Excerpt of Heresy by S.J. Parris
(Page 5 of 5)
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Dio sia con te, Paolo whispered, as I pulled myself through the small
window and twisted my body around so that I was hanging by my fingertips,
tearing my habit as I did so. Then, trusting to God and chance, I let go.
As I landed clumsily on the roof below, I heard the sound of the little casement
closing and hoped Paolo had been in time.
The moonlight was a blessing and a curse; I kept close to the shadows
of the wall as I crossed the garden behind the monks quarters and, with
the help of wild vines, I managed to pull myself over the far wall, the boundary
of the monastery, where I dropped to the ground and rolled down a
short slope to the road. Immediately I had to throw myself into the shadow
of a doorway, trusting to the darkness to cover me, because a rider on a
black horse was galloping urgently up the narrow street in the direction of
the monastery, his cloak undulating behind him. It was only when I lifted my
head, feeling the blood pounding in my throat, and recognised the round
brim of his hat as he disappeared up the hill toward the main gate, that I
knew the figure who had passed was the local Father Inquisitor, summoned
in my honour.
That night I slept in a ditch on the outskirts of Naples when I could
walk no farther, Paolos cloak a poor defence against the frosty night. On the
second day, I earned a bed for the night and half a loaf of bread by working
in the stables of a roadside inn; that night, a man attacked me while I slept
and I woke with cracked ribs, a bloody nose, and no bread, but at least he
had used his fists and not a knife, as I soon learned was common among the
vagrants and travellers who frequented the inns and taverns on the road to
Rome. By the third day, I was learning to be vigilant, and I was more than
halfway to Rome. Already I missed the familiar routines of monastic life
that had governed my days for so long, and already I was thrilled by the notion
of freedom. I no longer had any master except my own imagination. In
Rome I would be walking into the lions maw, but I liked the boldness of the
wager with Providence; either my life would begin again as a free man, or
the Inquisition would track me down and feed me to the flames. But I would
do everything in my power to ensure it was not the latterI was not afraid
to die for my beliefs, but not until I had determined which beliefs were
worth dying for.
Excerpted from Heresy
by S J Parris. Copyright © 2010 by S J Parris.
Excerpted by permission of Doubleday. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.