He wouldnt give over. It runs in your blood. Youve
inherited the gift from your mams father.
I shook my head no. My grandfather was an ostler. An honest
He was a horse-charmer, if you remember well.
Tibbs voice summoned the memories. I was sat on Grand-Dads
knee and he jostled me so that I could pretend I was riding a bouncy pony and
all the while he chanted the Charm to St. George to ward horses from witchcraft.
Enforce we us with all our might to love St. George, Our Ladys Knight.
Grand-Dad died when I was seven, but hed taught my mam all his herbcraft
for healing beast and folk alike, which she, in turn, had taught me, though
Mam herself had no dealings in charms.
What a marvel. Grand-Dad working his blessings in the stables
at Read Hall, beneath the Nowells very noses. He must have served them
well, kept their nags healthy and sound, so that instead of reporting him for
sorcery they became his protectors. Perhaps that, indeed, was why the Nowells
had given Malkin Tower to Mamit did no good at all to vex a cunning
man by treating his daughter ill.
Still the knowing made the sweat run cold down my back. To think
that I carried this inside me. I could not say a word, only pray that Tibb
would vanish again and leave me in peace.
My own Bess, do I need to give you a sign or two? Youll
see what Ive said of Liza will come to pass. Now Ill give you
more knowledge of the future. Before the moon is new again, Elsie will bear
In spite of myself, I laughed. Any fool can see shes
carrying a boy from the way shes bearing so high and wide. I dont
need a slip of a lad like you telling me about wenches bearing babies.
My mocking didnt put Tibb off. He only coaxed me all the
more. Theyll name the lad Christopher after his father and youll
see your Kits father in the little lads face, my Bess. Youll
feel so tender that the years of bitterness will melt away.
Tears came to my eyes when I remembered my lover who had given
me such pleasure before he bolted off, never to show his face again, leaving
me to bear my shame and endure an angry husband fit to flay me alive and the
gossips wagging their tongues and pointing. My husband refused to give the
baby his name, so that was why my Kit was named Christopher Holgate, not Southerns.
As punishment for my sin, I was made to stand a full day in the pillory in
Thats not all I can tell you of your future, said
Tibb, nestling close, his breath warming my face. In time, your Liza
will marry an honest man who will love her in spite of her squint.
Fortune-tellings a sin, I squeaked. In this
Curate and the priests of the old religion had always been of one mind. A dangerous
thing, it was, to push back the veil and look into the future, for unless such
knowledge came from a prophecy delivered by God, it came from the other place,
the evil place, the Devil. Diviners and those who consulted them would be punished
in hell by having their heads twisted backward for their unholy curiosity.
Still Tibb carried on in a voice I couldnt block out. Liza
will give you three grandchildren.
How seductive he was. If only I could trust him and believe that
my Liza would be blessed by the love of a good man, a happy family.
Her first-born daughter will be your joy, Tibb
Youll love her till you forget yourself, my Bess.
A pretty impudent lass with skin like cream. A beauty such as you were at her
age. Shell be your very likeness and youll teach her the things
that Ill teach you. His voice sang with his promise.
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