Chapter Eleven: In Which Everything Ends

"Go on then!" Ellen pushed him, "Go on! take your bows!" Ned got up, and took bows with the rest of the players. There was a whistle, and, although Ellen couldn't see, she knew it was Henslowe. But then, it all turned black. Through the back door of the theater, flanked by guards, came none other than Mr. Tilney. But Ellen wasn't about to let him past.

"Mr. Tilney, I beseech you, don't go out there," she tried.

"Stand aside, you insolent girl!" Tilney brushed past her and came out on the stage. The guards stamped their spear butts on the floor twice, and chanted, "God save the queen!" and there was silence. Ellen edged on stage. Ned caught her eye, and frowned. Ellen shrugged helplessly.

"I arrest you all in the name of Queen Elizabeth!" announced Tilney.

"Arrest, who, sir?" Richard Burbage stormed through the crowd and onto the stage.

"All of you! The Admiral's Men, The Chamberlain's Men, your writer, your seamstress," he indicated Ellen, "and all of you involved in this public display of disrespect!" He shouted.

"And why?" Burbage asked, though everyone knew very well why.

"That woman is a woman!" he shouted, pointing at Ralph, though he meant to point at Thomas.

"What?" Ned asked, "That goat?" Ralph looked taken aback. Ellen giggled, but stopped when someone else interjected.

"Mr. Tilney!" shouted Queen Elizabeth, "Have a care with my name, you will wear it out." Everyone bowed low as the Queen approached the stage.

"I do not attend public displays of disrespect," Queen Elizabeth said, "So something is out of joint. Master Kent, come here." Thomas stepped forward and bowed low, in the actor's stance.

"Yes, the allusion is remarkable," said the Queen, "But I know something of a woman in a man's profession. Yes, by God I do. That's quite enough from you, Master Kent." Thomas stepped back.

"And master Shakespeare," she said to Will, "Next time you come to Whitehall, come as yourself, and we shall talk some more." Ellen raised an eyebrow. What on earth did she mean by that?

"If only Lord Wessex were here," Queen Elizabeth said.

"He is, your majesty, right there!" The ugly little urchin boy pointed to the upper gallery, where the cocky man who'd fought Will was trying to get away. He turned around, sheepishly, and approached the front of the gallery.

"I believe we had a wager," said the Queen, "You lost it today." And she left. So did Wessex, leaving through the gallery. The actors on stage left as well, all except Will, who stayed behind. Ellen caught up with Ned.

"So, we're not going to jail?"

"It would seem not," Ned replied, looking absolutely relieved. The actors grouped outside, as did Thomas, and watched as Lord Wessex came out to meet Queen Elizabeth.

"Your Majesty," he said, bowing low.

"Lord Wessex. Lost your wife so soon?" Wessex nodded.

"It seems that I am a bride short. And my boat sails for Virginia on the evening tide." Ellen raised her eyebrows again. Thomas was married to Wessex? Since when? And why did they have to go to Virginia? And what was this wager about? As events commenced, Ellen found all her questions would have to remain unanswered.

"I am sorry, your majesty," said Wessex, "But, how is this to end?"

"As all stories must, when love's denied," said the Queen, "With tears and a journey. But those whom God has joined in marriage, even I cannot put asunder. How much was our wager, Lord Wessex?"

"Fifty shillings," Wessex lied, and then, "pounds."

"Give it to Master Kent," the Queen told him, "He will send it rightfully home. Master Kent," Elizabeth turned to Thomas, "As I fortold, Lord Wessex has lost his wife at the playhouse. Go, make your farewells, and send her out." Thomas, tears in her eyes, bowed to the Queen, turned, and went inside, with Wessex's purse in hand. As she did so, the Queen left, and went to her carriage. Then it was all over.

"What are you looking at?" Wessex looked around apprehensively. Everyone dispersed, and most headed in the direction of the Boar's head.

"Well, that wasn't exactly 'love triumphant' in any sense," Ellen said, gloomily.

"It would seem that way," Ned replied.

"Speaking of love, Ned, you never answered my question the other night. Is there anybody whom you do love?" Ellen asked. Ned paused a moment before saying,

"I don't think you need me to answer that."

"Yes I do," started Ellen, and then stopped walking, realizing the exact meaning of what he'd just said. "Oh." Ned smiled at her.

"So, Mistress Ellen, are you joining me or not?" Ellen didn't even need to think her answer over.

"Always, Ned! Always!" and ran to him.