“No one, Susan, has ever looked at me the way that young man looks at her.”
“He is desperately in love, Madam,” Clarencieux replies.
“I hope that God blesses them. Truly, I do. But I wish he would bless me so,” Mary says, and Clarencieux wraps her arms around her.
Blackaller gives him a frown. “I am betting my house on you.”
Strelley laughs. “It’s your life, Sir Mayor, not just your house. If we lose, we’re dead men. You understand that? They will not hesitate for a moment now. There are no more innocents here in Exeter, just enemy fighters.”
“Then,” Blackaller says, with a grimace, “we had better win.”
The streets are quiet. After a few instances of near misses from gunfire and arrows shot from longbows, the citizens are mostly cowed into taking cover, not exposing themselves to danger. One man, however, is walking down West Street with a spear over his shoulder. He stops for a moment, staring out towards the hillock from which the gunner, named by Strelley as ‘Hammon’, fired his shots a few days previously. Strelley, Fletcher and Blackaller follow his gaze. Hammon is there, standing by the gun which has been silent for a couple of days, looking out into the city. For a moment, everything is still. Smoke issues from the gun as Hammon touches his match to the hole. It takes a heartbeat for the report to reach the three watching men, and another heartbeat for the ball, aimed with deadly accuracy, to find its mark. The man who was walking along West Street explodes in a pink cloud.
Blackaller swears loudly. “Jesus Christ!” He starts running towards the stricken man. Fletcher looks at Strelley, who shakes his head.
“If he can hit him, he can hit you!” Strelley calls after Blackaller. “Find cover.”
“So now what?” Fletcher asks as he and Strelley watch Blackaller cross the street into the cover of the buildings. “We’re lost.”
“I think a venture out of the city might be called for,” Strelley says. “Persuade Master Hammon that this isn’t the way.”
No title, as yet. Nothing stands out as unquestionably title-worthy, but there are plenty of candidates. I'm enjoying a bit of swashbuckling from Strelley and Fletcher at the siege of Exeter, because it presents an opportunity to write in this more energetic style, with explosions and daring night raids. Interspersing that with some of Strelley's grief over Elizabeth has been interesting, because I've noticed that Strelley functions when he has something to do, but given even the remotest sense of space to reflect, he disappears into thinking or talking about Elizabeth. That means that I have to act the part of the 'director' a bit more, and only have him 'on stage' when there's plenty for him to do. I'm sure that, in the days between the bits that get written, he's sitting with a book or a blank sheet of paper, desperately trying to get his mind to focus on something else, and failing. But that point is made... It's not clear to me what the outcome of that particular storyline is. Clearly there can be no happily-ever-after for these two, because one cannot alter Elizabeth's history to accommodate it and I am not in the business of subjunctive (or counterfactual) history. But it seems almost contrary to the story itself that it would just fizzle out. We shall see, I suppose, because whilst there is a framework of things that definitely happen, what there most certainly isn't when it comes to These Matters is a well-worked-out plan of the long-range plot.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought