In the summer of 1143, William of Lythwood arrives at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, but it is not a joyous occasion—he’s come back from his pilgrimage in a coffin. William’s body is accompanied by his young attendant Elave, whose mission is to secure a burial place for his master on the abbey grounds, despite William’s having once been reprimanded for heretical views.
An already difficult task is complicated when Elave drunkenly expresses his own heretical opinions, and capital charges are filed. When a violent death follows, Sheriff Hugh Beringar taps his friend Brother Cadfael for help. The mystery that unfolds grows deeper thanks to a mysterious and marvelous treasure chest in Elave’s care.
About the Author
Pargeter won an Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman, and in 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She was appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1994, and in 1999 the British Crime Writers’ Association established the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award, later called the Ellis Peters Historical Award.
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The Heretic's Apprentice
The Sixteenth Chronicle Of Brother Cadfael, Of The Benedictine Abbey Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul, At Shrewsbury
By Ellis Peters
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1989 Ellis Peters
All rights reserved.
On the nineteenth day of June, when the eminent visitor arrived, Brother Cadfael was in the abbot's garden, trimming off dead roses. It was a task Abbot Radulfus kept jealously to himself in the ordinary way, for he was proud of his roses, and valued the brief moments he could spend with them, but in three more days the house would be celebrating the anniversary of the translation of Saint Winifred to her shrine in the church, and the preparations for the annual influx of pilgrims and patrons were occupying all his time, and keeping all his obedientiaries busy into the bargain. Brother Cadfael, who had no official function, was for once allowed to take over the dead-heading in his place, the only brother privileged to be trusted with the abbatial blossoms, which must be immaculate and bright for the saint's festival, like everything else within the enclave.
This year there would be no ceremonial procession all the way from Saint Giles, at the edge of the town, as there had been two years previously, in 1141. There her relics had rested while proper preparation was made to receive them, and on the great day, Cadfael remembered, the threatened rain had fallen all around, yet never a drop had spattered her reliquary or its attendants, or doused the candles that accompanied her erect as lances, undisturbed by the wind. Small miracles following wherever Winifred passed, as flowers sprang in the footsteps of Welsh Olwen in the legend. Great miracles came more rarely, but Winifred could manifest her power where it was deserved. They had good reason to know and be glad of that, both far away in Gwytherin, the scene of her ministry, and here in Shrewsbury. This year the celebrations would remain within the enclave, but there would still be room enough for wonders, if the saint had a mind to it.
The pilgrims were already arriving for the festival, in such numbers that Cadfael hardly spared a look or an ear for the steady bustle far up the great court, round the gatehouse and the guest-hall, or the sound of hooves on the cobbles, as grooms led the horses down into the stable-yard. Brother Denis the hospitaller would have a full house to accommodate and feed, even before the festival day itself, when the townsfolk and the villagers from miles around would flood in for worship.
It was only when Prior Robert was seen to round the corner of the cloister at the briskest walk his dignity would permit, and head purposefully for the abbot's lodging, that Cadfael paused in his leisurely trimming of spent flowers to note the event, and speculate. Robert's austere long visage had the look of an angel sent on an errand of cosmic importance, and endowed with the authority of the superb being who had sent him. His silver tonsure shone in the sun of early afternoon, and his thin patrician nose probed ahead, sniffing glory.
'We have a more than ordinarily important visitor,' thought Cadfael. And he followed the prior's progress into the doorway of the abbot's lodging with interest, not greatly surprised to see the abbot himself issue forth a few minutes later, and set off up the court with Robert striding at his side. Two tall men, much of a height, the one all smooth, willowy elegance, carefully cultivated, the other all bone and sinew and hard, undemonstrative intelligence. It had been a severe blow to Prior Robert when he was passed over in favour of a stranger, to fill the vacancy left by the deposition of Abbot Heribert, but he had not given up hope. And he was durable, he might even outlive Radulfus and come into his own at last. Not, prayed Cadfael devoutly, for many years yet.
He had not long to wait before Abbot Radulfus and his visitor came down the court together, in the courteous and wary conversation of strangers measuring each other at first meeting. Here was a guest of too great and probably too private significance to be housed in the guest-hall, even among the nobility. A man almost as tall as Radulfus, and in all but the shoulders twice his width, well-fleshed and portly almost to fat, and yet it was powerful and muscular flesh, too. At first glance his was a face rounded and glossy with good living, full-lipped, full-cheeked and self-indulgent. At second glance the lips set into a formidable and intolerant strength, the fleshy chin was seen to clothe a determined jaw, and the eyes in their slightly puffy settings had nevertheless a sharp and critical intelligence. His head was uncovered, and wore the tonsure, otherwise Cadfael, who had never seen him before, would have taken him for some baron or earl of the king's court, for his clothing, but for its sombre colours of dark crimson and black, had a lordly splendour about its cut and its ornament, a long, rich gown, full-skirted but slashed almost to the waist before and behind for riding, its gold-hemmed collar open in the summer weather upon a fine linen shirt, and a gold-linked chain and cross that circled a thick, muscular throat. Doubtless there was a body-servant or a groom somewhere at hand to relieve him of the necessity of carrying cloak or baggage of any kind, even the gloves he had probably stripped off on dismounting. The pitch of his voice, heard distantly as the two prelates entered the lodging and vanished from sight, was low and measured, and yet held a suggestion of current displeasure.
In a few moments Cadfael saw the possible reason for that. A groom came down the court from the gatehouse leading two horses to the stables, a solid brown cob, most likely his own mount, and a big, handsome black beast with white stockings, richly caparisoned. No need to ask whose. The impressive harness, scarlet saddle-cloth and ornamented bridle made all plain. Two more men followed with their less decorated horseflesh in hand, and a packhorse into the bargain, well loaded. This was a cleric who did not travel without the comforts to which he was accustomed. But what might well have brought that note of measured irritation into his voice was that the black horse, the only one of the party worthy to do justice to his rider's state, if not the only one fitted to carry his weight, went lame in the left foreleg. Whatever his errand and destination, the abbot's guest would be forced to prolong his stay here for a few days, until that injury healed.
Cadfael finished his clipping and carried away the basket of fading heads into the garden, leaving the hum and activity of the great court behind. The roses had begun to bloom early, by reason of fine, warm weather. Spring rains had brought a good hay crop, and June ideal conditions for gathering it. The shearing was almost finished, and the wool dealers were reckoning up hopefully the value of their clips. Saint Winifred's modest pilgrims, coming on foot, would have dry travelling and warm lying, even out of doors. Her doing, perhaps? Cadfael could well believe that if the Welsh girl smiled, the sun would shine on the borders.
The earlier sown of the two pease fields that sloped down from the rim of the garden to the Meole brook had already ripened and been harvested, ten days of sun bringing on the pods very quickly. Brother Winfrid, a hefty, blue-eyed young giant, was busy digging in the roots to feed the soil, while the haulms, cropped with sickles, lay piled at the edge of the field, drying for fodder and bedding. The hands that wielded the spade were huge and brown, and looked as if they should have been clumsy, but in fact were as deft and delicate in handling Cadfael's precious glass vessels and brittle dried herbs as they were powerful and effective with mattock and spade.
Within the walled herb-garden the drowning sweetness hung heavy, spiced and warm. Weeds can enjoy good growing weather no less than the herbs on which they encroach, and there was always work to be done at this season. Cadfael tucked up his habit and set to work on his knees, close to the warm earth, with the heady fragrance disturbed and quivering round him like invisible wings, and the sun caressing his back.
He was still at it, though in a happy languor that made no haste, rather luxuriating in the touch of leaf and root and soil, when Hugh Beringar came looking for him two hours later. Cadfael heard the light, springy step on the gravel, and sat back on his heels to watch his friend's approach. Hugh smiled at seeing him on his knees.
'Am I in your prayers?'
'Constantly,' said Cadfael gravely. 'A man has to work at it in so stubborn a case.'
He crumbled a handful of warm, dark earth between his hands, dusted his palms, and Hugh gave him a hand to help him rise. There was a good deal more steel in the young sheriff's slight body and slender wrist than anyone would suppose. Cadfael had known him for five years only, but drawn nearer to him than to many he had rubbed shoulders with all the twenty-three years of his monastic life. 'And what are you doing here?' he demanded briskly. 'I thought you were north among your own lands, getting in the hay.'
'So I was, until yesterday. The hay's in, the shearing's done, and I've brought Aline and Giles back to the town. Just in time to be summoned to pay my respects to some grand magnate who's visiting here, and is none too pleased about it. If his horse hadn't fallen lame he'd still be on his way to Chester. Have you not a drink, Cadfael, for a thirsty man? Though why I should be parched,' he added absently, 'when he did all the talking, is more than I know.'
Cadfael had a wine of his own within the workshop, new but fit to drink. He brought a jug of it out into the sunshine, and they sat down together on the bench against the north wall of the garden, to sun themselves in unashamed idleness.
'I saw the horse,' said Cadfael. 'He'll be days yet before he's fit to take the road to Chester. I saw the man, too, if it's he the abbot made haste to welcome. By the sound of it he was not expected. If he's in haste to get to Chester he'll need a fresh horse, or more patience than I fancy he possesses.'
'Oh, he's reconciled. Radulfus may have him on his hands a week or more yet. If he made for Chester now he wouldn't find his man there, there's no haste. Earl Ranulf is on the Welsh border, fending off another raid from Gwynedd. Owain will keep him busy a while.'
'And who is this cleric on his way to Chester?' asked Cadfael curiously. 'And what did he want with you?'
'Well, being frustrated himself – until I told him there was no hurry, for the earl was away riding his borders – he had a mind to be as busy a nuisance to all about him as possible. Send for the sheriff, at least exact the reverence due! But there is a grain of purpose in it, too. He wanted whatever information I had about the whereabouts and intentions of Owain Gwynedd, and especially he wished to know how big a threat our Welsh prince is being to Earl Ranulf, how glad the earl might be to have some help in the matter, and how willing he might be to pay for it in kind.'
'In the king's interests,' Cadfael deduced, after a moment of frowning thought. 'Is he one of Bishop Henry's familiars, then?'
'Not he! Stephen's making wise use of the archbishop for once, instead of his brother of Winchester. Henry's busy elsewhere. No, your guest is one Gerbert, of the Augustinian canons of Canterbury, a big man in the household of Archbishop Theobald. His errand is to make a cautious gesture of peace and goodwill to Earl Ranulf, whose loyalty – to Stephen's or any side! – is never better than shaky, but might be secured – or Stephen hopes it might! – on terms of mutual gain. You give me full and fair support there in the north, and I'll help you hold off Owain Gwynedd and his Welshmen. Stronger together than apart!'
Cadfael's bushy eyebrows were arched towards his grizzled tonsure. 'What, when Ranulf is still holding Lincoln castle, in Stephen's despite? Yes, and other royal castles he holds illegally? Has Stephen shut his eyes to that fashion of support and friendship?'
'Stephen has forgotten nothing. But he's willing to dissemble if it will keep Ranulf quiet and complacent for a few months. There's more than one unchancy ally getting too big for his boots,' said Hugh. 'I fancy Stephen has it in mind to deal with one at a time, and there's one at least is a bigger threat than Ranulf of Chester. He'll get his due, all in good time, but there's one Stephen has more against than a few purloined castles, and it's worth buying Chester's complacence until Essex is dealt with.'
'You sound certain of what's in the king's mind,' said Cadfael mildly.
'As good as certain, yes. I saw how the man bore himself at court, last Christmas. A stranger might have doubted which among us was the king. Easy going Stephen may be, meek he is not. And there were rumours that the earl of Essex was bargaining again with the empress while she was in Oxford, but changed his mind when the siege went against her. He's been back and forth between the two of them times enough already. I think he's near the end of his rope.'
'And Ranulf is to be placated until his fellow-earl has been dealt with.' Cadfael rubbed dubiously at his blunt brown nose, and thought that over for a moment in silence. 'That seems to me more like the bishop of Winchester's way of thinking than King Stephen's,' he said warily.
'So it may be. And perhaps that's why the king is using one of Canterbury's household for this errand, and not Winchester's. Who's to suspect any motion of Henry's mind could be lurking behind Archbishop Theobald's hand? There isn't a man in the policies of king or empress who doesn't know how little love's lost between the two.'
Cadfael could not well deny the truth of that. The enmity dated back five years, to the time when the archbishopric of Canterbury had been vacant, after William of Corbeil's death, and King Stephen's younger brother, Henry, had cherished confident pretensions to the office, which he certainly regarded as no more than his due. His disappointment was acute when Pope Innocent gave the appointment instead to Theobald of Bec, and Henry made his displeasure so clear and the influence he could bring to bear so obvious that Innocent, either in a genuine wish to recognise his undoubted ability, or in pure exasperation and malice, had given him, by way of consolation, the papal legateship in England, thus making him in fact superior to the archbishop, a measure hardly calculated to endear either of them to the other. Five years of dignified but fierce contention had banked the fires. No, no suspect earl approached by an intimate of Theobald's was likely to look behind the proposition for any trace of Henry of Winchester's devious manipulations.
'Well,' allowed Cadfael cautiously, 'it may suit Ranulf to be civil, seeing his hands are full with the Welsh of Gwynedd. Though what Stephen can offer him by way of help is hard to see.'
'Nothing,' agreed Hugh with a short bark of laughter, 'and Ranulf will know that as well as we do. Nothing but his forbearance, but that will be worth welcoming, in the circumstances. Oh, they'll understand each other well enough, and no trust on either side, but either one of them will see that the other will keep to his part for the present, out of self-interest. An agreement to put off contention to a more convenient time is better at this moment than no agreement at all, and the need to look over a shoulder every hour or so. Ranulf can give all his mind to Owain Gwynedd, and Stephen can give all his to the matter of Geoffrey de Mandeville in Essex.'
'And in the meantime we must entertain Canon Gerbert until his horse is fit to bear him.'
'And his body-servant and his two grooms, and one of Bishop de Clinton's deacons, lent as his guide here through the diocese. A meek little fellow called Serlo, who goes in trembling awe of the man. I doubt if he'd ever heard of Saint Winifred, for that matter – Gerbert, I mean, not Serlo – but he'll be wanting to direct her festival for you, now that he's halted here.'
'He had that look about him,' Cadfael admitted. 'And what have you told him about the small matter of Owain Gwynedd?'
'The truth, if not the whole truth. That Owain is able to keep Ranulf so busy on his own border that he'll have no time to make trouble elsewhere. No need to make any real concessions to keep him quiet, but sweet talk can do no harm.'
'And no need to mention that you have an arrangement with Owain,' agreed Cadfael placidly, 'to leave us alone here, and keep the earl of Chester off your back. It may not restore any of Stephen's purloined castles in the north, but at least it keeps the earl's greedy hands off any more of them. And what's the news from the west? This uneasy quietness down there in Gloucester's country has me wondering what's afoot. Have you any word of what he's up to?'
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Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A young pilgrim arrives in the town bearing a box containing the dowry for the young man's master's daughter. No one looks in the box to see what it contains to await the arrival of the master of the house. The young pilgrim is soon charged with heresy and when his accuser is found murdered, is also charged with that crime. Brother Cadfeal has to use his wits to unravel the charges and help the young man claim his bride.
Substance: As with all of the later books in the series, the mystery is fairly given, the young people are charming, and the romance is sweet. Notable mostly for clear (and sympathetic) statements about the "heretical" view of the doctrines of original sin, infant baptism, and the trinity (depressing, unfair, and inherently confusing). Features the Patripassion heresy, which follows most logically the "truth" of consubstantiation.NOTES: p. 163: why twelfth-century heretic hunters hated each other.
I would venture that this is the most theological of Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael series as we learn of some early disputations on the thorny issues of predestination vs free will, the fate of unbaptized babies, the nature of the trinity and the doctrine of grace vs good works as a means of salvation. We have Elave, a young man from the town of Shrewsbury who is back home from accompanying his now dead master on a pilgrimage to Palestine. During this seven year adventure, the master shares with his young companion his thoughts on these contentious issues many of which were at odds with orthodox Catholic doctrine. Elave, with more spunk than wisdom, gives vent to his theological doubts and ends up in custody to be tried as a heretic. The murder of a family member further complicates his case but brings Brother Cadfael from the Abbey with his array of detection skills into the picture. Cadfael, along with the competent sheriff of the shire, Hugh Beringer, untangles the unhappy basis for heretical accusations and murder. The rigidity of the writings of St. Augustine and early church doctrine divides theologian and lay alike into two camps. Cadfael's position represents the more moderate view, "Nor could he accept that the number of those predestined to salvation was fixed, limited and immutable, as Augustine proclaimed, nor indeed that the fate of any man was sealed and hopeless from his birth, or why not throw away all regard for others and rob and murder and lay waste, and indulge every anarchic appetite in this world, having nothing beyond to look forward to?" The other side professed that Catholic doctrine must not give an inch and be vigorously defended to keep the church from sure fragmentation. All of this anguished wrangling transpires within the rhythm of medieval life in town and Abbey so well described by an author who is a master of character development and medieval culture. A gentle love story threads its way through the violence and bitterness to give the expected and welcome mellow ending.
As i read these I want to be able to be transported away to the period and feel the depth and richness that it has to offer. Here Peters has done so. We get from the Heretic's Apprentice a great deal of the church, both it's politics and workings and the philosophy that was prevalent at the time.The mystery of course is paramount and the outcome, a happy ending is clear as Peters seems to unite some couple in love in each of these stories, but what is not clear as has been so these last few books is the culprit. Not only do we find a story that takes a complex turn as it delves into heresy, a very real proposition of the time, but we find a mystery having a complex twist to it also.This twist is the redemption of so many of the previous adventures. Though there is no herbology involved, Cadfael the investigator, the man who is always near the center to momentous events once again helps solve the mystery and brings about our happy ending. Here is a mystery worthwhile.
The usual formula, but always a delight. I am nearing the end of this series...sadly.
I have read this before, but I intend to read all of the Cadfael books repeatedly, they are excellent, and my memory doesn't seem to retain who the bad guy/gal is, so the mystery is always fresh.This story deals with the subject of heresy in the 1100s, England. An issue that was beginning to heat up. I enjoy the characters thoughts as they work through the issues at stake. Of course, the mystery adds suspense and excitement.
A young man brings his former master to the Abbey for burial, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He soon finds himself in trouble, for having views that don't follow the Catholic party line. When a member of his master's household is found murdered, he is also held accountable for that.