Historical setting: 589 C.E. On the south side of the Loire
The rain seems powerless now for dampening spirit. The little donkey bounds the full circumference of the pasture fence, bucking and leaping, dancing his finest moves to please the stolid mares looking on.
Jesse stands akimbo by the gate watching the romp, and the rain doesn’t stop.
“Yes sir, Ezra where you see a tiny little critter to tow a cart, I see a fine mule in the making. You know, you’ll not get that jackass across the Loire with the floods so high. You’ll have to leave him here for a while.”
It’s Colleen’s donkey. She knows nothing of donkeys but we can all see it would be a good idea not to try to drive a donkey and cart across in this tempest. Jesse has his mind set on keeping the donkey with some mares while we travel on to deliver Tilp and Thole’s baby. We’ll go on foot.
We pack the herbs into oat sacks. Leaving one sack in the cart for us to take with us when we set off on our return to Annegray, and I have a huge bundle of wormwood over my shoulder as we walk to the ferry.
The ferry landing is closed down. No one is here and the toll shed is surrounded by rising water. Things of land flow by – pieces of houses, bundles of crops, a sheep bloated and drowned. A battalion of rats swim with noses barely above the surface. Ana steps back with a message of horror in an old rhyme.
“A river of rats,
A dearth of cats,
Death follows plague
Soon after that.”
And today there is no chance of crossing in this storm, so we turn back to await the cresting of the river to be followed with a wide calm.
Count Bertigan’s estate has guest rooms, and banquets of plenty. While we wait for the Loire to settle back we stay in luxury.
I can’t help remembering in 543, then the Roman ship came up the river and soon after the Justinian plague covered all of Roman Christianity. It left my children dead or orphans. When my own life was restored as it is, I found only Ezra and Eve had survived and both, in their own ways, became the guides to deliver others from plague the next time it came. And it came.
(Continues Tuesday, October 11, 2022)