On The Queen's Service
Part The Third
"Harry is not for use, Mr. Fletcher," Goodboy told them when they did arrive and request the boy, "For he was used most sorely this past eve and will take some days before he may be used again. Other boys I can provide who will serve you and your apprentice with equal skill."
"We come not to swive the boy, but to speak with him," Fletcher assured the concerned keeper of the house of pleasure, "For though this morn he spoke with Stick of the man who used him so, yet there is more that he can tell us. Of this I am certain sure."
"Certes it is his hole that is damaged and not his mouth," Goodboy smiled ingratiatingly, "Speak with him by all means, and if you should chance upon that Sir James again, I would take it not amiss if he suffered some from such encounter."
Though Goodboy provided boys for pleasure, he took great pride in the welfare of those boys, for they were his reputation and his income and damage to them he would not abide.
"That cannot be, old friend," Fletcher said, his tone now a warning, "For that man is dead, pierced to the heart by a bollock dagger this very morn, and wise you would be to keep thoughts of harm to him to yourself, for the constables are not gifted with much brain and a man with motive is to them a guilty man."
Goodboy's avuncular face paled, for well he knew that a man accused was a man guilty, for under question he would doubtless admit to all be he guilty or no.
"Search you then for his killer?" he asked with voice aquaver.
"We do, but have no fears that you I consider to be suspect here, for I know you would protect your boys with your life and revenge on one who harmed them would be by means more subtle than a bollock dagger under the ribs."
Goodboy breathed a sigh of relief, some small colour returning to his plump cheeks.
"Then talk you must with Harry," he said, anxious now that this should be done and any lingering suspicion cleared from his name, "Him I will send you presently, and while you await him may I find a boy to bring you wine and some repast?"
"A little spiced malmsey, warmed if you would, for Stick has a stomach not constant having come here from the Searcher of the Dead, the air there agreeing with him not."
Their wine was served by one of the youngest boys who wore nothing but a sleeveless jerkin, open at the front so all his young charms were displayed freely, for this was the manner in which the serving boys of Mr. Goodboy were ever dressed, the better to arouse the needs of patrons who visited there. The better also to accustom the boys to the understanding that their privates were private no more, but would soon grow to be things of pleasure, toys for men to play with.
"I told Stick this morn all that I do know," Harry sighed. He wore a gown of full length held tight around his slender waist by a cord, unusual in the house of Mr. Goodboy where boys concealed not their delights, but though that garment concealed the delights of his body it covered not the angelic beauty of his face.
Helen of Troy may have had a face that launched a thousand ships, Fletcher could not help musing, but Harry de Vere had one that would launch armada after armada just in hope for a sight of him.
"I think not, Harry," said Fletcher most kindly, "For there is more you may remember yet. This man used you many times did he not? More than is usual for a man to use a boy?"
"Five times, sir," Harry shuddered at the memory, "And even then his prick maintained its hardness still. Had he but the strength and breath enough I know he would have used me more."
"And did he leave you then?"
"He did sir, but not before he had cursed me as an aging whore with an arse looser than a church door."
"A calumny if ever I heard one," Fletcher's smile was one of kindness, though his keen mind had fastened on the curse Sir James had thrown at Harry.
"He cursed also Mr.Goodboy, calling him a cheating whoremaster for he would not allow the swiving of the youngest boys," Harry muttered softly.
"Did he so, indeed," Fletcher mused more, "It would seem Sir James had made mistake in the place for his entertainment. A molly house by the Rookery would have been more to his taste perhaps."
"What of his breath, Harry?" Stick asked, anxious to be seen as being a conscientious apprentice, "You said he had breath most foul did you not?"
"And that he did," Harry shuddered again at the memory, "But not the foulness of rotten teeth or badly digested food. This was something other, a foulness perhaps of something evil eaten and sweetened with honey to make it palatable, for there was clear a sweetness amid the foulness."
"Strange foul smelling breath and a prick of unnatural hardness," Fletcher considered, "Belike our Sir James had some concoction to raise his potency."
"Something devilish," Stick crossed himself, forgetting that this was a thing he was not supposed to do in these enlightened times.
"I think not of the Devil, Stick, but most certainly of man, though I believe the Devil may be lurking in this affair at some place."
Fletcher thanked Harry for his help, bade Mr Goodboy good day and hurried Stick by horse then toward Southwark and the abode of the apothecary he did seek.
London streets were full of shit, human and horse, and no man walked if he could ride.
"Of Harry, master," Stick ventured as they picked their way riverwards, "Does he not have the most retentive mind?"
"Indeed he does, Stick, and the most desirable body also. Think not I understand not of your desire for his flesh." Fletcher smiled, believing he understood his catamite's intent on raising the subject of that boy. "And fear not that I condemn that desire, and give you leave to visit him at Mr. Goodboy's house and swive with him as I know you wish to do."
That this was not the intent of Stick in the raising of the matter of Harry, he was still most pleased that his master should make such an offer, for a visit to that house did not come without the exchange of considerable coin, and that his master should be willing so freely to pay for his pleasure was a thing that pleased Stick much. What boy could hope for a better and more considerate master than Mr.Fletcher, and Stick resolved that when next Mr. Fletcher required an extra helping of butter then he would be most receptive to the desires of the understanding man he was catamite to.
"And now," Fletcher said as their horses picked their careful way though the filth, "We must find what young Harry's remembrances may do to aid our search."
Though the sign above the shop of the apothecary did read `John Roberts' the owner was indeed one Juan Rodrigues, though for the purposes of trade he did use the English variant of his name. Indeed, it may be thought from his features that `Juan Rodrigues' was also a variant of his true name, for there was about his countenance that which was more of the Moor than of the Spaniard.
That his family hailed from Granada in time past may give weight to such a thought, for indeed in times long ago Spaniard and Moor had mingled together, for though they were infidels and not true believers, the Moor had little care which God a man did worship, for such things were a matter for the man and not for others.
Welcomes were exchanged, for Fletcher was one known to the apothecary and regarded as safe friend.
"Potions there were indeed," Juan accepted with no demur, "And used much in the times of the grandfather of my grandfather. Consider," he said, directing his words to Stick by way of education, "The Caliph of Granada was said, in those times, to keep a harem of a thousand boys, though some say it was indeed thrice that number. What man, less he had some aid to keep his member stiff, could hope to satisfy such a number of boys?"
"Indeed, it is a matter beyond belief," Stick breathed, and uttered aloud the thought that came to his mind. "Though I am young and have mighty urges, I think I could not satisfy five unless I had aid to do so."
The apothecary laughed in delight at Stick's words and said in a sly manner to Fletcher that he doubted not the boy had stamina enough to satisfy his needs.
"Indeed he does, Juan," Fletcher agreed, "And no man could wish for a better catamite than Stick, for he does give me great pleasure and never yet have I discovered him with an ague or a headache when I would bed him."
"Then he performs well the duties of a boy to his master," Juan agreed, caring not that their words did cause the blood to flow to the cheeks of Stick.
"Devil's Claw and Hairy Goat Weed were the most common used in those times," Juan elaborated. "Both may have the effect of hardening the member beyond the usual and for a greater length of time, and, if I recall right the words of my grandfather, mixed in the correct manner may enable a man to enjoy as many as a dozen boys in a single day."
"Did they really enjoy that number of boys in a single day?" Stick asked, unable to restrain his curiosity, his member already hard and most uncomfortable confined as it was in his hose.
"Should you own a thousand boys, would you not wish to sample their delights as oft a possible?" Juan grinned, knowing well how Stick would answer for he was also a man acquainted well with all the delights that boys have to offer a man.
Stick wriggled on his stool, wishing greatly that his hard member could receive some satisfaction, but managed to reply with a little wit.
"Should I own but ten," he said, " I think exhaustion would see me to an early grave."
Juan laughed heartily and again congratulated Fletcher on his choice of catamite, for it was clear that Stick was one who understood well that boys were to be used for pleasure, and that, he being still a boy, was intended for that purpose.
"Those Musslemen had a creed," Juan said, knowing well how his words would affect the mind of the boy he teased, "That women are for duty and boys are for pleasure, and that the duty of a woman is to bear sons for the pleasure of men."
Stick groaned, his stomach being now fully recovered he was having more than some difficulty in preventing the involuntary spurting of his seed.
"Such potion," Juan returned to the matter he was supposed to be giving consideration to, "Had to be mixed in the proper manner, for if it were not then it may affect the mind of a man in such a way that he cared not for the boys he swived, but would enter them most fiercely and with disregard, and having seeded one would move straight to the next and treat him in a like manner."
"And would one, under the influence of such a potion, perhaps swive a boy five times and then seek out another for his prick was still most hard?" Fletcher asked, for this would fit what he had learned from Harry and with the possible swiving of the murdered Ganymede also.
"And another after that most like," Juan agreed, "Though such potions are not available in this land for the herbs come both from the lands of Afric, and the knowledge of their mixing is not one known here."
"Where might it be known?" Fletcher knew he was grasping at a straw, but he had little else to grasp at.
"Perchance still in Spain," Juan surmised, "For many Churchmen there follow still the creed of the Moor and have great affection for the delights of boys, for their faith permits them not the flesh of women and it is much forbidden for men to lay with men. But boys are neither women nor men, and no prohibition extends to them."
This gave Fletcher much cause for thought, for it raised the possibility of Spanish connection with the murder of Sir James and of the hapless Ganymede, and should that connection be linked with the desire for the succession of the Scottish King, then this were treason indeed.
"Twould be possible then," Fletcher ventured, "For such a potion, or such herbs, to be brought to this land by one from Spain?"
"Doubtless, and with ease," Juan agreed, "For the quantities would be but small and easily concealed. Though such a one as brought them would need also to know of the manner they should be mixed. And to sweeten them also, for their taste is most foul."
Fletcher needed no more. That Sir James had imbibed of this potion, whether willingly or no, seemed now a matter beyond doubt. But from whence had he obtained it and for what purpose? These were things still to be discovered.
"Master," Stick said as they mounted once again their horses having taken leave of the apothecary, "I know there is much to be done and that with some urgency, but may it be that it is possible for us first to repair to home? My body, master, is in great need of use, and I would fain we repair to home and you seek butter from Jane."
"And should you not also anoint yourself once more with the mixture Juan has given you, for its effect lasts not for ever and I believe there be signs of hair upon you where none is wanted."
Once more blood did flood to the cheeks of Stick for he knew it to be true that some growth had begun to make itself known upon his stones and above his slender member, and this concerned him much for he feared greatly that he was approaching an age at which he would no longer give pleasure to his master, and though he could not prevent the growth from boy to man, still did he find great delight in being a boy and catamite to boot.
"Fear not, Stick," Fletcher smiled, and spoke as though he were a reader of minds, "Your flesh pleases me much still, and will do so for a year or more yet. Now let us make some haste to home for I too have great desire to use some of Jane's most efficacious butter."
Though he lay in that contented bliss that only a boy who has been ridden with great skill and tenderness to an exhausted conclusion, still did Stick have wish to speak his thoughts on Harry, for though his master had made promise that his body would still be wanted and used for a year or more yet, he understood well that any man would wish for flesh younger than his for his pleasure.
"This thing of Harry, master," Stick ventured, but was silenced by Fletcher as he ran his hand over the boy's slender frame, from narrow shoulder to the tired softness of his thin prick, down one flank and up the other, returning to caress shoulder once more.
"I blame you not for having desire for that boy," Fletcher whispered in his catamite's ear, "For he is the sweetest of boys and has an arse the gods themselves would long to make use of, and I have said I will make arrangement with Mr.Goodboy that you should swive him when such a thing is possible. Have no fears that this I will do, for I have said that it will be so."
In the face of such demonstration of his master's affection for him, Stick struggled to find words to say it was not for himself, but for Fletcher that he wished for Harry, for it was certain that boy would give nothing but delight to the man who had him as catamite, and Stick longed to return the great favours his master had given him, for he knew that had he not been taken as apprentice intelligencer and catamite himself, he would have little future once he became a man.
His efforts to find the words to say were ended by a gentle tap upon the chamber door, and the soft voice of Jane, their servant girl, announcing that there was fresh bread, cold meats and new ale on the kitchen table.
"And a bath I have run for you in the solar," she declared, "For after such exercise as you have had you will be in great need of such a thing."
She departed, her delighted giggle sounding behind her.
Refreshed and dressed once more man and catamite presented themselves in the kitchen where a beaming Jane awaited them. That he should have been so fortunate as to find a servant girl who found no distaste in the intimacy of himself and his catamite was a thing of some wonder to Fletcher.
Indeed, not only did it provoke no censure in her, but instead she seemed to take delight that they swived so freely and so openly, for Fletcher knew not of Jane's confession to Stick that their matings did make her cunny most moist and wet.
"Yet once more must I thank you for your tolerance and acceptance so freely of our behaviours," Fletcher thanked her when he was seated at table. "I know not where I could find such another as you."
"Lord, Mr. Fletcher," Jane blushed a little, "I have no care that you both prefer the riding of stallions to mares, but I have great care that I am blessed to be servant to such a pair as you. And forgive me for my forwardness, kind sirs, but the affection you hold each for the other warms my heart greatly, and the kindness with which you treat me makes me wish for no other to serve."
"Come join us at the table and share meat and ale with us," Fletcher requested, displaying without thought that kindness of which his servant girl had spoke. "Does our riding each of the other truly cause you no concern? Speak so if it does and we will be less careless with our pleasures."
"Not a whit, sir," Jane dismissed that thought, but emboldened somewhat by the kindness shown and the ale she had drunk did confess only that she found some regret.
"For it is clear, sirs," she said, "If you may forgive me from speaking plain and what is in my mind, it pains me a little that you may ride each other at full gallop and care not about the finish line, while my Robert dares little more than a canter and never dares at all to reach that line."
She looked afeard then that she had spoke too much, but Stick did giggle loudly and Fletcher but barely managed to restrain a smile of some mirth.
"Difficult it must be," Fletcher managed to say without laughing also, "For we have no fears that we may get the other with child and can ride freely to a finish each and every time. For you, though, that fear must indeed spoil somewhat the rides you take."
"Oh no, sir," Jane did giggle and though it was some surprise to Fletcher it was not so for Stick, for he had conversed oft with Jane on matters of the bedchamber and knew she felt no shame in talking so. "My Robert rides me most wondrously, but shame it is for him that he cannot so do until he reaches the finish, for he takes most care that he gets me not with child. For should he do so I would lose my place here and poor Robert has not the means to support me."
"Lose your place you would not," Fletcher declared in a burst of generosity. "Though I would not have Robert ride to the finish carelessly, should it happen that he is unable to pull the reins in time, you still will be in employ here. Of that you must have no fears."
"Mean you so, sir?" Jane asked, her mouth agape with wonder.
"I do so," Fletcher said firmly and filled his mouth with cold meats.
Jane drunk deep of more ale and squared her shoulders. With a deep breath she then made announcement that she felt that nowhere in the world was there a master of such a kind and considerate nature, "And, Mr. Fletcher, in return for your pledge and kindness let me also pledge that should I become in the family way and do have a boy, then," she again drew breath deep, "When he is of sufficient age and I still in your employ, I will turn not a single hair should he find his way to your bed."
"There is no need to pledge such a thing," Fletcher said, though his throat was somewhat lumpy with the emotion caused by his servant's words.
"Indeed there is, Mr. Fletcher," Jane emboldened now by her words as well as by ale had no intent of holding her tongue. She would say what she had to say and knew that support, if it be needed, would come from Stick who she trusted most greatly.
"I am but a servant girl, but still have I eyes and ears. I know you to be one of Secretary Walsingham's men, an intelligencer who works to keep our land safe from those who would do it harm. I know also that you train Stick as your apprentice in this work and that his future is assured. I know that he is your catamite, and for he is so then you take full care that he will have a place in this world. I know, Mr.Fletcher that you are an honest and an honourable man, and should a colt come to your attention you will geld him not, nor use him as a post horse, riding him till you have no further need of him, but train him kindly to become a full stallion, one that will have his own choice if he wish to join with mares or no. Should I produce such a colt then I would have him seek none other than you for his early years."
Fletcher gathered then his thoughts, his intelligencer's mind working on what Jane had said until no doubt remained in that mind.
"Robert has ridden to the finish line, has he not? You are with child, Jane, is it not so?" He said his words kindly and softly, no hint of condemnation in them, but even so they were too much for poor Jane and she let loose floods of tears, tears that were confession sufficient.
"Some two months now since my last flowers," Jane confessed when she was able, "And in great fear I have been that you would cast me out when this became known to you, as in time it must have been."
"No fears of that," Fletcher was brisk now for there were arrangements to be made. "No fears, but a wedding to be made as soon as able, unless your Robert be a cur who would not marry a girl he had got with child."
"No cur, sir," Jane defended her lover hotly, "But stable lad to one Sir William Rich and of no means to support a wife and child."
"Sir William Rich said you?" Stick blurted the words from his mouth, a mouth much trained in the attentions it should give to prick, but not yet so well trained in the attention it should give to the words it spoke. "That name is one that Harry did mention is it not?"
"And a name our Jane now knows to be one that has come to our attention, Stick," Fletcher spoke firmly, "And Jane's beau is servant to that man and like it will be that our interest in him will soon reach his ears by that means."
"Not so, master Fletcher," Jane declared, "For my mouth is not free with words it should not speak. And I will tell you plain, that my Robert likes not the one he is servant to, for he is a man of some temper, and most free with the use of his crop when in the stables. Nor horse, nor boy, nor man escapes its lash."
"Then must we meet with your Robert, and that most soon, for there is not but a wedding to discuss, but the matter of his employer also. See to it, Jane, but tell him it is nothing more than the making of an honest woman of you that I wish to talk."
"If you mean no harm to him, master Fletcher, then this I will do. He shall come all unprepared to talk of his employer, for that way I think you will gain more intelligence from him. Is that not so?"
"It is so indeed, Jane. And when next you talk with Stick maybe it will be that you should impart some of your understanding to him, for I think you have more a mind for intelligencing than does he."
"I am but a mere servant girl," Jane took care to simper.
"A mere servant girl who would scamper with ease about a web such as Mr. Walsingham's," Fletcher observed, "And lay also new strands and make plots aplenty. But have no fears, for your employ is certain with us here. Such a one as you has uses more than in the keeping of a house I think."