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Brother Cadfael 03: Monk's Hood

Brother Cadfael 03: Monk's Hood

Titel: Brother Cadfael 03: Monk's Hood
Autoren: Ellis Peters
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understand the act. But in those hale and busy, and used to exerting body and mind? No, that he could not understand. There must be other motives. Not all men could be deceived, or deceive themselves, into mistaking idleness for blessedness. What else could provoke such an act? Want of an heir? An urge, not yet understood, to the monastic life, without the immediate courage to go all the way? Perhaps! In a man with a wife, well advanced in years and growing aware of his end, it might be so. Many a man had taken the habit and the cowl late, after children and grandchildren and the heat of a long day. The grace house and the guest status might be a stage on the way. Or was it possible that men divested themselves of their life's work at last out of pure despite, against the world, against the unsatisfactory son, against the burden of carrying their own souls?
    Brother Cadfael shut the door upon the rich horehound reek of a mixture for coughs, and went very soberly to High Mass.
    Abbot Heribert departed by the London road, turning his back upon the town of Shrewsbury, in the early morning of a somewhat grey day, the first time there had been the nip of frost in the air as well as the pale sparkle in the grass. He took with him his own clerk, Brother Emmanuel, and two lay grooms who had served here longest; and he rode his own white mule. He put on a cheerful countenance as he took leave, but for all that he cut a sad little figure as the four riders dwindled along the road. No horseman now, if he ever had been much of one, he used a high, cradling saddle, and sagged in it like a small sack not properly filled. Many of the brothers crowded to the gates to watch him as long as he remained in view, and their faces were apprehensive and aggrieved. Some of the boy pupils came out to join them, looking even more dismayed, for the abbot had allowed Brother Paul to conduct his schooling undisturbed, which meant very tolerantly, but with Prior Robert in charge there was no department of this house likely to go its way un-goaded, and discipline might be expected to tighten abruptly.
    There was, Cadfael could not but admit, room for a little hard practicality within these walls, if the truth were told. Heribert of late had grown deeply discouraged with the world of men, and withdrawn more and more into his prayers. The siege and fall of Shrewsbury, with all the bloodshed and revenge involved, had been enough to sadden any man, though that was no excuse for abandoning the effort to defend right and oppose wrong. But there comes a time when the old grow very tired, and the load of leadership unjustly heavy to bear. And perhaps - perhaps! - Heribert would not be quite so sad as even he now supposed, if the load should be lifted from him.
    Mass and chapter passed that day with unexceptionable decorum and calm, High Mass was celebrated devoutly, the duties of the day proceeded in their smooth and regular course. Robert was too sensible of his own image to rub his hands visibly, or lick his lips before witnesses. All that he did would be done according to just and pious law, with the authority of sainthood. Nevertheless, what he considered his due would be appropriated, to the last privilege.
    Cadfael was accustomed to having two assistants allotted to him throughout the active part of the gardening years, for he grew other things in his walled garden besides the enclosure of herbs, though the main kitchen gardens of the abbey were outside the enclave, across the main highway and along the fields by the river, the lush level called the Gaye. The waters of Severn regularly moistened it in the flood season, and its soil was rich and bore well. Here within the walls be had made, virtually single-handed, this closed garden for the small and precious things, and in the outer levels, running down to the Meole brook that fed the mill, he grew food crops, beans and cabbages and pulse, and fields of pease. But now with the winter closing gently in, and the soil settling to its sleep like the urchins under the hedges, curled drowsily with all their prickles cushioned by straw and dead grass and leaves, he was left with just one novice to help him brew his draughts, and roll his pills, and stir his rubbing oils, and pound his poultices, to medicine not only the brothers, but many who came for help in their troubles, from the town and the Foregate, sometimes even from the scattered villages beyond. He had not been bred to this science, he had
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