So they all walked to the Watch House together, as it wasn't far enough to be worth harnessing horses to a carriage. As they approached, they heard voices: 'Well, your Grace, are you sure? Is this the man?'

'Quite certain. When he last boarded one of my vessels, he wounded my nephew so badly that the young man had to have his leg cut off,' said Orsino.

'I recognise him, too, from the fight on the Phoenix,' said Curio. He was a bit older than some of Orsino's attendants, like Viola and Valentine, and had fought alongside his master in many battles.

'It's not true, my lord!' cried Viola, rushing in. 'Francisco's an honest merchant who's never fought anyone except pirates who attacked…' at which she tailed off. The man handcuffed between two Watch officers wasn't Francisco at all, but a stranger – a stranger who was staring at her with a mixture of recognition, love, hope, and concern.

'Sebastian?' he said.

'No, he's my twin brother. We got separated in the shipwreck.'

'Cesario?' said Orsino, with nearly as much perplexity in his voice as the pirate.

'I'm here, at your service, my lord. Uh – are you Antonio?' she added to the pirate.

'Yes. Is Sebastian all right?'

'Yes, he's well and happy and engaged to a countess. Ah, here they are.' Malvolio opened the door, and held it courteously open for Olivia and Sebastian, and, more reluctantly, for Sir Andrew.

'Wait, you mean – this countess?' said Orsino.

'Yes,' said Viola.

'Engaged to your brother?'


'After knowing him for how long?'

'About half an hour,' said Viola.

Olivia, radiant with joy as long as she was holding Sebastian's hand, smiled apologetically at her three unsuccessful suitors. 'We couldn't bear to wait any longer,' she said.

'Olivia, this is Antonio, who saved my life,' said Sebastian. 'Antonio, do you need your wallet back? Is this about an unpaid fine, or something?'

'No, it's about piracy,' Orsino pointed out.

'I'm not a pirate!' protested Antonio. 'It's only piracy if I'm robbing ships from my own country. Robbing you is privateering.'

'He did save my brother's life, my lord,' said Viola placatingly. 'And if things had gone differently in the shipwreck, he might have been the one to save mine as well, or instead.'

'Shipwreck? Was that this pirate's doing as well?' Orsino demanded.

'No, my lord, just bad weather,' Viola assured him. 'Surely you remember that terrible storm a couple of months ago, just before I came to ask you for a job?'

'Oh, yes – I wrote a sonnet about how it reflected the torrent of emotions in my heart,' said Orsino, after considering this for a moment.

'Couldn't you issue a pardon?' asked Olivia. 'Or a lesser sentence, at any rate?'

'On what grounds?' retorted Orsino. 'Because he saved the life of someone who went on to marry the woman I was in love with?'

'Maybe because you want the Countess Olivia to be happy?' suggested Viola. 'And because she wouldn't be happy, if her marriage was overshadowed by the death of her husband's friend?'

'And because you wouldn't be happy, either, if your brother was grieving for his friend?' added Orsino tenderly, lowering his hand to ruffle Viola's short hair. (Valentine winked at Curio, as if to say, 'I told you so.')

'Well, I wouldn't be,' Viola admitted.

'And this is why you came, was it? All of you? To plead with me to overturn the rule of law for reasons of private sentiment?'

'Well, actually, no,' Viola admitted. 'We came here to plead for a completely different captain.'

One of the Watch officers noticed Malvolio. 'Oh, I'm glad you could make it. We've still been waiting for your evidence about that other sailor, but when you didn't turn up, we thought maybe you were ill.'

'Ah, well, that was part of the problem,' said Malvolio, with a look of becoming embarrassment. 'I'd been – checking that all the food for the Countess's forthcoming wedding was of superior quality, and I decided to sample the flavour of one of the mushrooms. Shortly afterwards, I began seeing all kinds of strange things, and I do dimly recall coming into the Watch House to report them. It took me a couple of days to recover, but I'm back to normal now.'

The Watchmen sniggered. 'Are you sure it was the mushrooms, not the wine?' said one of them.

'Quite sure,' said Malvolio, with the air of a man carefully not clarifying whether 'quite' means 'entirely' or 'moderately'. 'At any rate, I have come to apologise for wasting your time, and to ask for Captain Francisco's release, if there is no other evidence against him.'

Viola glanced in astonishment at Olivia, who looked equally baffled. When dignity meant everything to Malvolio, and being thought to be insane or deluded was the worst horror he could endure, why would he invent a story like this, of all things? And then Viola realised. What really meant everything to Malvolio was being in control. If he had come to understand what he had done to poor Francisco, he could take it upon himself to punish himself. And if he was the one claiming to have been temporarily hallucinating, then it wasn't an indignity that someone else was inflicting on him, so he could ensure that the punishment wasn't more than he could bear.

'It was a mistake that could have happened to anyone,' said Olivia. 'He's back to his normal, reliable self now. And my steward doesn't drink to excess – unlike some people,' she added, with a sharp glance at Sir Andrew, who meekly bowed his head.

'I'm not supposed to leave this room,' said the guard on desk duty. 'And these other two are a bit tied up,' he pointed out, indicating the pair with Antonio handcuffed between them.

'I'll keep an eye on him,' offered Sebastian. 'It can't really need all of you to restrain one man, surely? You've already taken his weapons from him, and there are…' he glanced around at the Duke and his attendants, and at Viola and finally at Sir Andrew,' six of us with swords in here.' Admittedly, that wasn't the same as six trained fighting men. Viola had done a little fencing practice, both with the Duke's other servants and with Orsino himself, since her arrival, and she knew that Orsino and Curio were expert fighters, and Valentine wasn't bad, either. She had picked up a little experience, but not enough to be much use in a real fight, and Sir Andrew was so uncoordinated that he was doing well if he could manage to walk in a straight line. Sebastian himself, she knew, was a formidable opponent. Malvolio, like the rest of Olivia's servants, didn't habitually carry a sword as part of his usual duties.

At the moment, though, Antonio didn't seem to be in any mood to offer the fight. Unshackled from one of the guards, he did nothing more warlike than shake Sebastian's hand and say, 'Congratulations on your engagement. I – hope you'll be very happy.'

'About the money you lent me…' Sebastian began, but Antonio shook his head.

'Keep it, keep it! I don't think I'm likely to get the chance to spend it.'

The other guard returned with Captain Francisco, who stared with delight and relief at the sight of both Sebastian and Viola alive and well, which turned into shock when he recognised Antonio.

'Sebastian! Don't you know better than to make friends with a pirate like this?'

'Pirate yourself!' retorted Antonio. 'You've sunk two of my ships so far, to my sinking one of yours!'

'Which one are you on at the moment?'

'Dragon III. Beautiful vessel – you haven't seen her yet, have you? Course you haven't – you're still alive.'

'Get through the last storm, did she?'

'Oh, yes – she's sturdy enough to survive the end of the world. Mind you, I did have the sense to stay out of the worst of the storm. From what Sebastian told me, your Cat II broke up without my needing to touch her.'

'What do you want us to do with these men, your Grace?' asked one of the guards.

'Ah, yes,' said Orsino, pulling himself together. 'Antonio, in recognition of your magnanimity in saving a drowning man's life, your life is to be spared. However, as punishment for your many acts of robbery, malicious wounding, and destruction of property, your ship, the Dragon III, is confiscated, to be given to Captain Francisco in recompense for his wrongful imprisonment.'

Both captains began, 'But what about my crew?...' and stopped, embarrassed, and then both were struggling not to laugh.

'Sort it out between the two of you,' said Orsino. 'In the meantime, I don't think we need to stay here any longer.'

So the now rather larger group of eight men, one acknowledged woman, and one undetermined, made their way out.

'My lord,' said Viola when they were outside, 'I must admit that when I set out this morning to look for Captain Francisco, it wasn't just because I was worried about him. It was more that – I had something to confess, and I needed a witness who could confirm it. I didn't expect to have two: the Captain and my brother.'

'What sort of confession?' Orsino sounded alarmed.

'Well, when I swore my loyalty oath to you, swearing that I was a freeborn man – well, I am freeborn, but – I'm a woman.'

Orsino blinked in surprise. Valentine and Curio didn't, but watched their master closely to see his reaction. 'Seriously?' said Orsino at last.

('You owe me five ducats,' whispered Valentine to Curio. 'I told you he hadn't worked it out yet.')

Orsino was clearly busy turning things over in his mind. 'So – when you said that the – person you loved – was about my age, and my height, and with the same hair colour – and that they didn't return your affection…'

'Yes, my lord?'

'How would you feel if they did?'

'Well, I'd be very glad, of course – if I could be sure they really meant it. But, if they'd been in love with someone else until recently, I wouldn't be sure they could change direction so suddenly.'

'I suspect,' said Orsino, 'that your beloved had been – trying not to accept that they were falling in love with you, because their love seemed even more hopeless – or even wrong or improper – than yours did.'

('You owe me five ducats,' whispered Curio. 'I told you he was in love with her.')

'Do you think my love and I ought to take more time to get to know each other?' Viola asked.

'Possibly,' said Orsino reluctantly.

'Perhaps Sebastian and I ought not to hurry, either,' said Olivia, who didn't sound at all convinced.

'My lady,' said Malvolio, 'may I remind you that your cousin Sir Toby and his bride got married and set off on their honeymoon only this morning? Could I suggest that a wedding might be well ornamented by the absence of Sir Toby?'

Olivia laughed. 'That is a very good point,' she said. 'All right, Malvolio, can you organise a priest and a wedding reception by tomorrow.'

'Certainly, my lady. For one wedding or two?'

Viola marvelled at how quickly Malvolio had got over his own disappointment. She had wondered whether his experience of being locked up had been so humiliating that he wouldn't be able to bear continuing at the Countess Olivia's household, and whether she ought to ask Orsino to offer him a job. But he quite evidently adored Olivia and wanted to be with her in whatever context was possible. He had auditioned for the role of Count, but if that part had already been cast, he was happy to assume his accustomed role of faithful retainer.

The joint wedding took place the following afternoon. Viola was married, not in the dress she had been shipwrecked in, which had not been improved by its drenching in saltwater, but in the beautiful silk wedding dress that Orsino's mother had been married in. Olivia had ensured that Malvolio, after he had given final instructions for the preparation of lunch, had the rest of the day off, so that he could attend the wedding and the reception as a guest rather than as a servant. Sir Andrew, who had unexpectedly turned out to be a talented musician, had been offered a job as one of Orsino's attendants, but they had agreed that he wasn't going to take up the position until the next day, so that he, too, was there as a guest. Fabian was pointedly not invited, and neither was Feste, who seemed to have disappeared for the time being anyway. As Olivia said, he'd turn up again when he felt like it.

Sir Andrew had pawned some of his clothes and jewellery to pay off his debts, but he had given one piece to Malvolio, as an apology for all the trouble they had caused him. It was a golden ring, shaped like the head of a snarling hound, with tiny rubies for eyes. Somehow, it seemed attractively offset by Malvolio's austere black clothes (no sign of yellow stockings, cross-gartered or otherwise), rather than discordant. Sir Andrew must have realised that considering how expensive really black dye was, anyone who took the trouble, on a steward's wages, to afford clothes of deep black, and in good-quality cloth, evidently had a vain streak, and would probably like to have at least some pretty jewellery to wear. Malvolio seemed delighted with it, and, even as he walked up the nave with Olivia to hand her over to Sebastian, kept running a forefinger over the hound's smoothly moulded ears.

By the reception, Malvolio and Sir Andrew were busy talking to each other in low voices, with the word 'revenge' coming up several times. Sir Andrew, who had had quite a lot to drink, was giggling uncontrollably. Malvolio tried to look dour and solemn, but he couldn't restrain his own face from occasionally breaking into a wolfish smirk. It wasn't the smile of a man who is trying to be charming, but the grin of a not very nice man who is amused by the sort of things that other people wouldn't find very funny. But it was real, and honest – and right now, Viola thought, this was probably what he needed. At least he was no longer alone.