[Roger the Chapman 04] - The Holy Innocents

[Roger the Chapman 04] - The Holy Innocents by Kate Sedley Read Free Book Online

Book: [Roger the Chapman 04] - The Holy Innocents by Kate Sedley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Sedley
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective
feelings, your honour, so I'll trouble you no longer.' I gathered up my pack and stowed away the two gold angels in the purse at my belt, buckling it securely. 'I'll wish you good-day and delay you no further.'
    But as I rose to my feet, I was detained by Ofiver Cozin.
    'A moment, Chapman.' He regarded me speculatively with shrewd grey eyes. 'Do you stay in Totnes overnight?' I gave my assent. 'Where were you planning to sleep.'?'  
    'The Priory, if they can accommodate me in their guest hall. Otherwise' - I shrugged - 'anywhere warm and dry will do. Under a hedge, in a barn, even in a ditch provided it's not full of water. I have a good frieze cloak in my pack which will protect me against inclement weather.'
    Oliver Cozin glanced briefly at his brother, and a silent question and answer passed between them. Then he asked, 'What would you say to a house, all to yourself?’ I stared at him in perplexity, and he went on, 'Oh, don't imagine that I'm offering you luxury. The house has stood empty these past two months, dust and cobwebs gathering everywhere. I am a lawyer and it belongs to a client of mine, for whom I am acting in the purchase of a property hereabouts. He was with me this morning, and expressed anxiety about his previous domicile, the house just mentioned, which remains unoccupied in spite of all his attempts to find a tenant for it. In normal times, such a fact would not trouble him, but with these outlaws roaming the district, he fears that they may penetrate the town and steal his goods.'
    'Then why does he not remain there himself?'  
    The lawyer's tone sharpened. 'Chapman, you either wish to accept my offer or you do not. Nothing else concerns you.' I hesitated. The prospect of spending a night in the comfort of a well furnished house, and one, moreover, I should have all to myself, was tempting. Yet there was something here which made me uneasy, and my instincts bade me refuse.
    'But I shall be gone from Totnes in the morning,' I cavilled. ‘What good will my protection be for a single night? The outlaws could strike tomorrow. Besides, how do you know that you can trust me? I might make off with some of your client's goods.'
    Oliver Cozin was affronted. 'Do you think me such a fool that I can't tell an honest man when I see one? As for your other question, one night is better than none. As the blessed St Martin said, half a cloak is preferable to no cloak at all.' I glanced at Thomas Cozin, standing at his brother's side, the two grey figures so alike that it was as though I had drunk too much ale and was seeing double. At present, their faces were expressionless, although there was, perhaps, just the tiniest flicker of worry in Thomas's eyes. He did not have a lawyer's ability to hide his emotions completely.
    Was I imagining things? After all, what had they offered me but a comfortable lodging for the night? It would be foolish to refuse, even though I did not believe for a second that the outlaws would risk coming into the town. Such an occurrence had reality only in the fevered imagination of the townspeople.
    'Very well,' I said. 'I accept. And thank you.'

Chapter Four

    It was Oliver who led me to a house north of the Shambles, on the opposite side of the High Street, where it curves towards the West Gate. He unlocked the door and preceded me inside, picking his way carefully across the dust-laden floor and wrinkling his nose fastidiously at the musty smell.
    'I suppose I'd better show you the lie of the place,' he said, a trifle grudgingly, as we stood in the stone-flagged passageway. He pushed open a door to his right. 'This is the downstairs parlour, where my old friend and client, Sir Jasper Crouchback, conducted most of his business, and behind it is the counting-house. The stairs in the corner here lead to the upper parlour and main bedchambers, none of which need concern you; for if the outlaws come, they will be sure to enter on the lower level. Follow me, and I will conduct you to the

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