Authors: Ken Follett
“KEN FOLLETT TAKES A GIANT STEP!”
San Francisco Chronicle
“With this book Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner ... a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and memorable characterization. ... Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow ... the narrative is a seesaw of tension ... suspense ... impeccable pacing ... action, intrigue, violence and passion ... ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love. ... A NOVEL THAT ENTERTAINS, INSTRUCTS AND SATISFIES ON A GRAND SCALE.”
“An extraordinary epic buttressed by suspense ... a mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man ... the erection of a magnificent cathedral ... romance, rivalry and spectacle ... A MONUMENTAL MASTERPIECE ... A TOWERING TRIUMPH FROM A MAJOR TALENT.”
A SIGNET BOOK
Published by the Penguin Group
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Published by Signet, an imprint of Dutton NAL. A member of Penguin Putnam Inc. This is an authorized reprint of a hardcover edition published by William Morrow and Company, Inc.
First Signet Printing, August, 1990
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Copyright © 1989 by Ken Follett
All rights reserved. For information address Permissions Department, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019.
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Printed in the United States of America
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
the apple of my eye
On the night of 25 November 1120 the White Ship set out for England and foundered off Barfleur with all hands save one. ... The vessel was the latest thing in marine transport, fitted with all the devices known to the shipbuilder of the time. ... The notoriety of this wreck is due to the very large number of distinguished persons on board; beside the king’s son and heir, there were two royal bastards, several earls and barons, and most of the royal household ... its historical significance is that it left Henry without an obvious heir ... its ultimate result was the disputed succession and the period of anarchy which followed Henry’s death.
—A. L. POOLE,
From Domesday Book to Magna Carta
THE SMALL BOYS came early to the hanging.
It was still dark when the first three or four of them sidled out of the hovels, quiet as cats in their felt boots. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the little town like a new coat of paint, and theirs were the first footprints to blemish its perfect surface. They picked their way through the huddled wooden huts and along the streets of frozen mud to the silent marketplace, where the gallows stood waiting.
The boys despised everything their elders valued. They scorned beauty and mocked goodness. They would hoot with laughter at the sight of a cripple, and if they saw a wounded animal they would stone it to death. They boasted of injuries and wore their scars with pride, and they reserved their special admiration for mutilation: a boy with a finger missing could be their king. They loved violence; they would run miles to see bloodshed; and they never missed a hanging.
One of the boys piddled on the base of the scaffold. Another mounted the steps, put his thumbs to his throat and slumped, twisting his face into a grisly parody of strangulation: the others whooped in admiration, and two dogs came running into the marketplace, barking. A very young boy recklessly began to eat an apple, and one of the older ones punched his nose and took his apple. The young boy relieved his feelings by throwing a sharp stone at a dog, sending the animal howling home. Then there was nothing else to do, so they all squatted on the dry pavement in the porch of the big church, waiting for something to happen.