(κλικ στο εξώφυλλο)
It began at the normal daily chapter in the Benedictine monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, of Shrewsbury, on the thirtieth day of July, in the year of Our Lord 1139. That day being the eve of Saint Peter ad Vincula, a festival of solemn and profitable importance to the house that bore his name, the routine business of the morning meeting had been devoted wholly to the measures necessary to its proper celebration, and lesser matters had to wait.
The house, given its full dedication, had two saints, but Saint Paul tended to be neglected, sometimes even omitted from official documents, or so abbreviated that he almost vanished. Time is money, and clerks find it tedious to inscribe the entire title, perhaps as many as twenty times in one charter. They had had to amend their ways, however, since Abbot Radulfus had taken over the rudder of this cloistral vessel, for he was a man who brooked no slipshod dealings, and would have all his crew as meticulous as himself.
Brother Cadfael had been out before Prime in his enclosed herb-garden, observing with approval the blooming of his oriental poppies, and assessing the time when the seed would be due for gathering. The summer season was at its height, and promising rich harvest, for the spring had been mild and moist after plenteous early snows, and June and July hot and sunny, with a few compensatory showers to keep the leafage fresh and the buds fruitful. The hay harvest was in, and lavish, the corn looked ripe for the sickle. As soon as the annual fair was over, the reaping would begin. Cadfael’s fragrant domain, dewy from the dawn and already warming into drunken sweetness in the rising sun, filled his senses with the kind of pleasure on which an ascetic church sometimes frowns, finding something uneasily sinful in pure delight. There were times when young Brother Mark, who worked with him this delectable field, felt that he ought to confess his joy among his sins, and meekly accept some appropriate penance. He was still very young, there were excuses to be found for him. Brother Cadfael had more sense, and no such scruples. The manifold gifts of God are there to be delighted in, to fall short of joy would be ingratitude.