Thursday, August 28, 2014

HARVEST

Wilmot finally came into his own, when five of the miners who had walked from Saint Ives, and were all full of themselves, their pockets full of shillings from a month at the Ding Dong, took over The Lady for an evening of carousing. They found Wilmot to be not the least bit out of turn for the type of entertainment they wanted, and each lay or song or poem he placed before them only encouraged them to drink more, to cheer him more, and keep him so busy he turned to me after one of his songs and asked me if he couldn’t take a break for a while.
“My fingers are bleeding, sire Julian! I have been at this a full two hours, and they won’t let me go!”
“That is because they like you, lad. Give them one more, then take the half of an hour away.”
Wilmot gulped, but I could see he was determined, and then he plunged right along into a dance for the country men they all recognized as The Dance of Death. Whether or not he was trying to say something, it only served to make them dance the fiercer, and laugh the more, and their shrill cries as they took maids off other tables and plunged into the thick of things were loud, sharp, and lustful.
Now I thought that this was the sort of thing I had wanted here all along— but I did want Wilmot to have time to relieve himself, drink some water, maybe eat something, before he was put back ahead of these people. When he was done, then, I came back from the kitchen with Luisa in my arms, and I played for them that half hour he was out. When he returned, his hair had been combed, his neck was wet with a cloth draped over it, but he was grateful I had left him aside.
Now I had little idea that they liked my  playing or not, but that was not the point. I would be at The Lady whenever I chose, there was no separation between my destiny and being there for whoever else was. But I knew Wilmot had his love, Claire, on his mind all the time. I decided that he could have the spot for the next fortnight, which then meant that he would be in front of whomever was in the hall, and whether or not the Ding Dong men were about, whoever was in the hall would have to put up with his mischievous manner, his sometimes ragged tempos, and the songs that he had stolen off Clarence.
Well I should not say actually he stole the songs off Clarence, for Clarence gave of them rather freely. But I hoped eventually Wilmot might bring us some songs of his own, since every man who picks up the lute, or the vielle, or the hurdygurd, has something of their own inside them—or don’t they? Even they who were drawn to music for the cozzening (like the Farter, for instance!) had some mind to make things up and tell their own tales, sing their own songs, press out the melody from their minds into the wide world, all alone, a torch in the wind, blow it fair or foul.
And yet Wilmot showed little concern for making his own songs. I knew I would need to speak to him about that eventually, for I felt that if someone would do well here at The Lady, they would do best when they had their own voice, and were not just copying someone else’s.
The harvest was soon upon us. I decided that to help me I needed, this year, everyone who had been about, even Deprez, to help me gather the barley and rye in the field, to cut and dry the pepper vines, to pull and clan the vegetables of the garden, and to slaughter a hen or two.
And so it was that when Clarence came, himself, to help me, and Wilmot was off so disposed again, singing for his supper, I took him aside to speak about the originality of his apprentice.
“He does not seem to want to make much of himself,” I said. He would much rather sing the songs he learned off you! I was a little like that a couple years ago, too, but at least I saw that I needed songs of my own- it is never enough to be the copy of whomever went before you, you know.”
“Give him time, Julian. He has discouraged me a little too, on that, but he has done well at the building of lute-shells and the like, and so maybe not everyone is a poet, you know.”
“Ah, but everyone who plays should be the poet of their soul...” I was not quite buying it.
“And what of it? Perhaps he has not fully found his voice. Give that time, too.”
Clarence and I walked to the shed where we drew out the scythes and the flails and began to make ready for the heavy work.
“We really should start at the shore, and work backward.” I said. “That way when we get back to this end of the field, we have already done the hard walking.”
I knew I could get Ranulf on the morrow, and Wilmot and young Will, too, for the morrow was the Saint Bartholomew feast and Market Fair Day, and while Pamela and Mary had plans for what they would do there, I knew the other men had no desire to see the fair, and yet be bored more by the kinds of entertainers that were there. So we would be a good team, all working out in the field on Market day. Perhaps we might get the better part of it done, even. But for now, Clarence and I, we headed to the land’s edge by the sea, and with my dog Panoptes watching us, we began to scythe the tall rye and barley and stack the long stalks together so that the grain heads were all aligned and wrapped into bundles. We must each have twined up some fifteen bundles apiece, when we called it day, and began to lug the sheaves back to the tool shed, where a large winnowing sheet had been lain.
I told Clarence that we would take care of the first day’s harvest on the next day too, and we would have more help, so there was little need to worry over what we had brought in. Panoptes we staked outside near the grain and the chickens, so that if any of our tavern guests had ideas about stealing it, he would make an end of them. He was growing larger yet than he was as a pup just a year ago- I now looked at a fine sleek dog whose fur would bristle and whose eyes would glint “trouble” at the approach of strangers, but also a dog that gladly took what was offered from the hand, and even knew how to shake one.
And on the next day, Wilmot came with his friend Claire, that they might both help me, and in so doing, earn some money from me. And I presume as well it was so that they might catch some time together, away from us all, when the time to halt for our dinner had come. I was grateful though— everyone I had asked came down to help. Moselles, who had harvested his field the week before, was even among the reapers, as I had helped him with that, and as partners in The Lady, we figured we should each help each other at harvest as well.
So there I was— I had my eight friends in the fields, and Deprez and Mary were behind at the tavern to make sure that the guests were being fed, and were happy. I was ever more grateful that the sheaves began to stack themselves up, and by the time it was dinner, at midday, there were forty more sheaves of grain in three large piles at the winnowing sheet. The first day’s barley, that of the next day, and the first portion of the rye.
And we had ourselves a grand dinner, we did, what with biscuit, with chicken roasted with thyme and tarragon and cinnamon, with boiled vegetables, a salad of garden greens, and big pots of new ale! Then I divided my crew into men and women, and the men continued reaping- which took the rest of the day, but it was done. While the men reaped, the women flailed and winnowed the great sheaves of grain in large bushels they collected— first the barley then the rye and as the men finished bringing in the sheaves,  the collected bushels were filled, and went up to the kitchen shelves, where they had lids fitted to them, and Kerfel the cat to guard them.
Sometime during all that I guess when the dinner break came, Claire and Wilmot had disappeared, but I did not seek them out to call them back. I knew where they were, for I could see them off out the corner of my eye, rolling in the grass beneath the cypresses, on the far side of them, but still Wilmot’s red jerkin stood out at times, as it bobbed one way or another against the grey trunks of the trees. Ah, let them be, long live young lovers! I knew what they were feeling.
Thought now turned of course to my wife, carrying child, but not showing so much nor taking it as burden too heavy yet to not work at the harvest. She smiled gracefully and graciously, and while they were at the reaping, she could be heard laughing and joking with Pamela and Claire, and that was how I knew it all agreed with her.
When our work outdoors was all over with, and all the grain had been threshed and winnowed and stored, yet there was work at The Lady which would go on until early morn. But this night was sore different than others. I think the trouble began when Eldfarm and Beaufort made another rather rude and unwelcome appearance. But this time, they did not ask for favors or treats of food. No, this time they rushed for young Wilmot while he bowed the vielle, and while Claire gazed appreciatively at him while he did so.
They seized him and were about to make off with him when I stopped them.
“Hear, hear what is this? You take my minstrel from his work? He has worked hard all this day out in the field, as well. what is your purpose and your need of him?”
“We suspect, good taverner Julian, we suspect that this boy and his minx there are conspiring against our King, and blaspheming against our Lord! We were told this couple have not been to Mass for four weeks! There is a fine for this, you know.”
“What if there is? Is it right you should grab him at his work, that you could not have come at some other hour? Then you must grab him at his work in front of his audience!”
“Master Julian, we know this is rough on you. But we had reports”—
I could see it now in my mind’s eye. Micah and Earnest, of course, who had gotten to be fair admirers, so they said, of the food and drink and song here, had been through here a few times in the last month and certainly while Mary and I had gone off to Chester. And perhaps they noticed that Wilmot had not been among the parishioners attending their stuffy boring masses that they held at Saint Kelvin’s when they were not at Madron! I could see them, trying to find fault with a young lad, just that they should worry him. And I also knew the fine— twelve pence, more for the coffers of Eldfarm than those of Anselm, and what was this about treason against the King?
“Master Julian, the boy came to Trewidden a week ago and sang a most atrocious song he said had been written after the battle of Shrewsbury, when our liege and master Henry defeated the foul Percy and struck down the earl of Worcester. Now that the remaining Percy, Northumberland, makes noises against the king and what is more, he rallies the French to the side of the Welsh, encourages the Scots to take up arms and cross border again as well— this boy and his foul tongue and dangerous songs is raising trouble!”
“Fair game,” I said, remembering how I had played the Lay of Hotspur numerous times to he and Clarence, and so it must have been from me he learned it, as it was my song, anyway, and not a fact I cared to yet make public.
“So it is, then minstrels make noises, that perhaps tell the truth from one side of a story which the other side might rather not have heard. But how will you suppress the people from thinking what they think, or writing the songs that tell the stories of their world? What, really, is his true crime? That he is a good mimic, and remembers what is sung to him, or that he is just an annoyance for nobles who have little better to do than disgrace the keep they hold, and the reputation of the lord of a great keep, that they might find succor and fatten themselves on the back of the peasant, and afflict him at their will and leisure?”
They were taken aback, and I could see I had said something which had stung Eldfarm, as I had meant it to.
“You may be young, and a common man, and free to think and say what you think, lad, but you are in trouble too! You set this stage here that whispers and rumors might travel freely about you, first blow one way toward the good king of the country, then the other, toward outlawry and revolt. We are keeping our eyes on you as well! Best for you beware your own rude mouth, churl, lest we pillory you as well!”
They began to drag Wilmot off, again, but Claire now spoke up, and let fly her own stream of wrath at them.
“I was born here, and so was he, and I will not have you take my man so quickly and without even being able to answer a trial you hold him your captive! Oh that our good Baron were here, and not you! For he would know what to do, and he would know that there is nothing you can do! You cannot force us, against our will, to worship your God when our God lives within, and answers to us apart from any priests!”
They were taken aback again, but young Claire had a spirit like a kindled branch, and it was lighting the thoughts of those who sat at all the tables, too, now. There were several there who had witnessed the public beatings, and the pillories, and who also longed for Anselm to be back safe and sound and ruling over his good demesne as he had before these Devonians had appeared with their strictures, their capital infliction, and their facile, easily stoked greed.
The retainers saw that they had misjudged the mood of the room considerably, and indeed they were quite outnumbered, as a number of the tavern guest began fingering their knife-sheaths, or made a quick end to their alewash, or grabbed even a salad spoon or a walking stick to make ready if there were more to deal with.
But I was surprised, too, for after my speaking up, and after Claire had roused the people about us, the nobles now released Wilmot, who shook off his sleeve as though it were clogged with fleas, and sat back down at the hearth, and began to retune his vielle.
“Master Julian, we did not come to give trouble to any of your guests, and we want none. We will make a mind of this to the burgesses, and ask of your servant to make a cause of himself, at court, with any witnesses he wishes to bring on his behalf. Make that for next Friday at the hour of Terce. We want answers to the charges that our priests have made as to his lack of piety, and his bad judgment of choice of words!”
Eldfarm turned on his heel, and with Beaufort falling in behind him, who gave a last desperate thrust of his tongue at all of us, departed. We heard the hooves of their horses clatter off down Whychoome Road, and once the door had been barred, everyone broke into laughter, clapped each other on the back, and I brought out new pots of ale for all, that none may pay coin for, to celebrate Wilmot’s continue freedom. But the date now loomed like a cloud before us, less than a week away.

Then came the day, when Wilmot would need to travel to the court, which was of late Anselm’s, and answer to the retainers of the Lord De Courtenay of Devon, to those things they had heard tell he had sung, and of those songs whose words had been mine alone. I decided that when it came down to their trying to punish him, that I would up and take the blame, for it would not seem meet for me to allow someone else to suffer in my place, if it were my song that brought them to it. The punishment of Songgemonger in London, of course, must have had something to do with what I felt was a change of heart, for while I had meant him mischief, I had not wished him death, and if my young friend Wilmot was to be pilloried, ere we returned that evening to The Fallen Lady, then I felt it should be I alone bear the brunt of his “crime”, for I had instigated it all (and Simon!) by coming up with those rhymes, as we made our way home from Shrewsbury a year ago.
So we saddled Magdalene and I gave the hindmost to Wilmot, and we made our way but slowly, slowly up the hill, past the glen of Trewidden and the spring of Saint Piran and looking back at my little home and land, I sighed, for there might be much to go through ere we were returning.
The nobles were all about a great table in the center of Anselm’s hall, when we arrived there. Eldfarm and Beaufort, the accusers, along with Carldwiss (who held the monk Micah’s crozier, somewhat in the manner of a talisman, across his left shoulder), and Sugarsop.
“Here now come they— the churl Wilmot of Newlyn, and Julian, the tavernmaster, at whose pleasure the churl does serve! We gather here to adjudge you of a crime, a displeasure about the royal estate, and affairs which are not the business of you common folk, but that you did give voice to disparaging verses and scandalous sentiment against our King, Henry IV, in ribald song, and mocking sense.”
Beaufort read then from a scroll, the length of which drooped down over the end of the table presumably to the very floor, but it was only needed he read the first paragraph.
“Young Master Wilmot. We accuse you of blasphemous scandalous song taking note of your place as the servant of Julian Plectrum, the tavernmaster of The Fallen Lady. You were heard to sing a song against the king, as witnessed by a Monk, who ha asked us not to name him. This monk however, has been tasked with the mission of seeking out heretics in the parish of Saint Kelvin and has also learned, you are not one who regularly attends the mass at Saint Kelvin’s, which is your parish church and which your mortal soul has been charged with the maintenance thereof, within. And so we, the nobles of Trewidden, we challenge you, Master Wilmot, give us proof of your fealty to king, and to the Lord of Heaven, lest thou be seen in contempt of both, and of worse crime against the Lord of Heaven.”
My my! Such words. But I could see the effect they had on young Wilmot. He trembled, held his hat in his hand, and spoke haltingly.
“My...my... my lords... My lords such is not the case... I am a churl, yes, I am a serving-man, and yes, I work for Master Julian, and a fair man is he... And maybe I sang that song. I knew not whose ears were there to hear it, I thought it was a song of some wit and renown, actually...”
“You did now?” broke in Eldfarm. His eyebrows arched, Carldwiss rocked his stolen crozier back and forth, and Beaufort stifled a smirk, but you could tell only for a minute, and that Eldfarm had given him a kick in the shins beneath the table.
“Yes, lord, I did not know who might be there. But I had heard this song had been sung across the northland, even, and that perhaps it had been heard even here at Penzance, and...”
It was then I decided to speak up.
“Lords, I will say something, you must hear, whether you wish me to or not, and whether or not it is my turn to speak here at all. You accuse Wilmot of something which is a mere parroting of something he had nothing to do with! For I am the author of that song.”
I paused. I could hear them drawing in their breath, I could see their cheeks go flush with red, and I plunged right along.
“Yes, I wrote it, and I wrote it for the people of Chester, for I was at the battle of Shrewsbury with my brother ,and we saw it all. The bravery with which Hotspur and the Scot fought against your Henry, the lines of Cheshire men moved down as they stood stock still with bows in hand, how Henry cut the heads from noble Cheshire gentlemen on the second day after battle, and hung them up like pigs on the walls of the city... My brother and I wrote the song, and we wrote it for a reason, and if you fathom it not, or wish to give me grief for it, then you know not wherefore it comes, or why, only that you are disturbed by it, but many are not.”
“Many are not, are they, Master Tavernier? We have eaten of your table. You offer good food and drink, and it is said that if it were not for your tavern, that the people hereabout would be of a different nature, for you give them occupation. Therefore we cannot lay upon you the same type of punishment we might seek for a mere blasphemer such as Wilmot here, or for a typical speaker against the King.”
“I am a free man, and nobody is the boss of me!”
I could feel the old twinge of defiance creep back into my speech, and while I clenched my fist to fight the urge to say more, the words poured forth again, unbroken. Not a word did I mention of the strange Welshman, nor of what I knew of his speech with Aleuderis Burian, for now I was concerned with Wilmot, and myself, alone.
“I do not say the King is wicked, for such as I have seen of him and his son, yet they have done wicked things to the people of my own shire. I came here in fact, to be rid of the type of trouble which they put upon friends of mine. I hold no fealty to you, but to Anselm, who rest his soul is not here among you, but were he so, he would laugh in your faces as well, you petty nobles, with nothing better to do than trouble the poor, tax us blind, and hold us to account for more than our means can provide you. I had no trouble with Anselm for my song, and I will have none from you. For it was  not my choice that it be sung again, I held a warning from Anselm to be plain and clear. Rather it was the impudence of young Wilmot, who was but repeating something he heard, and lacking other devices, chose to sing it in place of any other song he might have, and he cared not who heard, because what has he to fear? He is only a minstrel after all, and a young one, learning his way in the world. If you are to punish anyone at all, you must punish me, but I am not afraid of your cruelty, for such it is well known far and wide, and nothing you can do to me can change what has already been decided by the Lord of Heaven, anyway.”
The silence was thick now, and the lords did not reply. For a moment I could hear the larks outside singing, and with its song I felt a little more courage creep into my heart. I needed it, for what they had next.
“Then hear this, tavernkeeper. We forego a punishment of whips or pillory. Instead, you are to furnish us at table full for a month’s time, and we are welcome in your tavern for that full time, and there will be no singing of songs against the king while we are there, nor will we brook any while we yet reside here at this castle. You will provide us this table at your own expense, not ours, and we will have succor full, in as many ways we choose, and you shall not complain of it.”
I had no idea what the cost of all that might be but I resigned myself to the loss of at least a couple of month’s worth of shillings to share out with Moselles. One month would cost me at least that much and another, especially if they were the gluttons that they had proven to be before.
I suppose it were a good alternative, if you like, to being whipped or stoned, but I had steeled myself at the thought of that. Instead, they sought to hurt me in the purse, a wound I felt much quicker, much keener, than any plain physical brutality might inflict.
The noble named Carldwiss, who sat with Micah’s crozier perched like a mantis’ leg across his chest and knee, leaned over and leered at me.
“You see, we will have what we like, Master Julian. Would be you should be quite content with what we shall take, and not take your wife, as we are at it!”
I hardly knew what to say to this, but I knew that any attempt to force Mary to give of herself as long as I were nearby would end badly— for them, not me. I said nothing. The nobles then dismissed Wilmot, and we very disagreeably left the hall, and headed out the castle’s gate, making our way on Magdalene rather slowly. Wilmot was full of questions.
“What do you think they are going to do? When do you think they will come? How will we provide for everyone else?
“You ask much I know not how to answer,” I said. “They will come when they come. I should think it will not be tonight, or even tomorrow, but they will come when they fancy, and it will be perhaps when we least expect them. So therefore we must be wary and expect them at any time. Look, we should go to town tomorrow— do not look at me that way, I know, it’s your day off! But we should go tomorrow and stock up on a number of things, that we have three times as many of those things we always get. I shall use more of the seed money which Anselm gave me, that we do not have to purchase things out of the last week’s earnings. You shall come with me. We will speak with our suppliers, and we will tell them of this. I am sure that when some of them hear it they will not be pleased. The more we might stir resentments against these men— who after all, have done much themselves to arouse it— the quicker will come the day when they put up and leave Newlyn. The nerve of that joker, to threaten me for my wife! But so they are, just that type of men.”
My disgust must have lingered in the air, for now Wilmot was silent, and said not a word until we were back at the tavern, and he scuttled off to help Deprez, and carry the news to the rest of our crew.
It turned out that we waited two whole weeks before they showed their hungry faces at the door of The Lady. And we could tell they were hungry, indeed, it seemed perhaps they all had fasted for several days, before descending upon her like a swarm of busy wasps! Pamela and Deprez were quite hard pressed, in keeping up with them, that first day.
The top one, Eldfarm, ate two chickens, right off. He drank a hogshead full of wine and then an entire bowl full of pears. Seven pence! I could see it all adding up in my head.
The one named Sugarsop ate up a good side of beef all on his own, it seemed, at least. There was another tuppence!
The noble named Beaufort threw a fit when the pork shoulder he charged was not “just so” to his liking and Deprez, the poor man, was tasked with recooking it for another hour, basting it with mint sauce all the while, for Beaufort was a pig among pigs, and had the need to eat one like one. The pork shoulder was then (by his word) a little too well done, and he left huge portions of it uneaten on his trencher, and banged his cup on the table, demanded wine, which was brought, and laughed with the others at the commotion they were causing.
Meanwhile, there were others at the tavern we needed to serve, and they were either doing without, or were made to wait, as we held to the attentions of the Devon retainers, and they kept up with their demands. One of them got up to use the latrines, but when he did so, he found it blocked by several of our other guests, who forded him to go in public against the wall of The Lady. He was quite angered, and whispered something to Eldfarm, who then demanded my presence and tried to take me to task.
“Well sire,” I concluded, “if the people are giving  you a hard time here, you are welcome to leave...”
“We will go when ready, and we will not be importuned by serfs!”
He flushed red, swilled another cup of wine, and banged his fist on the table.
“You and your little place here are lucky we did not come to burn you down! Take care how you speak to superiors!”Again, I said nothing, knowing the better part of valor would indeed be discretion, even among people like this full of themselves and full of hatred for anyone who was born at a lesser station than they. I wondered how they might behave in the presence of others greater, but I could tell they probably would have a different demeanor, then.
And so they ate, belched, farted, snored, groaned, caroused, and havocked through the night, until midnight, and then quick as foxes, they got up suddenly, and left. Poor Will, who had been tasked with caring for their horses, was roused from his slumbers and forced to saddle the nags, and appeared in the kitchen when they had finally gone, rubbing his eyes, and asking for wine himself
“So, zey are gone? Good!” said Deprez. “Ze nex’ time zey come, I shall make for them my chef’s surprise!”
Heavens only knows what he meant by that, but I would leave it to their next visit to discover.
They had cost us nearly five shillings just by coming through our doors, that night, at least three day’s worth of regular business, and I could only hope they would visit only infrequently.
As it happened, that was the case, for they came again only once, and it was a fortnight later, when it was a full moon, I remember, and when there were even fewer of our local people there than the first night.
This time, of course, Deprez had promised “a chef’s surprise” and it was not long before I found out what he had planned. In fact I advised against it, but he would not listen to me. His mind was set, and so it was.
I didn’t ask then what he was doing, on the next visit of the nobles, when I came into the kitchen, and found him dribbling spit and snot into a ramekin. He offered that himself.
“Ah, Julian! I am readying my secret sauce for ze beeg cheeses! I shall get ze last the laugh, for sure!” and he laughed a most demonic kind of laugh, which I had only heard, actually, on the lips of the nobles themselves. I said nothing.
When he had filled the ramekin (and that had taken quite a bit of time) he mixed its contents into another bowl in which he had prepared his hen sauce, with herbs, with cream and wine, and with a grated turnip. And he proceeded to the two fat hens that they had ordered and began merrily basting them with “his secret ingredient.” I stifled a laugh, for while I felt empathic, and deeply resented the nobles for their imposition upon our establishment, I had the thought that indeed, there were worse things which Deprez might have chosen with which to baste their chicken, and again, discretion being the better part, I went back to the nobles and told them their hens would be ready soon.
“Then they had better be, churl! Listen here, give us more mead! More perry! More hippocras!” raved Beaufort. This was seconded by Carldwiss banging the crozier noisily upon the floor.
Pamela and I found our hands full as we scrambled back and forth from their table carrying the pitchers of drink, filled each of them (at least three times, that night!) and avoided he trash which they saw fit to toss right on the floor. It was a good thing I did not allow my dog the run of the tavern, but kept him safely outside near the chickens, because he would have loved to get at the chicken bones and other scraps which copiously appeared beneath each noble’s feet as the night progressed.
 That night, not only did they eat both the “most exquisite, delicious hens” with no further comment, but devoured an entire ham (which was actually, one of the legs of Chubb, Moselles’ pig, who had gone to his maker that summer, with our help) and five entire salmons, which had been bought from the fisherman Walsoff that morning, and which I had been hoping they actually might ignore. No such luck!
Eldfarm rubbed his greasy cheeks and smiled, when he had finally cleared his plates, and spoke to me.
“Now, Master Julian, we have concluded your penance. We do hope you have learned the lesson we had to teach you. You would do well to never speak in anger or spite against the lord of the land, our good King Henry, and to have some respect for us. There is no telling ho long, or short, our stay shall be at the castle of Trewidden. But while we are here, we expect that all shall know their place, and that we of the king’s service will be well-serviced and catered to.”
With that, he gave out a fat belch, and rose, and so did the others with him. Sugarsop threw a chicken bone aside as a parting gesture, as they made their way out the door. This time, Will was awake and ready for them when they left, so they were not able to annoy him with kicks and pokes as they had on their trip before.
I found Deprez leaned up against the doorway, as though his ear had been cocked to the hall, as I came to the kitchen with an armful of plates and cups. He had a strange, serene smile on his face, and wiped his hands on his smock in what could only have been glee, and merry appreciation that his plan had not been discovered.
“Now, when ve speak of zem, ve shall alvays call zem “Ze snot-eating scum of Devon, ohn, Julian?”
I nodded. It was perhaps better left unsaid that we had, in that, a small sense of satisfaction that while the mighty had seen fit to “correct our impudence” there were some things about which they had absolutely no clue, nor would they ever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting Back to Reality

     I have some bad news for those of you who follow this blog in order to keep tabs on unconstitutional actions on the part of the President of the United States and his gang of thugs and goons. We are leaving the political commentary business - to those who wish to be infected by it, and those of us who are actually better at it, more willing to endure the perils of its addiction, and more suited to slinging mud and dodging lions can have it.

     Originally it was planned that I would take the collected political posts from this blog in the last two years to publish an ebook in time for the congressional elections this November. But I realized something. While it may be worthwhile to attempt to throw pearls before swine in hopes that some of the swine will actually pick them up, wear them, and take them to the ball, the better sense of my judgment is to tell myself NO. I have been ruled and run by the folly in DC long enough now for this particular joker, President Spybot.

     The more you allow the nonsense of the corrupt punks that run Washington to annoy you the more they run your life as well. Things were quite fine even with The Chimp as World's Biggest Dickhead but now that Hif Majeftie had shaken me from my tree, I could not but lodge as many protests as I have in the thirty-some commentaries launched under the "Escapees from the Memory Hole" file tag. He's not going to run me no more. The Office of Presidency has been irretrievably stained, tarnished, and shamed by this President, and its powers grown so large as to mean that even a vote for the office would be to consent to be tyrannized, such are the consequences of his signing NDAA 2012, and the still unadmitted and unapologized murder of US citizens without due process. "due process- that's anything that I do."

     Consent by the governed means consenting to get bossed around. Offering the consent to be ruled by the pigs, thugs, militarists, murderers and liars of this government (whether wearing a D or an R) is nothing but a recipe for slavery. I know where I have been, the stand I have taken, and where I am going. Do you?

"Politics is bullshit"- Stephen Stills, 1969

     Therefore there will no longer be political opinions of any sort written on these pages. We are going back to the beautiful, the positive, the good things of life, our friendships, our garden, our music and our loves. Comments on any of the past posts, of course, are ever yet welcome.

Monday, August 18, 2014

ANSELM RETURNS

Word had it that Anselm was headed back to Trewidden. If not to stay, then at least he had the intentions of trying to prevent the men of De Courtenay from having any more treachery against his subjects and tenants. I looked upon this as a good thing, and I planned to tell him (myself) of their intentions of using me as a spy against Aleuderis. It was with much concern that I took these reports from those who offered them— whether it were the miners who had taken, of late, to coming to The Lady and playing at flechettes, or whether it be what I might hear from my costermen, butchers, and fishmongers in Penzance— that the baron was returning at all threw some hope into the ideas of all those in the nearby parishes.
For my part, I knew that Anselm coming back, even if he meant it for a short respite from the sieges and harrying of Glyndwyr and Wales, that I could, at least, have a hope of gleaning more wine supplies from him. already the three big casks which had been sold me at discount by Albertus were running to their dregs, and at the rate my customers were drinking them, I should be done with all three by October! And then where would I be? So I wanted to deal more with Anselm on that issue. The fact that Albertus was still in Penzance, also, meant that he would be shopping them to Anselm also, even if it meant that the real ones to benefit were the Devon men, who would, again, once he had gone, sit at the table in the castle making themselves fat and happy on the countryside’s fruits.
So when I learned, indeed, Anselm had returned, and not only had he returned, but had sent me a personal summons, I was off in a trice with Mary on Magdalene, taking the now familiar road, and both of us taking heart to see our dear friend once more.
Anselm sat on his throne, when we found him, but his expression was gave, and he barely lifted his head from his thoughts to address us.
“Ah, the Plectrums,” he said, when he finally roused himself from what was surely worry, “I am glad you are here. You no doubt have heard”—
I lifted my hand in assent.
“Yes, I have, Anselm. The noble men that have had the run of your halls have been creating problems. For all of us.”
“For the moment, they are out of our hair, and have repaired to Penzance for the time I shall be sitting here. I must return soon to the war- too soon for my liking, but it was by the Prince’s leave that I now am here again today. When I look around me to those who once looked at me with respect...”
“They still do sire, they—‘
“Enough. Yes, still they do, but what has been wrought in my absence is no good, and as much as I would not wish this, Lord Devon has made his own way in councils with the King, and has made it clear that his men shall indeed return with all their noxiousness once my part is again filled. All I can do here is attempt to redress some of the people’s concerns, but no means can I use to overcome the politics of the king. And I should return to the sword, and the terror of the Welsh, again, whence I depart. There is little joy in my heart.”
“Sire, it bears no strain upon your crown. We have been prospering...’
“That is good, Julian, such was my hope, and so it will continue to be.”
“But the Devon men have taken me in to be their informer against your friend, Sire Burian.”
“Oh, have they now? This is a good thing you tell me.”
“They have given me word that I should report to them each and every time he sups with us at The Lady, and upon who he speaks with, and the natures of their talk.”
“No doubt they want to know how Aleuderis fares with his Ding Dong mine, and how Devon will fare against his tin in the cargoes.”
“So, it occurs to me as well that I must tell you...”
“Such that it is, lad, such that it is. Well I can tell you something. Aleuderis has been trading with friends of Glyndwyr, and this is what gives them interest. He is unlikely to say much in your earshot because all those dealings are on the other shore from us, up near Saint Ives Bay. But they are buying and he is giving. This you can know at no loss to your sureties with Devon’s retainers.”
“Perhaps they hope he will slip his tongue... or speak with someone more sinister?”
“Perhaps. But I know him. And the chances are, Julian, he has far too many dealings at present on the Saint Ives side of us to spend much time in Penzance at all, for the time being.”
‘Another thing is, I believe we need more stock of wine...”
“Oh blast it. They let you have none? I thought I sent a message to them...”
“If there was, no sire. Albertus came back from France and left me three big casks, but those are quite near drained already! If I could only...”
He waved his hand and stopped me, reading my mind.
“I will assure you you may have two of mine. I yet have more, and if no other reason, it will keep them from the guts of Devon’s henchmen, for you to have these.”
“Thank you, sire, thank you.”
“Do you have other news? It has been tough on me to hear all the talk, of the pillory, of the whippings, and of the doings of the monks- mischievous rabble they all are! But what can you say to me, Julian, to give hope to my heart...”
It was Mary who spoke up.
“Well, sire, we do expect a child...”
He brightened, and I freshened my own spirit with that.
“A child! Marvelous! and I should hope for its very best health and good fortune! Marvelous!”
“Yes, sire, we should expect the new one early in next year...”
“Well that is surely something to make me glad, as I am sure it will add to your own great treasure, my friends.”
Mary rubbed her swelling belly and Anselm laughed.
“Tis a shame I have no heirs, myself. It will only bring trouble, more of the same, I fear.”
And he again sunk his mood into some despair, and then begged our leave. I knew we would get our wine, and I was unsure if I would see him again, so in parting, I left him with these words.
“Anselm, we will endeavor to do our best by you. All which has taken place here, of course, would not have been to your liking, nor would it have been your wont.”
“I know it, and I wish there were more I could do. These people of De Courtenay have made an utter ruin of what took me years to build up— a good, prosperous, happy shire, and parishes full of men and women who were happy to give, happy to work, and proud to be of Penwith. Now, just look at this all. What a shambles.”
“Yet I shall endeavor to keep this sense of what you wish alive, at least I shall, within my own domain.”
“Yes, Julian, that I am assured you shall. And one more thing?”
“Yes?”
“I wish you the very best for the child. May they grow up to be blessed— and free.”
When we departed Trewidden that afternoon, it was with a cart full of wine barrels, and my pockets jingling with another sinecure of cash. This was no loan, this was, itself, a gift. The legendary generosity of Anselm had been bestowed upon me once more, and I grinned toward the sun, as we steered our way down the windy path homeward bound again.
Anselm left the castle of Trewidden again on the sixteenth of August, and this time, I did not see it, although I knew he had been only back to look in on things, and that ‘the King’s duty’ called him. And it was not long after he departed that we were once more visited by Aleuderis and his Ding Dong men. This time, however, even if the Devonshires had a mind to get my ear, and my tongue, on what was the nature of his schemes, I kept it all to myself, and I did not report any of it to them.
This, though is what happened, when he showed up at the Lady on that night.
Pamela took the men to a table, and Aleuderis, being the only one with a mount, left it in the good care of my boy Will. He ordered himself a big pot roast, and vegetals all heaped up around it. The men settled for great plates of fruit, and cheese, and draughts of ale, and we were lucky there had been a new batch made, for they drank us to the dregs of what we had, to start, and then it was out with the new stuff.
I played my lute for them, and they liked Robin Hood, of course, and I avoided Arthur, for I knew Aleuderis was none so fond of my presentation. I was surprised to see him, especially since I had been told by Anselm himself, not to expect to! When I completed the singing, he called me over to his table, I drew up a stool beside him, and as he tucked into the roast, knife in hand, I listened as he told me a tale I had not the slightest how it concerned me. But this is what he said.
“Well, Master Tavernkeeper, I well fancy your good food, and this good spot. When I am here this side of Cornwall, here at the edge of Penwith, I find it pleasant that there be a house far from the connivers and the schemers that haunt the harbor town. When I was but twenty I came to work at the Ding Dong mines. I had the word of my father to the owner, that I was a strong strapping young man, that I could haul a hundred-weight of ore on a cart or a track, and fair pull it up to the top of the heap by day’s end. And the owner, he watched me, he did, to see if what my dad had told him were true, and when it was, he said, alright, I shall use you.”
“How I came to own the mine myself, though? Well it took me some seven or eight years as I recall I were not yet thirty. I had moved from being miner, to helping keep track of the pounds of ore, and what was taken from the mine, eventually to being made charge of the smelting. Yes, I have antimonious lungs! Haha! But even with a copper cast to my breath, I took fondly to the task. Moving the white-hot milky metal was something I found pleasing, and simple. When I set it into molds, and the slag had been burnt away, and the heaping shining ingots were cooled, and placed in great stacks, I felt like I was really something.”
“Let me tell you though I was not yet anyone. The owner, his name was Deridius, he came to think of me as his first man, and at some point, he told me he would like to see me being the one makin’ the deliveries- usually they would take a cart from here, to Saint Michael’s, or over to Weymouth, and there had been a great tradition and trade in this, going back to before the Romans, you know. And when I had completed my first journey by oxcart, there to the other side o’ Lizard, he aid me a gold crown, he did. And I did this for a full year.”
“Then came the plague year. And of everyone at the mine, we lost some twenty men, but worse, we lost the owner. Yes, and he had no heir, and he left everything as it was and his soul up and fled his body like it were but a sack of rotting fruit by the highway, and crossed to the other shores of Charon. And that left really, only me, to keep all the records, to carry on the trade, to make the money off the sales in port, and all. It was not like I came upon this all dishonestly, lad, but I must say it was in a manner most strange. And once the mine was mine, well, I began to hire my own men. Of course, I kept the good strong ones, and one or two that held the plague, but walked away, and what others I could replace I gathered from amongst the people of Saint Ivey.”
“Now, I have been at this a’twenty-year myself. Now I grow old, and my arms could not drag cart nor sled up anything, let alone, up that little shaft! My eyes grow weak, but my mind is yet keen.”
“I like to come here because —well it is mostly the food, but you are a friendly sort, and you do not seem to wish to pick my pocket, so you must be an honest sort. Let me say, there are many not so honest here about now!”
And he finished his speech and huffed his ale and stuffed his face with the beef, and the men at the table all carried on, actually, through all of his talk, concerned but with themselves and the other at tables nearby.
I took up the nerve to ask him a question.
“Sire Burian, is it true what they have said to me, that you are selling tin not only to the French, or to the King, but to the Welsh?”
He stared at me with something of a blank expression. Indeed, it was quite hard to figure what he was thinking, if anything at all.
“Master Tavernkeeper. I know you are yet young, but there is much you need to learn about this world, and this life. Even though you be a bard fair and something of a poet! Listen, a shilling’s a shilling and a pound’s a pound. What matters it to me, where my next one comes from, were it from a great well known merchant, or from a villein could but spare a shoe? No, I deals with whomever I can sell to, and I go back to me hole, and I makes some more! You understand? I deal with them all, yes! English, Welsh, French, whoever it ‘tis spares the thought of my tin and my mine, and was pleased before, why him I shall please again!”
I poured him out the last of the ale in the large flagon, into his cup, he nodded, and drained it.
“Do you know there are people who take a dim and different view of this?”
His eyes reddened and he squinted at me.
“And who be that?”
“Why, the Devon men that sit in Anselm’s castle!”
“Ah, them! Well I told him at his Christmas feast about that, you know. That there was going to be some rough fellows coming our way, and that as soon as he were off and to the business of the king, they’d set themselves up. Have they, now?”
“Oh yes, I am fair surprised nobody has appraised you...”
“Bah! I hear what the word is, and I goes back to me hole, and I mines more shillings! Listen lad, I know ‘tis someone’s concern what I may do, who I deal with, but I pays the Duke, I does, and that runty Prince, such as he is, to fair leave me be, all the rest o’ the time! And does he? Why, yes, he does! Where will he get his armor and swords, or the tips for his pikes and halberds, eh? If not from the likes o’ me. Therefore, if they wish to keep the river running, they had best not block up the channel, aye.”
He winked, which I felt disconcerted by, but sipped long at the ale, and rested the cup again on the table. A pretty girl about Claire’s age was now sitting at the end of the miner’s table, and they were tossing dice to see who might go with her “to seek of her favors.”
“Do you fear that, perhaps these men of the king, they may have the thought one day just to take your mine, and take all you earn, one way or another?”
“Whatever for, son? Without me, who would know how to run it?”
“But your men here...”
“Ah, my men here. They know what they need to know. And the old ones, they teach the young ones. I am not afraid, of what? That the king should come to my little door and say “ho, ho, ho, little Cornish mine-man! Ho ho ho, I came to sack your hut! Ho ho ho, I have twelve thousand horses! And knights to put a pretty price upon your head!”
“Why, son, what do I say to the king? I say, folly be and folly he, do fly, for one day you too neath dust shall lie! It is a great equalizer in all things, my friend, our friend, the Reaper. Know us none when he may come, or if he pass us by, we breathe a sigh and sign the cross upon our chest to say, ‘Ah, thankee, Lord, you graciously left us alive today!’ and we bless ourselves, and bless the beasts and children.”
It did seem to me that Aleuderis had either a fool’s folly  in the face of danger, or the most fatalistic approach of anyone I had ever met. What was there to worry, then, while he could eat and drink and his men made merry?
In order to turn the minds of all of them, I suppose, I chose to bring out my lute and sing a new song to them. This song I based on some stories I had heard, as well as what had been sung to us all by Jack of Rowe. I thought it made a pleasing little tale, and I was not ashamed to have stolen part of the idea from Jack, even if I did not really steal any song. But this was what I sang:
Old Guigemot, he ruled the Mount
He built the walls with  his bare hands
With granite, chert, and lignosite
He put the island by the sands

Old Guigemot had a darling wife
And ten span high she was, like he
She came to him, a helping-mate
As same to her was he

Old Guigemot told Guigielle:
“Help us to build our castle high-
Take thee stones and place them here
Our home shall touch the sky!”

But Guigemot took a slumber nap
For rest as much for pleasure
And Guigielle brought  up jasper-stones
For lighter were their measure

While resting so, he fell to sleep
And seeing him at slumber
Thought Guigielle, “I’ll grab those stones
And light shall be my lumber!”

But as she worked she slipped and fell
And forward fell the hidden jasper
All this she did, and he was none so pleased,
He rose again, to thrash her.

Blunderbore, on the other shore
The ruler of the other side of Penwith
Threw stones his way, at Guigemot
Who soon betrayed his temper

But they made a peace, that Guigemot
Would keep to his own island
Blunderbore threw a hammer far
That spilled Guiglielle’s head upon the highland

Great was his grief, old Guigemot, he
Called Blunderbore to the mount beside her
They laid her in, and walled her up
Now the Mount is fast inside her!

When I was done, I looked to Aleuderis, but he kept a wry smile on his face, and all he said was:
“It needs work.”
I was a bit taken aback, but then when I thought about it, I did suppose he was right. After all, how could the Mount be inside her, if she were buried at the Mount. I was thinking about this, and having a fair conundrum of it, when another new fight began, this time, it was between one of the miners, and one of the country folk.
A fletch had whizzed past his cheek, while the locals played at the flechette board, and he was sore offended.
“Hey there, you careless louts!”
The men at the flechette board turned round. The man who had thrown it looked sheepish.
He began to apologize, but it was too late— the miner was already out of his chair, and had pulled his tommy-knocker, and was headed for the unwitting offender.
As he began to give him clouts upon the head, I raised my voice for the first time in weeks.
“Hey there, you there! There are no fights inside our good establishment!”
“But...”
The miner was obviously thrilled to now have a new adversary. Taking on the taverner himself might have seemed a good idea for the moment, for I was a bigger fish to fry. I grabbed him by the arm, and drug him with me outside, first making certain I showed him my rules upon the wall, and, basically, attempting to rub his nose in them.
“Outside here, ye shall stay, and let me have a word with your boss-man! I will not have a fight in my place, no! We are better than that here, and petty arguments if the must be settled, will come to their conclusion out here, outside!”
I went back in and took the local who had thrown the dart my the scruff, and demanded to know why he had done so.
“T’weren’t nothing personal, sire, ‘twas but an accident, I slipped, and...”
“An accident? Perhaps. But you must make your amends to the good man. Get outside with you!”
I stole a look at Aleuderis, who was paring a fingernail with his knife, nonchalantly. I knew I must have a word with him as well, but he was playing it as if he had not noticed a thing.
I shoved the offender out the door, and now that I had them both together, I sat them on the bench.
“I wish to tell you both something. When thing come to rise of temper, we here are not to take matters to hand, but we are to speak of these things out of doors. If there must be any type of fight, or duel, well, why be it that it be out of doors here. Inside, people are eating, and making merry, and there will be no such disturbance to the good people enjoying themselves. This is a rule. If you either wish to continue to enjoy our hospitality, then you must agree, there will never be a word of spite nor a hand raised against another, not under my roof!”
To the miner, I looked sternly to him, and he was a good ten years older, but I was not cowed.
“Miner, sire, this man says he made a slip while he cast his dart. Why should you take offense at a misstep, that was not meant to hazard you? He wishes to apologize.”
Whether he did or not, now I had placed him in a position to do so. and he did, quite meekly.
“Sire, good sir, I am so sorry. I slipped on the floor and did not mean to make you feel a threat, sir, good sir...”
The miner sat back, a huffing look on his grim and bearded face, then he stored his tommy-knocker back in his belt, and nodded.
“So you say. Well, then, I am sorry too. I like to come here. My brethren like it here too, and I will keep coming here. If you but keep your distance from me...”
“Oh, I shall, I shall!” cried the bumpkin.
Feeling that the situation had been solved, at least for the moment, I returned to Aleuderis’ table, where he was now conversing with the other three miners, on some point.
“Aleuderis...”
“Yes, Julian?” I obviously had interrupted him, and I felt as though he now meant to hold his rank over me. Nonetheless I spoke.
“Aleuderis, I talked with them both. They are at odds no more, at least, for the moment,”
As the fourth miner returned to the table, the other three immediately began speaking to him, in Cornish, and I knew not what they jabbered, but it was quick speech, and full of laughter, and I thought that this must mean the end of the issue.

I dreamed again about Anselm. He was among a number of men in the retinue of Prince Henry, and they were besieging one of Glyndwyr’s strongholds. I could not tell if Glyndwyr himself were there, in the midst of the trouble and action, but it was terrible, with defenders pouring pitch out of murder-holes, arrows being shot from, and bouncing off from, machicolations in the ramparts, and huts and homes being scourged and burned outside the walls of safety, by Henry’s foot soldiers.
And somewhere in all that, there was my Baron, speaking sincerely and swiftly to those he commanded, looking often so put upon, as though this entire business were something he yet would protest being involved with. But of course, I knew better. For Anselm to protest it at all would be to gain him the spite and distrust of the king and the prince. Yet the Welshmen did not relinquish their castle, and yet, they did not come forth to surrender it. It looked seriously to me as if everyone within its walls was willing to die where they stood, rather than face vassalage to an English king, and outlander.
And in my dream I saw Anselm fall, shot with an arrow through his cheek, and as he fell, he caught my eye, and something — I know not what— passed between us. It was a cry of despair, it was a sigh of acceptance, it was a realization that Anselm would not be returning. Needless to say I awoke at that point, near a dark sweat of fear and apprehension, and when the rooster gave his call, I was still staring at the walls, wondering if I had seen the future.

And there was someone new at the tavern, a tall man, of red beard, and green eye, and somewhat aloof from all the local ones, although I could tell he was a traveler, anyway, for the cut of his shoes were Welsh, and so was the air he had about him. He spoke only briefly in English, and was silent more often, so it was a little strange when I discovered that the regular Ding Dong Mine boys had managed to cluster about him later in the night.
By waiting on them directly, I spent a little time at the table. His name was Gryffdd, and he was indeed Welsh, and he knew he had come here at great risk but as he had no plans to go near the castle, or the town of Penzance, for that matter, he hoped to remain as it were, a citizen above suspicion. But the little crowd of miners seemed to fawn on his attention, and he was indeed seeing interested in whatever it was they were telling him.
He bought a lamb chop, covered it with mint leaf and cream sauce, and ate daintily from a pear, while drinking the same hippocras that our monks were so fond of. He told me that his reason for being here was to speak with miners— if he could find Aleudris in particular,  he did not know. But his father was “an important man” back in Wales, who promised the Cornish miners “freedom, justice, good wages, and good prices for your tin and antimony”.
He stayed a good part of the evening, while I managed to try a song or two on them all, this time I once more sang about the Cornish giant, Guigemot. Guigemot was a different sort and soul from Blunderbore, but no less cut a figure in the stories of yore since the age before. I plucked at the strings (A Major to B flat to C) and I had the miners laughing with couplets like this:
“You think that you know Lancelot
But you never knew our Guigemot
A sarcen stone was like a pebble to he
His very leg, like a good tall tree

Guigemot the giant ruled
And walked these moors ere you were schooled
Brave knights quivered in their shoes
Wanton maidens lost their blues”
It was nothing like the one I had put together the other day for Aleuderis, and it was even less complete than the other, if the other didn’t end satisfactory, well, their attention to it did not last very long, either, for the red-headed Welshman’s charisma seemed to hold them in thrall, and at a nervous distance.
It happened pretty quickly when it did, although I actually had had no expectation of it. Gryffydd began to appear on several afternoons after another at the Lady. Wilmot, I suppose was the first to notice him. His long red hair and mustaches fairly bristled, and he wore mail, and those odd Welsh boots, although he held no livery with coat of arms. And Wilmot noticed something else- he spoke with a distinct North Welsh accent. To be Welsh and in these parts, in these times— perhaps there was some daring in that. Or foolishness. They are often a piece of the same, you know.
Wilmot learned that, actually, he had traveled south from Llangwyllen to find Aleuderis, because he much wanted to discuss the tin trade with him, and possible outlets for Aleuderis’ products... But each time he made it to the Lady and settled, hoping to find him, Aleuderis never showed up. But if he managed to come often enough...
Wilmot and Claire were always fast to serve him, to keep him out of the way, of course, for if those nosy monks or Devonshire retainers should show up, it could come to blows of speech, or even swords. He enjoyed a cider, not wine, he liked perry, but was spare on ale. I began sitting with him and trying to learn more of who he was, for a Welshman in Cornwall should know, I told him in as many words, that he would rouse suspicions from the many “large ears” we knew were lurking— if not in the shadows, then stalking us under the plain sunlight.
“I am called Gryffydd. Yes, I do hail from North Wales. And yes, my father is an important man. But we have no need to speak of him. For me, it is fine to be meeting the men who work the mines, if I cannot make time with the mine owner. But that I intend to do, and this is why you see me here each day.”
When I told him that I and several of my people hailed from Chester, he smiled broadly at me, shook my hand, and said, “It is of a common purpose then that we should have met! For there are things going on... sieges, battles, people being pushed aside from village to village... The son of Henry fires the huts and strips the fields... the poor of the land, always poor as you might know, are in quite a state... The marches of Wales, of which your Cheshire is but one, are thick with the horse and men of the rulers. The woods, thick with their arrows. But they also hold our revenge, those woods...”
I mentioned that I knew very well the kind of rule the Prince laid down, and that I had lost a friend, a man who was robbed of all his goods while standing his own ground against Henry’s soldiers... how I had lost other people at Shrewsbury...
“Ah yes. Shrewsbury. Well, Henry did mean to try and teach us a lesson there, then, didn’t he? But we are unbowed. There is a strength in our northern people that he ought not to trifle about. He will be bitten ferociously.
At that he laughed, and his laughter was merry and spread in little ripples across the room, where the usual dartsmen engaged in frustrated contest, milkmaids laughed uproariously drunken, and Panoptes—always little impressed by human goings on— worried a bone he had cadged off of Pamela, near the hearth.
It was interesting to hear the words of this stranger. I told him Aleuderis had not been seen in some time... At least, not for several days before Gryffydd himself had come. But I wish I had not said it.
For just as I had, who should stride in from the summer fields and roads, but Aleuderis Burian, himself, sweeping his cape and walking with a most upright bearing. He had seen the stranger immediately as he entered and scanned the room, and where the stranger sat, actually, was the very table Aleuderis enjoyed most.
“Good Gryffydd, how goes it! What has brought you all this way here? Surely not humble old me?” Aleuderis sense of humor was subtle and understated. The tall Welshman stood full height and shook the miner’s hand, and clasped it in both of his.
“Good tin merchant! I am happy to finally have found you, again. Do you know...”
Aleuderis, took Gryffydd by the arm, and began to pull him aside, and back out the doorway.
“Let us go outside to speak of this,” he winked at me. “Our good taverner has rules, we must be observant! One of his rules is “no pedlar talk indoors.” But come with me!”
He led the stranger out of doors, to the bowls, and they sat together on the bench, and there, I know not what they discussed, but since it was “pedlar business” I gave a sigh of relief, and turned back to the kitchen. There I drew out more drink for them, and brought them a pitcher, and cups, and left them on the end of the bench, where they could draw from them at their pleasure.
I returned to the kitchen. There, Wilmot was desperately arguing something with Claire.
And between the two of them, when they argued like this, they were not the perfect picture of young love that they often presented. But Wilmot, it seems, was on the losing side.
I took Pamela aside and asked her, “What’s the problem there?”
“Oh, Julian, it’s hardly yours to trouble with. Claire wants Wilmot to make up his mind, between working for Clarence or working for you.”
“How is that not my concern? Clarence is my friend, and Wilmot means as much to me as he does Clarence.”
“Because, this is Claire’s way of keeping him closer to her. If he worked for Clarence he would be closer to her every night, and the trip would not be so far, and they could have more time together. Wilmot says that without your pennies, he would not have so much to save for their future life. But...”
“You know, that the monks came very close to threatening them with leirwite?”
“But they have no proof they have ever even slept together. So far as we know, they have not, isn’t that so?” She winked at me, and I winced back.
“All the same, Pamela, I want Wilmot here also. His help is very necessary— he helps load up the carts with our supplies, it allows me to make a finish to the dealings with the merchants, and besides, I do like the company, and someone to talk with, on those trips. Tell Claire...”
“I don’t think I nor even you, Julian can have much say in this.”
“Well try. Tell her that I will absolutely not consider letting Wilmot go. We can make arrangements so he does not need work so long each night. That way he can still make the trips, and still have more time to be with her.”
“I will see.”
When I returned to the stranger Welshman and Aleuderis, they had near to finished half of their pitcher, and were in a very good mood.
“Good tavernkeeper, please, bring us meat!” Aleuderis cheerfully beamed at me.
“I should like a cheese, and fruit, as well.”
“You have a preference for the meat?” I asked. I hope that I could bring whatever I had ready. So it was the case.
“No, my friend, just bring us a plate of it! And the cheese— and I would like an apple.”
“I, at least a pear,” said the Welshman.
I hurried back to the kitchen. as it happened, some people who had been in earlier ordered roast beef, but had left a good half of the platter, and I grabbed that. I stacked a quarter pound of good Stilton cheese along with an apple and pear, and rushed right back out.
On the bowls green a small group of people had gathered, who knew Aleuderis, but kept a distance from them. They competed for knocking down pins, and one of them, at least, was quite good. The miner and his guest both drew knives and began carving up the beef, and with hungry, pudgy fingers, they sated themselves, taking care to slice but enough for a mouthful at one time, each taking their turn. It was obvious to me they could not finish the entire plate, and I watched the bowlers, taking my time, until they announced it was good and they had had enough. I took away the platter and returned to the kitchen.
Wilmot was there and asking me questions as I returned the hunk of roast to a pot resting on the long cooking table.
“Who is the Welshman?”
“I am not quite sure. Yes, he does seem to know the miner. Perhaps it is just as well. Be sure, though, Wilmot, you keep his visits a secret. You know what the Devon men will say, when they discover a Welshman has been here, and that we have not only served him, but served him with some deference, and that he has indeed made some kind of plan with the mine owner.”
That led me to consider this, as well. That what had just taken place was exactly the kind of thing that the Devon men wished me to report. And I would not. I would not betray the trust of any of my guests. If that meant I must betray them, so be it, but they themselves had betrayed the people of Penwith with their cruel injustices. And I need not cooperate with any of that. For I knew that all my patrons held them in low contempt, and they at least, would not do to see me myself in such trouble.