A Morbid Taste for Bones
a Brother Cadfael mystery by
Ellis Peters

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A Morbid Taste for Bones


medieval mysteries

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A Morbid Taste for Bones

Copyright © 1977 by Ellis Peters

Chapter One

“It seems like charnel-house business to me, not church business. And you think exactly the same,” he said firmly, and stared out his elder, eye to eye.

“When I want to hear my echo,” said Brother Cadfael, “I will at least speak first.”



Chapter Three

“Well, a man can but hold fast to what he believes right, and even the opponent he baulks should value him for that.”



“A bribe! This foolish stuff you hoard about you more dearly far than your reputations, don’t think you can use it to buy my conscience. I know now that I was right to doubt you.”
Chapter Five And having now nothing to lose but his own self-respect, he was sturdily determined not to sacrifice that.
Chapter Six

“Man,” said Cadfael earnestly, “there are as holy persons outside orders as ever there are in, and not to trifle with truth, as good men out of the Christian church as most I’ve met within it. In the Holy Land I’ve known Saracens I’d trust before the common run of the crusaders, men honourable, generous and courteous, who would have scorned to haggle and jostle for place and trade as some of our allies did. Meet every man as you find him, for we’re all made the same under habit or robe or rags. Some better made than others, and some better cared for, but on the same pattern all.”

“Sioned, may I, with all reverence, look closely again now at his body?”

“I know no greater reverence anyone can pay to a murdered man,” she said fiercely, “than to seek out by all possible means and avenge him on his murderer.”



“Until we know the guilty, we do not know the innocent.”



Chapter Seven Official justice does not dig deep, but regards what comes readily to the surface, and draws conclusions accordingly. A nagging doubt now and then is the price it pays for speedy order and a quiet land.



“He has a good arm and wrist on him, that one,” said Bened reflectively, “and knows how to jump and do as he’s bid when the man bidding knows his business. That’s half the craft.”



Never an opportunity but he can produce a devotional fit or a mystic ecstasy to order. One of these days he’ll be drawn into that light of his, and never come back. Yet I’ve noticed he can fall flat on his face without hurting himself, and go into pious convulsions over his visions or his sins without ever hurling himself against anything sharp or hard, or even biting his tongue. The same sort of providence that takes care of drunken men looks out for Columbanus in his throes. And he reflected at the back of his mind, and tartly, that there ought somewhere to be a moral in that, lumping all excesses together.



“I think there are some who live on a knife-edge in the soul, and at times are driven to hurl themselves into the air, at the mercy of heaven or hell which way to fall.”
“But keep a door open to pity, as who knows when you or I may need it!”



Chapter Nine

After a moment he said, very low: “It’s strange! I never could have done so shabbily by anyone I hated.”

“Not strange at all,” said Cadfael bluntly, stirring his potion. “When harried, we go as far as we dare, and with those we’re sure of we dare go very far, knowing where forgiveness is certain.”



He was a good lad at heart, and this wild lunge of his into envy and meanness had brought him up short against an image of himself that he did not like at all. Whatever prayers Huw set him by way of penance were likely to hit heaven with the irresistible fervour of thunderbolts, and whatever hard labour he was given, the result was likely to stand solid as oak and last for ever.



Chapter Eleven I do believe I begin to grasp the nature of miracles! For would it be a miracle, if there was any reason for it? Miracles have nothing to do with reason. Miracles contradict reason, overturn reason, make game of reason, they strike clean across mere human deserts, and deliver and save where they will. If they made sense, they would not be miracles. And he was comforted and entertained, and fell asleep again readily, feeling that all was well with a world he had always known to be peculiar and perverse.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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