He walked into the royal presence, between the double line of proud nobles all sitting with eyes fixed on him, towards the young king sitting slouched on his throne. It was a cold day in late spring, and the fire was lit. He halted before the throne, made a slight bow (calculated to a nicety) and waited for permission to speak.
‘Well? What to us from England?'
‘Thus says my king,' he replied, and looked the young man he had once known as the Dauphin straight in the eye as he said it, and did not miss the moment of fury which showed there.
‘We are your king, Herald Montjoy!'
‘Sir Jehan, and Privy Councillor to King Henry. As your Majesty well knows, I am no longer Herald Montjoy.' A courteous reminder; but his eyes were wintry. He laid a hand with great gentleness on the scabbard of the elegantly curved sword that he wore, and with which he had been knighted not two months since. Charles, observing this, seemed to think better of making any retort; for an insult to Henry's ambassador was an insult to Henry, and Henry had responded decisively to insults in the past.
And this was just as well, for Jehan had seen in the antechamber, and not by chance, another man wearing the insignia of the Herald of France, and the reminder of who he had once been cut deep; but he did not show it at all. ‘The King of England, your brother, sends you greeting by me, and to all the lords of France, and from your Majesty's sister the Lady Katherine I bring greeting too.'
‘Speak on, then, envoy.' Charles, growing impatient now, could hardly say ‘Get to the point,' but that was what he meant.
‘The treaty which your Majesty compacted with the usurper, the king's late brother Thomas, confirmed the ancient right of England to the town of Calais, and ceded the duchy of Aquitaine to the English crown with no homage being due to you. These possessions he will retain, and on the terms that your Majesty made.' For such had been Thomas' price for his betrayal of his brother, and since Charles had considered it a fair one at the time, he could hardly complain of it now.
This did not prevent Charles from starting forward on his throne, his eyes widening in outrage. But then the grey-haired Bishop of Sens shifted suddenly in his chair, and Charles leaned back again, saying mockingly, ‘So, does Harry England relinquish his claim to the crown of France? Even he may learn a lesson, it seems.'
‘The claim was given up by his brother, and he chooses not to pursue it. For he has walked the whole world these past three years and more, and seen great cities and greater empires, and perceives not the slightest need for further wars in France.' And indeed with the Aquitaine now directly attached to the English crown, with no question of vassalage, a bone of contention two centuries old was resolved. ‘Moreover, King Henry regards himself as your true ally for the sake of his half-French son, your nephew,' and did Charles but know it, for the sake of his wholly French friend, ‘and should a third party attack France, he will come to your aid as a true ally should.'
There, the sting in the tail, the reminder that English archers might one day land again in France. Charles did not miss the threat, and his hands clenched on the arms of the throne. ‘Say to England that we have no need or wish for his aid. France can defend her own, and will do so, against England himself if need be.'
Manifestly untrue. Most of those present remembered Agincourt ten years before, and knew full well how greatly the ranks of the nobles had been thinned by the defeat. Jehan had listed the dead himself. He had tried to warn them, the night before the battle. Why had they not taken heed?
‘It is King Henry's dear hope that your Majesty will ratify the terms of the treaty you made with his brother, for he truly desires both peace and friendship with France. The articles I will leave with you, but I would know your mind by tomorrow, for then I carry his greeting also to the Duke of Burgundy.' A last reminder, this, that the third party in the uneasy balance of power in this battered corner of Europe was England's ally. For the present, of course.
‘Oh, get you gone to Burgundy, and tell Harry of England that since he gives up his claim to our crown he may have Calais and the Aquitaine too and be done with it. And it is our dear hope to hear no more of him.' That last remark was probably intended as a sneer, but it sounded more petulant than anything else. Charles was not the man to carry war to King Henry, not since Agincourt, and all there knew it.
‘I thank your Majesty. This will bring joy to his heart.' He bowed his head once more with great courtesy, and gave Charles a look that demanded his leave to depart. Every man in the council seemed dumbfounded as he walked past them - eighty years of intermittent warfare, ended in the space of minutes? But Jehan had had little doubt that Charles, offered a face-saving compromise and one which he himself had worked out with Thomas, would accept, though with poor grace. He would retain Normandy, duchy of the Conqueror, re-conquered by Henry and handed back by Thomas; give up the Aquitaine for sure, but that had only loosely been attached to the French crown. He would be turning his attention to Burgundy before the year was out.
In the ante-chamber to the throne-room he paused, needing a moment to collect himself. For all its success, that had been a difficult quarter-hour for him. Half a lifetime ago, he had spoken with Tamburlaine the Great, in his palace at Samarkand, with less unease than that with which he had just now faced his former prince. But the audience had gone better than he had expected. A modus operandi had been established, and his own status, however grudgingly, acknowledged.
He laid a hand briefly on the hilt of his sword, and then straightened his jacket, both of which he had brought back from Cathay. Their exotic and beautiful appearance had been a distraction for the French nobles and a form of armour for himself, for none could call into question the truth of his words about his travels in the company of King Henry while he was wearing them. Then, having regained his composure, he went through the doors into the main hall.
... And became aware that there were many more women present than when he had crossed it on his way to the audience, and that every single one of them was looking at him with great interest. This had not been the case in all his years as Herald of France.
But he made his way across the hall, stopping every now and then to greet someone who dared show him a friendly face, and let the ladies look their fill - not at him, but at his jacket, its blue silk and embroidered cranes and pine trees. Then Alice, who had been maid to Princess Katherine, came eagerly up to him, wanting news. He greeted her with some relief.
‘How does my lady?'
‘She's well, and so is the Prince, and the little babe,' for Katherine's younger son had been born a fortnight before, amid rejoicing. ‘I have a letter for you, and she sends her love.'
‘King Henry is kind to her and her new lord?'
‘Yes, and he says he'll make the boy knight when he's of age,' said Sir Jehan. He touched the hilt of his sword again, aware that many of the gentlemen of the court were studying it covertly, just as their ladies were openly scrutinizing his jacket.
Alice smiled in relief and satisfaction. ‘That is good news! I have a gift for the new child, and I'll send a reply to her letter by you. But you, my lord - I hardly recognized you, so fine as you are with your silk and your sword. From the east, I suppose?'
‘From Cathay, yes.'
She laid a finger on his sleeve to gauge the quality of the needlework. ‘They say King Henry is encouraging trade - will he be importing more of this work?' she asked, evidently approving.
‘We'll try, though it's a two years' journey to where this was made, and we don't know for sure that the route to Cathay is open again,' for rumour had followed them from Trebizond that caravans from the east had begun to arrive once more, that the emperor whose accession had prompted their departure from Cathay was dead and his son was looking outwards again.
A knot of Alice's friends had gathered around to inspect him, and he stood, smiling slightly, arms half-extended, to let them look their fill. He had experienced this before in the English court, but the women there had not been quite so much at ease with him.
‘I'll need to copy these designs before you leave,' announced Alice, ‘this afternoon, perhaps?'
‘Very well, but take care of it, and I'll need it back tomorrow before I start for Burgundy.' Alice nodded at him, satisfied, and let him continue on his way.
Next morning he was back on the road, finding as so often that travelling brought with it a sense of freedom, however illusory. He was always most himself while on a journey. It gave him time to think; time to be. He had been in London for the past three months, and even with Henry at his side for much of that time, of late he had found himself fretting to be off again. Henry, casting a knowledgeable eye at him, had suggested a second embassy, to Duke Phillip, so that he need not return to London immediately. And not only that, but on the way to Burgundy was Picardy, and his family's manor at Aire, and he was to spend several days with them.
For all his enjoyment of the ride this bright, showery spring day he found himself ambushed by memory as he followed the route taken by the army from Paris ten years ago. They had crossed river after river, marching to intercept the invaders, while reports had come in of the foolhardy English king's march along the coast, and even then he'd spent an unreasonable amount of time wondering what that young man was doing. Now he could think about him with a clear conscience, for whatever the treaty said, he himself was security for the peace. And as such, he could no longer ride alone, but that was the price he paid for being mignon to a king. His small, heavily-armed escort rode behind him - he still reserved the right to go a little way ahead - and of course he carried that sharp curved blade at his hip now, and Henry had seen to it that he kept up with his practice.
The second day out from Paris they passed the turning to Soissons, away on their right. He had heard tell that it was almost rebuilt after being sacked by French troops twelve years before. Were its saints, Crispin and Crispinian, satisfied with their vengeance on the Armagnacs, he wondered? And if so, why had they abandoned Henry four years before when he was deposed and sent into exile, and then, apparently, looked on him with favour again? It was very strange... Now they had reached the marshy upper valley of the Somme, and they crossed at the causeway and deep ford close by Bethencourt. Henry would never have stolen a march on the French army here if they had not been deluded, asleep, as they rode to their doom at Agincourt.
Still they continued down the valley, sleeping at Peronne and Arras, and now however far ahead of the escort he rode he would not be alone, for ghosts thronged about him all the way. Then they left the river and climbed the gentle rise above the eastern bank, passing through thickets of alder and willow, coming at last to the town of Aire, and he left his companions at the inn where the messenger he'd sent on ahead was already lodged. And at last he turned down the lane between the churchyard and the mossy wall, and so to the gate of his family's manor.
‘Jehan!' His brother Fulk was there first, big and greying-fair and looking unreasonably older, but his cheery voice and his smile were the same. When Jehan emerged breathless from his hug his mother Maud was at the door of the house with Adele his brother's wife, and her hair was quite white now, her bones light as birds', but she was pulling his head down to kiss him - ‘Oh, my little boy!' and the tears were rolling down his cheeks as he held her, and then his father Amyas limped forward, and his nephews, ‘Ah, you've grown so tall!' he said to Conrad, who though thin as a reed was almost as tall as himself now; and in a babble of voices his mother pulled him into the old house, where the smell of dinner welcomed him, and the fire was bright on the hearth.
Next day Amyas and Fulk took him round the manor and showed him all his old haunts. First to the orchard, where he had climbed every one of the trees as a child, and where Adele, dressed in her oldest gown and a thick veil, was checking the bee-hives; then the fishponds, where he and Fulk had fallen in a time or two, and the pastures where the horses, some of them old friends, grazed. All that day he walked through his earlier life, and then in the evening as they all sat round the fire, his family asked him about his travels. Amyas, after a prolonged search through the papers in his study, had found the map that Jehan had brought home with him from the embassy to Samarkand, a quarter of a century ago, and he traced the journey that he had made with Henry, to places that had been just names to him before.
It was so hard, sitting here in the sweet-scented smoke of home, to tell them about deserts and jungle-clad islands and the steppe reaching halfway to the pole; but they had listened to such tales from him before, and they heard him out, his younger nephew Matthieu saying ‘I wish...' and Fulk replying ‘We'll see...'
Then he went up to his room - not the one that had been his so long ago, for his nephews had that now, but a small one over the entrance hall, and fetched the gifts he had brought for his family.
He and Henry had managed to bring so little home from their travels: a carved dragon, a sword with an edge like the east wind, some books of miniatures from Samarkand, small trinkets he'd bought as they journeyed homewards, two glorious lengths of embroidered silk from Cathay. And memories, so many memories.
‘The ladies at Paris have copied the designs from my jacket,' he said to his mother as she sat with the garment on her knee, stroking it wonderingly, ‘but here are some off-cuts from it, and these are from the King's. They won't know about the dragons in Paris.'
He took the scraps of fabric across to her, shimmering blue and crimson, and she angled them to the light and traced the sinuous lines of the dragons, curving amidst clouds and butterflies, with one finger. ‘No wings,' she observed, surprised.
‘No, the eastern dragons don't need them, the stories say.'
‘I must draw these,' she said, as Alice had, but Jehan shook his head.
‘They're for you. Henry said he hoped you'd like the dragons,' and she gave him a sudden sharp glance.
But all she said was ‘Tell us how you came by the silk,' and he was transported back, two years and half a world in an instant, to a river in central Cathay.
Two months out from Shanghai, and the caravan was crossing a green river that flowed with deceptive swiftness between improbably narrow, pointed hills. He and Henry were already on the further shore, along with half the caravan, and the pack-mules were being fed and watered, while sampans ferried the rest of the traders across. On the bank people were selling food, and by the trailside as it started to thread up between the heights a small child was playing a pipe, a thin wandering melody that seemed to him to embody all that great land.
A bale of cloth slipped as one of the mules was being taken ashore, and fell with a splash into the river, but it was hooked out quickly by one of the ferrymen. Two of the traders pounced on it and opened it, and spread out the vivid cloth, now stained with water along its folds. A loud argument ensued about whose fault it was, and Zhen the guard captain and Henry came strolling back from their inspection of the trail to see what all the fuss was about.
Jehan suddenly asked Liang, ‘How much do you want for it?' for he had been entranced by the glorious colours and patterns of the silks of Cathay from the start, and now he dared dream that he might one day possess such beauty; but he received an answer that made him blink.
‘You've just said that it's ruined,' he said.
‘That doesn't mean I want to give it away,' rejoined Liang.
After a short session of hard bargaining he handed over the cash, and the white cranes and the golden dragons were his. He carefully spread his prizes out on flowering bushes to dry while they ate.
‘What will you do with them? You can't sell them on; too badly marked,' said Henry, in English, munching on his roll of fried vegetables beside him.
‘No, I'm not going to sell them. The dragons are for you,' and Henry smiled at him, in surprised pleasure, ‘and a clever tailor should be able to do something with them both. There isn't enough for a Cathayan coat, but maybe jackets, like we used to wear in Europe?' and he looked fondly over at the shimmering lengths of cloth.
They finished their leisurely meal, and the rest of the caravan came ashore without mishap.
‘Load up!' called Zhen, and Jehan washed his hands and gathered up his silks, and so they could continue drying he arranged them about his person, feeling like an Emperor. As they passed the young musician he dropped a coin in front of her. He was at peace with all the world. Some way in front as the line of beasts wound up among the spires of grey rock he could see a beloved fair head - surely there was no other like it in all of Cathay! - and behind them the broad green river flowed on, and on, to the sea.
‘And that sword of yours - is that from Cathay, too?' asked Fulk, providentially recalling him from his memories, before his mind could run on to the evening of that day's journey, when in their tiny room over the tea-house he'd spread the dragon-silk over Henry's naked body, just to see the effect, and matters had taken their inevitable course. With a start he returned to the present.
‘We think it came from the islands further north, maybe captured in a pirate raid, and that's why we got it so cheaply - because no-one else wanted it, though it's a good sword,' and he drew it and passed it across to his brother, who gave it his professional attention and a nod of surprised respect. It was handed among the males of the household, each of them examining its curiously-worked guard and its wave-patterned blade with great interest.
‘I still can't imagine you using it, though, little brother,' said Fulk, good-naturedly teasing.
‘Oh, I used it, all right, at Qurgan. The King had been training me for a year, and he had half the guards in the caravan practicing every day by then.' He reclaimed the sword and demonstrated some of the exercises Henry had drilled him in. ‘We had to be very careful with this, though, it's so sharp.'
‘I'd like to meet your king, and thank him for taking such good care of you,' said Maud suddenly, disrupting this very male conversation effortlessly.
‘I - well, if he comes to Burgundy, or perhaps you could come to England. We can arrange something. His own mother died when he was a child, and he said he always regretted not knowing her better, so I know he'd like to meet you.'
‘Hmm, maybe that explains a lot,' commented his mother, and said no more, leaving Jehan to wonder what she meant by that.
He went up to bed that night with a head full of memories of a string of cramped rooms, stretching back halfway round the world, where he and Henry had lain close and found comfort after a day's travel; or earlier, when they had lain further apart in the wanting dark. Then he remembered one room in particular, in the caravanserai at Qurgan, where he had surprised himself by laying sudden and very personal claim to the body of a king.
... and stopped that line of thought firmly before it could keep him awake.
Next morning Maud said to him, ‘Come and help me cut herbs in the garden,' and Fulk, overhearing, cast him a look of commiseration before making himself scarce with a speed surprising in so big a man; for this had always been the signal for a heart-to-heart talk.
His mother pointed out a basket for the herbs as they went out through the back door, thus instantly reducing him to the status of the small boy of forty years before, and then let him stew for several minutes while she moved among her plants. Jehan listened with great deference while she remarked on the new sundial and reminded him of the time when the bees had swarmed in the dovecote and he, an agile ten-year-old, had been sent up to smoke them into the new hive, and then, deciding that he liked the bees' company more than the idea of the other tasks awaiting him, had stayed up there all afternoon. He waited for her to come to the point in her own good time. He had learned many of his diplomatic skills from her.
‘So, you'll be living in England from now on,' she began, cutting rosemary with a ruthless hand.
‘For the most part, yes, though I'll still be going abroad - as Henry's envoy.' He felt he might as well make it plain to her, by repeated use of the king's name, that their relationship was a close one.
‘Hm. He's changed, by the sound of it, while you were on your travels.'
‘Oh, I don't think he's changed all that much. He's still someone who likes to make things happen. He's found a different way to do it, that's all.'
‘Trade, not war? That's not the way kings usually think.'
‘Out there in the east, prosperity depends on trade. He saw that quickly enough once he'd stopped being a king.'
‘So, no more campaigns in Picardy, then.'
‘Not for his part, though what the Armagnacs and Burgundians might do is anybody's guess.'
‘Pity he won't be joining in on the Burgundians' side. I'd like to see him bring the Armagnacs down once and for all. You know I didn't like you staying at court after what happened at Soissons.'
Jehan sighed. ‘We've been through this before. The manor wouldn't have supported me as well as the rest of the family, and I couldn't just leave the court because of what the Duc d'Orleans' troops did. And the old king needed me, too.'
‘We would have managed with you here! And Soissons was a prosperous town when I lived there as a child. The Armagnacs burned my grandparents' house when they sacked the place, and for no good reason. In comparison to Orleans your Henry's army did us no harm at all when he marched down the Somme. The Armagnacs got what they deserved at Agincourt, and on St Crispin's day too!'
Not a few in Picardy had taken the defeat as a sign that Henry had the martyrs' favour; Jehan was more inclined to the belief that Henry had wrought his own victory. ‘No-one deserved what happened to the royal army at Agincourt.'
‘And yet you love him.'
That was rather more direct than Jehan would have expected, even from his mother. He recovered quickly. ‘I always did, if I'm honest. Those last few years, when the old king was declining so quickly, were a trial.' He looked sadly at a clump of yellow iris. Fleur-de-lys, the royal emblem of France. ‘The court was a nest of vipers, and there was nothing I could do to help the king except be a friend to him. And then, when I met Henry, he was like a breath of fresh air, even though he was on the wrong side! Well, it all went to wreck, but there's a new day dawning now. He's got more ideas than he knows what to do with. He'll keep us all busy for a long time to come.'
They skirted a clipped myrtle-bush, and Maud crossed the path to the rose planted opposite it, which was just coming into flower. It looked familiar to Jehan, and the strong scent took him back a year's journey to last spring, when their caravan was winding through the hills of Persia and the slopes were bright with its blooms. His mother cut what flowers there were - in a week the bush would be covered - and handed them to him. With the basket over one arm he held the little bouquet in one hand and ran a finger over the silky petals, smiling down at the flowers. Red rose of Lancaster, he thought. I must go home to him. Though last night, when he had been telling his family about Cathay, the impulse I must go travelling again had been as strong.
‘Is he good to you, your Henry?'
The abrupt question roused him out of his reverie. He gave his mother a startled glance - What are you asking me?- and she tapped him on the knuckles with a bunch of clary sage, herb of clear vision, and gave him a look that said I'm your mother, I wasn't born yesterday. He made haste to take the sprigs of clary.
‘Yes. Yes, he is,' he replied, smiling wholeheartedly at her, suddenly relieved that the question had been asked and could be answered in all sincerity. ‘And I'm good to him, too,' he added, feeling that he should make certain things clear.
‘Hmp,' said Maud. ‘Well, I think I've got all I want now. We should get these to the still-room.' They turned back past the myrtle-bush, Jehan plucking a sprig from it and crushing the leaves to release the aromatic scent, and went back into the house.
The next day, he made ready to leave, and with his escort waiting in the forecourt, he embraced his family; his stooped father, wrapped in a warm mantle though the morning was mild; big blond Fulk and Adele; his nephews, already dressed to ride out with their friends; and last of all, his mother.
‘Come back as soon as you can,' she admonished him, and then, privately in his ear, ‘Remember, I want to meet him.'
‘I will,' he answered to both her commands, and then he was on his horse and riding down the lane, turning onto the road for Burgundy, feeling as always when leaving his family's home an uneasy mix of regret and relief. He could never have settled here, among the pastures and the fishponds.
After a night crossing from Ostend in persistent rain, the sky cleared, and Jehan saw the smoke of London in the distance, and the time they spent coming up the Thames estuary on the tide seemed far too long. Then the ship was sliding, painfully slowly, up to the new wharf, the first of the docks that he and Henry had planned, and there was a bright head among the knot of horsemen waiting on the quayside. He stood by the rail, knowing he should stay out of the way but quite unable to move to the other side of the deck, and smiled down into Henry's upturned face. Still smiling, he was down the gangplank the instant it was laid across, and Henry dismounting, they embraced as soon as he set foot in England, while ropes snaked overhead and the gently moving wall of the ship's hull rose close beside them.
‘The coastguards sent word that they'd seen your banner, and it seemed like a good day to inspect the docks,' said Henry. ‘Jehan, you can't kiss me here,' he added in Mandarin.
He replied quickly in the same language, ‘I wasn't going to.'
Henry gave him a disbelieving look and they loosed their hold, stepping back. Henry's attendants suddenly lost their interest in the business of mooring the ship, or passing seagulls, and one of them brought Jehan's horse forward.
‘I feel we ought to be helping them unload,' said Henry in an undertone, casting a wistful eye at the ship.
‘You wouldn't be saying that if it were sea-cucumbers, like that time in Hainan,' pointed out Jehan.
"No, that was too much to bear.' Henry's face crinkled up in remembered distaste. ‘Rubies, or silk, or bird-of-paradise feathers, they were the cargoes I preferred. What were you carrying on this trip?'
‘Oh, woven cloth, of course, and tapestries from Arras, and Burgundy wine.'
‘There's always a good market for Burgundy wine,' said Henry, whose personal preference was for ale, and who missed tea greatly, ‘we must do more to encourage trade with Duke Philip.' They watched while Jehan's baggage was brought onto the wharf, and he shouldered the satchel which held letters from the Duke. Dockers loaded his bags onto a pack-mule - he watched with professional interest - and they set off across the cindery embankment, past the frame of a new warehouse which had risen since his departure, a month before.
‘I read the dispatches you sent via Calais,' said Henry as they turned onto the Highway, ‘and how was my cousin of Burgundy?'
‘He's pleased you're back. Charles and Thomas together were a real threat to him, though before you know it he'll be siding with Charles against you.'
‘Well, they haven't changed a bit in four years, have they?' Henry was amused. ‘Perhaps we should send them halfway round the world and back again.'
‘Neither of them would have survived the first month.'
‘Nor would I, mignon, if it hadn't been for you.' Henry gave him a sidelong smile, but his heart was in it, and he quickened his horse's pace slightly, the escort hastening to catch up.
It still seemed rather too long a time until they were alone in the royal apartments, and then they embraced again, properly this time, and Jehan got his deferred kiss, and another, closer embrace, and a few more kisses for good measure. Then Henry went back to the business of administering his kingdom while Jehan rested for a few hours, and then began writing his report on his mission. When Henry returned, they took up station on the wide window seat overlooking the river, Jehan resting back against Henry's shoulder, his long legs stretched out before him.
‘I should warn you that my mother wants to meet you,' he said with a laugh in his voice.
‘Should I be concerned?'
‘Only if you don't treat me with proper respect. She's inclined to like you, if only because you defeated the Armagnacs.'
‘I've made a powerful ally, it seems. But I can't go to Aire, much as I'd like to see the place where you grew up. I wouldn't be welcome in that part of France. Can she come to Calais? It isn't many days' journey, is it?'
‘I think she could, especially if we send good horses and an escort. My father could come, too - Fulk and my nephews do most of the work around the manor now.'
‘Then we'll arrange it. Ah, do they know about you and me?'
‘My mother's guessed. The rest of them - I don't think they'd imagine such a thing. But sooner or later they'll all want to come and see where I've ended up. Matthieu particularly - he listened to my stories, all ears. I think he's got the wanderlust, like me.' He broke off, and looked away downriver to the new docks.
Henry's arm tightened around his shoulder, and he sighed.
‘We'll need men like him, men like you,' a kiss dropped on his temple. ‘When the time comes, if he wants it, we can find a position for him.'
Jehan was silent for a while. ‘It should be enough. Being here with you should be enough.'
‘But it isn't,' said Henry briskly, and as Jehan looked at him, ashamed, he added, ‘I was surprised you stayed quiet here as long as you did.'
Jehan nodded sadly. ‘I want to go travelling again, soon.' He stopped, and then said hopelessly, ‘Come with me. It isn't the same without you,' and snatching a brief glance up at Henry's face was surprised to see a conspiratorial smile. Henry slid down a little further on the cushions of the window-seat, and made himself comfortable against Jehan's side, while the other arm crept around his waist.
‘I've been thinking about that, while you were away,' he said, with an air of confession, ‘because it seemed to me that I should go to the Aquitaine, to show Charles that I meant it when I said it would remain English. Oh, no campaigns,' he added, as Jehan tensed slightly against him, ‘but I'll tour the castles and inspect the defences and generally make my presence felt. And you, mignon, can go on to Portugal and speak to my cousin there about trade and exploration. England and Portugal are old friends and we should be able to arrange some profitable ventures together.' He hesitated. ‘You're right, it won't be the same. We can't have that freedom again. We were lucky to have three years. But maybe it'll be enough?'
‘Yes, it'll be enough,' whispered Jehan, and for the moment he turned his back on the river and the ships sailing down to the sea, and lifting his hand stroked his fingers through Henry's hair: which was brighter in his eyes, and more precious, than all the silks of the East.