growth of this pain, of how his body too would fail; warning, and
with it grace.
Leaving his garments in a pile, he first sat and then reclined,
shivering, arms wide, on the freezing shingle. He was wearing
only his wedding-ring and a length of ribbon, wo
half a dozen overlapping boards.
And you say a semicircle gives the best profile?
We dont know that for a fact, but it seems obvious.
Are there no calculations you could have done?
No, Your Grace. Not that were aware of.
Portsea would know, the King said,
limbs supported on a crutch. A split in the trunk had been filled
He latched the first gate behind him.
The middle of the path was of hard-frozen mud but, from the
bruised footprints in the hoary grass to either side, he could see
The lesson was hard, and it had been learned too late. The god
of the Bible was supposed to be capable of forgiveness. Through
Christs atonement on the cross, that god held out the promise of
redemption. His earthly counterparts, like the pagan god of the
till the last and most expensive moment. He had wanted to make
an example of a baron who had presumed to slight him. In the
later stages there had obviously been close coordination with
Rome, so that, on the day of the hearing, Henrys nose could be
During their examination of the wheel, Ralf began to forget a
little of his awe, though he was careful not to show it. In his
enthusiasm for mechanical things, the King was just a man, after
all, and in that respect not unlike Ralf himself. He appeared to
The higher serfs too?
Yes, Your Grace. All classes.
They are not your property. What right did you have to make
such an agreement with them, still less promise them free
The manor belonged to the King. Its lord was nothing more
than his tenant. G
manner became more businesslike. Our ambassador in Paris is
close to an agreement, he said. Your stratagem may have had
an effect. It certainly did no harm.
Gervase expressed his genuine pleasure that war looked like
being averted, with Gascony remaining
the muffled oaths and guffaws rising from the pot-room, he had
pursued a lonely meditation that had lasted the best part of the
night. He had decided to make his peace with Father Pickard
with Joseph and subsequently confess. When the arrest came,
intimate and unforgivable. His guilt was made the more acute
when he reflected on the Barons past kindness towards him and
Holding the Kings parchment in his hand, Ralf saw the Baron
as a model of God and Mape as a model of the world. Just as
But he was here. After sixty years absence, he had come
His progress along the dike was necessarily slow. He made
frequent stops to catch his breath and to wait for the pain to
During one of these stops he heard a distant roar of wings. To
The interviews lasted for nearly two days. He was shown over
the school at Portsea, which stood a little inland from the Fort.
Though each student was made a naval officer, the school was
small and informal, and subsequent service in the Navy, while
Ralf watched the King disappear into the mill, together with the
Baron and Mr Pegg. He felt the need to pinch himself. His work,
his fathers work, their joint effort, was now being inspected by
the most powerful man in England; one of the most powerful
tell them there was yet more grief in store?
Eloises wedding would take place on the fifteenth of
October. By the sixteenth her husband would have discovered the
truth about his bride. Soon after that, very soon, the Justiciar
would come for Ralf.
London but to the Round Fort, the headquarters of the
of the Navy. Instead of torture and death, he was to
face assessment by the under-controllers staff. If they concluded
that he was suitable, he would be offered a place in the Portsea
be another form of tide: a stream of human labour saved, of time
released for better things than kneeling at the quern.
There was no nobler profession than engineering. With all his
heart, Ralf wanted to pursue it. He wanted to find out what
Ralf felt tears coming to his eyes.
Godric was still smiling. We two shall never meet again.
I wouldnt be so sure about that.
Youre right. Anything can happen, cant it?
You do as well. She told me. Godric held out his hand, just
as he had
various catalogue of his crimes.
It seemed that, for eighteen months or more, despite the
remonstrances of Cardinal Pellegrini, he had not been paying His
Holiness quite enough for Sicily. The Pope was out of pocket.
His patience had finally snapped. He h
Earlier, in this very room, wearing an old cloak and dressed
for the road, Godric had spoken of the sixth chapter of St
Matthews gospel. And why do you take thought for raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not,
For the next few days, Ralf tried and failed to reconcile his
memory of that meeting with his vision of the monarch as the
remote authority who would soon be signing a warrant for his
On the second Thursday following, an official packet arrived
Yes. Yes, Godric, I think I do. Ralf was overawed. He had
not known that Godric possessed such courage. The path he had
chosen was the hardest imaginable. It was also, once embarked
upon, the easiest. He had given himself to Christ. He had taken
On the Sunday of his visit, Ralf had been shown the slipways
and dry-docks, the forges and sheds where the Kings galleys
were made. The scale and professionalism of the works dwarfed
the imagination. They most forcefully articulated the threat from
contentment that had eluded his father all his life till now.
How did the popular saying go? Every advantage has a
disadvantage, and every disadvantage has an advantage.
Someone else could worry about the manor. Someone else
could pore over the ledgers, c
had died among the lepers of Padua.
The birds were quieter now. He had nearly reached the end of
the dike. As the sun disappeared, a biting breeze got up, and as
the breeze got up the reed-rustle increased: vitreous, chattering,
the kind that sets in
earthly father, I mean.
Even so, Ralf said, trying to picture Mape without its baron.
I can see you havent understood yet.
He cant pay the dowry. The wedding has been cancelled.
Godrics smile was continuing. You are acquainted with my
scholar in Alincester, or Rochester, or Rome, had unearthed these
Ipse potes riguis plantam deponere in hortis,
Ipse potes rivos ducere lenis aquae.
Roughly translated, by someone with as little interest in
poetry as Gervase de Maepe,
member of the Barons family, in such lowly attire.
Smile for me, Godric said, observing Ralfs expression.
Im happy at last.
What are you talking about?
He indicated the landward rail. Side by side, they half sat, half
leaned against it.
Ive left the A
exploration of the manor. He remembered their day on the Point.
Onward from that confessional hour in the dunes, Godric had
been his brother.
Something made Ralf look up from the rutted mud of the
road. Sooner than he might have expected, he had reached t
from the wreckage. The house in the Wooleries would by now be
on offer, for sale to some other notable desirous of being close to
the centre of things. Gervase had slept his last night there.
He slipped the ribbon from another roll and scanned the
moneyless spinster like dear Mildred. The bloom of youth was
fleeting. Whatever Matthew might think, a rich father greatly
improved even a pretty girls chances of happiness.
Ah, my daughter, Gervase sighed, cleared a space, and
began writing his letter fo