A Remarkable Resemblance

Nothing stays secret on Hopeless, Maine, for very long. News that a visitor from the sixteenth century was staying in The Squid and Teapot had caused ripples of surprise all over the island, almost before he had been offered a room at the inn. While others only marvelled that their little island home should be graced by a traveller of such antiquity, Durosimi O’Stoat was excited beyond words, although, of course, he would never admit to entertaining such a vulgar emotion. What had captured Durosimi’s undivided attention was the fact that he had heard the name ‘John Dee’ being bandied around. While no one else on Hopeless had any idea who John Dee was, or had been, Durosimi knew him to be the Astrologer Royal to Queen Elizabeth of England, an alchemist and scholar, respectable occupations for a man of his era. Durosimi, however, was also aware of Dee’s reputation as a necromancer and a magician. Here was a man after his own heart, someone unafraid to open forbidden doors to dangerous secrets. And John Dee was now residing in The Squid and Teapot!

Durosimi was not known for being attracted to such common places, but for the chance of meeting John Dee, he would have happily taken tea in the Night-Soil Man’s front parlour.

“Might I be of some assistance?” he had asked innocently, from his seat in the corner of the snug. Bartholomew and Ariadne Middlestreet, Philomena Bucket and Norbert Gannicox turned their heads as one at the sound of his voice. They had no idea that anyone else was in the room while they were discussing the strange events that had brought Dee to the island.

“John Dee. I understand that he is a guest here. I may be able to help in returning him to…” Durosimi paused, searching for the right words. Finding nothing appropriate he added “… returning him to his loved ones.”

Philomena shuddered involuntarily. Although the voice was full of charm, she imagined it was how a particularly well-mannered spider might sound as it invited you into its web.

“That would be up to Doctor Dee,” said Bartholomew, coldly. He had never liked, or trusted Durosimi.

“Indeed,” replied Durosimi. “But I am keen to speak to the good doctor. I have always been a great admirer of his work. Please be good enough to give him an invitation to my home, at his convenience, of course.”

With that he stood up, gave them a stiff nod of his head, and stalked out. There was, for a few seconds, a stunned silence.

“Always been an admirer of his work?” said Ariadne scornfully. “What a load of rubbish. Why, the doctor hasn’t been on the island for five minutes.”

“I’m not so sure it’s rubbish,” said Norbert. “Dee’s a rum character, and no mistake. You should have seen the room we first met him in. O’Stoat would have given an eye to have some of the playthings we saw there. I reckon our Doctor Dee is more famous than any of us know.”  

“That’s as maybe,” said Philomena, “but an invitation is an invitation. We’ll have to tell him.”

It was over a pint of Old Colonel and a hefty slice of Starry-Grabby pie that Doctor Dee learned of Durosimi’s invitation.

“O’Stoat,” he said, ruminatively chewing a particularly tough bit of tentacle. “Yes… O’Stoat. Of course… Melusine O’Stoat! That’s who she reminds me of.”

“Sorry… who reminds you of Mellers.. Melons… whatever her name was?” asked Bartholomew, pouring him another drink.

“Melusine? Oh, Mistress Bucket looks very much like her. In fact, the resemblance is remarkable.”

“I don’t think that Philomena is related to the O’Stoats,” said Bartholomew. “This Melus… woman, is she a friend of yours?”

“She was, many years ago, yes,” said Dee, sadly. “Burned for heresy, I regret to say, during Mary’s reign, as I almost was myself. But I am positive that Mistress Bucket must be her descendant.”

Bartholomew said nothing. He was by no means sure how pleased – or otherwise – Philomena might be to hear that she was possibly related to the O’Stoats.

John Dee downed his second pint of Old Colonel, smacked his lips and said,

“But yes, I’ll meet with this O’Stoat fellow. They were a family famous for their dabbling in all sorts of magical arts, not all of them safe, in my day. It will be interesting to see how their line has progressed.”

“Or not,” thought Bartholomew, but was wise enough to keep his own counsel.

“I’ll ask Philomena to take you along to Durosimi’s home tomorrow,” he said, instead. “It will be a chance for you to see some of the island… and maybe you can tell her about Melons.”

“Melusine,” corrected Dee.

It had taken Doctor Dee half of the following morning to be convinced that Drury was not a Hell-Hound. Having been confronted by an irate spoonwalker, felt the gaze of the eyes in the sky, and then embarrassingly surprised by Lady Margaret D’Avening, the Headless Lady who haunted the privy of The Squid and Teapot, he decided that a skeletal dog was not that unusual after all, and the pair became quite friendly. This was just as well, for whenever Philomena went for a walk, Drury insisted on tagging along.

Philomena found the doctor to be both attentive and interesting company, and easy to talk to. She found herself telling him about her childhood in Ireland and her voyage, stowing-away on the ship that brought her to Hopeless. She even burst into a few verses of ‘Molly Malone.’ Like Drury, Dee was particularly taken with the chorus of ‘Alive, alive-oh’, joining in enthusiastically.

“That’s a good song,” he said. “I must tell young Will Kempe. He’s one of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Master Shakespeare’s company of actors. You’ve heard of Master Shakespeare?”

“Oh yes,” said Philomena, “but not Will Kempe.”

“That surprises me,” said Dee. “He is as famous as Will Shakespeare in my time. Do you know, he danced all the way from London to Norwich. One hundred and twenty-five difficult miles. It took him nine days. The Nine Days’ Wonder, they called it… and you, dear Mistress Bucket, you too are a wonder, do you not know?”

Philomena’s pale face reddened slightly,

“Doctor Dee, I believe that you are a married man… “ she began nervously, but before she could say any more,  Dee interrupted.

“My dear young lady, please do not misunderstand me. All I meant was that you are someone who possesses great power, though you may not know it. I recognised you as being a descendant of Mistress Melusine O’Stoat, a wise woman and seer, and I see in you even greater abilities than were hers.”

Philomena’s face reddened even deeper.

“I’m nothing to do with the O’Stoats,” she said, defensively. “Surely you must be mistaking me with someone else.”

John Dee took Philomena by the shoulders and allowed his fierce blue eyes to bore into hers.

“No. Believe me, Mistress Bucket, I know power when I see it, and yours is greater than mine will ever be. It is like a wild horse, just waiting to be set free. If you are not her descendant, then I honestly believe you to be Melusine O’Stoat reborn.”

Philomena gulped.

“I can’t believe that. I don’t feel very powerful” she said. “Please, Doctor Dee, don’t tell this to anyone else… especially Durosimi O’Stoat.”

Dee smiled. “If that is your wish,” he said. “Why, I believe that is Master O’Stoats abode ahead. I will leave you now, Mistress Bucket. Do not ignore what I have told you. Magical power such as yours will find its way out eventually.”

Just then Durosimi appeared at his door and strode down the pathway, greeting John Dee and totally ignoring Philomena.

“There is no way on this earth that I am an O’Stoat,” she thought to herself grimly.

Somewhere, in the far recesses of her mind, she could hear Granny Bucket chuckling.

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