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В последующие месяцы отец Мартин и сестра Кэтрин продолжали вместе заниматься греческим

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В следующие месяцы отец Мартин и сестра Кэтрин продолжали заниматься греческим. Они так же делили между собой обязанности по уходу за больными в приходе. Святой отец и сестра Кэтрин так сработались, что им казалось, будто они работают на пару уже долгие годы. Сестра Кэтрин позабыла о том, что когда то испытывала к этому человеку жалость. Отец Мартин и в изгнании сохранил тягу к знаниям. И для того, кто страстно желал чему-то научиться, он был великолепным компаньоном. Отец Мартин позволил уйти в небытие своим воспоминаниям о человеческой подлости и нездоровых амбициях. Они оказались скрыты под ежедневными проблемами урожая, детей и погоды. Всю свою страсть он направил на учебу и таинства лекарского ремесла. Отец Мартин и сестра Кэтрин настолько привыкли к ежедневной совместной работе, что день казался им неполным, не встреться они, чтобы обменяться слухами, шутками и мнениями.
В праздник Святого Данстана сестра Кэтрин собиралась второй раз отправиться за город за дикими травами и другими полезными растениями. Когда она впервые ходила к реке, отец Мартин был занят приготовлениями к Пасхе. На этот раз, его полностью заняли церковная подготовка к Троице и приготовления к летним гуляниям.
- Зачем ты планируешь свои походы на то время, когда я не могу пойти вместе с тобой? Боишься, что я превзойду тебя в настаивании снадобий и лекарств? - поддразнил ее отец Мартин.
- Я же не управляю погодой, а именно от погоды зависит, выросли ли те растения, что мне нужны. Завтра будет отличный день для сбора живокости, а мне она как раз нужна.
- Надеюсь, что мои будущие пациенты поймут меня, если я смогу предложить им лекарства только из того, что соберу в середине лета и осенью.
- Не говори ерунды, весна приходит каждый год - напомнила она ему, помахав на прощание, стоя в воротах монастыря в канун праздника Святого Данстана.
На рассвете подул легкий ветерок и небо заалело. Сестра Кэтрин надела старую льняную рубашку и голубой шерстяной кафтан который ей подарила жена... Грязь, которую она собирала в своих путешествиях невозможно было отчистить без стирки, а шерстяные вещи было очень сложно стирать. Тем более, что в этой старой одежде было прохладнее. Завязки кафтана можно было ослабить, а рубашку расстегнуть у горла. Она обернула голову белой льняной вуалью и направилась в свою мастерскую, чтобы захватить корзины. Сестра Кэтрин выбрала три самые большие и пошла в трапезную. Надо было взять хлеба и сыра себе и Юному Мэтью.
When she stepped outside she found him preparing to clean the stables. He looked at her and his expression showed great disappointment very plainly.
"Oh, Sister Catherine, I forgot. I was trying to get my duties done early so Johanna can work on my Summer King costume for next week."
Sister Catherine knew her face must mirror his disappointed expression. She also knew she couldn't insist on her own schedule against his chance to reign as Summer King, in an outfit more magnificent than anything else he would ever wear.
"It looks as though I'll be working harder than I expected today. Since I'll be doing all the carrying, I'll have to be especially careful to choose only the best plants. You'll be a gay and handsome King, Matthew. I wouldn't deprive myself of the sight of you dressed in one of Johanna's creations by making you come with me now."
He grinned his relief and offered to return the bigger baskets to her workroom. She accepted his offer and set off alone down the lane that went through the plowed fields west of the town.
The day thrilled with bird song--cuckoo and lark celebrating the sunrise. The scent of fresh green growing things filled the air. Sister Catherine enjoyed the warmth and sunlight the more for thinking of the cold damp winter that had preceded it.
Half an hour brought her to the place where the lane curved south, away from the marshes. This is where she left it and forged her own path in the direction of the river, which was bordered to the west with thick forest. She found marsh marigold with its tiny yellow flowers just opened up to the sun. Farther on she spotted the fuzzy pinkish white blossoms of the bogbean. Within the next two hours she had worked her way to the riverbank, and started east toward the trees. She knew from last year of a good place for comfrey in a bend of the river. The sun was high by now, and she was grateful for the deep shade of the trees.
Sister Catherine was scanning the riverbank for the lavender, bell-shaped blossoms of the comfrey plant when she walked into a clearing where a huge man in chain mail was relieving himself against a tree. He saw her simultaneously and turned to her without bothering to pull up his breeches.
"I'll bet you've never seen one this big, have you?" he challenged.
As her mother's helper at sickbeds Sister Catherine had actually seen many men naked, and in spite of his general size this man had nothing special. It did not occur to her to voice this retort. Interior warning bells were deafening her with their clamor. She dropped her basket and turned to run. With the advantage of her lighter weight clothes and shoes against his mail and boots, she might have escaped if he had been alone. His companion suddenly stepped into her path. The large soldier barked "Grab her, Con!" and Con hooked his arm around her throat. She kicked back at his legs, but inflicted little damage with her soft shoes. He tightened his hold until kicking and screaming were both impossible.
"Give her here, Con. I saw her first."
"Yeah, but I snagged her, Tom."
Tom had pulled out a knife, which he held against her neck under her ear. His arm replaced Con's around her throat.
"No screaming, right little cat? Your blood can be all over the ground here in the less than a minute with one pull across."
He kicked the basket half-filled with herbs down the river bank, and began pulling her back deeper into the forest.
Father Martin also rose at dawn. He wasn't going to enjoy the weather in the countryside. He was going to assist the town guild members in erecting a temporary platform in the town center for the performance of the Whitsunday Miracle Plays. Then he was supposed to sit with the apprentices of all the craftsmen and write down the lyrics they would make up for songs to be sung around the maypole. Father Walter had warned him he would have to edit their efforts ruthlessly. They would create lyrics as personal and as bawdy as they could get away with. More than once the maypole dancing had ended in a brawl between the singers and those who heard insults to themselves in the song. He had been hard at work for two hours measuring wood when Father Walter saw him.
"You look as though you could appreciate a big mug of Bride's ale. I won't interrupt you and postpone that experience. I just wanted to pass on some information I got at the baker's. Young Geoffrey, Daniel Shoemaker's son, came back from Linnetvale this morning. There wasn't much news, but the leather dealer there warned him that there was a band of mercenaries moving north from a town south of there. Baron Edmund ended their contracts when they landed at Dover several weeks ago. They were told they could join Lord Morrow on the Scottish border, but along the way some of them are looting and robbing travellers to get supplies and horses. Some of the robberies were very bad. Most of the victims were killed even if they offered no resistance. If the soldiers' pace stays the same they'll be in this area in about two days. People leaving the town should travel in large groups. Just let people know as you talk with them today."
Immediately Father Martin thought of Sister Catherine and the expedition she had planned. He told himself that Young Matthew was a stalwart protector. He would not permit anyone to harm her. His notable size and strength made it unlikely that anyone would try to get through him to Sister Catherine. Attacking her would be a sacrilege. There were few men desperate enough to do that. It would be clear from their appearance that neither she nor Matthew carried money. The mercenaries were not expected to reach here for another two days. Geoffrey had traveled from Linnetvale unscathed with a load of fine leather. He repeated these soothing thoughts to himself for half an hour.
Then he saw Young Matthew striding through the green on his way to Johanna's.
"So Sister Catherine postponed her trip into the forest today," Father Martin suggested hopefully to Young Matthew.
"Well no," Young Matthew said, somewhat abashed since he knew he had been excused from an important responsibility by Sister Catherine. He reminded himself that this wasn't the first time she had gone alone. "She went alone because I had to be here for work on my Summer King...." Father Martin immediately stopped listening to Young Matthew's explanations and tried to weigh the odds objectively. They didn't expect the mercenaries in the area for two days. Even if they were here the chances of them encountering Sister Catherine in the marshes or forest were not great. On the other hand they would use the river as a source of water, and Sister Catherine had told him enthusiastically about the comfrey she hoped to find near an old oak copse at a bend in the river.
He succeeded in reasoning himself out of his fears for the space of about twenty heartbeats. Then he found himself heading for the rectory, his mind dominated by vivid pictures of his friend as the victim of horrible brutalities. In his room he opened his storage chest and tossed everything out of it until he came to his sword. He had not worn it since leaving the Italy. He knew Sister Catherine would think he looked foolish descending on her armed with a sword. But he could have no peace of mind until he saw her. He would have reason to feel foolish if he arrived to find her in trouble and he was weaponless.
Sister had described her planned route and Father Martin quickly traced her path to the river. During this time his mood alternated rapidly between optimistic calm and an anxiety close to panic. He suppressed violent images when they arose, knowing that he would need a cool head if the worst had happened.
The riverbank was green beyond imagination with fresh young grass and emerald moss. Occasionally in the damp dirt he saw the shallow imprint of a small foot shod in smooth leather. He listened carefully for voices and scanned the area for oak trees and the characteristic lavender flowers of comfrey. Just as he spotted a large expanse of the plants, he recognized Sister Catherine's favorite basket, the largest she could carry. It was half stuck in the mud at the river's edge. His heart now thudding rapidly and painfully, he detected a trail of partially flattened grass with tufts torn out by the roots in places. A struggle had taken place, but not a big struggle. He knew that even one man would have enough of a size advantage to overcome her resistance very quickly. If there were more than one he hoped he would be good enough to stop them. Assuming he was in time to do something more than just carry Sister Catherine's body back for a Christian burial. That was something he could not allow himself to think about.
The trail was leading back from the river to thicker woods and higher ground. The denser foliage and reduced undergrowth made the trail easier to see. Within several minutes he didn't need to see it. He could follow the sound of men's voices raised peevishly in argument. Father Martin began to doubt his decision to choose speed over allies.
"Last time in Calais in that tavern basement you went first with that tasty young serving girl. And then you hit her so hard when she bit you she was almost dead even before I started."
"Well, that brother of hers would have done for you, Tom, while you were still at it, if I hadn't managed to get behind him with a barrel stave."
"The only reason he came back and found us was you took too long getting up and in, Con."
"Last time you went first."
"Two weeks ago in that miserable little town of Dunnock or Paddock or whatever it was? You mean when you let me go first with that dirty old scrubber of a field hand? I think it was just to make sure she didn't have teeth down there!"
"And better she had than the pox she gave us!"
They both laughed.
"She died hard though, didn't she, Tom?"
The noise of the argument allowed Father Martin to approach closely enough to see figures through the trees. From behind a huge old oak he saw a sight that increased his fears for Sister Catherine tenfold.
Two big, healthy-looking horses carrying heavy loads were tied to a stake driven into the ground at the far end of the clearing. A black-haired man stood with his back to Father Martin. He had removed a chain mail shirt, and was putting it beside a helmet and sheathed sword. As he turned Father Martin could see that his face was leathery and scarred, providing a sharp contrast to his light blue eyes. He looked strong and tough, a veteran of many battles. The other still wore his mail shirt. He was younger, but a giant of a man. He was at least a head taller and fifty pounds heavier than Father Martin, with a sword to match his size strapped to his side. With one hand he gripped Sister Catherine's hair, while the other held a knife to her throat.
"Jesus Christ, I don't think I can handle both of them," he thought grimly. Nevertheless he tried to form a plan. If he attacked the smaller soldier, the large one might let go of Sister Catherine to help his companion. Would she be able to run?
Father Martin expected her to be in a faint from hearing the terrifying dialogue between the brigands. But she was highly alert, her eyes darting about the campsite. Obviously she had not yet given up hope of escape. In fact, at that very moment her eyes locked with those of Father Martin and her heart sank. "Dear God, they'll kill him," she thought. Now she knew fear; before she had been sustained by her anger. Instantly she tore her gaze from him and determined how she could give him some slight advantage. It never occurred to her that he would leave her because of danger to himself.
Seconds later Father Martin was startled to see her undergo what appeared to be possession by another being. She relaxed her stiff, resisting posture and took a stance that thrust her bosom and hips forward. Her eyelids half closed and her mouth opened slightly. She reached up to her throat, but instead of grasping for the knife, she began loosening the laces of her kirtle and unfastening her shirt until the tops of her breasts could be seen.
By now the two soldiers had noticed her behavior and halted their half-hearted argument. She dropped her eyes from Con's and said softly "Sirs, don't you ever let a lady choose who gets to go first?"
They both laughed hard at being addressed as "sirs". Con shrugged and answered "Nobody ever asked to choose before. How about it Tom? We're supposed to join the others by sundown. We got to leave time to, um, clean up the campsite before we leave here."
Tom confidently answered "Why not?"
She appeared to look critically between the two several times, and then nodded up at the man who held her.
"So you liked what you saw," Tom bragged. He sheathed his knife with a grin and reached into her shirt and began squeezing her breasts. It was the sight of her struggling to smile at this treatment that gave Father Martin the final furious impetus he needed to stop thinking and rush into the clearing.
He lunged from behind at the smaller soldier. Con snatched up and unsheathed his sword in time to deflect the first blow from Father Martin. They parried briefly, equally adept in swordsmanship. Then Con made the mistake of glancing away to see what was keeping his companion from coming to his aid. That was all the opening Father Martin needed. He ran his sword through the soldier's upper sword arm and as his point dropped the priest slashed his thigh.
The delay in help from Tom was caused by Sister Catherine, who had grabbed both of Tom's thumbs with all her strength when Father Martin burst into the clearing. He was able to push her off almost immediately, but then she flung herself at his feet and clutched at his ankles. This earned her a tremendous kick, which she was able to anticipate and partially avoid. He then picked her up and literally threw her aside. By this time he had unsheathed his sword, and she could no longer approach him. She had delayed him long enough to allow Father Martin to disable the other soldier.
Father Martin knew that even successfully parrying an overhand blow from his new opponent was likely to break his arm. Tom was not as swift or skilled as Con, but he had tremendous reach and power. Father Martin's first strategy had to be to keep his distance, drawing blows, which would not connect. He knew he was fast enough to make this work for while. Then he would have to come up with a second strategy.
Sister Catherine had been knocked breathless when she landed on the ground. Within a minute she forced herself to her feet, stumbled over to the horses and began to untie them. The wounded soldier saw her from where he sat leaning against a tree and gasped painfully "Tom, stop her!"
She released the bridles, picked up the veil which had been torn from her earlier, and began flapping it at the horses' heads, yelling and darting back and forth beside them. These were not warhorses. Tom and Con had probably stolen them from the stables of a wealthy knight who enjoyed riding. Sister Catherine's activity was enough to send them out of the clearing at a gallop.
At this, the giant doing battle with Father Martin strode into him, driving his fist into his chest and using the force of his sword blow against Father Martin's sword to add to the impact. This sent Father Martin flying backwards into a tree. His head hit the tree hard enough to stun him. He slid to the ground. Tom turned with a curse and took off after the horses.
Sister Catherine swiftly went over to pull Father Martin to his feet.
"Can you walk?" she asked urgently.
"Of course," he said, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his head.
"I think I know a place to hide," she told him. "We've got to make it more trouble for them to find us than to leave us."
"What about him?" Father Martin asked, pointing at Con, who appeared to have passed out from blood loss.
"Do you want to kill him?" Sister asked him hesitantly.
"Yes I do, " Father Martin replied. "But I probably couldn't bring myself to kill an unconscious man," he added honestly.
"Well I can't bring myself to help him," Sister Catherine said in a choked voice. "So let's get out of here before Tom comes back after him."
She half led and half pulled Father Martin farther up hill, away from the river. Within ten minutes they came to an even steeper rise, where trees leaned over and all but covered the ground beneath. They sat gratefully on the damp dirt behind leafy branches. Father Martin knew they could be followed by anyone who cared to take the time. He hoped the brigands would concentrate on their own escape from the area instead. They could not be sure how long it would take their intended victims to seek aid from the town.
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месяц, вместе, мартин, отец, сестра, продолжали, заниматься, последующим, греческим, кэтрин
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