A Plague of Women

Saint Beocca’s Feastday, the Eighth Year in the Reign of King Richard

I thought my heart was a stone, weathered and impenetrable. For so many years it was so. I knew no love. The tender embrace of a fair maiden was now far removed from me and my current status, for I do not include the hasty rutting done in the stews and alleys of Southwark to satisfy a need.

I am rusty at wooing.

And that’s as it should be. For there is nothing to offer a woman in my state. Base shelter, yes, but poor meat and poorer prospects for an uncertain future. No woman suitable to a Guest would be a martyr to it.

And yet that rugged heart of mine has been wounded. Struck hard as a hammer strikes an anvil. There is little I can do. I let her slip through my fingers, fool that I am. As unsuitable as she was to my former life, I must admit that the life I live now might have suited well indeed. Alas. Too late. She has married another. And who can begrudge her? She saved herself from this life of drugdery for one of silks and velvets. She will not starve or worry over the rent. Or whether her woeful husband will get himself killed in his dubious vocation whilst chasing missing coins and stolen jewelry. She will not be branded a traitor’s wife and shunned by her peers. She will not suffer these things.

But I would give a sackful of gold to go back to that day, the day she asked me, the day I turned away… Yet even now, knowing what I know, I wonder if my answer would be different.