"Where's your father, lad?" Matthew's voice softened.

"Sick abed these four days past, Master Roydon." Bidwell drew a piece of felt from a bag tied around his waist and placed each of my feet on it, tracing the outlines with a stick of charcoal. He made some notations on the felt and, quickly finished, lowered my foot gently to the floor. Bidwell pulled out a curious book made from squares of colored hide sewn together with leather thongs and offered it to me.

"What colors are popular, Master Bidwell?" I asked, waving the leather samples away. I needed advice, not a multiple-choice test.

"Ladies who are going to court are having white stamped with gold or silver."

"We're not going to court," Matthew said swiftly.

"Black then, and a nice tawny." Bidwell held up for approval a patch of leather the color of caramel. Matthew gave it before I could say a word.

Then it was the older man's turn. He, too, was surprised when he took my hand and felt the calluses on my palms. Well-bred ladies who married men such as Matthew didn't row boats. Somers took in the lump on my middle finger. Ladies didn't have bumps from holding pens too tightly either. He slid a buttery-soft glove that was much too large onto my right hand. A needle charged with coarse thread was tucked into the hem.

"Does your father have everything he needs, Bidwell?" Matthew asked the shoemaker.

"Yes, thank you, Master Roydon," Bidwell replied with a bob of his head.

"Charles will send him custard and venison." Matthew's gray eyes flickered over the young man's thin frame. "Some wine, too."

"Master Bidwell will be grateful for your kindness," Somers said, his fingers drawing the thread through the leather so that the glove fit snugly.

"Is anyone else ill?" Matthew asked.

"Rafe Meadows's girl was sick with a terrible fever. We feared for Old Edward, but he is only afflicted with an ague," Somers replied tersely.

"I trust Meadows's daughter has recovered."

"No." Somers snapped the thread. "They buried her three days ago, God rest her soul."

"Amen," said everyone in the room. Françoise lifted her eyebrows and jerked her head in Somers's direction. Belatedly I joined in.

Their business concluded and the shoes and gloves promised for later in the week, both men bowed and departed. Françoise turned to follow them out, but Matthew stopped her.

"No more appointments for Diana." There was no mistaking the seriousness in his tone. "See to it that Edward Camberwell has a nurse to look after him and sufficient food and drink."

Françoise curtsied in acquiescence and departed with another sympathetic glance.

"I'm afraid the men from the village know I don't belong here." I drew a shaking hand across my forehead. "My vowels are a problem. And my sentences go down when they should go up. When are you supposed to say 'amen'? Somebody needs to teach me how to pray, Matthew. I have to start somewhere, and-"

"Slow down," he said, sliding his hands around my corseted waist. Even through several layers of clothing, his touch was soothing. "This isn't an Oxford viva, nor are you making your stage debut. Cramming information and rehearsing your lines isn't going to help. You should have asked me before you summoned Bidwell and Somers."

"How can you pretend to be someone new, someone else, over and over again?" I wondered. Matthew had done this countless times over the centuries as he pretended to die only to reemerge in a different country, speaking a different language, known by a different name.

"The first trick is to stop pretending." My confusion must have been evident, and he continued. "Remember what I told you in Oxford. You can't live a lie, whether it's masquerading as a human when you're really a witch or trying to pass as Elizabethan when you're from the twenty-first century. This is your life for now. Try not to think of it as a role."

"But my accent, the way that I walk . . ." Even I had noticed the length of my steps relative to that of the other women in the house, but Kit's open mockery of my masculine stride had brought the point home.

"You'll adjust. Meanwhile people will talk. But no one's opinion in Woodstock matters. Soon you will be familiar and the gossip will stop."

I looked at him doubtfully. "You don't know much about gossip, do you?"

"Enough to know you are simply this week's curiosity." He glanced at my book, taking in the blotches and indecisive script. "You're holding your pen too tightly. That's why the point keeps breaking and the ink won't flow. You're holding on to your new life too tightly as well."

"I never thought it would be so difficult."

"You're a fast learner, and so long as you're safely at the Old Lodge, you're among friends. But no more visitors for the time being. Now, what have you been writing?"

"My name, mostly."

Matthew flipped a few pages in my book, examining what I'd recorded. One eyebrow lifted. "You've been preparing for your economics and culinary examinations, too. Why don't you write about what's happening here at the house instead?"

"Because I need to know how to manage in the sixteenth century. Of course, a diary might be useful, too." I considered the possibility. It would certainly help me sort out my still-muddled sense of time. "I shouldn't use full names. People in 1590 use initials to save paper and ink. And nobody reflects on thoughts or emotions. They record the weather and the phases of the moon."

"Top marks on sixteenth-century English record keeping," said Matthew with a laugh.

"Do women write down the same things as men?"

He took my chin in his fingers. "You're impossible. Stop worrying about what other women do. Be your own extraordinary self." When I nodded, he kissed me before returning to his table.

Holding the pen as loosely as possible, I began a fresh page. I decided to use astrological symbols for the days of the week and record the weather as well as a few cryptic notes about life at the Old Lodge. That way no one reading them in a future time would find anything out of the ordinary. Or so I hoped.

31 October 1590 rain, clearing

On this day I was introduced to my husband's good friend CM

1 November 1590 cold and dry

In the early hours of the morning I made the acquaintance of GC. After sunrise, T H,

HP, WR arrived, all friends of my husband. The moon was full. Some future scholar might suspect that these initials referred to the School of Night, especially given the name Roydon on the first page, but there would be no way to prove it. Besides, these days few scholars were interested in this group of intellectuals. Educated in the finest Renaissance style, the members of the School of Night were able to move between ancient and modern languages with alarming speed. All of them knew Aristotle backward and forward. And when Kit, Walter, and Matthew began talking politics, their encyclopedic command of history and geography made it nearly impossible for anyone else to keep up. Occasionally George and Tom managed to squeak in an opinion, but Henry's stammer and slight deafness made his full participation in the intricate discussions impossible. He spent most of the time quietly observing the others with a shy deference that was endearing, considering that the earl outranked everyone in the room. If there weren't so many of them, I might be able to keep up, too.

As for Matthew, gone was the thoughtful scientist brooding over his test results and worrying about the future of the species. I'd fallen in love with that Matthew but found myself doing so all over again with this sixteenth-century version, charmed by every peal of his laughter and each quick rejoinder he made when battles broke out over some fine point of philosophy. Matthew shared jokes over dinner and hummed songs in the corridors. He wrestled with his dogs by the fire in the bedroom-two enormous, shaggy mastiffs named Anaximander and Pericles. In modern Oxford or France, Matthew had always seemed slightly sad. But he was happy here in Woodstock, even when I caught him looking at his friends as though he couldn't quite believe they were real.

"Did you realize how much you missed them?" I asked, unable to refrain from interrupting his work.

"Vampires can't brood over those we leave behind," he replied. "We'd go mad. I have had more to remember them by than is usually the case: their words, their portraits. You forget the little things, though-a quirk of expression, the sound of their laughter."

"My father kept caramels in his pocket," I whispered. "I had no memory of them, until La Pierre." When I shut my eyes, I could still smell the tiny candies and hear the rustle of the cellophane against the soft broadcloth of his shirts.

"And you wouldn't give up that knowledge now," Matthew said gently, "not even to be rid of the pain."

He took up another letter, his pen scratching against the page. The tight look of concentration returned to his face, along with a small crease over the bridge of his nose. I imitated the angle at which he held the quill, the length of time that elapsed before he dipped it in the ink. It was indeed easier to write when you didn't hold the pen in a death grip. I poised the pen over the paper and prepared to write more.

Today was the feast of All Souls, the traditional day to remember the dead. Everyone in the house was remarking upon the thick frost that iced the leaves in the garden. Tomorrow would be even colder, Pierre promised.

2 November 1590 frost Measured for shoes and gloves. Françoise sewing.

Françoise was making me a cloak to keep the chill away, and a warm suit of clothes for the wintry weather ahead. She had been in the attics all morning, sorting through Louisa de Clermont's abandoned wardrobe. Matthew's sister's gowns were sixty years out of date, with their square necklines and bell-shaped sleeves, but Françoise was altering them to better fit what Walter and George insisted was the current style as well as my less statuesque frame. She wasn't pleased to be ripping apart the seams of one particularly splendid black-and-silver garment, but Matthew had insisted. With the School of Night in residence, I needed formal clothes as well as more practical outfits.

"But Lady Louisa was wed in that gown, my lord," Françoise protested. "Yes, to an eighty-five-year-old with no living offspring, a bad heart, and numerous profitable estates. I believe the thing has more than repaid the family's investment in it," Matthew replied. "It will do for Diana until you can make her something better."

My book couldn't refer to that conversation, of course. Instead I'd chosen all my words carefully so that they would mean nothing to anyone else even though they conjured vivid images of particular people, sounds, and conversations for me. If this book survived, a future reader would find these tiny snippets of my life sterile and dry. Historians pored over documents like this, hoping in vain to see the rich, complex life hidden behind the simple lines of text.

Matthew swore under his breath. I was not the only one in this house hiding something. My husband received many letters today and gave me this booke to keep my memories.

As I lifted my pen to replenish its ink, Henry and Tom entered the room looking for Matthew. My third eye blinked open, surprising me with sudden awareness. Since we had arrived, my other nascent powers-witchfire, witchwater, and witchwind-had been oddly absent. With the unexpected extra perception offered by my witch's third eye, I could discern not only the black-red intensity of the atmosphere around Matthew but also Tom's silvery light and Henry's barely perceptible green-black shimmer, each as individual as a fingerprint.

Thinking back on the threads of blue and amber that I'd seen in the corner of the Old Lodge, I wondered what the disappearance of some powers and the emergence of others might signify. There had been the episode this morning, too. . . .

Something in the corner had caught my eye, another glimmer of amber shot through with hints of blue. There was an echo, something so quiet it was more felt than heard. When I'd turned my head to locate its source, the sensation faded. Strands of color and light pulsed in my peripheral vision, as if time were beckoning me to return home.

Ever since my first timewalk in Madison, when I'd traveled a brief span of minutes, I'd thought of time as a substance made of threads of light and color. With enough concentration you could focus on a single thread and follow it to its source. Now, after walking through several centuries, I knew that apparent simplicity masked the knots of possibility that tied an unimaginable number of pasts to a million presents and untold potential futures. Isaac Newton had believed that time was an essential force of nature that couldn't be controlled. After fighting our way back to 1590, I was prepared to agree with him.

"Diana? Are you all right?" Matthew's insistent voice broke through my reveries. His friends looked at me with concern.

"Fine," I said automatically.

"You're not fine." He tossed the quill onto the table. "Your scent has changed. I think your magic might be changing, too. Kit is right. We must find you a witch as quickly as possible."

"It's too soon to bring in a witch," I protested. "It's important that I be able to look and sound as if I belong."

"Another witch will know you're a timewalker," he said dismissively. "She'll make allowances. Or is there something else?"

I shook my head, unwilling to meet his eyes.

Matthew hadn't needed to see time unwinding in the corner to sense that something was out of joint. If he already suspected that there was more going on with my magic than I was willing to reveal, there would be no way for me to conceal my secrets from any witch who might soon come to call.


Tags: Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy Fantasy
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