Damaged Chapter 3
Elizabeth Victoria Wallace
ÂŠ2012 Elizabeth Wallace
It was midday when Catherine and Tom rounded the corner of Pike Lane, and saw the Rose and Crown inn. “What a morning,” said Catherine wearily. “I’m thirsty and tired, and I need a few minutes to myself. Will you let me do that Tom? There are so many things tumbling around in my poor head, that I hardly know where to start. I know you want answers from me, but please be patient.” Instead, Tom did not answer, his attention elsewhere. He rubbed his chin self-consciously and muttered, “I wonder what’s going on? Look at those men” A group of men stood around the inn, some propped up against the entrance while others sat on benches, legs stretched out. As if on cue, they stopped talking, nudging each other and looked towards the young couple. “Don’t say a word,” whispered Tom out the corner of his mouth. “They look like trouble to me. Just ignore them. If they speak, let me deal with it.” Catherine nodded and dropped her head and remained watchful. The men were wearing colorful tartans, sporrans, and berets with clan badges. She thought she had seen some of them in the crowd watching the executions. Instinctively, she moved closer to Tom, as she watched one large man move away from the group.
He clearly stood a half a foot taller than Tom. He wore his full clan dress, and put his hand threateningly on the dirk at his side. He left it there as Tom took a step forward. Tom instinctively pushed Catherine behind him. The man smiled, let out a grunt and tilted his head to one side. “Cate, don’t you recognize an old friend?” he said mockingly, his eyes on Tom. Tom bristled at the familiar tone, balled his fists and stuck his chest out. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll back away Sassenach,” said the man. Tom, puzzled by the comment looked to Catherine for help, but she had a strange look on her face. “It’s all right Tom, I don’t believe this man means us any harm.” The man puffed himself up, and addressed Catherine directly. “So, you finally recognize me do you?” Catherine threw him a puzzled look. “No, I’m afraid I do not, but I do recognize the clan badge on your beret. You’re from the Campbell clan if I’m not mistaken.” “Good grief woman, do I have to spell it out for you…I’m Ambrose Campbell.” “Ambrose, yes, Ambrose, I do remember you now. Forgive me; it was a long time ago. We played together as children as I recall. You’ve changed so much.”
“I could say the same for you,” said Ambrose approvingly, looking Catherine up and down with a leer. “What a beauty you’ve grown into…imagine my little Cate MacDonald, a nun no less.” Tom cleared his throat loudly. “I beg your pardon. I didn’t get your name,” responded Campbell, extending his hand. “You didn’t ask,” Tom bristled, and kept his hand to his side. “So, you’ll not take my hand in friendship. Well, now I know where you stand. I heard Cate had a companion.” “What business is it of yours?” Tom jutted his chin out. “What’s it to you?” “It is my business, but how would you understand? Our families, our clans, have been linked for generations.” Catherine stepped forward, her face flushed. “Please, please, let’s just take a moment. It’s very nice of you to seek me out Ambrose, but what do you want? I’m very tired.” “Oh, I’m sure you are little lady, but I have some questions for you…and I want them answered,” snarled Ambrose. With all his weight, Tom leapt forward and pushed Ambrose to the ground. A little crowd of onlookers stopped as Campbell’s friends surged forward, yelling, but Catherine’s voice could be heard above them. “Now stop this – both of you.”
Ambrose took the hand of one of his men, jumped upright and stood within inches of Tom’s face. “Trust me, you’ll be sorry you did that my man,” he said menacingly, his face contorted with rage. “I have one question for you Catherine: why are you traveling with a thief?” The two men charged together again, but Catherine pushed her hands between them and barked. “That’s enough.” They stepped back smartly, startled by the command of her voice, both men looked down at her. She blushed with embarrassment as she smelled their bodies. A feeling flooded over her, something she could not explain. She began to perspire, little beads of moisture appeared on her top lip, and across her cheekbones. Taking a deep breath, she stepped back and ran her hand across her face. With dismay, she realized Tom was not wearing the gloves he had been given weeks earlier. How could he make such a slip? Campbell had obviously seen the letter T for thief branded in the palm of his right hand. Ambrose held his hands up in capitulation. “I’ll say no more on the matter. I’m sure there’s a very good reason for you to be traveling with such a man. Now Cate, will you give me the courtesy to talk privately?” He nodded towards the inn. Catherine looked from Tom to Ambrose and nodded gently. “It’s all right Tom, this will not take long. Will you please wait for me outside?”
Tom pursed his lips, nodded to her, glared at the man, and almost threw himself on a bench seat. Stretching his long legs out in front, he folded his arms over his chest, and pretended to fall asleep.
The inn was dark and smoky inside despite the hour of day. Catherine took a seat by the fire, an anxious frown on her forehead. All of a sudden she felt vulnerable without Tom by her side. She watched Ambrose speaking to the barman, and then he turned and walked towards her. She looked down at her skirt and nervously brushed imaginary dust away. Leaning forward, she hugged her knees, and rocked back and forth. She tried to remember those early years in Scotland before her parents moved to England, but she had been a mere child. She recalled her grandfatherâ€™s letter asking her father to help with the family business. The excitement of packing their precious possessions, and the long journey south wedged between her parents. The memories flooded back of that happy time in her young life, but then she shuddered as she remembered the gang who rushed at their carriage. They came at them in a screaming horde, brandishing pistols and knives. Her father had been pulled down and beaten, blood streamed from his head. Stop this, she reprimanded herselfâ€Śkeep your wits about you.
Campbell walked towards Catherine. She looked at him taking in his handsome face. He walked with purpose, his head high, which jutted his chin upwards. He looked like the kind of man who was used to getting what he wanted. He smiled as he approached. She quickly turned away both fascinated and scared at the same time. Instead she studied the fireplace, noting the beautiful brick, fan tail design and remembered Mother Superior Elinor had a similar design in her little room back at Hedingham Priory. I wonder what she will say when she knows the truth, thought Catherine. Staring into flames, she heard Ambrose’s gruff voice. “Here, take this, I got you some mulled wine.” Catherine took the pewter mug and accidentally touched his hand. She flushed, and nervously began sipping her wine. Ambrose reached for a three-legged stool, dragged it over, squatted down, and put his tankard at his feet. “I see no reason to hold back. I’m curious as to why you do not wear your full habit? Has something happened to change your mind about your calling? I’m assuming you took your vows some years ago, but obviously, you don’t seem worried about your reputation.” Catherine was on her feet immediately, spilling her own wine and kicking his half way across the tiled floor. “How dare you. I know exactly what you’re implying…that ‘thief’ as you call him has saved my life, guarded and protected me from Essex to Scotland. I owe him my life. Do you understand? I will not have a
word spoken against him. I dare you to insult him again, and I’ll walk from this inn without a backward glance. Now, what else do you have to say to me?” “Well, I remember you had a temper, but hold on just a moment. Sit down Cate and listen to me. Let’s start again, at the beginning. Allow me to tell you why I’m here, and then you can respond. I don’t suppose you remember that we were betrothed as children, do you?” Catherine put her hand to her mouth in astonishment, and could not utter a word. “Well, we were, our families wanted to unite the Campbell and the MacDonald clans. Together, we would have been the most powerful clan in the whole of Scotland.” He sighed, “Just think what we have missed…but it’s not too late. Catherine, I come here today to offer my hand in marriage as our families had promised all those years ago. What do you say?” Catherine shook her head. She was astonished to hear such a proposal and said the first thing that came to mind. “But I’m already married to my Lord Jesus Christ.” “You can renounce your vows; it’s been done before. After all, the promise our parents made was before you took your oath.” She was standing now. “First of all, I did not make that promise. My parents did, and secondly, the vows I took…I took for life…to serve my Lord and Master. I will not renounce them.”
Suddenly, Ambrose’s voice changed, and took on an ominous tone. He glared at her. “Are you listening to me? My offer is a good one.” Catherine began to turn, and he grabbed her wrist viciously. “Don’t underestimate me girl. I know all about your whoring mother, and bastard half-sister. What I offer you is respectability once more. Trust me, you’ll not find a better offer. I will be back in twenty-four hours to claim you. Expect me at noon tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, if that lout outside thinks he’s any match for me, he’s sorely mistaken. I will run my dirk into his body as easily as though it was butter.” He turned on his heels, kicked his stool halfway across the inn, and stormed out. Catherine rubbed her sore wrist, sat down, and clasped her arms around her knees. She began to sob. “What did I do dear Lord to warrant such treatment. Have I been wicked? Have I not been obedient? Tell me Lord what I should do?” Outside, Tom saw his rival’s frame fill the doorway. He was indeed a worthy opponent, and he was not sure he could match him in a fight. He watched the throng of men gather around their leader, and strained to hear what he was saying to his men. “Well, what did she say?” said one man. “I bet she can hardly wait for the day, eh Ambrose?” said another in the crowd, and winked conspiratorially. “You’re a lucky dog, I bet she’s as pure as the driven snow.”
Ambrose did not answer the question directly and looked over his shoulder towards the inn. “We’ll come back tomorrow at noon. If need be, I’ll take her by force as is the tradition. You, Ronnie, as my best man will accompany me. We’ll need to watch out for him,” he scowled towards Tom, “but I don’t think he’ll be a problem.”