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Act 4, The Palace of Nonsuch

Why are these places always underground? thought Simon. Is it simply tradition or is there a natural tendency for such functions to gravitate toward Hell? It was damp and cold belowground. His torch lit Walsingham's back, throwing the spymaster's flickering shadow onto the cellar wall. Walsingham pulled open the heavy wooden door with a thud that echoed down the stone walls.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God, please no more." The scream cut through the air.

The captured assassin was stretched over a wooden frame by ropes attached to his wrists and ankles. The wrist lines were wrapped around a drum that could be turned by a large wheel to increase the tension. The assassin's joints already strained.

"You should have thought of God, matey, before you tried to stick a blade in my gut." Gwilym gave the wheel of the rack another tenth of a turn eliciting a loud pop from a knee joint and more screams.

"I told you, I don't know who paid us. We met him in a tavern. He told us where to set the ambush. The gentlemen must not reach Nonsuch, that were the instructions. That's all he said. They mustn't reach the palace."

Gwilym went to give the wheel another turn.

"No more, he has nothing more for us." Walsingham called off his man.

"'Ee might just need a bit more encouragement to name names, your 'onour," said Gwilym.

"I don't think so," said Walsingham. "Any more would be pointless cruelty. Cut him down and give him to the hangman."

No experience seemed to affect Walsingham, but Simon needed no encouragement to leave the torture room. He wanted fresh air to get the stink of blood, bodily wastes, and fear out of his nose.

"That was a waste of time," said Simon, in disgust.

"Not so, Master Tunstall. We learnt two important facts." Walsingham placed the tips of his fingers together, so Simon knew he was in for a lecture.

"The first is inconsequential. They knew exactly where and when to wait for us. We have a spy at Barn Elms. Someone is passing information. Well, Gwilym can be relied upon to ferret that out. No, it's the second point that bothers me more. 'They must not reach Nonsuch'—that's what he said. Why, Master Tunstall? Why must we be prevented from reaching the Palace? What is going to happen here?"

Walsingham led the way into the heart of the main building. Simon followed a respectful three steps behind. They passed a number of guard stations but Walsingham was waved through each time without breaking step. The final set of guards stood in front of a long corridor that led to the audience room. Walsingham proceeded up the corridor at his normal measured pace. A gaggle of men appeared at the far end. The Earl of Oxford, a thin, stooping man dressed in expensive finery, led them. He sported a royal blue doublet with fashionable peasecod belly and tight Venetian breeches. The costume was stitched through with gold thread. A ruff, so large that it fell upon his shoulders, completed the ensemble. Simon thought the Earl looked like a peacock that someone had kicked in the rear so hard its tail had become stuck around his head.

The corridor was not wide enough for both parties. Walsingham strode on, forcing the Earl to stand to one side with his entourage.

"My Lord." Walsingham inclined his head ever so slightly.

"Sir Francis." The Earl spoke civilly but his eyes blazed.

"Why does the Earl give way to a mere knight? We should thrash the fellow." One of Oxford's young prot g s, freshly in from the provinces, expressed anger at his master's humiliation.

"Shut up you fool or he might hear you. That's Walsingham," said a more experienced member of Oxford's retinue.

"Why does he hate you so?" Simon asked Walsingham.

"A simple question with a complicated answer," said Walsingham. "Elizabeth's sister, Queen Mary, assembled a ragbag of nobility to act as her councillors. Most were appointed on a whim that usually had little connection to their political views or abilities. So they had no common policy and spent most of their time arguing with each other and competing for the Queen's attention. Elizabeth, on the other hand, secretly assembled a government in waiting even when Mary still ruled. She selected her statesmen largely from the alumni of Cambridge University and she chose capable people who shared her views on the world."

Simon understood that to mean people who supported the New Religion.

"Some of those people were nobility, like my Lords Burghley and Leicester, but others were of humbler stock."

Walsingham smiled grimly at this point, since he was one of the latter. His mother was a Dennys but his father was a prosperous merchant who acquired respectability by buying a manor house in Kent.

"Of course that disenfranchised many nobles, traditionalists, and fools. Oxford encompasses all three in one body. To put it at its simplest, he hates me because I have the Queen's ear and he doesn't."

"I see," said Simon.

"Some years ago, the noble Earl of Oxford bent in the throne room before Her Majesty and broke wind with alarming vigour. The court erupted in laughter. I thought Elizabeth would break her stays. Humiliated, the Earl withdrew and sulked on his estates. It was some little time before he reappeared at court. Do you know what Her Majesty said when he bent to kiss her hand?"

"No, Sir Francis," said Simon.

"She said, 'Fear not, my Lord, I have quite forgot the fart.' " Walsingham shook his head. " 'I have quite forgot the fart.' Of course, he hates her as well for the sport she made of him. Poor Anne Cecil, Burghley's daughter, is married to the man. He treats her abominably. I thought Burghley ill advised to consent to the match."

The spymaster pondered, his face suddenly without humour. "Do you not think that he has a lean and hungry look? All plotters seem to share it. Give me fat men who are content with their lot."

The irony, thought Simon, was that Walsingham himself was one of the leanest men in Christendom. Walsingham strode into the audience room with Simon behind him. Both men bowed low in the direction of an improvised throne. On it sat the Queen of England. She was deep in conversation with a man dressed in the robes and skullcap of a scholar. Areas where the robes had worn threadbare thin suggested that the man had the typical scholar's indifference to wealth. Walsingham waited patiently at the back. One did not interrupt a queen; in particular, one did not interrupt this queen.

"Look at the colours and glitter on the fine clothes of the courtiers," whispered Simon to Walsingham. "The court shines."

"It shines with the glow of rotting wood," said Walsingham. "This is the most dangerous place in the land."

"The Queen's gown is spectacular," said Simon, still enthralled despite Walsingham's cynicism. "She must spend hours with dressers every morning."

"We must allow her the vanity of her sex," said Walsingham. "Her sister, Queen Mary, cared but little for her appearance but indulged her vanity in her rule. No argument or fact could sway her as she believed that her every whim had the endorsement of God. So good men burned at the stake because they opposed her will. Even her husband, Philip of Spain, cried halt but could not dissuade her."

Simon could not remember the reign of Bloody Mary but he knew that Walsingham had fled England for his very life.

"So let Her Majesty indulge her vanity in her appearance," said Walsingham. "She knows she dare not indulge it in her politics."

"I see Dee is at his most unctuous," Walsingham said, nodding in the direction of the scholar. "Looking at him now, you would not believe that he was one of the more drunken revellers at Cambridge. His party trick was knife throwing. He used to pin tavern wenches to the wall by their skirts."

Simon tried to picture the sober scholar pinning tavern wenches to the wall by anything, but his imagination failed him.

While they talked, Sir Francis had been edging them inconspicuously closer to the Queen, until they could follow the conversation.

"A fine scholarly work, Doctor Dee," said the Queen.

"The British nations have historical claims to the New World that predate the Iberians. The voyages of your illustrious ancestor, King Arthur, are one example. Then there is the visit of your kindred, the Welsh Prince Madoc, to the Americas in 1170 AD. The Pope's division of the world between Spain and Portugal is little short of theft." Dee was in full flood.

Simon cricked his neck to get a glimpse of the title of Dee's new book. It had Brytanici Imperii Limites in gold on the spine. Simon translated it as "The Extent of the British Empire." British Empire! Dee clearly thought big.

"I have marked Your Majesty's territorial claims on this map. It includes a great part of the seacoasts of Atlantis—the continent that the ignorant call America—that are next to us and all related islands from Florida to the northern seas."

"What say you, Sir Francis?" The Queen deigned to acknowledge Walsingham.

He dropped on one knee until bidden to rise.

"Well, Your Majesty," said Walsingham, putting his hands together as if at prayer. "Doctor Dee's scholarship is unquestionable but I fear a violent reaction from Madrid to any English colonies in the Americas, sorry, Atlantis. Spain can put two hundred warships into the water. Have you calculated how many ships we might need to protect an American empire of our own, Doctor Dee?"

"I estimate that Her Majesty would need a Petty Navy Royal of just sixty tall ships of one-hundred-and-sixty to two-hundred tons," said Dee. "A Spanish fleet of two hundred is a chimera. Firstly, they need to station considerable forces in the Mediterranean Sea, so as to deter the French and guard against the Turk. Secondly, a goodly number of their warships are galleys that are suitable only for coastal and harbour defence."

"Still, sixty royal galleons," murmured Walsingham.

"Supported by twenty barques of twenty to fifty tons. They would need to be very strong and warlike, not river barques," Dee developed his theme.

"How many warships did we inherit from our Royal Father, Sir Francis?" By convention, the Queen tended to forget the reigns of her siblings.

"Some twenty-two, Your Grace, not counting ancient hulks unsuitable for modern warfare," said Walsingham.

"And now I have thirty or more, many of them race-built galleons of the most modern type, thanks to the efforts of John Hawkins," said the Queen proudly.

Hawkins was a product of the democracy of the sea, where men of talent could rise far above the station in life allotted to them by God. He had risen to be Treasurer of the Navy, an unprecedented position for a provincial commoner. A Plymouth man, he was drawn from the same cluster of interrelated families from the County of Devonshire that had also thrown up Drake.

Traditionally, warships were crewed by merchant seamen who were commoners, while the captain was a member of the ruling classes, a gentleman amateur who had no inclination to learn ship crafts. This state of affairs still prevailed in Spain, France, and even Scotland. But in England, the commoners who built, sailed, and fought in the new sailing ships could achieve status and position in society. They could become captains or even admirals commanding from the deck of a royal warship. Similarly, older gentlemen competed to fund the new warships and younger gentlemen competed to serve in them.

Drake demanded that the gentlemen must haul and draw with the mariner and the mariner with the gentleman. So sons of the English ruling classes, who would literally have rather starved than demean themselves to push a plough or mend a wall, proudly showed the rope scars on their hands and boasted of the famous captains under which they had served.

This social and technical revolution threw up a new breed of men, the sea dogs. Continental princes professed to despise England's Virgin Queen, who ruled but half an island, and they talked darkly of when she would be brought to heel, but it was all hot air. Elizabeth's realm lay in the ocean, and in the seas around England, the sleek, culverin-armed ships of the sea dogs had the final word.

"Of course Her Majesty can also draw on the ships of her loyal subjects in times of crisis. John Hawkins alone can add a further sixteen warships to Her Majesty's forces," said Walsingham.

"True, but an American empire would need a larger core force of royal ships constantly available," said Dee. "The Plymouth ships are mostly employed in trading."

As the Spanish had declared it illegal for English ships to trade in the New World, "trading" in this context tended to be a euphemism for piracy.

"And how many men would be needed to crew these new ships of the Navy Royal?" asked Walsingham, changing the thrust of the debate.

"I calculate we would need a professional force of six thousand and six hundred men," said Dee, with the air of a man asking for an extra egg for breakfast.

"What think you, Sir Francis?" asked the Queen, with a clear hint of challenge in her voice.

"I doubt the Royal coffers could extend to funding such a force, Your Majesty. Currently, you spend only about sixteen thousand pounds per annum on naval defence which, if memory serves, is about one twentieth of Your Majesty's income."

"But Doctor Dee has considered how to finance the project," said the Queen. "As the Navy Royal would benefit all the kingdom, Doctor Dee suggests that the money be raised by general taxation. What say you to that, Sir Francis?"

"I say that a new general tax would be a very brave decision by Her Majesty, given the attitude of Her Majesty's subjects to new taxation."

"You see, Doctor Dee. Our loyal subjects expect our protection for them and their enterprises, but the ungrateful wretches don't want to pay for it."

Simon got the impression that the Queen was enjoying herself hugely. She liked to set her councillors against each other. Simon doubted that Sir Francis had said anything that she had not worked out for herself. Elizabeth was one of the most formidable politicians ever to have sat on the English throne.

"I regret an American empire, although a great enterprise, is beyond our current resources but this book is a valuable work and we are much pleased with it. One day perhaps."

The Queen gazed right through the court as if at some far horizon. Her eyes took on a steely glint. An old courtier had once told Simon that she was the image of old King Harry when she got that look.

Dee took that as his queue to depart. Sensibly, he decided to quit while he was ahead. He bowed deeply and walked backwards away, until he disappeared into the crowd that always surrounded the throne.

"Your Majesty, I would have leave to speak of the plight of our coreligionists in the Netherlands," said Walsingham.

"Go on, Sir Francis," said the Queen, in a dangerous tone.

"The Duke of Parma's Catholic forces are on the move again. They have captured many Protestant towns and inflicted divers horrors on the inhabitants. Parma has consolidated Spanish power on the whole region south of the River Schelde. Soon he will move on Antwerp. Our friends need money and troops urgently."

"Not this again, Sir Francis. You want us to spend the reserves of our treasury on equipping idle mouths to go a soldiering in the Low Countries. Five years ago, I turned down the offer of sovereignty of that unhappy place. Have not your own spies reported that the Spanish treasury is too bankrupt to support a new offensive?"

"Indeed, Majesty, but the Duke has paid the Army of Flanders from his personal resources."

"Men like you persuaded us of the Havre enterprise. It cost a quarter of a million pounds from the Royal Treasury and do you know what we received for our money? Shall I tell you, Sir Francis? Nothing! No doubt you have some friend in mind to appoint general so he can chase glory at our expense. You expect us to use our money to set up a Caesar to challenge our own authority." The Queen was shouting now and the court had gone very quiet.

"I calculate the cost is affordable, ma'am," said Walsingham.

"You think that with your head and our purse that we could do anything," said the Queen.

"No, Your Majesty. Some money spent now will save you spending much more at some later date. I want you to save the New Religion. You must—"

"Must! Must!" screamed the Queen. "Must is not a word you use to princes, little man. You would not have dared used such a word to our father and you shall not dare use it to us."

"No, Your Majesty. I humbly beg Your Majesty's pardon." Sir Francis dropped to one knee. Simon shrank down as well, lest the Queen noticed his presence.

"Gentle cousin, you presume to much on your kindred with our mother." The Queen's anger seemed to leave her at the mention of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn. She sank back in her chair and waved a hand.

"You have our leave to depart, Sir Francis."

Walsingham stayed where he was.

"I regret my duty forces me to trouble Your Majesty a little further, on the matter of Your Majesty's security."

"More plots, spymaster? You see plots everywhere." The Queen spoke harshly but she did not order Walsingham out.

"Yes, Your Majesty. But there is less danger in fearing too much than too little," said Walsingham.

One had to look very carefully to see the small motion Walsingham made with his left hand. Simon was expecting it. Only the Queen's most trusted inner circle knew this hand signal. Men like Burghley, Leicester, or Walsingham.

"Enough sir, enough of your endless plots. We will listen to no more of them. We are fatigued."

The Queen stood and all the men in the room dropped to one knee while the ladies curtsied.

"You sir," she said to Walsingham. "You are the knave that has worn us out, so you will give us the privilege of your arm to lean upon while we walk."

"At once, Majesty." Walsingham climbed to his feet and held his arm out.

"I believe I will take a turn down the long gallery to catch the sun." The Queen slipped from the royal pronoun "we," indicating that she was now expressing the personal opinion of Elizabeth, rather than a royal view as head of the English state.

She rested her hand lightly on Walsingham's arm and they walked to an elaborately carved door. The rest of the court stayed low and pivoted to face her as she passed. No one turned his, or her, back on the Queen. No one.

Guards opened the door for her. Simon followed the couple through. He was not an individual in his own right at court but an appendage of Walsingham, so he was not challenged. Once the Queen's party was through the door, the guards snapped their halberds across it, denying access.

The long gallery was an extensive narrow hall, with leaded windows down one side, and paintings and tapestries down the other.

"Well, Sir Francis, what is it this time?" asked the Queen, wearily.

"That is the problem, Your Majesty. I don't know." This admission was not one you heard often from Sir Francis and it clearly pained him.

"They tried for Burghley earlier and then plotted to assassinate me on the way here. It's as if someone was trying to strip Your Majesty of her security. I believe that something evil is to happen here at Nonsuch, and soon. I suspect it will be another attempt on your life, ma'am. Ideally, I would like Your Majesty to leave this place today."

"What! Leave just like that? Impossible." The Queen stared at Walsingham in astonishment. "Do you know how long it takes to plan a move of the court? Where would I go? Nothing is ready for me at any of the other palaces. And I will not leave without my court. Think you that Elizabeth will slip away like a thief in the night, like some scallywag cozening a tavern keeper?"

"No, Your Majesty. I thought it unlikely but duty bade me try. My alternative suggestion is that I employ extraordinary methods. It is convenient that Doctor Dee is at court."

"Stop," said the Queen. "You must do as your duty guides you, Sir Francis. But we do not wish to know your methods. We do not need to know."

Simon noticed that the Queen was using "we" again. Sir Francis was being given an order.

Queen Elizabeth was a subtle and many-layered personality. She would equip ships for an enterprise to the Spanish Americas and then forbid him them to sail south of Biscay. And if a disloyal subject ignored her and sacked some Spanish treasure town, well, it was hardly the Queen's fault. When the Spanish Ambassador complained, she would be sure to promise to root out the guilty. As an indulgent ruler, however, she would probably restrict punishment to a tongue lashing—provided the royal share of the loot was adequate.

The Queen and Sir Francis continued to promenade down the long gallery.

"All this spying and counterspying, Sir Francis, we like it not," said the Queen. "We grow weary of the subterfuge. Sometimes we think it has tenuous connection to justice and we have no wish to be a despot to our subjects."

"Not the one of your subjects thinks you a tyrant, ma'am," said Walsingham. "But some kind of despotism is essential for the protection of Your Majesty's person and your subject's liberties. Spies are like tax collectors, an unpopular necessity. Spies placed strategically are less dangerous than an army that can band together. A country without a standing army needs a strong government, otherwise civil war and invasion will surely follow."

"Your niece is bonny, Sir Francis," said the Queen, changing the subject. A subject was closed when the Queen decided it was closed.

"Indeed she is, ma'am," said Sir Francis, warmly.

"I like her well. She is a good girl and an ornament to the court but I do not understand why she is still a maid. Marriage is the proper state for a young lady."

"Yes, ma'am," said Sir Francis.

Simon winced. He knew that the advantages of marriage for a lady were not a subject that Walsingham would wish to expand upon to the Queen. At the start of her reign, all the Queen's councillors had agreed that she should marry while young in order to produce an heir. The world was an uncertain place. Without a clear heir, England might tear itself apart in civil war as different applicants put forward their claims to her throne in the event of the Queen's death. Spain and France could hardly resist interfering if such a calamity unfolded. There might even be a resumption of religious conflict.

So the Queen must marry, every one who mattered agreed upon that. The Queen herself was not adverse to the idea as she had been an energetic girl, who was fond of men. But whom should the Queen marry? Under English custom, her husband would not be merely a royal consort but King of England, with all the advantages and privileges of his rank. Each privy councillor enthusiastically suggested applicants from his own family, and fiercely resisted contenders from other clans. In the end, all agreed a truce. Elizabeth would stay the Virgin Queen, married only to England.

The Queen herself eventually came round to this view. She would have found it irksome and intolerable to hand her throne to a lesser prince while devoting her life to childbirth and household affairs. And anyone who married Elizabeth was likely to be a lesser Prince.

This still left the problem of an heir. An acceptable candidate had gradually emerged in the body of the Protestant James of Scotland. Typically, Elizabeth refused to discuss the matter, yet at the same time allowed her councillors to open diplomatic channels to James. That Mary Queen of Scots was Elizabeth's prisoner and James's mother complicated the situation.

"She is past the age where you should have found her a husband by now. You are lax in the discharge of your responsibilities, Sir Francis," said the Queen, teasing.

The dour Walsingham was never lax when it came to duty.

"Yes, Your Majesty," said Walsingham.

"I must take the matter in hand myself," she said.

Matchmaking was one of Elizabeth's hobbies. It deflected her harmlessly from her own barren condition.

The Queen glanced at each painting in turn as she walked down the gallery. Most were portraits of Arundel's respectable but boring ancestors and relatives. The late Earl was a typical product of the line. A less exciting man would have been hard to find. He was entirely disinterested in politics, an attitude that Walsingham found much favour in. An aristocrat who was disinterested in politics was an aristocrat who presented no threat. Walsingham had taken great interest in Arundel when the court became a regular visitor to Nonsuch. Simon had filed many reports from various spies who had investigated the Earl most thoroughly. They were now working on his son-in-law.

The Queen stopped at one portrait to study it most carefully. It was of her father, King Henry VIII, in the middle part of his life. The King stood in a characteristically confident pose, with legs placed firmly apart and fists upon his hips.

"Have I Your Majesty's permission to withdraw?" asked Walsingham.

The Queen did not reply or take her eyes of the portrait but she waved a hand casually to indicate the audience was over. Walsingham and Simon bowed low and backed away. As he retreated eyes down, Simon overheard the Queen whisper to herself.

"Father, Father, what a mess you left for me."

"We are going to have to use extraordinary methods to protect the Queen, Tunstall."

"Yes, Sir Francis."

"We shall need Dee's help," said Walsingham, gesturing with his hand as they walked through the endless corridors of the palace.

"Dee, the code breaker?" asked Simon, somewhat confused.

"The good doctor is so much more than a code breaker," said Walsingham. "As well as an intelligencer for the Queen's Council he is also one of the foremost authorities on supernatural beings in the land. He has in his possession one of the three known copies of Johannes Trimethius' Steganographia. Lord Burghley supplied Secret Service funds so that Dee could purchase it in from a bookseller in Antwerp."

At that point, the scholar appeared around a corner. Pretending not to see Walsingham, he put his head down like a man advancing into a gale and made a dash for the door.

"Doctor Dee," purred Walsingham. "Just the man I was looking for."

"I regret that I am rather busy, Sir Francis. Possibly another time." Dee attempted to disengage but Walsingham held him firmly by the forearm.

"Now, Doctor Dee. I am on the Queen's business."

Dee looked resigned; there was only one answer to that. "I am at Her Majesty's disposal, of course."

"We have a little problem. I need information about a threat on the Queen's life," said Walsingham.

"You require me to transcribe a coded letter for you?" Dee asked, obviously pleased at the challenge that breaking a new code would bring.

"No, Doctor Dee. I need information and the supernatural is my last hope."

"You should try a disciple of that quack Nostradamus then," sneered Dee. "He could stare into the water and have one of his visions for you."

The scholar tried to walk off but Walsingham tightened his grip on Dee's forearm, bringing a gasp of pain.

"I want you to do a summoning." Walsingham fixed Dee with grey eyes.

"Keep your voice down," said Dee, looking around. "Trafficking with demons is punishable by death."

"I know that," said Walsingham. "Nevertheless, you will do it. I speak in the Queen's name."

"You have the wrong man, Sir Francis. I lack such skills," said Dee, licking his lips nervously.

"Don't try to gull me, Dee. I know Trimethius dealt with demons. He raised the shade of Maximilian's dead bride so the Emperor could talk with her one last time." Walsingham was implacable.

"There are no spells in the Steganographia that would summon a demon. On my life, Sir Francis."

"On your life, Doctor Dee, Trimethius' decoded writings led you to another hidden work. You know of what I speak. The work of the mad Arab, the Necron—"

"Don't say that word, Sir Francis. Please, the very pronunciation of the name is dangerous." Dee glanced around again. "I suppose this means that you have a spy in my household."

Walsingham did not waste his breath answering. Dee was incredibly na ve if he imagined that someone so close to Her Majesty as himself was not under surveillance.

"Very well, Sir Francis. You will need to send someone to fetch a certain wooden box from my cottage at Mortlake.

Simon was waiting at the front entrance when the royal messenger returned. The man would have changed horses at Mortlake but even so, steam rose from the horse's body and foam flecked its lips.

"Have you got Doctor Dee's property?" Simon asked the messenger.

"Here," the rider said, handing down a modest container. "I hope it is more important than it looks. I have ruined two good mounts today."

"I believe it is of the utmost significance," said Simon. "Of course, I do not know what it contains."

The two men exchanged the sympathetic looks of one small link in a chain acknowledging another.

Simon took the wooden box, which was surprisingly small. In his imagination, it had grown into a large wooden chest full of strange devices and leatherbound tomes of great portent.

"You, boy," he said to a servant. "Find Sir Francis Walsingham and Doctor Dee. Tell them the messenger has returned from Mortlake."

Simon made his way around the central building of the palace to a small quiet peripheral annexe that largely consisted of storage facilities. His route took him out of the complex through the cottage garden. A familiar voice sang quietly among the scented herbs. He calculated that the servant would take some little time to locate his master so he could tarry for a while. It would be pleasant to inhale the scent and converse with the garden's occupant.

"Good afternoon, Lady Dennys," Simon said.

"Hello, Master Tunstall," she said. "Have you come to rescue me from boredom?"

"Were I so gallant," he replied. "But I am on Sir Francis' business."

The girl nodded. She was used to living in a world that revolved around Walsingham's many interests.

"But this is a pleasant spot, Lady Dennys. Surely it can lift any black mood."

"I had thought the gardens of Nonsuch the finest that I had ever seen but I expect even paradise palls with time. And time hangs heavy here." The girl sighed.

"You have your duties, surely, as a lady in waiting to Her Majesty," said Simon.

"The Queen is very kind," said Lucy, carefully, "but she has few tasks for me so I am left much to my own devices."

Simon was not surprised that the Queen declined to have Lucy on display around her. There could only be one sun in the sky. He had no intention of speculating out loud on the Queen's motivations, however, so he changed the subject.

"Master Sydney is recovering, I trust?"

"I believe so," said Lucy, distantly. "He is in the care of the Palace physician. I can't be expected to waste my time on every aristocratic young sprig that is foolish enough to take a tumble while indulging in boyish heroics."

So much for the wounded hero, thought Simon. Another suitor gone, he concluded. Walsingham would not be happy. Her tone shut down further discussion.

"I fear I must take my leave of you, Lady Dennys." He raised his cap politely.

The room chosen for the summoning was an outbuilding on one side of the garden. As he entered, he could hear Lucy singing again.

"Come, heavy sleep the image of true death,
"And close up these my weary, weeping eyes.
"Whose spring of tears doth stop my vital breath,
"And tears my heart with sorrow's sigh-swoll'n cries."

Simon did not have long to wait before Walsingham and Dee joined him inside the annexe.

"Your property, Doctor Dee," Simon said, holding the wooden box out.

Dee took it and examined the seal carefully before breaking it and opening the lid. A pungent smell filled the room. Dee took out several small vials, a book, and some geometrical devices.

"I must prepare everything very carefully," said Dee, pedantically. "It has been many years since I attempted to summon a demon. Close the window shutters and lock the door. We must not be disturbed."

Simon sealed off the windows, plunging the room into gloom. There was no lock fitted to what was an insignificant building but he shut the door tight to humor Dee. A lock was hardly needed, as the only person around was Lucy and she knew better than to disturb Walsingham's meetings.

Through the door, he could still hear Lucy singing in the garden.

"Come and possess my tired thought-worn soul,
"That living dies, that living dies, that living dies."

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