Marion had enjoyed her evening out. It had come as a real surprise to her to discover that there were such places in the Capitol. Her introduction to Gallifreyan society had taken her to such magnificent edifices as the Opera House, the Grand Theatre, the Capitol Ballet.

It had not included the Bri Natis Revue.

Bri Natis was the name of the talented young actor who set up his own little theatre in what had once been a training school for cooks and chefs. It had no grand entrance with floodlights, no red carpet for VIPs, just a quite ordinary door and a set of stairs with a piece of dull brown carpet on it. Nobody expected VIPs to come to the show. Inside there were no private boxes with velvet curtains and champagne on ice. The seats were in fifteen rows of twenty that were almost always full. Marion sat in the back row the first time, a little nervous, not quite knowing what to expect. The next time she had been in the front row. Both times it had been thoroughly enjoyable.

This was her third visit, and she had enjoyed it just as much. She was a little sad that it would also be her last such trip. They were leaving the Capitol the day after tomorrow, to be home at Mount Lœng House in time for the Winter Solstice celebrations. Of course, there were compensations. Rodan would be coming to stay with them in time for Christmas. She had all sorts of wonderful plans for trips and entertainments with her fosterling.

Even so, she was a little sorry that she wouldn’t be stepping through that nondescript looking door and down those narrow but well-lit stairs to the Revue again. She found herself wondering if they might spend the winter season in the Capitol again next year, so that she could enjoy her guilty secret once more.

“Madam!” Gallis Limmon spoke twice to remind her that the car had stopped on the rooftop entrance to the town house. She was in such deep thought she hadn’t even noticed. He got out of his seat and went to open her door.

“Kristoph is home,” she noted as she got out of the passenger seat. His limousine was already parked. “I wasn’t expecting him until later. The vote must have been taken sooner than he thought it would be.”

“Yes, madam,” Gallis said. “Goodnight, madam.”

“Goodnight, Gallis,” she answered. “And thank you.”

She went in through the main door. Gallis would take a separate one that led down to the kitchen. He would get something to eat there before retiring to his room for the night. She descended a flight of stairs to the cloakroom where she started to take off her coat.

“Marion?” Kristoph called her name. She jumped in surprise. She hadn’t even seen him standing there. “What is that you are wearing?” he added.

“Just a coat,” she responded as she took off the hooded cloak and hung it up. Underneath it she was in a dress she hadn’t worn in front of Kristoph for more than two years. It was very much out of style, and she always had the most up to date fashions. Indeed, she usually LED the fashion, passing so many offworld ideas about clothes to Rosanda.

Kristoph was puzzled. Where could she have gone in a two year old dress and a cloak he was almost certain belonged to her maid. That style of garment was usually only worn by servants. Ladies had their lapin fur coats.

Perhaps hooded cloaks were in vogue this season and nobody had told him?

“The vote ended early?” she asked, changing the subject quickly.

“It did,” he answered. “The Bill was narrowly defeated.”

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that,” Marion told him. She couldn’t quite remember which Bill it was, except that Kristoph had been for it.

“Mainly due to apathy. Too many of the Councillors I thought would be voting with us were elsewhere. The theatre season plays havoc with politics! But never mind, it will be reintroduced in the spring session. Enough of politics for now. I’m told dinner will be served as soon as you are ready to join me.”

“I’ll just change,” she said.

“No need,” Kristoph told her. “I always liked that dress. It looks good on you. It will do for a private dinner for the two of us.”

He didn’t say anything else as she walked with him down another flight of stairs to the dining room. As the first course of their meal was served he talked a little about his day in the Panopticon. Then when that subject was running short of interest for them both he asked what she had done for the evening.

“I just went over to Mia Reidluum’s house for a while,” she answered. “The baby is looking well. So is she, despite everything.”

Kristoph nodded.

“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, then complimented the cook on the way the steak was prepared and continued to talk of easy, light subjects as they so often did over dinner. Marion was a little uneasy, though. He was a far more observant man than most. Of course he knew that her dress was out of fashion, and why would she wear such a thing to visit a high born lady of Gallifreyan society? She knew there would be questions sooner or later.

He didn’t say anything until after dinner when they had retired to the drawing room and he had given Caolin leave to join his wife in his own room. Kristoph poured a glass of the imported single malt he always kept in his house and drank it slowly while standing by the window, looking out on the Capitol. It wasn’t time for the nightly rain, yet. The mighty spires and towers glowed in their uplights as they stretched towards the enviro-dome.

Marion sat on the sofa with a glass of sherry that she wasn’t really drinking.

“Jarrow Reidluum was one of the absentees I have been so annoyed by,” he said presently. “I am told he and his wife were at the ballet tonight.”

Marion searched for something to say. She couldn’t think of anything that would explain why she had lied to him.

“Most men would think the worst,” Kristoph continued. “When they find out their wife has been lying about her activities. Most men would imagine some kind of lurid affair. But I’m not most men. I know my wife would not look at another man that way. I have absolute faith in you, my dear.”

“I’m… glad,” Marion managed to say.

“So what else could take you out for the evening in an old dress and a second hand cloak?”

Marion wasn’t sure what to say at all. She looked at Kristoph unhappily.

“We never had secrets from each other, Marion. Except those I have to keep for reasons of State or the occasional birthday surprise. I even told you of my… moment of weakness… with Lily. Whatever you aren’t telling me, it can’t be so terrible, can it?”

He wasn’t trying to read her mind. She would feel him there if he was. He trusted her enough to tell him in her own words, in her own time.

“I… it isn’t terrible at all,” she told him. “Except… I’ve been going out to public places without the Presidential Guard. I only had Gallis Limmon with me, and….”

“I know the Guard can be obtrusive,” Kristoph admitted. “But they are meant to be for your safety. You really SHOULD have them with you. There haven’t been any real threats to either of us since the Arcalian plot, but you mustn’t take any chances.”

“But if I had two Presidential Guards in uniforms that stand out a mile accompanying me, people will know who I am,” Marion protested.

“Everyone in the Capitol knows who you are,” Kristoph answered, slightly puzzled. “With or without a guard.”

“Not… at the Bri Natis Revue, they don’t,” she answered.

“The… what?”

Marion explained. Kristoph listened with an inscrutable expression on his face. She couldn’t tell if he was angry or amused or something between the two.

“Revue?” he queried.

“Songs and music, dancing, short plays, sketches, a bit of comedy… that sort of thing.”

“There is a place in the Capitol where that ‘sort of thing’ goes on?”

His tone was one of surprise, not distaste or censure.


“And you’ve been attending?”


“With Gallis Limmon as your ‘escort’?”

“He sits with me, yes.”

“Was it Gallis who told you about this venue?”

“Don’t be angry with him,” Marion said. “I asked him. He told me about it. He sometimes goes with his sister when he has time off. The cloak belongs to her. The lady who runs the free library in the township.”

“I know who Gallis’s sister is. And what the two of them do on their time off is their business, of course. I take it this Revue is relatively cheap to get into?”

“Well, yes. It’s nothing fancy. Just a stage and seats – refreshments at the interval.”

“Did you say comedy?” Kristoph asked.


“I didn’t know the concept had ever made it past the Transduction Barrier.”

Marion smiled at that comment.

“Mostly it is funny plays and sketches, sometimes there is what we call ‘stand up’ on Earth. There is a man who does jokes about the High Council. I think he sits in the gallery and takes notes to write his material because it is always quite up to date.”

“Does he tell any jokes about me?” Kristoph asked.

“No. Mostly Gold Usher and the Premier Cardinal. I don’t think anyone considers you funny.”

“I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Of course, the dignity of the Presidency must be upheld, but I hope people think of me as somebody with a sense of humour.”

Again, Marion smiled. But there was a question she knew Kristoph would get around to asking eventually.

“Why do you go to this little theatre incognito, escorted by your limousine driver?”

“Because… whenever we go to the theatre, there’s a whole lot of ceremony. The manager meets us at the door. We’re escorted to a box. There are flowers and chocolates and champagne. There’s a guard outside the box. The fact that we were in attendance is mentioned in the reviews the next day. It’s the same on Ventura, because we always attend along with Remonte and Rika, and sometimes we’re even in the royal box with the Crown Prince and his entourage. On Haolstrom, we’re guests of Hillary, and she’s an aristocrat. Even when we go somewhere on Earth, you always buy the best seats.”

“You’re my lady and I like people to know it,” he said.

“And that’s all very well,” Marion told him. “But I wanted… to just sit in an audience alongside other people, to laugh when they do, and clap when they do… to look up at a stage, not down on it as we always do from a box.”

Kristoph considered that for several minutes then he placed his whiskey glass down on the sideboard.

“I’m going downstairs to talk to Gallis Limmon for a little while,” he said. “I’ll talk about this when I get back.”

“Please don’t be angry with him. It was all my idea. He was just doing what I asked him… what I ordered him to do.”

“I’m not angry with him,” Kristoph assured her. “But I do need to talk to him.”

Marion was worried all the same. She liked Gallis Limmon. He had been her driver almost as long as she had lived at Mount Lœng House. She didn’t want him to be dismissed because of something that was her doing.

It was nearly an hour before Kristoph returned to the drawing room. She was really worried by then and looked up anxiously as he went to pour himself another drink.

“Is it true that Gallis calls you ‘Marion’ when you visit this backstreet theatre you’re so fond of?”

“Only when we are there. It would give the game away if he called me ‘madam’ or ‘ladyship’. In the car, it is always ‘madam’.”

“Quite right, too. And I understand he parks the car some distance from the theatre and you walk at his side.”

“Again… it would rather give the game away if I arrived in a chauffeured limousine.”

Kristoph seemed to be considering that point carefully, too.

“Gallis is a very loyal servant. I have reason to know that, myself. I have trusted him to look after you for many years, now.”

“Then… you won’t punish him for….”

“Not at all,” Kristoph assured her. “I have drafted him into the Presidential Guard with immediate effect, with the prime responsibility of looking after you, my First Lady, when you decide to go out incognito.”

“So… it will be all right?” she asked hopefully.

“As long as Gallis Limmon sticks by your side, as I am utterly confident he will so do, there is no problem,” Kristoph answered. “And next time we are in Liverpool, we can go to the Empire and sit in the cheap seats if you prefer.”

“They do very nice boxes at the Empire,” Marion said. “But the cheap seats would be a change now and again.”