Keeping one eye on her, Frederick moved to where he could see down into the leaf-bowered clearing, himself. And there, his eyes were opened wide at the sight of a monk, his hands on his hips or overhead, his brown robe and white sash swaying as his portly form paced back and forth before the small wooden cage at his feet.
At the same moment, Frederick and the monk noticed Carina descending the rocks. Frederick wished for wings to fly down ahead of her and place himself between her and the holy intruder she went to meet. But already the monk seemed too safe for such fear; for, having noticed the girl, he began to perform for her, pulling up his sleeves, crouching beside the cage, begging his prisoner’s cooperation.
Twice, he lifted the cage, twice snatched back his hand to lick a scratch. Then, injured in body and pride, he went back to pacing.
Frederick almost burst out laughing at the lonely monk’s endearments. And though his hand stayed near his dagger, so long as the monk remained amiable, Frederick would stay where he was.
“You must grab them by the scruff,” Carina said, bending and lifting the cage. “Like this.” And clutching a cat that could only watch, helplessly, its four paws stretched out before it, she stood up.
“Well and good,” said the monk. “But I did not wish to grab it. Rather, to see if I could hold it still and slip in a bowl of milk for putting the thing to sleep.”
Carina shrieked. “How wicked!” and turned the cat away.
“No, let me explain,” said the monk, his hands up at her misunderstanding. “I do not wish to harm it. I only wish—.” Here, the monk noticed Frederick scrambling down the rocks, such a quick-descending stranger, so tall and strong, that the monk slipped his hands in through holes in the folds of his robe, as though toward something he kept there against trouble—and there kept them until Carina placed her hand on his arm and said, “He’s my . . . brother, and he means you no harm.”
“I thought the churches had all been burned?” said Frederick.
“A monk’s robes are cheap in a world without churches. They suit me as a traveler—one, new to these woods and in need of a friend.”