I thought it was about time I posted another excerpt from my Tudor historical novel, STONE BY STONE – a story about a monk and the man sent by Henry VIII to close his monastery:
When they had left the refectory and were out of earshot of the other monks and the servants, Andrew asked, “Do you really want to show me the books?”
Mark looked over his shoulder, smiled and answered, “Among other things. There are some remarkable books in the abbey library, Master Cheyne.”
“Won’t you please call me Andrew?”
Mark inclined his head. “I would be honoured.”
“So I will see these remarkable books and some of your handiwork?”
Andrew sighed. He ought to have known he was reading more into Brother Mark’s interest than was reasonable.
Andrew realized his sigh had been louder than he thought when Mark slowed and turned to him. “You do not wish to visit the library?”
“Yes, of course. I would very much like to see the books and I’m very interested in what you are working on.” Andrew smiled and was unaccountably relieved when Mark smiled back.
It was only a minute or so later when Mark halted at a pair of heavy wooden doors. Grasping the handles, he pushed them open. A dim flickering light, which Andrew realized came from a tall, lit candle in a wall sconce, greeted them. Mark picked it up, lit a branch of candles from it and then led the way inside. Andrew was aware the abbey library had some old rare books and they also had some very new ones. Tavistock Abbey was one of the very first places in England to have a printing press and some of the newly produced bibles in English were being created here.
Like most everyone else, Andrew was very impressed with the idea of books being printed. It was remarkable how swiftly a new book could be ready when compared to the old method whereby each book had needed to be laboriously copied out by hand. However, neither could he deny the beautiful work produced by generations of monks. Andrew had a love of such things—he was proud to have collected a small number of books himself—and it was very hard to think many of the books he admired for their aesthetic beauty would have to be destroyed because of their religious content. He knew he would have to steel himself to such things, however, because he did truly believe that the Catholic bible in Latin was anathema and the people would be better served with an honest, open bible in English.
Brother Mark led the way through the shadowy passageways towards the large windows in the opposite wall. They passed many shelves of books of all shapes and sizes, some so large it was difficult to believe a man could lift them, let alone be able to read them. The room was redolent with the smell of leather and parchment. As they moved deeper inside, Andrew saw different shaped shelves with narrower, deeper openings and he realized they were filled with scrolls, some of which were very ancient and obviously made of parchment, though there were also some examples on paper, which had been produced during the last couple of centuries.
Brother Mark had obviously followed his gaze. “They are remarkable, aren’t they? Our librarian is very proud of the collection.”
Andrew met his gaze. “They will have to be inspected. Sir Richard needs a complete record of everything here.”
Mark nodded. “I know, and I fear what may happen in the future,” he said sadly. “I try to cling to the belief God has purpose in everything he does, but this is difficult.”
For the first time, Andrew wished he didn’t have to be part of this. Part of destroying this man’s private little world—until his own thoughts registered and he acknowledged it was exactly this kind of existence that was at the heart of the problem. These men, and many hundreds like them, existed apart from the reality of life. Supported and served by those whose lives were much more difficult and all too real. Brother Mark may be an honest, sincere monk, but Andrew knew there were many others who lived a life of luxury with no regard for their fellow men. Where was their God in that?
“What did you want to show me, Mark?” Andrew asked, aware his tone of voice was much different from earlier, hard and cold.
Mark glanced at him, a slight frown marring his features. “Why are you angry with me, Andrew? Have I offended you? Please, I had no intent.”
Andrew sighed. “I’m not angry with you, Mark. I allowed myself to forget, for a short time, that we are on opposing sides. I should not have done so. It does neither of us any good.”
“Andrew,” Mark said, his tone soft, beguiling, “we have differing points of view on more than one subject, but surely it doesn’t have to make us enemies. I have already seen you have a taste for the aesthetic, as do I. I did not mistake your pleasure at the stonework or your interest in these books. That is at least two points of view we share. Can we not just share the similarities and try to forget our differences?” Mark stepped closer. “I felt an affinity with you when we met. This is rare for me, and I don’t wish to lose it if I can help it. Will you allow me to be your friend, Andrew?”
Andrew stared at this man, who he now acknowledged could so easily mean more to him than Mark could possibly know, or accept if he did know. Mark might be talking about friendship, but Andrew’s reaction was much more personal, as his stiffening cock could attest. But like Mark, it was rare for Andrew to feel such an acceptance of another being with such speed or ease. He knew he likely wanted more than was possible, but he was willing to take whatever he could have. He could take himself to task later.
“Yes, Mark,” Andrew said. “I would like that.”
end of excerpt
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