The Devil's Looking-Glass

The Devil's Looking-Glass by Mark Chadbourn

Book: The Devil's Looking-Glass by Mark Chadbourn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Chadbourn
your gentle words, and I would enjoy your company before the Queen’s business calls you away once more.’
    Once she had left, his heart grew heavier. All his sacrifices were for her alone. He would do anything to keep her safe in the face of the supernatural threat that circled all their lives. After a moment, more footsteps disturbed his thoughts and he was surprised to see Sir Robert Cecil emerge from the gloom. The spymaster gave a faint nod of greeting. Tobias, as always, found his master’s eyes unreadable.
    ‘Sirrah, I must apologize,’ Cecil said. ‘It was only my intention to pray awhile here. Like you, I am a godly man. I could not help but overhear your exchange with your woman.’
    ‘Grace and I have nothing to hide.’
    ‘I would think not.’ Cecil knelt before the altar and made the sign of the cross upon his chest. ‘Pray with me,’ he said, beckoning the other man to join him.
    Strangewayes knelt, his uneasiness in his master’s presence giving way to the churn of his own troubles.
    ‘You have been a loyal and trusted servant since you joined my band, sirrah,’ Cecil said, his head bowed. ‘That has not gone unnoticed.’
    ‘I do whatever is required of me in service to the Queen.’
    ‘Of course, of course.’ The spymaster nodded. ‘And I would be remiss if I did not reward you for that service.’
    ‘A job well done is its own reward. That and the knowledge that I serve God.’
    ‘You would do well to accept this reward, Master Strangewayes, for it is only a small thing. A warning.’ He paused for one moment, allowing the weight to build. ‘I fear for the safety of Mistress Seldon.’
    Tobias jerked his head towards the spymaster. ‘Grace? What are you saying?’
    ‘You must beware of Swyfte. He is always scheming to his own ends, and he cares little who gets hurt in the process.’
    ‘What do you know?’
    Cecil closed his eyes, muttering a prayer.
    After a moment, Strangewayes shook his head. ‘There is no love lost between Swyfte and me, but I cannot believe he would allow Grace to suffer unnecessarily. Indeed, he has protected her since her sister, Jenny, was lost.’
    The spymaster shrugged. ‘If you are certain—’
    ‘You must tell me. If Grace is in peril, I will do whatever is necessary to protect her.’
    A small smile flitted across Cecil’s lips, gone before Strangewayes could be sure he had seen it. ‘All I can say for now is that you must keep close watch on our friend, Master Swyfte,’ the older man repeated. ‘At this time of greatest threat he is at his most dangerous, and he will do aught to save his own neck. Even sacrificing those closest to him. Never let him out of your sight. Listen to his weasel words. Judge him. You do not have to accept my account. Trust your own heart. And if you feel he is about to betray us to save himself, you must be prepared to act in an instant , for to tarry for even a moment could cost us all dearly, including the life of your woman.’
    Strangewayes bowed his head. A part of him had always feared that Swyfte could not be trusted. ‘What should I do?’ he whispered.
    ‘There is only one course. You must slay him before he drags us all down to Hell.’

    GREY MIST ROLLED across the river. The night-sounds of sleeping London whispered through the fog like the breath of a child at sleep: the calls of the beadles, the hoots of owls from the wooded shores, the splash of oars and creak of rigging. Along the quayside at Greenwich, pikemen in burgonets appeared to glide out of the folding cloud. Darting eyes searched for the foreign agents they had been told were preparing to attack. They glowered at the boys heaving cordwood to the beacons, hurling abuse to mask their fear. Beyond the circle of light cast by the sizzling lantern over the inn door, two men huddled together in intense conversation. Both kept their heads down to obscure their identities.
    Will Swyfte glanced suspiciously at a merchant’s cart

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