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.Peter said that he’d seen them all, but that they’d come out one after the other.He didn’t mention that Walter had been much later than the others, and he had no reason to lie.’ He described his interview with the boy earlier that day, and wondered again where he might have got to.Father took all this in and spoke again.‘I agree with Edwin – Peter had no reason to lie, and if he is telling the truth then the man would not have had time to murder his brother.There is also the fact that he appeared to you to be in much distress – when a man is in extremis he normally resorts to telling the truth simply because it is easier, and he does not have the courage to lie.There is always the chance that he is just a very fine dissembler, but from what I have heard I do not think that is the case.So, we have ruled out one of the main suspects.Now, what is the best way forward from here? You have only a short time, Edwin, and although you have others to help you –’ he looked around at the others, ‘including you, my old friend, and you, the friend of my son – it is your task, Edwin, to find the culprit.What are your thoughts?’Edwin did not know if he had any opinions at all, so confused was his mind and so impressed was he with his father, but he tried to gather his wits.Eventually, one thought struck him above all others.‘Every time I have spoken to anyone about the dead earl, they’ve told me that he was an evil man and that he did many foul deeds, but nobody has actually said what any of these deeds were.I’m more convinced than ever that the key to this mystery lies in the past, not in the present.He came here but a few days ago – nobody knew him, or at least nobody knew him well, and it’s very difficult to think that he might have offended someone so badly in such a short space of time that they would want to kill him.No,’ he said, realising that he was speaking his thoughts exactly as they fell out of his head, but also that they were starting to make some kind of sense, ‘the answer lies somewhere in the past.Somewhere at some time he did somebody a great wrong, and someone has decided to avenge it.’Everyone was looking at him.He dropped his head.‘Well, that’s what I think, anyway,’ he mumbled.‘You mistake us, Edwin.’ It was Sir Geoffrey who spoke.‘We are looking at you in pride, for you’ve hit upon something which nobody else has considered.I’ve been trying to think of anyone he might have offended since he’s been here, but this seems implausible.Your theory about the past fits much better.You’re right – he did commit some foul deeds, and I at least know some of them.And so does your father, for I told him of them long ago.’ He looked at father, who indicated that he should continue.Sir Geoffrey cleared his throat.‘The worst, the very worst of these deeds, happened fifteen years ago in France.It was when we were on campaign with the old earl, during the war which decided the succession.’He looked around at the bemused faces of the young men, and realised he would have to start from the beginning.He sighed.‘Pay attention, boys – I don’t want to say all this twice.’Automatically they both straightened.‘When King Richard died – may God rest his soul – there were two claimants to the throne.The king had no children, but he had one surviving brother, John, and one nephew, who was the son of their dead brother Geoffrey.If the law of succession were to be interpreted strictly, it would have been this nephew, Arthur, the Duke of Brittany, who inherited the throne, as his father had been John’s elder.However, he was only a boy of twelve who had never even visited England, so it would have been risky to put him on the throne.John and his supporters were in a much better position to seize power, and they invoked the old custom that the younger son of a king was nearer to the throne than a grandson whose father had never ruled.So John became king.However, Arthur decided to make a bid for the throne, or at least the barons who were supporting him did.Why did they do it? It’s possible that they truly thought that Arthur might make a better king than his uncle, for John was unpopular even then.But it’s more likely that they simply saw an opportunity to cause trouble and to profit by it.And so the realm endured civil war.’He stopped to draw breath before continuing.‘Most of the fighting took place over in France, in the Angevin domains.The war went on for three years, three disastrous years during which time many good men were killed.During that time Arthur grew from a small boy to a slightly older and more effective one, and there was some talk that his cause might succeed.However, he was captured at the siege of Mirebeau.John had him taken to his stronghold of Falaise; after that he was moved to Rouen, and nobody ever saw him again.’Edwin had never thought to hear of so many evil deeds in just a few short days, but he was already becoming accustomed to it.‘Murdered?’Sir Geoffrey nodded grimly.‘Aye.The rumours that floated around said that the boy had been blinded, then stabbed and his body thrown in the river.And one of the men at Rouen was Ralph de Courteville, then just a relatively minor lord.But shortly after Arthur’s disappearance, de Courteville was named earl, and nobody knew why, other than that he had performed some “great service” for the king.’Robert exhaled.‘You mean – you think that de Courteville murdered the boy himself?’Sir Geoffrey looked tired.‘Yes.The supposed method of the killing bore his mark.He always swore that he had some grudge against Arthur, for the boy had been arrogant to him and made him lose face in public at one time.So he built up this slight into a need for revenge.He was always particularly harsh on those he captured – and what man in his right mind would put out a boy’s eyes before killing him? Why do it? There is no reason other than vindictiveness.’ He gave a shudder [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]