Ximene Trencavel- 4th July 1355
Don Fernandino leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head. ‘My original plan was to become gypsies. I intended to hide the gypsy wagon in Toulouse At that time of the year there are gypsies on all the roads leading to Rennes les Bains. Both Ximene and myself are dark in complexion so it would have taken little effort to assume a gypsy identity. Whilst everone scoured the country side we would have been quite safe in a small house I had previously rented in Rennes.
Then, in early September when the gypsies move south into Aragon, we would have travelled with them. We would have then continued to Sicily on a commercial vessel out of Barcelona.’
Guillam stood back and stared at Don Fernandino ‘So even then, you had decided not to use Les Etoilles to take Ximene to Sicily?’
Ximene busied herself with self imposed tasks, but listened with interest.
Guillam rose and walked around the table before leaning forward, placing his hands on the table facing Don Fernandino. ‘So what do you intend now?’
Don Fernandino scratched his cheek ‘I don’t want to move her at all until I have found out who organized my kidnap and who was behind the attack on Ximene during the hunt. I am even more concerned about the attempt to murder her at Foix and the pursuit which led to the battle at Monsegur. Someone had access to more information than they should have had.’
Guillam frowned ‘Oh! so you think all four are related. I tend to agree. John talked several times about a really evil man called du Guesclin.’
Don Fernandino shrugged. ‘But if this du Guesclin was indeed responsible he must be getting his information from somewhere. I am virtually sure that Les Etoilles were involved but there do seem to have been other forces at work. Those forces may be gathering between here and the Mediterranean coast just waiting for us to reappear. I will do nothing until I am confident of John’s recovery’
Over the days which followed, despite the fact that her primary objective of saving John’s life had been achieved, Ximene continued to sleep with John. It was no longer to provide warmth, it was because it gave her pleasure. Perhaps, more accurately, it was a proprietory form of love. She justified her actions by the fact that she believed he was in too much pain to be aware of, or concerned with her presence.
Ximene learned that the physician’s name was Estevan. She talked to him regularly about John’s condition, Estevan explained that he was of Moorish descent. As a child he had always been interested in mathematics but had chosen medicine as a career as it gave him better prospects of earning a living. Soon he was sharing with Ximene much of his knowledge.
‘I think we both know that John will survive, the task now is to make it possible for him to walk and, if we handle it well, to walk without a limp. You will play an important part in that process.’
Estavan insisted on John leaving the bed and walking around the room with the aid of crutches. To Ximene it seemed so cruel. Estevan insisted that John put some weight on the damaged leg even though it clearly caused him much pain. Initially Ximene was pleased when Estevan departed and John got a chance to rest.
During Estavan’s absence she concentrated on keeping John comfortable and clean. She took almost obsessive delight in changing his dressings and washing his body. She talked to him mainly about his health and his progress to full recovery.
John recovered quickly. Suddenly he was far more conscious of her presence in his bed. In the night he stretched out his arms to pull her into him.
Ximene was both surprised and disturbed. She believed she really should stop sleeping with John now. Even her Grandmother and Guillam normally slept in separate beds. Her Grandmother had told her that it reinforced the concept that sexual activity should always be at the female’s invitation. For Ximene this was now a problem. She really enjoyed the intimacy of sleeping together, consoling herself that John was never demanding. She believed she was always in control but knew that all too often she encouraged his advances by snuggling close to his body.
She felt it compromised her teaching. It could possibly lead John into bad habits. If she allowed it to continue John would soon expect her prescence. She vowed she would stop sleeping with him soon. She really would!
By the end of the second week the Estevan was encouraging John to walk all the way down the tunnel. Suddenly Ximene realized that the physician’s apparently brutal regime was producing results. She changed her attitude and she then also started to bully John to do more and more every day. She became hardened to the pain he was obviously suffering. In her mind that became irrelevant compared with the progress he was making. By the end of the third week, John could take all of his weight on his damaged leg and also move it as part of a normal walking motion, though still supported by crutches.
Estevan did not hesitate to initiate a more demanding regime. He got John to stand by a table and steady himself with his left hand. He then demanded that he took his weight on his good left leg and swing his injured right leg in all four directions as far as he was able. Initially John was limited in what he was able to achieve.
Slowly, under pressure, he found himself able to swing the injured leg in every direction. It was then and only then that Estevan declared that he should be able to walk and probably run without impediment. He had observed how Ximene had learned his routines and ensured that John complied with them.
‘Push him hard’ he told Ximene.
‘The harder he works the more complete will be his recovery.
‘There will be times when it becomes too much for him, push him hard.’