The Devil's Door

Free The Devil's Door by Sharan Newman

Book: The Devil's Door by Sharan Newman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sharan Newman
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective
    “Parasceve,” he whispered. “I had forgotten! How could I be so full of my own persecution?” Softly, he began to chant, “Nona, qua vera lux penam finierit, subtractam lucem hanc mundo restituit … .”
    “‘At the ninth hour, when the true light ended his torment, he restored to this world the light that had been lost,’” Edgar translated. “I don’t know that hymn.”
    “It’s Father’s,” Astrolabe said. “He wrote it for the Paraclete, for Mother. He made one for almost every office of the last days of Holy Week.”
    They listened without moving until Abelard fell silent.
    “How much farther?” he asked.
    Edgar looked up. Master Abelard smiled at him. His eyes were red and his hands still shaking, but he had returned to them.
    “A couple of miles,” Astrolabe told him. “Do you feel well enough to continue?”
    “Of course. I am ashamed of myself. In my own anger over my troubles, I had forgotten the day. How can I complain of those who torment me, when I think of what Our Lord suffered at this very hour for speaking his truth?”
    He set his horse at a brisker pace. Astrolabe and Edgar soon had no breath for conversation, but neither suggested they slow down. Edgar was glad that the redness of his face could be put down to the exercise, but he was also ashamed. He had known well enough that it was Good Friday but, instead of remembering the passion and death of Christ, he had only been thinking of his own passion for Catherine. It was just as well he had decided not to become a bishop.
    They began to hear another sound, growing rapidly, that of hooves beating against the dirt road. Without warning, a party of knights galloped out of the fog, giving them no time to move out of the way. Edgar managed to hold onto the neck of Abelard’s horse as the party raced by, not even seeming to see them, but Astrolabe was thrown to the side of the road.
    Abelard rose in his stirrups. “Questres!” he shouted at them. “Fis des lisses! If you’ve no care for your own worthless necks, think of your horses!”
    Edgar ran to Astrolabe, who was trying to untangle himself from a thornbush.
    “Don’t worry,” he assured them. “Apart from scratches, I’m fine. What incredible bricons ! Who would be insane enough to ride at top speed in weather like this?”
    “Perhaps,” Abelard said, “they’ve had a divine summons and were hurrying to join the brothers of Clairvaux.”
    Astrolabe looked at his father and then at Edgar. He relaxed and then began to laugh much more than the joke allowed.
    “You’re feeling better, Father,” he said at last. “I stand rebuked. Who are we to keep the converted from hastening to their new life?”
    “That’s right, my son,” Abelard answered. “Of course, as they journey, we might piously wish that they will soon discover how the mighty may be humbled.”
    “Still,” Edgar added, “I would feel better if I knew where they were really going. There isn’t much along this road besides the Paraclete.”
    The three men looked at each other, considering Edgar’s observation. Without speaking, they started off again, even more quickly than before.

    The clapper sounded also at the Paraclete. Barefoot, the nuns headed to the oratory. But Catherine was not among them. She knelt on the hard floor of the infirmary. Her hands were raw and her nose running. She dipped the brush into the bucket again and splashed the soapy water onto the wall. The scent of death still lingered in the room despite all the scrubbing and censing.
    They had taken down all the dried flowers and herbs and put them in a brazier in the center of the room, where they were slowly burning. The smoke seared Catherine’s lungs and eyes. Kneeling beside her on the floor, Paciana rubbed at the oaken planks with her scrub brush as if attempting to cut through them. She kept her head down. Catherine had given up trying to talk with her.
    Together in silence, they wiped up the water and opened the

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