"On a night such as this, could a Queen say no?" Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth reclined together on a large pile of pillows on a gondola on a clear, starry night. Robert held his golden mask by its stick in his right hand, awaiting her response.

"Does not a Queen sit under the same stars as any other woman?" asked Elizabeth. Robert smiled, waiting for her to continue.

"Yes, dear Robin, I will marry you." Elizabeth looked earnestly into his dark gypsy eyes. "I have loved you since I was eight years old. I've tried to tell myself that to marry would mean to give up power, to compromise my duty toward the people of England to always put our country first. But to me, Robin, you are happiness. How could a Queen be an effective ruler when her heart is always longing for something it cannot have? With you by my side, Robin, I will have the courage and fortitude to be a much better ruler than I otherwise would be."

"My love!" Robert, overcome with happiness, laughingly showered Elizabeth's face with kisses. Elizabeth, dizzy with relief and filled with happiness that she had decided to follow her heart, laughed along with him.

Robert stood and addressed the boat's additional passengers. He pulled Elizabeth to her feet as well, and she stood beside him smiling with her face aglow.

"We have an announcement to make," Robert began. "The Queen and I are to be married!"

Everyone burst into applause. Someone wanted to know the date.

"Why, as soon as possible, of course!" He looked to Elizabeth for confirmation, and she smiled broadly at him.

"Monsignor Alvaro! As well as ambassador, are you not also a bishop?" he asked of the Spanish Ambassador, who was on another boat close by.

"I am," Monsignor Alvaro replied.

"Then you can marry Elizabeth and myself, now."

"Now?" Monsignor Alvaro was taken aback.

"Why wait another moment?" Robert asked.

Elizabeth was just about to say something in jest when everyone heard a scream and saw a body fall through the see-through curtain into the boat.