Authors: Ann Turnbull
my black cat, Harley
published 2014 by A & C Black
an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP UK
1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA
Bloomsbury is a registered trademark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Copyright Â© 2014 A & C Black
Text copyright Â© 2014 Ann Turnbull
Illustrations copyright Â© 2014 Akbar Ali
The rights of Ann Turnbull and Akbar Ali to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means â graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems â without the prior permission in writing of the publishers.
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“Nothing ever happens in London,” sighed Eliza.
She put down her needlework and looked out of the window at the wet, wind-shaken garden, where yellow leaves were swirling.
“You're missing your cousin, aren't you?” her governess, Mistress Perks, said. She frowned at Eliza's crossed threads. “Unpick that and do it again.”
began pulling out stitches. She thought of Warwickshire, where her cousin Lucy lived, and where Eliza and her family had been visiting only a few months ago, in the summer. Eliza lived in a town house in Westminster, next to the House of Lords, but Lucy's home was a big country house that had its own deer park.
“I loved seeing the hunters ride out,” Eliza said. “And having dancing lessons with Lucy. Oh, and meeting the Lady Elizabeth!”
To their great excitement, the girls had been presented to King James's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, who lived at Coombe Abbey, near Coventry. The princess was only
years old, like Eliza and Lucy, yet she lived with her own household, far away from her parents and family.
Thinking about this now, Eliza asked, “Why do the royal children not live with the King and Queen?”
“Because of their rank,” said Mistress Perks, “and for their safety â and the safety of the realm.”
The safety of the realm. That sounded important. Eliza was about to ask more, but from somewhere in the house she heard a door opening, and voices â one of them her father's. A moment later her father came into the room. He was holding a letter, and Eliza
recognised the deer's head on its wax seal and knew it was from his cousin â Lucy's father.
Mistress Perks and Eliza both rose and curtseyed.
“Forgive this interruption, Mistress Perks,” Eliza's father said, with a smile, “but I have a letter for Eliza, and I know she will be eager to see it.”
From inside his own letter he drew another, and handed it to his daughter. It was a single folded sheet of paper, sealed with a blob of wax and marked, â
For Eliza Fenton. Most secret.
“Oh!” exclaimed Eliza. “From Lucy!”
father left, and Eliza looked beseechingly at her governess. She longed to be alone to open the letter, but could not leave the room without permission.
Mistress Perks gave in. “You may go to your chamber now, Eliza.”
Eliza hurried upstairs. In the small chilly bedchamber she broke the seal and opened the piece of paper.
It was blank.
Eliza smiled. She went to the fireplace and blew on the embers of last night's fire until little flames sprang up and began to give off heat. She held the letter above the fire. Would it be hot enough? Yes!
yellow marks appeared on the paper. As the heat increased she began to see words. It was another of Lucy's secret letters, written in orange juice, and dated 26th October 1605.
' wrote Lucy, â
Our enemies are everywhere. Burn this after reading it.
' Lucy always said that. Sometimes the two of them wrote in secret code, but they liked invisible ink better. â
My father is to attend the State Opening of Parliament in London on the fifth of November,
' Lucy continued, â
and the good news is that he will bring me with him, to your house. Mother has gone to Leicester to see Aunt Warren, who has been ill. I did fear someone had poisoned my aunt, but Mother
no, it is only her bad knee.
' The next words were paler as the orange juice ran out: â
â¦must watch for danger at everyâ¦trust no oneâ¦
' And then there was a faint signature: â
All Eliza's boredom vanished in a moment. The fifth of November was less than a week away. Perhaps Lucy and her father had already left Warwickshire. They could be here any day.
Lucy will share my room,
It will be such fun!
“Sir Stephen Chelwall and his wife were caught with two priests hidden in their house,” whispered Lucy, as the girls lay in bed on the evening of Lucy's arrival. “The priests were in a secret space under the floorboards.”
Eliza's eyes widened. “How do you know?”
“I heard Father and Mother talking.”
felt scared, yet excited. Her family was careful never to speak of such things. Her father was a courtier â always ready at any time to attend upon the King â and both her parents regularly went to church and called themselves Protestants. But now that she was older Eliza understood that they, like Lucy's parents, were Catholics at heart. And that was dangerous. It was not against the law to be a Catholic, but hearing Catholic mass was forbidden, and there were heavy fines for hiding priests.
“The priests will be executed,” whispered Lucy. They both knew this would be done in the most horrible way.
We must not talk about it,” said Eliza, with a shudder.
And they said no more. They blew out the candle and went to sleep.