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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
Solve this clue:
and be entered to win..
Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.
Your guide toexceptional books
BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.