Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 7 - Wolf Wood, page 1 of 3)

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Harald Gascoigne grabbed his son's horse. William was standing in his stirrups and looked ready to take on the world. His brother, Guy, said that was a natural reaction to injury. Some force propelled you to take an aggressive stance.

'We're back!'

The boy yelled at the top of his voice and Harald tried to calm him.

'Sister Alice told you to stay quiet.'

At the mention of Alice's name, William sank back.

'Sorry. I forgot.' He turned to Harald. 'She is a beautiful lady. I think my mother was like her.'

'She was indeed.' Harald grasped the boy's hand and lied. 'Your mother was beautiful and caring.'


He heard his mother's voice and saw her descending the stairway that ran down the outside of the old house from her private suite of rooms. She rushed to William's side.

'Godfrey said you'd been hurt. He said you fell off a wall.'

'I fell of a pulpitum.'

'A what?'

'A pulpitum, Grandmother. It's part of the abbey. But I'm all right now. Sister Alice stitched me back and I'm going to Dorchester to get my arm checked out. It's my sword arm so it's important it gets done properly or I won't be able to go to France with Grandfather and Uncle Guy …'

William babbled on and Harald led the horses to the stable. The yard squelched under his feet. Piles of hay lay about, wasting in the rain. He took his seeing glasses from their pouch and looked around disapprovingly.

After only three days' absence the signs of neglect were everywhere. When the cat's away the mice do play. He muttered under his breath and headed for the hall. Half-a-dozen young men were lounging about half-dressed ... and they had a girl with them.

'Who are you?'

He strode in and bellowed at her.

'I'm the new serving maid, Sire.'

The young woman dropped a bundle of clothes and shuffled backwards.

'No, you're not. I've never seen you before.' Harald pointed his riding crop at the door. 'Get out. Go back to where you belong.'

He turned on the boys.

'Get to work.'

The girl scuttled off and the boys followed her into the yard. Harald walked around, peering behind partitions and turning over bedding to see if there were anymore girls hiding there. The place smelt as if an army had passed through. Scraps of bread littered the floor. The table was sticky with beer and garments were strewn everywhere. He looked for items of female attire and found none.

The contrast with John Baret's house couldn't be more striking. John had chimneys and his servants kept the place clean. Harald's father believed chimneys were for weaklings. Real men warmed themselves by an open fire. There was one burning at the end of the hall, adding to the grime. The wood was damp and a cloud of smoke billowed above it, blackening the wall before escaping through a louvered turret in the roof.

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