Generys dead, Eudo dead, who stood to profit from further pursuit? Donata, when she had said that the dead should carry their own sins, had counted herself among them. And infinitely slow as the approach of death had been for her, it must now be very near.
Hugh was the first to speak. 'There is nothing here,' he said, 'that falls within my writ. What was done, whatever its rights or wrongs, was not murder. If it was an offence to put the dead into the ground unblessed, he who did it is already dead himself, and what would it benefit the king's law or the good order of my shire to publish it to his dishonour now? Nor could anyone wish to add to your grief, or cause distress to Eudo's heir, who is innocent of all. I say this case is closed, unsolved, and so let it remain, to my reproach. I am not so infallible that I cannot fail, like any other man, and admit it. But there are claims that must be met. I see no help but we must make it public that Generys is Generys, though how she came to her death will never be known. She has the right to her name, and to have her grave acknowledged for hers. Ruald has the right to know that she is dead, and to mourn her duly. In time people will let the matter sink into the past and be forgotten. But for you there remains Sulien.'
'And Pernel,' said Donata.
'And Pernel. True, she already knows the half. What will you do about them?'
'Tell them the truth,' she said steadily. 'How else could they ever rest? They deserve truth, they can endure truth. But not my elder son. Leave him his innocence.'
'How will you satisfy him,' Hugh wondered practically, 'about this visit? Does he even know that you are here?'
'No,' she admitted with her wan smile, 'he was out and about early. No doubt he will think me mad, but when I return no worse than I set out, it will not be so hard to reconcile him. Jehane does know. She tried to dissuade me, but I would have my way, he cannot blame her. I told her I had it in mind to offer my prayers for help at Saint Winifred's shrine. And that I will make good, Father, with your leave, before I return. If,' she said, 'I am to return?'
'For my part, yes,' said Hugh. 'And to that end,' he said, rising, 'if the lord abbot agrees, I will go and bring your son to you here.'
He waited for the abbot's word, and it was long in coming. Cadfael could divine something, at least, of what passed in that austere and upright mind. To bargain with life and death is not so far from self-murder, and the despair that might lead to the acceptance of such a wager is in itself mortal sin. But the dead woman haunted the mind with pity and pain, and the living one was there before his eyes, relentlessly stoical in her interminable dying, inexorable in adhering to the penalty she had imposed upon herself when she lost her wager. And one judgement, the last, must be enough, and that was not yet due.
'So be it!' said Radulfus at last. 'I can neither condone nor condemn. Justice may already have struck its own balance, but where there is no certainty the mind must turn to the light and not the shadow. You are your own penance, my daughter, if God requires penance. There is nothing here for me to do, except to pray that all things remaining may work together for grace. There have been wounds enough, at all costs let us cause no more. Let no word be said, then, beyond these few who have the right to know, for their own peace. Yes, Hugh, if you will, go and bring the boy, and the young woman who has shed, it seems, so welcome a light among these grievous shadows. And, madam, when you have rested and eaten here in my house, we will help you into the church, to Saint Winifred's altar.'
'And it shall be my care,' said Hugh, 'to see that you get home safely. You do what is needful for Sulien and Pernel. Father Abbot, I am sure, will do what is needful for Brother Ruald.'
'That,' said Cadfael, 'I will undertake, if I may.'
'With my blessing,' said Radulfus. 'Go, find him after dinner in the frater, and let him know her story ends in