There was someone there. Down between the rowans, a flash of deep blue, gone again as quickly as it had appeared. Had I heard footsteps on the soft path? I got up, basket over my arm, and followed quietly. The track led down the hillside towards the sheltered pool, curving under the trees and between thick clumps of bushes. I did not call out. There was no telling if what I had seen was merely a trick of the light on the dark foliage, or something more. And I had learned to move through the woods in silence. It was an essential skill for self-preservation, Father said. There it was agin, just ahead of me behind the rowans, a hint of blue like a fold of cloth, and a flash of white, a long, delicate hand. This time the gesture was unmistakable. This way, it motioned. Come this way. I went on softly down the path.
She poured wine for me and brought it back, and as I accepted it she said, 'So this child Arthur is related to you both by blood and marriage, the son of your wife's sister, and the son of your own cousin.'
'Aye. Nephew and cousin.'
'And heir to Pendragon and to Camulod.'
'More than that, Auntie. He is also heir to Cornwall.'
She frowned immediately. 'How so? Lot was Cornwall's king, and Arthur is Uther's son. His mother was Hibernian. The child has no claim to Cornwall.'
'True,' I said. 'But only we know that. I am splitting hairs here, being a sophist, I suppose. But to good purpose. Lot acknowledged the child, publicly at least, as his own, according to Popilius, and left no other children. The child has possession of Gulrhys Lot's own seal. Furthermore, he is grandson of the King of the Hibernian Scots.'
She gazed at me steadfastly for some time, then nodded. 'A potent mixture,' she murmured eventually, her voice sounding far away, as though she saw great distances ahead of her.
THE SERVANT'S TALE
A Sister Frevisse Medieval Mystery
The mood was darkening. Against it, Frevisse said to Joliffe, 'What you quoted, it's from the Noah play, isn't it? From Wakefield?'
The gleam returned to Joliffe's eyes. He grinned and asked, 'How can a cloistered nun be knowing of such worldly things as the Wakefield plays?'
'You can hardly call The Play of Noah a worldly thing,' Frevisse returned.
'I don't recall the Church tells that Noah's wife has to be hauled bodily into the Ark, and then clouts him alongside of his head when she's there.'
'"Welcome, wife, into this boat,"' Frevisse quoted. 'And then she hits him. No, I don't recall that from the Bible.'
'Ah!' Ellis pointed an accusing finger. 'That's from the Chester plays. You've mixed your sources, scholar!'
'Only after one of you did!' Frevisse returned. They all laughed, a friendly exchange that swept away any last constraints.
'A well-travelled lady,' Bassett said with interest. 'Unless you've somehow come by copies of the plays?'
'No copy but mine own memory, I fear,' Frevisse answered.
'And how did you come by that, pray tell?' Joliffe asked.