It had not been as bad as Harun imagined.

Not quite.

Bertram had neither tied him to a tree and beaten him, nor had he made him eat fallen leaves and moss or thought up some other terrible punishment for the trials Harun had inflicted on him. In fact, after they had waved off Sir Christian and the knight had left, riding away into the forest on is tall mount, for the first time really looking like the knight he was supposed to be, the recluse had asked the scribe quite civilly to come in and even shared his meal with him, consisting of many, many things unsuitable for a pious nobleman.

Nevertheless, the following half-hour was pure torment. Harun could not remember ever having been punished so severely by piercing looks and twitching eyebrows, while sitting in a warm, comfortable room and being served tasty roasted meats and succulent ripe apples and pears. A fear of this solitary, serious man erupted suddenly in Harun’s heart. Not the fear of an enemy nor even that of a wild beast, but the fear one might feel standing before a vast mountain, which felt no wrath at you, yet could smite you down in an instant with a heavy bolder or a mass of white, deadly snow.

There were things under that black robe not for all to see.

Finally Bertram seemed to think his guest had had enough, and abandoned his silent penetration.

He lent back in his chair and shifted his eyebrows. Suddenly he seemed much more friendly, though no less intimidating.

“There is a specific reason why you are here, is there not?” he asked.

“There is a reason for everything,” said Harun, the man of logic.

“Yes. But in this case it must be an important one, ore you would have left long ago. I have not been exactly pleasant company.”

“That’s true enough. But I deserved it.”

“That’s true enough, too.”

“Am I forgiven?”

“Are you joking? After all, you have to bear the man each and every day, I only occasionally. Of course you are.”

“He’s not so bad always, you know.”

“When he’s five miles away from you, for example.”

“No, honestly, Bertram.”

“I am always honest. It is a congenital defect, I think. Do you want to hear what he confessed to me?”

“No!”

“There you have it. You have just as great a horror of the man as I have.”

“No, but you should not tell things to me he confesses to you, I know much about Christianity, but I know that much. Isn’t there a rule about it all being secret?”

“Yes there is. So what?”

“And isn’t there a rule about only priests being aloud to do it? You are no priest.”

“Should I have told him that and disappointed him? Even if I’d tried, I doubt whether he would have listened. He was very insistent about confessing each and every sin he could think of, and telling me how very sorry he was.”

Harun looked miserable. “And I’ve sent him to you. I’m really sorry.”

“Now you, too! That must be contagious. Don’t be. He didn’t recognize…” the recluse stopped.

“Recognize what?”

For a moment only, Bertram looked ill at ease. “Oh, nothing really. As I said, don’t let it bother you.”

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