Measures of Men
Summary: After the events of Dead Man's Ransom, Cadfael ponders on what is the true measure of men. oneshot
Note: While I love the books and the tv adaptations, this is the first time I've posted anything for this fandom. I'm not entirely sure I'm happy with it, but I was thinking about this after I finished reading Dead Man's Ransom earlier today. Its rather philosophical but I thought it something Cadfael might have thought after that book. References to statements from Monk's Hood, though I don't remember if it was in the book as well or just the tv ep. Please review!
Cadfael was finally returning to the abbey after seeing Elis healed and headed home. Of all this mysteries he had solved here in Shrewsbury, this was the one that had with more happy endings than sad ones. Certainly there had been a death, something that was a tragedy. But had there not been good things that came from it? Anion had gone to his father and been accepted. He had found a home and kin where before he had none. Elis and Melicent would eventually be together as there was no one to stand in the way. Eliud and Cristina would be able to be together since Elis had found another woman. Eliud had a long road ahead of him for both recovery and forgiveness, but he would make it.
Elis and Eliud had a stronger bond than any that Cadfael could ever recall having seen. That they would so readily trade their lives for one another was something most men would not be able to comprehend. It had come as a bit of a surprise then, when Eliud had admitted to loving Cristina more than his cousin and foster brother. Cadfael had not been certain that either boy was at a stage in life to realize such a thing. It was no shock though that Elis had sent Eliud home and stayed behind to offer his own life for the murder. Cadfael had suspected that something would be attempted to get Eliud out in Elis' place, but he could honestly say he had no part in it. He highly doubted Sister Magdalen could say the same, despite Elis and Melicent's insistence it had only been them. But he would never ask. If he did, he would be duty bound to report it to Hugh. He had a feeling Hugh guessed as much as well, but in the same fashion would never seek confirmation of it.
Cadfael had said once that the measure of a man was not the love he gave to others, but instead was the love he was given by others. He wondered then at the measure of these two young men. Elis's foolishness started his trials, but yet ended in him finding love. Eliud had murdered, yet he was still loved by those around him. Even the daughter of the one he murdered did not hate him, as she would be well entitled. By what should these men, barely older than boys, be measured? Their foolish actions? Many would say so. Others would argue that their foolishness was due to their youth and that they would grow out of it in time. The love of those around them had for them? To Cadfael that spoke more for them. Or perhaps, their brave willingness to sacrifice themselves for one another was the thing to be judged. Some would see it as foolish; others as the truest sign of love one could give. Did the Bible not say that there was no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend? Did this willingness then, show their true measure as men? There were many ways to have the measure of a man, which Cadfael knew. But what was the best way to know the measures of men? Their deeds in youth? Their deeds as they aged? The way they treated others? How they loved? There was no definite answer, at least none for the human mind. Perhaps in this world there was no single definitive answer to that ancient question. What then?
Cadfael thought then to other men he had known.
Sheriff Prescote had been fair, if not overly stern at times. He followed the letter of the law. It had made him enemies as well as friends, something that had been an issue when he was killed. Cadfael was of the opinion that Gilbert Prescote had not always done as he should by his daughter, but that was a fault of many men who had a son with a second wife yet only a daughter from their first. That was not something that made him a bad man. He had kept his shire far more secure than many of their neighbors during this war. Above all, Prescote was a man of the law whether it be for better or worse.
Then there was Hugh. Hugh Beringar never stopped surprising Cadfael. Though they did not always see eye to eye, Cadfael counted Hugh among the best men he had ever known. Hugh's loyalty was firm and unwavering. He loved his family and friends dearly. Yet he could be stern and unyielding when he must. He took duty and honor very seriously. Hugh, like Prescote, had a duty to the law. Unlike Prescote however, Hugh did not always agree with it. He often found himself torn between what the law would dictate and what he himself thought right. Had that not been the case here? Had Hugh not said he wished he would not be the one to have to punish Eliud for his actions? Cadfael knew though that if Elis had not gotten Eliud out Hugh would have done as he must. The rigidity of English law often confounded and exasperated Cadfael. He much preferred Welsh law in many ways. English law was far too absolute. It bound the hands of men like Hugh who would rather see both justice and what was right done, not just what the law stated to be justice. By which of these things, then, would Cadfael judge Hugh if he was asked to do so? How did he justify considering Hugh such a good man if asked to do so to another? It was not a question to which Cadfael was sure of the answer.
He thought of all his brothers within the abbey. Every one of them had their duties, duties that most considered sacred. Every one of them had their skills as well as their faults. Yet Cadfael had come to the conclusion over the years that the tonsure alone did not make a man a good one. There was more to them all than their habit and vows. What was their measure then?
How did one find the truest measure of a man? Cadfael came to the conclusion that there were many things that could show the measure of a man. It was up to those around him to judge what best told what kind of man he was. One could only hope to be judged fairly.
And best yet, one could hope to be judged only by his Creator at the end of his life. Only then, Cadfael decided, could the whole measure of man be taken.