Continued from yesterday.
"Oh, please Lawrence, don't ask! I can't tell you. Please, please don't ask!" the Queen begged her husband.
Lawrence looked at her in horror. "Oh, Jo, Jo! Anything else and I would let thee keep thy secret, but, nay, nay! Not this! In God's name, I beseech thee!"
She shook her head and tried to run away, but he forced her to look straight into his eyes. In this fury he could not pity her for her fright.
"I demand thee tell me!!" he shouted.
Slowly, between anguished sobs, she told him that man and his brother had stolen her away and beaten her. She would not tell him of the blackmail that the one had forced on her. She told him that the man had also killed his bother.
Lawrence sat beside her, shocked. It had never occurred to him that anyone could possibly not lover, and even more impossible was that anyone could hate her. He drew her to his chest, mindful of the horrible wounds which covered her. With gasp and a sob, he asked weakly, "But why? Why?"
Josephine almost screamed the words, "They were Lanimere's brothers!"
She felt him tremble and it seemed to him that his heard had dropped to the stone floor from out of his chest. He buried his face in her neck and tried not to weep.
"Jo, Jo! I was afraid, and I was right! Oh God, what have I done! I brought this on ye!" But he suddenly sat up. "Who! What did he look like? Not now, lie down. I'll send for some salve…No one will know, just yet, don't worry! I'll send Clancy."
In a few moments, Josephine was lying face done on the bed, while Lawrence knelt beside the bed. He rubbed on the salve gently and it was soothing. Soon the pain was eased and it hurt only a little. The king blew out the candle and went to lie beside her. He kissed her lightly all over her tear-stained face, and she fell asleep while he caressed her as a parent caress and injured child.
The next morning Lawrence was up and dressed before the Queen awoke. He would not let her rise, tho'. She pleaded with him. Finally, she gave in. He hand promised to stay with her as much as possible.
Jocelyn presently came with Tavish. While Lawrence stared, Jocelyn gave Tavish to the Queen, who began to nurse him. After Jocelyn left, he went from where he was standing by the window, to her side, and looked for a moment at his child, and then to his wife. He felt the love she knew for him when she nursed the child, the result of the same thing that had caused her this pain. Tho' her look was tender, he knew she was yet very much in pain. He kissed her, feebly trying to make up for it.
During the morning he had her describe the man who had beaten her. He wanted to capture the man and put him to death. Jo beseeched him not to let his anger interfere with reason. She hated the man, too, but did not want bloodshed even more.
The man was caught in an alehouse to far from Rathenwood. For the first time Josephine saw that her gentle husband could be truly merciless. The man was put into the deepest cell of the dungeon and chained.
The wounds did not heal quickly. In a week she could rise, thou', and the trial was held. The King knew it would be painful for Jo to face all the pitying faces, and worse to face the man…but Saxon law required she be present.
The trail wasn't long. He was proclaimed guilty in a few minutes. The man sat quietly through most of it, but when Lawrence was going to set a sentence, he rose and demanded to be heard. Time was granted, and he turned to the Queen evilly. She trembled and turned ghastly white.
The man began to talk. He told how he had send Shannon kissing, and gave complete description of what he thought had been going on. At the table Shannon turned red and then white, listening to the lies. Jo saw it and the looked at each other, helpless, and then at the King. He sat expressionless.
At the end of the man's story the King stated at the Queen, an then got up.
While the people in the room waited, breathless, Lawrence walked over to the man. Suddenly a fury came into his eyes and he slapped the man with all high might. Lawrence was a gentle man, and never showed his strength. But his power showed as the mans was knocked down hard upon the floor. No other man could have struck such a blow.
"God, dost thou think I could believe thee?" Lawrence's face was red, and his eyes showed both anger and surprise, along with the sadness which hand never left them for several years.
"To actually think that I could believe such a thing of my wife…"
"But she has been unfaithful before…" the man broke in.
Lawrence smiled. "Aye, but maybe though Knowest it not She was not with me at the time! As thou can see, I trust her entirely. To think also that he (the King indicated Shannon) could be par amours with Josephine is insane!"
The man broke in again, "The Queen didn't think so! Aye, wot wit her payin' me an' all!"
This startled Lawrence, and he gave the Queen a humbled look.
"Nay…she is not guilty of treason…" he said slowly, but his mind was not there. He continued, " I will proclaim sentence, but I will have a word with ye on the morrow," and he added "about thy sister."
The room became suddenly still. In spite of the reproachful glances of those about him, Shannon rose and kneeled beside the Queen, to hold her hand.
Two weeks from today, which will be…the 19th," the King began, "you shall die, by beating."
The room became astir with comments. Some were surprised at, some pleased with, his decision. He went to the Queen and took her hand tenderly.
"Come, my love; the day was long."
Tomorrow: The Night After the Trial of Lanimere's Brothers
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Old Stories: The Trial of Lanimere's Brothers
Continued from yesterday.