Brother Cadfael 16: The Heretic's Apprentice
Ellis Peters THE HERETIC'S APPRENTICE A Brother Cadfael Mystery
On the nineteenth day of June, when the eminent visitor arrived, Brother Cadfael was in the abbot's garden, trimming off dead roses. It was a task Abbot Radulfus kept jealously to himself in the ordinary way, for he was proud of his roses, and valued the brief moments he could spend with them, but in three more days the house would be celebrating the anniversary of the translation of Saint Winifred to her shrine in the church, and the preparations for the annual influx of pilgrims and patrons were occupying all his time, and keeping all his obedientiaries busy into the bargain. Brother Cadfael, who had no official function, was for once allowed to take over the dead-heading in his place, the only brother privileged to be trusted with the abbatial blossoms, which must be immaculate and bright for the saint's festival, like everything else within the enclave.
This year there would be no ceremonial procession all the way from Saint Giles, at the edge of the town, as there had been two years previously, in 1141. There her relics had rested while proper preparation was made to receive them, and on the great day, Cadfael remembered, the threatened rain had fallen all around, yet never a drop had spattered her reliquary or its attendants, or doused the candles that accompanied her erect as lances, undisturbed by the wind. Small miracles followed wherever Winifred passed, as flowers sprang in the footsteps of Welsh Olwen in the legend. Great miracles came more rarely, but Winifred could manifest her power where it was deserved. They had good reason to know and be glad of that, both far away in Gwytherin, the scene of her ministry, and here in Shrewsbury. This year the celebrations would remain within the enclave, but there would still be room enough for wonders, if the saint had a mind to it.
The pilgrims were already arriving for the festival, in such numbers that Cadfael hardly spared a look or an ear for the steady bustle far up the great court, round the gatehouse and the guest hall, or the sound of hooves on the cobbles, as grooms led the horses down into the stableyard. Brother Denis the hospitaler would have a full house to accommodate and feed, even before the festival day itself, when the townsfolk and the villagers from miles around would flood in for worship.
It was only when Prior Robert was seen to round the corner of the cloister at the briskest walk his dignity would permit, and head purposefully for the abbot's lodging, that Cadfael paused in his leisurely trimming of spent flowers to note the event, and speculate. Robert's austere long visage had the look of an angel sent on an errand of cosmic importance, and endowed with the authority of the superb being who had sent him. His silver tonsure shone in the sun of early afternoon, and his thin patrician nose probed ahead, sniffing glory.
We have a more than ordinarily important visitor, thought Cadfael. And he followed the prior's progress into the doorway of the abbot's lodging with interest, not greatly surprised to see the abbot himself issue forth a few minutes later, and set off up the court with Robert striding at his side. Two tall men, much of a height, the one all smooth, willowy elegance, carefully cultivated, the other all bone and sinew and hard, undemonstrative intelligence. It had been a severe blow to Prior Robert when he was passed over in favour of a stranger, to fill the vacancy left by the deposition of Abbot Heribert, but he had not given up hope. And he was durable, he might even outlive Radulfus and come into his own at last. Not, prayed Cadfael devoutly, for many years yet.
He had not long to wait before Abbot Radulfus and his visitor came down the court together, in the courteous and wary conversation of strangers measuring each other at first meeting. Here was a guest of too great and probably too private significance to be housed in the guest hall, even among the nobility. A man almost as tall as Radulfus, and in all but the shoulders twice his width, well fleshed and portly almost to fat, and yet it was powerful and muscular flesh, too. At first glance his was a face rounded and glossy with good living, full-lipped, full-cheeked, and self-indulgent. At second glance the lips set into a formidable and intolerant strength, the fleshy chin was seen to clothe a determined jaw, and the eyes in their slightly puffy settings had nevertheless a sharp and
Weitere Kostenlose Bücher