercury was the only known remedy for that disease. But confirmation could be had by looking at his face, which was disfigured by lumpy tumors, called gummas, rimming his mouth and his eyes.

“Every snatch of conversation you overhear in this room shall be riddled with such flash cant as ‘gager,’ ‘lay,’ et cetera, for here, as in the legal and medical professions, the more impenetrable a man’s speech, the higher the esteem in which he is held. Nothing would be more injurious to our reputation in this house, than for us to speak intelligibly. Yet we may have to wait for a long time. And I fear I may fall into drinking gin, and end up like yon gager. So, let us have an unintelligible conversation about our religion.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Remember, Doc, you are my Father Confessor, I your disciple, and your portion of our bargain is that you shall help me draw nigher to Truths ?ternal through the sacrament of Technology. This-” and he scanned the room lightly, without letting his eye catch on anything, “is not what I signed on for. We were to be in Clerkenwell, building things.”

“And we shall be,” Daniel assured him, “once the masons, carpenters, and plasterers have finished their work round the old Temple there.”

“That should not be long. I’ve never seen stones piled up in such haste,” Saturn said. “What is it you mean to make there, then?”

“Read the newspapers,” Daniel returned.

“What’s that s’posed to mean?”

“What’s the matter, you’re the one who wanted to speak in cyphers.”

“I do read the newspapers,” said Saturn, wounded.

“Have you attended to what goes on in Parliament?”

“A lot of screeching and howling as to whether our next King’s son* ought to be given a hero’s welcome in the House of Lords, or barred from the Realm.”

Daniel chuckled. “You must be a Whig, to refer so confidently to George Louis as our next King.”

“What do I look like to you?” said Saturn, suddenly lowering his voice, and looking about uneasily.

“A Jacobite Tory, dyed in the wool!”

Daniel’s chuckling at his own jest was, for a few moments, the only sound in the room. Then:

“There’ll be no such talk in this house!”

The speaker was a short, stout Welshman with a large jaw. He was wrapped in a bulky and bulging black cloak, as if he’d just come in from outside, and was making a sweep through the parlour on his way back to the kitchen. A brace of empty gin-bottles dangled by their necks between the fingers of his right hand, and a full one was gripped in his left. Daniel assumed the fellow was being wry, and chuckled some more; but the Welshman very deliberately swiveled his head around and gave Daniel a glare that shut him up. Most of the people in the room were now looking their way.

“Your usual, Saturn?” the Welshman said, though he continued to stare fixedly at Daniel.

“Have her bring us coffee, Angus. Gin disagrees with me these days, and as you have perceived, my friend has already drunk one bottle too many.”

Angus turned around and stalked out of the room.

“I am sorry!” Daniel exclaimed. Until moments ago he had felt strangely at home here. Now, he felt more agitated than he had out in the alley.

The wretch on the floor went into a little fit of shuddering, and tried to jerk his unresponsive limbs into a more comfortable lie.

“I assumed-” Daniel began.

“That the words you were using were as alien to this place as the Calculus.”

“Why should the proprietor-I assume that’s what he was-care if I make such a jest-?”

“Because if word gets round that Angus’s ken is a haunt of such persons-”


“Meaning, persons who have secretly vowed that the Hanover shall not be our next King,” Saturn croaked, so quietly that Daniel was forced to read his lips, “and that the Changeling* shall be, why, it shall become self-fulfilling, shall it not? Then such persons-who are always in want of a place to convene, and conspire-will begin to come here.”

“What does it matter!?” Daniel whispered furiously. “The place is filled with criminals to begin with!”

“And that is how Angus likes it, for he is a past master among thief-takers,” Saturn said, his patience visibly dwindling. “He knows how it all works with the Watch, the Constables, and the Magistrates. But if the supporters of the Changeling begin to convene here, why, everything’s topsy-turvy, isn’t it, now the house is a heaven for Treason as well as Larceny, and he’s got the Queen’s Messengers to contend with.”

“I hardly phant’sy the Queen’s Messengers would ever venture into a place like this!” Even Daniel had the wit to mouth the name, rather than speaking it aloud.

“Be assured they would, if treason were afoot here! And Angus would be half-hanged, drawn, and quartered at the Treble Tree, ’long with some gaggle of poxy Jacobite viscounts. No decent end for a simple thief-taker, that.”

“You called him that before.”

“Called him what?”

“A thief-taker.”


“But I thought a thief-taker was one who brought thieves to justice, to collect a reward from the Queen. Not a-” But Daniel stopped there, as Peter Hoxton had got a look on his phizz that verged on nausea, and was shaking his head convulsively.

“I see you’ve been sending my coal right up the fucking Chimney!” Angus proclaimed, stalking toward them. He had divested himself of the cloak and the gin-bottles and was now being followed, at a prudent distance, by a Bridewellish-looking girl with a mug of coffee in each hand.

“Rather, providing you with the service of keeping the fire going,” Saturn answered calmly, “at no charge, by the way.”

“I didn’t want it going to begin with!” Angus returned. “ ’Twas that lappy-cull who mewled and pleaded for a bit of warmth! Now you’ve gone and got it going again! There’ll be a charge for that!”

“Of course there will be,” Saturn said.

The coffee was served, and money changed hands, in the form of copper tokens, minutely examined by Angus.

“Now why do you say I should attend to the doings of Parliament?” Saturn asked, as they were beginning to sip their coffee. “What connexion could I possibly draw between the situation of the Duke of Cambridge* and your hole in the ground in Clerkenwell?”

“None whatever. Save that Parliament’s more loud and obvious doings may be used as a sort of screen or blind to cover arcane, subtile machinations that might reward your attention.”

“This is worse than being given no information at all,” Saturn grumbled.

A man entered solus, and began to look round the place. Daniel knew immediately it was their buyer. But rather than jumping to make their presence known, he settled deeper into his chair so that he could spend a few moments inspecting the newcomer. In silhouette against the glowing screen of curtains, he could easily be confused with an actual gentleman, for he wore a wig, clamped down by a hat with a vast brim folded upwards in the style then mandatory. A sword dangled from one hip. But when he stood, he crouched, and when he walked, he scuttled, and when he noticed things, he flinched. And when this man came over to the hearth, and accepted a chair pulled up by the uncharacteristically hospitable Peter Hoxton, Daniel perceived that his wig was stinking horsehair, his hat was too small, and his sword was more danger to himself, in its sheath, than it would’ve been to others, out of it. He nearly tripped over it twice, because every time he whacked it off a chair- or table-leg it jumped back between his ankles. He put Daniel in mind of a clown at St. Bartholomew’s Fair, got up to mock a gentleman. Yet the mere fact that he was trying so hard earned him a sort of dignity, and probably counted for something in a house of this type.

“Mr. Baynes, Dr. Gatemouth,” said Saturn. “Doc, say hallow to him we are calling Mr. Baynes.”

“Dr. Gatemouth, ’tis a pleasure as well as an honour,” said the newcomer.

“Mr. Baynes,” Daniel said.

“Would you be one of the Gatemouths of Castle Gatemouth?”

Daniel had no idea what to do with this question.

“Doc is of a very old family of armigerous yeomen in the Gatemouth district,” prated Saturn, sounding bored.

“Ah, perhaps they knew some of my forebears,” exclaimed Mr. Baynes, patting his sword-hilt, “for I am nearly certain that Gatemouth Abbey lies adjacent to a certain vicarage where-”

“It is not his real name,” Saturn snapped.

“Of course, that is obvious, do you think I am a child? I was merely trying to make him feel at ease.”

“Then you failed. Let us speak of the Ridge, so that we may ease him out of this ken.”

Said to a real gentleman, these words would have provoked a duel. So Daniel at this point was one uneasy gager. But Mr. Baynes was unfazed. He took a moment to re-compose himself and said, “Very well.”

“Do you understand that the amount in play is large?”

“A large weight was bandied about, but this tells me little of the actual amount of Ridge, until the purity of the metal has been quoined.”

“How large a quoin do you propose to hack off?” said Saturn, amused.

“Large enough to balance my toils and sufferings.”

“Howsoever much you assay-assuming you truly do-you’ll find Doc, here, is no Beaker. The amount and the weight are as identical as the refiner’s fire can make ’em. And then what?”

“A transaction,” said Mr. Baynes, guardedly.

“But last time I had dealings with you, Mr. Baynes, you were in no position to move such a quantity of Ridge as Dr. Gatemouth has on his hands. A glance at your periwig tells me your fortunes have in no wise improved.”

“Peter Hoxton. I know more of your story than you of mine! Who are you to cast aspersions!?”

Now Daniel had scarcely followed a word of this, so dumbfounded was he by Mr. Baynes’s appearance. But around this time, he was able to formulate an explanation that fit the observed phenomena, viz.: Mr. Baynes had wooden teeth that had been carved to fit a larger mouth. They were forever trying to burst free of the confines of his head, which gave him a somewhat alarming, horselike appearance when it was happening. For him, speech was a continual struggle to expel words whilst keeping a grip on his dentition. Therefore he spoke in a slow, deliberate, and literally biting cadence, terminating each phrase with an incredible feat of flapping his prehensile lips around his runaway choppers and hauling them back into captivity.

The sheer effort expended-so say nothing of the risk incurred-in casting this rebuke at Saturn, gave it telling weight. Peter Hoxton recoiled, fell back in his chair, and raised a hand to run it back through his hair.

Having thus cleared the floor, Mr. Baynes continued, “Supposing a cull did have the resources” (a very difficult word for him to…pronounce…requiring a lip-wrap fore and aft) “to engage in a Transaction of the magnitude contemplated by Dr. Gatemouth-would he come here to meet with a stranger? I think not! He would delegate the matter to an underling, who would in turn choose a trusted intermediary, to make the initial contact.”

Saturn grinned, which only made his unshaven face seem darker, and shook his head. “We all know there is only one coiner in the realm who can act on this scale. There is no need to flinch, I’ll not utter his name aloud in this place. You’d have us believe, I take it, that you are speaking on behalf of some lieutenant of his?”

“A great big one-armed cove, a foreigner,” Mr. Baynes allowed.

And now, a bit of a Moment. To this point, Mr. Baynes had been putting on a passable show. But it was bad form to have volunteered such information, and he knew it.

“You see, I do not bate at divulging such data, such is my confidence that he will deal only through me.”

Doc and Saturn nodded sagely, but the damage had been done, and Mr. Baynes knew, though he might not admit, it.

The syphilitic gager on the floor, who had appeared dead for a while, had been stirring ever since Mr. Baynes had made his entrance. Daniel supposed this was an effect of the way they’d rearranged the chairs, for Daniel had moved to a new spot between the wretch and his precious coal-fire, and was blocking what little warmth spread out of it. The gager now made noises that indicated he was sitting up. Daniel did not turn around to look-he did not have to, as Saturn was watching all with green disgust. Something told Daniel to rise and get out of the way.

He and most other Fellows of the Royal Society recognized syphilis and leprosy as distinct diseases, spread in different ways. But most other persons had conflated the two diseases in their minds, and so recoiled from syphilitics in much the same way as they would from lepers. This explained everything about how Saturn was reacting now. Daniel, F.R.S. though he was, reverted to superstition in the clutch, and allowed the gager the widest possible berth as he half-crawled and half-staggered toward the hearth. Some of his limbs dragged senseless on the floor, while others moved in spasms, as if he were being stung by invisible hornets. Trailing his nest of filthy blankets behind him, he slouched on the hearth, completely eclipsing the light of the fire, and hunched even closer to it, rubbing his paralyzed hand with his twitchy one. His gray hair would be dangling and burning in the coals now if he, or someone, hadn’t wrapped it all up in a sort of bandage-turban atop his head.

“The questions that this foreign gentleman will ask of me, may be easily anticipated,” observed Mr. Baynes.

“Indeed,” Saturn returned. “The Ridge is from America.”

“As Dr. Gatemouth is known to have recently come over from Boston, no one phant’sied it came from Guinea,” Mr. Baynes said, with elaborate meanness. “The foreign gentleman will be curious: have rich new gold mines been discovered on the banks of the River Charles? Because if so-”

“If the foreign gentleman truly does represent the coiner you and I are thinking of, why, he must be a busy man, and disinclined to hear long tedious Narrations of pirate-exploits on the Spanish Main, et cetera,” Saturn said. “Does it not suffice for him to know that it is in fact Ridge? For the entire point of Ridge is that it may be confused with other Ridge, and it matters not where ’twas dug out of the ground.”

“The foreign gentleman thinks it does matter, and further, is ever alert for inconsistencies in Narrations. Indeed, in his world, where commerce is, of necessity, informal and ad hoc in the extreme, to tell a coherent Story is the sole way of establishing one’s credit.”

“Mr. Baynes is correct as far as that goes,” Saturn told Daniel in an aside. “Men of this sort are literary critics of surpassing shrewdness.”

“No convincing Tale means no Credit, and no Transaction. I am here, not to quoin your Ridge, but to assay your Story; and if I do not bring him a ripping pirate-yarn to-night, why, you are finished.”

An odd snuffing noise issued from the hearth, as if a handful of dust had been tossed on the coals. Daniel glanced over to see that the gager was rubbing feverishly at his eyes and his mouth. Perhaps the smoke had irritated his mucous membranes, and had made him sneeze and paw at the encrusted sores that so disfigured his face. Daniel then noticed that the fire was blazing up, but producing a good deal more smoke than light. The smoke was drawing swiftly up the chimney, which was fortunate, because it had an evil, thick, reddish look.

He turned his attention away from the strange actions of the gager, and back to matters at hand: Mr. Baynes, who was still prating about the foreign gentleman, and an empty chair.

The empty chair demanded a second glance, and then a third.

Mr. Baynes himself was only just becoming aware that Saturn was gone. Both of them now turned to survey the parlour, supposing that their companion might have stood up to stretch, or to rid himself of his empty mug.

Twilight had come over Salisbury Square, but enough of it sifted in through the windows to show that Peter Hoxton was no longer in the room.

Most of that light was now blocked. The women who had been perched before the lace curtain were scattering away from it. One seized a fistful of skirt and hauled it clear of her ankles, and used the other hand as a flail to clear impediments out of her course: a straight line to the nearest exit. She looked as if she were of a mind to scream, but had more important things to do just now, and so all that came from her mouth was a sort of hooting noise.

For an instant it was almost completely dark in the room, and then Daniel felt in his soul the impact of something huge upon the window. Stakes of broken wood strode end-over-end across the floor, bounding through a skittering wash of sharded glass.

He stood up. A lot of people seemed to be headed his way, as half the space in the room had been claimed by a black bulk thrust in through the obliterated window. Daniel stepped back toward the chimney-corner, knowing that, in a human stampede, he’d be the first to end up with boot-prints on his face; but suddenly there was a fizzing noise nearby, and the room was plastered with hellish light. The faces of the onrushing guests burst out of the gloom, a choir of white ovals, mouths opened, not to sing, but to scream; then they all raised hands or arms to protect their eyes. They parted to the sides of the room, faltered as they bashed into one another and stumbled over furniture, and finally came to a stand.

The center was now clear, except for a treacherous rubble of upended chairs, and Daniel had a clear view of the thing that had come in. It was a large and heavy-built wagon, like the ones used to transport bullion, but reinforced for ramming, and painted a black so profound that, even in the dissolving radiance that now filled the room, it was nothing more than a brooding blur. One part of it stood out brightly. Fixed to the prow of this terrestrial Ram was a badge of silver metal: a flat plate of polished steel cut into the flashing silhouette of a greyhound in full chase.

Doors flew open on both sides of the wagon, and good boots began to hit the floor; Daniel could see little, but he could hear the jingling of spurs, and the ring of steel blades being whisked from scabbards: Evidence that Angus’s new guests were Persons of Quality.

Daniel half-turned toward the source of the light, shielding his eyes from it with one hand, and looked at Mr. Baynes, who had lost his teeth, and seemed very old and helpless. Of all the strange things that had obtruded on Mr. Baynes’s senses in the last ten heartbeats, the one that owned his attention was the emblem of the silver greyhound. Following Mr. Baynes’s gaze, Daniel began to see it in more than one place: the men piling out of the wagon, and herding Angus’s clients into the corners at sword-point, all wore similar badges on their breasts.

The unoccupied wagon was now withdrawn from the window and dragged off to one side. Suddenly the parlour had become an annex of Salisbury Square. A large cloaked man was cantering toward them on a black stallion, with saber drawn.

He rode right into the center of the room, reined in his charger, and stood up in his stirrups, revealing a silver greyhound pinned to his coat. “High Treason!” he proclaimed, in a voice loud enough to pelt off the opposite side of the square. “I say, on your knees, all of you!”

It was true of beasts and humans alike that when they were terrified-literally scared out of their wits, beyond the pale of reason-they either froze, or ran away. To this point Mr. Baynes had been frozen. Now his instincts told him to flee. He jumped up and turned away from all those silver greyhounds that seemed to be chasing him. In so doing, he turned full into the light. But the light was now coming over him like a burning cloud, seeming to exert a palpable force that pressed him down onto his knees, and then to all fours.

Daniel’s eyes had finally adjusted to the brightness, or perhaps the light was slowly burning out. He could see now that the old gager was gone, his blankets collapsed on the hearth like a snake’s shed skin.

From them had emerged what ninety-nine percent of Christendom would identify as an angel, with flowing white hair and a sword of fire. Even Daniel was tempted to think so; but on a moment’s reflection he decided it was Sir Isaac Newton, brandishing a rod of burning phosphorus.

DURING THE HOUR that followed the descent of the Queen’s Messengers on Angus’s boozing-ken, many vivid and novel scenes presented themselves to Daniel’s organs of sense. But the next time he had a moment to sit and think-which occurred on the head of a sloop anchored in the river off Black Friars, as he was taking a splendid crap into the Thames-these were the salient facts:

Isaac had tossed a handful of some chymical powder on the fire, causing thick smoke to spew out the chimney; this had been the signal for the Queen’s Messengers to mount their assault on Angus’s boozing-ken.

Peter Hoxton and Angus had dived through a sort of bolt-hole that led from the kitchen into the cellar of a neighboring house, gone out the back door into a little poultry-yard, vaulted a wall, streaked through a whorehouse, dodged into another boozing-ken, and taken another bolt-hole into an alley called The Wilderness (this the Queen’s Messengers learned by following their trail and interrogating bystanders).

At its eastern end, The Wilderness dead-ended in the burying-ground behind Bridewell. There, Angus and Saturn had parted ways among unmarked whores’ graves, and got away clean.

The sores on Isaac’s mouth and eyes were fakes, made from the congealed latex, or sap, of a Brazilian tree.

The Captain of the Queen’s Messengers-the big man who had ridden into the ken on horseback-was none other than Mr. Charles White, he of the bear-baiting and ear-biting.

After most of Angus’s clients had been duly scared out of their wits and sent running, the Queen’s Messengers, with Daniel, Isaac, and Mr. Baynes in tow, had barrelled down the length of The Wilderness with no less speed than Saturn and Angus. Before them, Bridewell rose up above its crowded burying-ground. It was a surplus Royal palace, turned over to the poor a long time ago, half burned down in the Fire, and half rebuilt. Daniel had never really taken a good look at it before, as why would anyone want to? But this was probably the right way to see it: catching the last glimmer of blue twilight, and protected from the denizens of St. Bride’s Parish by its muddy necropolis. As they gathered speed down The Wilderness, Daniel phant’sied that they were about to make a frontal assault on Bridewell Palace, galloping across the pocked lumpy glacis of the burying ground to ram down the doors and round up the whores. But at the last moment they veered right on Dorset and charged straight into the timber yard that spread along the riverbank there.

Two lighters had been tucked up against the timber-wharf, screened, by stacks of logs, from the view of any underworld sentries who might have been peering down from high windows of Bridewell. They had been well-manned with oarsmen, and ready to cast off and pull away.

A brief twilight row had taken the Messengers (half a dozen in all), Daniel, Sir Isaac, and their prisoner to this sloop, Atalanta. For tonight’s purposes, she was all bare spars, and incognito; but the coat of arms on one of her furled flags was that of Charles White. Atalanta was his own jacht. No doubt, when the Queen was made aware, she would be most grateful.

Charles White had spent the brief row sitting knee-to-knee with Mr. Baynes, absent-mindedly fondling the collection of dried human ears strung on his watch-chain, and wondering aloud how long it would take them to sail downriver to the Tower of London, where all of the really first-rate implements of torture were to be found. He had held a speculative colloquy with his fellow Messengers, wondering whether it would suffice merely to keel-haul Mr. Baynes en route; whether the effectiveness of said keel-hauling might be enhanced by doing it at the place (a hundred yards away) where Fleet Ditch emptied into the Thames; whether, in other words, Mr. Baynes’s ability to talk would be impaired or enhanced by being made to inhale sewage; or whether they’d have to keel-haul him and then use the facilities in the Tower. The problem being that traitors, who were destined to be publicly half-hanged, castrated, drawn, and quartered anyway, frequently saw no incentive to talk.

One of White’s lieutenants-a younger gentleman, probably picked for the role because he was sweet-faced and blond-then raised the following objection: namely, that Mr. Baynes might not be destined for the man-rated butcher-block at Tyburn at all, as it was not really demonstrated, yet, that he was, in fact, a traitor. He was roundly hooted down. But a minute later he raised the same objection again, and finally was given leave to explain himself.

A wily barrister, he said, might argue that Mr. Baynes was in truth a loyal subject of Her Majesty.

Stay, stay, ’twas not so preposterous! For clearly Dr. Waterhouse was a loyal subject, merely pretending to deal with coiners as a trick to gather intelligence. Could Mr. Baynes’s barrister not advance the same claim?

No, it was ludicrous on its face, retorted Charles White-much to the dismay of Mr. Baynes, who had begun to show stirrings of hope.

For (White went on) Mr. Baynes had not, in fact, proffered any such intelligence, indeed probably did not have any. So drawing and quartering was certainly to be the fate of him, and the only question was: how hideous would his tortures have to be, between now and then, to make him do as he ought?

Daniel had the misfortune, during all of this, to be seated in the prow of the lighter, facing aft. This gave him a clear view of Charles White’s broad back, and Mr. Baynes’s hairless and toothless head, which frequently strained up or sideways to scan the boat for a sympathetic face.

To Daniel it might be perfectly evident that it was a childish masque, scripted to play on Mr. Baynes’s terrors, and to break him without thumbscrews. But Mr. Baynes-an audience of one-was captivated by the show. His disbelief had not merely been suspended; it had been fired out of a cannon into a stone wall. There was little question his resistance was broken. The only open question was: were his wits ruined, too, to the point where he’d be useless?

Would Daniel, put in the same predicament, have been able to see through the ruse so easily? He doubted it.

Though perhaps he was in the same predicament, and the show was being staged for him as much as for Mr. Baynes.

The shit that he took off Atalanta’s head was a masterpiece, exactly two well-formed packages plunging into the river like sounding-leads, and vanishing without a splash-evidence that his gut would keep functioning well after other parts of him had given way to age. He was inclined to sit there for a few minutes with his buttocks cupped in the luxuriously polished wooden annulus of the shite-hole, and to savor this triumph, just as the late Samuel Pepys had taught him to do in the case of urination. But the noises coming from belowdecks told him that he had responsibilities down there, not only to his Queen, but to Mr. Baynes.

For his fears concerning the latter had been realized. The Queen’s Messengers might be very skilled at hounding traitors, but as a theatrical troupe they were rank amateurs, utterly lacking in the all-important Sense of Audience. They had let the show go on too long, and reduced Mr. Baynes to a blubbering imbecile.

Daniel pulled his breeches back on, went aft, and, at the top of the narrow staircase that led belowdecks, nearly collided with a man coming up for some fresh air. The only thing that prevented it was the other chap’s white hair, which shone in the light of the half-moon, and gave Daniel a moment’s warning.

He backed up and allowed Isaac to join him on deck.

“Mr. Hoxton has shown his colours, I should say,” Isaac remarked.

“What-by running off?”


“If he had stayed to be keel-hauled, thumbscrewed, drawn, and quartered, we’d know him to be a trustworthy chap, is that it?”

Isaac was mildly affronted. “No such fate would have befallen him, had he shown a willingness to serve the Queen.”

“The only way in which Peter Hoxton can be of service to the Queen-or to you-is to bring me intelligence from the flash world. If he had not run away, he would have thereby declared himself an enemy of all things flash, and become perfectly useless. By escaping, along with Angus, he has enhanced his reputation beyond measure!”

“It is of no account. Your role is now played out. And well played. I thank you.”

“Why did you send the smoke-signal? Why not wait to see what else Baynes would divulge?”

“He had already over-stepped, and divulged too much,” Isaac retorted, “and he knew it. He grew reticent, and, to try you, asked you for your story. I knew you had none, or at least, none fit to withstand the scrutiny of this one-armed foreigner, or even of Mr. Baynes. My decision was: Let us advance!”

“What is it you need from Mr. Baynes now, in order to advance?”

AT DANIEL’S INSISTENCE, Charles White and his merry men left Mr. Baynes alone for a few minutes in a cabin, though they made sure to put him in irons first, so that he’d not devise some way to evade justice by committing suicide.

Daniel lurked outside the cabin door until Mr. Baynes stopped sobbing and whimpering, then counted slowly to a hundred (for he himself needed to calm down a bit), then opened the hatch and went through, carrying a lit candle.

Mr. Baynes was on a bench with his hands fettered behind his back. Before him was a plank table. He had slumped forward so his head lay on it. Daniel was certain he had expired from a stroke, until he perceived the prisoner’s pinioned arms slowly rising and falling, as his lungs filled and emptied like the bellows of an Irish bagpipe.

Daniel wished he could fall asleep, too. For a few minutes he sat there nodding drowsily in the light of the candle-flame. But he could hear booted and spurred feet pacing round the deck overhead, and he knew perfectly well that he was not anchored in some placid cove, but only a few yards off Black Friars, London.

“Wake up.”

“Eh-?” Baynes pulled against his irons, then regretted it and sat up, his spine creaking and popping like an old mast taking a gust. His mouth was a dry hole, pushed in like a wound. He refused to meet Daniel’s eye.

“Will you talk to me?” Daniel asked.

Mr. Baynes considered it, but said nothing. Daniel rose to his feet. Mr. Baynes watched him sidelong. Daniel reached into his pocket. Baynes tensed, getting ready to suffer. Daniel drew his fist out, flipped it over, and opened it to display, on the palm of his hand, Mr. Baynes’s set of false teeth.

Baynes’s eyes got wide and he lunged like a cobra, yawning. Daniel fed the teeth to him and he sucked and gummed them in. Daniel stepped back, wiping his hand on his breeches, and Mr. Baynes sat up straight, having seemingly swapped a new and better skull for the faulty one he’d woken up with.

“You are a gentleman, sir, a gentleman. I marked you as such the moment I saw you-”

“In truth I am no gentleman, though I can be a gentle man. Mr. Charles White is a gentleman. He has already explained what he means to do to you. He means what he says; why, I’m surprised you still have both of your ears. Save thine ears, and the rest of thyself, by telling me where and when you are supposed to meet the one-armed foreigner.”

“You know that I shall be killed, of course.”

“Not if you serve your Queen as you ought.”

“Oh, but then I shall be killed by Jack the Coiner.”

“And if not by Jack, then by old age,” Daniel returned, “unless apoplexy or typhus take you first. If I knew of a way to avoid dying, I’d share it with you, and the whole world.”

“Sir Isaac knows of a way, or so ’tis rumored.”

“Spouting Alchemical rubbish is not a way to get in my good graces. Telling me the whereabouts of the one-armed foreigner is.”

“Your point is well taken, concerning mortality. In truth, ’tis not fear of mine own fate that stopped my tongue.”

“Whose then?”

“My daughter’s.”

“And where is your daughter?”


“You fear that some revenge will be taken on her if you assist the Queen’s Messengers?”

“I do. For she is known to the Black-guard.”

“Surely Charles White has the power to get one girl sprung from Old Nass,” Daniel reflected. Then he stopped short, astounded to hear himself speaking like a criminal.

“Aye. Straight from there, to his bedchamber, to be his whore until he has worn her out, at which point he’ll no doubt give her a decent interment in Fleet Ditch!” Mr. Baynes was as upset to imagine this horror, as he would have been to witness it, and had gone all twitchy now; his wooden teeth were chattering together, and clear snot was streaming out of one nostril.

“And you phant’sy I am a decent sort?”

“I said it before, sir, you are a gentle man.”

“If I give you my word that I’ll go to the Spinning-Ken and look after your daughter-”

“Not so loud, I pray you! For I do not want Mr. White to so much as know that she exists!”

“I am no less wary of him than are you, Mr. Baynes.”

“Then-you give your word, Dr. Gatemouth?”

“I do.”

“Her name is Hannah Spates, and she pounds hemp in Mr. Wilson’s shop, for she’s a strong girl.”


“Prithee, send in the Queen’s Messengers.”

DANIEL’S REWARD FOR THIS makeshift act of grace was a free moon-light river-cruise to the Tower of London. This was strangely idyllic. The best part of it was that Charles White and his platoon of feral gentlemen were not present; for after a short conversation with Mr. Baynes, they had flocked on the deck like a murder of crows, clambered back into the row-boats, and set off for Black Friars Stairs.

Even the passage of London Bridge, which, on a smaller boat, was always a Near Death Experience-the sort of event gentlemen would go home and write down, in the expectation that people would want to read about it-was uneventful. They fired a swivel-gun to wake up the drawbridge-keeper in Nonsuch House, and raised a silver-greyhound banner. He stopped traffic on London Bridge, and raised the span for them, and the sloop’s master suffered the current to flush them through into the Pool.

Half an hour later they clambered by torch-light into the dank kerf of a Tower Wharf staircase. As Daniel ascended the stair, and his head rose through the plane of the Wharf, the whole Tower complex unfolded before and above him like a vast black book, writ on pages of jet in fire and smoke.

Almost directly ahead on the wharf stood a jumble of small buildings fenced about with a palisade. The wicket had been opened by one of the Wharf Guard standing the night watch. Daniel moved through it in a crowd, and entered one of the small buildings, troubled by the sense that he was invading someone’s dwelling. Indeed he was, as this Wharf-apartment seemed to be home for (at least) a porter, a sutler, a tavern-keeper, and diverse members of their families. But a few steps on, he felt timbers under his feet and sensed that they’d passed through into a different space: they were outdoors again, crossing over a wooden causeway that spanned a straight lead of quiet water. It must be the Tower moat, and this must be a drawbridge.

The planking led to a small opening in the sheer face of the Tower’s outer wall. On the right hand, a wedge-shaped bastion was thrust out from the same wall, but it offered no doorways: only embrasures and murder-holes from which defenders could shower fatal attentions upon people trying to get across this bridge. But tonight the drawbridge was down, the portcullis was up, no projectiles were spitting out of the orifices of the Tower. The group slowed down to file through a sort of postern gate into the base of Byward Tower.

To their left was a larger gate leading to the causeway that served as the Tower’s main land entrance, but it had been closed and locked for the night. And indeed, as soon as the last of their group had made it across the drawbridge, the postern gate was closed behind them, and locked by a middle-aged bloke in a night-cap and slippers. Daniel had enough Tower lore stored up in his brain to suspect that this would be the Gentleman Porter, and that he must live in one of the flats that abounded in this corner of the complex. So they were locked in for the night.

With the gates closed, the ground floor of Byward Tower was a tomb. Isaac and Daniel instinctively moved out from under it and into the open cross where Mint Street came together with Water Lane. There they tarried for a minute to watch Mr. Baynes being frog-marched off to a dungeon somewhere.

Anyone who entered the Tower of London as they just had, expecting to pass through a portal and find himself in an open bailey, would be disappointed. Byward Tower, through which they’d just passed, was the corner-stone of the outer defenses. All it afforded was entry to a narrow belt of land surrounding the inner defenses, which were much higher and more ancient.

But even an expert on medieval fortifications would be perplexed by what Daniel and Isaac could see from here, which in no way resembled a defensive system. They appeared, rather, to be standing in the intersection of two crowded streets in pre-Fire London. Somewhere behind the half-timbered fronts of the houses and taverns that lined those streets lay defensive works of stone and mortar that would make the Inner Ward impregnable to a pre-gunpowder army. But in order to see those medieval bastions, embrasures, et cetera, one would have to raze and scrape off everything that had been built atop and in front of them, a project akin to sacking a small English town.

Byward Tower was a Gordian knot in and of itself, in that it connected the complex’s two most important gates to its most congested corner. But that was only its ground floor. The building consisted of two circular towers bridged together, and was a favorite place to keep important prisoners. It now stood to one side of Daniel and Isaac. To their other side was the enormous, out-thrust bulk of Bell Tower, the southwestern bastion of the inner wall. But Daniel only knew this because he was a scholar who’d looked at old pictures of the place. Much more obvious were the ground-level structures built facing the street: a couple of taverns right at the base of Bell Tower, more sutlers’ shacks, and small houses and apartments heaped and jumbled against and on top of every ledge of stone that afforded purchase.

Anyone coming into such a crowded place would instinctively scan for a way out. The first one that met the eye, as one came in through Byward Gate, was Water Lane-the strip of pavement between inner and outer defenses, along the river side. This view was half-blocked by Bell Tower and its latter-day excrescences, but none the less seemed like the obvious path to choose, for Water Lane was broad. And because it was open to the public during the daytime, it was generally free of clutter.

The other choice was to make a hard left, turning one’s back on the river, and wander off into what looked like a medieval slum, thrown up against the exterior of a Crusader castle by a lot of bustling rabble who were not allowed to come in and mingle with the knights and squires. The spine of it was a single narrow lane. On the left side of that lane ran a series of old casemates, which in soldier-parlance meant fortified galleries, specifically meant to be overrun by invaders, so that defenders, purposely stranded inside of them, could shoot through the windows into the attackers’ backs and turn the ditch into a killing-ground. In new forts, the casemates were burrowed into the ramparts, and protected by earth. In obsolete ones like this, they were built against the inner faces of curtain-walls. The ones on the left side of Mint Street were of that sort. They rose nearly to the height of the outer wall, obscuring it, and making it easy to forget that all of this was built intra muros. Gunpowder had long since made them militarily useless, and they had been remodeled into workshops and barracks for the Mint.

On the right side, packed in tight as they could be, but never rising above a certain level-like mussels along the tide-line-another line of buildings clung to the higher walls of the inner defenses.

From the corner there at Byward, it all looked like the wreckage of a burnt city that had been raked into a stone sluice where it wanted a good rainstorm to quench the flames, beat down the smoke, and wash it away. The rhythmic crashing noises echoing down the length of this dung-choked ghetto provided the only clue that something of an organized nature was going on in there; but this hardly made Mint Street seem more inviting, even when one knew (as Daniel did) that the incessant bashing was the sound of coins being minted by trip-hammers.

In a funny way, he thought, this burning gutter was a sort of counterpart to Fleet Ditch.

Since the Fleet was full of earth and water, and Mint Street full of fire and air, this was not an insight that ever would have come to Daniel’s mind, if not for the fact that, just a few scant minutes before, he had been staring up the one, and now here he was, staring up the other.

On further reflection, he decided that the two had nothing in common, save that both ran in the same direction to the Thames, and both were cluttered and stagnant and had a lot of shit in them.

He had known Isaac for fifty years, and so he knew, with perfect certainty, that Isaac would turn away from the clear, cool, pleasant prospect of Water Lane, and march into the metallic seething of Mint Street. This he now did, and Daniel was content to follow in his wake. He’d never penetrated more than a few yards into the Mint; the farthest he’d ever gotten was the office that was just inside the entrance, on the left side of the Lane, and up some stairs. Of course Isaac swept past it and kept on going.

The Tower of London was essentially square, though, to be pedantic, an elbow in its northern side made it into a pentagon. The strip between inner and outer walls ran the full circuit. The southern side, along the river, was accounted for by Water Lane; but everything else was Mint Street, which was to say that the Mint embraced the Tower of London on three sides (technically four, taking the northern elbow into account).

Strange as it might seem, in a town with but a single street, it was easy to get lost. The view down the street was obstructed by ten different bastions thrust out from the inner wall, and so one could never see very far. Daniel was of course aware that he was in a horseshoe-shaped continuum, but once he lost count of the towers, this did him little practical good. By walking faithfully in one direction or the other, he would eventually come to an extremity of the horseshoe, and exit onto one end or the other of Water Lane. But the length of the Mint was a quarter of a mile, which for a Londoner might as well have been the distance between Oslo and Rome. Such an interval sufficed to distinguish between the Fleet Ditch and the Royal Society, or the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and the knackers’ yards of Southwark. So by the time he’d followed Isaac past a couple of those bastions, and gone round a turn or two, Daniel felt as if he’d ventured deep into a city as outlandish as Algiers or Nagasaki.

Two hundred feet in, the way was bottlenecked by the handsome semicircular curve of Beauchamp Tower. Directly across from it, crammed against the outer wall, were the long casemates where silver and gold were melted down in great furnaces. Continuing north, they immediately passed more casemates containing the coin-bashers. Then they rounded their first corner, another bottleneck between the bastion of Devereux Tower and a low bulky fort in the vertex of the outer wall, called Legge’s Mount. Both were made very strong, and both were still manned by the Black Torrent Guard, to withstand bombardment from that ?ternal Menace, London, which pressed in close on the Tower here.

Isaac slowed, and looked at Daniel as if he wanted to say something.

Daniel glanced curiously down the segment of Mint Street that had just come into view. He was strangely let down to see that it was quiet and almost peaceful. He’d been hoping that the Mint would only become more Hellish the deeper he went into it, like the Inferno according to Dante, and that in its deepest penetralia would be a forge of surpassing hotness where Isaac turned lead into gold. But from this corner ’twas plain that the climax had come already-that all the big, hot, and loud bits were close to the entrance (which made sense logistically, he had to admit) and that this northern limb was what passed for a sedate residential neighborhood. It was about as hellish as Bloomsbury Square. Which only went to show that Englishmen could live anywhere. Condemn an Englishman to hell, and he’d plant a bed of petunias and roll out a nice bowling-green on the brimstone.

Isaac now said something the precise wording of which scarcely mattered. The import was that Daniel was an impediment to his arcane nocturnal researches, and would he please go away. Daniel answered with some pleasantry and Isaac hurried away, leaving Daniel alone to rove up and down a quarter-mile of Mint.

He gave it a once-over, just to stop feeling lost. The northern limb sported a couple of houses at first, obviously for high Mint officials. Then it was workmen’s barracks on the left side, and, on the right, milling machines of some sort, perhaps the ones that stamped inscriptions on the edges of coins to foil clippers.

As he approached the northern elbow he found himself among soldiers, and thought he’d somehow wandered astray; but after getting round the turn he began to see, again, Mint dwellings on the left and milling shops on the right. So ’twould seem the conversion of military casemates to monetary workhouses was a work still in progress.

There was another sharp right turn, pinched between the bastion where they kept the Crown Jewels and another defensive mount, like Legge’s, in the outer wall. This brought him round to the eastern limb of the Mint, which ran straight south to Water Lane. A few strangely pleasant houses with gardens soon gave way to more of a smoky, glowing, banging character: probably the Irish Mint, which appeared to run all the way to the end.

By all rights he ought to’ve been tired. But the noise and vigor of the Mint infected his blood, and he ended up walking the entire length of it several times before he began to feel the effects of his long day.

The chapel bell tolled midnight from the Inner Ward as Daniel was rounding the northwest corner, near Legge’s Mount, for the third time. Daniel took it as a signal to duck into a little court along the outer wall, a gap between casemates, which had been beckoning to him. It appeared to belong to one of the Mint officials, who kept a wee casemate-house just next to it, as cozy as a dwelling made from a last-ditch fortress defense could ever be. At any rate, the court had a bench in it. Daniel sat down on that bench and fell asleep suddenly.

His watch claimed it was two o’clock in the morning when he, and all the workers who dwelt along Mint Street, were awakened by a sort of Roman Triumph making its way up from Byward Tower. Or at least it sounded as loud and proud as that. But when Daniel finally got up from his bench, dry and stiff as a cadaver, and tottered out to look, he thought it bore the aspect of a funeral-procession.

Charles White was riding atop the black wagon, which was surrounded by cloaked out-riders-mounted Messengers-and followed by a troop of soldiers on foot: two platoons of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards, who garrisoned the Tower, and who (or so Daniel gathered) were in the unenviable position of being at the beck and call of Charles White, whenever he wanted reinforcements. The black wagon itself was now padlocked from the outside.

A strange parade it was. Yet much better suited to this horseshoe-town than any of your sunlit, gay, flower-strewing, music-playing parades. Daniel could not help but fall in step with it as the wagon came abreast of him.

“So!” Daniel exclaimed, “ ’twould appear that the information provided by our guest was correct.”

He could feel White’s glare on his face like sunburn. “All I’ll allow is that our hen squawked, and laid an egg, whose savour is not yet proved. More eggs had better follow, and they had best be full of excellent meat, or else that hen shall furnish Jack Ketch with a dish of wings and drumsticks.”

White’s hen/egg gambit drew light applause. “How’ll you try this egg we have just gathered, sir?” asked one of the foot-soldiers.

“Why, crack its shell first,” he returned, “and then ’tis a choice, whether to fry it on the griddle, boil it ’til hard, scramble it-or eat it raw!”

Another round of laughter for this witticism. Daniel regretted having exposed himself in Mint Street. But they were now making the turn at the elbow, bringing new buildings and bastions in view, and White had lost interest.

“We have him!” White proclaimed, seemingly talking to the moon. But following White’s gaze, Daniel was able to make out Isaac’s silhouette against a narrow archway on the right side, backlit by several torches; or was that the false dawn of furnace-light?

They’d worked their way round to the best district of the whole Mint: the northeast, where the Master and Warden had their private houses and courts on the left. But Isaac was on the right. The arch in which he stood was some kind of sally-port of the Inner Keep.

“He fought like Hercules,” White continued, “despite being one-armed. And we could not clap him in manacles for the same reason!” Everyone laughed. “This holds him very well, though!” He rapped on the roof of the wagon.

The procession drew to a halt there, under the embrasures of the bastion called Brick Tower. Daniel now perceived that Brick Tower had been conceived as a mustering-place where the very bravest, drunkest, or stupidest knights in the Tower of London would gather in preparation for a sally. When they were ready, they would charge down a stone stair that ran along the front of the inner wall, make a sharp left, and continue down a second flight, erupting from the door where Isaac was standing, into the ditch, where God knows what would transpire between them and any foe-men who’d penetrated that far, and survived the fire from the casemates.

All of which was of primarily historical interest tonight. Save that this sally-stair held, in the crook of its arm as it were, a large storehouse, and next to it a stable, belonging to the Mint. These buildings obscured the lower half of Brick Tower, and for all Daniel knew, might be connected with it through passageways-squinting at old sooty out-buildings in the dark at two in the morning left plenty of lee-way for the imagination.

At any rate, the horses drawing the black wagon were obviously of the view that they were home, and the night’s work finished. It was into those dark buildings that the wagon was now conducted. The Messengers remained within, the Guards emerged and dispersed to their barracks, some of which were all of fifty paces away.

This left Daniel alone in the street. Or so he phant’sied, for a few moments, until he noticed a red coal bobbing up and down in a moon-shadow across the way, and realized that someone was lurking there, smoking a pipe, and observing him.

“Did you participate, Sergeant Shaftoe?”

He was only making an educated guess. But the pipe-coal emerged from the shadows, and the form of Bob coalesced in moon-light.

“I dodged that detail, I do confess, Guv.”

“Such errands are not to your liking?”

“Let some youngster take the glory. Opportunities for action are scarce of late, now that the war is in recess.”

“At the other end of town,” said Daniel, “they do not say ’tis in recess, but finished.”

“What other end of town would that be, then?” demanded Bob, feigning elderly daftness. “Would you be speaking of Westminster?” He said that in a very good accent. But then he reverted to mudlark Cockney. “You can’t mean the Kit-Cat Clubb.”

“Nay, e’en at the Kit-Cat Clubb they say the same.”

“To Doctors they say it, I think. To soldiers they say different things. The discourse of the Whigs is cloven like a devil’s hoof.”

An ugly commotion now arose within the stable at the foot of Brick Tower, which, while Doctor Waterhouse and Sergeant Shaftoe had been conversing, had been lit up with torches. The doors of the wagon had been unlocked, and men were shouting in a way Daniel hadn’t heard since he’d gone to the bear-baiting in Rotherhithe. From where they were standing, it was not loud. But something in the tenor of it made it out of the question for Daniel and Bob to continue their talk. Suddenly it rose to such a pitch that Daniel shrank away, thinking that the prisoner might be about to escape altogether. There was a tattoo of thumps, and a scream or two; then momentary silence, broken by a man calling out in a language of bent vowels and outlandish syllables.

“I have heard curses in many tongues, but this one is new to me,” Bob remarked. “Where’s the prisoner from?”

“He is from Muscovy,” Daniel decided, after listening for a few more moments, “and he is not cursing, but praying.”

“If that is how Muscovites sound when they talk to God, I’d hate to hear their blaspheming.”

After that, all movements inside the stable were accompanied by the clanking of irons. “They put a collar on him,” Bob said learnedly. The sounds receded, then vanished all of a sudden. “He’s in the Tower now,” Bob announced. “God have mercy on him.” He sighed, and gazed down the length of the street in the direction of the full moon, which was swinging low over London. “I had better rest,” he said, “and so had you-if you intend to come.”

“Come where?” Daniel asked.

“Wherever we are directed by the Russian.”

It took a moment for Daniel to work through all that was implied by this. “You think that they will torture him-and he will break-and lead us to-?”

“It is only a matter of time, once Charles White has him in the Tower. Come, I’ll get you a proper billet, away from the noise.”

“What noise?” Daniel asked, because the Mint had been extraordinarily quiet these last few minutes. But as he followed Bob Shaftoe back up the street, he began to hear, through one of the open embrasures in Brick Tower, the sound of a man screaming.

River Thames


“IN THE END THE MUSCOVITE spoke willingly,” Isaac announced.

He and Daniel were on the poop deck of Charles White’s sloop Atalanta. Twelve hours had passed since the Muscovite had been brought into the Tower.

Daniel had spent one of those hours attempting to sleep in the officers’ quarters of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards. Then the whole Tower had been roused by a call to arms. Or so it had seemed, from the perspective of one savagely irritable old man who desperately wanted to sleep. In truth, only the First Company of the Guards was rousted. To the other denizens of the Tower it was the most delicious sort of nocturnal alarm: one that gave occasion only to roll over and go back to sleep.

After some few minutes of fuss and bother, which he scarcely remembered since he’d been asleep on his feet, Daniel had been sent out of the Tower of London the way he’d come in, and ushered aboard Atalanta. He had repaired to a small cabin and seized the first thing that looked like a bunk. Some time later he had been awakened by sunlight, and peered out a window to discover that they had moved all of a quarter of a mile from Tower Wharf. Situation Normal: some foul-up had brought the proceeding (whatever it was) to a stand; they had Hurried Up only to Wait. He had pulled a blanket over his face and gone back to sleep.

When he’d finally woken up, not long ago, and dragged himself, stiff and foul and squinty-eyed, abovedecks to piss over the rail, he’d been startled to find open country around them, and the river’s width swollen to a mile. He guessed they were nearing the end of Long Reach, between Erith and Greenhithe, which would put them about halfway from London to the sea.

To get to the rail, he had to “beg your pardon” through many dragoons. The entire First Company-more than a hundred men-had been crammed aboard. Even when half of them were packed in belowdecks, this made the upperdeck so crowded that men could not sit down. Rather than trying to walk upon the deck, the sloop’s able seamen scampered like spiders through rigging overhead. Fortunately, as was the practice on all well-run ships, the aft or poop was reserved for officers; and Fellows of the Royal Society were given honorary status as such. Once he’d dragged himself up the stairs to the poop, Daniel found elbow room to spare, and plenty of space along the rail to get fresh air, to urinate, and to spit out the cottony stuff that had grown in his mouth while he’d been sleeping. A cabin-boy, perhaps alarmed by the volume of fluid this already-shriveled gager was discharging into the Thames, even brought him a ladle of water.

And at some point Sir Isaac appeared at his elbow, making his day complete.

“He spoke willingly,” Daniel repeated, trying not to sound aghast.

“Indeed, for a choice was laid before him: endure confinement and interrogation in the Tower to the end of his days, or tell what he knew, and be returned to Russia. He chose Russia.”

“Well if you put it that way, anyone who speaks under torture does so willingly,” Daniel pointed out. Normally he would have been slower to jab at Isaac, but he was in a wretched state, and moreover, had performed a great boon for Isaac during the previous day.

Isaac retorted, “I saw the Muscovite returning to his cell on his own two feet when it was over. Whatever was done to him was less violent-though it may have been more excruciating-than the beatings that are given to yon soldiers, every day, for trifling offenses. Mr. White knows ways of securing the cooperation of prisoners without inflicting permanent injury.”

“He’ll go back to Muscovy with both of his ears, then?”

“His ears, his eyes, his beard, and all the limbs he came in with.”

Daniel had not yet turned to look Isaac in the face. Instead he was facing abaft, looking at a pair of flat-bottomed river boats that followed in their wake. These were laden mostly with horses, and all the clutter that went with them, viz. saddles, tack, and grooms. No wonder they’d been slow to get underway.

While he’d been conversing with Isaac, the sloop had been negotiating a zigzag in the river, and widening its lead over the horse-barges; now they were swinging wide round a large, marshy lobe in the south bank, and coming in view of a place, a couple of miles downstream, where bright green downs and white chalk-hills crowded the right bank, and gave purchase for a river-side settlement. There, he knew, would be Gravesend. The seamen who were manning the sloop-scattered very thin over the crowd of Guards-became more alert. The laconic, incomprehensible commands of the sloop’s captain came more frequently. They were going to put in there. Indeed, they had few other choices, as once they got below Gravesend there’d be nothing but ooze all the way to the North Sea; and what was the point of barging a lot of horses down the river to drown ’em?

“What do you imagine a Russian was doing here, in business with Jack the Coiner?” Daniel asked.

“Jack enjoys the lavish support of some foreign potentate, most likely the King of France,” Isaac answered. “For make no mistake, the commerce of England is envied by all the world. Those Kings who cannot raise their own realms to our level, phant’sy that they can bring us down to theirs, by polluting our coinage. If the King of France may harbor such ambitions, why, so may the Tsar of all the Russias.”

“You think the Muscovite is a Tsarish agent?”

“That is the most creditable explanation.”

“You said he had a beard?”

“Indeed, a long luxuriant one.”

“How many years’ growth, would you say?”

“Soaked and stretched, it would extend below his navel.”

“He sounds like a Raskolnik to me,” Daniel said.

“What’s a Raskolnik?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. But they hate the Tsar. And one of the reasons they hate him is that he has decreed that they must shave off their long luxuriant beards.”

This silenced Isaac for a while, by forcing him to carry out immense recalculations. Daniel took unfair advantage of it to add: “Not long ago a new warship being built for the Tsar in Rotherhithe was burned by an Infernal Device, secreted in the recesses of the hull during the night-time. It used clock-work to shatter a phial containing white phosphorus, which, when the air touched it, burst into flame. Or so I have inferred from smelling its smoke, and sifting through the residue.”

Isaac was too fascinated by the news to wonder how Daniel had come by it. “That is the same mechanism as was used to set off the explosion in Crane Court!”

“Been looking into it, have you?”

“I did not ignore the warning you sent me.”

“The one-armed Muscovite is no foreign agent,” Daniel prophesied, “but a sort of Phanatique who absconded from Russia for the same reason that my great-grandfather, John Waterhouse, fled to Geneva during the reign of Bloody Mary. At loose ends in London, he somehow became a part of Jack’s criminal net-work. I am quite certain he has not the slightest intention of going back to Russia.”

“Your hypothesis is belied by your own evidence,” Isaac said. He had reverted to a high, magnificent tone that he used for philosophical discourse. “You have convinced me that the same organization that set off the Crane Court explosion, burned the Tsar’s ship in Rotherhithe. But a mere band of criminals does not pursue foreign policy!”

“It may be that the Swedes paid them to destroy the ship a-building,” Daniel said, “which is easier than sinking it after it is launched and armed. Or it may be that the Muscovite, being, as I gad, a sort of Phanatique, did it by himself, as Puritans used to strike whatever blows they might against the King.”

Isaac reflected for a moment, then said, “To carry on discourse, of a speculative nature, about Jack’s organization and its designs, is idle.”

“Why is it idle?”

“Because in a few hours they will be in our power, and then we may simply ask them.”

“Ah,” Daniel said, “I could not tell if we were going to arrest Jack the Coiner, or invade France.”

Isaac briefly made a noise that sounded like laughing. “We are going to lay siege to a castle.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“ ’Tis a Jacobite stronghold,” Isaac said. He was being just a bit facetious.

“So in a sense we are going to invade France,” Daniel muttered.

“One might think of it as a chip of France on the banks of the Thames,” Isaac said, showing a taste for whimsy that was, to say the least, out of character. But (as shown by the laugh and the sarcasm) he’d learned a conversational gambit or two during his decades in London.

For example, prating about the genealogy of noble families: “You remember the Angleseys, I am certain.”

“How could I not?” Daniel answered.

Indeed, the very mention of the name forced him to come awake, as if he had had just been told that the sails of Blackbeard had been sighted on the horizon. He looked Isaac full in the face for the first time since the conversation had begun.

As a young man Daniel had known the Angleseys as a clan of dangerous crypto-Catholic court fops. The patriarch, Thomas More Anglesey, Duke of Gunfleet, had been a contemporary, and a mortal rival, of John Comstock, who was the Earl of Epsom and the first great noble backer of the Royal Society. Comstock had been the C, and Anglesey the first A, in the CABAL, the group of five who had run the Restoration government of Charles II.

In those days Daniel had been too naive to comprehend just how close the connections were between the Angleseys and the royal family. Later, he’d learned that the two sons of Thomas More Anglesey, Louis (the Earl of Upnor) and Phillip (Count Sheerness), were both bastards of Charles II, fathered on a French Countess during the Interregnum, when Charles had been exiled in France. Thomas More Anglesey had then been induced, somehow, to marry the embarrassed Countess and raise the two boys. He’d done a wretched job of it-perhaps he’d been distracted by ceaseless plot-making against John Comstock.

The younger of the two “Anglesey” bastards, Louis, had been a great swordsman, and had used Puritans as practice targets during his years at Trinity College, Cambridge. He’d been there at the same time as Daniel, Isaac, and various other fascinating human specimens, including Roger Comstock and the late Duke of Monmouth. Later, Louis had become interested in Alchemy. Daniel even now blamed him for seducing Isaac into the Esoteric Brotherhood. But there was no point in laying blame today-for the Earl of Upnor had perished a quarter-century ago at the Battle of Aughrim, fending off a hundred Puritans, Germans, Danes, amp;c. with his rapier, until shot in the back.

By that time his supposed father, the Duke of Gunfleet, had long since died. The Duke’s final years had not been good ones. Having ruined the Silver Comstocks-driven John into rustic retirement, and the rest of them all the way to Connecticut-and having taken over their house in St. James’s, he had seen his own fortunes destroyed, by bad investments, by his sons’ gambling debts (which must have hurt him all the more, as they weren’t really his sons), and above all by the Popish Plot, which was a sort of politico-religious rabies that had taken over London round 1678. He had packed the entire family off to France and sold the London palace to Roger Comstock, who had promptly leveled it with the ground and turned it into a real estate development. In France the Duke had died-Daniel had no idea when, but it would have been a long time ago-leaving only Phillip, Count Sheerness: the older of the two bastards.

Count Sheerness. All of these names-Gunfleet, Upnor, and Sheerness-referred to places round the mouth of the Thames, and had been handed out to the Angleseys by Charles II in reward for services performed at time of the Restoration. Daniel could only recollect a few of the details. Thomas More Anglesey had been in a wee naval scrap off Gunfleet Sands, and sunk a boat-load of die-hard Puritan sailors, or something like that, and had proceeded to the Buoy of the Nore, where he’d rallied a lot of Royalist ships around him.

The Nore was a sandbar-really the extremity of a vast region of shifting sands deposited round the place where the Thames and the Medway joined together and emptied into the sea. A Buoy had always been anchored there, a few miles off Sheerness Fort, to warn incoming ships, and to force them to choose between going to port-which would, God and tides willing, take them up the Medway, under the guns of Sheerness Fort and then of Castle Upnor, and eventually to Rochester and Chatham-or to starboard, which set them on the way up the Thames to London. Anglesey’s makeshift fleet had been neither the first nor the last invasion force to use that buoy as a rallying-point. The Dutch had done it a few years later. In fact, one of the peculiar duties assigned to the naval ships in this part of the river was to sail up to the Buoy and blow it out of the water whenever serious trouble loomed, so that foreign invaders could not find it.

At the time Charles II had come back, the ignominious Dutch invasion lay in the future, and Sheerness and Upnor seemed glorious names. But to any Englishman who’d been alive and awake during the Anglo-Dutch War, most certainly including Daniel and Isaac, such words as “Buoy of the Nore” and “Sheerness” connoted dark doings by foreigners, farcical bungling by Englishmen, grievous humiliation, proof of England’s vulnerability to seaborne intruders.

So if Isaac’s reference to Count Sheerness was the ink, then all of this history was the page the ink was printed on.

If they kept going as they were, they’d be in view of the Buoy of the Nore in a few hours.

“You can’t be serious,” Daniel blurted.

“If I observed faces, instead of stars, and philosophized about thinking, instead of Gravity, I could write a treatise about what I have seen passing over your visage in these past thirty seconds,” Isaac said.

“I wonder if I am arrogant to think that Waterhouses are no less deeply enmeshed in the affairs of the world, than Angleseys or Comstocks. For just when I think that all have passed on, and my connections to them severed-”

“You find yourself on a boat for Sheerness,” Isaac concluded.

“Tell me the tale, then,” Daniel said, “for I’ve not kept up with the Angleseys.”

“They’ve a French name now, and French titles, inherited from the mother of Louis and Phillip, and they dwell at Versailles, save when they are at the exile court in St.-Germain, paying homage to the Pretender. Only Phillip survived long enough to propagate the line-he had two sons before he was poisoned by his wife in 1700. The sons are in their twenties; neither has been to England or speaks a word of English. But the older of the two remains Lord of the Manor in certain pockets of land around Sheerness, on either bank of the Medway.”

“And ’tis unthinkable he’d be anything but a Jacobite.”

“The situation of his properties is most convenient for smugglers-or for agents of France. In particular he is lord of a certain lonely castle that stands off the Isle of Grain, in view of the open sea, and that may be reached directly from the Continent without interference by Her Majesty’s Customs agents.”

“Was all of this information provided by the Russian? For I am not inclined to trust him.”

“The tale of the absorption of the Angleseys into France is well known. The particulars concerning Shive Tor come from the Muscovite.”

“You stated a minute ago that Jack the Coiner was an agent of Louis XIV,” Daniel said, “and that he was generously supported. You are telling me that this thing you call Shive Tor-”

“Has been made available to Jack,” Isaac concluded. “It is the head-quarters of his criminal empire, his treasure-keep, his bolt-hole, his conduit to France.”

It is a convenient explanation, Daniel said to himself, for the fact that a varlet has been able to evade you for so many years. But he knew if he said it aloud, Isaac would heave him overboard.

“You phant’sy that’s where it is, don’t you?”

Isaac stared at him, and did not so much as blink for a long time. After a bit this made Daniel nervous, and as if he needed to fill in the silence with some words. “It would make sense,” he continued, “if the gold-the Solomonic Gold-came off a ship, as you suppose-what better place to unload it, and to store it, than a remote and obscure watch-tower, without most of Her Majesty’s defenses and customs houses?”

“I shall thank you not to divulge this to the others. We must take utmost care until the gold is safe in the Tower of London.”

“What then?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Suppose you find King Solomon’s Gold in Shive Tor and bring it home to your laboratory, and extract the Philosophic Mercury from it-that’s it, then, isn’t it?”

“That’s what, then?”

“It’s the End of the World or something, it is the Apocalypse, you’ve solved the riddle, found God’s presence on Earth, the secret of eternal life-really, this entire conversation is idle, in a sense-none of it matters, does it?”

“There is no telling,” Isaac said, in the soothing tones of one who is trying to calm a madman. “My calculations from the Book of Revelation suggest that the End of the World will not occur until 1876.”

“Really!?” Daniel said, fascinated. “That’s a hell of a long time. A hundred sixty-two years! Perhaps this Solomonic Gold is over-rated.”

“Solomon had it,” Isaac pointed out, “and the world did not come to an end then, did it? Christ Jesus Himself-the Word made flesh-trod the earth for thirty-three years, and even now, seventeen centuries later, the world is a heathenish and foul place. Never did I suppose that the Solomonic Gold was to be the world’s Panacea.”

“What is it, then? What is the bleeding point?”

“If nothing else,” Isaac said, “it will furnish me with the means to give the German a warm welcome when he comes over the sea.”

And he turned away from Daniel and went belowdecks.

Lieutenant’s Lodging, the Tower of London


SAID LIEUTENANT-GENERAL EWELL THROWLEY, the Lieutenant of the Tower: “I do most humbly beg your pardon, my lord, but I simply did not understand.”

His prisoner and guest, Rufus MacIan, Lord Gy, peered with his one extant eye across the dining-room table into the flushing face of his captor and host. Lord Gy was only thirty years old, but he was big and whiskery and banged-up and haggard. Very clearly and distinctly, he repeated his last statement: “Yeir buird is a fere bit o wrichtwork. A jiner today can never fetch such mastie straiks as these, he must send strags upaland to scaff amang the rammel, an plaister all together oot o skifting his grandfaither would hae tossed inti the chaffer.”

Ewell Throwley was forced to abort, and circle back around. “My lord, we are military men, the both of us, and saw hard service in the late War. This remains true in spite of the revolutions in Fortune that have made you a condemned prisoner, and me the officer in charge of the Liberty of the Tower. I learned in my service, as I daresay you did in yours, that there is a time to set courtly manners aside, and speak plainly, one gentleman to another. There is no shame, no dishonor in so doing. May I speak to you in that wise now?”

Lord Gy shrugged. “Aye, let’s hae it.”

Gy was the name of a river near Arras. Back in the days when he had been named simply Rufus MacIan, this man had, on an impulse, splashed across it and cut a French gentleman in two with one swing of a five-foot-long Claymore. The Frenchman had turned out to be a Count, and a Colonel, with a poor sense of direction. The tide of a battle had been turned as a consequence of that Claymore-stroke. MacIan had been ennobled as Lord Gy.

“I knew that I could rely upon you, my lord, as a fellow-soldier,” Lieutenant-General Ewell Throwley went on. “ ’Tis well. For there is a certain matter never spoken of in polite society, and yet known to all, which will, if we ignore it-pretending that it does not exist-turn what should be a pleasant social occasion into an insufferable ordeal. You do know-or as you would say, ‘ken’-what I speak of, my lord?”

“Crivvens!” exclaimed Lord Gy. “Wha hae foostit ben the heid-hoose!?” Then he added, with unmistakable sarcasm: “Serr’s, a coud gae through the fluir.”

“Brilliant, that is a paradigmatic specimen,” said Throwley. “It is this, my lord: you do not speak English.”

An awkward moment across the table there. Rufus MacIan drew breath to answer, but Throwley headed him off: “Oh, you understand it perfectly. But it is not what you speak. The polite euphemisms are many. We say, my lord Gy has a Highland lilt, a brogue, a burr. But this is to gloss over the true nature of the problem, which is that you simply and in fact are not speaking English. You could if you wanted, but you don’t. Please, I beg of you, my lord Gy, speak English, and consider yourself welcome in my house, and at my table.”

“ ’Twas o the table-the buird-a was discoursing, when ye set in with such an uncanny rant concerning ma accent.”

“It is not an accent. This is my point. My Lord.”

“Sixteen month hae a lodged in the Tower o London,” said Lord Gy very slowly, “and never seen th’inside o this hoose till now. A meant only to offer a compliment on the furnishings.” The Scotsman gripped the edge of the tabletop with both hands and lifted it half an inch off the floor, testing its weight. “These baulks wuid serve to stop bools. Which is to say, cannonballs.”

“Your compliments are accepted with gratitude,” said Throwley. “As to the delay in extending my hospitality-most regrettable. As you know, it is a long-standing tradition for the Lieutenant of the Tower to take tea with Persons of Quality who have been committed to this place. As a fellow-veteran, I have impatiently awaited the day when I could share this table with you. As no one knows better than you, my lord, during the first year of your incarceration, it was felt best to keep you in heavy irons stapled to the floor of Beauchamp Tower. This I do most sincerely deplore. But since then, we have not heard from you the threats, the promises of death, dismemberment, and mayhem; or if we have, we have not understood them. It has been deemed suitable to move you to a Yeoman Warder’s house, like the other guests. You and Mr. Downs have been getting along famously, I presume?”

Both Rufus MacIan and Ewell Throwley now turned their attention to the portly, bearded Beefeater who had escorted the prisoner across the Parade and into the Lieutenant’s Lodgings. Yeoman Downs looked tremendously satisfied. Indeed, had looked that way, without letup, since he had opened the door of his wee house on the green a quarter of an hour ago, and led his guest across the grass in a flying wedge of armed Sentinels.

“We hae gaen alang,” said Lord Gy gravely, “like a hoose afire.”

The Lieutenant of the Tower and the Yeoman Warder alike seemed just a bit uncomfortable with this simile; and so there was now an awkward silence. Lord Gy filled it by humming some sort of weird aimless Gaelic chaunt.

The Lieutenant’s Lodging, which was situated in the southwestern corner of the Inner Ward, was a Tudor sort of house, typical of pre-Fire London; now it was remarkable chiefly in that it had never burned down. Downs, Throwley, and MacIan were in a dining-room that had seen a lot of hard service. Throwley’s maid and steward hovered in a corridor. Another maid-a servant of Lord Gy, who had followed Downs and Gy across the green-tarried in the entrance-hall with a covered basket. Several armed guards stood outside the front door, looking out over the Parade, which was quiet. Drumbeats, and the bellowing of sergeants, could be heard drifting over the fortifications from the direction of Tower Hill, where the garrison was drilling. Too one could hear the sporadic pock, pock, pock of carpenters building the platform where, in seven days, Rufus MacIan’s head would be detached from his body.

“Splendid,” said Throwley weakly, “that is what Mr. Downs has reported, and most fortunate it is that I have been able to share this table with you before your, er, departure.”

“Ye spake a minute or of lang-standin traditions,” said Lord Gy, and looked significantly at the Yeoman Warder. Downs relayed the signal to the young woman in the entry hall, who now ventured into the dining-room. Ewell Throwley raised his eyebrows and blinked, for she was a tall and muscular lass with enough red hair to cover three average heads. As she burst across the threshold of the room she executed a sort of running curtsey and tossed a grin at Throwley.

“On the Muir of Rannoch, they grow braw, or they grow na at all,” MacIan offered by way of explanation.

“Ah, you have imported a…clanswoman from the…country to look after you.”

“A look oot for her, sir…an orphant she is…a trigidy, if ye must know.” MacIan cleared his throat. The red-headed lass withdrew a bottle from the market-basket perched on her arm. She gave it to Downs, then curtseyed and backed out of the room. Gy purred some phlegmy endearment to her. Downs handed him the bottle. Gy clasped it tenderly in both hands. “I have prepared an Oration!” he announced in something quite a bit closer to the English spoken by Throwley. This silenced the house. “Sir, ye treat us well here, for condemned traitors. The Tower isna a bread-and-water sort of nick, if a man will only comport himself civilly. Nay, all manner of victuals are allowed iz, and many a laird dines better in the Tower, after he’s doomed, than he did a free man in London town. ’Tis a tradition, or so a am told, to share with the Warders, the Major, the Deputy Lieutenant, and-sir-the Lieutenant hissell, some moiety o the comforts ye so generously allow iz to partake of. And this hae a done with the other officers. But-sir-not yet with ye, for a hae na the privilege, till this moment, of making your acquaintance.” He raised up the bottle. “Ye alluded afore to my carnaptious first twelvemonth on these premises. A do confess a was frawart and bool-horned. A did misca ye. A wes less than a Highland gentleman should be. But a Highland gentleman is never wantin the comfort of a refreshment that we know as usquebaugh. Some call it the water of life. When a wes allowed to hae it, ma mood an ma manners improved. But today a hae a guid deal more o the water than o life; for ma social calendar says a hae an Engagement on Tower Hill wi one Jack Ketch, a week frae today. And so a wanted ye to hae this, Lieutenant-General Throwley. It came to me frae a blude-friend only yesterday, and as ye can see, the bottle’s never been opened.”

Throwley bowed, but did not reach out to accept the bottle, since Rufus MacIan had not yet formally presented it. He contented himself, for now, with a glance at the label. “Glen Coe, twenty-two years old,” he read. “Why, ’tis as old as the lassie who brought it in!”

Downs laughed in the manner of all subordinates subjected to the boss’s wit. Lord Gy took it gravely. “You’re rare gleg in the uptak, sir, why, the twae ir precisely alike in age.”

“My lord, I know some London gentlemen who make a study of this usquebaugh, in all its varieties, even as Frenchmen do of Burgundy wine. I confess I know little of Glen this or Glen that-but I have at least the wit to recognize that any bottle aged two and a score years must be of rare excellence.”

“Oh, ’tis rare-very few hae survived. Very few. Ye maun learn usquebaugh, sir. For many Jacobites wul be dwellin in this Tower in years to come, an a moiety of ’em wul be Highlanders. Nae man is better poised than ye to make o hissell a collector and a connoisseur.”

“Then do let my collection, and my education, begin to-day! David, bring some dram-glasses,” Throwley called to the steward who had been waiting outside the servants’ entrance to the dining-room. “What can you tell me, my lord, concerning this bottle? What distinguishes it from the common dram?”

“Och, sir, ye maun no consider only its age, but its provenance, or what the French call its terroir. For Scotland’s a big varyand countra, as crazed, riven, and pitted as ma own visage, gowstie here, cosie thare. Nae brae, nae glen, nae ben like the next. Each wi its own clime, its own sile, its own water. Adam’s wine, we call water. A hae known Highlandmen who, when they were lost in smochy weather, could ken just where they were by scoopin up a handful o water frae a burn or a loch, an havin a wee gust.”

“Or, I daresay, a wee dram from the nearest still!” put in Lieutenant-General Throwley, to the great entertainment of Yeoman Warder Downs. But Rufus MacIan accepted the jest with equanimity, and settled the chuckling of the two Englishmen with the calm stare of his clear blue eye.

“Dinna you make fun! ’Tis true. For the usquebaugh is the daughter of the cold clear waters tha dance in those Highland burns.”

“My lord, modest chap that you are, you do not do justice to the men who dwell in those glens. For surely there is skill, there is technique-it is not a mere matter of stirring together a few natural constituents.”

Rufus MacIan raised his eyebrows and held up an index finger. “Point well taken, sir, an a thank ye for gien me a fair opportunity to blaw mynes ain horn!”

Downs and Throwley laughed. A silver tray, a-rattle with small cups, had been brought in and set down. “Please, my lord, sit with us.”

“A wul stand, thank ye, as befits a professor afore his scholars.”

The two Englishmen were left slightly ill at ease, but Lord Gy made it plain by gestures that they were to sit, and even pulled out Downs’s chair for him. He explained: “In that wee tissle at Malplaquet, which ye may hae heard of, ma company were ruggin an rivin wi some Frenchmen. A took a muckle cloot frae a musket butt, fell frae ma horse, an bemang’d my rig.” He put his hands on his kidneys and shoved his pelvis forward. His sporran flew at the Englishmen and a barrage of pops and creaks came out of his lower spine.

“ ’Tis true, he never sits, but drives me mad with his pacing,” Downs put in.

MacIan was at such obvious pains to make them at ease that Downs and Throwley acquiesced, and leaned back comfortably in their chairs to hear the continuation of the lecture.

“As the landscape o ma countra is fractured into diverse muirs, glens, gullions, snibs, howes, scaurs, linns, lirks, et cetera, so ma nation, as is well known, is divided into many clans, and the clans into septs. And it is among the auld men, the lang in the horn as we say, that the wit and the airt of usquebaugh-making is concentrated-I maun wax poetic an say, distilled. As the septs and clans differ, so do the stills and the airt of their use, and so, accordingly, does the produce.”

“Prithee, then, tell us of the sept and clan of this place whose name is on the bottle,” Throwley said. “For some reason the name of Glen Coe is familiar to me; but during the War my head got so over-flowed with outlandish place-names, I can no longer sort them out.”

“Why, ’tis remarkable ye should inquire, sir, for it is ma clan and ma sept!”

Downs and Throwley laughed heartily at this, as it seemed to have been ingeniously laid, like a conjuror’s trick. The Englishmen were looking a bit wide-eyed at Lord Gy now, seeing him anew, as a regular bloke, a merry companion.

The Scotsman made the faintest suggestion of a bow to acknowledge the glow of appreciation on their faces, and continued: “That is why a am givin ye this praisent now, Lieutenant-General Throwley. For a Highlander, the water of life that comes frae his oon glen is as much a part of him as his oon livin blude. A gie ye this so it wul aye be livin on after the deid-strake hae fallen on ma neck on yonder Hill.” And now, finally, he extended the bottle across the table to Throwley. Throwley, with an Englishman’s eye for the ceremonial gesture, stood up smartly and accepted the gift with a bow. When he sat, so, finally, did MacIan.

“But my lord, again modesty obstructs your duty as our professor. We should learn something of the people of Glen Coe before we drink their, er…”

“The water o their life, sir.”


“There isna much to relate of MacIan of MacDonald,” said Lord Gy. “We ir a wee sept, much more so of late. Glen Coe is an uncommon high, weather-glim scaup o land in the north of Argyll, no far frae Fort William. It runs from a lofty gowl in the Grampians down to the slate-mines at Ballachulish, at the heid of the loch called Linnhe, which runs down to plash the shores of Mull and spaw into the Atlantic. A wilsome, out o the way place is Glen Coe. When we do receive outdwellars, ’tis ever a surpreese, and more oft than na, they turn out to be lost on the way to Crianlarich. We try to show them hospitality none the less. Hospitality, we have learnt, is an uncannie thing. One may never tell how ’twill be repaid.”

“Is very much usquebaugh produced in Glen Coe?”

“ ’Tis odd that ye should ask, for I believe none is produced there now, or for many years. Aye, the only bottles o Glen Coe ye ir like to hae in yeir collection, shall be very auld ones.”


“The still was shivered. No one hae made it guid.”

“Then the MacIan MacDonalds must have fallen upon hard times indeed,” Throwley said gravely.

“ ’Tis more right to say, hard times fell on thaim. Whan all of us in this room were laddies, an order went oot frae King William that the chiefs o the Highland clans maun all sign a muckle oath o loyalty, spurnin all allegiance to the Stewart-that ye call the Pretender. Alastair MacIan MacDonald, ma chief, did sign that pledge. But dwellin as he was in the back of beyond, and it bein the deid of a vicious winter, he did miss a certain deidline. Now, no long efter, a great doon-come of snow fell ding on in oor glen. The bothies an barns were smoored under it. An then wha should appear but a company o soldiers frae Fort William, that had gang agley in the spindrift. Vagand like a band o runagates they war, fagged half to deeth, sterving, blae-a company o kirkyaird deserters! They dinna hae to beg us. A sakeless hill-run lot we wes, dacent and soothfast, goodwillie toward fellow-men. Shelter we gied them, no in oor barns, mind ye, but in oor own homes, humble as they war. For these war na outdwellars to us, though they war o a different clan. They war fellow-Scotsmen. We turned it into a ceilidh. That’s whaur all o our usquebaugh went! Down the throttles o those ramscallions! But we dinna mind.”

Now an extraordinary thing happened, which was that the sound of bagpipes became audible.

The Lieutenant’s Lodging was packed into the corner of the Inner Ward. Indeed, though the front wall was half-timbered, the back was simply the ancient curtain-wall of the Tower of London, looking down over Water Lane. Windows had been made in the upper reaches of that wall so that the Lieutenant could see out over the Lane, and the outer fortifications, wharf, and river beyond. Both Water Lane and the Wharf were open to the public during the day-time. It seemed likely that Throwley’s housekeeper had opened those rear windows to let April breezes air out the bedchambers, and haply a strolling bagpiper had wandered by, playing a Highland melody in hopes that strollers or soldiers would toss coins at him. It was the same tune that Lord Gy had been humming a few minutes previously.

Strong emotion had begun to tell on MacIan’s face as he related the tale of the lost soldiers and the impromptu ceilidh that his kin had thrown for them in the snowdrifts of Glen Coe. When the bagpipe’s snarl drifted through the room, his eye became watery, and he began to paw at the patch that covered the other. “Och, a need a dram,” he confessed. “Ir ye havin difficulty, sir, gettin that open?”

“I must confess with all these layers of wax, lead, and wire, the contents of this bottle are as closely guarded as this Tower!”

“Haud yeir tung, much more so!” said Lord Gy dismissively. “Gie it me, there is a trick to getting it open, a’l hae oor drams poured out smairtly.” He accepted the bottle back from Throwley.

Downs had been looking queasy these last few minutes. “I do confess, my lord, your tale has struck a chord, a melancholy one, in my memory. The details escape me. But I doubt its ending.”

“Then a’l make it quick, and make an end o it. Efter twae weeks o dwelling amang us as blude-friends, gutting our winter victuals, burning up oor peat-bings, an dancin the reel o Bogie wi our lasses, those mangrels waukened one day at five in the morning and put the MacIan MacDonalds to the fire and the sword. Our glen they made into a knacker’s midden. Some of us fled to the crags, yawin an yammerin, heart-scalded. We lived on snow an wrake-lust until the murthering wichts had gaen away. Only then durst we gae doon amang the bones an cinders to hack common graves into the frozened erd o Glen Coe.”

Yeoman Downs and Lieutenant-General Throwley were sitting gobsmacked. They were petrified for now, though a harsh word or sudden movement from Rufus MacIan might have scattered them from the house.

Noting this, he closed his eye for a moment, then opened it, and managed a wry smile.

That, to the Englishman, seemed the moral to the story. It said that in spite of the horror he had witnessed as a boy, Rufus MacIan had grown up into a gentleman, and found a kind of solace in the self-control and civility that was expected of such.

“Now,” he said, “wuid ye care for a dram?”

“My lord,” said Throwley huskily, “ ’twere disrespectful to refuse.”

“Then let me get the damned thing open,” said Rufus MacIan of MacDonald. He rubbed moisture from his eye on the shoulder of his coat, and drew in a big snuffle before it could escape from his nostrils. “Mr. Downs, as a mentioned, there’s a trick to it. Shards o glass may fly. A entreat ye to look the other way-unless ye want me to leave ye this eye-patch in ma last will and testament!”

Mr. Downs permitted himself a controlled smile at this faint jest, and averted his gaze.

Lord Gy gripped the bottle by its neck and swung it sideways until it exploded against Downs’s temple.

He was left holding only the neck of the bottle. But projecting from it was a steel dirk nine inches long, dripping usquebaugh. He was up on the table before Lieutenant-General Throwley could rise from his chair.

From the next room could be heard the sound of the red-headed maidservant throwing the door bolts to.

Rufus MacIan of MacDonald was squatting in the middle of the dining table now, giving Throwley a clear and close view of whatever it was he kept underneath his kilt. It seemed to have paralyzed the Lieutenant of the Tower. Which made his visitor’s next move a simple matter. “Can ye understand this?” MacIan asked, and rammed the dirk into Throwley’s eyeball until it stopped hard against the back of his skull.

Sloop Atalanta, Gravesend


THEY DREW ALONGSIDE A WHARF at Gravesend. It was near where the tilt-boat ran up the river to London, and so a sizable and curious crowd was there watching them, and calling out questions. Perhaps Isaac thought his outburst about “the German” really was an intelligible end to the conversation, or perhaps he did not care to stand in the open on the poop and be peered at.

Daniel sensed he was being peered at from another quarter. A certain gentleman had been haunting the corner of Daniel’s eye for above a quarter of an hour. From his dress, he was an officer of the Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards.

“Colonel Barnes,” the man said, in response to what must have been a lapse in Daniel’s mean, flinty outlook.

“I am Dr. Daniel Waterhouse,” Daniel returned, “and I have heard criminals introduce themselves to me with greater formality and courtesy than what you have just shown.”

“I know,” said Colonel Barnes, “one of them came up to me and did just that, a few hours ago, on Tower Wharf.”

“Colonel Barnes, ’twould seem you have duties ashore, I’ll not delay you-”

Barnes glanced out over the sloop’s upperdeck, which had now been joined to the wharf by gangplanks in two places. Dragoons were streaming across, driven by cursing sergeants on the deck and exhorted by lieutenants on the wharf; as they came ashore they clustered by platoon.

“On the contrary, Dr. Waterhouse, I’m to stay ’board ship. Suits me better.” He made a loud rapping noise on the deck, and Daniel looked down to discover that one of the colonel’s legs was a rod of carven ebony with a steel tip.

“You are a Black Torrent man to the bone,” Daniel remarked. Every regiment had its own type of wood, used to make swagger sticks and the like, and ebony was the trade-mark of the Black Torrent Guards.

“Indeed, been with them since the Revolution.”

“Surely you need to supervise the disembarkation-”

“Dr. Waterhouse, you do not understand Delegation of Authority,” Barnes returned. “Here’s how it works: I tell my subordinates to get all but two platoons off the boat, and they do it.”

“Who has delegated you to harry me round the poop deck?”

“Why, the aforementioned very polite criminal.”

“A colonel commands a regiment, is it not so?”

“That is correct.”

“Do you mean to tell me that a colonel, in turn, is commanded by a Black-guard?”

“That is the custom in most armies,” Barnes returned dead-pan. “True, ’twas sometime different under my lord Marlborough, but since he was stripped of command, why, it has been Black-guards all the way to the top.”

Daniel had a natural impulse here to laugh; but some other part of him was recommending that he proceed cautiously with this Barnes. What the colonel had just said was witty, but it was also reckless.

Most of the Guards were off the ship now, leaving only two platoons of some fourteen men each, each under its own sergeant. One of them had congregated at the forward end of the deck, the other aft, directly below where Colonel Barnes and Daniel were standing. This left a large clear space amidships, claimed by Sergeant Bob Shaftoe. He was facing toward the wharf, so Daniel was viewing him in profile; but now he adjusted his posture slightly toward them and glanced, for a quarter of a second, in Barnes’s direction.

“Your sloop, Cap’n,” Barnes sang out.

The skipper retaliated with a series of histrionic commands that caused the gangplanks to be drawn back onto the wharf, and the sloop’s lines to be cast off.

“You and Sergeant Bob make war together,” Daniel said. “It is what you do.”

“If that’s true, our life’s work has been a failure!” Barnes answered, mock-offended. “I should prefer to say, we make peace, and have achieved success.”

“Say it however you like. Either way, you’ve spent a quarter-century marching around with him, and have heard every joke and anecdote he knows how to tell, a thousand times over.”

“ ’Tis a common outcome in our line of work,” Barnes allowed.

“Now you phant’sy you know everything about me, because ten or twenty years ago, in a tent along the Rhine or a bothy in Ireland, Sergeant Bob told you a tale about me. You suppose you may approach me in a companionable way, and divulge things to me, and thereby make me your bound accomplice, as when two boys cut their thumbs on purpose and bleed on each other and then say that they are brothers. Please do not be offended if I recoil from your tender. There is a reason why old men are aloof, and it has nothing to do with being pompous.”

“You should renew your acquaintance with Marlborough,” Barnes said, putting on a little show of being impressed. “The two of you would get along famously.”

“An unfortunate choice of adverb, that.”

Barnes was silent for a while now. The two horse-barges were coming up to the wharf at Gravesend to discharge the loads. The Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guard were dragoons, meaning that they fought on foot, using the tactics and the arms of infantry. But they maneuvered round the field of battle on horseback. To put it crudely, they were shock troops. Clearly the companies that had disembarked had orders to mount, get on the turnpike that paralleled the river, and ride east, pacing the sloop.

“Everyone is scared to death just now,” Barnes said. He sidled up to Daniel along the rail and offered him half a small loaf of bread, which Daniel practically lunged at. “Why, to listen to certain Whigs, a Jacobite invasion is just over the horizon, driven on a Popish wind. And yet Sir Isaac fears the arrival of the German! ’Tis an impossibility for both the Hanovers and the Jacobites to occupy the same space. Yet the Whigs’ fears, and Sir Isaac’s, are equally real.”

When he alluded to the impossibility of two objects occupying the same space, Barnes was resorting to a verbal tic that had its origins in Descartes. He had, in other words, been to Oxford or Cambridge. He ought to be a vicar, or even a Dean, in some church. What was he doing here?

“When Sir Isaac refers, with such trepidation, to the German, he does not mean George Louis.”

Barnes looked startled, then fascinated. “Leibniz-?”

“Yes.” And this time Daniel could not prevent himself smiling a bit.

“So it’s not that Sir Isaac is a Jacobite…”

“Far from it! He fears the arrival of the Hanovers, only in that Leibniz is the advisor to Sophie, and to Princess Caroline.” Daniel wasn’t entirely certain he ought to be telling Barnes so much, but it was better for Barnes to understand the truth than to harbor the suspicion that Isaac was a covert supporter of the Changeling.

“You skipped a generation,” Barnes said puckishly. Or as puckish as a maimed colonel of dragoons could be.

“If George Louis has any interest whatever in philosophy-for that matter, in anything at all-’tis a secret close kept,” Daniel returned.

“So am I to understand that the present expedition has its origins in a philosophical dispute?” Barnes asked, looking about himself as if seeing the sloop in a new light.

Atalanta had reached the middle of the channel now and, freed from the slow horse-barges, spread more canvas to the wind than she had done before. They were sailing due east on Gravesend Reach. On their right, the chalky hills would draw back from the river, widening the marshes that spread at their feet. The town of Tilbury was on the left. It was the last port on that bank of the river, for beyond it the Thames sloshed between mud-flats instead of streaming between proper banks. Even at their improved pace, they had a few hours’ sail ahead of them; and Isaac was nowhere to be seen. There was no harm, Daniel concluded, in conversing with a philosophy-hobbyist.

He glanced around the sky, looking for a convenient C?lestial Body, but the day had slowly become overcast. Instead he fastened upon the river-water rippling along the hull-planks, and glanced too at the mud-flats below Tilbury. “I cannot see the sun-can you, Colonel Barnes?”

“We are in England. I have heard rumors of it. In France I saw it once. But not today.”

“And the moon?”

“She is full, and she set over Westminster as we were loading on Tower Wharf.”

“The moon’s behind the world, the sun’s behind clouds. Yet the water that buoys us is obeying the dictates of both, is it not?”

“I have it on good authority that the tides are operational today,” Barnes allowed, and checked his watch. “Sheerness expects a low tide at seven o’clock.”

“A spring tide?”

“Uncommon low. Why, feel how the river’s current bears us along, hastening to the sea.”

“Why does the tide rush out to sea?”

“The influence of the sun and the moon.”

“Yet you and I cannot see the sun or the moon. The water does not have senses to see, or a will to follow them. How then do the sun and moon, so far away, affect the water?”

“Gravity,” responded Colonel Barnes, lowering his voice like a priest intoning the name of God, and glancing about to see whether Sir Isaac Newton were in earshot.

“That’s what everyone says now. ’Twas not so when I was a lad. We used to parrot Aristotle and say it was in the nature of water to be drawn up by the moon. Now, thanks to our fellow-passenger, we say ‘gravity.’ It seems a great improvement. But is it really? Do you understand the tides, Colonel Barnes, simply because you know to say ‘gravity’?”

“I’ve never claimed to understand them.”

“Ah, that is very wise practice.”

“All that matters is, he does,” Barnes continued, glancing down, as if he could see through the deck-planks.

“Does he then?”

“That’s what you lot have been telling everyone.”

“Meaning the Royal Society?”

Barnes nodded. He was eyeing Daniel with some alarm. Daniel, cruelly, said nothing, and let Barnes simmer until he could stand it no more, and continued, “Sir Isaac’s working on Volume the Third, isn’t he, and that’s going to settle the lunar problem. Wrap it all up.”

“He is working out equations that ought to agree with Mr. Flamsteed’s observations.”

“From which it would follow that Gravity’s a solved problem; and if Gravity predicts what the moon does, why, it should apply as well to the sloshing back and forth of the water in the oceans.”

“But is to describe something to understand it?”

“I should think it were a good first step.”

“Yes. And it is a step that Sir Isaac has taken. The question now becomes, who shall take the second step?”

“You mean, is it to be he or Leibniz?”


“Leibniz has not done any work with Gravity, has he?”

“You mean, it seems obvious that Sir Isaac, having taken the first step, should be better positioned to take the second.”


“One would certainly think so,” Daniel said sympathetically. “On the other hand, sometimes he who goes first wanders into a cul-de-sac, and is passed by.”

“How can his theory be a cul-de-sac if it describes everything perfectly?”

“You heard him, a short time ago, expressing concern about Leibniz,” Daniel pointed out.

“Because Leibniz has Sophie’s ear! Not because Leibniz is the better philosopher.”

“I beg your pardon, Colonel Barnes, but I have known Sir Isaac since we were students, and I say to you, he does not strain at gnats. When he is at such pains to gird for battle, you may be sure that his foe is a Titan.”

“What weapon could Leibniz possibly have that would do injury to Sir Isaac?”

“To begin with, a refusal to be over-awed, and a willingness, not shared at this time by any Englishman, to ask awkward questions.”

“What sort of awkward questions?”

“Such as I’ve already asked: how does the water know where the moon is? How can it perceive the Moon through the entire thickness of the Earth?”

“Gravity goes through the earth, like light through a pane of glass.”

“And what form does Gravity take, that gives it this astonishing power of streaming through the solid earth?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Neither does Sir Isaac.”

Barnes was stopped in his tracks for a few moments. “Does Leibniz?”

“Leibniz has a completely different way of thinking about it, so different as to seem perverse to some. It has the great advantage that it avoids having to talk rubbish about Gravity streaming through Earth like light through glass.”

“Then it must have as great disadvantages, or else he, and not Sir Isaac, would be the world’s foremost Natural Philosopher.”

“Perhaps he is, and no one knows it,” Daniel said. “But you are right. Leibniz’s philosophy has the disadvantage that no one knows, yet, how to express it mathematically. And so he cannot predict tides and eclipses, as Sir Isaac can.”

“Then what good is Leibniz’s philosophy?”

“It might be the truth,” Daniel answered.

Cold Harbour


THE TOWER MIGHT HAVE ENDURED forever with very little upkeep, had it not been for a nasty infestation of humans. From a janitorial standpoint, the problem with this particular race was not that they were de-, but avidly con-structive, and would on no account leave off bringing new building-stuff in through the all-too-numerous gates, and fashioning them into shelters. Left to the elements, such improvisations would break down naturally in decades or centuries, leaving the Tower as God and the Normans had intended it to be. But the difficulty with a human was that where he found a shelter he would occupy it, and when it broke, fix it, and if not prevented, build annexes onto it. To the management of the Tower, it was less an infestation of termites than a plague of mud-daubing wasps.

Every time the Constable brought in a surveyor, and compared his work to the plan his predecessor had drawn up some decades before, he would discover new nests that had insensibly grown in the corners, as dust-balls under a bed. If he went to eject the people who lived in them, so that he could tear them down, he would be confronted with documents and precedents, showing that those people were not squatters but tenants, and that they’d been paying rent for decades to some other squatter-cum-

tenant, who in turn paid rent or performed necessary services for some Corporation or Office or other sui generis queer ancient Entity that claimed long standing or warrant Royal.

Short of a concerted arson campaign, the only brake on this infestation was a lack of space within the walls that circumscribed the hive. It came down, then, to a question of how much crowding human beings could endure. The answer: not as much as wasps, but still rather a lot. In fact, there was a certain type of human who thrived on it, and those types gravitated naturally to London.

Dart the Barber lived in a garret above a storehouse in Cold Harbour. Most of the year, Cold Harbour was cold without a doubt. To Dart and his roommates-Pete the Sutler and Tom the Boot-black-it was also a sort of metaphorical harbour. But beyond that the name made no sense at all. It was nowhere near the water, and performed no harbour-like functions. Cold Harbour was a patch of turf and a few storehouses in the middle of Tower Green, just off the southwest corner of the ancient Conqueror’s keep called the White Tower.

A wee hole had been worried through the wattle near the vertex of the gable, just large enough to admit a pigeon, vent smoke from a rush-light, or frame a man’s face. At the moment it was giving Dart a sort of dove’s-eye-view of the Parade. Accounting for about half of the Inner Ward, the Parade was the largest open space in the Tower. A well-tended patch of English turf it was. But it was scarred, below Dart, with ridges of rain-worn stone: the exposed foundations of walls that had been thrown down, ?ons ago, by long-dead Constables. For perhaps the only thing that could stir a Constable to use force against the gnawing accretion of sheds, annexes, pop-outs, amp;c., was the combined awareness of (a) his own mortality and (b) the fact that there was no place left in the Tower complex to dig his grave. At any rate, there was evidence here that Cold Harbour had once been a bigger thing than it was now. From ground level, these ruins were a meaningless maze of tripping-hazards. From Dart’s privileged viewpoint they could be made out as a page of rectilinear glyphs stroked in gray and yellow paint on green baize.

If Dart had been as keenly interested in the several centuries just past as he was in the several hours just beginning, he could have decyphered that grassy palimpsest to tell a tale about the fortifications of the Inmost Ward, and how they had changed over time, from a picket to keep out die-hard Angles, to the innermost of half a dozen lines of circumvallation, to a security checkpoint for a royal palace, to an outmoded slum, to a tripping-hazard. The part where Dart dwelt had only been suffered to remain standing because it was easily made over into storehouses.

And if Dart were one for profound introspection he might ponder the queerness of his circumstance: he (an illiterate barber), a sutler, and a Black-guard (as boys who polished boots were called) sharing an apartment twenty paces distant from William the Conqueror’s chief Fort.

However none of these thoughts came to him, or even came near him, as he peered out through the gable-vent on the afternoon in question, heaving ruby-colored blood up from his lungs onto a crusty brown rag. Dart was living for the moment.

The Parade stretched an hundred paces from east (the line of barracks huddled along the footing of the White Tower) to west (a wee street of warders’ houses backed against the west wall). A hundred and fifty paces separated its north (the Chapel) from its south (the Lieutenant’s Lodging). The Cold Harbour dwelling of Dart the Barber, Tom the Black-guard, and Pete the Sutler was about half-way ’long the eastern edge of it. So to his left Dart had a good view over the northern half of the Parade, but to his right all was obliterated by the high White Tower, which squatted in the heart of the complex like a solid cube of stone. Its formidable lines had been cluttered, on its western and southern sides, by low skirts of identical barrack-houses, jammed in wall-to-wall so that their peaked roofs merged to form a sawtooth fringe. Two companies of the Guard regiment lived in these and similar ones near by. The other dozen companies were packed into various spaces around the periphery of the Inner Ward, along Mint Street, or wherever space could be found for them. All told, they numbered near a thousand.

A thousand men could not live without victuals, which was why sutlers’ houses had been allowed, nay, encouraged to occupy various crannies around the Tower and the Wharf. Pete’s was one such; he was the tenant of this garret, and he sublet hammock-space to Dart and, more recently, to Tom.

The Queen’s Own Black Torrent Guards often drew duty of a ceremonial nature, such as greeting foreign ambassadors on Tower Wharf, and so they were more than normally concerned with the upkeep of their kit. This meant no lack of work for Tom and the other boot-blacks. And any congregation of humans required barbers to dress wounds and see to the removal of redundant hairs, whiskers, bodily humours, and necrotizing limbs. So Dart had been permitted to wind some bloody gauze round a pike and plant it outside a certain door in Cold Harbour as the customary hall-mark of his trade.

He was not plying that trade now but nervously honing a razor, again and again, on a leather strop, and peering down the line of barracks doors, watching Tom the Black-guard make his rounds. Most of the garrison was extra muros on Tower Hill; in their absence Tom was going to each door in turn to polish the boots that had been left out by the soldiers. To look at him, Tom was a boy of about twelve. But he spoke with the voice, and answered to the urges, of a grown man, which made Dart suspect he was really a bloke who’d not grown properly.

Tom had been doing this for the best part of two hours and had settled into a fixed routine, which was that he would squat down to polish a pair of boots, then stand up when he was finished, as though feeling a need to stretch, and look idly around the Parade, then glance up into the sky to see if any change in the weather was coming. Then he would turn his attention to the next pair of boots.

The only thing more tedious than to perform this duty was to watch it. Even though Dart had been told that he must on no account take his eyes off Tom, he found it hard going to keep his eyes open. The sun was beating against a white haze that steeped the garret in drowsy warmth. Cool gusts found their way to Dart’s face from time to time and reminded him to open his eyes. True to form, he, being the barber, had the worst shave in the whole Tower. His stubbly chin pricked him awake when he nodded off and let it rest on the dove-shit-covered sill of the tiny window. The only thing he could do while he bided his time was to whet the tools of his trade. But if he did so any more, they would become transparent.

Tom the Black-guard had a yellow cloth slung over his shoulder.

It had not been there a minute before. Dart was seized by guilt and fear, and already justifying himself: I did not take my eyes off him for more than a heart-beat!

He looked again. Tom bent down to start in on another pair of boots. The yellow cloth stood out like a lightning-bolt against the usual black-stained rags.

He closed his eyes, counted to five, opened them, and looked a third time to be sure. It was still there.

Dart the Barber stepped away from the window for the first time in two hours, raked his strops, shears, and razors together into a bag, and made for the stairs.

The garret had been turned into a maze by stacked sacks of flour and kegs of salted meat, as well as by hams and gutted rabbits dangling from the rafters, and the hammocks where Dart and Tom and Pete slept. But Dart moved through adroitly, and minced down a fatally precipitous stair to the ground floor, where after a brief scamper down a stunningly foul-smelling passage no wider than his shoulders he was discharged into a somewhat wider L-shaped alley that ran from the Bloody Tower gate to the Inner Ward. Scuttling round the bend of that L, he emerged onto grass before the southwestern angle of the White Tower. Then, reversing his direction round to the left, he entered the Parade.

He’d been warned not to look about, but could not help glancing at Tom, hard at work over a boot. Tom was turned his way. Though his head was bent down over his work, his eyes were rolled up in their sockets so far that they had turned white, enabling him to mark Dart’s progress over the grass.

Dart made bold to glance this way and that, trying to guess what Tom had seen. For it had seemed, during those two hours, as if Tom had been scanning the sky for something. Over the western wall of the Tower, nothing was visible except for the columnar Monument, some half a mile distant, and beyond that, the dome of St. Paul’s. He turned his head to the right and looked north over the storehouses and barracks that lined that edge of the Inner Ward. Here was something: shreds of smoke were climbing up to vanish against the white sky. The source seemed near to hand. But not as near as the Mint, which lay just on the far side of those barracks. He guessed it was coming from Tower Hill. It was probably not from gunpowder, for Dart had not heard the Guard discharging any weapons. Possibly someone had lit a rubbish-fire in one of the courts tucked away in the maze of the Tower hamlets. Or possibly ’twas something more than a rubbish-blaze.

He faltered. He had made it most of the way across the Parade. But suddenly the door of No. 6, one of the warders’ houses, had opened. Three Sentinels were there, in place of the usual one. It seemed that the Scotsman was due to be aired out. A Yeoman Warder emerged. It was Downs. He lived in No. 6 with the Scotsman, and he had been very particular about getting a good shave this morning. Now he’d gone it one better by donning his best coat. He was followed by Lord Gy, a bulky man in a kilt. Then out came his maidservant, the big red-head, with a basket over her arm. Lord Gy and Yeoman Downs began to walk due south towards the Lieutenant’s Lodging, beneath the parapet of Bell Tower. The three Sentinels formed a triangle around them and the red-head brought up the rear. Dart stopped to let them pass in front of him, and doffed his hat. The Laird ignored him; Yeoman Downs made an answering wink. All of this passed from Dart’s mind as soon as it moved out of view. Few events were more routine than a social call by a noble prisoner on the Lieutenant of the Tower.

A lone Sentinel-a private soldier of the Black Torrent Guard-was stationed before the door of No. 4. Like No. 6, No. 4 was a Tudor sort of house that wouldn’t rate a second glance if it were dropped along a village green in Essex and its peculiar occupants replaced with a petty tradesman and his family.

When Dart drew close enough to make it obvious he was headed for No. 4, the Sentinel reached round behind himself and rapped on the front door. A moment later Yeoman Clooney thrust his head out an open window nearby and inquired, “Visitor for my lord?”

“Barber,” answered the Sentinel.

“Is he expected?”

Clooney always asked this. It was the most feeble of challenges. Even so, Dart had to stifle a momentary impulse to run away-or, worse, to break down and confess. But he could sense the Black-guard’s eyes prodding him in the back like a pistol-barrel. “Sir,” he gargled. He had to cough up some bloody phlegm and swallow it before he could continue: “I told my lord I would come this week, he is due.”

Clooney’s head drew back into the house. A brief exchange of murmurs could be heard through the open window. Then floor-boards cracked and door-locks snapped. Yeoman Clooney opened his front door and nodded in a confidence-inspiring way to the Sentinel. “His lordship will see you,” he proclaimed, in a trumpety heraldic tone that reminded Dart what an honor it was to mow an Earl’s scalp, and how unworthy Dart was of it. Dart hunched over, picked up his bag, and hustled into the house, tipping his hat at the Sentinel, then making a nod at Yeoman Clooney.

The house had a front parlour looking out on the Parade through the very window Clooney had been using to exchange words with the Sentinel. The light was good there, and so that was where Dart spread out his drop-cloth. He set a chair in the middle of it.

The Earl of Hollesley was spending the twilight of his life in this house because he had been entrusted with some of H. M. Government’s money during the War of the Spanish Succession, and had used it to put a new roof on his country house, instead of buying saltpeter in Amsterdam. He was near sixty, and as far as Dart knew, his entire life consisted of sitting in a chair and having his hair cut. Other prisoners strolled round the Liberty, killed themselves, or staged spectacular, improbable escapes; the Earl of Hollesley spent all his time in No. 4. Except for Dart, once a fortnight, he rarely entertained visitors. When he did they tended to be Catholic priests, for the Earl had gone Popish in his dotage. When he entered the room on Yeoman Clooney’s arm, Dart said to him, “M’lord,” which was all he was encouraged to say.

Yeoman Clooney had the easy, but unfathomably tedious job of keeping an eye on the Earl twenty-four hours a day. He took a chair in the corner while Dart got the Earl seated and tarped. “Sir,” said Dart in a kind of stage-whisper to the yeoman, “I’ll take the liberty of shutting the window, as the day’s a bit gusty, and I don’t want hair blowing round your tidy abode.”

Clooney feigned interest in the window for a few moments, then drifted off. Dart went to it, looked out across the Parade, and found Tom the Black-guard gazing back at him. Before pulling down the sash Dart drew his rag from his pocket, loudly and distinctly hacked into it, then spat on the ground.

It went without saying that the Earl of Hollesley wore a periwig. But he still had to be shorn every so often. He preferred to have his head shaved. It ruled out lice.

By the time Dart had got his brushes and razors organized, and taken up his tonsorial post beside the Earl, Tom the Black-guard was half-way across the Parade, and staring at him curiously through the window. Which was well. For otherwise Dart could never have done, nay, even contemplated it. An Earl, or even a Yeoman Warder, was so great, so potent, so terrible to an insect like Dart. But there was a cold power behind Tom the Black-guard that overbalanced even an Earl. Dart might evade a Justice of the Peace, but blokes like Tom could nose him out even if he ran all the way to Barbados. If Dart did not do as he’d been instructed, he’d forever be a rabbit, trapped in a warren, pursued by an army of ferrets. Which is what gave him the courage-if courage was the right word for it-to announce: “Yeoman Clooney, I say that I have a blade to my lord Hollesley’s throat.”

“Er-what?” Clooney had been very close to drowsing off.

“A blade to his throat.”

The Earl was reading The Examiner. He was hard of hearing.

“So, you are giving him a shave as well as a haircut?”

This was unexpected. Clooney was supposed to understand a blade to the throat of a Lord.

“I am giving him neither, sir. I am making a threat to kill my lord.”

The Earl stiffened, and rattled his Examiner. “The Whigs will be the death of this country!” he announced.

“What possible reason could you have for doing such a mad thing?” Clooney wanted to know from the corner.

“The Juncto!” the Earl went on. “Why don’t they come out and call it by its real name, a Cabal, a Conspiracy! They are trying to drive Her Majesty into her grave! It is assassination by another name.”

“I know naught of reasons. Reasons are for Tom. Tom is at the door,” Dart said.

“It’s all right here!” the Earl continued, and leaned forward suddenly, so that he’d have cut his own throat if Dart hadn’t reacted in time. “The Duke of Cambridge. What, his German title isn’t good enough for him? You’d think he was a proper Englishman, wouldn’t you?”

There came a knock at the door from the Sentinel. “Boot-black,” came the call.

“Admit him, sir,” Dart said, “and make no sign of distress to the Sentinel, for Tom shall be watching you avidly. Tom shall explain all.”

“No wonder Her Majesty is wroth! ’Tis a calculated insult-calculated by Ravenscar. Where Age and Ague have failed to bring down our Queen, he shall do it with Aggravation, may God forbid!”

Clooney left the parlour. Dart stood for a few moments with his blade-hand a-tremble, expecting that the Sentinel would appear in a moment to blow his head off with a pistol-shot. But the door opened and closed without any commotion, and Dart could now hear the slithering voice of Tom the Black-guard, speaking to Clooney in the entrance-hall.

“That Sophie is a circling vulture,” Lord Hollesley proclaimed. “Not content to wait for a dignified succession-she sends her grandson before her, like a kite to peck at our Sovereign’s withered cheeks!”

Dart was straining to hear the conversation between the Black-guard and the Yeoman, but the Earl’s fulminations and paper-rattling drowned out all but a few words: “Muscovite…Wakefield Tower…vertebrae…Jacobites…”

Then all of a sudden Tom thrust his head into the parlour and gave him a flat inspection, like a coroner viewing a corpse. “Stay here,” he said, “until it happens.”

“Until what happens?” Dart asked. But Tom was already on his way out the door, and Yeoman Clooney beside him.

Dart stood there, resting his tired blade-hand on the Earl’s collar-bone, and watched the two of them angling across the green toward Wakefield Tower-where, according to scuttle-butt, a one-armed Russian had been chained up the night before.

There was nothing else to do. So he began to soap the Earl’s head. Presently he began to hear the ardent tolling of several bells on the north side of Tower Hill. This was a fire-alarm. Somewhere beyond the moat, a building was burning. Normally Dart would’ve been one of the first on the scene, for he loved a good fire. But he had solemn obligations here.

Sloop Atalanta, the Hope


HAVING TAKEN DELIVERY of some Enlightenment, for which he’d have had to pay handsomely at Oxford or Cambridge, Colonel Barnes could hardly deny Daniel a look at the map. They descended to the upperdeck and spread it out on a barrel-head so that Sergeant Bob Shaftoe could brood over it in company with them. ’Twas not one of your noble maps hand-penned on gilded parchment, but a common thing, a woodcut stamped out on foolscap.

He could see a cartographer making a strong case that this part of the world did not rate mapping, for nothing was there but muck, and what features it had changed from hour to hour. The map was pocked with such place-names as Foulness, Hoo, the Warp, and Slede Ooze. ’Twas as if England, when she had worn out certain words, threw them into the gutter-like a man discarding his clay-pipe when its stem was broke down to a nub-and the Thames carried those words down-country along with litter, turds, and dead cats, and strewed them up and down the estuarial flats and bars.

The ever-widening flow swept round to the left just ahead of them. The map told Daniel that a mile or two later it would right its course again and shortly lose itself in the sea. This stretch of river was named the Hope, and an apt name it might be for Sir Isaac.

The Hope limned a hammerhead-shaped protrusion of Kent with no particular boundary between marsh and water, but instead a mile-wide zone between high and low tide-the river halved its width at ebb. Because Daniel knew where they were going, he traced the flat top of the hammerhead eastwards until he reached the semicircular peen at its seaward end. This was labeled the Isle of Grain. The Thames flowed along its northern cheek, the Medway along its southern. The two rivers met just off the Isle’s eastern tip. And like a couple of porters who drop their loads in the middle of the street to engage in a fist-fight over which had right-of-way, these two rivers, at the place where they came together, let go of all the muck they’d been carrying out to the sea. In this way was built up a vast bank, a bulge growing eastwards from the Isle of Grain’s indefinite shore, and as that bulge reached out into the sea, mile after mile, it narrowed, converged, refined itself into a slim prod sticking far out into brackish water between Foulness Sand on the north and the Cant on the south. At the extremity of that bar was the Buoy of the Nore. The estuary yawned east like a viper’s mouth, the Nore spit thrust out in its middle like a barbed tongue. It was in that cursed in-between depth, too shallow for most vessels and too deep for any beast.

But far short of the Buoy, just off the Isle of Grain’s coast, was a place that might be reached by boat or beast, depending upon the tide. It was a tiny thing, like a gnat crawling on the page. Daniel did not have to bend down and squint at those crabbed letters to know it was Shive Tor.

Raising his eyes from the map to scan this indistinct coastline he saw a few places where the old bones of the earth almost poked out, knuckle-like, through the flesh spread over them by the rivers. The Shive, which lay a mile off the high-tide line of the Isle of Grain, was one of those. It even had its own system of pools and bars, echoing the greater system of which it was a part. Daniel guessed that some daft person had long ago seen fit to convey stones out to this stony Hazard and pile them up, making a cairn from which to watch for Vikings or light signal-fires, and later generations of the daft had used it as the foundations of a permanent tower.

He glanced up to find Colonel Barnes gone-called away to lay plans on the quarterdeck-and Bob Shaftoe favoring him with what was very nearly an evil look.

“Do you blame me for something, Sergeant?”

“When last you slept in Tower, guv,” Bob returned-referring to something that had happened on the eve of the Glorious Revolution-“you told me the following tale: namely that you had with your own eyes seen a certain babe emerging from the Queen of England’s vagina in Whitehall Palace. You, and a roomful of other notables.”


“Well, now that babe is all growed up and living at St.-Germain and phant’sies he’s to be our next King, is it not so?”

“That is what they keep saying.”

“And yet the Whigs call this same bloke the Changeling, and say he’s a common bastard orphan smuggled into Whitehall in a warming-pan, and never passed through the vagina of a Queen at all-at least not until he got old enough to do it t’other way.”

“Indeed, they never leave off saying it.”

“Where’s that put you, guv?”

“Where I ever was. For my father was running about London a hundred years ago proclaiming that all Kings and Queens were common bastards, and worse, and that the very best of ’em was not fit to reign over a haystack. I was raised in such a household.”

“It matters not to you.”

“Their bloodlines matter not. Their habits and policies-that is different.”

“And that is why you consort with Whigs,” said Bob, finally gaining a measure of ease, “for the policies of Sophie are more to your liking.”

“You did not suppose I was a Jacobite!?”

“I had to ask, guv.” Bob Shaftoe finally broke off staring at Daniel’s face, and looked about. They had been traveling northwards down the Hope, but were reaching the point where they could see to the east around the river’s final bend and discover the startling prospect of water stretching unbroken to the horizon.

“My lord Bolingbroke, now, he is a Jacobite,” Bob remarked. Which was like opining that Fleet Ditch was unwholesome.

“Been seeing a lot of him?” Daniel inquired.

“Been seeing a lot of him,” Bob said, turning his head slightly toward the quarterdeck and glancing up at the banner that flew at the mizzen, carrying the arms of Charles White. “And you must know he is the whip that Bolingbroke cracks.”

“I did not know it,” Daniel confessed, “but it rings very true.”

“Bolingbroke is the Queen’s pet,” Bob continued, “and has been ever since he drove Marlborough out of the country.”

“Even a Bostonian knows as much.”

“Now the Whigs-your friend in particular-they have been raising a private army, they have.”

“When we met some weeks ago on London Bridge, you alluded to that, very darkly,” Daniel said. He was now beginning to experience fear, for the first time since he had awoken. Not the bracing, invigorating fear of shooting under London Bridge in a small boat, but the vague smothering dread that had kept him bedridden the first few weeks he’d been back in London. It was familiar, and in that, oddly comforting.

“Whigs’ve been whispering in a lot of ears,” Bob continued, glancing at the place where Colonel Barnes had stood a moment earlier. “Are you with us or against us? Will you stand up and be counted? When the Hanovers reign, shall they know you as one who was loyal, who can be trusted with command?”

“I see. Hard to resist that sort of talk.”

“Not so hard, when there is Marlborough, just over there,” nodding at the eastern horizon, “but contrary pressure, even greater, comes now from Bolingbroke.”

“What has my lord Bolingbroke done?”

“He’s not come out and done anything just yet. But he is making ready to do something that will make some of us uneasy.”

“What is he making ready to do?”

“He’s drawing up a list of all the captains, the colonels, and the generals. And according to White-who lets things slip, for effect, when he is pretending to be drunker than he really is-Bolingbroke will soon order those officers to sell their companies and their regiments, unless they sign a pledge that they will serve their Queen unconditionally.”

“Sell them to Jacobite captains and colonels, one presumes.”

“One presumes,” Bob returned, a bit mockingly.

“So that if the Queen were to decide, on her deathbed, that the crown should go to her half-brother (I’ll dispense with the pretense of calling him the Changeling), the army would stand ready to enforce that decree and welcome the Pretender to England.”

“That is how it looks. And it puts a bloke like Colonel Barnes in a bit of a spot. The Marquis of Ravenscar’s entreaties may be shrugged off, provided it is done civilly. But Bolingbroke offers a choice, like the Buoy of the Nore-we must go one way or t’other, and there’s no going back once the decision’s made.”

“Yes,” Daniel said. And he held back from saying what was obvious: that Barnes, with his loyalty to Marlborough, would never go Bolingbroke’s way. But as Bob had pointed out, he had to choose one path or the other. He could not say no to Bolingbroke without saying yes to Ravenscar.

Daniel stood for a time brooding and fuming over the stupidity of Bolingbroke, who would force men like Barnes into the arms of the opposing camp. It was an act of panic. Panic was notoriously catchy; and the questions Barnes and Shaftoe had been directing his way suggested it was beginning to spread.

Which raised the question of why on earth they would think of him. Barnes owned a regiment of dragoons, for Christ’s sake, and if a tenth of the hints dropped by him and Sergeant Bob held true, they were in communication with Marlborough.

What was it Barnes had said just a few minutes ago? Everyone is scared to death just now. On its face this was about Isaac and his fears concerning Leibniz. But perhaps Barnes was really speaking of himself.

Or of anyone. Obviously Bolingbroke was scared. Roger Comstock, the Marquis of Ravenscar, was too outward merry to let on that he was scared; but then he was apparently deep into mustering a Whiggish army, which was not the act of a man who had been sleeping soundly.

Who wasn’t scared? The only person Daniel could think of who wasn’t, was Sir Christopher Wren.

If the Duchess of Arcachon-Qwghlm was scared, she was not letting on.

Perhaps Marlborough wasn’t scared. There was no telling as long as he remained in Antwerp.

Those were the only ones he could think of.

Then he had one of those moments where he suddenly stood outside of his own body and beheld himself, as from a seagull’s perspective, standing on the deck of Mr. Charles White’s sloop running down the tide in the Hope. And he came to ask, why was he, who had little time left on earth, devoting these minutes to drawing up a tedious inventory of who was, and was not, scared? Was there nothing better for a Doctor and Fellow of the Royal Society to do with his time?

The answer was all around him, buoying him up and keeping him and the others from drowning: Hope. According to myth, the last thing to emerge from Pandora’s Box. Feeling Fear’s clammy arms reaching around him, Daniel had an almost physical longing for Hope. And perhaps Hope was no less contagious than Fear. He wanted to be infected with Hope and so he was trying to think of someone, like Wren or Marlborough, who would give it him.

It was an hypothesis, anyway. And it described the actions of others as well as it did his own. Why had Princess Caroline summoned him from Boston? Why had Mr. Threader wanted to make a Clubb with him? Why did Roger want him to find the Longitude and Leibniz want him to make a thinking machine? Why did the likes of Saturn trail him through Hockley-in-the-Hole, asking for spiritual direction? Why did Isaac solicit his aid? Why did Mr. Baynes expect Daniel to look after his wayward daughter in Bridewell? Why were Colonel Barnes and Sergeant Shaftoe asking him these pointed questions today?

Because they were all scared, and, just like Daniel, they longed for Hope, and sought anyone who might give it to them; and when they drew up their mental inventories of who was and wasn’t scared,