Brother Cadfael 16: The Heretic's Apprentice
that would also remain a mystery. Books are more durable than their authors, but at least the Irish monk Diarmaid had secured his own immortality.
Even the guest hall was almost empty. The festival was over, and those who had lingered for a few days more were now finishing whatever business they had in Shrewsbury, and packing up to leave. The midsummer lull between Saint Winifred's translation and Saint Peter's Fair provided convenient time for harvesting the abbey cornfields, beyond the vegetable gardens of the Gaye, where the ears were already whitening towards ripeness. The seasons kept their even pace. Only men came and went, acted and refrained, untimely.
Brother Winfrid, content in his labours, was clipping the overgrown hedge of box, and whistling as he worked. Cadfael and Hugh sat silent and reflective on the bench against the north wall of the herb garden, grown a little somnolent in the sun, and the lovely languor that conies after stress has spent itself. The colours of the roses in the distant beds became the colours of Diarmaid's rippling borders, and the white butterfly on the dim blue flower of fennel was changed into a little ship on an ocean no bigger than a pearl.
"I must go," said Hugh for the third time, but made no move to go.
"I hope," said Cadfael at last, stirring with a sigh, "we have heard the last of the word heresy. If we must have episcopal visitations, may they all turn out as well. With another man it might have ended in anathema." And he asked thoughtfully: "Was she foolish to part with it? I have it in my eyes still. Almost I can imagine a man coveting it to the death, his own or another's. The very colours could burn into the heart."
"No," said Hugh, "she was not foolish, but very wise. How could she ever have sold it? Who could pay for such a thing, short of kings? No, in enriching the diocese she enriches herself."
"For that matter," said Cadfael, after a long, contented silence, "he did pay her a fair price for it. He gave Elave back to her, free and approved. I wouldn't say but she may have got the better of the bargain, after all."
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