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The Perfumed Garden

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Cadfael looked at Hugh with a fond smile. Yes, he had become better at pretending to work. Yet he still couldn't fool Cadfael.

“Looking for something?”

Hugh startled like a frightened deer.

“Oh, Cadfael, it's you.”

The flush on his cheeks could have been caused by the heat of this summer day. Cadfael wasn't convinced, though.

“Do you need something, Hugh?”

“Oh, uhm... Not really. I was just passing by.”

The monk could not help a smirk, but hid in it under the pretense of checking his medicinal herbs.

“Your garden looks magnificent.”

“Thank you.”

“The smell is wonderful too. What kind of herbs give off such a scent?”

Cadfael almost snorted with laughter, but managed to keep an oblivious façade.

“Well, actually it is flowers, and not herbs. I cultivate some for their healing properties.”

“Oh, I see...”

Hugh looked embarrassed. Whether it was the heat or indeed the scent of his garden, the monk was suddenly taken by a bout of mischief. He made a show of checking his plants one by one, while the deputy sheriff looked at loss for words.

“Did you need anything else, Hugh?” asked Cadfael with feigned innocence.

“Ah, uh... well... I... My back has started to pain me, actually. I was wondering if you had any...plants to give me? Or any flowers?”

Cadfael could have burst into laughter. The subtlety of this boy.

“For muscles, I'd recommend rosemary, or-” and the monk started to enumerate plants used in backaches...except flowers.

Hugh looked like a cornered deer.

“Let me fetch you some-”

“No! No need!”

Cadfael startled, making a show of pretending to be surprised. The deputy sheriff blushed a shade darker. This time, the monk couldn't pretend anymore. He burst into laughter.

Hugh gave off a scandalized exclamation. It took two good minutes for Cadfael to get himself under control. His friend looked quite vexed, which threatened to send the monk back into a fit of laughter.

“Such a behavior is unbecoming of a monk, Cadfael. Some would even say sinful.”

“Now, now, my friend. No need to be so harsh. Let me fetch you some of my most fragrant flowers for Aline. I am sure she will be delighted to have such an attentive husband.”

Hugh smiled, all grudge forgotten already.

“And I will make sure she knows what a skilled herbalist you are, brother Cadfael.”