I took Magdalene and Panoptes one afternoon on a ride to see Clarence. Clarence was in the midst of creating more of his wizard string instruments, but I managed to lend him a hand with clamp and with the finishing (varnishing) of a number of them that afternoon, so he did not mind the company. When we had finished he made a big pot of mulled wine, extra spicy with cinnamon and with thyme springs, and this we supped on at the end of his hours. The Plan had taken form, and the Inn had at least been mostly constructed, on this day, and I mentioned that while we hoped we might open the tavern on May Day, and hope to catch more of the townspeople asporting, that Mary and I would be returning to Chester ourselves in the early summer, I to help the manor with their haying, and she (as well as myself) to see her mother and Davis, and to check on everyone. Then, I would have nobody to run the show. But Clarence volunteered himself, saying he would be honored at any time to take over in my absence, and that all would continue on fair and square. That there were yet things I must arrange— such as, where I should gather the beef, the hams, the chickens which might make our first few pots of dinners, as well as, to lay in a pantry full of roots, that there be other dishes to serve beside those, was something I had to take up yet with the costermen of Penzance.
Clarence calmed me down, saying that every enterprise had a manner of investments it needed to make. His own shop always had the need of more wood, or of catguts for strings, or of sheephides for drumheads. That I realized, would be something I would try to take up soon. The sixty pounds which I had been loaned by Anselm was now fortyfive, and it had taken but twelve pounds for me to feed and pay all my carpenters and roofers. Clarence had brought me beams with which to create the horse pen, but I had as yet to take up the effort. It would be my next big project, however.
Clarence told me that there would be no point in this venture should I not be able to make gains, a little each day, toward overcoming what had first been invested. And that there should be some manner of a crier to go about Penzance for that first week, who might make it known that the Fallen Lady, just a jaunt out of town, along Whychoome Road, was open for business. That crier, he said, ought be some lad of the town, for if I were to take it up myself, how would that take me from the matters I must attend at hand? Clarence had someone in mind, thankfully. That someone actually sat beside us on this day.
This was his newly pledged prentice, Wilmot. Wilmot had come from a family of tin men, but was not a wealthy sort. Nay, his father had been a miner, and so, should he as well, yet, he had taken sickly at one point, and had trouble in breathing, and mine dust could have finished him off, and so his father relented.
Wilmot had the urge to make music, but more, he wanted to make instruments, and as Clarence was the master at that for miles and miles about, he came to Clarence and offered himself. This, of course, Clarence accepted, for as he were some ten or fifteen years my elder, he was getting on, and had no children, so there had been no one to take that on at hand. This came as a blessing to Clarence, and in the weeks before I came on this visit, between the Christmas feast of Anselm and the time, he had set about teaching Wilmot all he should know about making the portions, setting the wood, mixing glues, creating bracings and struts, and all the like. Wilmot had proven a quick study. Clarence said that this current crop of instruments were nearly done, and so, Wilmot could be at leave, and would have ample time to go to town and cry for the Fallen Lady.
Surprisingly, he also agreed to this for me, and told me that he wished only a penny a day to provide this, and this was no great sum, so I agreed, I would pay him. Later too, if things were not so busy with Clarence, he might come to the tavern and help by washing plate, sweeping the ale room, and helping clear the guest’s messes at the end of the evenings.
This too, he said would be quite fine with him, if but for the same price, a penny a day, and he seemed so anxious and agreeable to be helpful, I would have been loss of my senses to refuse such a willing lad. And he was not, after all, less close to me in age than I was to Clarence. He was about fourteen, and was lanky and tall and blond of hair, with a rather defiant cast to his eye, which I am sure might either gain him respect or trouble wherever he may wander.
That was one way I solved my future problem, of taking leave of the tavern just when I had to mind it being opened, and getting going. We planned to be gone but two fortnights in any case, returning before the manor harvest, as Stephen would be making his way down for the next Amiens trip, again, soon after that.
Speaking of Stephen! He came to Penzance on a merchant’s errand two weeks before May Day himself, bringing news of the lands at Cheshire, of the manor, and even, thankfully for us both, of Mary’s father, my father, and brother Simon.
The purpose of his merchant’s errand was to visit the fullers of Bristol and Penzance, deliver to them his spring wool, collect from them what he might of cloth taken in trade back to Chester, and treat with Anselm for more business in Amiens spice come September. Roger was not with him, he traveled alone, but he did have a great deal to tell me. He arrived in the middle of an afternoon when we were spreading barley out to dry and Mary let me leave off that I should mind that knock on the door.
Stephen had ridden Nibs down from Chester, and so my first business was to set Nibs with Magdalene off to the grazing area. The two horses recognized each other, and there was some romping before they each calmed down and set to the munching. Nibs also enjoyed having Magdalene’s trough to eat from, which had been filled with fresh hay that morn.
When the horses had been cared for then, Stephen and I came into the house, and I set a fie going in the hall, and he sat on Mary’s dowry chest in the front.
“I have brought some men down from the manor to help with your project, Julian. Not Roger— he is busy rounding up more of the wool gathered by such as your father. But I know you will remember Garthson, who rode along with us to London?”
“Fair well. He of the simple mind yet watchful eye.”
“Yea, him, as well I brought Shaftley and Blightson. But they are yet back at Penzance, lodge where I left them. I want to let you know what’s been going on up there.”
Mary left the ale spreading to Pamela and joined us in the hall, sitting on a stool near the fire.
“First off, I must say, Mary, that your father is yet indeed well and returned to Chester just a matter of days before I left. He knows that the King’s men had been to the house and visited upon your mother the bill for more barrels and casks. That he should have returned when he did was fortunate, for now, he has returned to finishing the remainder of barrels, and should be finished with the entire smelly business soon. He said he assisted some manner the Glyndwyr force as it happened to hit Aberystwyth and in that, he merely assisted by providing some coopage to a number of the supply wagons. He did not take up arms. So while yet he had marched with them, he cannot be said to have taken arms against Henry. And by doing so he won a provenance himself from Glyndwyr, which he used to show to the Carpenter’s Guild in Chester that he had not, in fact, gone full over to Henry’s camp, when he accepted what he still calls his “Devil’s due, and blood money” for the contract he is finishing with. In fact, when he is done, he will be building coopage and barrels and same for Glyndwyr! If all goes well, then the King’s men will have done with him soon, and he can get on with the other work.”
“What of this new contract?” asked Mary. “Was there fair money in this, or has he taken this on with no compense?”
“He has indeed taken it on, but the terms are not privy to me. He has secreted the pages of the contract in a secret place in your house. He said that you may have an idea of that...”
Mary looked at him, and her eyes swam back, but she seemed to nod, and then asked:
“If the King’s men find this contract...”
“Then it is all up for Robert, I am afraid. They fair bought the excuse that he was off at Manchester visiting an ailing relative, but only so many absences could be excused. Luckily the balance due will be finished soon, and Robert can get on with other things.”
“What of my mother?”
“Aye, your mother be well also, and despite her been worried by those King’s men, she has not been molested nor robbed, which is lucky, when I compare their treatment of your family with mine.”
Mary nodded again. I was now curious about my Dad and about Simon.
“Simon, Julian, has taken again to the plow, although as I saw him, and visited him and your father, they both were rather hard put by the winter. It is harder there than it is here- here you have the calming of the Channel to ward off some of the north winds. But even so. Simon walks, but he does walk with a limp, and often with a cane. He takes the cane along as he plows, and he has the support of the plow itself, but he binds up the cane along, to help him walk back from his furlong. The injury has not worsened, in fact, he says the skin healed quite well, thanks to the aid you gave him the day of the battle...”
I remembered well that ugly afternoon, when Henry Percy had been struck down, and our leaders taken prisoner, and how I found Julian stricken through the thigh with a foul wound, which I bound up with a poultice, and how we both shivered away the night hoping we should not have been caught by soldiers. Which we were, when we tried to leave the town, after the prisoners were killed- but they had let us go, after all.
“I took the scallop amulet from Albertus, and laid it at my father’s grave, just as he had asked me to. My father’s grave yet lies without a stone, but I have given some thought to it, and hope that off my next trip to France this year, I may have funds to provide for one. In any case, Albertus’ wishes were respected. And Roger has taken quite well to the management of the manor’s books. So well in fact that I was able to leave him behind to manage that, as well as gathering what he might from local farmers, the wool, you know, of course...”
“Stephen, we do hope to get our project here off the floor in a manner of speaking, on May Day. If you are here...”
“Alas, Stephen, I might not be. For this year, it is my new love who is to be the Queen of the Chester May!”
“You have a love, have you? Well, blessings, my friend!”
“Yes, indeed she is. For she is younger yet than Mary, and Mary could know her, I do not know. She is a costerman’s daughter, named Flora, and lives in a different part of Chester than Mary had- closer in to the churches, in fact.”
I could see Mary searching her memory, but she did not show a sign nor speak a word as if this girl were known to her.
“But after all, Julian, I have the need myself of a good wife to hold our estate, and take up things such as Roger has done as well, and those wifely things upon which you have your own wife to commend herself.”
Mary almost blushed, but she did not speak, again. Pamela was in the back, adjusting another of the racks, and we could hear a crash as one of the trays mistakenly found its way to the floor, and some curse words, as she minded herself to sweeping the grain back up to respread it. Mary excused herself and took back to the business of Pamela’s clumsiness. There were words, but not cross ones, exchanged.
Stephen asked me about the tavern now.
“I did receive your letter, and I know you have had this in works now for a few months. Mind would you take me outside and walk me through the place?”
“Certainly!” And we went out doors, to the east and southerly area that had been adjusted to take on the addition of some eight hundred sixty four square feet of area. I pointed out the main dining hall, and where the bar would be going, and walked him into the kitchen, with the pair of special hearths and the brewing room. We passed out of doors, where the cat was worrying with a mouse it had caught, and I showed to him the plowed field, now filled with short, bright green stalks of barley, and where the pile of wood for the horse and pigpens lay stacked.
“Here is something which your men can help me with, Julian. The horse needs a pen, and also, we do need to build on a small stable attaching that to the tavern- room for a half dozen horses, or five horses, and that pig you see, making a walllow over by the vegetable patch.”
“The area for the pen you san see I have marked off with those short stakes over there. There must be two gates— one for the horse, one for the pig, and there should be more room given to the horse, for she needs to stretch herself. The pig needs really but room to wallow, eat, and for his own trough.”
“I can bring them back with me tomorrow, and we can get started on it.”
“I will pay them a penny per day but I do not expect them take longer than three to finish.”
“Surely. And Garthson has come up a way, actually. Where he was once but a stupid haywain he has learned some things about the sorts of enclosures just as this. I think he would do a good job.”
“So, I suppose, will his helpers. But I waited last to do this, because of my baker neighbor upstairs, and because I wanted a good idea of how much of the barley might be sacrificed to their little bit of ground. And I have one more favor to ask of you, Stephen.”
Puzzled, he gave me a querying look. “Which is?”
“Honey! I need honey, and you have bees. I will pay you your fare rate if you can bring me down a goodly sum of it, that there might be sweet for our customers.”
“I feel that a fair thing you might ask. Since father died I have done little to keep accounts with the costers of Chester. You shall get a lion’s share. Not to be worried, Julian, for lack of honey. Next trip ere I return, you shall see it.”
As it had turned out, there had been little reason to worry. There would be enough barley for at least a season’s crop for Mary and I to make our own bread, baked upstairs, and Mary’s ale in the next year. And while a few months more might be a good long time to wait for Stephen’s honey, I could get a smaller portion from those who sold at the market.
I had laid in a great number of ale bottles, pottle-flasks, and jugs, and a couple of large casks and that sort of thing, which I bought from a glazier, a tanner, and a cooper in Penzance. They had not been cheap! And their sizes, of course must have passed with the Alemasters, that we should not cheat our buyers. But I knew we would rely on some of the locals, at least, to return with their pottle-flasks and containers when they wished to refill at Mary’s shop. All in all, the brewery itself was fairly well sized in proportion to the kitchen, and with the addition of the large vats, in which we always had three different batches of a different phase underway, the brewery room had taken on a fragrance and odor of its own. Pamela and Mary were handling it all quite well, though. If they needed an extra hand beyond themselves, Mary would not mention it, yet at least.
Pamela for her part had taken the room in town she promised us, as soon as Mary began paying her her own penny-a-day in brewing wages. And she came each morning, walking from town, when she was needed, and when she was not, she remained up in the town, and either haunted the Pelican Inn, or stayed in her room, reading what she could of local lore. As a student in Chester she had won a great prize for her scholarship of the local history—the tales of Cheshire from King Arthur up to the Conquest, and later, of the Edwards, and Richards, and now (as things would have it) the Henrys.
It was with that in mind that I gave Pamela a gift of my own, which was a book from the library of Clarence, which told many tales of local bards and minstrels. This book, the “Melodica Infustia Penwith” had been written by a monk named Laurent Divinal in the years of the last great Cheshire plagues— the ones which had taken my mother and Stephen’s. It had numerous names and stories about the lives of some of the great men who had sung before the court— of Anselm’s fathers, as well as tales and lays which they had all sang of, decades before I was born, and in giving Pamela this gift, I told her, perhaps, one day she could add the stories of Clarence and myself to the end pages.
I hoped this had not seemed presumptive, but as it might happen, over the next few years, anyway, Clarence and myself, and even Ranulf, were to end up caught up, again, in many a gesture of calumny with the great King in London, and to some extent, so would Anselm. If it were possible that the Rising could prevail in Wales, and Cheshire yet be joined to Wales as a manner of loyalty, then it would have been people like Clarence and myself that would be there to sing the stories of the nobles and knights. Having Pamela a write the tale of Cheshire exiles like Albertus and myself might go some ways to helping people of the future understand what happened to us, in the case the cause be lost for good.
But I had many more things to think about than how it all plays in London. In fact what I needed to do was go to Penzance and meet those very people whom I needed to know, those who were the fishermen, costermongers, butchers, and others, who would help keep the Fallen Lady open for business. My first stop, then, was to a butcher whose shop was on Chapel street.
A vain, crude man, but regarded by such as Moselles as being fair in his dealings (as Moselles sometimes might not be!) Odo Trappet was happy to learn there would be another tavern he could get a hand in.
“To you I should come for my sides of beef and my lambs and pig. I hope that I might have need of only one cow, one pig, and two lambs per week. Do you think that is fair?”
“I would say perhaps, if since as you tell me, you are supplying a tavern and not an inn. Should you have an inn then overnight guests would want their morning meat as well. All the same, yes, I charge eight shillings per cow and two shillings per pig and three per spring lamb. Of course winter lamb will cost you the same!” he laughed. But I knew he was cozzing me, for winter lamb cannot cost the same, that is the law.
“I will arrange for our helpers to come to see you before each week begins then. You will know them by our sign, the will present on each bill. Please sign each bill so that we know this has been delivered and that we owe you. Payments I shall make on each Friday, I shall ride to town as this and stop and talk to all of my people. Does that sound fair?”
“It does. Only remember that on Fridays I close early... no later than three in the afternoon.”
“I shall note that.” He did seem to be honest, if bloody ugly, but I was learning not to lay much stock in the cut of a man’s clothing or the shape of his face. And I would remember, of course, about the early closing. He’d need to be the first person I saw in any case.
On my way toward the port, I saw a man who had been set in fetters who was locked into the pillory. He was being jeered at by a large group of passerby. Upon the pillory was a sign—“I sold rotted flesh!” and beneath his head and the pillory sat a large shank of beef. Clearly maggoty and smelling most horrible, this was the meat the man had tried to sell. It was a reminder to me that Mary and I would be resolved to honesty in our weights for food and not working “against the assizes” in any way. I was determined that neither of us would end up like this— like the old Songgemonger of London! Pilloried and taken as ammerced for cheating our patrons! Heaven forbid.
Next, with that moral lesson deeply impressed upon my mind, I took to the harbor and spoke round about to learn who the fishers were, who went out in their boats a’day, and which amongst them might have the mightiest of catch.
I resolved that I would make my decision when I was home that night, because of all of them, there were a group of four who seemed the best, and I had to decide on one, lest the rest still beat about for my favors. I also saw a little man who caught oysters, cockles, mussels and clams, wading out into the muck about the low tides, who sometime also took crabs, and spoke with him. He would offer me what he caught each day, early he could come walking to the Lady after his diggings, and it did seem to me that for but a half-groat a day he might give enough of these to make a lot of soups. And he would come each day! Hopefully Scupper the pelican would make a play for what leavings we would make of them. In any case, Bestcot the oysterman was someone good to know.
Walking back up into town from the harbor I began stopping in victual shops. I met a pair of costermen who seemed true of eye if not of word, and they might supply us with the vegetals and sauces we were seeking. Even as we would make much of our own sauce it helped having those nearby who had bottles made up already. Verjus and chestnut sauce and jams.
I then went back to the harbor to speak with Albertus. Barcelona sat now at the edge of the harbor, anchored and sails furled.
I enquired when he would be leaving next for France, and could he bring back wines and brandy when he did?
“Unfortunately Julian, Barcelona is in need of a bit of repair. As it happens we need to re-pitch and caulk her before we leave for anywhere. And she needs her sides scraped of barnacles. I would be happy to bring you back good casks, but for a small price, of course.”
“Of course! But when do you think you shall be returning there?”
“Given the need, perhaps I can leave in another two weeks. What is keeping me here is also the weather. You have seen the snows and the high winds and rain! Imagine that on the sea! I may plan next though to travel to Bordeaux as well as Bruges- it will be a month’s worth of journeys, at least, and perhaps two, before I can bring back what you are asking for. But,” he added with a gleam in his eye—“I should definitely bring you that apple brandy you enjoy!”
I left Albertus, disappointed that it would be so long before we had wine. But we would have Mary’s good ale. Now it remained I needed to see a potter or a smithy for mugs, tankards, plates, and cups and such.
I went to a little shop called Plumbum which was not a long walk from Odo the butcher’s.
Inquiring within I learned the proprietor, one Elric Beres, had been granted the boon of making all of those things for the table of Anselm, and that he knew him, and was on friendly terms! When I mentioned that it would be some months before I could get my wine from Albertus he shushed me.
“No, friend, you can have them sooner. Ask of Anselm! He has been known to do such.”
I did not like the idea much of the need to ask Anselm of anything, for all he already had done for me, laying out the money which now I was laying out to these men I had met today. But the potter was adamant that Anselm would be in favor of this.
“You see, my friend, if Anselm can have what he wants in any man’s pockets, then that man is ever more under Anselm’s command. And he is no tyrant, but fair generous, as I am sure you know by now. Let him know that you will have your own supplier, in the amount of allotted time, and I grant you he shall help.’
“He has already done so much for me.”
“But you see, son, you have to understand that is the way of the nobleman. He does for the villein what he can, in sooth that the villein might be ever more eager to return the favor, whether it be in pounds shillings pence or in battle.”
“I have not heard Anselm to be a man of battle.”
“Ah, but yet, he shall and has always been such. Just because he has not yet been called by the liege King, does not mean he himself has no favor to owe.”
“And yet I do not see him swinging sword nor axe.”
“Like it be that he thinks hardly much on that, for war sickens him.”
I left the shop with all the cups, mugs, plates and jugs I could carry. I had at least two more places I needed to go- to see someone about fruit, and the smith.
The man who had the fruit stand at the market was named Kenbrucke and he was of a ruddy face, just like many of the apples he sold out of bushels. He had pears, and plums, and cherries, and much that might have been out of season, but hich had been dried, and which could be turned into fillings for pies and the like if it were but soaked in water.
I bought a bushel of each type of fruit, and told him I would be back, twice a month, for something similar. As spring was at hand and the summer yet had its crop to harvest and gather, it would be good having all of this at hand. Besides what I might offer my customers for their daily meal, I could use many of the dried fruits as an offering to Moselles, who could make tarts and pies with them. And it was nigh that I had all these things somehow to load down Magdalene. Yet that one last place to visit would not need taking home just yet.
The smithy, Old Bess Farber, was a widow who had herself lived long in the shadow of her husband’s passing, killed in battle he was, and now, Old Bess stoked a mighty fire and had, of course, been the one to whom I had taken Magdalene when her shoe had been thrown. Old Bess the very likeness of a woman of no small bearing—her forearms the size of my own biceps— told me a story I had little known, but she said that most of the townspeople knew her “as one who would see fit to make the nails to crucify the Lord himself.”
“Well, someone would have had to do it, whether they liked it or not, and that was fair money anyway.”
The hardness of the soul of a blacksmith’s wife! I marveled, but I did not comment. Because I had an offer to make her. I would pay her the sum of fifteen pence each for a pair of brewing vats, three feet deep and two wide. With tops, of course. And I needed a few other pots, and pans, of a smaller size. For all this I might pay her a ten-shilling, for these were the staples, for daily use in our kitchen. I would not need to pay her now, but would come to pick up my order at the end of the week. She nodded to me.
“Yes, fain I should enjoy to put a new tavern up in the place. All these tavern men here in Penzance, why, they are a lot of cheaters. They will overcharge you for a tankard if they can, and they will short you on your meat, and they will cry to the burgesses “we only did what we could do to make out our profits!” Neatly, too. They are men of ill-repute. So. Is your pretty wife the one who makes the ale?”
“Aye, she doth, and it is fair good too!”
“It makes me weep to think there be no better means of a woman’s living than to eke from the gleaned grain the spirit of ferment. You know of course that most alewives have the bad reputation? That your wife— whether or not she be faithfully betrothed to you— she will be the center of attraction for many of our local louts, don’t you?”
“I see no...”
“Well, this will be a real problem for you and I can guarantee it for you. She may be the finest loyal girl in the world, but when the knockers come drumming about with their “wassail this” and “wassail that” and dare her show her legs and more...”
“Say no more, madam smithy. I will give you good fair trade, and Mary will keep us fair and square. It is my hope that by honesty I can gather more customers.”
“Well, good luck to you then, but know ye, you and your wife, ye will have more trouble than you planned on, many times over, in ways you never dreamed of. Taverners all have the curse of Joseph on them.”
“The curse of...”
“Joseph. When he and the Holy Mother were set on their way and none would give them lodging. He cursed them. That is why God gave to you the task of trying to be honest, because you have to show yourself fair. Be kind to the men who come and bring you their horses, and always give them the hay they paid for, and do right by all— feed them fairly and do not scrimp! For it is a foul brother who would cheat just to get one over...”
All she said was more food for thought. I would return to town in a week, to pay the butcher, and the fisherman and oysterman, and now that I had a great sack full of things to drag back home on Magdalene, I finally called quits to the town for the afternoon.
The very next day I set Garthson, Shaftley and Blightson to work on what I wanted to see happen for the pen and the stable. I provided them enough wood that they could build something tall enough for a man to stand up in and wide enough that a horse could move in both directions to a stall, and six stalls, with a smaller stall on the end (which was Jubb’s). Each man I paid a tuppence for a days work, and while Garthson seemed slow, Blightson was quicker of wit, and sussed easily the task and how to bring it off. In this Garthson, once again, was the strong back that moved the wood where it should go, but Blightson quickly sketched out the shape of it, and Shaftley was able to be nimble with hammer and nail. It looked good! And it took up the entire western edge of the new building.
I had one more need, which I could pay Stephen’s manor men to help with, and there was a lot less sweat involved, though it were still work. Beside the new stable I wanted a pitch for bowls, where guests might come with their ale and wine and sip while they played at pins. I had benches brought from the town- they were cheap, and gotten at a fraction of what they had cost to create, for in town there were tearing down a church school house, and there were pews inside which were easily placed against the stable walls. And the men cleared off the land, and made a clearing such that I might seed it with grass, and that would be the bowls lawn. All of it was taking shape as I had thought it could, and it looked even better now that it was real than it had been when I imagined it.
At the end of their hard days I did pay all three of Stephen’s men just as he would have for a day laboring, and rewarded all with free ale, and a loaf from Moselles.
Moselles too was impressed by all that had gone into the making of our mutual gilded goose, and The Fallen Lady’s sign now hung from blue copper bars above the doorway, beneath the eaves.
All we needed was a last wash of the daub walls with good white wash, and she would be a sight any traveler would hope to give his feet rest at, to fill his tummy, and quench his fierce thirst.
That, we hoped, could be the next phase. And we had a week of free time meanwhile.