When we awoke on the morning of our last day at sea the rain had cleared off in the middle of the night, and while the clouds were yet struck by the pink light of the sun they seemed to hold no real threat. The storm had passed if not the chance for more rain. Mary and I lay together on the mattress in Albertus’ cabin, and soon came the awareness that the cook had already laid out table, and Albertus himself was finished with his own meal, and was up aboard ship, at the rudder, and making certain we were on a track to Penwith Bay. We grumbled up to the table, and the cook gave both of us bowls of frumenty with peaches chopped into it, and we gave a little bowl of it to Panoptes, as well, who ate it all up greedily, and looked to us for more.
“No, little friend, that should suffice you until we are back at home, I fear,” I said. But he wagged his tail and scampered about. Mary took him atop deck when she had finished. I remained in Albertus’ cabin, tuning my lute, playing something to myself as I looked out over the water.
Then I heard the cry “Saint Michel’s Mount! To starboard!” from Regulus, up high on the mast. There was then a noise of many men rustling about the deck to get themselves a look. I then made my own way up to the deck.
Saint Michel’s Mount could now be seen, the tips of her spires growing close and larger.
Mary and I stood together now, as Regulus made his way down off the mast, and the bosun began ordering men about, tying down spar lines and readying the anchor. The sea was not quite so choppy, but still the Barcelona seemed less sturdy than she had when we took to sea the first time. This was all due to the way we had been thrown about in the first night of the most recent storm.
On the shore we could begin to see activity, the fishermen were setting out for their day, the dock workers were pulling cables and hoisting goods from other ships which had already made port and were getting goods off to market.
When we docked, it was Albertus’ turn to speak to his crew.
“We shall be in port for some matter of weeks. I will give you all leave for three days. But we have work to do on her hull, and I want you all to be back so we might begin that, by the end of that three days. Woever takes his leave will forfeit pay, for I intend to pay each of you accordingly to your loyalty to Barcelona, but a portion at your leave, and the rest when you return.”
Then he turned to Stephen, Roger, Ranulf, and me.
“What say you we all head off to the Pelican and have ourselves one more round? Twas a good trip, Stepehn.”
“I should like to get the cart offboarded, ‘ere we head to mugs,” said Stephen.
“Ah! Yes, we shall- then Regulus!” he shouted.
“We must attend to the matter of the merchants and their goods, ‘ere you and the boys set off at liberty! One last chore, then, eh lads?”
You could tell the men had sheer desire to take their leave, but as this was the whole purpose of having gone, at least, returnng the goods into Stepehen’s hands, and getting our own horse back ondry land, was our concern.
Regulus and Chelmswadd set up the gangplank and when it was ready, they nodded to me. It was my turn to take Magdalene by the bridle and lead her myself off Barcelona. When we touched ground, I could tell she was happy to finally feel sod beneath her hooves, for she whinnied, and gave a nick of her head, and laughing, I saddled her and let Mary ride her.
The cart came off, with the dock workers bringing their hoist up to the gunwales, and men attached the ropes to each corner, and soon off she came. Meanwhile others of the crew had begun to move the ells of fabric, the rolls of carpet, the large sacks of spice, and the casks of wine which had been the sum of Stephen and Roger’s endeavors, onto the dock, and then to the cart. When it was fair full, Stephen replaced the cover of Albertus’ canvas sail over the top of it, and at last, our party were all ready to travel up to the Pelican, where the cart was taken by a stablemate, and the horses were all taken to the back and hayed and watered.
We all took a table at the Pelican Inn, and called for a great pitcher of ale, loaves, and cheeses. With little regard for any idea of going home too quickly, Mary and I kept the party company. I asked Ranulf his plans.
“I shall take a room here, then, Julian. I have known Penzance a long time, and this innkeeper, too. I will stay and make myself useful to you at times. There is of course that noble we can play to for our Christmas dinner . I should like to spend more time at his castle and learn more about him. I should also perhaps try to get to know a few more of these people. Whether my say is long, or not, I know this town so well she is like the city of my own birth to me, for I had little life to me until I made my way here. And then I met you and it all became more interesting...”
“I am going back up to Chester, of course, and I will stop at Bristol and see about some things there. There have been changes— we cannot buy nor sell so easily in Bristol now, for the burgesses have made clear they wish to protect the fullers even more from outside trade. I think it to the detriment! But such it is. I need to speak to some people and learn if it would even be worth our while to keep bringing our Chester wool to Bristol to have it fulled. And I shall, Albertus, also remember what you havecharged me with.”
He fingered the scallop that rested on a thong on his chest.
“This, I will take to leave with my father’s rest.”
“Do, lad! It was a token of our friendship, it was my own journey, and now that he has crossed the sea of life to the other shore, Iwish it to be the remembrance of him. It is a small thing...”
“But yet I see it means much to you. This we shall do. And your plan, Roger?”
“Well, sire, we must get this all back to Chester, should we not?”
“All but for the spice and wine. Our next stop should be Julian’s friend, Anselm! We promised him spice and wine, well, the sooner we are done with that, the lighter our cart shall be!”
“It is a good thing that we have that stop to make, aye, Stephen. And he may wish some of our silk, too, remember.”
“Right you are, Roger. I hope we leave the castle tonight recouping a good part of the expense!”
“I think that is a fair estimation of it. Julian, I thank you for that introduction.”
“When shall you return, then, Stephen?”
“A matter of a few months, if that, not long. Remember we need to bring the next season’s wool- and I hope to see you at the manor in summer, too!”
Stephen’s fullers in Bristol and Penzance both were his main connection to the south here in Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset, and Albertus his main reason for using Penzance as his port of call. Albertus, Cheshire-born and bred himself, had been a man of the seas for so long, he never went so far north, but plied the Channel ports, and sometimes, as was known, also Spain. And now the crew of Barcelona came to the Pelican Inn!
Loudly hauling themselves through the doors, they called for their ale and wine and suppers. Men and women sitting inthe tavern all looked up and were half taken aback, for they gave the impression of rousting men, all pent up with the cramped life at the decks, and hoping for the pleasures of the harbor.
But the crew, Regulus and Chelmswadd and Catso among them, kept to their own corner of the inn. We ate, and we drank, until all of us had been filled, and Ranulf took out his pipes, and played a while. I did not accompany, for Mary and I were now in an embrace of love, which kept us occupied some time. It was pleasing hearing Ranulf’s tunes. Some of the crew even got up and dance, together, to them! But it was not long before several local girls had come to them and were disporting. It was merry, and it made Albertus glad to see his men enjoying themselves. This now seemed a good time to ask our own leave.
“Good friends, Stephen, Roger, Albertus, and Ranulf— we have long now been taken afar, and it is our own great wish to be home again, and to busy ourselves again with the matters of our household. Stephen, this has been a wonderful time, to travel with you to a place I might never again see...”
“Oh do not say that, Julian! Who knows what the future holds?”
“Well, true, but that, I know my place is beside my love, and that our destiny is yet here at Penzance. For there are difficult days yet to come...”
“Well we know, Julian, well we know! And here’s to you!” He raised his mug in toast.
I returned the gesture, and our mugs clacked toether, as Mary lent her own to the gesture.
“Stephen, you and Roger are always welcome at our home. We go, to make it that home away from home!” Mary was making it clear as well that the next item of agenda would be our getting back to the little house twixt Penzance and Newlyn.
We strolled with our little dog out the door of the Pelican, turning back and giving glad waves to our friends. It would be but days before we saw Ranulf again, and some weeks before Albertus, but months, perhaps, before Stephen and Roger. Yet I knew that my friend and I would be friends to the very ends of life, and now, my love and I had other fish to fry. Ranulf’s pipes led us out to the street where we took Magdalene back from the stable boy, mounted her, and headed down the street to the southwest, toward home
And then... There we were, Mary and I, riding atop Magdalene, Luisa on my back, Mary holding our little dog, Panoptes. To be riding down Whychoome Road and see from a distance the familiar row of Italian Cypresses that marked our boundary, brought gladness to both our hearts.
“Home again, we are finally home!” she cried. “Please promise we won’t be leaving again too quickly, will you Julian? Oh to be in my own room again, in our own bed again to walk those dusty floors and have our own goods all at hand again!”
“Yes, it will be good. And I’ll try, Mary, you know, although there can be no lasting promise of anything in this world...”
“Oh, give up.” She said it with some finality.”We have had our adventure, and now comes the time for our hard work to really start. All that was was a procraste, something to keep our minds off ourselves. Now we have no excuse. It is time for us to begin building our life!”
I saw no need to say more to that.
Magdalene trotted at her usual pace, but soon we were there, the house with its timbered front, its welcoming windows, its front porch filled high with firewood. Filled high with firewood?
For when we dismounted Magdalene and left her tied at the porch post, and I knocked upon the door, a tired looking Clarence approached us from deep within.
“Ah, the master and the mistress! Wonderful to have you back. Things have been quite busy here,” he said. He brushed what seemed to be a cobweb off his beard, and rubbed his eyes.
“Morning, Clarence.” Mary put the little dog down in the front hall and soon he was racing about sniffing at each and every corner.
“How came here all this wood? I had no idea there was this much even at hand...”
“Oh, that. Well I cut it back at my place in Mousehole. I bought some large old stumpy things from another man who lives out on that edge of the shingle. And he said “If you take it not, then I should never be rid of it!” So I did. And I brought it here. Hope that it will keep you two nice and cozy!”
There was a shout from Mary from the bedroom.
“Pamela! Pamela, what are you doing here?”
Clarence looked at me. His eyes rolled some, as though he had meant to have given some explanation , but then, we had not even had yet the time to get there.
“Oh yes, you have a guest... she happened to come when you had but been gone three days. You must tell me of the trip! But more, I should tell of how she came here...”
“Let her tell it herself, for here she comes...”
Mary emerged from the back with her friend alongside. She had obviously been asleep, and wore no shoe nor stocking, but like Clarence, was rubbing her eyes.
“Julian, this is my old friend, Pamela, from Chester. Have you not met before?”
I looked at the young lady. Yes, she seemed familiar. She had been a guest at our wedding, and had been one of the maids of honor to Mary there. But all Mary’s friends were like a gabble of comet-stuff about Mary, who had been the sun in my heart on our wedding day, the source and the end of all I had put in efforts toward that day, and of that day, and so one more pretty friend of Mary’s was but another pretty friend, and no, I barely remembered, but the smile...
“Welcome, Miss Pamela.”
I did not wish to say more, I felt it her part to explain herself how she had come, and what she had been up to in the meanwhile.
“Hello, Master Julian. Yes, I am Mary’s old friend of Chester ways. And I was at your wedding, and I recall well the feast and the frolics. I came from Chester here because things are not going so well there, in fact, for me, they could not have gone much worse.”
“Why is that, prithee tell?” Asked Mary.
“Well, for one thing, the big thing—I have lost my brother.”
“How so?” Mary and I were both curious now.
“He went to fight in the Percy rebellion at Shrewsbury. And has never come home. And has not been seen since. And I so fear—I do fear he be dead. For should he have lived, he should have returned, just as you and your own brother did, Julian.”
“But while the rebellion yet lives in Wales, who is to say he has not joined Glyndwyr, as did Mary’s father?”
“Ah! Mary’s father! All is not so well there either! Mary’s father has not been seen, either, since he left for Wales, and her mother’s been hard pressed to deliver the full share of his contract to the King herself! And they have not been so kind to her, for until he returns, they said they should neither pay him the balance of the fee remaining. I fear as well, Mary, that the men of Chester, the guildsmen and burgesses, they are all suspecting your father left because he knew he could not face the wrath, of the Chester men opposed to Henry. Let it not be said this is the truth, but yet, it is the tale they tell. And without Robert there, then, who is anyone to say a thing to defend him? All they have is your mother’s word, and they are not ken to trust the word of a woman in much of anything.”
“This indeed is bad news, Mary. But what did you think you could gain in coming here to be with us? For we have been gone away to France. And expected to find only Clarence...”
Clarence handed me the house key, and I was glad, and pocketed it. I set Luisa down by the hearth, and seeing as there was yet much wood beside it, I began to work up a fire.
Mary and Pamela continued to talk as they walked back to the kitchen and Mary drew up a pitcher of ale, and this we all shared in some of the fine glass cups her father had given us in dowry.
“And as for the King, he has had such an ill conscience over killing Percy and his father and the Cheshire nobles, and that so many men had fallen in the battle, he has ordered a great church to be built at the battlefield. And yet while this is meant to sanctify the blood of so many who died, it is not much to someone like me, for my brother was a good man and I was fond of him. Now I have only our old mother— our old mother! And I felt that I should leave Chester, for things, bad things, I feel, are in the future, for all of those who remain. The Crown Prince too, has seen fit to lay his tithes and tax upon us all. There have been tales of lands confiscated from local Welsh, of stock grabbed and goods taken, and all of it seems to point to more and more a pox upon us. Would we were free of the English crown again!”
“Aye, this is the reason I decided we ought to come here. Well, Mary, for now I guess you can remain our guest. We do have some extra mattress you can use here, and Mary may have another blanket for you. But we wish our bed for the evening this night!”
“Julian, I thank you. I shall endeavor to be of the utmost help to both of you while I remain. I shall seek work in the town while I am here, and hope to find some other lodging as soon as I can. But I cannot imagine Chester without the company of my brother! A friend like Mary will make it all easier on my heart...”
And she looked at Mary, and she at her, and Mary took her hands, and held them a whiles.
“Pamela, I am going to set to work soon creating my ale. There are many things to be done first, but I know that you had helped Mother and I make it in the past, and I can use another pair of hands. Julian will have quite enough to do with setting our fields to corn!” And she gave me a knowing look which said “Yes, Julian, you must take up the plow!” I was yet silent. For even while Ranulf remained in Penzance, I could not busy myself with busking this time to distract myself from what was needed. Our field needed plowing, and planting, and ministrations. Yet Clarence, Ranulf, and I were, in fact, all together in the town at once, and so, I could now approach Lord Anselm with our minstrel company as good for his holiday feast.
“I have news for you also, Julian,” now spoke Clarence. “Your nemesis in London, the Songgemonger, do you recall?”
“How could I not? No man ever had put me through to such trouble...”
“Well, I learned a few things about him. One of my friends came to see me from London, while you were gone, and I feted him at home around the same time I cut all that wood. I did, actually, keep some of the better pieces for my next bunch of fiddles! Anyway. The Songgemonger got his due reward! The word was that he set about to print up broadsides of your ballade, the one you said you sent to him? Well, he did, but then the censors of King Henry came down and arrested him! They said he was spreading treason, and the judges in Court gave him a sentence!”
“That he should go to spend a day in the pillory!”
I was speechless, again. I had no idea that my protest ballade might have been such mischief. But again, something impish inside me had set me to send it to him, with just such a purpose in mind, so part of me was well pleased.
“They say that he was bombarded with so much rotten lettuce that it weakened him sore to the death. Alas, he lives no longer...”
This was not what I had had in mind, however. Mischief, yes, death, no. But the old man had indeed been such a vexation on all the minstrels that had crossed his path, all of those gentle, naive country peasants! It was hard to feel sad, but even so, I had never meant him to lose his life over it. It was going to be something I must somehow make peace with. I decided that I would say some prayers that night for the wicked old greedy heart of Sonngemonger.
The following morning, Ranulf came out from Penzance, and visited with me at our house. I built up a fire, we fed him on good food and drank long into that entire evening. It would indeed be fine, I told him, if he and Clarence and I might work with Mary to bring the poppet show into the hall of Lord Anselm. Mary of course had made her own way in Chester with the Guildsmen over their Christmas holidays, and I believed that if we might merge our music to her Christmas play as well as working up the Fool play, we stood a better chance of making ourselves returning guests to Anselm’s hall, year by year.