Gisborne . . .
He remembers. He knows and remembers everything. I hurried against the tide of food servitors through the kitchens and outside. I could not stay. My freedom was at stake and I had fought for it savagely and would not give in. I found the door I knew gave onto the tower that housed the stairwell and opened it to slip through, hurrying up to the little chamber. In minutes I had packed my small possessions, my mother’s comb, a bracelet . . . a piece of jewelry that reminded me of the best days of my life, and a tiny book of hours, almost miniature, that had been my mother’s. I wrapped them in the old kirtle and chemise together with the cloths and spare chemise. Guy’s coin I secreted down my front, tied on my waist under my clothes and I flung a cloak over the lot.
The noise from the Hall was louder and musicians had begun to play. It suited my needs, giving me cover to escape to the stable where the old mare waited. Yes, I would be stealing, but I had to put my faith in something and it was that Guy would not divulge my crime because the Nightwatchman that he had become would allow me to escape, just the way Owen Millington and many others had.
The mare was equable and friendly, alert to the fact that she was at last to leave the stables and journey forth. I mounted astride, the kirtle hitched high, the cloak maintaining decorum and within minutes we were at the gate of the yard, the guard circling like an animal in rut. His hands reached for the reins and his voice was thick with grog and ill manners.
‘What’s a pretty lass like you think you’re doin’?’
‘Let me through. Lady Demaze has been taken ill. She has begun her labour pains and I am to fetch the wortwyf.’ (*midwife)
‘Huh, that old witch! Better to fetch the butcher.’
‘I’m sure I will have to if you don’t let me through and on your head be it. Sir Guy, the Sheriff and Prince John himself will be livid if their favourite damsel loses her child. And I shall watch your punishment with interest. Open the gate.’
I knew Lady Demaze was pregnant, the servants had mentioned it, but not anywhere near as pregnant as I portrayed. But it suited me to lie and the brute looked suitably crushed by the mention of his superiors, heaving the gate open. I dug my heels into the mare and we cantered down the road, heading toward the Abbey.
The portress opened the main gate for the mare and myself and I stabled the horse in the Abbeys’ barn. It was almost Compline and the sisters had moved to the chapel early for quiet meditation, so the portress lit my way along the cloisters to the Reverend Mother’s chamber. I could not sit and whilst I knew Beatrice would finish the devotion before she attended to my more temporal needs, I paced back and forth, my hand worrying at my forehead and then down my cheek. Guy’s fingers. Oh yes, I could feel them and part of me longed to go back, to ask for his forgiveness. But to return was to risk discovery on a grand scale and certain death by the hand of De Courcey and Prince John. Never. I sank onto a coffer by the fire and stared into the flames, lost in memories . . .
The next day in our journey, I noticed that Guy had changed the formation of our troupe. He placed two men at arms in the front, two on either side of Marais and myself, and he brought up the rear with two more men. I looked back at him but he avoided my glance as he gave the order to move out.
What had I done wrong the night before? I recalled smiling at him as it grew dark, but I don’t recall that I was unlady-like or false in my behaviour. And yet now he avoided me as if I were plague-ridden. And I couldn’t even see him as he rode behind. I knew he would be watching me, how could he not when our horses were practically nose to rump, but I did not behave badly. I remained quiet and only spoke intermittently to Marais. I could barely manage the next two days which proved long and tiresome. I was sick of my own company, let alone that of Marais who whinged about her homesickness. How tantalising had been the brief foray into the arts with Guy, the sharing of likes and interests. Now I just had the whining of my maidservant in my ear like the drone of a mosquito in the middle of a hot summer’s night. I knew instantly that I must rid myself of her when we reached the coast. Marais belonged at Montrachet, she would moulder and whither in the dampness of the fens and the shade of the Moncrieff forests. I would ask Guy to arrange safe return for her and continue un-chaperoned. As I thought that, I could imagine his carved face reacting with a downturn of his mouth and a chilling of his blue eyes.
He had a way of expressing himself strongly and yet barely moving a muscle. Mostly with disapprobation. I longed to see what he did when he approved of anything that I might do.
But all this time alone with my thoughts, for I had effectively shut out Marais, was not conducive to a contented frame of mind and I realised I should be thinking more about my father and about Moncrieff and even being mindful of the countryside through which we passed.
But the truth is I wanted to talk to Guy of Gisborne.
I wanted to find out his history, what made him the competent, self-assured man he was. And it seemed to me that would require some winsome manipulation on my part.