Those of you who read the Pillars of the Earth recaps may recall me mentioning Cadfael at some point. If you were confused by that, this should help clear it up. The Brother Cadfael Mysteries were written by Ellis Peters and brought to life by the great Derek Jacobi, who played the 12th century monk/ex-crusader/herbalist to perfection. Judging from PBS’s 2011 lineup, I’ll be delving pretty deeply into the Edwardian and interwar periods for a while, so I thought I’d give myself a break and dip into the war-and-wimple period instead, at least until Netflix sends me the first disk of The Duchess of Duke Street. So, on with the recap!
Party time! A wedding, to be exact. A young man who looks like he’s only got about sixpence to the shilling, if you know what I mean, peeks in on the festivities from another room. He’s played by Toby Jones, who’s a platinum diamond member of the British “Hey! It’s that guy!” club. He just shows up everywhere, in a baffling range of roles that runs the gamut from lead actor to featured to glorified scenery. It’s too bad his Truman Capote movie came out right at the same time as Capote (and therefore got much less attention), because he was actually really good in it and that probably would have gotten him more recognizable roles, if Philip Seymour Hoffman hadn’t come along and kicked ass. Oh well, c’est la vie. Anyway, he’s joined by a bearded man who looks at him silently for a moment, then peeks into the wedding himself.
In the party, an entertainer is wandering around playing an early version of the violin. He eyes a blonde serving girl for a moment, then moves on to juggling while one of the guests observes to the groom that his wife doesn’t look too happy. Indeed, she looks bored out of her mind. Perhaps because of this, the groom decides to liven things up by shoving the poor entertainer into the table, which results in him shattering a jug. An old woman yells at him for breaking her best pitcher and starts smacking him around with her cane, until finally her dark-haired granddaughter steps in and tells the woman to calm the hell down already. Seriously, lady, you’re very well dressed and standing in a large, substantial house. Clearly you can afford a new pitcher. The entertainer (or jongleur, as they were known then) tells her that her jerky grandson pushed him into the table, but of course the doting grandma won’t hear it. She demands compensation for the pitcher, but he has no money, so she kicks him out of the house without paying him for the evening’s entertainment. The men throw him out into the street, laughing, and throw his instrument out after him. He yells after them that he hopes the bride is poxed. Aww, now, no need to drag her into this, she didn’t have anything to do with it!
Back inside, things get raucous, until the master of the house calls a halt and he and the old lady scold one of the men, Iestyn, for having the nerve to show up at all, since the event is for “family and [his] betters.” She dismissively calls him a journeyman and tells her son, the father of the groom and master of the house, to clear the wedding gifts away before something else gets broken.
The groom heads to the refreshment table to grab a snack, and while he’s there an older man with a pretty young blond on his lap tells him (his name’s Daniel) that he hopes his wife makes him as happy as the older man’s Cecily has made him. Daniel totally has eye-sex with Cecily for a second, and she’s only too happy to engage.
Daniel steps away, and a bald guy jokes that, for the first time, the married woman Daniel beds that night will be his own. Daniel asks if baldy (Master Peche) is unhappy as Daniel’s family’s tenant and gets a negative, so he tells him to hold his tongue, lest someone cut it out.
The master of the house is in a back room that looks like a storeroom of some kind. He unlocks a chest, pulls out a bag full of money and sets it aside, and then starts putting the wedding gifts away. As he does so, someone sneaks in, snags the bag of cash, and then whacks him brutally over the head.
The bride and groom have retired, and as drunken idiots listen outside the bedroom, Daniel drools over his new wife, who couldn’t possibly look less interested.
Back downstairs, the old lady calls over her granddaughter, Susannah, and asks her to see where her father (Walter) has gone to. Susannah heads back to the workshop, sees her father laying there on the floor, and starts screaming. Daniel and his wife are roused (they’re already done, so Daniel must be a minuteman indeed) and Daniel comes running as someone yells that his father’s dead. The old lady collapses in horror.
The family and wedding guests immediately hit the road to chase down the jongleur, who runs to the nearest place of safety: the abbey. He climbs over the locked gate and bursts into the church, where all the monks are gathered for one of the services. They look a bit disturbed by the sound of an angry mob outside, but don’t miss a beat in their chant. The jongleur flies to the altar, where he grabs the cloth and claims sanctuary, even as the mob floods in and falls on him. Cadfael, the former soldier, is the only monk willing to wade into the fray and actually push guys away from the cowering musician. The abbot and prior tell them all to back the hell off, but Daniel rushes forward, dagger bared, ready to stab the jongleur to death on the altar of the church, which is an even bigger no-no then than it is now. Cadfael warns him to put the weapon away, or risk eternal damnation, and Daniel shouts that the musician killed and robbed his father, which excuses murder and sacrilege, I guess. Cadfael appeals to the abbot and prior, pointing out that, if they have a lawful complaint, the mob would have had a sergeant with them. The prior idiotically thinks that the mob will deliver the jongleur to the law, but Cadfael knows better, and the abbot sides with him. After all, as the abbot forcefully argues (surprisingly forcefully, for such an old man), the jongleur has claimed sanctuary, which means nobody can touch him for 40 days. Daniel growls that they’ll be waiting for the jongleur if he dares to step outside the walls of the monastery. With that, he and his buddies leave. The abbot asks the prior to re-start the lauds service and he and Cadfael take the jongleur with them to find out what’s going on.
Cadfael asks the young man what his name is and learns it’s Liliwin. The abbot asks if he’s guilty of the charges and Liliwin swears it’s not true, Walter the goldsmith was alive and well when he last saw him.
The following day, Toby Jones heads out to the well to fetch some water, but when he empties the bucket, he notices a gold coin with a bit of dark blue fabric wrapped around it inside. He takes it inside to his master, Peche, who takes it and looks at it curiously.
The Sergeant Warden has arrived at the abbey, along with most of the mob from the night before. The abbot is surprised not to be receiving the sheriff’s deputy, but apparently said deputy, Hugh Beringar, is out of town. The sergeant’s there to act in his stead, satisfied that some crime was committed. But not murder, as it turns out. Walter’s still alive, though unconscious. Cadfael points out that this means the jongleur’s facing a much lesser charge, but the prior basically tells him to butt out. The sergeant has come to speak to Liliwin and get his side of the story. The abbot dismisses the rest of the mob, but before he goes, Daniel asks Cadfael (who’s the abbey’s herbalist) to come attend to his grandmother, who fell into a seizure when Walter was found the night before.
A seizure certainly hasn’t made the old lady any nicer or calmer. She snipes at Cadfael over the abbot appearing to take the part of a thief, but Cadfael takes no nonsense and says that, if Liliwin is a thief, he somehow managed to stash his ill-gotten gains before arriving at the abbey the night before. Susannah, standing off to the side, listens with some interest. Cadfael gives the old lady an infusion, tells her to just relax and stop being such a flaming bitch all the time, and leaves some medicine for her, promising to call again the following day.
Susannah takes him in to see Walter, who’s still out, his head bandaged. Susannah tells Cadfael that, whenever Walter comes to, his head hurts too much for him to remember anything.
Cadfael heads downstairs with Susannah, who gives him the details of the previous night. Once the screaming started, the guests came running, along with Iestyn, who’s their journeyman. Someone yelled that the minstrel did it, so the men took off. Susannah left her new sister-in-law, Marjorie, to look after Walter while Susannah went to fetch a physician. Cadfael points out that the musician was sent away a good hour before Walter was attacked, and Susannah says she saw the musician follow Walter into his workshop. And she didn’t think to mention that to anyone at the time? They’ve arrived in the kitchen by this time, where the young servant girl is chopping cabbage. She looks up at Cadfael and Susannah as they speak, looking distressed.
Cadfael’s next stop is the workshop, where a couple of journeymen and Daniel are working on some delicate gold work. Daniel asks how everyone’s doing and hears his family will mend in time. Cadfael asks Daniel if he can think of anyone else who might want to rob Walter, and Daniel admits that there’s someone else he’s been suspicious of for some time: Master Peche, the locksmith/tenant. Cadfael scoffs, but Daniel says the locksmith’s a bad sort, always out gossiping, but he couldn’t be guilty in this case, because he was in the hall with the other guests the whole time. Cadfael turns to go, but notices a few light-colored hairs caught in the wood of the doorframe. He takes them, and eyes the nearby lockbox where Walter was attacked.
As Cadfael leaves, the servant girl comes running over and hands him a bundle of Liliwin’s things, which he left behind the night before. She starts babbling about how he couldn’t have harmed anyone and Cadfael comforts her, reassuring her that no harm will come to him. He correctly guesses that she’s got quite the crush and she admits to it, saying that he spent some time with her in the kitchen before he had to perform, and it was one of the loveliest hours of her life. Before she can reminisce further. Susannah appears and calls her in, thoughtfully providing us with a name for the girl (Rannilt). Rannilt hurries inside.
As Cadfael makes his way out onto the street, he’s waylaid by Peche, who comments that it wouldn’t be completely crazy to look to the family for suspects, since Walter’s death would make Daniel a fairly wealthy man. Cadfael warns him not to gossip and goes on his way. He soon meets up with some young boys playing soccer in the street with Liliwin’s instrument. He gives the kids a good glare, takes the instrument, and returns to the abbey with it.
He hands it to Liliwin, tells him one of the other brothers will make him a new one, and mentions the young musician has quite a fan in Rannilt. Liliwin’s excited to hear that she doesn’t believe he’s a murderer. He’s got quite the crush on her, and even echoes her “best hour of my life” comment. Aww.
Cadfael gets down to brass tacks and asks for the full truth, starting with an explanation of how Liliwin’s hairs ended up in the workshop doorframe. Liliwin fesses up that he waited at the shop and asked Walter for his payment. When Walter gave him a penny, Liliwin left. Cadfael listens, but isn’t ready to accept Liliwin’s account as 100% true just yet.
Back at the goldsmith’s, Susannah’s serving lunch to her brother and Marjorie, who’s wearing this odd, very unflattering turban on her head. Marjorie volunteers to help take over some of the household tasks Susannah’s been covering for most of her life. Lest you think she’s being nice, let me just say that it’s clear this is a power play on her part. She wants control over the household, which Susannah has right now. Susannah isn’t interested in parting with any of her duties, and Daniel won’t take sides in the argument.
Walter’s awake and being seen to by Cadfael, so I guess it’s the next day now. As Cadfael examines the wound on Walter’s head, he confirms that Walter didn’t see who attacked him. He’s sure it was the minstrel, though, because he’d received his penny not two minutes before and saw all the goodies in the open chest.
It’s a fine sunny day, and in the abbey’s garden, Liliwin’s practicing tumbles and flips, until Brother Jerome, the ultimate killjoy, snips at him for it. Liliwin apologizes for giving offense, but says he needs to practice, since this is his living and all. Jerome snits that the musician should be more focused on the charges against him than on silly acrobatics. He should go hang out with the nasty old lady sometime. They’d have a grand time together.
At the goldsmith’s, Peche heads out for a day of fishing while Rannilt starts doing the laundry. Upstairs, Walter’s moaning about the loss of the money, which’ll put a dent in household finances. He somehow manages to turn the conversation to Susannah’s spinster status. She asks him how much money is left and gets this charming answer: “Too little to buy you a husband.” Ick. Not that it’s surprising the old lady raised such a dickish son, but really, man, come on! It would serve you right if Susannah was the one who whacked you over the head.
Rannilt’s still hard at work on the laundry when Susannah comes bursting out, grabs a basket of clothes, and heads out to hang them on the line out by the river. She comes back in, wringing water out of her skirt, and notices Rannilt’s crying. She scolds the girl for shedding tears over a guy like Liliwin, but softens a little and gives Rannilt permission to go to the abbey and visit. Rannilt’s over the moon and runs inside to grab some food for him. She runs into Marjorie, who adds some clothes she’s found stuffed away to the provisions, which is pretty nice of her.
At the abbey, Liliwin swears up and down to Rannilt that he didn’t attack Walter, but of course she already believes him. They’re having a cute moment, so naturally Brother
Killjoy Jerome has to show up to send her away. Liliwin asks him to give them a few moments alone in the church for prayer. Jerome allows it, and once he’s gone, Liliwin asks her to stay in some little hidey place he’s found in the church. Sex in a church—kinky, kids!
At Walter’s, the old lady (her name is Juliana, in case you were curious) is up and dressed and has made her way to the kitchen for lunch. Susannah packs up some food and takes it over to the locksmith’s, allegedly for Peche himself, but the journeyman, John, who was the man observing the wedding with Toby Jones at the beginning, says Peche is living up to his name and has gone fishing for the day. She tells him to eat the food himself, then. As he digs in, he reassures her he won’t always be a journeyman. She says she’ll hang around while he eats and then take back the bowl. He likes that idea.
In the church, Liliwin and Rannilt get dirty next to one of the tombs. We cut from their passionate embrace to Daniel making out with Cecily. Unfortunately, they’re interrupted by Iestyn, and Cecily grabs a random piece of jewelry and acts like she’s there to shop. Iestyn doesn’t look convinced.
It’s several hours later, and the monks singing compline wakes Liliwin, who gently wakes Rannilt. She freaks when she realizes how long she’s been gone. He won’t hear of her walking back alone at such a late hour, so he puts on a cloak, pulls up the hood, and sneaks out right past the sergeant’s guards. Those guys suck. It wasn’t even an invisibility cloak. As Rannilt runs inside, Daniel emerges from another door and heads out into the night, observed by Liliwin.
The next day, Cadfael’s just attended the birth of a new foal. He goes to the nearby river to rinse his hands and arms off, and there he notices a body floating facedown in the reeds nearby. He turns it over and it’s none other than Master Peche.
Cadfael and some of the other townspeople take Peche to the abbey, where they’re met by the prior. Cadfael thinks this was a simple, unfortunate drowning, and the abbot agrees, but one of the townspeople and Daniel think there’s foul play at work here. Daniel thinks Peche knew something about the attack on his father, which led Liliwin to go after him too. Cadfael shoots that theory down, since as far as he knows Liliwin hasn’t left the abbey in days. He scolds the townspeople for being such idiots, which doesn’t stop them from…being idiots when Liliwin innocently wanders onto the scene. They give chase, but fortunately Beringar arrives and tells them to stand off. He knows all about what’s been going on in town and reiterates Cadfael’s point that guards have been placed outside the abbey gates for the past several days, day and night, and they haven’t reported Liliwin leaving once.
Of course, this is when Jerome has to pipe up and claim he didn’t see Liliwin around for several hours the previous day. Sometimes I wish Cadfael would just punch him in his smug, sniveley little face. Beringar asks Liliwin if he ever left the abbey, and of course Liliwin says no, because he’d like very much to live another day. Beringar accepts that and tells the townspeople to get lost while he investigates this matter. His drawn sword helps them make up their minds and they troop off.
Cadfael gets Peche inside and starts pulling bits of plants off the man, remarking that there’s no way they grew in the water where Cadfael found him. Beringar, who’s overseeing the process, remarks that there’s very little water coming out of Peche, for a drowned man. Cadfael figures he was sucking in too much water fauna to actually get much water in, which means he was most likely suffocated, not drowned. He, Beringar, and a hovering physician turn Peche on his side and notice a pretty brutal cut on the back of his head, which indicates a serious blow from behind before he went into the water. Which means the charge of murder is justified, against someone.
Cadfael hits the river for a weed-finding mission. He confirms that the plants he found on Peche weren’t from the place he found the body and sends a boatman off to search the opposite bank for the place where Peche was killed, while Cadfael searches the abbey bank.
Beringar, meanwhile, heads to Peche’s shop to interview John the Journeyman while Toby Jones observes from a nearby staircase. John admits that Peche wanted him to take over the workshop after he died, since Peche had no kin. Beringar confirms that John had no problems with Peche and asks where he was the night before. John says he was with his mother, who’ll vouch for him. “What mother wouldn’t?” Beringar asks drily before asking where Toby (whose name is Griffin in this) was. John says he slept in the workshop, as usual, then drops his voice and says Griffin’s simple, but harmless.
Liliwin’s chilling out near Cadfael’s workshop, enjoying the fine evening. Cadfael emerges to pick some herbs and says he heard Liliwin had a visitor the night before. Liliwin confirms it. Cadfael thinks Liliwin let her go surprisingly easily, and Liliwin confesses that he didn’t let her go at all, but convinced her to have sex with him in the church. He feels bad about it, thinking he’s damned their souls by committing such sacrilege. Cadfael’s a man of the world, though, and, after he gets Liliwin to admit he’s totally in love with Rannilt, tells him it’s all good, God won’t mind. Cadfael scolds Liliwin for letting Rannilt walk home alone at night, which actually turns out to just be a trick to get Liliwin to admit that he was, in fact, outside the abbey walls the night before. But Cadfael’s not really trying to trap him, because at this point, he doesn’t believe Liliwin is guilty. He asks if Liliwin saw anyone else while he was out, and the minstrel says yes, in fact, he did.
Cadfael takes the news of Daniel’s nocturnal wanderings to Beringar, who’s surprised to hear it. He’s also surprised Cadfael got a witness to this so quickly, and swiftly deduces that Liliwin was said witness. Cadfael tells Hugh that the kid’s a good sort—after all, he didn’t have to come back. Except, Cadfael, heading out on his own would have essentially confirmed guilt, at least to the townspeople, who probably would have hunted him down and hanged him. Just something to think about.
Marjorie’s going about her business, collecting eggs from the henhouse when she sees Beringar speaking with Susannah. Beringar makes his way over to her and tells her he knows her husband was out the night Peche was killed, and he wants to know if he saw anything. She says it was a quiet night and they went to bed early, that the witness is mistaken.
Beringar next goes to speak to Iestyn, who also saw and heard nothing. When asked, he tells Beringar that he’s perfectly happy with his work and has no quarrel with the family.
Up above, Marjorie’s sitting tensely at the table in the hall when her husband comes wandering in. She tells him Beringar’s been asking questions and that he knows Daniel was out the night Peche was killed. She knows well enough that Daniel was out screwing Cecily, but says not everyone might look at it that way. Daniel panics, but his fears are eased when she tells him she lied on his behalf. Daniel swears up and down he was with Cecily, and she gives him this look that says, “You really are too dumb to live, aren’t you?” He promises never to see Cecily again. Yeah, right. He kneels beside his wife and begs her for advice.
I’m not sure if this is the advice she gave, but now Daniel’s pulling Cecily off the street and begging her to swear he was with her that night. She’s not willing to admit publicly to having an affair and leaves him to swing. She does, at least, put an end to their affair, which should please Marjorie.
Cadfael and Beringar are having a tête-à-tête about the most recent developments. Both Marjorie and Daniel have come clean about Daniel being out, though neither will give up the other woman’s name. Cadfael guesses it’s Cecily, based on Peche’s earlier gossip, and Beringar wonders if Daniel might have killed Peche to shut him up.
Daniel is, for once, in bed with his own wife, thanking her for taking his side. In return for her loyalty, she tells him she wants to be full mistress of the house, the carrier of the keys, as is her right as his wife.
The next day, Juliana makes a tour of the house’s stores, poking around in the pantry. She taps the side of one barrel with her cane, presumably to see how full it is.
Soon after, Cadfael arrives for a visit with his patients. He chuckles that he should tell Juliana to stamp around the house all day, in the hope she might do the opposite, since obviously his advice that she rest is being ignored. While he’s mixing something up, Daniel, Walter, and Marjorie come in and Marjorie informs Susannah that she’ll be taking over the running of the house now. Susannah isn’t willing to go quietly, but Marjorie has both Daniel and her father-in-law behind her, and even Juliana agrees that this is the way things are done. Susannah backs down and says she’ll hand over the keys the following day, after she does a full inventory. She sweeps out, and once she’s gone, Juliana yells at the others to get out of her sight. They obediently leave, and Cadfael hands over his mixture. They agree that Susannah has been shabbily treated, after serving her family well for so many years.
Late that night, Susannah’s wandering the kitchen, looking in barrels and bowls as her grandmother had done earlier. The noise rouses Rannilt, who sleeps in the room adjoining the pantry. It also wakes Juliana, who comes out and remarks that Susannah certainly manages her affairs well. Susannah says she learned from her grandmother. She wonders aloud what the family intends to do with her now, send her to a nunnery? “Even as [she] is?” She slowly removes the shawl she had wrapped around her and her grandmother’s eyes widen in horror, though we don’t see what freaked her out so much. It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure it out, though, does it? She has what appears to be a heart attack and collapses down the stairs. Rannilt comes running out, trips over a bundle on the floor, and starts screaming when she sees Juliana lying unconscious at the foot of the stairs.
The whole family’s now up, gathered with Cadfael around Juliana’s bed. Juliana can barely speak, but she manages to croak to Cadfael that she would have liked to hold her great-grandchild. Cadfael looks up at Marjorie, who gives him a “don’t look at me, brother,” look right back. Juliana expires, and Cadfael gently closes her eyes and begins to pray. Susannah goes to her grandmother and kisses her on the cheek.
Prayers done, Cadfael gets to work, asking Rannilt what she saw. She tells him that there was nobody else up but herself, Susannah, and Juliana, and nobody was close enough to Juliana to push her down the stairs. Rannilt claims she was up fretting about the family’s poor treatment of Susannah that morning. Oh, and Liliwin, of course. Cadfael tells her not to worry about Liliwin, he’s doing fine. He sends her back to attend to Susannah, who’s still sitting at her grandmother’s bedside. Rannilt offers to fetch Susannah a cloak, foolishly observing that she seemed to need it earlier, when she was talking to Juliana. Susannah jumps on that and asks what she heard and saw. Rannilt says she wasn’t eavesdropping and didn’t hear anything. When Susannah notices a cut on Rannilt’s hand, the maid says she cut it tripping over Susannah’s bundle. Susannah quietly observes that Rannilt noticed quite a lot. Oh, dear, this isn’t going to go well for Rannilt, is it? Susannah tells her she meant to leave the house that very night, but Juliana’s death intervened. She plans to go the next night, though.
The following day, Cadfael’s at work in his herb garden while Beringar sits by, musing that there’s been an awful lot of suspicious activity in the goldsmith’s house of late, and more than their fair share of deaths and injuries. Neither he nor Cadfael think there’s anything strange about Juliana’s death, since this is the 12th century and the woman was in her 80’s after all, which meant she lived about twice as long as most people. Beringar’s more concerned about Peche’s death, which he knows is murder. Cadfael and his helper still haven’t found the murder spot, and nobody seems to have seen Peche at all the day he disappeared. Cadfael wonders if he could have been killed during the day, but Beringar discounts the theory, guessing that someone would have seen the body float by if that were the case. Beringar brings up the fact that Liliwin was out and about that night, and he’s already under suspicion for the attack on Walter, whereas Daniel’s been pretty much cleared of both offenses. Cadfael still thinks Liliwin’s innocent, but he promises that, if the minstrel’s lying, Cadfael will get the truth out of him.
At the goldsmith’s, Rannilt’s scrubbing a table while Marjorie pokes around in the pantry, making notes on the stores in a little notebook. She pops open the oat crock that Juliana was checking the day before, glances inside, and writes something down. In Peche’s workshop, John glances suspiciously over at Griffin, working nearby.
Cadfael’s back on the riverbank, checking plants to find Peche’s murder spot while a gaggle of boys splash around in the water nearby. Griffin comes out just as one of the boys finds a gold coin in the mud near the bank. Griffin shouts, grabs the coin from the boy, and claims it’s his, as Cadfael watches, frowning.
Susannah’s on her way out on some errand when she’s waylaid by John, who offers his condolences on the loss of her grandmother. She accepts, more or less gracefully, calling him “Master Boneth,” but then hurries away. He calls after her that she used to call him “John” and she says that that was back when he was a mere journeyman. He earnestly tells her that he’s the same man, but now he’s got money and some position and could take care of her. She rebuffs him, telling him she has no dowry and is therefore a poor catch, but he tells her his mind’s set on it. She doesn’t look too delighted.
Cadfael’s brought his assistant back to the spot where the bathing boy found the coin earlier that day. As he examines the bank, he leaps on some herbs he notices. It’s the collection of three plants he found on Peche, but he can’t believe this could be the place, since the goldsmith’s land (and Peche’s home and workshop) are about four steps away. Cadfael’s assistant wonders if Peche had stolen something and been found out, and Cadfael counters that he could also have discovered someone else who had stolen and wanted to keep him quiet. Cadfael asks his assistant to ferry him back to the abbey and to go to Beringar and tell him what they’ve found.
John’s meeting with Walter, who’s shocked that anyone should want his daughter, even though she’s not that bad looking or anything, and she’s clearly a more than capable housekeeper. Walter, the tightfist, tells John there will be no dowry and this will in no way affect his rent. Whatever, this guy’s just a dick. Later, at dinner, Walter tells Susannah she’s to be married after all. I think it goes without saying she doesn’t do cartwheels across the hall.
Later that night, John’s roused by Beringar knocking on his door. Hugh took his sweet time getting there, didn’t he? He wants to talk to Griffin.
At the abbey, the abbot’s meeting with Cadfael, telling him this distressing chain of events must be concluded quickly. He gives Cadfael permission to sit down with Hugh and hash this out for as long as they need to. Before he goes, Cadfael tells the abbot that it looks like Liliwin’s totally innocent of all charges, and if that’s really the case, everyone needs to know it. The abbot agrees.
Back with John, Griffin, and Beringar, John’s admiring the coin, which apparently isn’t gold at all but silver, and quite old, even for that time. But Walter had quite a few of these rare pieces in his collection. Hugh asks Grififn to tell him how he came by it, but Griffin’s reluctant, because Peche told him not to say. John gives him permission to speak, so Griffin says he found it in the well bucket and gave it to Peche, who said it was valuable (which is why he totally yanked it from his simple-minded apprentice. Nice guy, that Peche.) And somehow, after that, the coin ended up by the river.
Lliliwin’s hanging out in Cadfael’s workshop, giving a little background as to how he ended up at the wedding (Juliana hired him). When asked, he claims he didn’t even know the property extended past the town wall, until Rannilt told him at some point that the clotheslines were out there, by the river. This is a great way for him to work in a mention that Susannah had let Rannilt visit him on washing day, instead of making the maidservant hang up all the recently washed linen. He also innocently mentions that Susannah had gotten her dress soaked somehow that day, which catches Cadfael’s attention. Before the story can continue, Brother Oswyn comes in to tell Cadfael that Beringar’s there to speak to him.
Goldsmith’s. Susannah’s sticking to that promise to leave her father’s house, but unexpectedly, she’s taking Rannilt with her. They set off together in the darkness.
Back at Cadfael’s, he and Beringar go over the details, starting with the night Walter was attacked. The key to the whole thing seems to be this coin, which Cadfael guesses was hidden in the well with the rest of the stolen treasure by a thief who was in a hurry. Since the men had all run out of the house after Liliwin, that left only the women around, so he figures one of them must have hidden it. Marjorie was taking care of Walter, but Susannah had dashed out to find a doctor. In the commotion that followed, Susannah was able to hide the treasure more securely, but she missed one coin. Cadfael figures Peche guessed, from the discovery of the coin, that it was a woman who’d done the robbery, although that seems like kind of a big leap, and Peche, honestly, didn’t seem that smart. I mean, look how long it took Cadfael to figure this whole thing out, and he’s good at this sort of thing. I guess we’ll just go with it, along with Cadfael’s next assumption: instead of going right to Walter, as he should have done, Peche attempted blackmail, like an idiot.
Liliwin, who’s been listening to these theories, can’t believe Susannah would have been responsible for this, since she was so kind about letting Rannilt visit him. Cadfael tells him that it wasn’t kindness but a desire to keep Rannilt away from the waterside and the recently dead Peche that made her send the maidservant to the abbey. Liliwin, a man of his time, can’t believe a mere woman would be capable of murder. Like everyone else in Susannah’s life, he underestimates her. Beringar wonders why Peche didn’t defend himself, so Cadfael acts out how he thinks the murder scene went, using Liliwin as a stand-in. We get that intercut with scenes of the actual murder, and it’s pretty brutal. First, as Peche admires the coin in his hand, she comes up behind him and whacks him on the head with a stone. Then, she holds him under the water with one foot, soaking her dress in the process. Creepily, she almost seems to enjoy what she’s doing. She pinned the body where it was and then released it that night, hoping the river would float him far, far away.
Still, it doesn’t answer the question of who attacked Walter, since Susannah was in the hall the whole time. So, she had an accomplice. Hugh guesses it was Daniel, who was kept on a small allowance by his grandmother. The mention of Juliana’s name makes Cadfael remember her last words, about holding her great-grandchild, and everything falls into place for him. He realizes what it was that shocked Juliana so badly she seized and fell down the stairs: Susannah’s pregnant belly. Susannah’s lover was her accomplice.
Cadfael, Beringar, the sergeant, and Liliwin show up at Walter’s, banging on the door, as Liliwin runs around like a moron yelling Rannilt’s name over and over again. Walter opens the door and Liliwin runs in while Cadfael goes down into the undercroft, where Iestyn slept. The man doesn’t seem to be home.
Upstairs, Walter can’t believe his own daughter would rob and attack him, and why should he, considering he treated her so well and all. The sergeant reports that she’s not there. Meanwhile, Cadfael, accompanied by Marjorie, who found him skulking in the undercroft, is in the pantry, opening up the oat crock, which isn’t as full as it used to be. I think we found our hiding place. He goes into the hall and reports that Iestyn, who’s a Welshman, by the way, is missing. Hugh fills in the audience on some old law: once in Wales (which was a separate country at the time), the pair will be out of their reach. Walter wants his money back, of course (daughter be damned). Liliwin runs in and says that Rannilt’s gone too, and he’s sure Susannah the Sociopath will kill her.
In a barn in the middle of the woods somewhere, Iestyn, Rannilt, and Susannah have hidden with the two horses they also stole from Walter. Iestyn asks Susannah why he brought the girl and she tells him she knows too much. Once in Wales, she’ll do away with her and dump the body in some wild place for the animals to take care of. For some reason, this doesn’t completely freak Iestyn out. Geez, this guy must really be in love. He does at least urge her not to go murdering someone else (he excuses the Peche murder because it was forced on her. Whatever.) and urges her to just let Rannilt go and make her way back. Susannah gets gooshy and says she can deny him nothing, so he can let Rannilt go. When he goes to open the door, though, he notices that Hugh, a bunch of his men, Cadfael, and Liliwin are heading their way on horseback. He panics and sends Susannah to the loft with Rannilt.
The sergeant calls out for the three of them to come out peacefully. Iestyn yells back from the loft that he’s got Rannilt, and if they make a move against them, he’ll slit her throat. The sergeant observes that the threesome are trapped, but Liliwin, of course, is worried about Rannilt. Cadfael reassures him Rannilt’s safe, since she’s no good as a bargaining chip if she’s dead. Hugh takes over and tells Iestyn to give himself up, since he’s got no hope at this point. Iestyn knows it, and starts bargaining, asking for Susannah to be allowed to leave, unharmed and with all her goods, and he’ll hand over Rannilt. Walter, who’s there as well, won’t accept that deal, and neither will Susannah, who now asks that Iestyn be allowed to go free, since she’s the one who did the murdering in the first place. Iestyn breaks in and says she’s lying, he was the murderer. Susannah draws him back into the loft and tells him that they already know who did what. While they’re talking, Rannilt makes a dash for the ladder, but Iestyn grabs her and drags her back as she screams. Liliwin freaks a bit more, but Cadfael deduces that, if she’s screaming she’s alive, and if she’s trying to escape, she’s unbound. Iestyn offers a new deal: they’ll hand over Rannilt and the treasure they stole, in return for free access to Wales. Walter’s cool with that, since all he cares about is his stuff, but Hugh reminds him that they killed a guy, so letting them off scot free is not an option. No deal.
Iestyn’s ready to put up a fight, so the sergeant withdraws to a nearby tree with a soldier carrying bows and arrows, while Liliwin circles the barn, finds some ladders around the back, and uses them to climb up to the rather loosely thatched roof. He starts to part the thatch as the sergeant takes a spot on a tree branch with the bow and arrows and waits for a clear shot. Liliwin finally manages to get through a hole in the thatch, and he creeps towards Rannilt while Susanna and Iestyn are looking out the front. Cadfael steps up and calls out to Susannah, promising that if she and Iestyn come down and give themselves up, her child shall be born and will be well cared for. The baby’s news to Walter. Susannah angrily says that the baby doesn’t belong to the church, it belongs to her and Iestyn, which she probably should have thought of before committing murder. Cadfael next tries to appeal to whatever humanity she has left, reminding her that Rannilt’s a person who’s in love herself, and she should be free to do so. Susannah doesn’t care. Beringar goes to the sergeant and tells him to take the shot when he gives the signal, then he foolishly asks Walter to plead with his daughter. That goes about as well as you’d expect. Liliwin finally reaches Rannilt, but as they’re heading for the makeshift exit, Iestyn turns, sees them, and advances with the knife. Rannilt screams, the sergeant lets loose his arrow, Susannah blocks the window with her body, and takes the arrow directly in her belly. Iestyn runs to her, allowing Rannilt and Liliwin to escape. Beringar and the sergeant run to the loft just in time to see Susanna die while Iestyn weeps over her. Beringar quietly promises to see her decently buried. Iestyn, now with nothing to live for, throws Walter’s treasure out the window, weepily saying he would have taken her with nothing. Outside, Walter horribly scoops up his treasure, gleeful at having it returned. As Susannah said earlier, I hope he’s fed molten gold in hell forever.
Now to bookend with a second wedding (and a much happier one): that of Rannilt and Liliwin, who are both looking much better. One of the monks even remarks on it. Cadfael says that the townspeople, out of guilt, have been very generous. The monk hands over another wedding gift: a brand new instrument for Liliwin, to replace the one that was destroyed earlier. Rannilt turns to Beringar and says she hopes Iestyn won’t hang. She doesn’t want any deaths on her hands. Liliwin even speaks up on the man’s behalf, since he was just a fool in love and all. Beringar reassures them that, since Iestyn never killed anyone and returned what he stole, he’ll probably live (although he’ll spend his days rotting in the worst kind of prison, so maybe death would have been a mercy).
As Liliwin and Rannilt leave, Hugh and Cadfael chat about Iestyn’s future. Cadfael’s sure he’ll move on eventually, and marry and have children, but he’ll always be haunted by Susannah, who could have been a perfectly good person if her family hadn’t messed her up so horribly. Hugh doesn’t think even Cadfael can bring Susannah into the fold amongst the lambs, but that’s pretty much what Cadfael does, after all. He’s the most forgiving person ever, probably because he’s done plenty of horrible things himself, as a former crusader. He shrugs and they watch the happy couple go.