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Authors: Susanna Gregory

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Historical

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The next person to arrive, however, was Sheriff Tulyet, a small, neat man with tawny hair and an elfin face that seemed inappropriate
on the person who embodied the strong arm of secular law in the town. Many folk were deceived by Tulyet’s youthful looks,
but few remained so for long. He was an energetic and just Sheriff, and the fact that he was popular with everyone except
criminals and malcontents said a good deal about the tenor of his reign.

‘Who saw what happened?’ he asked, taking in the scene at a glance: Lenne’s body covered by the cloak of a kindly onlooker,
Isnard writhing in his pool of gore, and Mortimer grim-faced and defiant. ‘Who witnessed this accident?’

‘It was no accident,’ said Isnard between gritted teeth. ‘He tried to kill us.’

‘I saw,’ piped up Bosel, enjoying himself. ‘Thomas Mortimer is a murderer.’

‘They ran under my wheels,’ declared Mortimer. He glared around, challenging anyone to say otherwise. Bartholomew saw some
folk look away, reluctant to engage in open conflict with a member of the influential Mortimer clan. The family could destroy
smaller businesses simply by whispering a few carefully phrased sentences in the relevant places, and few townsmen were prepared
to make an enemy of the likes of Thomas.

‘Michael?’ asked Tulyet hopefully. ‘Matt? Did you see?’

He was disappointed when they shook their heads. Two men, braver or more foolish than the rest, stepped forward and began
to clamour that the miller was drunk. One had seen the cart –
sans
driver – pelt down the High Street immediately afterward, but only Bosel claimed to have seen the accident itself. Bartholomew
was inclined to accept Isnard’s account – that he and Lenne had been talking at the side of the road when the cart had ploughed
into them – but saw that Tulyet would be hard pressed to prove either side of the story. Tulyet questioned Mortimer carefully,
but
the man was determined not to bear the blame for the incident, and was sullen and uncommunicative. All he did was reiterate
that the fault lay with Lenne and Isnard.

Eventually, Quenhyth arrived with the stretcher and three students to help carry it, and Bartholomew prepared to accompany
the bargeman home. Isnard was beginning to shiver, so he removed his own cloak to cover him. He was pleased when Quenhyth
and his cronies did the same without being asked.

‘How much?’ the student asked in a whisper. He began to gnaw at his nails, an unpleasant habit he had acquired as his studies
at Michaelhouse became more onerous. Bartholomew gazed at him blankly, and Quenhyth stifled a sigh of exasperation. ‘How much
can you charge Isnard for our services? He will need a surgeon, so you can hire Robin of Grantchester and add that to the
fee, too. Plus a little extra for your use of us as stretcher-bearers.’

Bartholomew gaped at him, scarcely believing his ears. ‘This man sings in our College choir. And we do not haggle over fees
with seriously injured people in the street anyway. It is not seemly.’

‘Seemly!’ sighed Quenhyth despairingly. ‘I suppose this means
you
will pay for his salves and horoscopes, but we will not see a penny in return. Michaelhouse will never raise enough money
to buy that book by Roger Bacon if you do not charge your patients properly.’

Bartholomew had had this particular discussion with Quenhyth before. The lad was not one of Michaelhouse’s wealthier scholars,
and regarded his teacher’s casual attitude to fee collection as a personal affront. But it was neither the time nor the place
for a debate about finances, and Bartholomew decided not to respond to his comments. Instead, he indicated that the students
were to lift the stretcher. They staggered as they began the journey to the river: the bargeman was heavy.

‘Give Rougham my apologies,’ Bartholomew said to Michael as he prepared to follow. ‘He will understand why I cannot dine with
him at Gonville today. You should consider yourself fortunate, Brother: you can now eat two groats’ worth of meat instead
of one.’

‘What of Isnard?’ asked Michael, ignoring his friend’s attempt at levity. He was fond of the gruff bargeman who had served
in his choir for so many years.

Bartholomew lowered his voice so Isnard would not hear. While he believed in honesty where patients were concerned, and rarely
flinched from telling them the truth, he saw no advantage in frightening folk into losing hope just before painful and traumatic
surgery. ‘He will lose his leg, and possibly his life.’

The stricken expression in Michael’s eyes turned to something harder and more dangerous. ‘Damn Mortimer! I will see he pays
for this! I will bring the full force of the law down upon him.’

‘You can try,’ said Tulyet, overhearing. ‘But you will not succeed. No one has admitted to
seeing
what happened – Bosel does not count – and Mortimer claims that Isnard and Lenne ran under his wheels. We will never prove
who was at fault here, because we have no independent witnesses.’

‘Someone must have seen something,’ said Bartholomew. He gestured around him. ‘The street was full of people.’

‘Perhaps so, but no townsman will denounce a Mortimer – not if he values his business.’

‘But Mortimer was drunk!’ objected Bartholomew, indignant that the miller was about to evade justice on the grounds that his
family intimidated people. ‘He should not have been driving a cart, and it
is
his fault that Lenne is dead and Isnard may follow.’

‘I know,’ said Tulyet softly. ‘And justice dictates that he should pay for it. But we have no case in law. I doubt whether
Mortimer will be punished for this.’

‘Then the law is wrong,’ declared Bartholomew hotly.

‘Yes, often,’ agreed Tulyet sombrely. ‘But it is all we have between us and chaos, so do not dismiss it too harshly.’

‘And do not confuse it with justice, either,’ added Michael acidly. ‘They are not the same.’

‘No, they are not,’ said Bartholomew angrily. He turned and hurried to his patient’s side as the first real cries of agony
began to issue from the injured bargeman.

‘You look tired, Matt,’ said Michael the following day. It was dawn, and they had just celebrated prime in St Michael’s Church.
Their colleague Father William had conducted the ceremony, gabbling the words so fast that it was over almost before it had
started. William was not popular with the students, because he was fanatical and petty, but they all admired his speedy masses.

Bartholomew and Michael took their places in the sedate procession of scholars that moved quietly through the gradually lightening
streets, heading towards a breakfast of baked oatmeal and salted fish. They crossed the High Street and turned down St Michael’s
Lane, passing Gonville Hall as they went. Part of Gonville’s protective wall had recently been demolished, because its Fellows
intended to build a chapel in its place. A plot had already been measured out, marked with ropes and stakes, and foundation
stones were laid in a long, even line. Judging by its dimensions, the church would be an impressive edifice once completed.

‘Will Isnard live?’ asked Michael quietly, when his friend did not reply.

‘It is too soon to say,’ replied Bartholomew, stifling a yawn. He had spent most of the previous night at the bargeman’s house
and had not managed more than an hour of sleep. ‘His leg was so badly crushed that I was obliged to remove it below the knee.
But it will be some
days before we know whether he will survive the fever that often follows such treatment.’


You
amputated his leg?’ asked Michael uneasily. ‘God’s teeth, you play with fire! You are not a surgeon, and Robin of Grantchester
has already made several official complaints about you poaching his trade. You also seem to forget that cautery is not a skill
held in great esteem by your fellow physicians; they claim you bring them into disrepute when you employ knives and forceps,
instead of calendars and astronomical charts.’

‘Isnard would be dead for certain if I had allowed Robin at him,’ said Bartholomew, too weary to feel indignation that his
three fellow physicians – Rougham of Gonville, Lynton of Peterhouse and Paxtone of King’s Hall – should presume to tell him
how to practise medicine.

‘I know that,’ said Michael impatiently. ‘I was not thinking of Isnard – there is no question that you have done
him
a favour by dispensing with the unsavoury Robin – I was considering you. It was different when only you and Lynton were in
Cambridge, and people could not afford to be particular. But now there are four of you, you must be more careful. Several
of your most affluent patients have already left you.’

‘I was relieved to see them go – it means I can give the remaining ones more time and attention. The rich are better off with
Paxtone or Rougham anyway. They are good at calculating horoscopes while I am happier with people who have a genuine need.’

‘Like Isnard,’ said Michael, his thoughts returning to the stricken singer. ‘He is one of my most loyal basses. Can I do anything
to help?’

Bartholomew refrained from suggesting that he could ensure the choir – infamous for its paucity of musical talent – should
practise well out of the ailing man’s hearing, and shook his head. ‘Say masses for him. You might try
reciting one for Thomas Mortimer, too, and ask for him to be touched with some compassion. He is a wealthy man, and could
have offered a little money to see Isnard through the first stages of his illness.’

‘But that might be construed as the act of a guilty man,’ Michael pointed out. ‘And Mortimer maintains the accident was not
his fault. Did I tell you that I went to see Lenne’s wife – widow – last night?’

‘She has a sickness of the lungs,’ said Bartholomew, recalling her soggy, laboured breathing from when her husband had shorn
him of hair two days before. ‘Who will care for her now he is gone? Widows sometimes take over their husbands’ businesses,
but she is too ill. Lenne was a barber, anyway, and shaving scholars and trimming tonsures is scarcely something she can do
in his stead. The University would not permit it.’

‘And neither would I!’ exclaimed Michael in horror. ‘God’s blood, man! Women barbers would slit our throats because their
attention is taken with the latest style in goffered veils or the price of ribbon. Barbers have always
been
men, and they should always
remain
men.’

‘Barbers must be male. Surgeons must conduct cautery,’ remarked Bartholomew dryly. ‘I had no idea you were so rigidly traditional,
Brother. How will we make progress if we remain so inflexible? Many of our greatest thinkers have been deemed heretics merely
because they dare to look beyond that which is ordained and accepted, but they are nearly always proven right in the end.
Take Roger Bacon, the Oxford Franciscan, who was persecuted for “suspected novelties” and his works censored some fifty years
ago. These days everyone acknowledges the validity of his ideas.’

‘Not everyone,’ argued Michael, thinking about Bartholomew’s medical colleague Rougham, who made no secret of his contempt
for Bacon’s theories. ‘He is still
regarded as anathema to many, although I noticed you reading his
De erroribus medicorum
the other day.’

‘Paxtone of King’s Hall lent it to me.’ Bartholomew became animated, his tiredness forgotten at the prospect of discussing
an exciting text with a sharp-minded man like Michael. ‘Bacon relies heavily on Arabic sources, especially Avicenna’s
Canon
, which, as you know, I regard as a highly underrated work. Regarding rhubarb, Bacon contends that—’

‘You have never hidden your esteem for Arabic physicians,’ interrupted Michael. ‘And I know the one you admire over all others
is your own master, Ibn Ibrahim. But not everyone believes foreign thinkers are as good as our own, and you should be more
cautious with whom you discuss them.’ He hesitated and shot his friend an uncertain glance. ‘Did you mention rhubarb?’

‘This is a University and we are scholars,’ objected Bartholomew. ‘Why should I suppress my ideas just because ignorant, narrow-minded
men might not like them? It does not matter whether we agree, only that we discuss our theories so we can explore their strengths
and weaknesses.’

‘Matt!’ exclaimed Michael in exasperation. ‘That will be no defence when Rougham accuses you of heresy. I thought you had
learned this, but now you insist on flying in the face of convention again. Rougham is jealous of your success: do not provide
him with an easy means to destroy you.’

Bartholomew gazed at him in surprise. ‘He is not jealous of me.’

‘He does not like you, despite the superficial friendship you both struggle to maintain. He will make a poisonous enemy, and
you should take care not to provoke him. Damn! That unbearable student of yours is waiting for us.’

The ‘unbearable student’ was Martyn Quenhyth. Quenhyth was a gangly lad of about twenty-two years, with a
thatch of thick brown hair that he kept painfully short. He had a long, thin nose that dripped when it was cold, and sharp
blue eyes. His hands were bony and always splattered in ink, and his nails were bitten to the quick. He was fervently devoted
to his studies, and there was scarcely a moment when he was not reading some tome or other. This made him joyless, pedantic
and dull, and Bartholomew’s feelings toward him were ambiguous. On the one hand he admired the lad’s determination to pass
his disputations and become a qualified physician, but on the other it was difficult to find much to like in his humourless
personality.

‘He accused his room-mate of stealing again yesterday,’ muttered Michael as they approached the student. ‘Does he have a case?
Is Redmeadow a thief?’

‘If so, then he confines his light fingers to Quenhyth’s belongings,’ said Bartholomew, who was obliged to share a room with
them both, since student numbers in the College had finally started to rise again after the plague. He liked Redmeadow, who
was an open, friendly sort of lad with a shock of ginger hair, although he had a fiery temper to go with it. ‘He has taken
nothing of mine.’

BOOK: The Hand of Justice
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