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Constable Stanhope must have interviewed everyone in town before he came to me. He found me at the inn, where I was enjoying an ale, courtesy of Benjamin. He stopped when the constable joined us. His knuckles were scabbed from the fight in the inn. I realized I was carrying out justice for both of us. Only two left now. Mark and Nate were woodsmen who spent their days stocking logs for winter.

If I had a chance, it would be while they were out away from town. I slid my stool back and made my way to the door. I slunk close to the wall and leaned into the shadows. I kept my hand on it so I was ready if I needed it. So we went looking. We found these lying in the forest.

Or maybe the bear chucked them out. Either way, Constable Stanhope now knew two men were missing, Tom and Jeff, at least one of which was killed violently. Both missing not long after a scuffle with me. We were in a narrow alley between buildings. I headed for home. My throbbing dreams continued, darker, hotter than before.

I could almost hear voices in them, screaming. A loud knock woke me. My covers were strewn across the floor, but I still had on the cloak, and it was heavier than ever. I stumbled out my bedroom door and went to the kitchen. There were torn clothes on the floor, white and blue gingham. I pulled the cloak tight about me, pushed my way out the window, and fell heavily in the bushes.

I sank to the ground and scuttled for the woods as fast as I could go. Then again, I reminded myself, did I really need anything else? It would help me get what I needed. I thought about the gingham in the kitchen. Was my mother dead? I stumbled off into the woods, deeper, deeper, until the early dusk of autumn covered me over. I had a waking dream that the spidery man visited me and told me about feeding and secrecy. I brushed it away. I thought I heard someone calling my name once.

I ate three deer I found nibbling on wheat at the edge of the fields. At the end of the third day I heard the crack of splitting wood. There was no buzzing, as if all the bees were clumped together, waiting. Town was far enough away that no one would hear the brothers die. Mark and Nate were splitting logs next to their cart. Neither had tunics on, one set the wedge and the other swung the maul. They both wiped sweat from brow or chin. Three spare axes lay in the back of the wagon. I moved around until I could feel the smooth and polished handles. We never found anything left of Tom.

The first axe I threw shattered the bottle and broken crockery showered them both. Nate looked at me, face blank, open, surprised. The second axe took him in the shoulder and drove him back against the tree. Mark screamed and ran toward me, but not before another axe cut into his brother.

I felt the ribs part. Then the cloak had him screaming and bleeding all over. I dragged him to where Nate was slumped against the tree, blood pulsing from his chest, an axe at his feet. He watched, panting, and when I tore into Mark, Nate started screaming and tugged on the other axe, still in his shoulder. He knew exactly what was coming for him when I stepped in and yanked the axe from his chest.

He made small whimpering sounds, but then he screamed just like the others. I thought about taking the cloak off, folding it up, but it felt too good not to wear it. I stood in the clearing and enjoyed the silence instead. A quiet voice disturbed me. Benjamin had come through the trees with two red and white checked bundles in his hands. He stared at the mess of torn clothing.


Spatters of blood still painted the trees and logs. The cloak wrapped tight against my body, constricting me. I struggled with it, tried to pull it away from my legs. A bottle of wine rolled out and spilled purple across the weeds. I felt the cloak tighten around my legs and pull me forward, toward Benjamin. He looked at me, confused. I struggled with everything I had to keep the cloak in check. He took a steep back, and a sudden burst of lust, perhaps a chase instinct, hit me.

The Scarlet Cloak

I leapt for him, my screams mixing with snarls and barks the cloak forced out of my mouth. I took him at the waist and pulled him down to the ground. I fought the cloak, but it made him bleed. I bawled both fists in his tunic and tried to push him away from me, from us. But he was slicked with red—it ran off him while he screamed, the whole while I pushed him away. Then he shuddered and stopped. I was hungry for his flesh. The cloak was heavy on my shoulders.

I tore it off and threw it to the ground. He was still as only the dead are still. The cloak inched toward him. I threw an axe and it sank into the mass of the cloak. A sudden pain bloomed in my back, a shadow to the pain inside. I threw another, pinning it again. Agony sliced across my ribs, and the cloak writhed.

One of the axes came lose and the cloak slithered around the other.

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  • I trapped it with my boot and chopped it to pieces with the third axe. Each cut seared through me. The pieces tried to crawl away, toward Benjamin. There was a lantern in the wagon, which I smashed and lit the oil. I fed the pieces of the cloak to it and the pain almost undid me.

    Finally the cloak was wholly gone, consumed by fire. Then I turned on my side.

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    I never cried when they pulled my hair. I never cried when Tom tried to rape me. I never cried when they beat me at the inn. But I cried then as if my heart were broken. The man gathered up the smoking tatters of the cloak in his hat, bowed, and disappeared back into the forest. When the constable eventually found me, I was still huddled on the ground. Like it, I was damaged beyond repair.

    They took me to the gaol.

    The Scarlet Cloak by Victoria Holt (1969, Book)

    Every day I look out of the dirty grey square that frames my world and count myself lucky when the occasional insect alleviates my loneliness. Some days I think I see a man in a top hat, looking back at me. Other days I think I see someone wearing a red cloak, disappearing in the mist. I was right, but wrong about how it would happen. Christine Grit rated it it was amazing Jan 08, Helen Ladbrook rated it it was amazing Jul 21, Keeley rated it liked it Dec 06, Sheila rated it really liked it Apr 02, Ilona rated it it was amazing Jun 05, Alex rated it really liked it Aug 30, June Jackson rated it it was amazing Aug 19, Lucinda Brant rated it liked it Mar 27, Nicol rated it liked it Sep 22, Shellaine rated it it was amazing Jun 01, Abigail rated it it was amazing Jul 29, Lynn Smith rated it liked it Oct 12, Nina rated it really liked it Sep 06, Kyle rated it it was amazing Jan 27, Julie rated it liked it Aug 11, Aubrey rated it really liked it Jun 29, Lady Jane Grey rated it it was amazing Feb 23, Linda rated it really liked it May 28, Colleen rated it it was ok Jul 01, Dgregg rated it did not like it Apr 01, Lindsey rated it liked it Jul 05, Arrow Books June 1, Language: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video.

    Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Jean Plaidy can always be relied upon to produce a cracking good story, and also historically correct. The Scarlet Cloak is no exception. A thoroughly good read. This was the first book I read of Jean Plaidy, which was not based on actual fact. I simply love Plaidy's other books, but was sorely disappointed with this entirely fictional creation.

    The plot seemed to drag and it was tiresome reading. Hate to say it as I am a big fan of her other genre. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations. View or edit your browsing history. Get to Know Us.