Drusilla is furious.
Her mother has chased off Maahes, and she had more questions to ask. She demands her small writing desk be extracted from the overhead, and sets to work scribbling.
The Friefrau is sullen.
The excursion to Leiden had been an eye-opener. A decorative female with the money to throw glorious dinner parties, she had more than met expectations. Heinz, a shining star back home, had not impressed the least bit. A consolation is that she has John Dee at her disposal for a fortnight, maybe longer.
Heinz is feeling vulnerable, on several levels.
He’s devalued in his employer’s eyes. The Doctor is a loon, but what if he should prevail against the rats? Go along, he tells himself. How to carve himself the largest possible slice of the pie, that’s what he’s wrestling with. If worst comes to worst, he’ll be well positioned to denounce a crackpot. He’ll propose a less splashy solution when Dee’s fireworks fizzle out.
The cat is miffed for his various reasons,
on top of which, all he’s had to eat today is a hunk of cheese. Why didn’t he trap himself a field mouse? He was required to be on hand for the reading and his allegiance, for now, is to Dee. He’s back in the kid’s lap. The mama will not allow him to roam, free to plunge his claws into her expensive upholstery job, which he does compulsively, the thick pile feels so damn good. So he’s back in the girl’s embrace. At least she’s not blowing in his ear. No nose rubs either. And no this-little-piggy with the toes.
Dee, what’s on his mind?
Dee is a wreck. His marriage has gone to hell. His partner Edward Kelley is a scoundrel. His serious investigations are at a standstill for lack of funds. Queen Elizabeth has given him the boot, after he’d been a fixture at her court for a dozen years. Another imperious female is seated kitty-corner from him. He studies her through half closed eyes. The cost of the gown would feed his household for three months. The quantity of rings on her fingers would pay off the mortgage on his house. He, with a first-rate brain, barely gets by. She lives lavishly, proud as punch over her non-existent scholarship. I do feel sorry for the child, he thinks.
Drusilla slouches directly across from him. They’re perfectly poised for another Quija session, the board supported sideways on their two sets of knees (the recommended way). There must be something in his luggage that might do for a planch. And he might be able to jolly the mama into accepting it gracefully.
“I am pleased,” he tells her, “so pleased to have found one with whom I can discuss my more difficult concepts. You show signs of actually understanding me instead of nodding the head vacantly, to be pleasant. You are in no way kin to the females who pack my receiving room back home. Do you know what a relief that is for me? I must ask you – as a follower of the occult, why do you disparage Ouija?”
Annette is glad to paint herself in some small way his peer. “You and I are beyond that, sir,” she assures him. “At another time I might have had the patience for it. Not today. I am so anxious to be home, in my haven, in my garden. I am jealous of every misspent moment. Doctor! I do regret the scene I made earlier. I am in a foul mood, but not because of last night. We will presently make Hameln, where I am buried, intellectually speaking, starved for satisfying companionship. I am desolate on that account.”
“She wants to be home and she hates to be home. In the same breath practically,” observes Drusilla. “Typical.”
“That smart mouth of yours will get you in real trouble one day, missy,” scolds her mother.
“Maahes, are you there?” whispers the girl into the cat’s ear. “Come back to us, sweet spirit. Who’s Adom?” she asks.
“Adom is me, silly.”
“You are John Dee.”
“Also Adom. My spirit name, given me by Bastet. When a spirit is very fond of you, she selects you a special name. It is not randomly chosen, nor lightly given, you must earn it. My name Adom means receives help from the gods.”
“Maahes,” she coos, “do you have a special name for me? I love you madly, dear, but I would love you even more if you did.”
“Don’t push him, that’s the worst thing you can do. He’ll tell you if and when he’s ready.” Dee returns his focus to the Friefrau. “I believe, ma’am, you have studied my pamphlets.”
“I have, Doctor.”
“You find wisdom in them?”
“It would be a good thing for your daughter to be introduced to the esoteric?”
“Let her begin with silly Madame Ouija. Come, where’s the harm? While I caress the planch, I will bend an ear your way. Ask anything, and I will try to answer you.”
“No!” cries Drusilla. “You do not insult Maahes. You told us we must clear our minds, and concentrate. Now it is you who gives two versions of a story. You’re the same as every grown-up I ever met! I hate all of you!”
“Child, I wouldn’t offend Maahes for the world. Not in a hundred lifetimes. He and I are old friends. He puts up with my easy ways, and laughs about them. As long as our attitudes remains respectful – there can be no outbursts such as you have just exhibited – his nose will not be put out of joint. He may visit me in my dreams tonight and remonstrate with me there, but playfully, to be sure. In the dreaming state, I float free of the physical. Maahes and I often skim along the Nile in his barque, enjoying the shimmer of the mayflies in the moonlight, yakking about everything under the sun. Ra, the sun god, happens to be his grandfather, did I mention that?”
“What garbage!” she cries. “I don’t believe in our common everyday fairies, much less you on the Nile. What do you take me for? Yet another one,” she tells Sly, “who thinks children are idiots.” The Friefrau is taking this in, trying not to laugh.
“That was a silly story, wasn’t it?” says Dee. “You have a ferocious little brain there, I find it quite wonderful. Look here, play the game as you did earlier, with the cat. To read out your questions is my entire contribution.”
Drusilla cups her chin in one palm and scowls. And thinks. And sighs. And thinks some more. Sly reaches up and taps her cheek. She looks down into the wildest lion-snarl-face he has in him. “Forgive me, Maahes,” she whispers. “I am a vile child. They do call me a monster.”
“Who calls you that, dear?” whispers the Lion God, giving her another nice snarl-mouth.
The girl is shocked, certainly. Sometimes when you’re really shocked you don’t quite register it. She answers as if a god talking to you is no big deal. “Why, everyone. I have big ears, they say. I do.”
“They’re idiots. Now apologize to Doctor Dee, and give him your questions.”
“Why don’t I ask and you reply direct? Why do we go through this rigmarole?”
“Sorry, sweetheart. Maahes has flown the coop, to meditate himself into the all-seeing frame of mind. I’m back to plain old me. Now, that’s not nothing. I’ve got a good brain and I’ve seen a deal of life and frankly, I’d take cat sense over people sense any day. You people have some damn strange ideas. I had a friend who swore by prayer. The all-occasions fix, he lectured me for years. We had many a blow-up over it. Not, get off your bum and do something constructive. On your knees! I tell ya, I was half inclined to it, to shut him up.”
Drusilla is giggling. “Cats don’t have knees.”
“What’s this?” Sly raises a hind leg, with its crook.
“That’s not a knee.”
“It is a knee, a backward knee.”
“How do you kneel?” she sputters. “Show me.”
“Enough. Listen, girlie, I can give you advice, but it won’t be the true mystical knowledge Maahes doles out. You need to talk to Maahes.”1
“Let’s do it then,” she says evenly, though she is very, very excited.
The board is set in place.
Dee reads off the first question: Do you sail the Nile with D? The planch whips around, spelling out I do. OK, it doesn’t whip around. Planchettes don’t whip. If you have a planch that whips, something’s rotten in the state of Denmark. Someone’s working it. Not that someone isn’t working it here, but Sly has better sense than to whip it. He sashays the thing, like a real spirit would do.
Yeah, about the planchette. The Friefrau hadn’t thrown the thing into the gully after all. She’d hurled a heel of bread instead. Some lucky fieldmice had a lovely meal. She pulled the planch out of her pocket as Dee searched for a replacement.
Drusilla removes a second square of paper from her writing desk, on the seat beside her. Dee reads, his heart breaking for the girl. They say I am unbearable. Am I? He hissed into the cat’s ear, “say no or I’ll tie you to the top of the coach myself.”
The planch selects NO, and continues: Y-O-U-A-R-E-A-D-E-A-R.
“I agree,” says Dee, smiling. “You are a dear. Anyone who thinks otherwise has air between the ears. Maahes knows a dear when he meets one. And his judgment is infallible. He’s a god, after all.”
Drusilla has a third question ready. She returns it to her desk, and prepares a replacement. “The other can wait,” she explains. “Strike while the iron is hot.”
He opens the new question and reads it out: “May I have my special name please?”
The planch whips, yes, whips, into action – Mahees has something urgent to impart.
He spells out: H-E-L-L-O-M-A-Y-F-L-Y.
“Hello Mayfly! I am Mayfly?” The child had expected something Egyptian, exotic.
“Oh, that is a very fine special name,” says Dee. “Absolutely! It tells me that Maahes really-really-really likes you. Lord Maahes,” he chants, “Magnificent one! You awe me anew with your phenomenal insight. Mayfly, the perfect name, couldn’t be better. What a blessing to have you in our lives! You and I have exchanged a few harsh words. All is forgotten! You have proven your worth once again. I was a fool ever to doubt you.”
The mother is thinking, There is fire here. He’s either a fine actor or, God help us all, a lunatic. I have invited him into my home. Will I have my throat slit in my sleep for looking at him the wrong way?
Heinz is thinking along the same lines, but with a different read on it. Marvelous! The town has sent all the way to London for a respected scientist only to net another crank. They will apprehend their mistake and, belike to shit their pants, will turn to me in desperation. I will have my chance, finally. If I prevail, ten percent goes to this fool to pacify him and persuade him on his way.
“He’s odd enough,” mutters the Friefrau.
“The question is, is he dangerous?” They are stopped again. Dee is off in the bushes.
“Likely not,” Heinz assures her, “but certainly impaired. He reminds me of a case under the care of my father. The man had several personalities, most benign, others, not so easy to abide. At the least, he bears close watching.”
- Dru doesn’t question how the cat continues to speak after Maahes bugs out. Her head is spinning. I suspect she’ll bring it up eventually.