All Things Are Lights – Day 53 of 200

“Where the Devil have you been?” Roland had asked with mock severity.

Perrin’s face was alight with pure bliss. “Nowhere near the Devil, master. All last night I was playing in the fields of Heaven. I think God’s creation can hold no joy equal to helping a young woman discover for the first time all the pleasure her body — and mine — can give her.”

Out of his own loneliness at the time Roland had made some sour remark about seducing virgins, but within, he remembered now, he had been touched by Perrin’s simple happiness.

A happiness Perrin would never know again.

Perrin, Perrin, what have they done to you? Why such cruelty?

“A widow,” Guido said thoughtfully. “That is why she wears black.”

A chill of fear rippled up Roland’s spine. There could be only one reason why Guido would express curiosity about Diane’s black gown. The perfecti wore black.

The enemy, here in my own home. Was that the real reason he came here, to spy on us? Have Diane’s meetings with other Cathars at last been noticed by the Church?

Roland tenderly put his hand on Perrin’s cold, wet forehead. It would have been kinder to kill him, he thought. Who could have done this?

De Gobignon. The answer, waiting in the shadows of his mind, sprang out. It must be de Gobignon. Sooner or later he would strike at me, I knew. But the coward, to attack me through Perrin!

Diane came back with a brass-bound cedar box. She unlocked the box and drew out bottles, jars, and white cloths that smelled of aromatics.

He watched her wash her hands in a brass basin of hot water till they were scarlet. Unable to stop her, he felt terror for her alternating with anguish for Perrin.

“You seem to know what you are about, Madame,” said Guido with interest and admiration.

Suddenly it came to Roland that he might have to kill the Templar. His legs trembled and his heartbeat quickened. The Templar had a longsword and a dagger belted at his waist. He himself was weaponless. His sword was upstairs.

And yet he felt no threat emanating from this man. The Templar appeared to regard Diane with the intelligent interest of one who shared her art. And he had saved Perrin’s life by bringing him here. Roland wanted to feel gratitude toward him, though he dared not.

“There is no mystery to tending wounds, Sire Guido,” Diane said, “as I am sure you know. If you keep them closed and clean, God heals them at His pleasure.”

Roland was amazed at her calm. He knew she cared for Perrin almost as much as he did, yet she went about her work with brisk efficiency, and she spoke as calmly as if she were delivering a lecture on medicine at the university.

“Quite so, Madame,” said the Templar.

At least she was careful to bring God into it, thought Roland with some small relief.

Diane covered Perrin with the blanket and then put her hand under his head to raise it up so he could drink from the wine cup she held to his lips. When he emptied the cup she filled it again and gave him more.

“God’s bones, the pain,” Perrin gasped. “What did they do, stab me in the belly?”

He does not know, Diane mouthed to Roland.

Roland felt a dull ache in his heart. The tears kept running freely down his cheeks.

He gripped Perrin’s shoulder and stared into his pain-glazed eyes. “Who attacked you, Perrin?”

“They must have followed me out of Guillaume’s. I had sung that song about the Pope. There was a girl with me. Their leader was tall, stooped over. Ugly face, pitted with pox. He said I insulted the Pope. They knocked me down. I do not remember any more than that, master. How bad is it? Will it kill me?”

“No, it will not kill you,” said Diane. “Drink as much wine as you can. It will ease the pain.”

Guido drew Roland to a corner of the room and said in a low voice, “I was in the bookseller’s, too. I recognized your jongleur. I also recognized the men who left when he did. A bad lot. I followed, but by the time I got out to the street the girl was screaming and your man was lying on the ground and they were running away. Some of the Mad Dogs chased them, but they had horses hidden in an alley.”

His account had the brevity of a good battlefield report. He was a knight passing information to another knight. But how, Roland asked himself, did he come first to be at the song contest, then at Guillaume’s, and now here? The bookseller’s, that haunt of folk of dubious opinions, was a particularly odd place for a Templar.

“Who were they?”

“The pockmarked man is called Didier Longarm. A highwayman. His face is well known in the Latin Quarter. He often preys upon students. His den is said to be in the ruins south of the abbey of Saint-Germain.”

A movement on the table caught Roland’s eye. He saw Perrin’s hand sliding down his body, seeking the place where the pain was coming from.

“No, Perrin,” Diane said, and reached out to take his hand. But it was too late. Perrin’s hand was on his groin, touching it gingerly at first, then clutching at himself in terrified spasms. Perrin screamed. He pounded his head on the table, and he howled again and again.

Diane threw her arms around him and held him against her breast. Her calm broken at last, she joined her weeping to his screams.

Lucien, standing beside Diane, shut his eyes and put his hands over his ears. He, too, was crying.

Each of Perrin’s screams struck Roland like the blow of a scourge. He suffers this for my sake, the troubadour told himself.

Perrin’s screams gradually subsided to a broken whimper.

Diane after much coaxing got him to drink more wine.

“There is nothing to be done?” he groaned. “I am… no longer a man?”

“You are still a man, Perrin,” she whispered. “You will always be a man. But your body cannot be made whole.”

“You people know how to put a stop to a man’s misery,” Perrin said fiercely. “You end the lives of those who cannot be cured. Well, do it for me. I cannot be healed either.”

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