The architecture of the great hall was dominated by two balconies accessed by two identical ornate curving wooden staircases.
Ximene frowned. She thought it strange that there was no cross balcony. It appeared that the only way to get from one balcony to the other was by returning to the hall.
At the completion of the meal, Ximene was guided by a footman to her bedroom. They climbed up the right hand staircase.
Looking down Ximene saw that Joan had returned to the table and was in an animated conversation with Queen Phillipa. Then, as Ximene waited for her bedroom to be opened, out of the corner of her eye she saw Joan being guided up the left hand staircase. To a bedroom on the other side of the hall. Because of the unusual layout they had effectively been separated!
Ximene entered the bedroom and frowned. It was impeccably furnished but implacably dull. There was however a side door. Believing it might lead to an outside balcony she tried to open it but it was locked,
The clock struck ten, Ximene frowned again. it was relatively early. She really wanted company, but resignedly began to disrobe. There was an urgent knock on the inside door. ‘Yes? Who is it?’
‘It is me, Joan. Unlock the door. There is a key in the desk drawer.’ What? well I never, so there is.’
Joan burst into the room.
‘I thought that went really well!’
‘ The conversation with the Queen. She knows now you are no fool, that you will negotiate determinedly for what you want, that there is no certainty that you will marry the Prince. That last part is for me the most important. She has promised me that if there any difficulties in arranging your marriage to the prince then she will shift her stance and support the idea of me marrying the Prince.
There is a long way to go Joan. I will not tell her i will not marry the Prince until the negotiations are complete and I have got what I want.’ Xmiene paused. ‘It is what we agreed before we left Bordeaux.’
“Yes I suppose so. Can I help? Give me a list of the properties you want and how much you want to pay for them?
Again a long way to go, but you can help. I have stolen an idea from the Prince. I want to set up a trading company bringing goods across the mediterranean through the Val du Midi, down the Garrone, up the Atlantic coast to European Ports. Can you find out what land is available around Poole, Bristol and Chester and along the waterfront in all three places.
She stopped and smiled. ‘Oh yes and I am the Countess of Shaftesbury. i would like to possess land here in Gillingham.
Oh! Well I will see what I can do. Why Gillingham?
The Queen is bringing weavers from Flanders. Cathars, all Cathars are required to perform work. The favoured trade is tailoring and weaving. I am myself a more than competant seamstress.
‘It is true”
Oh! Well I will see what I can do.
Thank you Joan, now tell me the side door. Ho w did you get here?