John Sinclair - Episode 4
John Sinclair - Episode 4
Hillside, Gloucestershire, 1722.
She had no more than one or two days left to live. She could feel it - the agonizing pain in her throat, the blinding headaches ... there wasn't much time left. She had tried everything, absolutely everything, and the only thing that could save her now was a miracle.
The chain was heavy around her neck. She had, for days now, been clawing at it, until her fingernails had broken off. Then she scratched at the stone floor into which the chain had been embedded. Her fingers had turned to bloody stumps of flesh and bone. The pain was excruciating, but at that point, she was willing to endure anything, just to get to the jug.
The jug of water that was standing on the table.
It was just out of reach. She was tethered to the center of the room, and the length of the chain had been calculated with diabolical precision. She could move to the bed and lie on it, even to the window and the elegant drawer by the north wall, but she was unable to reach the pitcher of water.
Her husband had left it there, just out of reach, another one of his torments.
She hadn't had anything to drink for over two days now. There wasn't much time left. There wasn't much more her body could take.
She looked at the doorframe, but of course, there was no more door, only a wall of stone. After she had been chained in here, and the water had been poured into the jug, her husband had ordered the room walled up. And still she kept looking at the door, as if the stones were about to burst open. They weren't, of course. The only window was barred, and no one could come to her aid.
She was truly alone.
She sank to her knees and prayed.
This was unusual for her. As a member of the aristocracy, she was raised to be strictly religious, but she had never truly believed. Her only faith had been in herself, in her own youthful invincibility. She had thought herself to be above the laws of God and men, and why not? She was of noble blood.
But during her ordeal she had, if nothing else, found a new sense of humility. She had humbled herself before God and begged forgiveness for her sins. She repented. Perhaps it would help, she thought.
Her lips moved silently as she prayed.
"The Lord is my shepherd," she said in a whisper. "I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters."
The thought of waters, still or otherwise, made her raise her head and look at the jug again. It was made of simple clay. A bronze cup stood next to it.
Her heart was thumping. Her head ached and had for hours. Her lips were cracked, and there were hardly any fluids left in her agonized body.
She bowed her head again and continued: "He restoreth my soul," she said. "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake ..."
For a moment, she halted. No, she had not been on the path of righteousness. She had deserved punishment, that much was clear. But her life?
Did she really have to pay with her life?
She clasped her shivering, bloody fingers together and forced herself to concentrate.
"Aye," she said, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me ..."
Her voice cracked and gave in. Her throat was so dry that even whispering hurt.
She collapsed onto the stone floor. Her breath was slow and uneven.
She closed her eyes. All she heard was the beating of her frantic, desperate heart. She would have cried, but there were no more tears left.
And then she heard it.
Her heart stopped.
She thought, for a moment, that she was imagining things. She had been imagining a great many things in here. She had dreamed of tearing out the chain, of slipping out of her iron neck brace, of making the water somehow flow to her. She had dreamed that her husband ha