Thomas called it a house, but Kit might have used a different word. Kit had never seen a house with a with a moat before. The moat was blue in the distance as they came up the drive. Morning revealed it as fetid and stagnant, and the unwholesome air above it buzzed with insects that bit. Thomas said they had great trouble to keep the dogs from drinking of it. There had been a notable incident involving moat water, vomit, and a costly Turkey carpet.
The morning came, and Kit had had his interview. He had not known himself afraid until after.
It was said in the streets that Francis Walsingham knew things he should not, could not. Nobody admitted to laying it to magic. Kit did not believe in magic anyway. He knew there were those, always who informed on neighbors, for coin, or for the small brief glow of revenge.
Thomas had said that the the Queen called Francis Walsingham her 'moor.' But Walsingham's skin was not dark, as he had half expected. It was pale as white clay. It was the eyes that were dark. Dark as looking down a well. The eyes fixed on Kit, and did not deviate. Kit had not expected to find kindness there, so that was another surprise. Francis Walsingham asked after Kit's parents, his sisters. He knew their names. He knew of Jane's illness, and her recovery. He had daughters himself, he said. His voice changed when he spoke of them. All men were supposed to be fruitful and multiply, of course. But the walls of the house in Canterbury were thin. Kit knew what the getting of children sounded like. He could not imagine this austere lean men engaged in that.
Walsingham's voice was a light tenor. He used it little actually. Often he made a small neutral sound, as if to say 'go on.' His large pale hands rested open on his desk, palms visible, and he leaned forward toward Kit, as if Kit were fascinating and he wanted to catch every word. Walsingam did not speak about spiery directly. He seemed more interested in Kit's studies. After, Kit could not recall exactly what Walsingham said. But he had the feeling he himself had spoken long.
And then, of a sudden, it was over. Walsingham leaned back in his chair a little, straightened some things on his desk. Kit was dismissed.
Thomas was just outside the door, lounging against the wall, his booted feet crossed. He smiled when Kit emerged. “You look a little dizzy. Uncle can have that effect. Let's get you out into the sunshine.”
They followed the moat back to the stream that fed it, until it widened into a narrow river. Stalking though the weeds they came to a flat sandy bank, devoid of thistles. The water moved here, and the air was warm. Here was a tree trailing wet roots, and fish serene in the brown shallows, and the sound of bees in the tall purple flowers. Kit could hear birds too, no longer calling in alarm. They had flown in agitation as Kit and Thomas went through the underbrush. Now that song-- which was shouting for birds-- had changed again to that of their daily business. He reclined. The sun was high in a white sky, and then caught a second time in the smaller limbs of the tree. It drew across Kits face, over and over, patterns of cool and the hotter light.
“What did you make of him?” Thomas said.
Kit squinted upward, considering his answer. There was much he need not say, after all. He need not describe the heaps of paper, or the febrile intensity of Francis Walsingham's gaze. Kit had gone in, cap in hand, to be judged. He had left the chamber with sadness that he could not name.
“It is not my place to make anything of him, but--”
Kit spoke slowly. “He seems to me ill. And tired.”
“Ah, kind Kit Marlowe. Observant too. He was cut for stones last winter. He lives in dread of it again, of course. They go in just behind the balls apparently. Just thinking of it-- blergh! He has a long list of foods that the physician has told him to avoid. He takes little meat and less wine. He works late into the night, even when he is here. He says the nights are good because nobody bothers him. I think he sleeps at his desk sometimes, with his face among his papers. And I know he has bad dreams.”
Thomas must have been cold then, for he moved into a sunny patch closer to Kit's side. He had been sitting, but now, with a sigh he rested back so that now they lay side by side. From where Kit sat he could see Thomas's shoe, his bent knee, and his stocking. There was a snagged place in the wool, where perhaps today a thorn or burr had caught. Kit wondered if it poked, and if Thomas noticed it at all. Sometimes one did not feel such things until the end of the day, when upon undressing a sore declared itself. Would it be the same for Thomas?
Thomas cleared his throat. “So, divinity? Does not seem to suit you really.”
“I have little choice,” Kit said. “And little money. I suppose I will end up with a congregation somewhere. But really I would like to write.”
He had never said this to anyone. The scraps of translation and the little blotted stories were things of boyhood, tucked into his trunk at school, they were not worthy to be brought into the light.
"You would write of religion?”
“Write of-- everything I suppose. I don't know.” Kit wiggled to a sitting position, suddenly restless.
“Poetry perhaps,” Kit kept his voice light.
“Ah.” Thomas sat up too. His eyes were bright. “For that you will need a patron. A wealthy patron to commission works from you.”
“I doubt that will ever happen.”
“It might,” Thomas said.
“I don't see how, I mean—”
“Well, I will be wealthy in time, Kit. Scadbury is to come to me. And I hope you will always know,me for a friend.”
Thomas was leaning close, one hand on the ground, Kit could see the dark pupil of his eye, expanding to cover the blue. Kit did not lean away, he did not wish to lean away, not ever. But his heart bucked within him, and he could feel his mouth go dry.
Thomas's hand was so gentle, so light, as it traced the curve Kit's cheek, and Kits eyes closed, to feel it better. There was a buzzing in his ears, he could feel the world tilt. The lips that brushed his own were soft and warm. They were only there a moment, then Thomas pulled back. His eyes were nearly all black now.
“Thy friend.” He said firmly.