Dorothy was, like me, past forty now; though apart from little wrinkles visible around her eyes she looked a good deal younger. I bent and kissed her on her full cheeks.
A merry Palm Sunday to you, Dorothy.
And to you, Matthew. She squeezed my hand. How is your health?
Good these days. My back had often given me trouble, but these last months I had been conscientious in the exercises my physician friend Guy had prescribed, and had felt much better.
You look well.
And you look younger each New Year, Dorothy. May this one bring peace and prosperity.
I hope so. Though there has been a strange portent, have you heard? Two huge fish washed up by the Thames. Great grey things half the size of a house. They must have been under the ice. The twinkle in her eyes told me she found the story, like so much in the world, delightfully absurd.
Were they alive?
No. They lie on the mudbanks over at Greenwich. People have been crossing London Bridge in hundreds to see them. Everyone says that coming the day before Palm Sunday it portends some terrible happening.
People are always finding portents these days. It is a passion now among the busy Bible-men of London.
True. She gave me a searching look, catching perhaps a bitter note in my reply. Twenty years ago Dorothy and Roger and I had all been reformers, hoping for a new Christian fellowship in the world. They still did. But though many of their guests had also been reformers in the early days, most had now retreated to a quiet professional life, frightened and disillusioned by the tides of religious conflict and repression that had flowed ever higher in the decade since the Kings break with Rome. As, now, had I. I wondered if Dorothy guessed that, for me, faith was almost gone.
She changed the subject. For us at least the news has been good. We had a letter from Samuel today. The roads to Bristol must be open again. She raised her dark eyebrows. And reading between the lines, I think he has a girl.
Samuel was Roger and Dorothys only child, the apple of their eye. Some years before, the family had moved to Bristol, Rogers home town, where he had obtained the post of City Recorder. He had returned to practise at Lincolns Inn a year before, but Samuel, now eighteen and apprenticed to a cloth merchant, had decided to stay behind; to the sorrow of both his parents, I knew.
I smiled gently. Are you sure you are not reading your wishes into his letter?
No, he mentions a name. Elizabeth. A merchants daughter.
He will not be able to marry till after his apprenticeship.
Good. That will allow time to see if they are suited. She smiled roguishly. And perhaps for me to send some spy to Bristol. Your assistant Barak, perhaps, I hear he is good at such jobs.
I laughed. Barak is busy with my work. You must find another spy.
I like that sharp humour of his. Does he well?
He and his wife lost a child last year. It hit him hard, though he does not show it.
I have not seen Tamasin. I keep meaning to call on them at home. I must do it. She was kind to me when I had my fever.
The Court of Requests keeps you busy, then. And a serjeant. I always knew you would reach that eminence one day.
Ay. I smiled. And it is good work. It was over a year now since Archbishop Cranmer had nominated me as one of the two barristers appointed to plead before the Court of Requests where poor mens pleas were heard. A serjeancy, the status of a senior barrister, had come with the post.
Excerpted from Revelation by C.J. Samson Copyright © 2008. by C.J. Samson. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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