All Things Are Lights – Day 28 of 200

And I have not the power to command Love to go away. It possesses me, and I am far too weak to disobey.

She was breathing hard, her chest rising and falling with excitement. She was suddenly acutely aware of her breasts moving against the silk of her shift.

She stood up, rolled the poem tightly, and slipped it into a secret pocket in the crimson samite belt that hung low about her hips.

I will not make the same mistake twice, she thought. This time I will meet him.

Her heart was fluttering.

With Louis better, the royal party would be returning to Paris. Then she would send him a message.


Though hooded and cloaked, Nicolette trembled. The chill of the January afternoon pierced her through, but it was fear, more than the cold, that made her limbs shake. Having just crossed over to the Left Bank, she glanced back over her shoulder and saw the towers and spires of the royal palace across the Seine. She felt as if hidden eyes there were watching her. Could anyone on the palace wall have seen her walk over the Petit-Pont?

Not Amalric. He was still in the south, the King having just appointed him seneschal for Beziers and the surrounding country. But he had so many agents in Paris and allies at court. Except for Agnes, all the servants in the Gobignon town house were loyal to him. His aunt, Queen Blanche, was forever praising him to all who would listen. If Nicolette were involved in scandal, the White Queen would be furious, and would see to it that word reached Amalric. And if indeed he found out about her meeting the troubadour? Just a message, a song, let alone a meeting like this one, could mean death for her and Orlando.

I should turn around right now, cross this bridge, and run back to the palace. The streets of the Latin Quarter were crawling with ruffians and criminals — it was insane for her to be walking here alone after sunset. The sight of the small knife she carried under her cloak might deter an attacker, but then she would be discovered.

If I screamed for help, the whole palace would find out. Blanche would demand to know why I was here. No, she thought, her blood turning to ice, she would know why.

But those eyes of his? to look into them again, was that not worth any risk?

She stood, vacillating, in the shadows by a wooden house that overhung the Rue Saint-Jacques. I must see Orlando, she thought. Over a year now, and I have not been able to forget him. She longed just to be alone with him and have him take her in his arms.

But first he must answer the questions that tormented her. Why had he become a crusader? Why had he fought Amalric? Could he truly care for her and hurt her so?

He would have to explain. And even if his explanation fully satisfied her, she had nonetheless to remain firm and withhold the ultimate favor.

Sweet Goddess! she thought suddenly. I have never even spoken to him. I know nothing about the man, nothing at all.

What if he tries to get me into some sordid little room and force himself on me, like an animal? How will I fight him off? All alone, not able to cry for help.

No, it will not be like that, it could not be. I would have known if he were that kind of man, and felt repelled. He could not sing and write such beautiful verses, and look so fine if he were not the man I want him to be. Yes, when we meet, it will be as it is in his songs. He will obey, do exactly what I tell him and no more. Oh, I have hoped so long for this. Goddess of Love, let it be beautiful.

The path before her was anything but beautiful. The crooked streets seemed to hold fresh terrors at every step. It was hard for her to see her way now that the sun was almost down. The jutting upper stories of the houses had plunged the streets almost into darkness. She worried that she might not remember the directions he had written to her. She brushed against rough walls as she hurried along, trying to avoid all attention and to keep out of the mud, reeking of manure, that covered the center of these streets. She picked her way over planks laid down by the servingmen of the university, but more than once she stepped ankle-deep into a puddle. My good leather boots will be ruined, she thought, and if someone sees them before I get rid of them, how will I explain that?

From under her fur-trimmed hood she cast furtive glances at the dozens of swaggering students from all the nations of Christendom. Their heads were shaved in clerical tonsures, but they brazenly wore long daggers at their belts, even though carrying weapons was forbidden to students. Studying for the priesthood or not, she thought, each one looked as if he would like nothing better than to push her into an alley and have his way with her. And the masters, those scholars in black mantles who walked two by two, conversing in rapid Latin, would be no help at all.

More of Orlando’s strangeness, she thought, having me meet him in the Latin Quarter. He should know I have never been in these streets before. I could get lost. She looked up at the buildings leaning over her like unfriendly giants. I am lost right now.

The thought brought on a sudden access of anger. Marguerite is right. Troubadours are all mad: professing to worship their ladies, they thrust them into danger! And I am mad, to venture here.

But could she find her way back to the palace? The houses all looked alike. The streets were so dark now. And even if she dared approach any of these passersby, none of them seemed to be speaking a language she understood. Yet she could not just stand here. At any moment she could be accosted.

How she hated this cold, muddy city!

Resolutely, she turned back the way she had just come.

She would look for the Rue Saint-Jacques. She thought she would recognize it, because it was broader than the other streets and was paved here and there with old stones. The Rue Saint-Jacques, she knew, led right to the bridge.

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