Monday, September 29, 2014

HOW SARDO PAT CAME TO CALIFORNIA

Call me Sardo Pat. Everbody else does, why not you? You know what sardo is, doncha? It’s that special bread they bake down in Frisco. Folks claim the air got some special magical yeast in it or sumpin, makes it all so taste salty an’ tangy. Anyhow, my real name is Patrick Menahee Machlachglenahee and I was borned in Ireland. Came to 'merica when I was two. My pappy he worked on the Eerie Canal. You heard of that, aintcha? Lived in Skanecktidee. Came out west with the Rush I did, got me a claim on a placer on the Consumniss River, and my main drag is the town of Judas Gulch.
I gots to tell y’all a little sumpin bout how it all came about, too, how I come out here, becuz I am oner those them like to call “Original FortyNiners”— That is, I made it out here while there was still somethin’ good about it, an’ I had a chance to make me an ackshul bit of money. Nowadays with all the hydrollicking goin on, there’s lots of land get washed through but lots less gold fer the pickin’! When I com here a man could still work his own damn claim, didn’t need no help or none.
But that’s all different now. Takes me my six pardners and me together workin’ a sixty feet sluice together to get what little we gets. Oh its still somethin, usually bout two ounces a day I supose, but it aint like the old days when you could jest find them nuggets willy-nilly sometimes.
I come from Skanecktidee New York, like I said, ain’t all so much back there ‘cept my folks and little brother, and I ain’t been back, an’ I don’t care if I don’t, neither. I left Skanecktidee and got myself on a boat outa city of New York called the Curij. The Curij she were jest a two-master, culdn’t take the trip round the Horn, you know, and so I had me passage to Limon in Costa Rica, down there in jungle land. Took me a week of hard travelin’ through them rustic vines and tangles, with a cupple Injuns as my guides, with twenny others, hackin’ and hewin’ our way to the Pacific. But we got there, and we got to Puntarenas.
I was lucky, some of them other fellers took ill off malaria cause they got killer skeeters down there, an’ a couple of cholera, because ain’t no good water, I was lucky I had this here special large canteen carried my own so sip by sip I slipped across the Isthmus. Soon as we gets to Puntarenas we all catched a schooner headed up Frisco way. Ackshully it was headed to Portland Oregon, but had a stop there.
Frisco! Man what a place. Folks told me that when I got there was about started to get hoppin’ and it’s been hoppin’ ever since! I only stayed enough time to get me a map and an outfit- for me that meant a pickhammer , a shevel,and a pannin’ pan and a fryin’ pan, and a good hat. That lucky hat’s been with me all along, too! And I headed up this here way to Judas Gulch, and put down my claim on my little place on the Consumness. Made me a couple of friends there, them is now pardners in the minin’ comp’ny, too, Piney and Transom. An’ Cakey. Cakey’s sorta like our man Fridey, he’s frum th’ Sandwich Islands, he is.
In fact, Cakey were the first actual man I met that first day on the street of Frisco. I was just to set about gettin’ my land legs when this feller comes up to me- he’s got dark skin like a Nigro but more tan- an’ he asks me if I would be going up to the mines.
I said, “Why, yes, what man here ain’t?”
He proceeds to tell me he will make me an excellent guide, for a small fee. He is Cakey Kowakowa, from the island of Owahoo, an’ dang if he ain’t already been up thar in the gold fields and has his own claim goin’. Says, I will need some good advice as to how to go about things, this I cannot argue with, and he says, again, for a small fee, he will guide me to a good panning river, the Consumness, and he will help git me an outfit (that war the shevel and pick and pan and a little rocker) an’ we would both git two mules, and I can strap my gear on the back of one.
Now I happent to have brought me a blanket, and that were a good thing, since that would have cosset me some fifty dollars there if I got it in Frisco. The shevel and pan and pick war bad enough, that war a whole thirty. By the time I had bought us both lunch and paid for the supplies and paid the rent on two mules, I had about spent near seventy whole dollers, and I had left only about a hunnert, for whatever else would need come up.
Cakey said, though, that up thar a man must rely on his wits, slim supply, must make his shelter, must have good strong clothes, “much also he must have good strong back, because mine is hard work.”
I weren’t afraid of no hard work, that is so.
So anyhow I must also pay for the ferry for us both. My ticket was thirty and Cakey’s was thrityfive dollers on account of his Kanaka color, but we got the ferry, and left Frisco that same afternoon.
Now there were some troubles going on, and which I had of course no sense of the meaning, though Cakey seemed to.
“We get out of there just in time, Pat” he says, looking back over his shoulder at the town of Frisco as it diminished behind us on the water.
“Big bad fight happen. Sidney Ducks and Frisco Hounds making big trouble for Chillytown minders.”
“Chillytown? Frisco Hounds? Sidney Ducks? Me no savvy,” I says, intersted in the paticulars.
“Chillytown. Make homes there in tents, many Spannards from Chilly. Come up to work mines with sons and wives. Sidney Ducks- bad news operators. With Frisco Hounds, get paid to watch docks, and drag sailors back to boats. Unlucky sailor cannot leave his ship to go mines! Bad.”
“Sidney Ducks, Frisco Hounds, back there, they raging on Chillytown. Say, men from Chilly have no pay tax on mines. I pay tax on mines too! Yes, twenny dollah! Twenny dollah for year for man work mines not white American man. But Hounds mad that many, so many, too many Chillyman here in Frisco. So fight. Big fight go on, we leave it behind us. Big trouble. Where we go, not so bad. Lots of kanaka, lots of Chillymen, lots of Chinaman, lots of Injuns. But many men friends. You see. Gold work magic!”
I had to let this sink in for a whiles, but what I would find, of course, would be nothing like he described things.
When the ferry docked at Sackaminnow, he said it would be good for us to rest the night. We held the mules with a livery man at a hotel. Weren’t much of a hotel, just a little tent with five or six partitioned made out of drop cloth just like the walls. But they charged me and Cakey three dollers each to sleep thar. In the orning we rustled grub- was not so bad cept it were a dollar apiece, again. He still had not given me a price for his “good honest fee” but I was hanging on (if I could) to every cent I had. Still, it were tough. Not so tough as the steak we ate for breakfast, though!
We got up in the mornin’ and saddled the mules, and riding on mine were not much fun withtht rocker behind my butt, but somehow I managed and so did the mule.
Cakey was leading me onward, to the fated camptown of Judas Gulch.

So when Cakey get me up there into the hills, and after we had passed through Sackaminnow and I seen that fer what it was, we pulls into Judas Gulch on our old mules and goes up a hill where’s his place. Now I seen from the way he were livin’ weren’t much to advertise and that I wanted my own cabin right aways, jest as soon as I could make one. Cakey said “Oh fine, das right, I help you make house, you no worries!”
 First things I gets offa the mule, he sets me down in this llittle hutch of his. I don’t know what else you’re gonna call it, causeit aint more than a roof and a wall, and on three sides mostly open to the are. He pinned back canvas around the edges. It was not til winter I seen him double back up them canvas flaps and make it almost a proper house, but that’s all it was, canvas flaps bent round some posts. And the roof, well, it were only a piece of grass really, flowers and all growing on the top of it.
Anway he sets me down an’ asks me what I’ll have ta drink.
“I don’t know, watch you got?”
Cakey says he gots whisky, but I passed on that, I figger I can see whisky enough once I gets my strike, and then have more reason ta drink it. He says he gots coffee so I says, “OK, fine”
He pulls some coffeebeans outta a big old sack and pounds them with a hammer on a stump-head, and scrapes them off into a pot, throws water on, biles it, and there, that’s a cup of coffee. Weren’t no nothing to it. Of course I was gonna set him back on his tail oncet he seen the cofee grinder I buys when I gets flush but fer now this were luxury.
Then he asks me eff I’m hongry, and of course I am, since we ain’t et nothin since this mornin when we lit out of Sackaminnow, and pulls a can offa his wall. He musta had twenty more these cans up there on a shelf and they all says the same thing- “Mr. Cook’s Two Finger Poi”. I never heard of this none. He says maybe I will like it. He opens up a can and I looks in and it’s the mos’ ugly looking purple slop!
 He laughs, and pours it inta a skillet, grabs a jug of molasses and mixes it around, stirs that gloop like it were a regular soup or somethin’. Once its hot he says “Give a while cool down” then once it looks like it is, why, he takes his forefingers and dips it in, pulls up a hunk of it on ‘em, and slurps it right down!
I says, “Don’t you got a spoon for me?”
Cakey laughs and says if I needs a spoon, I be’s no good in Sandwich Islands, but he hands me one, and so I tried to start anyway, eating the glopaguss.
“It go so much bettah with fish. I show you nex’ time.”
RIght now I guess he ain’t got no fish, so I sat myself there and stared into the wiggly face of the glopaguss and I et what I could. Which weren’t all of it. ‘Cept for the molasses that were some purty rank stuff. Half sar, and that were probly cause it were sar to start off with! Without that molasses I can’t see none how anyone let alone Kanakas could want to tech it. Mus’ be a quired taste.
When I et my full of his “poy” I asset him where he got it, seein’ as were a Sandwich Island dellikasy.
He said he got a whole case of it brung to Stockton secure and custom, when he made his first strike. Tells me once a man makes his strike well it’s lots like the gates of Heaven opens. All kinds of things is used and useful and comes to him easy like, much never thought of before. I was talking to him this way when he takes that thar empty poy can and flattens it and throws it in a bucket full of other poy cans, similarly skwarshed. I assed him what he was saving them all fer and he says, “ I melt down latuh. Make small pile tin and iron. Sell again.”
This were a unique conception to me of how to get ridda the trash. I made me a mental note about it.
“Now,” he says “Let’s see the river and the claim!”
I reckon I had no other reason to be there to begin with and he leads me on a path heads up a hil then down again and we are now walkin in what I sees as a reckonizable river valley. He brung along a gold pan with him, since he wanted me to see I was not bein’ led astray none- this were a bonafidee good claim, and all I needed to do was set myself down and start washin’.
When we gets down to the river is when I meets Jamjob and Suthrun. They are workin in the sun, Jamjob is loading the rocker, and Suthrun is trickin’ the sluicebox. On the flat side of a big old rock there is sparkly nuggets drying in the sun- first I seen the Californee gold! But it were real.
“Howdy Suthrun!”— all happy bright says Cakey.
“Howdy, Cakey! Who’s the Boston?”
I gesset and gesset right that the Boston were me, since there were none other in the presence.
“This hea Mista Pat— how he say- Micklockhagenahee- Dang his name almos’ bad as  Kanaka Joe’s!”
Them other boys they laughed and interduced themselves. Suthrun been workin’ there best part of the year, and Jamjob, he were but three weeks ahead of me. Already they said they had their own cabin made up and I were welcome to sleep in tonight, if I would have none of Cakey’s little grass shack.
And that were it, of course. When I had set there watching them, Cakey were in the crick himself, and he brought that big old gold pan over to me and showed me some of what he had washed out of it. Sure enough, that was gold thar, in that pan, and all of it came from the river gravel, and if I would like to get my feet wet now, well, I could start working on my own pile!
That sounded purty good. So for the next thre hours, while them other boys sat on the river bank and did their little fill and wash and sort and preen, I did my own bit of pannin’.  It took me a bit to get the hang of it, and Cakey showed me just zackly how you angle the pan and dip it so slightly for more water and to let off the sand or dross rock, but I did get the hang of it, and dang if I did not at least take a half-ounce of gold, home with me all wrapped up in my little bandanner! That were real good for a first day, Cakey says.
“Now you see I no Gyp you, I telling you honest humbug!” he said.
Yep, it were honest humbug, and I knew I had found the answer at least for now what I come all this way for.
Them other two boys takes me in to their cabin and sets me there and then I succumbed to their request to share their homemade whisky, which I insist, were perty good- smooth, clear, sets down the throat all smooth and syrup like and soon enough, you’re setting there and singin. Cakey come over after an hour or so with a little pint size git-tar he calls a ookoolaylay and plays and sings while we set there, sometimes we’re singin’ ourselves, sometimes it is jest him. And the moon starts rising big and full over the large mountains on the Eastern side, and them crickets commence their serenades, and all is fine, and that were the honest humbug.

The Cosumness River runs roughly east-west from the Sierras and empties in marshlands off the San Joaquin. It is one of about forty tributaries of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers which madeup the bulk of the gold rush digging known as the Mother Lode— Names such as the Tuololumne and Mokelumnee, the American, the Feather, and the Stanislaus are all a part of the great network of Sierra Nevada watersheds which come to a due conclusion in the waters of the great San Francisco Bay. In Sardo Pat’s day all of this was virgin and unspoiled territory—men were just only now beginning to ply up the delta in steamships, bringing daily hundreds of gold seekersup from San Francisco- or Frisco, as everybody called it then.
If things had been left to the work of individuals and even companies comprised of same, perhaps it may not have ended as it had to— perhaps the evidence, a century and a half on, might not have been quite as obvious. Yet greed was the currency in common all men that came to the Mother Lode shared. Greed took many forms but most often, it morphed itself into the shape of larger and larger collective enterprises and took more and more technological forms until the great waters had been stuffed back into artificial flues which stretched for miles up and down each river and stream, and great hoses capable of knocking a man down at a hundred paces were plied against the hillsides, that the hillsides themselves transformed into mile after mile of pulverized piles of dusty earth... which still remain, evidence for all of the complete ecological ignorance of 19th C. Man.


When I first started workin’ it, I started with the riverbank of course. Must have gotten eighty ounces out of it, that first summer. People asket me war didja hide it all! I ain’t a tellin them but I’ll tell you- when I had it all assyed an’ converted into Samuels I hid it all up in a coffee can under a floorboard in my cabin, is war it is, and unless you’re a damn fool, you won’t get any ideas yerself about comin to steal it from me, cause now I gots a Colt, and I can use it too.
Anyhow I said eighty ounces, that was a lot of money, yeh and I went back to Frisco that October once I had it and once winter come on cause who is gonna tryin’ be the big fool and mine the Consumness in winter? I come back to Frisco and musta blown a good half my wad then. I stays away from Sydney Town of course, and I stayed away from a lotta things, but I had me a ‘stablishment I prioritized and it were good fer whisky and decent card games and sometimes even a good decent breakfast, with eggs and bacon and ham and some beer.
Piney, he come from Caroliner, all the way hisself in a Conestoga wagon, the hard way to the stars crosset Injun land from Misery. Misery ain’t got much to recommend it, he says, but the Mississip, and Saint Louie, but nothin there but trail vultures, he says, and the ones led him out here was nearly well that too. Had him a few Injun scrapes, and I guess nobody amongst us hates Injuns now more than old Piney. He’d be ready to shoot one and scalp one ifet one even stuck up a feather over the edge of the rocks beside the sluice run!
Transom, now there is a characer. He come from Phillidelphy and he uset to be a solid citizen and all, but when he heard the word the gold was out here, he took off from his wife an little ones like you never seen a man do for want of it, and he sold half of his land right out under them and bought a ticket round the Horn. Him I met in that little stablishment I was talkin’ about. He was just headin up here and I was goin’ back, so I took this gentle tenderfoot aside and told him some of the facts of life, which he was thankful for, because after our first spring together, Piney and Transom and then Nicletto ganged up on me and forcet me to begin the company with them. I can’t say twas a bad decision, cuz we have darn near made six times over together what I did myself end of forty nine, but still, somtimes I get hungry for the old days, when you didn’t need to split nothin with nobody and you were always sure then of an even Steven, cause weren’t no Steven!
Me and Transom though we did get along, and amongst all them other fellers there, he seemed to be earnest even if he was a tenderfoot. I asket him why he was fool enough to sell out his land underneath a wife and kids, and you know what he said? He said, “Pat, if you had one chance to make the world a better place for them wife and kids, and you knew that you could do it, and you knew there weren’t no hope in the grocery bizness like it carries on in Phllidelphia, and that if you could make it in Californee and ship yerself back soon enough, who wouldn’t try and do it? D’you think you could? Specially if you loves that woman and kinders like I do.”
I looked at him long and said “Well, it musta been some gamble, cause now you been out here two year already and you ain’t doin yet half as well as you figgered! Why doncha go on back, now?”
“Because, Pat, them is goners to me, now. Yeh, oncet I been out here a while it was the girl got the old itch and began lookin’  round fer someone sensible. Like a lawyer. Sent me a letter one day said she had got herself one, and a deevorse, and now she was take up with him too! So now I gots nothin to go back for, Pat, and I jest mine fer myself and my own dreams.”
“Seems like you bout lost all you had to get what you didn’t need to me, son.”
“I reckon it too.”
That was last year when I had that talk with Transom. But let’s go back again because I got to keep on tellin’ you about how I come up here! I did not finish really I jumpet the claim on yer story.
I built this here cabin in the winter of forty nine and that was a good thing. It has a stove, yep, genuwine Franklin, and it has a farplace, yep, and I does my cooking either way. Has me a little feather bed and pillers to rest my head, and a rockin chair, and an awl lamp, yep, and each new day I gets up and sweeps out the dust and shakes out my special carpet, was a soovenir from my first Frisco trip, too. Folks told me it was stupid expense, but I thought it was good to have at least one purty thing in my house, and this rug be it. On the wall I keeps all my surplies—a can of lard, cans of beans, bags of sugar and flar, can of pepper, sack of grits, sack of coffee beans. A sack of Injun popcorn, too, that’ll come in good in a pinch, by crackee. A keg o’ gunpowder an’ some pistol balls, an’ another one o’ terbacky, so’s I can smoke my own cigartees. Sometimes though I likes a pipe instead, it’s more homey, and sometimes, you jes aint got the cirgartee papers. Yeh I got me a good coffee grinder too, got that offa Teasewater runs the store down in town, cosset me thirty bucks. I make do with what I eat cause I catches fish, I snares rabbits, I shoots squirrels and other varmints, and deers, when I can. I got tard of tryin’ to keep horns fer trophies, though, I don’t want a bunch of clutter, so I gives most of the heads to the other guys, they are happy to hang um on their walls.
I hardly never see no eggs, cause they cost about a whole doller just for one, but if you go down to town you can get them, if you wanna pay an arm, leg, or foot t’ get some. I keep happy with hunks off my side of sowbelly, I buys one every season, that’s good enough, with a little beans, makes a tasty meal. I makes hortcakes with muh flar and sugars them over, and with my coffee ever mornin, it’ s breakfast. Any day a man can get up and make his coffee, ets a good life and a good day t’ die! I don’t care.
I grows me taters, too, on the sunny side of the cabin, got a whole wall side deddicated to nothin but taters. Takes so little to get so many, you only hasta set down a few good starters, and in half a year boy, you got enough taters last ya through as much time again! Taters is might good with that bacon and beans. Course me being Irish I cannot do without my taters and neither would you.
I come up, partly on the riverboat, the Sitka, an’ partly on the stage. The stage dumpeded me an’ Cakey off and I took on up toward the river. I was gonna git me a good spot, I was, and weren’t nobody here this side o’ Sodom was gonna tell me they was thar on the river firset on me. Cause I was! An’ was I ever lucky cause most of the other boys thought war I chose were none too smart- was way too much heavy boulderin’ thar, was not a lot of sandbar either, an’ besides, they said it was on the wrong side of the river bend for it to have any good placer. Well I reckon them boys all figgered wrong, cause the first week I brung out of there a mighty whole ten ounces and that were well enough to stablish me amongst the eyes of all the citizens here in Judas Gulch that I was, at least, one lucky Irishman, and I ain’t really looked back since, ‘cept to tell y’all this.
Yep, I had some luck. Me and Transom eventually decidet we needed to pardner up, and there war other pardners, and I guess I’m a gittin a little bit ahead of m’self, but Transom were a good guy to meet, regardless. I reckon his natrual honesty were better than most of the boys up here, who may as well been created liars right outta the fire, because Transom, when he set his own claim, he made sure that he left me that overhang of rock on the bend the overlapped his, if you reckon by a plum line, that was mine, aright and I’m glad he knew it, ‘cause the next year when I blowed that rock aprt I found a nice quartzite seam inside her was less pyrite than gold enough, and that boulder set me up for another twenty ounces all itself.
Now days when they come up and do all the highdrollickin’ like to see fit to wash all the hills into the durn sea, you can find sums like that lots quicker, if you set yer jets right and you happen to have a good vein to mine. Lots of people got claims that were nothin but a whole wash— lost lotsa money on them hose and pumps, lost lotsa money on their sluce runs, lost a lotta time cause they never had the sense to test the sedimentry layers fust. I tell you even smarties like Transom come out here, alls they ever knowed about gold is what they read in books, but some of them find that nothin’ out here is quite like they found it to be in college books, nope, cept it is true, that gold runs in quartzite, and so do mica and pyrite, and a man’s got t’ have a good eye t’ tell pyrite from gold on sight anyhow. But I ain’t ever been fooled. Even gold flakes is heavier than pyrite kind, and you kin tell jest by turnin’ it in the sun if it’s black on one side, was pyrite anyhoo, might as well hand up the pan and filler up agin.
I gots my coffee grinder, like I said, from the store here. Old Teasewater runs the place, he’s another smartypants college boy, says he went to Wesley in Massachoosits, has him a brood of little brats and a wife of course he hatched them all with. They are some fierce little terrors, and some of the boys say they is even worset than Injuns, for all the troubles they sponsible for sometimes. Them boys of the group loves to play pranks specially if they think they can get their Dad some money by means of doing so— I tell ya, one of them little varmints near broke up part of our sluice run just so McDavish would need to buy more railing from his Dad! Things like that happen up here, though. That coffee grinder, anyhow, it’s my only concession to what them folks back home might call “civilized.” Otherwise, me and the rest of the company, we’re right True Barbarians.
Suthrun is one of them sort come up outta the South, which is why is his name Suthrun. Him and Piney get along real famous. But you orter hear them two talkin. Sounds like they hardly knows a word of English. I’ll bring that into it later. But Suthrun, he come from Georgia, some say he escaped and has a bounty on his head, but he don’t seem to act none like a crim’nal to me any. Mostly he stays up in his little shack- and I mean it, his place ain’t even a cabin proper, just a little lean-to that he made ‘reiginally out of a tent and some post beam, then when he got good and ready, he mad a little roof from a dilapidated river raft, and hung it up on to. He ain’t got much of nothin but a moss bag to sleep on, and a lamp, o’course, and he do all his cooking on a fire. On rainy days he is plum outta luck so he eats down at the Eye. It’s good for that, too, yes it is. But I likes to save my dough, not spend it, so I eats at home mostly. A lot more than Suthrun do at least!
McDavish, he’s a Scotsman. I reckon I gets along with him partly for that, and cause he was borned over there too, and come around the same time as my Pappy did, around the same age s me, too, ‘cept a little older. He’s got the red har and the temper, t oo, and if you pore him a mite of whisky, well, that would just wet his whiskers, he’d soon be at ya fer the whole bottleful. That’s why I never drinks with him, on account of trying to stay friends. Hard to stay friends with a man if you drinks too much with him, I thinks.
An then the last one of our company, Jamjob. He’s a sartin piece of work he is. Ain’t nobody ain’t a white man he’ll even speak to, not even a white woman, outta what he thinks is courtesy. Otherwise again if a feller ain’t white, I knows he hates ‘em. I never seen such a skirtscairt pigeon in all my days as that man. Why one day I seen Millie talking with him, and he kept his hat on his chest like to be handled, and backed away from her so fast... Everone at the Eyeball laffed at that. We found out later that Jamjob has a wife back east too, just like Transom, only he’s tryin to be a good little boy and then someday (maybe) he thinks he’ll be able to order her up and bring her to Frisco. Jes’ like that! I knows it’s a ‘saster jes’ waitin’ to happen.
Now Cakey Kowakowa, he’s been up har since before even the word came out about the First Strike. He’s from Honnalooloo, an’ fust he war a sailor, but when the Strike hit, he took off like a jackrabbit fer the Gold Country here. Lucky I found him, too, I spoze, and he was lucky I was all green and all like I was, cause I needed somebody to larn me the way this is all spposed to shake out, you know? I might not a got the hang of pannin’, nor even reckoned with no idears about a Long Tom or a Company, eff I hadna runned into him. He’s been a good soul, too, not a streak of savage in his heart, even if he does like eating pounded goop. He ain’t a full pardner, on account of him not being a white man, but we do give him chancets to take his own cut, and he swears he’s savin’ his dust for a trip back to Honnalooloo sometime soon.
Arcadia Cosmopolitan Mining Company we calls ourselves, and that we are, cause we is cosmpolitian—Why what else can ya call it when you gots an Irishman, a Scotman, an Eyetalian, a Boston, a Suthrunner or two, an’ a Kanaka? “A right mess!” says MacDavish, an’ I reckon he ain’t far from wrong.

The summertime fog of morning hangs like the hand of a lunatic monk over the land west of the Sierra Nevada, above the sleepy little town of Judas Gulch, above the sleeping heads of Sardo Pat and his partners— Transom, McDavish , Nicletto, Suthrun, Jamjob, and Keiki Kalakaua. Great piles of cumulus are lumping up above the mountains now, pregnant with the first storm of autumn. From the valley foothills, they appear like rough clumps of cake frosting, sculpted into high forms the height of the mountains themselves and more, shaded in tinges of grey, blue-grey, and white. As dawn arrives the cumulus are now colored with the back-light of the sun, which as yet may not break through, and perhaps, over the mountain towns of Truckee and Nevada City, may not break at all today. For the storms often remain a day or two. They got off easy this summer— few rained any if at all, and the cumulus had remained white. But now with the onset of winter, the wind out of the Oregon lava beds had added a northern chill to their makeup, and lofted them much higher than summer’s, and they settled over the mountain passes like men who meant business.

Monday, September 8, 2014

FAREWELL TO ANSELM

 Something felt wrong. I do not know what made me think it, really, although you could sense there was something out-of-sorts about the day... I went about the morning as usual, by calling out Will to take care of the horses and the stable, and by walking Panoptes along the strand. When I came back to the tavern, we had already opened, and Pamela was bustling about, with the trays of bread from upstairs all hot, and laying them out on shelves in our kitchen. There were not many guests yet, but I looked out in the hall and there were at least four men, weary looking, and obviously they had arrived from the war in Wales, for they wore mail, and two of them were bowmen, who had their weapons with them.
I greeted them with an offer of ale, which they accepted, then one asked if they could each have a loaf of bread, and surely so, I said, and brought them back both a large pitcher of ale and a loaf of bread for every one of them, Three farthings each, and they were satisfied.
But there was not one among them who seemed cheerful, and relieved to be let go from the battle. I asked them, for I could tell, there really was something wrong.
“Don’t you know? We are back from Wales. Our Baron Anselm is dead!”
Dead! The man to whom I owed my loyalty, my rents, and the entire beginning of my venture here- dead!
“Anselm, dead?”
“Quite so, sire.” He did not speak any more, but he bit off his bread, and chewed bitterly.
“How then did this happen?”
“It was two weeks ago at the battle of Stalling Down. Anselm was leading a party to charge on the Welsh, but he took an arrow in the cheek, and another in the neck, and then one to his chest. It was terrible. He lived but a few minutes, before he coughed up lung and died. Right there amongst the host of us.”
“Anselm did fall, and at such a price! Prince Henry has released us from his service to return home. We marched through Cardiff to the jeers of the Welsh villein. And Trewidden will now be another home for Lord De Courtenay. This was also granted by the Prince, as Anselm left no wife nor child to whom it can pass. As De Courtenay rules Cornwall, so he shall now take Trewidden.”
He saw the look on my face, and grimly patted me on the shoulder.
“I know this is hard to take, lad. But These things do happen in war.”
I could hardly think of what to do. My first thought was to close the tavern for the day, but then, I would lose any business, and this would not be a good idea. The most I might do for now would be to hang Anselm’s coat of arms from a prominent place on the wall.
“Do not be surprised, then, sire, if Lord De Courtenay himself comes to this place to sup. He will be traveling back from Wales soon, and overseeing the changes to the castle. And he will bring man in his train that will also eat here. Business will be good for you.”
This was hardly any consolation. My good friend Anselm, dead! For that was how I thought of him, now. I needed to get my mind around this, and it was hard. In the last year then I had lost to war the most favorable adults in my life, my benefactors, Richard Stephen’s father, and Anselm, my patron and landlord. I would have to tell Mary. I would need to tell the entire group of my employees, and Clarence and Ranulf, too.
The men continued to munch on their loaves, drank from their pitcher, and then they asked for a chicken, spitted, that they could share among themselves. I nodded, and went back into the kitchen.
Pamela was fixing a large tub of salad, when I came through the door. She saw the look in my eyes, she must have, for all she said was “What is wrong, Julian?.”
“Pamela, it is terrible, the Baron Anselm is dead. He was killed in Wales. He will only be coming back to Trewidden to be buried. The castle has now passed to Lord De Courtenay.”
This news took her aback as well. There was a pause, a silence, and into it, Mary walked.
“Julian, what ever is wrong?” she asked “I can see it in your eyes. You never are like this, unless something is wrong.”
“Mary, Anselm is dead. He died in Wales a fortnight ago.”
She brought her hand to her mouth in an expression of shock, and began to cry.
“That is truly hard.”
“Anselm was one of the few men here we could trust. Even as he fought Henry he kept an ear out for us and the cause. Now De Courtenay will have Trewidden. The dregs who rule the castle will now be our new landlords. And we must now be oh so careful about our speech! Even more than we were before.”
“Julian, now what? I had the ale ready for Anselm, we were going to bring it up to him in two more days.”
“I think for now, we can ignore the order for the castle. And until De Courtenay comes to call on us, let us just continue on, as though the castle and Anselm are no longer there. For they aren’t, any longer, for us to consider as any kind of refuge.”
Now Pamela and Mary were both crying. I had never been in the presence of crying women before, so I hardly knew what to do. Instead, I told Pamela to see to the chicken for the soldiers, and Mary and I went out to the bowling lawn with the dog, to sit on the bench. She held my hand and fought back her tears.
I did not know what I could do, but in my sorrow, when it came to the end of the evening, I took Wilmot aside, and had Ranulf beside me as well, and we played a dirge meant in memory of Baron Anselm. Wilmot’s vielle sobbed long, drawn out cries while Ranulf’s pipes evoked what I felt was maybe the very spirit of Anselm himself, beside us. Perhaps he was there, as we played for our pain and grief, and the people who sat at the tables all were silent while we played, obviously thinking of what they had lost as well.
For what we had lost was not only our lord and liege, and someone who kept our faith and secrets, but we had all lost a friend, someone who had used his power with care, and wisely, who had ruled kindly and well, and had never given cause for any of us to hate nor despise him, for he had been fair and evenhanded, and nothing like the new men who now took his place. If there were such a thing as a scourge by brimstone, it would be fair to say, I felt, that the people listening to us as we played would have preferred Trewidden be burnt to ash with it, than to know it had fallen to the hands of such cruel despots. But that was how things truly were, and when we finished, all three of us had tears in our eyes, so did many of the people, and they called out a hearty “three cheers for our late Baron, Anselm of Newlyn! May his memory live long beyond him!”

Mary and I had an afternoon to ourselves, at long last. With Clarence, Wilmot, Pamela and Deprez taking care of the tavern, we decide to make our own day out of it, and made preparation to have our afternoon supper in a refreshing way.
Mary put all the ingredients for our meal into a large basket she covered with a light cloth. There was bread, cheese, half a hen well-roasted, there were pickled beets and strawberries and a small jug of wine, which we would both share. There was a place I knew— up on the heath before the Glen of Trewidden— which was grassy, and not grazed nor plowed, but wild as the ancient hills, and from this spot we might overlook all of Newlyn, Penzance to our left, the sea, the Mount, and of course, we had an eye to our own cypress tree line, and how it led to the beach.
I held her in my arms and told her how I felt very happy we would be a family.
“At long last, we will need to think of more than ourselves,” she reminded me.
“Oh, it has been a while since I even gave myself much thought,” I answered. “It has been difficult making our idea for the tavern work. That has taken so much of my attention, I have probably failed people like Ranulf in remembering they need to eat too. It has been horrible what we have seen the castle become while Anselm has been away. And it is sometimes frustrating just getting the things I need from the shops or the market fair. But we have done fair.”
“I think we should have to do better.”
“I feel I should by certes do better, toward those who are my friends. But we give Stephen our money for honey, we give Albertus money for wine, we help Wilmot and Jack of Rowe and others like them (and Ranulf) someplace they might make some coin. Soon we shall have one more mouth to feed, and they will answer us with no fair amount of noise, if we cannot deliver. But one day... one day, those new little hands will be along here to help us as well.”
“So I know, yes, Julian, so I know. Listen, I have no doubt we will succeed. We are succeeding, are we not? And each week we hear new tales of people that tell us how far and wide our place is become known. I am glad for this. Aren’t you?”
“True, it makes me smile. But only when those that tell it make it a point to come back.”
“I feel for Stephen and Roger. Now that they have left again for France, one hopes their trips will be assured of safety. Now that the French are stirred against England, Albertus may have an even harder time than he did in the spring, being assured of a port, or of any sort of landing.”
“Well Albertus did bring us that good wine. Did you know, Julian, there is much wine which was taken at sea by English raiders, and that in Dartmouth they have been selling it at a huge profit?”
“I had not heard that.”
“Well, this is something my friends have told me. And we could have some of that, if you were...”
“No, I have already sealed my deals with Albertus, he will be my main supply, now that we cannot count on Anselm, and that the castle has all but locked up their stores.”
“It is said that at the castle, they have brought some of that captured French wine too, and it is a glut upon them.”
“Much is a glut upon them, This I would not be surprised to hear. And anyway, they have allies on that side of the Lizard, even if they do not have many here.”
The dippers were singing in the trees, and our little shady spot had begun to catch more of the direct light from the sun, but between cups of wine and bites of food, Mary made me feel back where we were when younger in Cheshire a year or two ago, when we had rolled ourselves silly in the hayfields of May, and all was radiant about her, as though she not only carried my child, but a secret of the universe inside her. I was grateful for those moments, whenever I might find them, for those were the moments when I was assured by my soul that time is endless and wherever we are in our lives, there is so much more beyond ourselves and yet we are that as well, there is never a need to feel real fear, when you have this peace of God. And that we too were part of this great chain of being stretching out beyond us into the lives of our children and theirs, and that all things were as they should be, and there was naught to argue, but for the inconveniences of men.
That was my state of mind. As the sun grew hotter we moved closer toward the trees and the shade, and our dog Panoptes sat panting beside us. I put my attention upon him, and tossed to him a stick, and he made a game out of going to catch it, further and further away each time.
And we lay there talking, the sky above Cornwall quite blue, empty of cloud, bees buzzing in the tall clover, jack-in-the-pulpits winking purple and green at us, the high grass—waist high where we yet had to tamp it down. In our basket the meal she had made up for us.
Mary’s kiss brought me to my senses, an refreshed it, again and again. For now, a few hours at least, I was no longer “Julian of the Fallen Lady,” but traveling minstrel Julian in my Chester-dress holding the Queen of the May in my arms, her kiss soft, sweet, wet, and fulfilling.
    It were not long ‘afore the desire within us both caught flame, burst forth, and we sweating couple together upon the blanket we had brought. Conclusion gave us both another chance to begin whatever conversation we’d neglected. But there was no need to talk.
It was only a man and his wife, lying beside each other on a hot summer’s day. The calls of a heron could be heard echoing up from the glen, and of course the dippers, clappers, and divers, all the water birds raucous and declaring the bounty of River Coombe as their own.
“Was Deftwulf of Ravenglass really a French spy?” was the first thing Mary asked me, when she had at last recovered the mood of speaking.
“Was he? I never asked.”
“Ranulf thought he was.”
“So he told me. Even if he was, I have made up my mind— I shall have no part in anyone’s troubles. Even if it be on behalf of our cause! I have lost my dear friend, again. It hurts me sore. And what if he were a spy, and Aleuderis too, and what if Clarence, Wilmot, Claire, and even Pamela- what if all of our friends were spies? It matters not a whit to me! For all I wish to do is keep on loving you, dear Mary. Our love surpasses what is here of this world— which hangs like dross upon the great tapestry of the Master Weaver. All the struggle of this world! It’s just—it’s just not real, though we do our best to convince ourselves. And then, we finally die of it. No, the weave of he Master Weaver is not really of this life. You miss the pattern by seeking the warp and woof alone.”
“Sometimes, Julian, you astound me. I never think of such things!”
“I know it. But that is something I like about you, since you concern yourself with what is important to the two of us, while I— I guess sometimes all that consumes me are things outside what most people think are important. Just, sometimes, I feel I nee a break from worry, and I like to remember we’re not put here to worry, but to love, and live!”
“More deep waters from my complicated husband” She laughed, and came closer to me.
“All the better for my appreciation of you.”
Again we were lost in each other’s kisses, for a time.

When the sun was halfway to the sea, we gathered everything and returned home.
Moselles stood at the top of the stair, a reminder that “the real world” still existed.
“Julian! Good day! Listen! I have some good news for you! Remember when the Devons said they were requiring us to send them food?”
I did recall, and thought it quite strange they had never but sent us an order even once. Instead, they had come down upon me like locusts to punish me for my song, and the “crimes” of young Wilmot. Anyway, could Moselles have to say I wondered.
“Well, what about it?”
“They have let me know they will buy all my hot cross buns this week! Buy them!”
“What will it mean to our profits?”
“It should bring us at least pair of tuppence.”
“And they said they would pay us?”
“Yes, yes! That Beaufort fellow. I took his bond, he’s ordered three baker’s dozens! Zat is usually vut ve lay out in a veek! And he offered down payment of three farthings, and said ze rest will come- on delivairy!”
Well, I knew what that meant. Saddle Magdalene and store the buns in a hamper and ride to the castle... and speak to them. I did not relish these thoughts. And this really wasn’t that much to get all excited about. I sensed, rather, Moselles was trying to tell me something about how the castle men were... softening toward me.
Moselles disappeared back into his bakery, and I ducked into the kitchen through the back way.
We put aside our worries, for there was always the tavern, more a barrel of monkeys than ever when we returned there, what with the singing of Wilmot in his quavering voice, and the slamming of cups and plates on tables, the shouts of diners, the hustle of Pamela and Deprez to keep up with their demands. I took over the seat by the hearth from Wilmot, and sang:
I own my sock, I own my soul
I own everything in my control
Hole in my sock, hole in the coal
You best not meet up with me when I’m on the troll

A basket here and a casket there
And of your own acts, may you despair
I have blown my fortune on kingdom come
my life a tale most venturesome

you never met a man like me
I’m fleet an heat and bound for Picardy
I work all night with a bottle in my hand
My geese and pen are at my own command!

Let’s eat our meat and drink our wine
While on the world it’s ours to dine
meat and wine, mud and clay
We’ll all meet there on Judgment Day!
And in the morning I took Magdalene for her ride, and Panoptes for his run alongside, and I ended up again looking out to sea over the south toward France, the France I had seen and now remembered, even as Saint Michel’s Mount remained a blur at the edge of my eye.
I paused there to rethink- quite unlike yesterday, when I had felt so pure and part of everything that a star might have fallen and I should never have paid any mind, it was the remembrance of my friends no longer with me that I considered. Richard, Stephen’s father, perhaps the first of all my benefactor if I  discount Porcull, killed by a pair of knights intent on robbing him at sword point. Anselm, my worthy patron, perhaps the most just of men, if Richard had been the kindest, laid low by an arrow in the heat of battle. Why should it be that the best, the kindest, the most just, should all be laid down by those so unworthy of ever being so described, and why take them away from those of us who need the help, the kindnesses, the good decisions, the fair treatment? Why were we again yet under the wheel of the unworthy, the plain, the mediocre, the powerful with an eye to more power? I had no answer for this, for it seemed this was separate and apart from the answers that I felt I had been party to on the afternoon just passed.
I felt for Wales, for I knew without any doubt the rebellion despite the French, would fail. Without Anselm, even those of us far from home, we from Cheshire, exiled here in Cornwall, would hardly have much chance to see a free Cheshire, apart form the “Prince of Wales,” that title so self-amended and added to that of the Crown Prince of England. And I knew there would come a time, perhaps, even when Owain Glyndwyr in his glory could not overcome the strength of all the nobility of Britain arrayed against him, and that there would be no end to the derision, and the division, of the people of Wales from the language and the errors of the Crown. A dream, a fleeting dream, a great dream, but a dream no less. So it was, and the waves washed the sands, and I turned back for home, my heart a burden of care.

From the History of Pamela of Chester: The Failure of the Rebellion
My winter of 1404 had some desperation. News came to us of the death of the good Baron Anselm: Now it would be so that the castle Trewydden would revert into the very hands of the men who had been oppressing the nearby Cornish- not only that, but De Courtenay would now become our good Julian’s landlord—very likely the rent on Julian’s house, as well as the tax he would pay on his tavern, would rise, as well, it was quite likely that the new castle tenants would raise the stakes of the voluntarily tithe my friend Mary paid them in ale. In the midst of this, we learned Mary was pregnant, and she would, the next year, give birth to a little girl, whom she and Julian named Aslaine. But before she was born, the war in Wales took a very dark turn.
Owain Glyndwyr had won a precious victory in the very battle which took the life of Anselm, Stalling Down. But it was not followed up with more of the same. Indeed. While Julian himself spoke to me that now he felt sure the cause could not be won, King Henry next won two more victories which would, in time, be seen as turning back the tide of independence for the Welsh. The first of these was Grosmont, which came in January of the year 1405. Eight hundred Welsh and allies were killed, and no prisoners taken save one high ranking man, whom King Henry allowed to be ransomed later. Prince Henry had won the battle, and so he would go on to win another, Mrydd-y-Pull, in March. This was won even before the men of Charles VI arrived in Wales and were put into Owain’s campaigns. At this battle, some fifteen hundred Welshmen perished, among these Glyndwyr’s younger brother, Tudor. His son Gryffdd was taken prisoner, and sent to the Tower, and so, Owain Glyndwyr would spend the next four years fighting more defensively than ever, as King Henry himself now took to campaigning, returning to Wales.
In June and July he attempted one more gallant sortie over the borders in Worcestershire, and took to the very city walls again lands near Shrewsbury, as a hundred and forty French ships under command of Jean de Rieux the Marichal of France, and Sire de Hugueville sailed from Brest, and gave themselves to fight for Glyndwyr. Even still, the armies of the Henrys prevailed. The fighting in Hereford and at Shrewsbury was so fierce even the “brave” Crown Prince took flight, joining his father in the south, and then, together they again saw fit to drive upward to Wales. Glyndwyr took to the mountains eventually and fought by intermittent raiding. Many of the gentle people of South Wales took advantage of the King’s grace, and were taken back to be Englishmen again, foreswearing all further attempts toward independence. The entire affair of course took years to run to completion, but the dreams of we Cheshires remained but only that. The English Saxons might rule over us forever. Sic Propono, Hr yn byw Cymru!
THUS CONCLUDES THE TALES OF JULIAN PLECTRUM


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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.