Things had been “so far so good” with Ranulf. In the month or so he had been in Penzance, he had managed to find a lodging, and find a couple of taverners to give him opportunity to play for them, and he had made some fair coin piping in the streets of the town. Well and good. I needed him to help though, with my plowing, as Clarence was too old to demand it from, and I did not feel like bothering Moselles, although he would most likely be pestering me for the same favor when the time came for him to plow and sow his half of the field. No, Ranulf was the only person I would hope might help, and to do that, I headed for the Pelican, one of his places, and approached him in a rather sidling fashion.
Ranulf was glad to see me, as we had not been together in a week or more, and I was able to get ot my point directly. Again I mentioned that I can pay him for the help, and he seemed a little upset, but his impression change when I said I needed him not to plow for me, but to help drive Magdalene and sow seed. Then he brightened up and said of course, he would be glad to help, which was what I had hoped for, if not been expecting, all along.
We began, then, by the next morning, when Ranulf showed up at our little house, bright eyed and bushy tailed and looking eager to get started. We went out in back and found Moselles plow, which had, of course, sat idle for the past year. There could be no telling what month Moselles might decide he wanted to get busy with his own work, although logic said it should probably be soon, since here we were, close now already to Christmas, and the storms had come, and snow had come and gone, and now would be a most portune time, so I thought, to at least till the ground on a first pass.
The first unnerving thing, though, was that the moldboard had been loosened, and as soon as I tried to get Magdalene started, yoked now as she was to a harness, it fully fledged itself clean off, and we had to spend a half hour or more nailing it back on. Moselles’ old plow had definitely seen better days, and would need to be nursed carefully through all this if he would not soon be in need of buying another!
So then the moldboard being refastened, we set to work. Ranulf would give Magdalene a friendly slap on the flank when she faltered, or insisted on stopping, but we worked, and we worked, half a day, and Mary borught us apples, ale, and a fresh loaf of Moselles’ bread for our lunch. Ranulf took some ribbing about his “flaky hands”—hands that, I jibed him, had known little more labor than caressing a bagpipe’s chanter in many a year. He riposted me with a likewise crack, that I had known an easy life myself, and I was not like my poor brother up north, who was expected to do all I was, and more, with blasted hip, and a limp as well.
The comparison to Simon did not hurt me, but it was certes one of my reasons I would insist that I would be the one to drive the plow over my own lands and nobody else. I was not “too good” for hard work, and wanted, actually, that Simon might someday see that for himself.
At any rate I brought Magdalene in at the end of the day, and we had done a fair measure of the plowing the field needed, there might only be less than a half-a-day more that my section of the land needed. Then we would go back over it with seed sacks on our waists, and scatter the seed into the tilled ground. I left two strips undone- one would be hopefully for hay for Magdalene, and the other would be fallow, and lie as a border between my share and Moselles’.
Panoptes was bigger now than he had been when we acquired him, but he was still not big enough yet that we could set him out on the land to chase off crows. So I began training him toward that end. Each day I would walk with him a little farther along the row of cypresses, so that he got a sense of his territory, and what he would be expected to protect, if the need arose. A little further, every day, and every day I would be sure to leave him off his tether, so that he had a full sense of himself and our homeland. If there were crows that came to settle, and tried to land on the new seeded ground, if we were close by he would run at them and chase them away, anyway. But his little yelps were not the barks of a full grown dog. And the crows were still quite bigger than he. They would fly up a bit and then settle back. It would take a stronger dog to give them pause of return.
Ranulf and I began our planning for the Christmas feast we were expected to perform at for Anselm. mary had brought to the Pnzance house all her old poppets as well, besides those of the recent make that we had taken along to France. There were her old Christmas poppets, the ones used at the Carpenter’s Guild celebrations in Chester. These we would use at Anselm’s. In fact, Mary quite expected to give another performance of the same Christmas play she had performed for the Carpenters- all we would do in that regard was give accompanying music.
But Ranulf and I wanted to plan our own part. It was obvious to me that I would also include Clarence, the musical master of the entire Shire, in this, myself. And we traveled to Clarence’s little workshop, and crowded in among all the violins and lutes and tabors, and everything, and we would practice and rehearse for hours, Clarence also filling us with laughter, jokes, and good cheer. We agreed to meet at Anselm’s on Christmas morn, and there were but two days left before then now.
I spent those two days with Mary, talking over what we needed to do more to the land and the garden. Mary wanted to get busy as soon as she could, for there were things she could plant, such as roots, and peas, that were not too hard taken by winter’s weather. we walked around the edges of the house, and decided that the southern side, the side of the big field Ranulf and I had sweated and grunted over, would be the best. There was the small problem of the back stairway up to Moselles’ bakery, but Moselles laughed cheerfully when we asked him about the garden placement.
“My vife, she has done zat herself zumtimes, ze garden is good there. Oui, ze garden eet is the only spot for it! Onless you alzo want ze east zide. But ze east zide get more shade, you see.”
“The west side, we will use some other way. If things go right and we get the tavern license, we will put it up on that side, our side of the land.”
“Oui, you vill, beecause I zink zat ze only real place for peoples vould be zat zide, myself. And you vill need to make ze stable for ze horse, and vut about ze horsays of ze customairs? I zink you zhould make a zmall stable, you see? For five or zix horsays. And make zat right along ze zame side as ze tavern. Zo ve vill have zree houses, you zee! Your house and mine, and zen ze people house, and zen, ze horsay house. And in ze horsay house, I zhall also keep my peeg.”
It had not occurred to me that Moselles would always be thinking on things to his advantage to this matter, but then, I had cut him a partnership offer, and he meant to use each bit of it. The pig, Jubb (or Codswallop, as I called him), ranged about the land as he chose, but mostly stayed near. There was no need to tether him as there was with either Panoptes or Magdalene, for the pig was a creature of habit and so long as Moselles wife Thangustella fed him the slops each day, he would be inclined to lie in the shade, or wallow in some puddle, but generally, he was never far from their stairs. And he probably only had another year left to live, anyway, before he would become hams, sausages, and trotters, so it might not be a bad idea to just give Moselles his way.
I decided that I would wait for the Christmas feast, anyway, to breach the idea of my tavern to Anselm, that it would best be approached when he had eaten fully and drenched himself in the “spirits of the occasion.” But a tavern! It was now an obsession for me.
Since I had left my father’s house, I had been at the mercy of tavern men, up and down England, and even across the Channel. Tavern men had their own ideas about what a fair wage for a minstrel was. It was different than that of princes, and nobles, for certes. I had been lucky that they had usually been generous with me, and paid me far more than I might have asked, which of course, was the basis of my greater treasure than most of the minstrels— well, better than the buskers of London I had come across, anyway! What I hoped for would be a tavern where I might perform with my own friends, and therefore, cut the costs of hiring others, but when others would come, I would give tham as good as I had gotten from the good tavern men who had supported me. And with the neighbor being a baker, and Mary an alewife, and with the mind that, we would serve good food, as much as possible, and our little tavern might become a place of refuge for the weary of the roads of the lands and the seas. The more I thought on it the more I decided I knew I wanted this. It would make a difference, as running a tavern, there would be less need to travel, myself, and beg my bread off princes and other tavern meant the rest of my life, and perhaps Mary and I could make our Penzance place into an honored establishment.
But this, I knew would take the backing of Baron Anselm, and while I was yet in his favor, I sought to ask of that most definitely.
Mary plotted out what was to go where on a paper she made into a map of the land. This paper would get revised over, and over, and over again, and yet, it was the one thing which for the next half year was to become our central focus of attention. “the Plan”, and how we could accomplish it all.
On Christmas morning, then, Mary had all her poppets ready, and we had a brief meal of porridge and ale before setting out, together riding on Magdalene, for the castle of Trewidden, the home of my patron noble, Anselm of Newlyn.
The castle of Trewidden stood on a small, short hill. It was not the great commanding height of many castles, but it was, anyway, the highest place for miles around, and it was not but a stone’s throw far from the River Coombe. At one point, the place had been something of a gathering spot for merchants, until Penzance took over, as a port, and as the center of attention. As such it it was still not far from a major tin mine at Pendeen, on the north Cornwall coast, though much further to there than from Penzance, and actually, tin had been one of Anselm’s biggest concerns. For all about the peninsula there were smaller, numerous mines, between Penzance and Land’s End. It might be said he had inherited a spoon of tin, that came with his nursing milk, for tin was to Anselm as wool was to Richard and Davis. His interest in the mines was more than just propreitary, he saw to it that the men who milled the tin and the men who worked it and the men who sent it in ships all gave him the due as the benefactor of their bounty. It had quite enriched him, as it had his father and father’s fathers. God had not given the tin man any more than he already had, for the lands were thick and rich with it, all over Cornwall and running up the southern part of Wales. The tin of Cornwall had even been known to the ancients of Greece, and had traveled as far as Asia Minor. So Anselm had great treasures, and most of it, anyway, came from beneath his own feet.
The approach to the castle was through a small dell riven by a stream that ran to the Coombe and was forested. There was tillable land on hills around the dell, but the castle had been sited above the woods, and to get there, one passed through them on a cart road that was shadowed by thick oak and birch. This approach was gloomy and dark, generally, for sun did not come through the thick leave in any one spot for all too long. The trip up to the gate was always gloomy, but the gloom would always be dispersed when one hd entered the gate and come into his hall, for Anselm’s halls were s joy to the eye, and Anselm’s own good humor was a joy to the heart. He had many colored banners that hung from the high roof, as well as banners that hung from the roof beams, and he had a window that looked upon the south, into his great gallery, that was as pretty as the stained glass archways of Chester’s cathedral. Merriment, in particular, was Anselm’s forte, and it was probably for this reason that the wicked Henry later came to suspect him, for Anselm would not be swayed, often, from his happy life, not least to pick up sword and attack the very people (namely, the Welsh) who mined the tin and who gave him profit, if not allegiance. King Henry and his suspicions lay off sometime in our future, however. For the present, and that was where Anselm preferred to live, indeed, his gretest happiness lay in his feasting, to which all the people of Penzance and Newlyn, and Mousehole, were of course invited, and to those whom came, he offered a great meal, replete with bounty all might take away with them, and of course, the music of minstrels such as Clarence, Ranulf, and myself.
I found both of them there already when Mary and I finally arrived. Their mornings had begun somewhat earlier than ours, I could see, because they had risen before the sun, and we were sometime after. The night before we had both spent so much time in working on “The Plan” that it was well beyond midnight we had even bothered to find our way to the bed. And once there, well...
We had, however, managed to arrive before the hour of nine, so Anselm gathered all of us at his throne (such as it was, it was no more than a great chair with a high back, but he had it seated upon a small dais, in a way that commanded the attention of all who entered the room) and began asking us as to what we would be presenting.
Mary—“I shall be making for you a play, this same play I have performed with my poppets for the Capenters of Chester, each Christmas without stop, since I was eleven years. This play is about the Holy Family, and features the Virgin Mother, the good man Joseph, the Child Lord and Savior, and two of the Three Kings. My husband and his players will offer music to accompany it, and refrain from playing during the speaking parts.”
Clarence—“I, m’lord, shall perform several pieces of my own making, such as have been heard in London and Bath, and I shall also be taking part with the other two gentlemen, in a longer performance.”
Anselm looked to Ranulf and myself.
I—“I, good Baron, shall first perform with Ranulf those same pieces which we gave you when we first came to your company as you have requested. We will also perform original pieces of my own, such as came to be composed on my travels in France, we shall also offer you the Lay of Robin Hood, and the Lay of Arthur. We will then present dances such as are original works of Ranulf, Clarence, and myself, as well as a manner of our group making, which shall be unique to this place and occasion. We humbly beg your forbearance to allow us the opportunity to present these without any thought but the favor of your hospitality, and what we may offer our guests toward their pleasure.”
It took a lot to say what could have been obvious, but then again, Anselm was not just a landlord, he was a noble, and as nobility, I felt that I must somehow show a courtesy beyond that of a common friend. Although indeed, Anselm was a friend, he was nowhere the trusted companion which Stephen was, nor even Roger. But of course, was a force to be reckoned with, and if I wanted to ask the favor of creating a new establishment, then I must defer to that position.
Anselm was cheerful, as he usually was, and accepted all this, and looked relieved.
“Good, good gentlemen. I shall give you all liberty to the grounds such as you need, for the best portion of the day. The feast shall begin at the hour of three, and it is hoped, shall continue for a full six hours. I shall indeed recompense all of you well for what you provide us. Meanwhile, until you are summoned, again, I have given you leave to go whereas you may choose about the castle. I am sure you will find much here to your amusement! At your ease, friends.”
With that, we were free to go as we wished, and as he promised, there was much going on abut the castle to amuse. For one thing, there was the air of a festival (if not a coutry fair!) at the place. The courtyard had been filled with a number of booths for entertaining the common folk. There was a dunking stool, on which one of Anselm’s ministers had taken the indignity upon himself of allowing folk to pitch balls at a lever, which would then drop him into a tub of water, with much laughter and hilarity. Nobody had yet arrived to undertake it, yet, however, and so the minister sat on the stool, reading a book, and looked disinterested. There was an archery target, at which men might compete at to hone their skill, and there were bows and arrows enough there to arm a small squadron, and there were pages beside to remove and refletch spent and broken arrows, and men might take shots at the target for a half-farthing, so said the sign nearby.
There was a tall pole, on which was set a ball which could ring a bell which was at the top of the pole, if a man were inclined to swing a hammer at a small lever at its base, and send the ball up with such force as to ring it. An attempt to achieve this also could be had for a half-farthing. There was a kissing booth, with a comely maiden (and also a dusty crone!) which might garner one a kiss, but one must also wear a blindfold, that he should not know which of either had given it to him. This was also half a farthing to pay. There was... actually, there were a lot of amusing things, as promised, but there were not yet a lot of town or country folk that had made their way to the castle, so all the amusements were more or less, just made ready for the proper time. Mary and I walked from the courtyard, and we went up stairs along an inner curtain wall, to a rampart, which had two towers, one to the south one to the north, and we took in the great view.
From the rampart, we could look to the southeast, and see, at the far left, Penzance, and in the bay beyond, Saint Michel’s Mount, with its spires and towers, and also Marazion, where dwelt Hugh De Courtenay, an ally of Henry IV, who was the other chief principal (“the Duke”) of Cornwall. Now that Henry IV was King, the office of Duke had passed to the Crown Prince. By leaving Cheshire, we had not escaped his powers, although he reigned from Chester and Shrewsbury more. De Courtenay’s interest in the tin of Cornwall and Devon was as great as Anselm’s and they were surely rivals, for the prosperity they each gleaned from the mining and smelting of tin was also dependent upon how they might add to the coffers of the Royals.
If we looked almost due south, we could see our own lands, although our house was hidden by a small rise that came before it, our familiar row of cypress tress plainly explained our position, and the lay of our land. On the left and right also ran in a winding course the River Coombe and the roads to Bristol, Devon, and Falmouth. We took a seat on stone bench which was set into one of the ramparts, and from there, we could look out over all around us, and as the sun drew higher, and more villagers and countrypeople began to enter the courtyard, the shouts, the clatter, and the turmoil of a festive day began to take color.
Ranulf and Clarence had left the castle, to return later nearer the hour of three, and I saw them not until near time for us to play. Mary and I took a bit of wine from a man selling flagons out of a huge cask that was as tall as himself, and went back up to the rampart that we could share and sip of it. Back and forth we passed it, speaking of the holiday, and how we should really spend time—perhaps near Lent? If we might, with our parents. But that would be a long way off at this point. Really, if we wanted to begin work on a tavern, we would need to put in time all the way through to summer, most likely, but we did have my usual obligation to return to Chester and the manor, to help Stephen’s harvest. That would probably be the only time we could spare or take away from the tavern, if we were trying to be practical and succeed with it.We decided that we should speak to Anselm that evening of the entire plan- the ale brewing, the tavern, how we might perhaps be in need of some backing, in order for us to build and stock it with food... Not that I could not, nor would not, pour some of my own treasure toward it. But if Anselm liked the idea, he would cheerily help me, of certes. If he were to be my patron, and “burden me with relief as I floundered” in the stream of enterprise, then, well, let me flounder, though I knew I could not make it to the other shore without some type of aid. This indeed would prove to be the case, as we learned later that night.
Mary wanted to gather up her poppets, which she had left with Anselm in his throne hall, and spend time getting the strings and bars all untangled, and dressing a pair of them (the interchangeable Robin and Marian poppets particularly). And I took the time to ensure my lute was tuned. When we had arranged all this to our satisfaction, with a nod, we left the room once again, and returned to our wine, still setting on the rampart bench.
“Tell me, Julian,” she said, as we leaned together, our arms around each other, “we have good plans. Should we be able to bring them all to fruit, will our love grow, or will we lose ourselves in the struggle? I hope we will not, and that, our love will keep growing, the older and wiser we become.”
“Mary, I think we might only grow closer as these years go on. For now, let us try to make the best we can of everything. I am going to tak to the Baron about our plan, and hope that he will approve it. If he does that will mean earning a living for both of us!”
I could see that this pleased her, and we strolled again to the courtyard, where I tried my luck tossing beansacks through a target hole. I actually won me a groat at it, for I scored a full five in a row! The man who was doing the setting up of the bean sacks looked on in wonder.
“You should be an archer, sir! Your aim is so good.”
My aim was never so good again, after those first five, for I missed the three others I tried after that. I suppose I did not now look quite the archer. Just as well, Simon had always had the truer eye, in our family, and the more sure arm.
When I had had a fill of that we then wandered through Anselm’s kitchens, making sure not to get in the way of his cooks, who were scutting about and hurriedly preparing all of the foods we would see that night. I only wanted to get an idea of what our own futre might look like. Mary said we should soon learn soon enough! And at that we left, then, returning to Anselm’s great hall.
Now at last had come the hour we should be called in the presence of Anselm and the revels could begin. Clarence and Ranulf approached me, having gone themselves through the main hall again, and been greeted by Anselm. Clarence had a tabor with him, and a viol was his main instrument. Ranulf blew through his pipes to fill them, and Clarence and I registered our tunings together. All was in good fettle.
The courtyard, so full of peasants at play, at all the attractions, and with each other, games of dice, cards, children running about, was noisy and fulsome. Servants began bringing long tables in to the great dining hall, which was the main hall where the throne was, and soon there were tables, and benches enough to sit some two hundred. There were art least that many in the courtyard, and posibly more. But those who could not be seated, would be fed in the courtyard.
Anselm gave a signal to me, which was to tell us that we should make ready. A herald blew a trumpet from the rampart wall, and called out.
“Hear ye, hear ye, all ye from round about! The good Baron Anselm calls you to the feast of our Lord! There shall be enough for all, assure yourselves! Do set your stomachs at ease,and come to have your fill!”
Peasants started pouring in to the large room, and at the prime tables, there sat Anselm’s clerks, some big mucky-mucks from the tin mines, and a number of the burgesses of Penzance. The peasants took their seats on the furthest back benches, where already the servants had set out tall tin pitchers of ale and wine and cider. There were large mugs, of both tin and wood, and horns to drink from, and bowls with salt and herbs, and when the food began arriving, Anselm stood up and announced the Poppet Play.
“My friends, we shall have music for you, and a special performance now, by Mary Plectrum, the wife of our minstrel Julian here, shall give you a poppet play.” Squeals of joy erupted from several of the older children.
The story of the nativity of our Lord, and his mother the Holy Virgin, and the husband Joseph! Now, I give to you Mary and the poppets!”
And that was the signal for our music to begin. We played softly, as not to distract the audience, and Mary began, with the two Kings talking.
Baltahsar: “What is this star we see to the west? Is this not the star of the King to be? O what shall we send to see? Should we take ourselves across the great desert, and bring to this great king, gifts such as scents, and frankincense, and myrrh”
Melchior: “Balthasar, we must leave today. For the star that rises west has been rising later and later and sooner or later, shall rise far from our bearing.”
Now she switched to the holy family. The Joseph poppet sought the shelter of an inn.
Joseph: “Where is it that my wife, heavy with child, might rest, that she deliver our child?”
Mary: “Noplace, my husband, there is noplace for us. We have traveled long to make Bethlehem, and yet, there is no inn opening its door to us. We should sleep in the straw with the donkeys.”
Joseph: “Oh dear wife, long have you been traveling,a nd now again, we come to a new travail. For is the child not to come soon?”
Mary: “Indeed, husband, for the waters now fall from me, I feel the pains and know the time will be this night. Hold me close! Let us make that yonder barn.”
Then the poppets made their way to a place which Mary had made, of a pair of small wood slats, which was the stage for the manger. And in this she lay the Christ child poppet. She wiggled its hands and legs, aand the children oohed and ahhed and laughed.
Now enter again the kings. Mary had explained to me why there were two, and not three.
“Because, silly Julian, a poppet master can only play two poppets at a time, lest they have three hands, then perhaps we might have three kings. So I chose Melchior and Balthazar, and these will have to do!”
The kings now before the child, she made them bow, and sweep, and this was well taken by all the fancy burgesses and mine-masters assembled at the front row.
Melchior: “Hail to the King of the Israelites, Christ Jesus born this day! We have come from the east, bearing gifts.”
Now it was one king, Balthazar, and Mary, she played. The Mary poppet took the hind place.
Balthazar: “Here, sweet mother, we lay upon thy breast these gifts for your child. For we have seen a great star, which tells us, that your child is the Savior of Earth and all upon it. Have mercy on us, and mercy upon us ord above. Here, here are frankincense, Myrrh, and sweet oil for his brow. We honor thee thus.”
The Mary doll bowed in return.
Mary (my Mary) bowed, and the play was done. It was not long, but the sheer fantasy of the people all about had been so relieved, the entertainment a diversion, that they burst up clapping. We played on, and then, Anselm gave us another signal, as Mary hurried off to repack the poppets, all but Robin and Marian, and she placed the sack at a secion of the table that would be reserved for we minstrels. For one could not be expected to play, and play, and play without rest, while others ate, could one? No. But we needed to give more of ourselves.
Mary’s play as it were only lasted a short scant five to ten minutes, but she had filled much of that with the characters walking, gesturing silently, and giving impression of movement. At this, more of the younger children were amused, for to them, it must have seemed the poppets too acted on their own. The older ones were not so fooled, but rapt with attention besides.
Now we took our turn. We began the Dance of the Magpie, a tune which I had rehearsed with Clarence, one of Ranulf’s. Ranulf stepped forward in the mezzo and blew srongly and loudly. The honking of geese out in the courtyard answered him, and he lent an eye in their direction. More clapping and whistling. We came to the coda, and Clarence finished off the tune with a great flourish.
Now it was our time to shine. We played our Breton dance sets and the servants went about, passing out the first course (There were to be some thirty courses that night! I have forgotten them all. But when I can, I can remember these for you...)
The next dance actually got some peasants so enervated, that they got up from their seats, and danced in the far back of the hall. This was a great compliment, for who would set aside their meal for the sheer pleasure of a dance? Those who would carry the tune in their hearts, that’s who! It pleased me no end.
The first course was a pie, and this was shared out in eight pieces among as many guests, and there were a great number of them, borne in by the servants on large platters, and inside the pie were squab, blackbird, sparrow, and starlings. All the guests were chowing on these when the next course came out. This was a trencher filled with steaming root vegetals in a white sauce. Those who chose to could eat the trencher when they had finished. The third course came, as we ended the long dance of the Magpies, and this was fish, served from great tin trays, steamed long and white of flesh, pilchard fish from the sea and not the rivers, for some of them still bore bright silvery scales, even though they had been roasted. Another round for the ale and the wine flagons!
Anselm sat upon his throne chair on the dais with a great sideboard beside, on which had been placed each dish that would come past for his pleasure and his refined assessment, of which he would nibble some bites and pass it back to a serving man, and also there was a great steaming pot of mulled wine, of which he or his servers might ladle himself a mug, and fill a mug as well to each of the gentlement who took the first front tables beneath his salt.
Anselm called out again to the guests, who had now all been served at least one course, and he pounded a staff on the floor, to emphasize that even as they ate, the must give him their ears.
“Friends! We shall have more music soon! But let us give our minstrels fine applause, and a chance to have something of a meal themselves!”
This we all welcomed, and he bade us sit in the spot he had chosen for us. I sat beside Mary, who huddled close beside me, snuggling her head against my shoulder. I poured myself a horn full of ale, and finished it in three long gulps. I called for a plate of the pie, and the pie was brought to me, and I picked out the squabs (something bout having seen the mad monk Vincebus dissecting one for to tell the future had left a bad taste in my heart for squab. Even the squabs that Stephen served at our wedding had been downed with some trepidations.) And yet, the pie itself had been done well. I enjoyed it, and we then went for the fish. I could do without the roots at this point. Who knew how far we were into the night, even! For there would be many, many other dishes sent our way, including desserts...
Anselm himself came to the table and set his large throne chair beside mine at the edge of the table, next to me. This was obviously my chance to sell “the Plan” to him! As it were, it was his invitation to speak to me alone, himself.
He wished me good fortune for the coming year. He complimented our performance —“You have heard nothing yet!” I returned. Now was the chance.
“Lord Anselm, I have two large requests to make of you. Being that you have been a generous lord, and you are a man I call a friend. The first concerns Mary here. Mary is trained in making ale, and made it for several years in her mother’s kitchen in Chester. Her mother’s ale was certified “Best” by the Ale Masters of Chester, and so, she had been making it far beyond even Mary’s coming— and Mary then is skilled at the art. She wants to make ale in our home. Can we have your backing, in licensing her effort?”
Anselm looked at Mary. The questions were inevitable, but she answered each.
For seven years now. She was sixteen now, yes, I was eighteen, true, we had known each other a year or more before we married, yes, her mother’s alemaking was certfied, and she wished she could begin soon, for this was the proper season to begin. Yes, Julian would buy grain to supply the need, but we also planned to grow barley of our own like our upstairs neighbors, In fact the land had already been planted.
This brought a smile to Anselm’s face.
“I think we can try, at least. So I shall grant this request. You may come to me on the Monday after this feast, and I shall have the clerks write up your papers. You said you had another, Julian?”
“Yes, Anselm, and this is my request. I wish to begin a tavern on the land. It shall be adjacent to the house, and shall include a small stable, with the room for several horses. It shall have a kitchen, such that can also help to brew ale, it shall have its own hearth for the guests, and another for cooking, and we shall hold a common partnership with Moselles the baker in the entire operation. There will be no lodging— only meals, and the inn shall close each night at no later than one hour past midnight, and reopen no earlier than five of the afternoon. We shall serve dinners and we shall have music and dancing. And ale of coure! We can even have wines from France...”
“This is quite ambitious, Julian, and I hope you can fulfill this dream. If you choose to add more room to the building, then this will cost. How much are you looking at, in costs?”
“I was hoping to bring this in order of about thirty pounds... if I might... But it will take nearly all my own treasure to do so. I was hoping I might ask...”
I knew, and he knew, and I knew that he knew, what I was intending.
“A loan?” he finished. His eyes were twinkling.
“Yes, your grace, a loan...”
He made some sort of face which was quite hard for me to gether the meaning of. But then he brightened up, and slapped my back.
“Why, but of course! This would surely be a big change for you, would it not? A tavernmaster, and a minstrel too! And to think, you might have men coming from miles around! Why not, give them a run for their money, those cozy harbor rats down in Penzance!”
Clarence and Ranulf looked at me, in wonder. I had not broached this on either of them, and the prospect of having my tavern to play at filled both of them with visions of moneysacks. It was not a big stretch of the mind.
And here, Anselm was going to loan money to make the project happen!
“How much, my friend?”
I knew better than to ask and name a figure. As I had mentioned thirty, he took that really as only an opening gambit. He doubled that! Sixty pounds! This would buy the wood, it would pay the workmen for building it, it would also be enough to begin stocking the pantry, larder, and butter cellar with all those things, and give me a kitty for all those things for which I had barely considered- kettles, pans, brewing vats, grates and grills, stewpots, skewers, bellows, tongs, tables, benches, beer kegs, wine casks, spoons, butter tubs, a churn...
But Anselm was reassuring.
“Bless you, my boy. I will give to your the money you need. Do not expect me to ask you interest, nor necessarily to hold you at bond with interest for the repayment. Better it might be that you create such a place that brings your land renown, your wife’s ale, and cooking, and the good bread of Moselles to the attention—and envy! —of the burgesses of Penzance. For even as they sit here, feasting at my table, I know they have designs on me, and would fain rather see my people in hard straits, or that they be in debt to them, than to know that we country folk were somehow doing better. There are days ahead of you, I can see it in your eye, when you will be glad you took this course of action. Who knows how many years you could go on in your minstrel life, dependent on the whim of nobles such as myself, or those same harbor rat taverners in Penzance, and other likely places? That you can have something by which men beat a path to your door, does that not beat having to tramp the world in search of begging one to take you in?”
I agreed with that! I could tell my partners in song did as well.
“Eat up, Julian, drink up, and you will be granted whatso ever you task me to bring to the matter of your Inn. Oh- and what have you plans to call it?”
This, I admit he nearly had me. But I actually had been thinking about it some.
“The Fallen Lady, your grace.”
“The Fallen Lady...? Oh! Now that is a fitting one.”
I knew that he knew the reason I had chosen it. The lady Devonside, who had lived in our house before, who had fallen down Moselles’ stairway, and taken an knock to the brain that killed her, was indeed the Lady whom I spoke of. Of course, there was that pun on “ladie of disrepute” that went along with it, a fact lost neither on me nor Anselm, but part of the attraction.
“I was thinking, also, of using the portrait of Lady Devonside on the signpost...”
“Excellent, lad! That would indeed help to set her poor spirit to rest!”
“So I hope. That I will not make an inn of her will also guarantee no guest of the night will get a haunting!”
“Ah, that is a good decision as well. Yes, if you made an inn of it, you would have no end of troubles with the sailors and the smugglers. Not that you may yet find that you shall! But I will also send business your way.”
Two courses had come as we had sat talking, and these were of beef and lamb. Getting to the heart of the matter, and knowing in my mind how much I would rather eat anything than lamb, I was not feeling badly for having missed them. but now came a great number of birds, great brown roasted capons and hens! Such wonderful sauce to it, as well. I could not lay off at just the one drumstick I had taken, I had to have more, and the breast meat was succulent. It was sauced with the jam from apricots, and this was a wonder also. It had a short dash of pepper to it also. Such a dish. I made up my mind I should get the recipe from Anselm’s cooks, and that it would be a feature at the Fallen Lady.
So we had taken a goodly break. We finished another round of ale, and then we all three rose, and took our places again at the edge of the dais, and we began to play. Now was the time for our ballads, and the lays of Arthur and Robin Hood.
Clarence led the Lay of Arthur with his viol, and I left the singing and recitation to him. He took some quarter of a hour doing it, and made the ending rather a play for humor, when he suggested that Mordred had in fact been not some rival, but Arthur;s own very child, concieved with his very sister Morgan le Fay! This could lead to an argument, and in fact, when we had finished with Robin and Marian, Friar Tuck and Little John, there was an argument over it. But let me continue.
The Lay of Robin Hood was accompanied again by Mary and the poppets. She used her Henry IV poppet to serve as Little John, which got many of the children laughing, for the Henry IV poppet was fat and unseemly and even raggedy and gross. The Melchizidek King served for Friar Tuck, albeit with a new cloak, a russet colored cassock. And the poppets danced and I sang of Robin and Marian, and their forbidden love, of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and that there was naught Robin did but which was for the good of the poor villein, and that even now when highwaymen (such as those I had met on my journey to London!) yet rode the lands and ruled from no point of law, ever so, there had been men of our past who while treated as outlaws, held a higher code of ethics.
Such it was, that even the tin men and the burgers of Penzance fell into a state of reflection, and marveled at the poppet play, and again, we were applauded roundly. A short dance piece or two, and we were encouraged to return to the tables. For now some four more courses had passed the way of the tables, and we had missed them all!
No matter. There was ample ale and on that I continued to make my slake. Now there was one tin man who came up to Clarence and set upon him with some strong words.
“How dast you to sully the name of Arthur! Think you really that the good King was a sister-loving, sire of a sodomizing prodigal! That the court of Arthur were no more than a lot of covetous connivers, who stole away his own wife, even as he lay by his wicked sister’s side? I say, minstrel, that you defame our good king and our great heritage!”
Clarence smiled, and was not at all put aside by this man He held his temper, and said,
“If you feel you truly know who Arthur was, and where from, and how these legends came to be our heritage, then do tell, sir. I merely elaborated on ideas which have also, just like the tale, been passed along. And why should it not have been such a way? For even Gawain and Lancelot were known for their outrage on Christian marriage, no less, with the good Guinnevere. Are we to assume the good lady was pure as the driven snow, and that Arthur, too, was spotless as the Lord Jesus himself? I riposte you, sir. I was merely making an entertainment. You may believe what you wish.”
The tin man was quite chuffed though, and returned to his dining, a grumble and sneer on his face. It was my hope that this might be all the trouble we would have of him. Somehow we made it through a bowl of peacock stew, which was rather bland but for the cinnamon, but I heard later that this was one of Anselm’s own favorite dishes. I resolved that we should not serve peacocks at the Fallen Lady! Because, for one thing, were we to raise them ourselves, their shrieking calls would doubtless serve us much worse than a noble rooster’s. For the rooster calls when he is sure of the sun coming. The peacock brays at the dullest whim of his mating needs, and more frequently. There would be no peacock stew. This was one resolution I did keep, whether it were Anselm’s favorite dish, or not.
Ranulf was full into his bowl of it, however, and while I passed aside the bowl when it was given me, Ranulf too dug into it with gusto and pleasure. Mary and I refilled our ale horns. We gave toast to the Baron Anselm, and to our hopes for the Fallen Lady. There were still some three or four more hours of feasting to get through!
On our return to the stage, we let ourselves go in improvisation. This was on several themes that came from Ranulf’s pipes. Again we managed to get some, who had already filled themselves, up and dancing there in the back. There was a merry play in the key of D, which held no minor, but was all major notes of a pattern that many recognized as the tune of “Tempus Adest Foridum.” But in our hands, this we turned into a ravishing, uptempo sally which caused the dancers to laugh, and fall about, and make amusement with mockeries of each other. Surely they were enjoying themselves!
On, for nearly a full hour, we drove our instruments in frenzy, tune after tune came and passed through beteen us, and yet, we did not cease nor did the dancers. Another ten courses went by the tables. I was wondering how Mary was holding up! Later she told me that she had stopped partaking at that point, and only returned to the feast when we had finished our long escape into the revels. That was the first time that Clarence, Ranulf and myself had ever all together graced a stage. If the lord Anselm liked it, then we were in luck, and we should be able to count on this for years to come, playing for the Baron at his Chritmases. We had proven ourselves on the first go round, at least, Ranulf and I had, but with the addition of Clarence, and now, after this little argument with the tin merchant, there was some doubt as to the propriety of our company.
It did, in the end, work out for the best. For the tin merchant gave us no further troubles- at least, not that night! There would be times to come when the man would make himself a further nuisance to me, but not at this time.
More courses were unleashed upon the crowd. There was eel pie, which was always a big favorite among riverside folk, and which made me wish I was not made of such a queasy stomach, for I might have eaten more than a mouthful. There were now coming out desserts. A great large pot of flan had been scooped out into bowls, and these were now set at the tables. There were cakes, tarts, pastry that was nothing like that of Amiens, being fuller, thicker, and baked harder, but yet these all dissapeared into the guts of the curious, and then there was good white bread with jam, and this was received with just as much joy as the finer baking thing. So yet another hour we spent actually, not demanded that we get up to play, but we did in time, return to the stage. And now, I played the song which had made all that trouble for me in London, She Moves Through the Fair, and I sang it with my own lines, the very ones which had earned me my day at the Inns of Court, but I sang them for Mary, and sang them to Mary, and I noticed her blushing, and turning her head aside, but then, bashfully sending me a smile, and I knew there was confidence,always to be had in her love and regard.
I continued singing, and I refrained from singing the Lay of Hotspur, for there must have been those among the tin men who would have been hostile to the thought, and loyal to Henry, among them or the burgesses. Such a notable “proteste ballade”, in fact, I deemed I would not take up again. It had done its intended work, and I came to be told later that there were other minstrels up Cheshire way who had learned it of my playing it, and had taken it up, and played it themselves, so I had given it to the people. I could not be bothered in looking back, however. I wanted to move along. There would be other songs to come, for certes!
Clarence and I continued on when Ranulf took a seat again, apologizing that now he was winded, and had fully given himself for the occasion. His viol was of a strong, pleasing tone, and he was playing one he had made himself, of course. I had been at his shop when he put the strings on it, and he had finished it with a good surface, and oiled the wood so that it yet shined. Now his viol rang amongst the stone walls, the wood beams, and echoed soundly within the great hall, transformed into a feasting hall, and even made itself heard over the mutterings and the babble of the two hundred (or more!) guests.
The final courses were coming out now. Those who had not gorged themselves through sheer gluttony were able to take in the final bits of cook’s wonders. This we watched from the stage, as the (now, quite tired!) serving folk set down their plates of fresh fruits and cheeses. Apples, quinces, love apples, peaches, cherries- fresh fruits for all who wanted. How Anselm had managed to keep all these things—that they had lasted in his pantry until year’s end— was a deep mystery, to me. I resolved that I should have an answer to it, too, before the Fallen Lady would open. For I too felt that fresh fruits would be a decent thing to offer at any time, and if Anselm could have them at midwinter, then by Jove so should I! It was not, however, a question I was meant to have answered that night.
What did happen at the end of the night was that Anselm approached the four of us, as we made our last grabs at the wine and ale pitchers, and placed before us a good sack of coin. There were six gold nobles for each of us inside it— more than enough to allow Ranulf to abide another season in Penzance, more than enough for me to buy food supplies for our pantry, to see us through winter, more than enough to supply Clarence for new woods for the instruments he might make at shop.
“It is my hope that we may make this something all of you might depend on each year.”
My prayer had been answered!
“I was pleased with the poppetry, Lady Plectrum. I was amused, myself, with your original way of making King Arthur more like a “real person”, good Clarence. I know it caused you a bit of trouble there, pay it no mind. Ranulf, had you but the wind and lungs of a buzzard, you should have lasted an hour longer. But this could not have been as good a night as it was, without you. And Julian, of course, what I shall give to you for the building of the addition to the house, for the purpose of the Inn, this you shall have when Mary sees me in the next week. All this was very good, my friends!”
Anselm then rose again on the dais, and standing, delivered his message to the people.
“All of you, my fine people, have feasted well and had pleasures galore today. Well it is that I am a lucky man, that I have all of you to my charge, and that you are all good, fine people, and that we here have no criminals among us, no fugitives from the King, and no quarrel with the laws and Lords of the lands. Well meet it is to see you all have come, and have partaken in my bounty. As something you might take away, and as many of you that return each year know, I will give each of you on your departure a love of bread, a wheel of cheese, and a pottle of ale. All these will be given you as you pass the outer wall and gate. Please be joyful! And know that the Lord Jesus in whose name we came and took this upon us, blesses each of you in his own way, and that I wish for all of you the most prosperous, bounteous New Year.”
There was no outcry, no protest, in fact there was great applause for Anselm and his generosity. As people finished their plates, and headed out the doorways to the courtyard, and to the demesne, the promised giveaways were doled out to them by liveried attendants, from great darts filled each with many of those same things. Pottle jugs of ale, wheels of cheese, loaves of bread. There was indeed enough for all, that even they who did the passing out had their own share, and so did the cooks, and the servers, and the clerks of the court. And we all knew Anselm himself would sleep well in his bed in Trewidden Castle, and that the good days were surely on their way.
Mary took Magdalene and made her way down from Trewidden alone, as I told her I should wak at least a portion of the trip down to Penzance with Ranulf and Clarence, who each had no horse, but were themselves on foot. We happily shared out the sack of coins. As we walked beneath the moonlight on the path between the trees, each of us sang something of our pleasure, that we were so fortunate we had Anselm for our lord and patron.
Clarence: “His meat is good and his ale is strong- Good health to Anselm his whole life long!”
Ranulf: “He seeds us all with sack of gold, that we may sing of him when we grow old!”
I: “His hall is fine and so be his mind —May Anselm reign, our sovereign!”
I played some chords on Luisa as we rambled. The dark path came out at a spot which was the crossing of roads- one went east to Penzance, the other led southwest, towards my home. There I parted with them, although I told Ranulf I would be seeing him soon, and that he was welcome to come by and visit at any time. There was yet much to do, to work up the garden, and there was something I needed to make—a pen for the horse! All things in their time. They left me, still raggedly walking, but holding their ale well, yet having taken some tipsy after all.