Authors: Kate Sedley
Tags: #tpl, #rt
Table of Contents
THE GOLDSMITH’S DAUGHTER
THE LAMMAS FEAST
NINE MEN DANCING
THE MIDSUMMER ROSE
THE BURGUNDIAN’S TALE
THE PRODIGAL SON
THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE
THE GREEN MAN
THE DANCE OF DEATH
WHEEL OF FATE
THE MIDSUMMER CROWN
THE TINTERN TREASURE
THE CHRISTMAS WASSAIL
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First published in Great Britain 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
595 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright © 2005 by Kate Sedley.
The right of Kate Sedley to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
The Burgundian’s Tale
1. Roger the Chapman (Fictitious character) - Fiction
2. Peddlers and peddling - England - Fiction
3. Great Britain - History - Edward IV, 1461-1483 - Fiction
4. Detective and mystery stories
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6216-7 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-9138-9 (paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0102-7 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This eBook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
t had not been a good year.
To begin with, I was neither as skilled nor as careful a lover as I had thought myself, with the result that, in the late summer of 1479, Adela found herself pregnant yet again. But although this proved a source of worry to us both, and the cause of constant reproaches from my former mother-in-law and Adela’s cousin, Margaret Walker, we were all three plunged into mourning when, the following April, the child died within four days of her birth.
Adela’s grief, however, went deeper than mine. She already had two sons: five-year-old Nicholas by her first husband, Owen Juett, and almost-two-year-old Adam by me. Our family’s only girl, Elizabeth, also five, was my child by my first wife, Lillis Walker. Adela would have liked a daughter of her own. So she unreservedly mourned the lost child, while my misery was secretly tempered by feelings of relief that, for the present at any rate, there was no sixth mouth to feed or back to clothe. But I was unable to hide my emotions well enough to deceive Adela, and as spring once more blossomed into early summer, the atmosphere between us grew increasingly strained.
To make matters worse, as a cold and rainy April turned into an even wetter, chillier May, Margaret Walker caught a rheum that settled on her chest. She needed careful nursing, and my wife repaid her cousin’s many past kindnesses by moving her from her cottage in Redcliffe into our house in Small Street, putting her to bed in Elizabeth’s chamber and shifting my daughter and a spare mattress into our room to sleep alongside us (arrangements which, however unavoidable, were not conducive to marital harmony). By mid-May, the relationship between my wife and myself was at breaking point, and I decided it was high time I took to the road again instead of peddling my wares in and around Bristol, as I had been doing now for over a year.
I informed Adela of my decision and waited for her protests. Instead, she greeted it with such obvious relief that I realized our marriage was in a more parlous state than I had imagined. Time, indeed, for me to be on my travels! The only decision left to be made was in which direction to go.
But I need not have bothered my head on the subject. As so often in the past, fate was ready and waiting to take a hand in my affairs.
I was busy in the kitchen, restocking my pack and making room for a spare shirt and pair of hose, while Adela brushed my jerkin clean of dirt and dog hairs and my children screamed and charged around the house, completely indifferent to my imminent departure.
‘You’ll have to take Hercules with you,’ my wife declared, turning her attention to my mud-caked boots. ‘I can’t cope with him and that cur of Margaret’s. They hate one another.’
‘Hardly surprising.’ I rushed to the defence of my canine friend. ‘This is Hercules’s house.’ I stared with dislike at the little black-and-white dog adopted by Margaret Walker when it had been abandoned by its former mistress, and which, for some unknown and utterly ridiculous reason, she had christened Cherub. A less cherubic-natured hound it would have been difficult to find. ‘If I take Hercules with me, in a week or two, when I return, that dog will have usurped his place.’
‘He’ll be company for you,’ Adela argued, scraping the last of the dried mud from the soles of my boots and starting to polish them with a piece of soft rag. ‘Now, who can that be?’ she added irritably as someone banged loudly on the outer door.
She went to answer the summons and returned a few moments later looking worried and followed by a sergeant-at-arms from the castle.
He saluted me and asked, ‘Roger the Chapman?’
‘I’m Roger Chapman, yes.’ I eyed the man warily. ‘Who wants to know?’
‘Your presence is required up at the castle, Master Chapman.’ He smiled in what I suppose was meant to be a reassuring way, but one which was rendered sinister by several broken and blackened front teeth. Hercules gave a threatening growl.
‘That doesn’t answer my question,’ I snapped. ‘Who requires my presence and why?’
For a moment, the sergeant-at-arms looked as though he might not pander to my curiosity; then he shrugged.
‘The King’s nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln,’ was the astonishing reply.
‘John de – Who? – What?’ I stuttered.
The man repeated the message, adding, ‘And also Master Timothy Plummer, Spymaster-General to the Duke of Gloucester and formerly to His Grace the King.’
Timothy! Things began to make a little more sense, although not much. I remembered uneasily that, the previous summer, I had thwarted certain of the spy’s deep-laid plans. But that could have nothing to do with this particular summons, surely? I sighed. There was only one way to find out.
‘Very well,’ I said. ‘Shall we get this over with?’
I kissed Adela and squeezed her hand. ‘I’ll be back. And soon.’
‘I certainly hope so.’ She looked pointedly at the sergeant. ‘You’ve done nothing wrong.’
But the expression on the rugged, weather-beaten countenance remained noncommital.
The early-morning streets were as crowded and noisy as ever, the muck-rakers getting in everyone’s way as they tried to clear the central drains of yesterday’s filth and debris – a thankless task, as people were refilling them as fast as they were emptied. Several friends and acquaintances hailed me, staring with interest at my companion, but I made no attempt to enlighten them as to what was going on. How could I? I didn’t know myself.
We crossed the bridge leading to the Barbican Gate and entered the outer ward of Bristol Castle. This presented a livelier scene than usual – a number of supercilious young men, in a livery with which I was unfamiliar, either lounging around sneering at the locals and the building’s sorry state of disrepair, or being very busy about nothing in particular. The sergeant-at-arms forced a path between them with a ruthlessness that gladdened my heart, and led me to a chamber on the ground floor of the great keep.
It was a cold, damp little room which would also have been airless but for the fact that there was a crack in one of the inner walls that I could have put my fist through. The floor oozed water from an overflowing sink-hole in one corner, and there was a general smell of decay and corruption. Days when the Bristol dungeons had housed such eminent prisoners as King Stephen and the elder Hugh le Despenser, favourite of the second Edward, had long gone, and the City Fathers were reluctant to spend money (which could be put to far better use feathering their own nests) on the unnecessary upkeep of the castle.
The room’s only furniture consisted of a table, at present bearing a flagon and a couple of mazers, and two stools, on one of which, facing the door, sat Timothy Plummer. He rose as I entered and held out his hand.
‘Roger, my friend! It’s good to see you again.’
I was immediately suspicious. Somebody once said that he feared the Greeks, even when they came offering gifts. I knew what he meant. I particularly feared Timothy Plummer when he was at his most civil and urbane. He waved me to the other stool and poured us both some wine – the best Rhenish, he assured me, rightly confident that I wouldn’t challenge him. Whatever it was, it was wine such as I hadn’t tasted in years (if ever) and far beyond my pocket. I grew even more uneasy.
‘All right, Timothy,’ I said, ‘what do you want?’
He smiled. ‘Blunt as ever! But I suppose it saves time. Just a little favour for Duke Richard, that’s all.’
‘I see … And what exactly does this little favour entail?’
He took a sip of wine and smiled again. ‘A visit to London. Nothing that will test your powers of deduction too heavily.’
‘Oh, no,’ I said firmly. ‘I’m not planning on going to London just at present, not even to please Duke Richard, dearly as I love the man.’ I wanted to get right away from the hustle and bustle of city life: I had promised myself long spring days of quiet and solitude, watching the rosy-fingered dawn come up over the distant hills, walking knee-high through the early-morning mist and listening to lark song.
Timothy seemed worryingly unperturbed by my adamant refusal.
‘A pity,’ he remarked cheerfully, pouring me more wine. ‘But I’m afraid, Roger old friend, that you have no choice. My Lord of Gloucester has requested your services and I don’t intend he should be disappointed. We leave Bristol this afternoon, so you’d better go home and pack anything you might need. A horse will be provided for you – at His Grace’s expense, of course.’
‘And how,’ I enquired coldly, ‘do you intend forcing me go with you if I refuse?’
He pushed aside his own mazer and settled forward on his stool, arms folded in front of him on the table.
‘There’s the little matter of your treasonable activities last summer,’ he pointed out, ‘helping an enemy of King Edward to escape my clutches. Oh, I know the proof is a bit thin, but I could make things very unpleasant for you, Roger, if I put my mind to it. For you
your family. If I made a few enquiries in Marsh Street among your Irish friends, for instance, I feel sure I could gather enough evidence to substantiate a case against you. At the time, I turned a blind eye to what you did because I couldn’t see there was anything to gain by charging you. Besides, I like you. We’ve been friends for years, and you’ve rendered Duke Richard good service. I’d hate to see you die a traitor’s death. Agonizingly protracted and very messy. So, you see, I feel sure you’ll be sensible and do as I ask. Or rather, as Duke Richard asks.’