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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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Jayne thought of how anti-Catholic feeling in the country had grown with the rise of the Puritan faction in Parliament and wondered that Lady Alice was so willing to show kindness to a priest. "Was she criticized for it?"

"If she was, she paid no heed. She cares nothing for what others think as long as she believes that what she is doing is right."

Jayne watched the cart turn onto High East Street and head towards Icen Way. "Will she fight against her brother if war comes?"

"In as much as they'll be on opposing sides."

"And her son?"

"The same. He, too, is for the King."

"I find that sad."

"Do you not have the same dilemma in your own family, Mistress Swift? Your cousin's husband is for Parliament, but I've heard that your father, Sir Henry, is for the King."

His prediction that the crowd would thin once the priests were out of sight was correct. Some crept back to their homes or shops, but most followed the cart, their jeers echoing back along Icen Way as Jayne said, "You and your mistress seem to know a lot about me, William. How so?"

"Sir John spoke of you at length. The conversation piqued Lady Alice's interest and she asked me to discover what I could about you." He gave a low laugh. "I doubt she expected to make your acquaintance so easily, however. One of my tasks was to try to arrange a meeting."

"To what end?"

"You refused to align yourself with Sir John and the Royalist cause, and you treat the rural poor for free. Milady hopes that means you're on the side of Parliament and the people."

Jayne gave a surprised laugh. "Then I'll disappoint her as badly as I disappointed her brother. I support men and women who seek an end to division, not those who look to make it worse."

"Do any such exist?"

"I know of one: the doctor who trained me. He makes no distinction between political or religious beliefs and requires all who learn with him to sign a pledge to treat the sick to the best of their ability regardless of circumstance, status, or conviction. Were the King and Parliament as tolerant of difference, there would be no talk of war."

William eyed her cynically. "You're a dreamer, Mistress Swift. War will come whether you desire it or not, and neither side will accept pleas of neutrality to let you pass. Even to reach your cousin's house today, you've had to accept my help and dress as a Puritan. What would you have said if someone had challenged you?"

"The same as I told your mistress: I have urgent business at Samuel Morecott's house." She held out her hand for her satchel. "I'm quite able to gain entry on my own, William, and you will serve Lady Alice better if you follow the cart and bear witness to Hugh Green's martyrdom. She must have sympathy for him, or she wouldn't have visited him several times. He will die well, I think, and she will want to hear that from someone she trusts."

He passed her the bag. "Indeed. When your business at Mister Morecott's house is concluded—with good health for the child, I hope—will you do Milady the kindness of returning her cloak and bonnet? Her son starves her of money, and she is not so rich that she can afford to replace them."

"I can give them to you now. The road is almost bare of people, and it will take me but half a minute to reach Samuel's house."

But he was already several paces away, his ears firmly closed, seemingly intent on obliging her to return for a second visit with his formidable mistress.

As Jayne approached the Morecott house, she saw that every shutter was closed, even those at the upstairs windows. On another day, she would have assumed the house to be empty, but she knew from Ruth's letter that this couldn't be the case. Her cousin wouldn't have begged her on paper stained with tears to hasten to High East Street if she and her son were in residence elsewhere.

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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