Chapter Four: The Gravedigger
"Forgive me, Neville."
"Charity, my love . . . there's nothing to forgive." Fine words, Sir Neville Sinclair told himself. Fine words coming from a failure. The last Sinclair had just lost his last gamble.
The estate was failing. The fields were empty. There wasn't enough money for seeds, for tools, for horses. The peasants who had served his family for generations were gone, drawn by the lure of London. There weren't even enough laborers left to help a grieving knight bury his wife.
Neville dug deep all afternoon, blistering his hands, channeling his rage into hard work. Charity had believed in him. Though plain of face, she had been faithful and loyal. Charity had defied her religious fanatic father to marry him. They were positive they could make a new start. When the baby came, surely Charity's father would relent. Send money instead of curses. But the baby never came. The money never came. Instead fever came. Suffering. Death.
All because Neville Sinclair was too proud sell the ancient estate his family had ruled since William the Conqueror.
The sun was setting by the time he looked up from his labors. Two weary travelers were approaching on foot. Both were women, but they were a mismatched pair. One was almost a giant in stature, with broad hands, a heavy build and a round, red face. Neville liked what he saw of this one. She was a worker, made for heavy toil. The other female was young, strikingly pretty, and obviously of a higher class. Neville pegged her as nothing but trouble. An extra mouth to feed. A burden. An unwelcome reminder of his loss.
"Good evening, grave digger!" The pretty blonde's cheerful greeting grated on his nerves. Charity was dead of sickness and sadness. This girl had never been sick or sad a day of her life. "Is there an inn nearby? My maid and I are travelers. We would pay well for a bed and something to eat."
"There's no inn for miles," Neville grunted. "Are you from London? Those clothes of yours look too fancy for real work. What are you doing so far from court? Did you run away?"
"I'm not – I haven't – how did you know . . ." the deep red blush that came so becomingly to the young beauty's cheeks only confirmed Neville's suspicion. But the giant-sized maid quickly came to the rescue.
"Good friend, my lady and me, we are tired. We have walked a long way. Is there no cottage nearby? No home where we can rest? Me, I could help with the cooking, draw water from the well, chop wood for the fire. My name is Inga."
Neville grinned, throwing aside his shovel and stretching his powerful frame. "Well, Inga, I think we might find a use for you here. I am Sir Neville Sinclair, lord of Sinclair Park."
The blonde let loose a giggle, her shiny blue eyes curious. "What kind of a knight digs graves by the side of the road?"
"The kind who just killed his wife," growled Sir Neville Sinclair. "Of course it was an accident. A fever. But I killed her just the same. Shall we go indoors, ladies?"
"Thank you, sir, we shall." Katherine Howard wasn't afraid. But she didn't like this man. He'd already killed his own wife. And the look on his face told her she might be next!
A/N: Sorry it's been so long between chapters! I just had to come back and cook up more dangers for Kat Howard. Please review if you want to see more!