When I returned that night from the castle, I was but a half hour behind Magdalene and Mary. Mary had tied her in the accustomed spot near the house’s side. Panoptes was up and about, wagging his tail, and quite happy to see me. We had allowed him the right to sleep in the house, as the nights were yet cold, and perhaps growing even colder. There were still January and February to shiver through, and many days of snow and rain, when the fireplace and the pile of firewood were a welcome aspect of our estate. Mary welcomed me to bed, and I disappeared into the mystery which was her, and slept then after, well soothed by what had been a joyous feast, and so far as I had asked, all my prayers been answered, I slumbered long until after the cock crow.
“Julian,” Mary told me, as light came through the window, making me realize that here was yet another day, perhaps another day full of troubles, “I wish to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“I believe we need to give the horse new shoes.”
“Prithee, and why?”
“Last night as I rode back with her, I believe she threw one. I know not how long it had been since she was shod, but now, I am sure of it, for the poor thing hobbled some from then on. It was on the Whychoome.”
“I will have a look.”
This would not be a good thing, for the blacksmith was up in Penzance, today was St. Stephen’s day, and I had hoped to be free of such a trip at least a day and night, for I wanted to give Ranulf time on his own, and not burden him with my company.
Out in the yard, good Magdalene stood near her trough, and swiped her tail round about, and picked up her ears when she saw me.
“Fine horse, that you are, allow me the liberty of assaying your hooves!”
She snorted, and pulled back a bit, but I grabbed her by the fetlock and pulled up each hoof in turn, that I might discern which shoe had gone a’loss.
It was the front right foot... The other shoes seemed well sturdy, but that one shoe was definitely gone. While it would not kill her to make the trip to town, yet, it would have to be done ere we took any more journeys. And I hoped to be able to see Clarence at his shop at Mousehole sooner. So, grumbling as to how there be always some matter to trouble a body, I resolved that I would take Magdalene on the morrow to the smithy, and replace the lost shoe.
While I was out in the yard I looked over the possible place, near to where I had begun the plowing, that I might make her a pen. It did not need to be big, yet room enough for her to canter about some, and not be so large that it disturbed the sown land, on which we were depending for our ale-barley. I needed wood to make the stockade. This would cost me some also. Perhaps there were men in Penzance, perhaps I could go to a shipwright, and collect some off-beams. But I would need to make the tip in any case, so I resolved it would be a part of the journey to the smithy.
I returned to the house, and my study, where the lute Luisa now hung again on the wall, and where the star-chart which Porcull had given me as a wedding gift now hung upon the wall.
It was then I turned to something which I remembered I had promised to do. I began looking up the astrological aspects for the birthday of my friend Abu. I found the scribbled date which he had given me in haste, in our last time together as we walked away from the Cove of the Ogre in Harfleur. There it was again: April 17, 1379, and he said he was born at the hour of seven toward sunset.
Looking at the chart which set before me on the wall, I surmised the planets which had the chief effects on Abu’s destiny. Yes, he was born under the sign of the Ram. But he would have the Scorpion on his ascendant, which would lend even more of a caustic cast to his person, and he had two other significant planets under the Ram as well—Mercury, which added even more force to his ambitions, and Mars, which being the very name of the Greek god which gave the Ram Aries its name, could only add more fuel to his inner fire. So it was that I saw these certain things as driving forces in his life and mind. He was definitely a determined character, and I was glad that I had been as direct as he in my stating in no uncertain terms what our friendship should mean, should he have ever got any such ideas in his head as to a design to steal away my Mary.
But as he reassured me that all his thought was, but only to look upon her as an ideal to be worshiped from afar, I held that no grudge on our friendship. In fact I guess that it had allowed Mary a certain more latitude, that he should bend to any whim of hers, and had she been wanton of it, she might direct him unto some task both impossible to achieve, and yet, impossible to ignore. But as I am coming to know her well, realize, that is just not the type of woman she is!
Now it was the turn of the other planets of his horoscope to come under my scrutiny. He held the goddess planet Venus in Taurus— adjacent to the sun, Mercury, and Mars, and while this was not in a “fortunate” aspect it was also typical of those born at any time, that the three inner planets should be so closely drawn in their orbit. It also perhaps threw some practical means of addressing reality into what might otherwise have been a purely idealistic and insufferable approach to the outer world! This was balanced quite favorably by two planets in the sign of the Sea-Goat, Caripcornicus, the Moon and Jupiter. And there yet was one more planet in the realm of the Ram, which was Saturn. This I should have to assume at some point further into my inspection of his celestial makeup. But that was a good thing, that there was the pyramidal stretch, or as Porcull would have called it, the “trine—between his Moon and Jupiter. This aspect Porcull had told me, is always something lending grace or ease to a man’s life. It might make some things easier, an yet it can also make some things less obvious to him.
Now I turned to the aspect of the relationship of Saturn and Jupiter, set as they are, at an angle, not of three houses (as were the moon) but of four houses. This, Porcull had told me, adds complexity and strife to the endeavors of a man’s will. For if the “trine” helps a man’s life along with more ease, a “square” represents a difficulty, or a possible obstacle, something which he would need to overcome, or surpass.
But as usual, and also, as Porcull once said, looking at the entire picture was what mattered. The other relationships of planets had a lot to do with a man’s coming up a winner, in end, and “the stars impel, they do not compel.” By which, Porcull had meant, that every individual man and woman has their own free will. If by God’s providence some are blessed with an ease of success, and others earn nothing but worry and toil by all their efforts, surely it is not only God’s will that it might be so, but that each person had chosen a way they might follow, and the path of life is a twisted, winding, complicated thing, for anyone as it is.
Sometimes as I lay abed in Porcull’s cottage, gazing up at his ceiling thatch, I came on the odd idea that Porcull himself might be, less a master in these arts, but even something of a charlatan! For in my mind there were always doubts. If I chose my path out of what I felt to be that which might bring me the greatest gain, or had I chosen to go on as I was, something of a prisoner of my own fate, to forever be known as no more than “Davis’ second son, and of less account even than his first”—well then, I meant to do better than that, whether it were God’s will that I remain in such a poor state or not. But then, I did make a free choice, and chose to leave Davis and Simon, and I felt I were both a better man, and had gained better prospect from the world for having done so.
But in any case, I had never really given it a lot more thought than that, and now my thoughts had turned toward Abu and his own life and situation. I took pen in hand and began to write him a letter.
“To Abu al-Sayyad, Minstrel of the Court of the Sultan Muhammad VII of Granada...
“Abu, it is my great hope that in your receiving this that I have found you once more to be at the court of your Great Prince, and in fine health, and that your travels from France have safely led you home. I was honored to have made our acquaintance and shall always hold the happy memories of the music we made, of our talks on our travels, and of the discoveries both of us had made as regard each other, our own countries, and the country of France. I write you in fulfillment of a promise I made you, which was that I should set out the chart of your birth stars, and lend, if I might, some insight and discourse as to their possible meaning, as it might bring you good luck, for as a friend I feel I am, the fortunes of friends are what bring and bind them together, however near or far aways they might be, in the course of place and times.
This, then, is the chart I have made for you.”
And I then drew upon my parchment page the circle of the sky, with the left hand side being placed his rising star (the Scorpion) and at the other side, the House of the Ram, which held his Sun, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn all. I placed all the planets best I could as to their degree from each other, and then took a different colored pen and with some finesse (so I thought) traced out the aspects as Porcull had shown me must relate trines, squares, and oppositions. My hand felt crabbed, so I left off when I had done so, and decided to get back to finishing the rest of the letter after I had had some refreshing.
In the “refreshing time” I went outside and checked on the horse, and the dog, who was also grown some inches since we had brought him over from France. His thick fur had gone quite fluffy and he welcomed me with enthusiasm. I let him off the long rope tether we usually kept him on in daylight, and he frolicked here and there about the new garden. Mary had given him a great beef bone, which he worried with all his joy whenever he was bored with barking at whatever it was caught his notice upon the road, or any unwelcome passerby. He was turning into the watch dog I had hoped he would become, actually.
I walked with Panoptes out the long broad path which led toward the shingle, where the cypress trees came to an end, and there where the sand met the good fertile earth Panoptes freely ran up and down the shingle, tarrying here and there after some bug or crab, or piece of sea weed, and every time I called his name, he ran back to me, and pranced about in joy. I found a stick and threw it down the strand, and this he brought back to me with no prompting, and laid it at my feet.
He was indeed a good dog! I had done well in allowing Mary’s pleasure, that he should come back to Penance with us. And when Panoptes had run himself into a state of lolling tongue and short breath, and had tired of the game of bringing back the stick, I turned aside, and returned to the house. There I brought him inside, and he sat by my feet as I continued my letter to Abu.
“I have noticed many things about your stars which I should explain to you. The lines, as you may or may not know, which connect the planets in the circle, are the aspects of these stars to each other. You have several auspicious, and several inauspicious conditions happening.”
“There are trines, or angles set at four houses from each other, between your Venus and Jupiter, your Mercury and Jupiter, your Moon and Venus. Your sun is in the sixth house opposite to your rising star, Scorpius. You Venus-Jupiter “trine” then means that you will most definitely have love! The love which you seek, perhaps the love of which you spoke you sought, or perhaps some other person, but you shall have it. There are some “squares (planets set three houses apart” which themselves seem to represent difficulty in endeavors, but none that approach definite denials. These lie between your Moon and Mercury (the realms of thought) Mars and Jupiter, Jupiter an Saturn, and yet, because your sun has also a trine with your Jupiter, you will have very, very good fortune, when all is said and done!”
“I cannot speak to all these things Abu, and yet, by what the chart has shown me, I feel that you will become a man who will gain much in the world, and be looked upon as one who has made some mastery of his station.”
“It is my hope that your journey home was pleasant, and that you made the places you told me you meant to se. Our own trip back was without great loss or trouble, and we are now back in Penzance, with our house, our horse, and dog, and we are going about making preparations for the feast of Christmastide, with the noble whom I mentioned to you, in which we (myself, Ranulf the Piper, and Clarence, my local friend of near location) shall be the musical providers. I will treasure long the memories of the night in Harfleur where you accompanied Ranulf and I at song! Well I wish you and good contentment, Abu. I hope that your land remains at peace, and that you come into your full measure, and that you be blessed by Allah in everything you undertake.”
“With due respect and great love!
Julian Plectrum, Penzance, England.”
I sealed the letter with a stamp in wax, which was my own design (it was a viol shape, and the stamp itself was in the form of a key, not a stone) and decided that when I could, when I went to Penzance, I should go to a postal station and see it off. Of course it would be weeks, if not months, before Abu received it, but, my promise kept, I could now return to the many tasks about me and my household.
Finished with my writing and having sealed my scroll, I gave word to Mary I was on my way to town to see about Magdalene. I took the money with me that all her shoes should be replaced— it was now deep winter, and she would benefit by the change.
Bess Farber was our blacksmith, located at the north side of Penzance, near to Polmennor and far enough out of the way that she rarely got visits from the bailiffs or burgesses— not that she might need them.
She looked up from her hammering— she seemed to be working on the form of a bell— and gazed at me, squinting.
“And what be your peril?” asked she.
“Tis a matter of our horse. She has thrown a shoe, and I fain would have all four replaced, if that not be too much, good lady.”
Eyeing me with a scrutiny I had not felt since last I lived with my father, she turned to Magdalene.
“Well, let’s ‘ave a look’it’er.”
She grabbed Magdalene by the fetlock and gave her a pat on the side as she did so.
“Which foot it tis?”
“Ah- this one.” She answered her own question.
“Now good ‘orsey, just stay yourself still. I shall be but an hour or so, good sir. Kindly make yourself at home about my works, or, if you like, wander free in the meadow behind us. The weather is good today and you can see far.”
“Thank you, good lady. I am Julian Plectrum, and I came from Cheshire this year to live in Penzance town. Actually, I have known this town for some matter of years, but I married and have brought my wife here. She being the daughter of a carpenter and cooper in Chester. We have settled at the home what was that of Lady Devonside. Do you know of that story?”
She busied herself with unshoeing Magdalene’s other three feet.
“Lad, not much ever ‘appens in this town I ‘ave not ‘eard nor ‘ave a mind to but once. Yes, I know the story alright. Rich lady came to a bad end. They said she was a pleasant sort, ‘er ‘usband went a bit mad out ‘ere, and ‘ad t’ return to his puffed up city life. yes, I know that place. ‘At’s yours now, eye?”
“We plan to build it out and make it a tavern.”
“Aw, that will getcha some looks round about ‘ere, wot with all the places in town ‘ave a notion to deal to sailors, scallawags, and sluts!”
I did not know what to say to that, but kept quiet.
“You know I shall do my best on your ‘orse ‘ere. You’re not such an old lad. ‘Ow did you come across a horse like this? And wots this on ‘is rump, eye? A big circle with a “B” on ‘is bum?”
“Tis a warhorse, good smith. I found her at the battle of Shrewsbury, abandoned to the field, after the fight. The B is for Boynton— a noble who was killed for treason, after.”
“Ah, battles, warhorse. Yer keepin’ good care o’ her, tho. I can see she’as a good paunch here, but firm stout legs.”
“She has lately been with me to France. I traveled to Amiens, and the Fair, upon her.”
“Oh, so you travel, eh? What be our line of work takes you off our fair island to pleasure?”
“Was not my work, madam, was a gift of a good friend. My wife and I spent our honeymoon a fortnight traveling with his merchant goods to the fair and back. For occupation, I am a minstrel. But soon I shall be a taverner, and will be tied to the land, and the place, and this town. It shall be... I hope... something of a better way to keep my wife...”
“Ah, is but only one way to keep a wife, lad. That is if you be good and true. Otherwise, is all bets off, and she’ll have others. Especially workin’ a tavern, eye? Yes, especially. There will be men about to test you and try your wit and strength.”
“Madam smith, I protest but kindly. My wife will hear none of that, nor party any other man.”
“That is your hope, son. Now here, let us to the next pair of hooves...”
Her strong sure hands and calm attitude kept Magdalene from bucking and I was surprised she relented so easily to the smith. She had obviusly been through being shod a few times— I had no idea how old she was, but a good guess would be about four, and whomever of Boynton’s men had ridden her had long seen her as a proper fitted rider.
I decided it best not to distract the woman and went out of doors to see what she had referred to.
In back of her shop— that was what it was, although it was more like a small house with an open side to the west— was a great expanse of field, broken rye and heather, gorse bushes, and brambles. But there was also a path which cut through it made of paving stones, and this I walked on for some ways, until I came to a bench that looked out over Penzance and the ocean. While the day was cold, at least it was not snowing nor raining, and I sat, and thought thankful thoughts about what we had gone through this year, how glad I was to have survived the ordeal of Shrewsbury, how lucky I was to have my dear Mary, and how lucky we were indeed, to have Anselm as our friend and benefactor, a better lord we could not have dreamed of, and how my friends Stephen, Roger, Albertus, and Ranulf— and Abu! were the best friends I could have had for being who I was where I was, in my little time so far in the world.
I left Bess the smith to her work. Round about another hour, or so, like she said, I heard her call for me, and I came back to her to get Magdalene and be off.
“’Twill be four pence for the shod, lad. And I am Bess, Bess Farber. I’m the only and best smith here in Penzance and surrounds, as you shall learn, or if this ain’t bein’ teachin’ ya. Well done the horse is, she’s got all four feet on the ground. Watch her prance! Yes! Well, have you good day, lad, and maybe we’ll be seein’ you again, soon!”
I laid out my four pennies on her anvil, and she nodded, pleased.
Magdalene’s jangling saddle accompanied me merrily as I rode back to Mary, and we spent that whole afternoon together, lying in each other’s arms, and when not, we were by the hearth, drinking hot cider. Mary’s dowry had included, as a boon from her father, a portion of the money with which the king had bribed him. This ten pounds was Mary’s and hers alone- I knew not what she had done to safekeep it, although it had not been disturbed even in the time we had been in France. This money of hers I would not fain call my own, but hers alone to be the mistress of. If she needed ale malt and needed to purchase it it could as well come from herself as from the money which Anselm had laid out for me. Indeed, it should be Mary’s to use, for her clothing, for what she felt would be good to add to the household, and if she had any other debts. It also meant that together we were indeed more wealthy than many of our neighbors, if not at the height of riches like Lord Devonside.
With these thought and concerns of our estate on my mind, it was time for me to go out into the great field and return to my private chest the gold and coin which I had hidden ere we left for our trip. I resolved yet none should know what I had done, and so again, I must take this on after night had drawn deep, and Moselles and his wife, Thangustella, were fast asleep. That I also might do it in complete stealth, this time I took more time with my shovel and was patient.
Walking out to the exact tree along the cypress, the sky was growing full of clouds, and now and then these hid the moon, so that not only were it gloomy, and portending of rain on the morrow, but my digging was in the deeper dark. It had not been a night like this in summer when I had set the coin sack there.
But I dug, and to my joy and relief, of course, there was my treasure. Almost all of what remained of my fifty pounds, of course, except what I had taken for our expenses to France. I made haste to return the earth, and tamp it over, and even strewed more leaves upon it, lest Moselles discover that there had been something once hidden there. If all went well I might use this spot again, should I have the occasion.
I carried the sack back into the house, taking care to rouse neither Panoptes nor the horse, and when I got inside, I sat down at my writing desk, and counted all I had. There were yet shilling upon shilling, and groat upon groat, florins, and to the piles, I added what I had gained from France- there were some six florins worth, and small change, pennies and farthings. The whole trip had cost me but half of what I had expected, due to the generosity of Stephen, as well as the earnings from playing at the inns of Harfleur and Amiens.
And I scooped up this pile, and brought out the new chest which Robert of Chester had given me as his wedding present on the occasion of marriage to his daughter Mary. I sorted the coins, placing them by type into the compartments, and then, I took out two shillings, two groats, and what farthing-pennies were there, and I put these into my regular coin purse. I placed the chest back under the writing desk in a cupboard which fit below it. Now I felt as though I had come home, completely. From here, there would be better days, and times of work and rest, but the trip had been a pleasant one, even with the rains, and the mud— for I had made a friend of a man who was not of my own faith, and in this, I had come to know a bigger portion of the world, through the traveling and the places I had seen.
And we gained another pair of animals. There happened by a great pelican, which showed up each morning and afternoon, expecting scraps from Moselles, who fed him on ends of loaves and such, and whose custom it became to fly to the top of our back stairs, and sit upon the rail, and wait for Moselles with his leavings. This pelican could be a real attraction, I considered, especially if we happened to get the Inn going— “Welcome to the Fallen Lady, where we have a REAL pelican!” and take some of the edge off the inn in the town which had the same name, and so often took my friends for their earnings- or gave them (such as Ranulf) the earnings so bitterly won through playing to their crowd. Their crowd of course were hard, rough sailors and miner men, and while I expected we should get many of them ourselves, the Pelican was not the type of place I might think to take Mary should we have sought a public house in which to dine.
The pelican (Moselles called it Scupper) was soon joined by a small female cat, not quite yet out of kittendom. It had stripes all up and down the body, was colored tawny buff and dark grey, with even some black, and had white socks to its front feet, and white boots to its back ones. This cat came round (of course avoiding the awful monstrous pelican) to our own door, at the bottom rear, and begged to be let in on one morning when the snow had fallen and was some two inches deep all about the land.
Mary named the cat Kerfel, and decided that it should get leavings from our milk and butter, and have what perhaps we might leave it from our table meat, but mostly it could live here and live at the inn, and keep away the mice and rats that were actually many, living in their holes out in the field, who had been evicted by the plow. All told then we had many animals now, and there would be many more to come in the next summer, once we had the Inn prepared and were working it.
The kitten Kerfel did not take well to Panoptes, to begin, but both Panoptes and the little cat learned to mind their common manners, and if the cat were at the back of the house, then Panoptes would often choose to remain at the front, if I were there. I took him wherever I went, as he grew older, I took him if I went riding on Magdalene (which I did, as a manner of helping her keep fit, on every other day) and he would keep up, as he grew, better and better, and learned how to run beside without getting in the way of the hooves, nor of spooking her. It might be said that as well as with the cat, Panoptes had a silent agreement with the horse, but the pig Jubb was another story.
Jubb was quite a hog. Yes, he was now entering his final year, and Moselles fattened him on leavings, and he could forage wherever he might along the hedgerow. But Jubb was also uncommonly bristly, like a wild boar, and half-tusked, which gave Moselles the idea that he was at least half tame pig and half boar. This could not have been uncommon, but it did make Jubb a bit mean and ornery, to the extent that Panoptes limited his interactions with the hog to barking, and telling him he would like him to be herded about in some direction. But the hog had quite a mind of his own. It would be well that if we might keep him from foraging over the root tops in our garden, and to that end, I agreed with Moselles, that when we built the pen for the horse, we should give a portion of that to pen Jubb as well.
We had not been home but even a week when Mary put it to me that now it was time for her to get on with alemaking again. I told her we would need to speak to Anselm about it, if she meant to make coin from it. She said she would like to, but first of all, she needed the grain! I think that this was, in some unsubtle way, a means of prodding me into thinking about my land, and that it would soon be time to plow it, and to sow barley in the field. I thought about the amount of seed barley I would need. I thought about the amount of barley she would need for making her first malt. I thought also about the authorities. There was Anselm, for one. Surely he would make a deal with her, whereas, she could charter her own ale... but would she fall in as a town alemaker or a country alemaker?
“Country, oh, definitely, Julian. She lives not in Penzance. Plus, if she lived in Penzance, the alemasters there would take more of an excise on her. Out where you are you can sell for a penny a gallon. In Penzance proper, they would ask you to sell for three, and take one! That’s hardly the way to run an enterprise.”
The more I thought about it all, the more I thought, perhaps I could make my own venture into this. First, there was the idea of an addition to the house, which meant, a small shelter or stable for Magdalene. This I could do quite easily all myself. But then, I thought, perhaps I might bring the bakers upstairs into a partnership... We might run a small alehouse-tavern. Not an inn, no, for that we would need to create many many more rooms! But to have a drinking and eating place, where people might come, sup, dine, drink, and listen to musicians all in one spot. For that I might need to spend a fair number of crowns, but I did have that to spare, and besides, the idea had taken Anselm’s fancy also.
“Stephen, this is a good idea. For how long should you need to rely on the whims of other men in Penzance, those innkeepers and taverners, to keep alive your music? A few more month, and all of them would know you, and either weary of you, or give you less and less shrift. No, this is a good idea for you. For there are always those who come this way who would wish to have their evenings out in the country, and not, of necessity, so close to their ships, or so close to the minds of the alders. This might be a good thing for you.”
“You would be willing to write me a charter?”
“My dear boy, I would be willing to not only do that, but to invest! And give you some of my own excess, to fill your larders! You have no idea. I get so much wine off those who come to Penzance from France, seeking my favor! I’ve barrels and barrels of it stowed away in my own cellars. The people give me their butter and their milk and their grain- to such an amount, there is always more than my own bakers can make! I tell you, son, do this, and you will have a surety of income not even your fine lute playing could equal.”
So with his words in mind, I set to the baker upstairs, whose proper full name was Hardiman Moselles.
Moselles had grown up in Penzance, to a Cornish father and French mother, and had baking in his blood from the day he was born. Not only baking of bread, but the arts of making pies, tarts, pasties, and biscuits. Anything you could put into an oven and come out the other side transformed, and he had the knack of it.
Of course, when I first mentioned this, he looked at me a little odd, and as if I were half-daft.
“Novun comes to Penzance and vants to zee ze country! Zey come’a to Penzance to play, to sport, to chaze ze gurls! Now... What vill ve need to do to make zees place a tavern, eh? Zees veel take a much money, zere will bebuilders ve must to employ, how big are we talkink? Are we speaking of zooming as beg as your own house? Or maybe only half? And while we have our kitchen up here, and zips we could use to make ze breads, vat vill you do to make ze dinnairs, and zed ales? Zoo must have much more room! Vell, vell. If you haff ze money zen it is your fool head. But ve are making good moneys, ourselves, yes? Zen if ve are in beeziness togezzer, zen zere ees so much more to worry ovair. But! Eef you vill garantee me my portion of ze profits, eh, zen vee vill pearhaps make good kind. Ve shall zee. But fairst, zu must build ze place!”
Yes, yes, I had to build the place. There indeed was much to think about. So while I began drawing up plans— such as that my miserable skill might allow, I began thinking about what size this should be, where the people would go, when they needed to relieve themselves, how much room was really need to make a meal kitchen, and how I could yet allow for some room for Mary’s malting, and where the brew vats should be. All of this. It took me almost another week to come up with a real answer, and then, I needed to figure how much wood I needed, how we should go about hiring the men from the town that would help us build it, and a dozen other things.
Meanwhile, I kept Magdalene on a tether near the side of the house, and while winter was indeed upon us sooner than I thought, I had also thought to create a lean-to about that area, so at the worst, she might have, if not a place to stand, she might have a place to shelter from the rains and the snow. There was new grass coming up, and she had that to graze, and for the most part, it was not even necessary to keep her tethered, for she was fond of us and had no reasons to run far afield.
Just before Anselm’s great Christmas party, I had been able to put my back, and my ass, such as it was, tired little donkey of a body, into plowing the field. With Ranulf’s help I furrowed and seeded. Moselles was now busy with his own part of the land, and thinking carefully, I had lent him some coins in order that I might borrow his plow. I hitched Magdalene to it, and in three days, I had furrowed my section and managed to put in the seed. This was such a tiresome thing, however, I connived that next winter, I might indeed hire others to do this for me. Simon would have my head, of course, but what need Simon to know? For years he had already disparaged my lack of interest (or even any skill) at the farm chores. The best I was good for, he often had said, was running the sheep out and back, and watering the persimmon trees. And then he would laugh, and storm away into the morning mists, and Davis our father would look up, smile, and return to his own studies.
Anyway. To be sure, I now had a lot to take on. But the first thing I did just before I worked with Ranulf at the task was to buy six bushel sacks of barley, and gave four to Mary, and used the other two for the sowing. In that manner we had enough to get started with. Mary, and Pamela, set to work making the first batch as soon as she had the license and Charter (approved by Anselm) from the Ale Masters in hand.
Alemaking, of course, is an old and mysterious art, and yet, the mystery is more in how this manifests ,than how to manifest it. First a good portion of barleycorn is selected, and allowed to sprout in darkness. Then, that is taken, and dried (this was the part which was difficult, for we had so little space, and the darkness of winter cloud hung over the coast constantly! We resorted to using the floor and shelves in our own kitchen) and then that is roasted, into malt. The sprouted and dried, roasted malt is then set into a large kettle and boiled. It is cooled, and then, boiled again, and then, the wort gets taken out for slop (or fed to the horse and the pig, which was another less expense!) and that remaining brew is set aside for some days, and when it is ready, it’s bottled and shared out. Mary’s first batch was as good as any of her mother’s. And the Alemasters, indeed, when they came around, gave it no second thought. Fine enough! So now she was ready to hang out the besom on the front door. But we had few initial customers- oh, there were one or two men of the land, whom I spoke to, and were eager perhaps to help me begin my building, but there was no great rush to take the first excess off our hands, so we ended up sharing it with Moselles, who used a good portion of that as a starter for one of his breads!
Nevertheless, it was a good thing I had allowed Mary the opportunity to busy herself in this way. Each day, her and Pamela would spend hours together coming up with ideas for the food we might serve at the tavern— the tavern which was not even built yet! We would need to get hens, and a rooster, and perhaps a sheep or two, maybe even an ox, or pigs of our own...
All that began adding up in my head, and I wondered if I had made the right decision, myself. But I did not wonder on it long. I set out for Penzance one early morning in January and set about gathering some men who might help with the gathering the wood, and who might carpenter the addition. I also managed to gather a few Cheshire men, but that’s a bit more on the side of what I have to say about Stephen next, for it was Stephen who brought them. It was decided (by Mary, Moselles, and his wife, and myself) we would make an addition to the building as long again as our house, but make it half as wide, and that in the back portion, where we had the kitchen, we would make a number of shelves for drying malt, and that the vats could stand under a portion of the counter. And that we could use Moselles’ oven for our malt roasting, albeit, once the morning loaves had already been prepared.
There would be a second hearth which could stand to do the brewing, and the brewing alone, as well as one which would be the main cook’s hearth. In order to keep the cooks, and brewers, out of each other’s way, there would be a long table that divided the two sections of the kitchen, on which the cooks might work, and which also held shelves below, to hold more malting corn.
The men I found who wanted to work on this project were all good local people. It was by hiring them, actually, that most first got to know me, although a few (not many) had been in the inns of the town, and had been familiar with my songs. It was a good thing that I had begun to take an interest in them, for had I not, there well might have been a mutiny of sorts, at one point in our building. I knew what I wanted the place to look like. I had even drawn pictures for the man who became the foreman. But at a certain point in building the upper roof beam, several of the young men decided they could not make the effort. They did not mutiny on me, but they did stop their work, for their argument was that when they worked in the rain, that the beams were slippery, and they had a bad hold on their ladders. I realized in this they were fair right, and that, most of our work should be done in better weather, at a better time of year (like summer!) but I figured that, since I had laid out so much money (my hoard had depleted now by at least a third of that it had been before we even had gone to France!) that nonetheless, we could continue the work, and they could feel free not to work on days of direct rain, but that they could still give me two days of the week, because the storms that came did not last a full week ever the free days were yet welcoming weather.
In such a way, by wheedling, and cajoling, and offering them all free ale, of course, they stopped their begrudging of my plans, and helped the tavern take shape. By the middle of February, they had erected the roof, and set up all the crossbeams, and set frames for the walls, and the whole outside of the addition had windows, and a space for a door. We dug a pit at the southwest corner which would be used for the privies, and this we fitted with its own hatch, that a person with a shovel and wheelbarrow— me that is— might remove the ordure to manure the fields. The bakers had told me this field needed a lot of fertilizing- they took their old oyster shells, even, crushed them to make lime, and spread that about, along with dried and powdered seaweed. This added an extra two or three days work to the plowing, but as I wanted my field to look just as green as Moselles’, I shrugged and added it to the list of things which just had to get done.
The ale could sell for three gallons to a penny, and a half penny for a pottle, and one farthing for a quart. The usual customer might drink two or three pints in a night— and we would probably get a good many people from the parts around who were not staying to eat, but only wanted their ale supply. It would be more convenient for the local people than to go all the way into Penzance, having an alehouse by the Whychoome Road.
For me, I looked forward to the day when we would hang the door, had laid down all the floorboards, and bricked in the hearth, and laid up all the shelves, and brought in the bar, and laid in all our supplies. That of itself took until a week into March. Not least, the thatchers came and put up the main of the roof. And by April’s end we were able and ready to begin, properly. Of course, by July, Mary and I could be ready to head north to see her parents, and I my father and brother, and Porcull, and to help Stephen in the fields of the Manor. So perhaps I should not rush so far ahead of myself just yet! There was a lot more to tell about the conditions of the time in Cornwall, ideas of politics, and of that I shall give you more.
We thought we might open the tavern and then head north, but of course, that was not so easy, as running an inn, of course takes a good amount of minding. But there was a solution, and that solution, again, came from my friend Clarence.