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.He climbed back inside the char and sat down among his furs.The focus of his ire became apparent when he called Master Edwin to sit beside him.The clerk, with his archbishop fully redeemed, hurried to comply.‘Write a letter to Buckingham,’ he instructed.‘I want it sent back as quickly as possible.Use one of those homing pigeons of his.If he imagines I’m content to take Derby’s hired man all the way to London he’s vastly mistaken.The blundering thoughtless upstart! Swynford! He’s more trouble than he’s worth.Greed and duplicity rule him just as they rule his mother.I will not be party to his iniquity!’Hildegard cradled her leather bag.She was still shaking.The Abbey of St Alban.Shortly after nones.Rain again.It was sheeting down over the roofs and sending the monks running to the cloisters with their hoods over their heads.Hildegard glanced out of the window.Part of the convoy had already straggled out onto the road to London.Thomas stretched out his feet.‘Done for.’ He indicated his sandals.They were hanging together by nothing more than threads.‘You should have asked Abbot de Courcy to allow you to wear boots,’ she remarked.‘I don’t know of anywhere in the Rule that says you shouldn’t go properly shod.’ Then more kindly she added, ‘There’s bound to be a saddle-maker here who wouldn’t mind stitching them for you.Would you like me to find out?’‘I’ll find him myself.I should have thought of it sooner.I expect that’s exactly what you’re thinking now.’‘You read me so well, Thomas.’He smiled as he went in search.The Abbey of St Alban was like a fortified town, host to all the craftsmen common to such places, and there were masons, blacksmiths, armourers, carpenters, leatherworkers and similar skilled craftsmen employed here.He would easily find someone to fix his sandals before they had to leave.The abbey church itself, with the monks’ quarters attached, was built on a high hill overlooking a narrow dale with a river meandering along the bottom.There was a watermill down there and a winding path back up to the abbey enclave.Even under rain it was a scene of beauty and tranquillity, a place you would long to remember in your dreams.Yet its beauty was superficial.Underneath was a pulsing heart of black corruption, death, maimings, rape and betrayals still vibrantly within recent memory.Only five years ago, near the time of the Great Rebellion, a gang of townsfolk had clashed with the abbot.They were angered for good reason.He had ordered his men to smash their grinding stones in order to force them to use the abbey flour mill at whatever price the miller chose to extort.It was not an impulsive revolt.They had tried putting their case in the abbey court but it had been thrown out.Eventually they marched out of the town and climbed the hill wielding billhooks and staves, the only arms they possessed.Their demand was modest – restoration of their ancient right to grind their own corn.The abbot and his miller had other ideas and it was stalemate until the abbot ordered his men to go round every cottage, drag out every hand mill, cart them back up to the abbey and concrete them into the floor.Anyone found with a mill after that would hang.The townsfolk resisted but were quickly subdued by the armed force of the abbey militia.Later, when the Great Rebellion in London was crushed and Tresillian, the Chief Justiciar of England, arrived in St Albans to inflict retribution on those who had supported it, there were many summary hangings.Now, today, here was the York contingent, with their own memories of resistance against bonded labour, uneasy in their accommodation, doubtful about putting tainted bread in their bellies.On top of that, thought Hildegard, aware of the labourers’ smouldering discontent, the mystery of Martin’s death was still unsolved.The failure of the archbishop’s men to find the culprit must seem like yet another instance of the injustice meted out by Church and State to the powerless.Unsurprised that they were keen to leave as soon as they could, and wondering how it would end, she began to check through her luggage until Thomas returned.It was impossible to believe that the puzzle of Martin’s death was no nearer a solution than when they had started.Edwin was probably right when he offered the opinion that Martin must have been in a quarrel the morning they left – victim of someone’s sudden rage that got out of hand.The perpetrator was probably far away by now, unheeded and unpunished on some remote manor in the Riding.If they couldn’t find the culprit soon, blame would descend on the archbishop for failing to protect his retainers.Their last hope, that one of the Bishopthorpe gardeners had seen something suspicious, had come to nothing.Only two days ago a message had reached them to say that nobody was in the gardens at that time in the morning on the day they left.The master gardener’s exact words were, ‘We don’t work by moonlight.We’re not bloody necromancers.’As for the rest of the outdoor servants, it was the same story.They had no need to be in the main courtyard while the convoy was getting under way.It was an opportunity to take it easy in their own quarters.And they had grabbed it.Even Martin’s young wife had had nothing to add.So that was that.Now, with Thomas wandering off into the rain, trailing his broken sandals, Hildegard slipped the last of the leather ties through the loops on her bag to hold everything in place, pulled the whole pack tight then sat back on her heels.She would not be sorry to leave St Albans.Beautiful though it was, there had been too much blood shed under its soaring arches.Before she left Meaux, Hubert de Courcy had said something about the archbishop intending to make several strategic stops on the way.She assumed this was one of them: Neville, drumming up support for the King among his brother prelates.With thoughts on what lay ahead at Westminster uppermost, she hoisted her bag onto one hip and started for the door.She was no further than the top of the steps down into the main yard when Thomas materialised like a ghost at the bottom.He was barefoot, his broken sandals nowhere to be seen, his face, as white as his robe, stark with horror.‘Hildegard! Quickly!’ he croaked.‘Come at once! Something terrible has happened!’He led at a brisk run across the puddled yard towards the stables [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]