The Morning Gift: A Novel of Twelfth-Century England
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A love story set in the 12th century against the turbulent background of civil war.
She was between an unstoppable compulsion and an immovable prohibition. She was in a vortex formed by Hell past and Hell future. She became brittle. There was a whirring, clicking sound as her feet began to revolve at the ankle and her arms to unscrew from their sockets. They unthreaded faster and faster so that any moment now they would fly out and drop out of the window and her trunk would fall on to the stumps of her legs and fracture into shards. Just in time the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene stepped out of the garderobe.
She teetered, unable to decide priorities. Her first love held and she homed to a pile of skins on which lay a flat, still Matilda. Berte felt her forehead and stomach and lifted her skirts to make sure she wasn't haemorrhaging. She wasn't. Berte whirled round. By the central fire lay a wicker tray on which a lump of dough was rising. Implanted into it, like a big sultana, was a naked baby boy curled up and asleep, still soapy and streaked with mucus. Berte's thick finger rested on the white plastic surface of the dough and then on the tinted flesh of the child.
I'm happy. " He was prepared for one touch of the abbot's finger to drive out his foot's ailment. So was Matilda. Three of his revealed toes were split and dark. "Snow got in it," explained the pauper cheerily, "but don't you worry about that, lord, it don't hurt now. You go ahead and cure. " The abbot turned to Brother Daniel. "Get him drunk. " "He's drunk already. " "Get him drunker. It's frostbite. " As Brother Daniel gestured to the monks in the distance, Abbot Walter turned to the beggar. "We've got to cut these toes off, my son.
Gervase of Holborn could be trusted to watch events at Oxford on her behalf. She went. Matilda looked incredulously at the little woman who greeted her into Wallingford Castle. "Maud? " She recovered her manners. "My Lady Matilda. " But Maud did not repeat the my-Lady-Matilda joke; there was no joking left in her. The unborn baby she carried might have been a succubus taking the goodness from her bones; her mouth had fallen into puckered lines and the eyes which had been lively boot-buttons stared wearily at nothing.
He had kept her waiting to see him all day in the hope that she'd go away. The richness of the chamber reminded Matilda of the old man's power and she moderated her voice. "My lord uncle" - she stressed the relationship although it was distant - "I am to be married again. " "I congratulate you. " "No, you don't. " She brought herself again under control. "My lord, I purchased your goodwill to persuade the king to let me remain in my widowed state. I understood through Osmund" - she nodded virulently to a clerk who was writing away at a desk in the corner - "that the gift of my manor of Tatton would not be displeasing to your lordship and that in exchange you would make the king agree that I marry only when and whom I pleased.