good dancer, light and brisk on her feet. Then Essex expertly played the part of a man in love and leaned solicitously over a woman at least thirty years senior to him, who giggled and flirted and Holy Madonna, had her stays scandalously low and her hair uncovered by a cap, as if a maid of fourteen. Disgusting!
The two bowed and curtseyed to each other—the Queen not very much and the Earl a great deal from his great height and the other dancers all clapped.
Emilia’s feet were already sore and pinched in their borrowed dancing slippers and much-darned silk stockings. What could she bribe the Deputy with if not herself? She had only received one good necklace so far from Cumberland and it looked as if she would have to say goodbye to it now.
Hmm. She moved toward the broad-shouldered lad whom Carey had had at his back when he came in, instead of the lanky dour-faced man he had in Scotland. This one had a square raw-boned face and seemed only quarter-witted, but was wearing an Edinburgh cut doublet. He had been hanging around near the musicians, who weren’t bad at all, considering. Now the youth was at the back, near the bowls of wine and mead, watching for the signal from his master.
It came—Carey caught his eye and made a move with his hand. The youth bowed slightly, turned and poured wine into a plain silver goblet he was holding. He took a quick mouthful, surprisingly well-trained to Court ways, then brought it over to his master, a small towel on his arm and offered it with a bow. Carey drank it off.
Then he turned to bow to the Queen, who said something to him that made him tense. Emilia was getting used to English after becoming quite proficient at the barbaric tongue of Scotch—the two languages were brothers after all. She was sure the Queen had said something about singing. Carey bowed again and moved through the crowds to the musicians where the men of the chapel were lining up to sing. Carey stood at the end of the row, took a sheet of music and squinted at it. He looked very odd there, gaudy in his pearls next to the plain chapel men with their black robes and white collars.
The fat music master was explaining the music, Emilia thought, saying something about writing it that very afternoon and would Her Majesty care to hear his poor rough first attempt sung for the very first time? The Queen inclined her head, said something which caused sycophantic titters of laughter among the courtiers.
Carey smiled like a man accepting a challenge to duel, opened his mouth, waited for the beat, and sang the opening, perfectly on the note. The boy-sopranos speared their way into his line and the bassos, other tenors, and altos came in. It was a Spanish air, newly set in the modern Italian way, but she hadn’t heard it before. It was somehow both sprightly and wistful.
The words were English and didn’t quite fit…she didn’t understand them. Emilia closed her eyes. It had such a sound of the South, of the Mediterranean, you could almost smell the olive trees and dust in it, the hot dry sun in it. Ah, the sun.
Something made her look at one of the musicians at the back of the group. He seemed transfixed, a handsome greybeard, he had stopped playing his viol. A tear was tracking its way down his creased cheek.
Emilia turned away at once as the music casually knotted her throat. She had to catch a tear out of the corner of her eye with the corner of her handkerchief before it caused her kohl to smear. What had she seen there in that old man’s face? Shocked surprise, then something raw, something full of longing. Did the air remind him, too, of olive trees and sunlight like a golden knife? Or perhaps of something else, a lover? Her tear had come from her longing for her children, not any stupid man, of course. They were lost to her, locked in their convent, unless she could bring off the coup she needed. Bonnetti didn’t care because he was a man, he could get more. She would not.
Someone was singing solo