Scene from The Luck of Two Magpies. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any text without the author’s approval.
What accursed bad luck, William thought. One week to the day of his wedding and who should arrive but the Archdeacon of Northumbria, Father Justin Edward Arthur John Beaufort, that was who. With Cletus gone, William had expected another of the Archdeacon’s minions to come to do his dirty work, certainly not the man himself. Welladay, what would you expect from a bastard son? One as political as was his father, Duke Lancaster. Bah. All of Lancaster’s sons were political animals. How could they not be, with the blood of kings flowing in their veins? Why, backstabbing, spying and conniving was but second-nature to them.
William crossed the upper end of the garden, headed for the house.
Imagine, stopping at Monsignor’s manse first to snub William. And having his own priest summon him as if he were a petitioner. Curse him for the fool! He should have been ready for this. After all, Beaufort was as clever as William, and the parallels did not end there. They were both Oxford-educated. Both men had their fathers’ guidance and insight and made good use of it. In this Beaufort was the luckier man. His father yet lived. Aye, the Archdeacon was on his short list of dangerous men, and when he added the man’s appetite for ambition to his other endowments, the bastard priest was second only to the king.
If he could have played this game with one of Beaufort’s agents, he would have more time to make his decisions, for as yet, William was waiting, watching. There was no telling what havoc Lancaster or King Richard or the King’s spy Beaufort might wreak—not yet. Doubtless, that spy-dressed-in-deacon’s robes was parading up his allée at this very moment, William thought as he stepped over the woodroom sill, adjusting his stride. No sense in appearing rushed.
Of course, Beaufort’s presence could work in William’s favor. Seeing the Archdeacon face to face would give William the opportunity to measure the man’s true metal, observe him thinking, plotting through those ghostly eyes of his. Aye, this might benefit him.
And he needed all the advantage he could gain, for if ever there was evidence of the devil’s tricks, it was in the Archdeacon of Northumbria. To think on it, the entire royal family were devils. Growing up princes, privilege had only taught them to connive better. And yet royal blood was no guarantee of a saving grace. Did not King Richard banish his cousin Henry Hereford? It was only Lancaster’s power kept the King from settling permanent banishment or death on him.
William shut his library door in passing. No need to open his books to Beaufort, he thought, at once wondering what the Archdeacon’s ledgers looked like, filled with the King’s taxes, grants from his father, his spy reports. He nodded at the front door porter and stood beneath the lintel.
A wealthy bastard priest. What must God think?
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