Father Nicholas Smithson, S.J., cleared his throat for the third time. Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned back against the wall of St. Mary's rectory. After a pause, he cleared his throat for the fourth time.
With obvious reluctance, Father Athanasius Kircher, S.J., lifted his head from looking at the top sheet in a large pile of papers. “Yes, Nick?”
“I know you've been saving this evening for catching up on letters from your correspondence circle. I wouldn't interrupt if . . . .”
“ . . . it weren't important.”
“Right.” Nick moved over toward Kircher's desk. “Henry Gage is in town.”
“This is important why?” Kircher, naturally, did not have the familiarity with England that a native son of the island did.
“He's from an old English Catholic family with strong ties in the Spanish Netherlands. His grandmother's family were merchants at Liege; his wife's mother is Flemish. Through his mother, he's a grandson of the late Sir Thomas Copley, the exile who was knighted in France and made a baron by Philip II of Spain, much to the displeasure of the late queen. He went back to England for a while in 1627, but returned in 1630. He's been commanding an English regiment in the Spanish service, under Don Fernando, now.”
“Is it bad that he is in Grantville?”
“Normally, I'd be delighted to see him. His Aunt Helen, Copley's daughter, was the mother of the two Stanihursts. Given that we really need more English-speaking priests here at St. Mary's, I'd normally recommend that you approach him about trying to interest either Peter or William. They're both in their thirties, so they'll have the energy to keep up with the pace of things here. But they entered the order in their teens, so they're seasoned. It would make a nice balance.”
“What is not normal?”
“Henry didn't drop by to catch up on old times. We had scarcely blown the foam off our beers when he asked to purchase a copy of that old report I did on spark plugs.”
“You did say that he's an army officer.” Kircher pursed his lips. “Is he working for Don Fernando? The cardinal-infante withheld his troops from active participation against the USE this spring, under various pretexts, some colorable and some . . . ”
“Not so plausible. Yes. There's a truce, but not a treaty.” Nick moved back and leaned against the wall again. “And then there's the man he's traveling with. An English engineer. He's describing himself as ”˜Master of Fortifications to the Prince of Orange.'”
“He's definitely been working in the Netherlands for Frederik Hendrik. That much is true. He was born in London and the family is armigerous, I think. Or, at least, he's claiming connection to a gentry family. So there's no obvious reason for him to be working with Gage other than that, perhaps, someone has paid him a great deal of money.”