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Authors: Lady Grace Cavendish

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The Lady Grace Mysteries from Delacorte Press

ASSASSINBETRAYALCONSPIRACYDECEPTIONEXILEFEUD

To Anita Wilce—aka Nanny Nita—with many thanks

Thank you to colors expert Victoria Finlayfor all her advice on Elizabethan paints and pigments

MOST SECRETE

THE DAYBOOKE OFMY LADY GRACE CAVENDISH,MAID OF HONOUR TO HER GRACIOUS MAJESTYQUEEN ELIZABETH I OF THAT NAME

AT THE PALACE OF NONSUCH

Near eleven of the clock

A new daybooke! With clean pages and no blotsat all! The Queen gave it to me this morning and laughed and said I must be the greatest consumer of paper and goose feathers outside the men of the Exchequer and Sir William Cecil himself. She added that I had better leave off my scribbling when I was wed, for what would my husband say when he saw I had scribbled over the accounts?

I curtseyed and answered, “Then I had rather not be wed, so I need not leave the Court and can stay with you, Your Majesty. Especially if I must reckon up accounts as well.” I distinctly saw Lady Jane sniff and toss her head as if she thought I was lying toflatter Her Majesty, because Lady Jane is on fire to marry, I know not why. But the Queen smiled and also gave me a whole bag of goose feathers, already cured and stripped and ready for me to cut into pens, and a new bottle of the best ink from the stationers at St. Paul's. That made Mrs. Champernowne, Mistress of the Maids, tut and roll her eyes, for fear I would get ink on my kirtle. But then I unwrapped the third part of the present, and found it was a black satin apron backed with canvas so as to be ink-proof, which I knew would please the old Welsh fusspot.

That was early this morning when we attended Her Majesty after breakfast. Now the sun is high and alas, I ambored.Here I am, sitting on a hard cushion in the Presence Chamber, while one of the Scottish Ambassadors proses away at the Queen in that strange language of theirs that almost sounds like proper English but isn't quite. Not even the Queen speaks Scots. The translator is whispering in an undertone, which is very hard to understand, and even with translation I have no idea what the Scottish Ambassador is speaking about, except it has something to do with the scandalous Queen of Scots.

Mary Shelton is knitting the second of a pair of silk stockings for herself, whilst Carmina is embroideringbeside me. I ought really to be embroidering as well, but instead I am trying to write this with my new book balanced on my knee and the inkpot on the rush matting next to me.

Mrs. Champernowne has already given me a nasty scowl, but I have my new black satin apron on and can ignore her, since it will stop any more disasters striking my kirtle. As if it were my fault that Carmina tripped and knocked my ink bottle flying last week. I did ask if I could perhaps have a black kirtle next time to hide the ink, but the Queen frowned and said it is not suitable for a Maid of Honour to wear a black kirtle. Alackaday. Still, the apron will do nicely.

I do like being the youngest Maid of Honour at the Queen's Court. I have been with the Queen here for as long as I can remember, and she has been so kind to me since my poor mother died two years ago, saving Her Majesty's life. But I wish I didn't have to wear suitable raiment all the time. Kirtles, farthingales, petticoats, and the like are such a nuisance, especially when I want to go climbing trees with my friends, Masou the acrobat and Ellie-from-the-laundry. And there are some wonderful climbing trees here at the Palace of Nonsuch, because we are right out in the Surrey countryside and there is aring of coppices next to the orchards, for supplying the court with firewood.

Oh no! The first blot.

Later, at the painters' and stainers' Workroom

I am waiting for Lady Sarah to change her attire, so I will write a little more of the morning's events. Lord! What a to-do there was! I wish there were a better way of writing than pen and ink, for I nearly lost another white damask kirtle despite my apron.

And that big blot above wasn't my fault, either. Mary Shelton elbowed me as we sat with the Queen. “Have you drawn out my embroidery pattern yet?” she whispered. “I have the heavy linen for the sleeves now.”

I sighed, put my newly smudged book down to dry, for I had no wiper or sand to blot it, and then fished about in my workbag. It is in terrible disorder, I fear, what with old quills and scraps of paper in it and my penner. I keep my embroidery work in another bag inside to keep it from getting dirty.

Mary's pattern was right at the bottom. “Here it is,” I said at last, uncrumpling it to show to her.

“Oh!” said Mary Shelton, with a big smile across her pleasant, round face. “Oh, that's lovely!”

I felt myself going pink. I did try hard with the pattern because I like Mary, even though she snores. I had made a simple trellis-work design with curling branches for most of the blackwork, but for the centres of the diamond-shapes I drew a little picture of a cat, carrying a kitten and peeping out from behind a rose. I did it from memory of when the cook in the Privy Kitchen found a mother cat with kittens in one of the woodboxes by the fire.

“Ahh,” cooed Mary in delight, taking it from me. “Look here, Carmina, isn't it just like Grimalkin in the Privy Kitchen?”

“Hmm? Eh?” muttered Carmina, who had been dozing where she sat. Small blame to her: that Ambassador's miserable whining voice would put anyone to sleep. It would serve him right if the Queen herself started to snore, not that she would. She always looks sharply at Ambassadors and listens to every word. I don't know how she does it.

“I'll draw it again on thicker paper, so you can make pinholes to pounce it for the embroidery and repeat the pattern,” I said. “Mayhap Mrs. Teerlinc will give me some when I go to the painters' Workroom this noontide.”

Lady Sarah overheard this. She had been sitting a little further off, pointedly ignoring Lady Jane, who is very full of herself because she has a new admirer, and chatting to Penelope Knollys about a new way of charming spots off your nose. “Oh no,” she groaned. “Not again.” I cannot understand that Sarah doesn't like going at all.

“The Queen said we had to go back again today, did I not tell you?” I said, a little defensively because of course I had forgotten.

“I thought they had finished painting all those tedious great portraits,” moaned Sarah.

“No,” I said. “There is another batch to be done of the Queen's Majesty, and you must wear a different set of robes for her.”

Lady Sarah sighed dramatically. “If only I didn't look so like the Queen,” she muttered.

“It can't be as bad as all that,” said Penelope a little enviously. She's a pale slip of a thing, and always takes Lady Sarah's advice on colours to wear. Today she has new beeswax with crushed New World beetles in it on her lips to make them pink. She has some on her front teeth and it looks terrible.

“Huh, you have no idea!” snapped Lady Sarah, with a toss of her red curls. “It's perfectly awfulhaving to stand stock-still in that horrible, smelly Workroom. And the Queen's bodices are always too tight for me, so I can hardly breathe and feel near to fainting. And if I so much as move a finger that fat Dutchwoman tells me off for it.” She turned an accusing stare on me. “Andthenthe person who'ssupposedto be reading to me, to keep me fromdyingof boredom, is usuallypokingaround talking to that young limner, Nick Hillman—”

“Hilliard,” I corrected her.

“Whatever,” said Sarah, heaving her bosom magnificently even though there were no young gentlemen to admire it, except Sir William Cecil and the Scottish Ambassadors, who certainly do not count. “And scribbling and asking questions and doing anything except getting on with reading the story, and—” She broke off because I kicked her. I had seen Her Majesty looking at us—Lady Sarah was whispering too loudly.

“Your sufferings must be dreadful,” Lady Jane said with a sniff. She hadn't noticed that the Queen was watching.

Carmina's head had been hanging over her embroidery again, and now she gave such an amazing pig's grunt, that even the Ambassador hesitated for a second, and the Queen's eyes narrowed in fury. Weall started giggling—we couldn't help it—as Carmina gave another very loud snore. It sounded like a mixture of somebody sawing wood and somebody drowning, to be honest.

A slipper whizzed past Carmina's head and Mary Shelton shook her arm.

“Eh?” queried Carmina, waking up with a start.

“Mistress Willoughby, had you rather go to your bed than attend upon us?” rapped out the Queen in a terrible voice.

Poor Carmina stumbled to her feet, bright red with embarrassment, and curtseyed. “I am so sorry, Your Majesty,” she said. “I don't know what's wrong with me; I cannot seem to keep awake.”

“Are you distempered?” There was a nasty edge to the Queen's voice—she gets cross if we have too much spiced wine in the evening, and then are all heavy and stupid the next day.

“I have a megrim, Your Majesty, but I thought it might go away,” Carmina replied. “I am sure I am not distempered, for I only had some small beer yesterday and only ale and a sweetmeat for breakfast.”

The Queen's scowl softened; she is always very kind when one of us is ill.

“Now, I'm sure Mrs. Champernowne has told youthat if you feel unwell you must stay in bed,” she said, not scolding very much. “My Lady Horsley, would you do me the favour of helping Carmina to her bed, and save Mrs. Champernowne's rheumatism?”

Lady Horsley is quite a bony lady with a tired face, not long come to Court. She was with the other Ladies-in-Waiting across the room, and she put down her work at once and stood. “Of course, Your Majesty,” she said in a soft, gentle voice. “Come along, Carmina, my dear, I'll make you up a tisane to help your head.”

Carmina smiled gratefully at her and left the room leaning on her arm.

“No doubt it is the cares of her wonderful new inheritance that are keeping her awake at night,” said Lady Jane spitefully. Luckily for her, the Queen was concentrating on the Scots Ambassador again and did not hear.

Mary Shelton tutted as she cast off her knitting and shook her head. “What nonsense,” she whispered to me. “It's only the single manor of Chigley with a few villages.…”

“And then you put the crushed woodlice on your nose, turn around three times and say … ,” Lady Sarah was muttering to Penelope, who was noddingwisely. They may have little in common, but they do both have spots.

“Can none of you stop jabbering for a second?” snapped the Queen. The Ambassador stopped in mid-moan, the translator stuttered, and Sir William smiled that blank, meaningless smile of his. It suddenly occurred to me that the Queen is really just as bored as we are, save she is better at hiding it. We all sat still as stone and stared at the Queen.

“God's blood, I swear you would try the patience of God Almighty Himself !” she shouted, looking for something to throw. “Whisper, whisper, jabber, jabber, twitter, twitter like a parcel of hens! And Lady Sarah, did I not tell you to go to Mrs. Teerlinc in the Workroom for another sitting?”

“Well, I … ,” began Sarah, standing and curtseying and going rather red.

“I am so sorry, Your Majesty,” I said, jumping up myself. “It's my fault. I forgot to tell her.… Ohno! Hell's teeth!”

It was my pot of ink. I had tipped it over. I grabbed it up quickly, but there was a pool of ink soaking into the rush matting, and of course all the girls in their white damask kirtles were squealing and wailing and scrambling out of the way. ThenMrs. Champernowne bustled over, despite her rheumatism, tutting and telling me off for swearing, and beckoning one of the gentlemen to fetch a Chamberer with a cloth, and, well … You'd think there had been a snake or a scorpion loose in the room, really you would. I stood there, holding the ink bottle, not really knowing what to do. And then I saw the Queen shake her head and grin at me secretly, before becoming all stern again.

“Really!” she said. “If you cannot even sit like sensible ladies, then all of you may leave. Go on, off with you! Lady Grace, will you please put the stopper in your ink bottle? Else we shall have yet another disaster, and I shall repent me of ever giving it to you or having you taught to write. You may accompany Lady Sarah to the Workroom to read to her, and the rest of you—shoo!” So we lined up to curtsey, and she shouted at us as we left, “And stay clear of the damned players, too!”

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