Rahab Bk. 03 Ch. 10: Endings
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After that morning, the tide went out fast on my time in London. It was strange, but as I relaxed, my mission accomplished, I felt a pull to this place, London. My father had said something once about there being some family connection, and it was as though some folk memory was pulling me there. I dismissed it.
I was, though, delighted, that my beloved Will, the only man I ever came close to loving, came to bid me a fond farewell.
‘Parting, my lady, is such sweet sorrow,’ said Will. ‘It has been a joy to know you, and this may be our final farewell; so I have a favour to ask, sweet Rahab.’
‘If it is within my power, it is yours, sweet William.’
‘I yearn to write but wonder at the risk. Should I quit my diplomatic endeavours and take the chance that the pen and the stage will support my family and me?’
‘Let me ask but one question in return Will. Does it bubble up inside you like a cauldron about the explode?’
He looked at me from under those dark eyelashes, his deep brown eyes afire.
‘You know it, don’t you, you know the torment, the need, the desire, the flowing that cannot be stemmed? Oh, these many long days I have poured it forth into my poems and plays.’
‘You have your answer, Will.’
‘But can I be sure to be able to make a living now?’
‘You can be sure that you will live in history, Will. For I see clearly, the spirit of prophecy is on me. If you do it, you will live forever through your works.’
He smiled, the burden had fallen.
‘Your dark beauty, Lady Rahab, makes me think again. Here we count beauty in terms of Lady Emma, whose attributes are what we English admire in a woman. But although, because of your nature, lust for you is a waste of spirit in shame, I cannot but think that the dark is preferable to the light. For her white breasts, I would have yours, though they are dun. Your eyes torment mine, for I desire what I cannot have, but I will always swear beauty herself is black, and say that they are foul that thy complexion lack.’
‘Will, I do bespeak myself to think that with me you are toying. How can my dun, flat breasts, and dark complexion compare with the fairness of the summer day that is Lady Emm?’
‘Ah, sweet dark lady, in faith I do not love thee with mine eyes, for they in thee a thousand errors note, nay it is my heart that loves what they despise, you are too young my lady to know what conscience is, and yet my spirit with thee doth cheat on her to whom my plight is trothed.’
‘Sweet Will, though I am young, yet do I know that prick of conscience, though other pricks I know not, and your General of desire will, by my virgin hand be disarmed, and your Cupid’s bow his target miss. But with that, I know thy spirit, and it will fly. So let me be thy muse – and you will then yourself fly, freed of Cupid’s restraints.’
He laughed, his face alive with humour, the lust visibly rising.
‘Oh where, my dark lady, will I find another soul like yours?’
All jest now set aside I looked at him.
‘Your fame will down the ages ring, while mine to dust will go. But that is why, in the end, you will give up politics for Art. As the Latins say, art is long, and life is brief.’
‘Ah, my lady Rahab, my flesh stays no farther reason, but rising at thy name doth point out thee, as his triumphant prize.’
‘Now your word games stretch me. Could you possibly mean what I think you mean?’
Will smiled again. It was quite clear from my vantage point what he meant.
‘We are all of us composed of elements which allow of neither black nor white, and to look at, garbed as you were, you made a fist of a handsome youth, and to be had a la Turque, might be thought appropriate in the circumstances? Thy worst all best would exceed.’
The flow of words from his quick intelligence flattered me. To be wooed by such a man was no mean thing. Could I?
But the moment passed, and once escort beşevler more I remained Rahab.
‘My coyness, sir, is no crime, but rather part of who I am, and I should not, to myself be true, were I, good man, to yield to you!’
‘That’s as pretty a refusal as I have had. I should compare thee to a summer’s day, except thou art more lovely. Until we meet again, sweetest dark lady.’
He kissed me full, on the lips. I let him have that liberty, as he would have none other. He remains the only man to kiss me in that way. I heard, later, from a traveller, that he did indeed write those plays, and I have with me, a copy of a little book of sonnets, in which I recognised some of the words he had used to woo me. The man told me that they were about Will’s love for a boy and a dark woman. Their wisdom fails to comprehend that a dark woman could look like a boy. Will’s secret went to the grave with him. Oh, I loved him too!
And so it came, that final week.
As I went to my evening rendezvous with Bess, I passed Lady de Winter going the other way.
‘Milady,’ I nodded.
‘You bitch!’ She hissed. ‘It was you, wasn’t it?’
‘No,’ I said to Milady, ‘it was your arrogance and foolishness which did it. Could you not see that the Scots Queen was not made to rule? Before you intrigue to replace a Queen, make sure you have a replacement, not a cardboard cut-out with a pretty face. That she would do your Master’s will would have meant the English would never have accepted her.’
‘Ah, those English, they will submit in the end!’
‘Arrogance and foolishness are, it seems, Milady, your besetting sins.’
‘We shall teach them a lesson soon! Such a lesson as the world has not seen.’
‘Take care, my lady, that it is not the schoolmistress who is birched.’
This reference to her own sexual preferences made her start.
‘Did that fool Emm tell you?’
‘That you think Emm a fool tells me that you have the judgement of the woman who led the Scots Queen to her doom. Let me know who your candidate for power is, so I do not make the mistake of thinking they will win!’
‘You little Jewish bitch, you need to get back to where you came from, dangling from the prick of some heathen.’
I looked at her. My eyes fixed hers.
‘Would you contest wills with me, de Winter? Would you bandy words with me?’
We stared at each other. In the end, she dropped her eyes. It was the last I saw of her. I am told she lived to an old age and has a beautiful daughter, or at least that was what a French monk told me several years ago in Beirut. I had quite forgotten her until then. Odd the way the past has begun to catch up with me recently.
I reached the Chamber where I was to talk with Burleigh and Walsingham a few moments late, thanks to Milady. I apologised, and we got down to business.
Burleigh still hesitated about a trade mission, and an entente, but Sir Francis was adamant, and my argument was made yet again.
‘My Lord, you can try appeasing the French and the Spanish, but if you execute the Scots Queen, you will bring their wrath upon you, at least insure England against that possibility. As long as I am at Istanbul, we will be true to our understanding.’
‘And how long, my lady, will that be?’
‘Why, my Lord, as long as your tenure here.’
‘Touché!’ Sir Francis laughed.
And so we concluded our business. Everything I had come for had been obtained. Before I left, Sir Francis asked for a quiet word.
‘I have a note here, from your Master. I have arranged things as he wants for you. It is the least I could do for one who has helped me so much. We also have a common interest in your next mission. You may meet your friend, Will, as I am rather inclined to send him there too.’
‘Where?’ I asked.
‘Muscovy,’ he replied. ‘I have made the arrangements for you, and in Moscow you will escort balgat find that plans have been made for your return to your native land. We are worried about Tsar Feodor. Your Master’s instructions are here, and yes,’ he smiled, ‘I have read them.’
I had to smile at his nerve – and did so, We never met again, but he was of service to me.
That evening, Bess held a private supper for her special friends, and after it, we retired, for the final time, to her chamber.
‘My love my little Pixie, I am sad that you must go, for I have loved, and love you dearly.’
‘As I do you, Bess, with all my heart.’
Our lips met, with me standing on tip-toe, arms around her neck so that I could reach.
She brought me to her bed, where, helping each other disrobe, we lay, naked, together. Her face looked pale in the flickering light of the candles. I nuzzled up to her small but perfectly formed breasts. I could hear her heart beating. I massaged her breasts, feeling her nipples harden as I played with them. As I did that, her breath grew deeper, a great sigh left her lips.
‘My love?’ I asked.
‘Ah, Pixie, it is cruel that I have found you, only to lose you. I have lost all except England. And that,’ she said, her voice hardening, ‘I shall in no wise lose!’
‘It is the way for us both, my darling Bess. If I could, I would rather stay here with you. But we cannot marry, or even openly proclaim what we could were one of us male.’
‘True, my love, and the age difference is such that you would be left here after my death, and I doubt that would be a fate to be desired.’
‘For you, my love, I should chance it, but it cannot be!’
With that, she turned on her side and on to me, as I lay under her. As our nipples rubbed together, she pressed into me. Her hand slid between my legs, and I felt her skilled fingers begin to pleasure me as only she could. Her touch was exquisite. She liked what I liked, and so she knew how to drive me wild.
Tracing a pattern on my bud, she pressed it in, then pinched it out, causing me to moan loudly.
I wriggled, escaping for a moment, only to position myself where I could lap at her sex as she lapped at mine. Her nectar was so sweet; I recall its taste as I write. Broadening my tongue, I pressed it into her bud, then, licking around it, made a tube of my tongue and probed her slit with it. Even as I pleased her, she did the same to me. We each knew, by lover’s instinct, what the other needed.
As her body lay on mine, my hands grasped her bottom, and I pulled her sex more closely to me, licking more firmly before my lips sealed around her bud and sucked it. I felt her lips on mine.
How long we lay there, pleasuring each other, I cannot recall, but it seemed forever, and had it been, I should have been content. Her scent, her taste, they became my world for that endless moment, and I was content.
And so we loved, and loved, and pleasured each other, as lovers do. I have never climaxed so much; she said the same was true for her. There was in our love-making a sweetness and a sorrow, a pleasure and a pain, the one heightened and intensified by the other. Many a night has seemed to long for me, this was one of the few which seemed too short.
Sometimes a climax is like the sudden flood, and sometimes like a continuous earthquake, and this last night was one when the earth moved, constantly. Bess climaxed first, but then hardly stopped. For me, the susurration was quieter and more constant, like the buzzing of the bees on a long summer evening. Having watched men, I see the difference. For them it all leads to a moment of climax, hence the name, but I have never been sure that it is suitable for what I feel. I can see that for Emm, or Jess, or some others I have known, it is an apt description, but the difference is clear to me.
So, wrapped in each other’s escort batıkent arms, Bess and I loved the night away, loving, dozing, snuggling, and then more loving and light sleeping. As the dawn light crept into our bedchamber, she turned to me, smiling.
‘My Pixie, you have made me very happy, and you know, that is sometimes enough. We cannot bear too much happiness, I sometimes think. But what you have given me is something I shall treasure.’
‘Oh, Bess,’ I said, as I kissed her on the lips, ‘I can only echo that.’
‘You are young, my darling, young enough to have been the child I shall never have, and you have much ahead of you.’
‘Sometimes, Bess, I see the future, as my people can, and I see no long life for me, but I know that this happiness will be a crown and a glory to it.’
‘Hush, little one, do not speak so, you are not yet 20, and will be here long after I am a handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest.’
‘My dear old Carian guest,’ I quipped, quoting the Greek poet.
‘I knew you would know that,’ she laughed, and for a moment I saw how it had been with her when she was a young girl. My heart swelled. Yes, for her, too, there had been loss. She had never known her mother, whom her father had had tried and executed. Her father had been a tyrant and a bully, never close to her. She had made her way perilously to the Throne. I looked at her:
‘History will give you your due, Bess, no Queen will be greater. To have been loved by you is enough for me.’
‘To be loved, sweet Pixie,’ she said, with emphasis. ‘I shall not love again; you have stolen my heart. Oh, and before we part, let me give you something.’
I watched her naked form as she walked to the cabinet, and as she walked back, I wanted her so badly.
‘This is to remember me by.’
She handed me a canvas bag. I opened it.
I am wearing the necklace it contained as I write these words.
‘Bess, diamonds, but you can’t, this is worth a small kingdom.’
‘Odd you should say that, as it was something one of my pirates took from the King of Spain’s hoard. I kept it in case I ever had to flee into exile, but I never shall now. But you, my licky Pixie, who knows what your future holds? With that, I will know you will always be safe.’
It was indeed a regal gift.
Several times in my life I had the chance to accumulate money to set aside against evil days, but I had been generous to others. But with this gift Bess had, indeed, set me up for life. It would, I think, have given her great pleasure to know two things: the sense of security it has given me; and the fact I have never had to use it – yet.
‘I can offer only my love, Bess, well, and this.’
I handed her a small ivory box.
She opened it.
‘Oh, this is excellent!’
It contained a gold coin, the last minting of the Emperors of Constantinople, with the face of the Marble King stamped on it. It was part of the treasure Ana had given me, and I have the other half still with me. I wonder what became of my gift to Bess?
‘You are the true heir to Rome, Bess, so I give you this token in earnest of that.’
For one last time, we made love.
And so it came, the time for parting.
Lady Emm was in tears. She kissed me on the lips.
‘I love you, Rahab, remember me if you will.’
And as this testimony shows, I kept my promise to her.
Dear, dear Will gave me a sonnet and a kiss, and I gave him a hug. We never did meet again.
Sir Francis was gracious, Burleigh barely so.
They left Bess and I alone for a moment.
‘There are no words my sweet Pixie.’
‘Nor need of same.’ I smiled.
I stood on the tips of my toes one last time with her.
We kissed. The world stopped.
And then, well, then we parted forever in this world, and of it I can say no more.
So it was that I left London for Tilbury, and took ship thence as my Master had ordered, north to Muscovy. It would be a long road home. Bess was the second most remarkable woman I ever loved, surpassed only by my beloved special one. If there is any justice I look to see her in the great Shadowlands to which I shall soon follow her.
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