The First Day of March,
in the Year of Our Lord 1570
Near eleven of the clock
A new daybooke! With clean pages and no blots a 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 to flatter 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 am bored. 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 embroidering beside 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 a ring 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.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Feud by Lady Grace Cavendish. Copyright © 2006 by Lady Grace Cavendish. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.