I've killed the chicken.
How could I have killed it? How could this have happened? I wasn't trying to kill it--I was trying to shut it up, the stupid thing! What was I supposed to do? Let it squawk away until they found me?
It's all floppy now, like a bolster that's lost most of its stuffing. Did I squeeze it too hard? Did I smother it by putting my hand around its beak?This is bad. I'm in so much trouble. If Gran ever finds out about this, I'll be eating wool grease and nutshells for a month
But she won't find out. She won't. I'm going to hold my breath and keep quite still, and with any luck . . . with any luck . . .
They're nowhere near this fowl house. I can hear their footsteps; they’re poking around behind the broad beans. Rustle, rustle. Mumbling to eachother in some strange language that must be Latin. I've heard people praying in Latin, and it's all um and us, like the stuff I'm hearing now. They say that monks speak Latin to each other, and these men are probably monks. Or priests. I wouldn't know. I didn't stand still long enough to get a good look at them.
Let your breath out slowly, Babylonne. That's it. Very slowly. Very quietly. There are feathers everywhere, stuck to my skirt and my sleeves and myhair. Please, God, don’t let me sneeze. Please, God, keep the feathers away from my nose.
Please, God, keep those priests away from this fowl house.
I'm very sorry that I killed the chicken. I honestly didn't mean to. I was only looking for eggs, because eggs aren't animals. I mean, you can't reallykill an egg, can you? Eating an egg isn't like eating a chicken. Not as far as I'm concerned. There might be a chicken inside the egg somewhere, but if this world is truly the Devil's realm--as Gran says--then you're doing that chicken a great service, aren't you? Making sure that it never hatches?
Wait a moment. Those footsteps--are they coming closer or moving away? I think . . . I think . . .
They're moving away.
Listen hard, Babylonne. Is that a door creaking? It is. I know it is. There's a door almost directly opposite the fowl house I'm sitting in. It must bethe door to the cloister. Those priests must have gone back into their cloister.
To fetch some more priests, do you think? Or have they decided that the chickens were making a fuss about nothing?
It's lucky that I'm so small. They probably weren't expecting someone my size. If they had been, they would have had a good look inside this fowl house instead of just glancing through the door. Whoever did that couldn't have seen much. He couldn't have seen me crushed into this corner. Oh, please, please don't be suspicious. Please don't come back.
ust go away and eat up your pork and your cheese and your honey, and forget about the eggs. Would you really miss a few eggs? You'd hardly have room for an egg in those great, swollen guts of yours--not after all the roasted peacocks and spiced pigeons and sugar cakes and whatever else it is that you pack into your paunches day after day, while the rest of us live on bones and millet.
Swinish, bloated, greasy idolaters that you are. It'd be a wonder if you saw me at all over the swell of your own enormous bellies.
I think they've gone. There isn't a sound. And I should make a move now, in case they do come back. Take it slowly, Babylonne. Carefully . . . quietly . . . don’t disturb the chickens. The other chickens. The ones who can still enjoy a nice dust bath before bedtime.
Not like poor old Floppy here.
The fowl-house door is only slightly bigger than my head. Beyond it, the sun blazes down onto rows and rows of peas and beans, leeks, marrows,strawberries, all laid out like a feast on a table. I tell you, these priests of Rome eat like kings. How dare they make a fuss over one poor egg?
Anyway, it's their own fault. If one of those evil priests hadn't dug himself a secret hole under the garden wall (probably in search of women, becauseall gluttons have hot blood), then I would never have come in here, would I? I would never have been tempted. They can thank their own unbridledlusts if they lose a few eggs. It's not stealing when you take from priests of Rome. Men who call themselves holy should be fasting, not feasting.
Hmmm. No one to the right. No one to the left. There's the door to the cloister, straight in front of me across the feathery vines, and it's standing open. That means the priests might be coming back.
I'd better run the other way. Off you go, Babylonne. One, two, three, go!I’d better head for the--
"Thieving whore!" (Where did he--? How did he--? It’s as if he sprang out of the ground!) "Give me that chicken!"
You want this chicken?
"Yowch!" It hits him full in the face. But he's blocking my way; I can't reach the hole that I got in through.
The door behind me is my only chance.
"Get her! Stop her!"
"Come here, you whore!"
Fat, fat, fat. They lumber like cows. I'm trampling all the green shoots, but I can’t help it--I have to reach the door--hurry, hurry!
Through the door! Whirl around! Pull it shut, and there's a latch! A latch! It's as good as a lock! The door shudders beneath the weight of a hurtlingpriest. But it's sturdy. It's oak. It won't give way.
"Open this door!" Pounding fists. "Open this door!"
Excerpted from Babylonne by Catherine Jinks. Copyright © 2008 by Catherine Jinks. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.