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Excerpt from The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Swift and the Harrier

by Minette Walters

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters X
The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters
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  • Published:
    Jul 2022, 500 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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Print Excerpt

"Swift, ma'am. I am daughter to Sir Henry and Lady Margaret Swift of Swyre."

"What brought you to my door?"

"Nothing, ma'am. I have urgent business in High East Street and sought shelter inside this embrasure when it became impossible to move against the press of people."

"Which house in High East Street?"

"Samuel Morecott's."

"I know Samuel. What business do you have with him?"

Jayne smiled slightly. "With respect, ma'am, that is none of your affair." She tried to pull away. "May I leave now? I have no wish to cause you further inconvenience."

"You'll inconvenience me more if you're suspected of having sympathy with priests. I was sitting at my window and saw the anger in the face of the man you jostled." She drew Jayne inside and closed the door. "It will be another hour before you can continue safely. Only servants with tasks to perform will be out on the streets once the executions begin." She led the way into a chamber to the left. "You may wait in here."

Jayne followed, wondering who the woman was. Her austere dress suggested an allegiance to the more extreme forms of Protestantism, as did her acquaintanceship with Samuel Morecott, and neither gave Jayne confidence that her reasons for rescuing a stranger off the street were benign. Perhaps loneliness was the cause. The house seemed deathly quiet after the noise outside, with nothing to suggest that anyone else lived there. Not even servants.

She dropped a respectful curtsy. "I thank you most sincerely for your kindness, ma'am, but I spoke honestly when I said my business was urgent. If you have a door at the rear of your house which opens onto a less traveled street, I would choose that."

"There's no hurry. I saw Samuel and his disciples pass this window some thirty minutes ago. If he knew of your meeting with him, he has forgotten it in the excitement of the executions."

Disciples? What a strange word to use, Jayne thought, while being grateful to learn that Samuel was already absent from home. "You asked which house I was visiting—not which person."

"I recall Samuel's wife was a Swift before they married. Do you have kinship with her?"

"Ruth is my cousin, ma'am."

"Through marriage or blood?"

"Blood." Jayne shook her head before another question could be put, finding the woman's curiosity ill-mannered. "Time is passing, ma'am. May I ask again if you have another exit?"

"I do, but you will find the same press of people on that side also. Every road leads to Gallows Hill eventually." With a slight wince, the woman lowered herself into a chair and nodded towards another at its side. "Sit and talk with me awhile. Am I right to think you're Jayne Swift, the physician, and that your cousin has called on you to help her son?"

The question discomfited Jayne because Ruth had been most insistent that the reason for her visit be kept secret. And how could someone she'd never met guess her name and profession so easily? Jayne had some small celebrity in country areas but none at all in Dorchester, where only men were accepted as medical practitioners. "No woman would claim such a title, ma'am. To do so would be fraudulent since she cannot be granted a license by a university or college."

"Few men are so honest. The town is full of quack-salvers who pretend learning and licenses they don't have. My brother praises you most highly. You treated his gout some six months back, and he's not had a recurrence since." She canted her head to one side and studied Jayne closely. "He described you very well. He said you were unusually tall for a woman, had yet to reach twenty-seven, and carried yourself with confidence."

The mask of confidence was a trick Jayne had acquired from her tutor, Doctor Theale of Bridport. You'll never win a patient's trust by looking nervous, he'd told her. School yourself to appear calm at all times, look a person in the eye when you speak to him, and do not fidget whatever the circumstances. The lesson had been learnt through five long years of training and was now second nature to her. "Does your brother have a name, ma'am?"

From The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters. Used with the permission of the publisher, Blackstone Publishing. Copyright ©2022 by Minette Walters.

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