Brother Cadfael 18: The Summer of the Danes
them. "They got off unhindered, then, with their silver and their cattle. Were you there to see?"
"I was," said Cadfael.
They never did me offence," she said, looking after their departing fleet with a slight, remembering smile. "I would have waved them away home, but Ieuan did not think it safe for me."
"As well," said Cadfael seriously, "for it was not entirely a peaceful departure. And where are you going now?"
She turned and looked at them full, and her eyes were wide and innocent and the deep purple of irises. "I left something of mine up there in the Danish camp," she said. "I am going to find it."
"And Ieuan lets you go?"
"I have leave," she said. "They are all gone now."
They were all gone, and it was safe now to let his hard-won bride return to the deserted dunes where she had been a prisoner for a while, but never felt herself in bondage. They watched her resume her purposeful passage along the edge of the fields. There was barely a mile to go.
"You did not offer to go with her," said Mark with a solemn face.
"I would not be so crass. But give her a fair start," said Cadfael reflectively, "and I think you and I might very well go after her."
"You think," said Mark, "we might be more welcome company on the way back?"
"I doubt," Cadfael admitted, "whether she is coming back."
Mark nodded his head by way of acknowledgement, unsurprised. "I had been wondering myself," he said.
The tide was on the ebb, but not yet so low as to expose the long, slender tongue of sand that stretched out like a reaching hand and wrist towards the coast of Anglesey. It showed pale gold beneath the shallows, here and there a tuft of tenacious grass and soil breaking the surface. At the end of it, where the knuckles of the hand jutted in an outcrop of rock, the stunted salt bushes stood up like rough, crisp hair, their roots fringed with the yellow of sand. Cadfael and Mark stood on the ridge above, and looked down as they had looked once before, and upon the same revelation. Repeated, it made clear all the times, all the evenings, when it had been repeated without witnesses. They even drew back a little, so that the shape of them might be less obtrusive on the skyline, if she should look up. But she did not look up. She looked down into the clear water, palest green in the evening light, that reached almost to her knees, as she trod the narrow golden path towards the seagirt throne of rock. She had her skirts, still frayed and soiled from travel and from living wild, gathered up in her hands, and she leaned to watch the cold, sweet water quivering about her legs, and breaking their lissome outlines into a disembodied tremor, as though she floated rather than waded. She had pulled all the pins from her hair; it hung in a black, undulating cloud about her shoulders, hiding the oval face stooped to watch her steps. She moved like a dancer, slowly, with languorous grace. For whatever tryst she had here she came early, and she knew it. But because there was no uncertainty, time was a grace, even waiting would be pleasure anticipated.
Here and there she halted, to be still, to let the water settle and be still around her feet, and then she would lean to watch the tremulous ardour of her face shimmering as each wave ebbed back into the sea. A very gentle tide, with hardly any wind now. But Otir's ships under sail were more than halfway to Dublin by this hour.
On the throne of rock she sat down, wringing the water from the hem of her gown, and looked across the sea, and waited, without impatience, without doubts. Once, in this place, she had looked immeasurably lonely and forsaken, but that had been illusion, even then. Now she looked like one in serene possession of all that lay about her, dear companion to the sea and the sky. The orb of the sun was declining before her, due west, gilding her face and body.
The little ship, lean and dark and sudden, came darting down from the north, surging out of the concealment of the rising shoreline beyond the sandy warrens across the strait. Somewhere up-coast it had lain waiting off Anglesey until the sunset hour. There had been, thought Cadfael, watching intently, no compact, no spoken tryst at all. They had had no time to exchange so much as a word when she was snatched away. There had been only the inward assurance to keep them constant, that the ship would come, and that she would be there waiting. Body and blood, they had been superbly sure, each of the other. No sooner had
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