All Things Are Lights – Day 37 of 200

“Then your love for me — you have renounced it? I know you have too much honor to pursue two women at once.”

Roland stared at her, and his temples were pounding again. He still — even now — yearned to take Diane in his arms.

He held his body rigid as he forced himself to speak. “Yes, Diane. From now on Nicolette de Gobignon is the lady who rules all my thoughts. What I feel for you now is what I feel for my sister.”

Even as he spoke, the words sounded hollow on his lips.

He stood looking up at the night sky, feeling his soul as scarred and pitted by doubt as was the moon’s face.

“I am glad for you, Roland,” Diane said. Her voice was so low he could barely hear her.

“It is what you want, is it not?”

“I do not want anything to happen to you, Roland,” she said. Her green eyes seemed to shine in the dark. “If you must court her, be careful. Do not make a public display of your feelings.”

“That might be difficult. She is going to have me invited to the Queen’s singing contest on May Day.”

“Oh. You must do as you think best. I cannot advise you about that. But, Roland, send me away from this place, because I, too, am a danger to you.”

Perhaps it would be easier if I let Diane leave. But I cannot. The Dominicans would find her within the week.

“There is no need for you to go. The world thinks you are my widowed sister, and I told you I love you as a sister now. Would I turn my sister out?”

“Oh, Roland.”‘ She turned her back on him, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

“Diane, do I make you so unhappy?” He put his hand out to rest on her shoulder.

She pulled away violently.

“Do not touch me!” It was almost a scream. She covered her face with her hands and shrank away from him.

He staggered back, stunned. To hear such fear of him in her voice was unbearable. He turned away from her.

She drew away from him into the shadow of a pine. “Just leave me alone, Roland. I want to pray.”

“Good night, then, Diane.”

He was exhausted and trembling as he went into the house. The kitchen was dark. The servants had gone to bed. So had Perrin.

His head was throbbing. He put his fingertips against his brow and pressed hard.

I made a choice. Now I have to live up to it. If I can.

As she waited to meet her superior, Diane felt herself in turmoil. At one moment she loved Roland, the next she hated him for what he was doing to her. I enjoyed inner peace before he came back into my life, she thought. Hunted by inquisitors, besieged by crusaders, still I led the life I wanted, and I found joy in every day. Now every hour is a torment. If only, she thought for the thousandth time, he had let me die at Mont Segur.

It was late at night, and she was hidden in deep shadows. She stood, in an agony of suspense, amid scaffolding and blocks of masonry outside the unfinished south portal of the cathedral of Notre-Dame. She had met her superior only twice before. She had no idea who he was. Each time it had been at night and he had been cloaked and hooded. That way she could not, even under torture, reveal his identity.

I must make him understand the torment I am going through, she thought. He must let me get away from Roland.

Since the night before last, when Roland had told her of Nicolette de Gobignon, she had been wracked by pain. As jealousy ate at her, her desire for Roland mounted. It grew ever fiercer, until she felt as if her very skin were on fire.

It had been bad from the time she first had settled in Roland’s house. Her body betrayed her incessantly with lustful feelings while she was nursing Roland’s wound. It was agony living there, with Roland sleeping a mere flight of stairs away. Every night she had to protect herself against love by repeating, “Lead us not into temptation.”

When she first met her superior, soon after arriving in Paris, she had begged him to send her to some other place of refuge, but his answer was that the peril was too great, there was no safer place. So she had obeyed and remained. She had tried to distract herself. She had insisted on helping Lucien and Adrienne with household tasks. She spent hours every day making copies of Cathar texts. These she distributed to the little groups of the faithful whom she served in Paris. Night after night she went out, sometimes walking the length of the city, to speak truths to six or a dozen huddled in small rooms, to answer their questions, to try to help them with their problems. Twenty or more times now she had hurried to the bedside of a dying person to confer the consolamentum. She did all these things until, deliberately, she exhausted herself. She fasted far more than she was required to, until her superior ordered her to stop. He reminded her that the Cathar perfecti were well known for their asceticism, and a too-gaunt look would invite suspicion. Indeed, she sometimes let herself hope that the Inquisition would catch her, was even tempted to be careless, to make it easy for them. But her conscience would not let her actually do it. In spite of her unfulfilled longing and the severity of her efforts to control herself, she had endured. She had remained in Roland’s house-hold, and she had not fallen into sin. But now, knowing about Nicolette de Gobignon, the agony was a hundred times worse.

I must make my superior understand, she thought.

Her reaction to Roland’s announcement about Nicolette had terrified her. She felt something that she had not experienced before — jealous rage. She hated Nicolette de Gobignon, a woman she had never seen. And she hated Roland.

She was forced to face what she had tried not to think about for months: she could not stop loving him.

After he left her that night she had fallen to the cold earth and lain there sobbing. What seemed like hours later, she had gone up to the watchtower and remained sleepless all night on her pallet, crying silently, biting her knuckles so he would not hear her.

It could not have hurt her more if her mother and father had turned against her. If Bishop Bertran had cast her out of the church, could she have felt more lost?

She had been able to control her desire for Roland only because, in a way, he was still hers. She could both have him and not have him. Now he was turning to another woman. She really was losing him. She could not stand it.

Shivering because the cold penetrated the two blankets she allowed herself, turning over and over on her pallet, she felt thankful when finally she saw gray light filtering through the shutters. Now, exhausted after a sleepless night, she could get up and start the morning fire.

That day she had given a note to the believer who carried her secret messages. She had to see her superior, in person, soon. The following day the go-between brought back instructions. He told her to wait just outside Notre-Dame’s south portal. She thought the cathedral the strangest of places for two Cathars to meet, but probably that was why he had chosen it.

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