Belaset's Daughter - By Feona J Hamilton Page 0,1

of her small, neat figure hurrying towards him across the courtyard. He bent to kiss her cheek in greeting, a courtesy which she returned with equal pleasure, laughing as she did so. The kestrel flapped its wings menacingly and Madeleine de Tourney stepped back swiftly.

"You had best settle that winged weapon, Jervis, before we talk. I’ll be waiting for you in my rooms Joan will admit you when you knock," she said.

"In as few minutes as possible," he promised.

Madeleine turned and crossed the courtyard again, to re-enter the castle. She was conscious of Jervis’s admiring eyes following her and smiled to herself, then sighed impatiently. He was a boy, still, not yet twenty, and she a married woman of twenty-five! Foolish to even think of anything more than friendship between them. And there was her husband, however little she may see of him, involved as he was with the present situation! Even that obsession would not blind Roger de Tourney to any straying by his wife. At least here, in Lewes castle, they were together under the same roof, with the de Warenne family and Jervis.

Did Alice de Warenne feel as she herself did, she wondered? Dare she ask if Alice thought that King Henry was right or wrong in his refusal to propitiate Simon de Montfort and his followers? She had puzzled over the problem herself for hours. The King was King by divine right, and all his subjects owed him their allegiance so she had been taught. But what if he did not rule wisely, or took no notice of agreements made by his predecessors? What if de Montfort, with his insistence on the right of the barons to have some say in the ruling of the country was right? De Montfort claimed that the great charter signed by King John gave him and his fellow barons that right: Henry claimed that it was his right alone, as the lawfully crowned King of England. Madeleine had a suspicion that de Montfort would not make claims which he could not substantiate and the King’s famous temper had alienated the two men, despite their being brothers-in-law.

It was a subject which fascinated Madeleine, but finding anyone with whom to discuss it was difficult. Her husband, when she had broached it, had roared with laughter, and told BOSON BOOKS

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Belaset’s Daughter

her to concentrate on her own interests, and not to try to understand men s talk. She felt her temper rise even now, at the thought of it.

It would take courage to ask such questions, unless you were more or less sure of the response. However well you knew someone, could you really trust them not to betray you, if you mistook their allegiance? The most idle speculation about the correctness of Henry’s decisions could lead to accusations of treason and death.

She shivered nervously, and glanced behind her, but no-one had followed her across the great hall and up the stone steps spiralling their way up inside the tower to the next floor.

She reached her chambers with relief and smiled as she saw the matronly figure of Joan leaning across the bed, smoothing the heavy fur which lay across it.

"Joan," she said, laughing. "You are almost as wide as the bed is long!"

Her servant stood upright, with some difficulty, and turned. She was a woman of forty or more, her light brown hair now showing some white, stout but comely, and pink in the face from bending. She had been Madeleine’s nurse and, as the years had passed, had become her servant and confidante. Now, she placed her hands on her hips and looked indignantly at her young mistress.

"I should not need to take so ungainly a position if the servants here took their duties seriously!" she said. "Who would think that I would have to spend time tidying your room and making the bed again, after they had gone on their carefree way!"

Madeleine tried to look sympathetic and serious, but failed. Smiling, she caught Joan’s sleeve.

"I have just met Jervis FitzHugh in the courtyard with his kestrel, of course!" she said.

Joan looked at her shrewdly.

"You are very interested in that young man, Madeleine," she said.

Madeleine felt her face grow hot, but shrugged in what she hoped was a off-handed manner.

"No I’m not!" she said. "But why shouldn’t I feel flattered when such a

handsome

young man is so admiring?"

"And make sure that it remains only flattering," said Joan, wagging a stubby finger.

"Oh, Joan!" said Madeleine. "He is a boy still I am a woman

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