Gisborne . . .

I lapsed into quiet on the stone bench in the Infirmary Garden after my telling, with still more yet to go.  Mother Beatrice played with her rosary beads, the clicking a quiet counterpoint to the birds that filled the almond and fig trees.  ‘Reverend Mother, it was a short time but makes a long story and one I am not sure I can . . .’

‘I would not have you upset, my child.  I would like to know your connection with Sir Guy as I can see it turns you awry even now but perhaps it is not the time.  Perhaps now you need to decide if you shall return to the manor, or whether you shall proceed on your way.  I can give you coin to get you to the next town if you wish, but there are just two things I would say.’  I watched her fingers press hard on the beads.  ‘You have told me truths today.  And whilst I realize there is a lot more to tell, I owe you more of the story I related.’  She stood and began to pace back and forth, her robes swishing, her crucifix swaying as she flung herself about to walk back.  ‘I was  . . . expeditious with the truth for which I must ask God and yourself for forgiveness, but it seemed to me that you disliked the man unjustly and I sought to remedy that.

'He was every bit as dark as the rumour . . . '

What I should have explained was that when he and Vasey arrived, he was every bit as dark as the rumour that hangs about him now.  I could barely speak to him, so disgusting did I find him.’

My heart began its freeze again.  Sometimes I wondered if such a thing could cause it to stop in mid-beat.  I had thought when I left my home that my heart would never know warmth again and when it began its thaw earlier, I reveled in the feeling.  Now I despaired – as if my life stretched before me as a dank and muddy road, with nary a sunbeam in sight.  ‘And what changed?’ I dared to ask.  ‘What made him become a champion of the common man?’

'What made him become a champion of the common man . . .'

Beatrice sat down again and took my hands.  ‘I do not know.  God knows I wish I did so that I could tell you.  But now that I have heard the early part of your story, I wonder if there is a connection.’

‘I doubt it.  I have not seen Gisborne in ten years, Reverend Mother.’

‘Ten years is not a long time at your age, my child.  Do you know what he did after you and he parted?’

I knew where he had gone, of course.  And I could imagine that he would have returned a changed man.  That he returned at all is a miracle.

‘I have no idea,’ I lied, may God forgive me.

‘Do you think he recognises you?’  Beatrice enquired.

I could not help the bitterness in my reply.  ‘I am different now.  With this,’ I pointed to my head, ‘ I am very different.  And in truth I have been at pains to change my voice as well.’

‘Would it really matter if he remembered?  It might be what God wants for you both.’

I gave a small laugh, a bitter sound.  That Gisborne must not know me was an imperative and I knew I must leave as soon as I could.  ‘Reverend Mother, it is not what I want.’  The bell for  Prime tolled.  ‘I must get back to the manor.  Mother Beatrice, I would speak with you again before I leave.  May I see you on the morrow?  It will be after  Nones, I think.

‘Of course, dear Pr . . .’ she stopped and corrected herself.  ‘Ysabel.  I think we have much more to say.  But can I ask you to go back to the manor with an open mind and an open heart?’

I smiled.  ‘An open mind, Reverend Mother.  But not an open heart.’

The time for an open heart ended ten years ago, but I would not say that to her and I wished only to find my way out of England and into Wales.  I knelt and kissed Beatrice’s ring and felt her hand on my head.

‘Go in peace, child and God bless you.  I shall see you anon.’