The man who sat down across from me remained obscured in his dark cloak. "A drink?" I offered.
"If you could afford drinks," he chortled, "we would not be meeting."
"Then let us discuss business."
"It is an offer you are in no position to decline, considering you are a fugitive," he declared. "You need to disappear from England, and we need a task completed."
Had my contact known that this would be blackmail? "Go ahead," I muttered through clinched teeth.
"No need to be hostile--I may be sparing you a visit to King Henry's tower."
I nodded. "Please tell me what is needed."
"That's better," he intoned. I couldn't even see his mouth well enough to confirm the curl of the lip I knew must be there.
He breathed a name--one well-known at Oxford, from whence I had come what seemed ages ago, yet mere months had lapsed.
"You want me to find him."
He outlined the plan. "We are sending a 'servant' with you. He will be in charge of funds to enroll you at the University of Louvain, from which you can easily search the vicinity. He will provide everything needed for any role you must assume, and any necessary bribes. The sum to remediate your debts will be paid only upon delivery of the subject to the Holy Roman Emperor. Is everything clear?"
"Yes, except where and when I am to meet my 'servant.'"
"He awaits you at the port, where a ship sets sail for Antwerp shortly. You had best hurry."
And so I did. The voyage was uneventful, save for my stomach's rebellion, and I was soon ensconced at Louvain.
I devised that the merchants of Antwerp might be an excellent source of news, if not about my quarry, then about his contraband. Infiltrating them proved simple, and it was not news that I gleaned, but the person himself, who joined them for dinner on occasion. Gaining his confidence was child's play. All that was needed was giving enthusiastic countenance to reformation principles, and he invited me back to the Poyntz's house of the English merchants, where I viewed his latest translation of the New Testament, as well as his heretical writings.
It was an effortless matter to ride to Brussels, pay proper "tribute" to the Emperor's attorney, and return to Antwerp with a company of officers. And so it was on the 21st of May, 1535, that I invited William Tyndale to dinner, guided him toward the narrow lane chosen for the ambush, and the officers did the rest.
My remediation was not as forthcoming as had been promised. I was required to translate documents from English in to Latin for the heresy commissioners, while Tyndale was interrogated and languished in a dungeon in Vilvoorde castle. When my 'servant' disappeared after Tyndale's conviction and excommunication, it quickly penetrated that the traitor had been betrayed. I had no recourse, as I had no knowledge of exactly whose dupe I had been. Both the commissioners and the Emperor turned a deaf ear to my pleas.
Not that I considered myself to be responsible for innocent blood at that time, but still I entertained Judas' solution. I decided, however, to at least witness Tyndale's execution first, which proved to be two long months away. Finally, it was scheduled for the morning of last 6 October.
I joined the crowd gathered outside the town, as Tyndale was brought before the officials with one more opportunity to recant, which he did not. He was secured to the stake, a noose placed 'round his neck, since he had not been sentenced to burn alive. Before it was pulled taut and the fire lit, he prayed fervently, "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."
He did not look at the officials, but at the townspeople. I thought I was adequately concealed in the crowd, but just as the noose tightened, our eyes met. There was no anger--no bitterness--only the embodiment of that which I had translated in to Latin countless times--grace.
It was at that moment that my eyes were opened. I stopped thinking of Judas, and started thinking of the parable of the loving father. It was then that I repented and wrote to you and Mother back here in England.
You and Mother glance at one another, then you exit, returning and placing a small book in my hands--an English Tyndale New Testament--and your renewed trust, for the king's eyes have yet to be opened.
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