16 - The Three Kings of Cologne

Free 16 - The Three Kings of Cologne by Kate Sedley

Book: 16 - The Three Kings of Cologne by Kate Sedley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Sedley
Tags: Fiction, Historical, Mystery & Detective, rt, tpl
something I suppose I had always secretly acknowledged, but considered it as yet too early in life to face up to: the difficulties, the clash of wills that inevitably arose between parents and children as they all grew older. Jonathan and Amorette Linkinhorne’s relationship with their daughter had plainly been an extreme one, but it demonstrated the depths of misunderstanding – indeed of total alienation – that could develop through selfishness and pride on the one hand, and deep-seated resentment and rebellion on the other. I knew that both Adela and I were unusual in our concerns for our offspring; that many people, including Margaret Walker, regarded us as lax preceptors because we spared the rod and, in their eyes, spoiled the child. I even worried about it myself, sometimes. And although I often, loudly and forcefully, expressed contrary views and made threats that I, and everyone else, knew I had no intention of carrying out, I doubted if Adela and I would ever reach such a state of wilful ignorance concerning our children’s doings as the Linkinhornes had with Isabella.
    Finally, there was the thought of old age itself, provided either disease or disaster failed to carry me off before my allotted three score years and ten; the expectation of diminished eyesight, impaired hearing, creaking joints and incontinence. (And although the reality hasn’t proved to be quite as bad as I had anticipated, there is still the shock of waking up each morning and realizing that my tomorrows are numbered.)
    So I crossed the Frome Bridge to the gateway feeling thoroughly despondent, glancing up at the great keep of the castle where it brooded over the town, hanging in the sun-threaded air like some fairy palace. Only it wasn’t a fairy palace, but rather a place of darkness and misery, suffering and despair. In stark contrast, from the chapel of Saint John-on-the-Arch floated the voices of children singing, a little ragged at the edges but with a heart-rending purity of sound, bringing hope and comfort and joy to everyone who heard them. The thin spring sunlight sent grey and silver shadows rippling across the surface of the water; and the small stone customs house that stood near the river reminded me of a pebble washed up by the tide.
    Edgar Capgrave was still on duty at the gate, and still arguing, this time with the stream of homeward-bound visitors who were objecting to the toll on goods being taken out of the city.
    ‘I don’t make the laws, mother!’ he was bellowing at a deaf woman with a basket of goods weighing down her frail old arms. ‘Them’s Bristol goods for Bristol people you’m squirrelling away to your hidey-hole in the country. So course you’ve got to pay a toll! It’s only right and proper.’
    ‘I’m not your mother!’ the crone screeched in reply. ‘I just wish I were! You’d feel the weight of my fist! Such incivility to a poor, defenceless old woman!’
    Once again, I left Edgar to it and went home for my supper – only to find myself faced with a domestic crisis.
    ‘The night-soil man hasn’t come today,’ was Adela’s greeting. ‘The privy’s full to overflowing. You’ll have to do something about it, Roger. We can’t have turds being trodden all over the yard.’
    ‘Turds!’ shouted Adam, beaming all over his bread-and-milk-spattered little face and waving his spoon at me.
    Wonderful! Cleaning out the privy was just what I needed before tackling my rabbit stew. But it wasn’t the first time I’d had to do the night-soil man’s job for him. He seemed to be constantly going sick. Perhaps it was genuine. Either way, who could blame him?
    When I’d finished – in the absence of the night-soil man’s horse and cart, transferring the privy contents to the street’s central drain – Adela shooed all three children upstairs while I sat naked in the old wooden tub in front of the kitchen fire and she poured pitchers of alternate cold and hot water into it until I was covered to

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