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.De Wolfe threw down his parchment and cleared his throat loudly, the sign that he was about to launch into some possibly embarrassing topic.‘How goes it with you now, Thomas?’ he asked, rather fiercely.‘Are you in better spirits these days?’Startled, the former priest looked up, his beaky face showing surprise at such an unexpectedly personal question from his revered master.‘I am fairly well, Crowner,’ he stammered, ‘though never can I be happy again while I am excluded from the company of my fellows in Holy Orders.But I have to live from day to day, as the Almighty indicated not long ago.’ When, in a paroxysm of despair, he had tried to kill himself a month or so ago, his uncle, the Archdeacon, had cleverly convinced Thomas that his failure was a miraculous sign that he was meant to live for some greater purpose.He still hoped that, some day, his ejection from Holy Orders for an alleged indecent assault on a girl pupil at the cathedral school in Winchester would be reversed – although his uncle held little hope that this would come about for a very long time, if ever.‘Are you living well enough – your bed and board, I mean?’ continued the coroner gruffly.He paid his clerk twopence a day and knew that he had a free mattress in a servant’s hut in one of the houses in Canon’s Row.‘I am well enough provided for in my bodily needs, thanks to you and my uncle, sir.It is rather my soul that needs the nourishment of belonging in the House of God.’ Suddenly he scowled at some inner thought.‘There are those who persecute me and should be punished.False witnesses ruined my life, yet there seems no sign from God that they will be humbled,’ he added darkly.‘I can’t help you there, Thomas.I did my best with the Archdeacon, but you know what he said.You must contain yourself in patience, I’m afraid.Meanwhile, you are very valuable to me, both as an excellent clerk and an invaluable fount of knowledge.’At this extraordinarily rare compliment Thomas’s pale features pinked with pleasure.It was all the more precious coming from this stern, gaunt man of whom he was half afraid.Thomas respected him with almost dog-like devotion, being grateful for John having given him a job – and indeed the means to stay alive at a time when he was destitute.They went back to their work for a while, but de Wolfe’s attention span for Latin texts was very limited and soon he threw down the parchments and took himself off to the castle keep.The hall was a hive of activity, and many of the tables, which were usually in use for eating, drinking or gaming, were occupied by the sheriff’s and burgesses’ clerks, all busily writing or shuffling parchments.Harassed-looking stewards, bailiffs and more clerks were hurrying around with sheaves of documents, all intent on trying to get the county’s affairs in order before the eagle eyes of the Justices in Eyre arrived next week.When de Wolfe marched into the sheriff’s chamber, the scene was even more frantic.De Revelle was almost submerged under a pile of bound parchments and three clerks were jostling at his shoulder to place more sheets in front of him, jabbering their insistence that their problem was the most urgent.When he saw John come in, he yelled before the coroner could open his mouth, ‘Not now, John, please! I am going mad with these fellows battening on me every hour of the day.God curse these laws that send visitations from London to make our lives a misery! I hope all your affairs are in better order than mine.’For once, de Wolfe felt almost sorry for his brother-in-law, but the realisation that de Revelle was spending most of his energy in trying to cover up the signs of his corruption hardened his heart.‘Your dear sister wants to know who the justices will be next week.Tell me, if you know, and I’ll leave you in peace.’De Revelle’s pointed beard jutted up at him.‘There are four this time,’ he snapped petulantly.‘Sir Peter Peverel, that over-rich baron from Middlesex, and Serlo de Vallibus, a senior Chancery clerk [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]