My father had left London without saying a proper good-bye. I was determined to take my own leave differently. As a result my final days in the city were a complex weaving of words and desires, spells and magic.
Goody Alsop's fetch was waiting sadly for me at the end of the lane. She trailed listlessly behind me as I climbed the stairs to the witch's rooms.
"So you are leaving us," Goody Alsop said from her chair by the fire. She was wearing wool and a shawl, and a fire was blazing as well.
"We must." I bent down and kissed her papery cheek. "How are you today?"
"Somewhat better, thanks to Susanna's remedies." Goody Alsop coughed, and the force of it bent her frail frame in two. When she was recovered, she studied me with bright eyes and nodded. "This time the babe has taken root."
"It has," I said with a smile. "I have the sickness to prove it. Would you like me to tell the others?" I didn't want Goody Alsop to shoulder any extra burdens, emotional or physical. Susanna was worried about her frailty, and Elizabeth Jackson was already taking on some of the duties usually performed by the gathering's elder.
"No need. Catherine was the one to tell me. She said Corra was flying about a few days ago, chortling and chattering as she does when she has a secret."
We had come to an agreement, my firedrake and I, that she would limit her open-air flying to once a week, and only at night. I'd reluctantly agreed to a second night out during the dark of the moon, when the risk of anyone's seeing her and mistaking her for a fiery portent of doom was at its lowest.
"So that's where she went," I said with a laugh. Corra found the firewitch's company soothing, and Catherine enjoyed challenging her to firebreathing contests.
"We are all glad that Corra has found something to do with herself besides clinging to the chimneypieces and shrieking at the ghosts." Goody Alsop pointed to the chair opposite. "Will you not sit with me? The goddess may not afford us another chance."
"Did you hear the news from Scotland?" I asked as I took my seat.
"I have heard nothing since you told me that pleading her belly did not save Euphemia MacLean from the pyre." Goody Alsop's decline began the night I'd told her that a young witch from Berwick had been burned, in spite of Matthew's efforts.
"Matthew finally convinced the rest of the Congregation that the spiral of accusations and executions had to stop. Two of the accused witches have overturned their testimony and said their confessions were the result of torture."
"It must have given the Congregation pause to have a wearh speak out on behalf of a witch." Goody Alsop looked at me sharply. "He would give himself away if you were to stay. Matthew Roydon lives in a dangerous world of half-truths, but no one can avoid detection forever. Because of the babe, you must take greater care."
"We will," I assured her. "Meanwhile I'm still not absolutely sure my eighth knot is strong enough for the timewalking. Not with Matthew and the baby."
"Let me see it," Goody Alsop said, stretching out her hand. I leaned forward and put the cords into her palm. I would use all nine cords when we timewalked and make a total of nine different knots. No spell used more.
With practiced hands Goody Alsop made eight crossings in the red cord and then bound the ends together so that the knot was unbreakable. "That is how I do it." It was beautifully simple, with open loops and swirls like the stone traceries in a cathedral window.
"Mine did not look like that." My laugh was rueful. "It wiggled and squiggled around."
"Every weaving is as unique as the weaver who makes it. The goddess does not want us to imitate some ideal of perfection, but to be our true selves."
"Well, I must be all wiggle, then." I reached for the cords to study the design.
"There is another knot I would show you," Goody Alsop said.
"Another?" I frowned.
"A tenth knot. It is impossible for me to make it, though it should be the simplest." Goody Alsop smiled, but her chin trembled. "My own teacher could not make the knot either, but still we passed it on, in hope that a weaver such as you might come along."
Goody Alsop released the just-tied knot with a flick of her gnarled index finger. I handed the red silk back to her, and she made a simple loop. For a moment the cord fused in an unbroken ring. As soon as she took her fingers from it, however, the loop released.
"But you drew the ends together just a minute ago, and with a far more complicated weaving," I said, confused
"As long as there is a crossing in the cord, I can bind the ends and complete the spell. But only a weaver who stands between worlds can make the tenth knot," she replied. "Try it. Use the silver silk."
Mystified, I joined the ends of the cord into a circlet. The fibers snapped together to form a loop with no beginning and no ending. I lifted my fingers from the silk, but the circle held.
"A fine weaving," Goody Alsop said with satisfaction. "The tenth knot captures the power of eternity, a weaving of life and death. It is rather like your husband's snake, or the way Corra carries her tail in her mouth sometimes when it gets in her way." She held up the tenth knot. It was another ouroboros. The sense of the uncanny built in the room, lifting the hairs on my arm. "Creation and destruction are the simplest magics, and the most powerful, just as the simplest knot is the most difficult to make."
"I don't want to use magic to destroy anything," I said. The Bishops had a strong tradition of not doing harm. My Aunt Sarah believed that any witch who strayed away from this fundamental tenet would find the evil coming back to her in the end.
"No one wants to use the goddess's gifts as a weapon, but sometimes it is necessary. Your wearh knows that. After what happened here and in Scotland, you know it, too."
"Perhaps. But my world is different," I said. "There's less call for magical weapons."
"Worlds change, Diana." Goody Alsop fixed her attention on some distant memory. "My teacher, Mother Ursula, was a great weaver. I was reminded of one of her prophecies on All Hallows' Eve, when the terrible events in Scotland began-and when you came to change our world."
Her voice took on the singsong quality of an incantation.
"For storms will rage and oceans roar
When Gabriel stands on sea and shore.
And as he blows his wondrous horn,
Old worlds die, and new be born."
Not a breeze or a crackle of flame disturbed the room when Goody Alsop finished. She took a deep breath.
"It is all one, you see. Death and birth. The tenth knot with no beginning and no ending, and the wearh's snake. The full moon that shone earlier this week and the shadow Corra cast upon the Thames in a portent of your leaving. The old world and the new." Goody Alsop's smile wavered. "I was glad when you came to me, Diana Roydon. And when you go, as you must, my heart will be heavy."
"Usually Matthew tells me when he is leaving my city." Andrew Hubbard's white hands rested on the carved arms of his chair in the church crypt. High above us someone prepared for an upcoming church service. "What brings you here, Mistress Roydon?"
"I came to talk to you about Annie and Jack." Hubbard's strange eyes studied me as I pulled a small leather purse from my pocket. It contained five years of wages for each of them.
"I'm leaving London. I would like you to have this, for their care." I thrust the money in Hubbard's direction. He made no move to take it.
"That isn't necessary, mistress."
"Please. I would take them with me if I could. Since they cannot go, I need to know that someone will be watching out for them."
"And what will you give me in return?"
"Why . . . the money, of course." I held the pouch out once more.
"I don't want or need the money, Mistress Roydon." Hubbard settled back in his chair, his eyes drifting closed.
"What do you-" I stopped. "No."
"God does nothing in vain. There are no accidents in His plans. He wanted you to come here today, because He wants to be sure that no one of your blood will have anything to fear from me or mine."
"I have protectors enough," I protested.
"And can the same be said for your husband?" Hubbard glanced at my breast. "Your blood is stronger in his veins now than when you arrived. And there is the child to consider."
My heart stuttered. When I took my Matthew back to our present, Andrew Hubbard would be one of the few people who would know his future-and that there was a witch in it.
"You wouldn't use the knowledge of me against Matthew. Not after what he's done-how he's changed."
"Wouldn't I?" Hubbard's tight smile told me he would do whatever it took to protect his flock. "There is a great deal of bad blood between us."
"I'll find another way to see them safe," I said, deciding to go.
"Annie is my child already. She is a witch, and part of my family. I will see to her welfare. Jack Blackfriars is another matter. He is not a creature and will have to fend for himself."
"He's a child-a boy!"
"But not my child. Nor are you. I do not owe either of you anything. Good day, Mistress Roydon." Hubbard turned away.
"And if I were one of your family, what then? Would you honor my request about Jack? Would you recognize Matthew as one of my blood and therefore under your protection?" It was the sixteenth-century Matthew that I was thinking of now. When we returned to the present, that other Matthew would still be here in the past.
"If you offer me your blood, neither Matthew nor Jack nor your unborn child has anything to fear from me or mine." Hubbard imparted the information dispassionately, but his glance was touched with the avarice I'd seen in Rudolf's eyes.
"And how much blood would you need?" Think. Stay alive.
"Very little-no more than a drop." Hubbard's attention was unwavering.
"I couldn't let you take it directly from my body. Matthew would know-we are mates, after all," I said. Hubbard's eyes flickered to my breast.
"I always take my tribute directly from my children's neck."
"I'm sure you do, Father Hubbard. But you can understand why that isn't possible-or even desirable-in this case." I fell silent, hoping that Hubbard's hunger-for power, for knowledge of Matthew and me, for something to hold over the de Clermonts if he ever needed it-would win. "I could use a cup."
"No," Hubbard said with a shake of his head. "Your blood would be tainted. It must be pure."
"A silver cup, then," I said, thinking of Chef's lectures at Sept-Tours.
"You will open the vein in your wrist over my mouth and let the blood fall into it. We will not touch." Hubbard scowled at me. "Otherwise I will doubt the sincerity of your offer."
"Very well, Father Hubbard. I accept your terms." I loosened the tie at my right cuff and pushed up the sleeve. While I did so, I whispered a silent request to Corra. "Where do you wish to do this? From what I saw before, your children kneel before you, but that will not work if I'm to drip the blood into your mouth."
"It does not matter to God who kneels." To my surprise, Hubbard dropped to the floor before me. He handed me a knife.
"I don't need that." I flicked my finger at the blue traceries on my wrist and murmured a simple unbinding charm. A line of crimson appeared. The blood welled. "Are you ready?"
Hubbard nodded and opened his mouth, his eyes on my face. He was waiting for me to renege, or cheat him somehow. But I would obey the letter of this agreement, though not its spirit. Thank you, Goody Alsop, I said, sending her a silent blessing for showing me how to handle the man.
I held my wrist over his mouth and clenched my fist. A drop of blood rolled over the edge of my arm and began to fall. Hubbard's eyes flickered closed, as if he wanted to concentrate on what my blood would tell him.
"What is blood, if not fire and water?" I murmured. I called on the wind to slow the droplet's fall. As the power of the air increased, it froze the falling bead of blood so that it was crystalline and sharp when it landed on Hubbard's tongue. The vampire's eyes shot open in confusion.
"No more than a drop." The wind had dried the remaining blood against my skin in a maze of red streaks over the blue veins. "You are a man of God, a man of your word, are you not, Father Hubbard?"
Corra's tail loosened from around my waist. She'd used it to block our baby from having any knowledge of this sordid transaction, but now she seemed to want to use it to beat Hubbard senseless.
Slowly I withdrew my arm. Hubbard thought about grabbing it back to his mouth. I saw the idea cross his mind as clearly as I had seen Edward Kelley contemplate clubbing me with his walking stick. But he thought better of it. I whispered another simple spell to close the wound, and turned wordlessly to leave.
"When you are next in London," Hubbard said softly, "God will whisper it to me. And if He wills it, we shall meet again. But remember this. No matter where you go from now, even unto death, some small piece of you will live within me."
I stopped and looked back at him. His words were menacing, but the expression on his face was thoughtful, even sad. My pace quickened as I left the church crypt, wanting to put as much distance as I could between me and Andrew Hubbard.
"Farewell, Diana Bishop," he called after me.
I was halfway across town before I realized that no matter how little that single drop of blood might have revealed, Father Hubbard now knew my real name.
Walter and Matthew were shouting at each other when I returned to the Hart and Crown. Raleigh's groom could hear them, too. He was in the courtyard, holding the reins of Walter's black beast of a horse and listening to their argument through the open windows.
"It will mean my death-and hers, too! No one must know she is with child!" Oddly enough, it was Walter speaking.
"You cannot abandon the woman you love and your own child in an attempt to stay true to the queen, Walter. Elizabeth will find out that you have betrayed her, and Bess will be ruined forever."
"What do you expect me to do? Marry her? If I do so without the queen's permission, I'll be arrested."
"You'll survive no matter what happens," Matthew said flatly. "If you leave Bess without your protection, she will not."
"How can you pretend concern for marital honesty after all the lies you've told about Diana? Some days you insisted you were married but made us swear to deny it should any strange witches or wearhs come sniffing around asking questions." Walter's voice dropped, but the ferocity remained. "Do you expect me to believe you're going to return whence you came and acknowledge her as your wife?"
I slipped into the room unnoticed.
"I thought not," Walter said. He was pulling on his gloves.
"Is this how you two want to say your farewells?" I asked.
"Diana," Walter said warily.
"Hello, Walter. Your groom is downstairs with the horse."
He started toward the door, stopped. "Be sensible, Matthew. I cannot lose all credit at court. Bess understands the dangers of the queen's anger better than anyone. At the court of Elizabeth, fortune is fleeting, but disgrace endures forever."
Matthew watched his friend thud down the stairs. "God forgive me. The first time I heard this plan, I told him it was wise. Poor Bess."
"What will happen to her when we are gone?" I asked.
"Come autumn, Bess's pregnancy will begin to show. They will marry in secret. When the queen questions their relationship, Walter will deny it. Repeatedly. Bess's reputation will be ruined, her husband will be found out to be a liar, and they will both be arrested."
"And the child?" I whispered.
"Will be born in March and dead the following autumn." Matthew sat down at the table, his head in his hands. "I will write to my father and make sure that Bess receives his protection. Perhaps Susanna Norman will see to her during the pregnancy."
"Neither your father nor Susanna can shield her from the blow of Raleigh's denial." I, too, had felt the stabs of doubt months before. "And will you deny that we are married when we return?"
"It's not that simple," Matthew said, looking at me with haunted eyes.
"That's what Walter said. You told him he was wrong." I remembered Goody Alsop's prophecy. "'Old worlds die, and new be born.' The time is coming when you will have to choose between the safety of the past and the promise of the future, Matthew."
"And the past cannot be cured, no matter how hard I try," he said. "It's something I'm always telling the queen when she agonizes over a bad decision. Hoist by my own petard again, as Gallowglass would be quick to point out."
"You beat me to it, Uncle." Gallowglass had soundlessly entered the room and was unloading parcels. "I've got your paper. And your pens. And some tonic for Jack's throat."
"That's what he gets for spending all his time up towers with Tom, talking about the stars." Matthew rubbed his face. "We will have to make sure Tom is provided for, Gallowglass. Walter won't be able to keep him in service much longer. Henry Percy will need to step into the breach-again- but I should contribute something to his upkeep, too."
"Speaking of Tom, have you seen his plans for a single-eyed spectacle to view the heavens? He and Jack are calling it a star glass."
My scalp tingled as the threads of the room snapped with energy. Time sounded a low protest in the corners.
"A star glass." I kept my voice even. "What does it look like, Gallowglass?"
"Ask them yourself," Gallowglass said, turning his head toward the stairs. Jack and Mop careened into the room. Tom followed absently behind, a pair of broken spectacles in his hand.
"You will certainly leave a mark on the future if you meddle with this, Diana," Matthew warned.
"Look, look, look." Jack brandished a thick piece of wood. Mop followed its movements and snapped his jaws at the stick as it went by. "Master Harriot said if we hollowed this out and put a spectacle lens in the end, it would make faraway things seem near. Do you know how to carve, Master Roydon? If not, do you think the joiner in St. Dunstan's might teach me? Are there any more buns? Master Harriot's stomach has been growling all afternoon."
"Let me see that," I said, holding out my hand for the wooden tube. "The buns are in the cupboard on the landing, Jack, where they always are. Give one to Master Harriot, and take one for yourself. And no," I said, cutting the child off when he opened his mouth, "Mop doesn't get to share yours."
"Good day, Mistress Roydon," Tom said dreamily. "If such a simple pair of spectacles can make a man see God's words in the Bible, surely they could be made more complex to help him see God's works in the Book of Nature. Thank you, Jack." Tom absently bit into the bun.
"And how would you make them more complex?" I wondered aloud, hardly daring to breathe.
"I would combine convex and concave lenses, as the Neapolitan gentleman Signor della Porta suggested in a book I read last year. The human arm is not long enough to hold them apart at the proper distance. So we are trying to extend our arm's reach with that piece of wood."
With those words Thomas Harriot changed the history of science. And I didn't have to meddle with the past-I only had to see to it that the past was not forgotten.
"But these are just idle imaginings. I will put these ideas down on paper and think about them later." Tom sighed.
This was the problem with early-modern scientists: They didn't understand the necessity of publishing. In the case of Thomas Harriot, his ideas had definitely perished for want of a publisher.
"I think you're right, Tom. But this wooden tube is not long enough." I smiled at him brightly. "As for the joiner in St. Dunstan's, Monsieur Vallin might be of more help if a long, hollow tube is what you need. Shall we go and see him?"
"Yes!" Jack shouted, jumping into the air. "Monsieur Vallin has all sorts of gears and springs, Master Harriot. He gave me one, and it is in my treasure box. Mine is not as big as Mistress Roydon's, but it holds enough. Can we go now?"
"What is Auntie up to?" Gallowglass asked Matthew, both mystified and wary.
"I think she's getting back at Walter for not paying sufficient attention to the future," Matthew said mildly.
"Oh. That's all right, then. And here I thought I smelled trouble."
"There's always trouble," Matthew said. "Are you sure you know what you're doing, ma lionne?"
So much had happened that I could not fix. I couldn't bring my child back or save the witches in Scotland. We'd brought Ashmole 782 all the way from Prague, only to discover that it could not be taken safely into the future. We had said good-bye to our fathers and were about to leave our friends. And most of these experiences would vanish without a trace. But I knew exactly how to ensure that Tom's telescope survived.
I nodded. "The past has changed us, Matthew. Why should we not change it, too?"
Matthew caught my hand in his and kissed it. "Go to Monsieur Vallin, then. Have him send me the bill."
"Thank you." I bent and whispered in his ear. "Don't worry. I'll take Annie with me. She'll wear him down on the price. Besides, who knows what to charge for a telescope in 1591?"
And so a witch, a daemon, two children, and a dog paid a short visit to Monsieur Vallin that afternoon. That evening I sent out invitations to our friends to join us the next night. It would be the last time we saw them. While I dealt with telescopes and supper plans, Matthew delivered Roger Bacon's Verum Secretum Secretorum to Mortlake. I did not want to see Ashmole 782 pass toDr. Dee. I knew it had to go back into the alchemist's enormous library so that Elias Ashmole could acquire it in the seventeenth century. But it was not easy to give the book into someone else's keeping, any more than it had been to surrender the small figurine of the goddess Diana to Kit when we arrived. The practical details surrounding our departure we left to Gallowglass and Pierre. They packed trunks, emptied coffers, redistributed funds, and sent personal belongings to the Old Lodge with a practiced efficiency that showed how many times they had done this before.
Our departure was only hours away. I was returning from Monsieur Vallin's with an awkward package wrapped in soft leather when I was brought up short by the sight of a ten-year-old girl standing on the street outside the pie shop, staring with fascination at the wares in the window. She looked just as I had at that age, from the unruly straw-blond hair to the arms that were too long for the rest of her frame. The girl stiffened as if she knew she was being watched. When our eyes met, I knew why: She was a witch.
"Rebecca!" a woman called as she came from inside the shop. My heart leaped at the sight, for she looked like a combination of my mother and Sarah.
Rebecca said nothing but continued to stare at me as though she had seen a ghost. Her mother looked to see what had captured the girl's attention and gasped. Her glance tingled over my skin as she took in my face and form. She was a witch, too.
I forced my feet toward the pie shop. Every step took me closer to the two witches. The mother gathered the child to her skirts, and Rebecca squirmed in protest.
"She looks like Grand-dame," Rebecca whispered, trying to get a closer look at me.
"Hush," her mother told her. She looked at me apologetically. "You know that your grand-dame is dead, Rebecca."
"I am Diana Roydon." I nodded to the sign over their shoulders. "I live here at the Hart and Crown."
"But then you are-" The woman's eyes widened as she drew Rebecca closer.
"I am Rebecca White," the girl said, unconcerned with her mother's reaction. She bobbed a shallow, teetering curtsy. That looked familiar, too.
"It is a pleasure to meet you. Are you new to the Blackfriars?" I wanted to make small talk for as long as possible, if only to stare at their familiaryet-strange faces.
"No. We live by the hospital near Smithfield Market," Rebecca explained.
"I take in patients when their wards are full." The woman hesitated. "I am Bridget White, and Rebecca is my daughter."
Even without the familiar names of Rebecca and Bridget, I recognized these two creatures in the marrow of my bones. Bridget Bishop had been born around 1632, and the first name in the Bishop grimoire was Bridget's grandmother, Rebecca Davies. Would this ten-year-old girl one day marry and bear that name?
Rebecca's attention was caught by something at my neck. I reached up. Ysabeau's earrings.
I had used three objects to bring Matthew and me to the past: a manuscript copy of Doctor Faustus, a silver chess piece, and an earring hidden in Bridget Bishop's poppet. This earring. I reached up and took the fine golden wire out of my ear. Knowing from my experience with Jack that it was wise to make direct eye contact with children if you wanted to leave a lasting impression, I crouched down until we were at an equal level.
"I need someone to keep this safe for me." I held out the earring. "One day I will have need of it. Would you guard it and keep it close?"
Rebecca looked at me solemnly and nodded. I took her hand, feeling a current of awareness pass between us, and put the jeweled wires into her palm. She wrapped her fingers tightly around them. "Can I, Mama?" she whispered belatedly to Bridget.
"I think that would be all right," her mother replied warily. "Come, Rebecca. We must go."
"Thank you," I said, rising and patting Rebecca on the shoulder while looking Bridget in the eye. "Thank you."
I felt a nudging glance. I waited until Rebecca and Bridget were out of sight before I turned to face Christopher Marlowe.
"Mistress Roydon." Kit's voice was hoarse, and he looked like death. "Walter told me you were leaving tonight."
"I asked him to tell you." I forced Kit to meet my eyes through an act of sheer will. This was another thing I could fix: I could make sure that Matthew said a proper good-bye to a man who had once been his closest friend.
Kit looked down at his feet, hiding his face. "I should never have come."
"I forgive you, Kit."
Marlowe's head swung up in surprise at my words. "Why?" he asked, dumbstruck.
"Because as long as Matthew blames you for what happened to me, a part of him remains with you. Forever," I said simply. "Come upstairs and say your farewells."
Matthew was waiting for us on the landing, having divined that I was bringing someone home. I kissed him softly on the mouth as I went past on the way to our bedroom.
"Your father forgave you," I murmured. "Give Kit the same gift in return."
Then I left them to patch up what they could in what little time remained.
A few hours later, I handed Thomas Harriot a steel tube. "Here is your star glass, Tom." "I fashioned it from a gun barrel-with adjustments, of course," explained Monsieur Vallin, famous maker of mousetraps and clocks. "And it is engraved, as Mistress Roydon requested."
There on the side, set in a lovely little silver banner, was the legend n. vallin me fecit, t. harriot me invenit, 1591.
"'N. Vallin made me, T. Harriot invented me, 1591.'" I smiled warmly at Monsieur Vallin. "It's perfect."
"Can we look at the moon now?" Jack cried, racing for the door. "It already looks bigger than St. Mildred's clock!"
And so Thomas Harriot, mathematician and linguist, made scientific history in the courtyard of the Hart and Crown while sitting in a battered wicker garden chair pulled down from our attics. He trained the long metal tube fitted with two spectacle lenses at the full moon and sighed with pleasure.
"Look, Jack. It is just as Signor della Porta said." Tom invited the boy into his lap and positioned one end of the tube at his enthusiastic assistant's eye. "Two lenses, one convex and one concave, are indeed the solution if held at the right distance."
After Jack we all took a turn.
"Well, that is not at all what I expected," George Chapman said, disappointed. "Did you not think the moon would be more dramatic? I believe I prefer the poet's mysterious moon to this one, Tom."
"Why, it is not perfect at all," Henry Percy complained, rubbing his eyes and then peering through the tube again.
"Of course it isn't perfect. Nothing is," Kit said. "You cannot believe everything philosophers tell you, Hal. It is a sure way to ruin. Look what philosophy has done for Tom."
I glanced at Matthew and grinned. It had been some time since we'd enjoyed the School of Night's verbal ripostes.
"At least Tom can feed himself, which is more than I can say for any of the playwrights of my acquaintance." Walter peered through the tube and whistled. "I wish you had come up with this notion before we went to Virginia, Tom. It would have been useful for surveying the shore while we were safely aboard ship. Look through this, Gallowglass, and tell me I am wrong."
"You're never wrong, Walter," Gallowglass said with a wink at Jack. "Mind me well, young Jack. The one who pays your wages is correct in all things."
I'd invited Goody Alsop and Susanna to join us, too, and even they took a peek through Tom's star glass. Neither woman seemed overly impressed with the invention, although they both made enthusiastic noises when prompted.
"Why do men bother with these trifles?" Susanna whispered to me. "I could have told them the moon is not perfectly smooth, even without this new instrument. Do they not have eyes?"
After the pleasure of viewing the heavens, only the painful farewells remained. We sent Annie off with Goody Alsop, using the excuse that Susanna needed another set of hands to help the old woman across town. My good-bye was brisk, and Annie looked at me uncertainly.
"Are you all right, mistress? Shall I stay here instead?"
"No, Annie. Go with your aunt and Goody Alsop." I blinked back the tears. How did Matthew bear these repeated farewells?
Kit, George, and Walter left next, with gruff good-byes and hands clamped on Matthew's arm to wish him well.
"Come, Jack. You and Tom will go home with me," Henry Percy said. "The night is still young."
"I don't want to go," Jack said. He swung around to Matthew, eyes huge. The boy senses the impending change.
Matthew knelt before him. "There's nothing to be afraid of, Jack. You know Master Harriot and Lord Northumberland. They won't let you come to harm."
"What if I have a nightmare?" Jack whispered.
"Nightmares are like Master Harriot's star glass. They are a trick of the light, one that makes something distant seem closer and larger than it really is."
"Oh." Jack considered Matthew's response. "So even if I see a monster in my dreams, it cannot reach me?"
Matthew nodded. "But I will tell you a secret. A dream is a nightmare in reverse. If you dream of someone you love, that person will seem closer, even if far away." He stood and put his hand on Jack's head for a moment in a silent blessing.
Once Jack and his guardians had departed, only Gallowglass remained. I took the cords from my spell box, leaving a few items within: a pebble, a white feather, a bit of the rowan tree, my jewelry, and the note my father had left.
"I'll take care of it," he promised, taking the box from me. It looked oddly small in his huge hand. He wrapped me up in a bear hug.
"Keep the other Matthew safe, so he can find me one day," I whispered in his ear, my eyes scrunched tight.
I released him and stepped aside. The two de Clermonts said their goodbyes as all de Clermonts did-briefly but with feeling.
Pierre was waiting with the horses outside the Cardinal's Hat. Matthew handed me up into the saddle and climbed into his own.
"Farewell, madame," Pierre said, letting go of the reins.
"Thank you, friend," I said, my eyes filling once more.
Pierre handed Matthew a letter. I recognized Philippe's seal. "Your father's instructions, milord."
"If I don't turn up in Edinburgh in two days, come looking for me."
"I will," Pierre promised as Matthew clucked to his horse and we turned toward Oxford.
We changed horses three times and were at the Old Lodge before sunrise. Françoise and Charles had been sent away. We were alone.
Matthew left the letter from Philippe propped up on his desk, where the sixteenth-century Matthew could not fail to see it. It would send him to Scotland on urgent business. Once there, Matthew Roydon would stay at the court of King James for a time before disappearing to start a new life in Amsterdam.
"The king of Scots will be pleased to have me back to my former self," Matthew commented, touching the letter with his fingertip. "I won't be making any more attempts to save witches, certainly."
"You made a difference here, Matthew," I said, sliding my arm around his waist. "Now we need to sort things out in our present."
We stepped into the bedroom where we'd arrived all those months before.
"You know I can't be sure that we'll slip through the centuries and land in exactly the right time and place," I warned.
"You've explained it to me, mon coeur. I have faith in you." Matthew hooked his arm through mine, pressing it firmly against his side to anchor me. "Let's go meet our future. Again."
"Good-bye, house." I looked around our first home one last time. Even though I would see it again, it would not be the same as it was on this June morning.
The blue and amber threads in the corners snapped and keened impatiently, filling the room with light and sound. I took a deep breath and knotted my brown cord, leaving the end hanging free. Apart from Matthew and the clothes on our backs, my weaver's cords were the only objects we were taking back with us.
"With knot of one, the spell's begun," I whispered. Time's volume increased with every knot until the shrieking and keening was nearly deafening.
As the ends of the ninth cord fused together, I clasped Matthew's hand in mine. We picked up our feet and our surroundings slowly dissolved.
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