Late on that languid afternoontime, Nesta sat against the curtain wall aside the gate, with knees drawn up and head bowed down, the seabreeze cooling her. Uncomfortable was she, inside and out. Her mistress then approached and was atop of her position ere ‘fore Nesta saw she had appearethed. Imogene sat down before her.
“Never trust a man of God when acting as a man of flesh,” she coolly said.
“Me never did and never will,” did Nesta then reply, but never raised her head to meet her master’s eye.
“It’s time to make your homage to the Duke.”
“And over that, my homage given ere direct to him, a priest will minister to that transaction, I suppose?”
She looked at Imogene, “Then what’s it mean? This homage? If between my Lord and me, there’s God’s own man to make a mockery of freely given hand?”
“Now perish!” Imogene then said, for second time this day. But here, in earnest did she grant. “These ways are the ways it’s done. Your insolence will cost me. And cost you, of course. But when you spend your reputation of your own, it’s yours to spend. Ask not for usury against my own supply, you wouldn’t mind!”
“I mind you, Imogene. I’m sorry for the folly me of questioning it.”
Imogene said, “Every man has place within the World. Tis God put down the order of the Firmament,” she said, looking up at skies unrestful now. “Some have man makes himself the order from ere Chaos where before the Gods firm hand. I mean to say, they said it in Antiquity like that. You knowest this from history, my charge?”
“Me aye, since I were very small, Cael Morth and some the tutors back at Wolvesey taught me this and other things from back in ancient times.
The girl continued thus, “My favorite is Juno, wife of Jupiter, and patron of the peacock, of all women and of Rome. For she was clever, and she loved us, Imogene. She gives us of our agency deliver out a babe, and gives us the ability to learn and grow our intellect – whacht men may scoff! But also did she have the failings of a woman, stark reminder to us always to be guarded ‘gainst our own weak failings, inspext to our sex.”
“My favorite,” said Imogene, “is Leda and the swan. For Leda, she seduced by Zeus when in disguise, bore him two children: Helen and Polydeuces; but also did she bear for Tyndarus two children: Castor and the girl named Clytemnestra. Four children, each a hero or a consort to a hero be. Two men: One the king of mighty Sparta, and the other God to Greeks. She changed the ancient world through holding good fidelity to motherhood, and thought she highly now, despite her virtue take’d in subterfuge.
Came tears now from the Dame. “And now upon my afternoon in daydream wrought, and contemplating Odo and my heart, I feel a greater sistership to Leda than before.
“Now come with me and be presented to the Duke.”
And so she did. “Don’t you wish to know what thence transpired? When he came upon me, Imogene?”
She sighed. “…Non. Perhaps? I do not know!”
She spoke now not to Nesta, but herself. “For there is peace in letting that which will not change be also something one will never know. It’s done. There is no second act to play.
“But curious is she whose heart is twain: one side spurned by vile comedy, and one side t’ward his heart it doth remain. It’s worse to know than not to know, for half a heart beats firmer in our breast than none at all; however, God hast made from Adam woman to betray. And ere, within the matter of her heart, betray herself. It is our lot and pain.
“When men make feast of lamb, they are like wolves. They hunger, slaver, famished they of flesh. ‘Tis true of them, whichever were the lamb be food for stomachs or for loins. They have no high civility when the hunger in their case they feel for thee. They’re wolves.
“The lamb is slaughtered, dressed, and fed unto the wolf; the skin of her is tanned. The glover makes then iv’ry colored gloves from her, to separate the skin of precious youth from raunch and nast and slime. Tell me now, what purpose is the glove?”
Her Nesta tried to answer her, but Imogene was speaking to her naught.
“The glove protects the hands from fraudulence and base, and keeps good virtue good and whole, against poor custom and some down acclivities. But also from the touch of something greater: ere, good passion. Good passion dost it cloister off a woman from her wedded master.”
In daydreams then, did Imogene continue thus to speak now to herself: “Why then, do we wish ours to keep the glover’s wrought between ourselves and hands most gentle, Imogene? Ah, Genny! Would but thought this raptor would take to us and together make a roost! And so dazzled by him, Sunna in the Eastern morningtide, mistook his claws for plumage of the crest. He rent me, Leda! Ach! He rent me!
“But were this child here before me, Leda, gloved before she were in hand? Or were she now made shewn the fallen world, the foul fallen dignity, and gobbled up her virtue by a predatory swan? Were she made a roustabout by artisan of basest infidelities? Woulds’t she be Medusa, laid to rape, and then admonished for her fall? And he, Bayeux of deviltry, there residing up within the girl ere now? She pregnant? What to say! Oh, Imogene, would William think of me, should bring him up an ingénue, when lioness the promised be?”
At this her squire shook her with great vigor. “Odo didn’t take my virtue, marm. I stabbed him in the leg.”